It Wasn't Even A Double-Dog Dare

It was a typical kid stunt on a typical Oklahoma summer day.  The weather was hot and I felt pretty hot-stuff as I accepted the neighborhood kids’ dare.

“Climb up on the roof?  No problem!” I said in my most mature 9-year-old voice.  Not one to be told that I couldn’t do it, I figured how hard could it be? 

I thrived on challenge, well as much as a 9-year-old kid could.  I mean, I grew up tightrope walking drainage pipes spanning 25 feet across ponds that looked like cesspools.  And traversed my bike across slippery red dirt slopes that threatened to plunge me into the murkiest of waters at Camp Ione.  And eaten paper sack lunches of baloney sandwiches that had been sitting in the direct sun and 100 degree temperatures for hours.  And I even drank a whole jar of pickle juice on a dare. 

So getting on the roof didn’t seem too outlandish to me.  Besides, I wanted the fame and adulation of every kid for blocks around.  Wait…stop right there.  That should’ve been my first clue that this wouldn’t go well. 

Our house had a brick decorative wall that sat perpendicular to the front of the house.  That wall was designed with areas of bricks purposely left out to disperse the sunlight.  These “holes” so to speak, made great footholds for climbing.  Thus allowing even a 9 year old to reach the roof without too much effort.  Once my foot was resting inside the top hole, I could grasp the composite shingles of the roof.  My heart began to race as I looked back down at the kids gathered in our front yard.  I was not high enough to go up and too high to come back down.  I was at a crossroads.  I could hear their taunts.

“I told you she couldn’t do it.”

“It’s too high. Come back down.”

“She’s a fraidy cat.”

Then the chicken sounds started, “Bock, bock, bawwwkkk!”

That did it for me.  I snapped!  I grabbed those hot, sticky shingles with both hands and pulled and kicked until finally I was up on the roof.  Exhilaration filled my lungs and elation tingled down my spine.  I raised my arms high in the air to celebrate my victory and then… I lost my balance.  Everything was a blur as I began an out of control, spastic, speed demon slide down the scratchy, coarse shingled roof.  As I reached the edge I looked at the neighborhood kids watching, their eyes widened in fright.  That was right before I slid off into the large rose bush below.  The thorns pierced me in more places than one could count and I let out a blood-curdling scream, which sent the kids scattering to unknown places.

My parents heard the commotion and opened the door to discover me splayed out in the rose bush whimpering.  You can probably guess how the conversation went.

“What in the thunderation are you doing?”

“They dared me to climb on the roof.”

“Well, serves you right then.”

“Thanks, dad.”

The screen door slammed and I crawled out of the bush.  I sat on the porch checking for thorns.  My friends were all gone and so was my fame.  The embarrassment made me cry more than the momentary pain.  I saw motion from the corner of my eye and noticed a girl standing at the edge of our garage.  I’d seen her before in the neighborhood but didn’t know where she lived.

“I really thought you could do it,” she said. 

I just looked at her speechless.

“If you ever wanna try it again, I’m sure you can.”

Her words hit me like a gut punch - but in a good way.  From that crazy experience I learned to measure risk, which in part, meant not to put myself out there for accolades from others. 

To put in today’s vernacular:  Keep grinding.  Someone you don’t even know is rooting for you, while someone you know isn’t.  

P.S.  The picture above was a “pre-fall” climb I made on my grandparents farmhouse.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the house I fell off of…but you get the idea!

Why that Question?

The teacher didn’t notice the little girl sadly lower her head when she asked her class the question.  “Who wants to tell me about a high or a low from yesterday? I’ll go first.”  The teacher began to share that her “low” was the silly argument she had with her daughter on the way to school the day before.  She described how sad it made her and that she couldn’t stop thinking about it all day.  But when her daughter walked into her classroom after school, she scooped her up and apologized.  Her daughter was quick to forgive which made the teacher very happy.  She explained that it was her high of the day. 

One by one, the children volunteered to share, although the teacher didn’t require it.

“I forgot to feed my dog before I left for school and when I got home he was really hungry.  I felt bad.”

“I got to see my grandmother and she took me to the park.”

“I got in trouble for taking my brother’s Ipad without asking.”

“My parents said we are moving to a new house and I’m getting my very own bedroom!”

On and on, the children shared their highs and lows.  It warmed the teacher’s heart to see them share compassion and kindness to one another.  The little girl raised her hand slowly and began to speak.  “The police came and took my daddy to jail last night,” she sobbed.

Before the teacher could respond, a group of six-year olds surrounded the little girl and hugged her tightly.  Tears flowed down her cheeks as she watched them comfort her.  She couldn’t hear everything they were saying but she could tell that their words had a powerful impact on her young student.  Her objective of raising awareness of others above self had been beautifully accomplished beyond anything she could’ve imagined.               

********************

God bless our educators who quietly teach our children how to navigate this culture of collective narcissism and inflated self-importance.  May this generation of children be the ones who restore compassion, kindness and servant hood to our hurting world.

Feeling Left Behind?

The beautiful, double glass doors revealed a magnificent flower shop hidden inside. Both exotic and simple flowers were carefully arranged according to their vibrant and pastel shades.  It was a breathtaking display as my eyes took a panoramic sweep across the sea of living color. I watched as a master floral designer stood next to large granite topped worktable. He studied a design on a sheet of paper. He turned and walked into a showroom of beautiful, crystal vases lined upon glass shelves. The brilliant light made every vase stunning in its own beauty. Some vases were elegantly simple and others were lavishly ornate. Every vase sparkled with life and begged to be used for His floral arrangement. Each vase came alive and watched and waited to see which one the Master would choose. He chose one and took it back to his worktable. Then He chose specific flowers and made a grand floral display. When finished, it was taken outside the double glass doors to its destination. Then the process began again.

Once again, the master designer entered the crystal showroom and I noticed a purple vase. It was the only vase with color. It was also the only “living” vase not “begging” to be chosen. This vase held its “head” bent slightly downward. She looked at the other vases and thought they were beautiful. She looked at herself and felt unworthy, unlovely and used. The master designer chose a beautiful clear, crystal vase and took it back to the table. Again, He finished arranging the flowers and sent it out the double glass doors.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, this scene repeated itself. The purple vase felt overlooked and unnoticed. Though she sat in the showroom surrounded by the other vases, she was becoming overwhelmed with loneliness and emptiness. She knew hope was draining from her but she felt helpless to stop it.

Then the designer looked at His next “design order.” He smiled and walked slowly to the showroom. His eyes scanned each shelf looking for the perfect vase. “There she is! She’s perfect!” He said as he reached for the purple vase. The purple vase couldn’t believe that the master designer had chosen her! She felt weak and unworthy in His hands. But at the same time, her heart leaped with joy. He sat the purple vase down on the granite table. He stepped back and studied her carefully. Tears of joy streamed down the sides of the purple vase as she spoke, “I thought I would never be chosen. I’m not like the others. What could you ever do with a purple vase like me?”

Then the master designer answered, “The other vases displayed beautiful flowers…..but you will display My glory!”

Then he smiled and began to place His specially chosen flowers inside her. Mercy, grace, compassion, love, strength, wisdom, beauty, revelation and creativity began to fill the purple vase. Rays of the Master’s glory filled the room as the purple vase worshiped and danced!

Amidst the rhapsody of joy and thanksgiving, the Master spoke, “There, now you are ready. I’m sending you out to pour these “gifts” into the lives of the hurting, the lost, the helpless and the hopeless. See people with my eyes and love them with my heart. You can do this, I trust you and for this very reason you were created.”

© 2017 Katie Hubbard

 

“Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Before it springs into being, I announce it to you. I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43: 18-19 NIV

Why I Love Them and The Greatest Generation

“At every stage of their lives they were part of historic challenges and achievements of a magnitude the world had never before witnessed." Tom Brokaw commented regarding World War II’s generation.

I married into my husband’s family over 40 years ago and was immediately blessed with a new set of parents that exceeded my wildest dreams, Richard and Yvonne, card-carrying members of the Greatest Generation, now 95 and 87 years young.  Immediately I knew there was something distinctive about them.  Well, something in addition to their remarkable generosity, incredible capacity to love and infinite wisdom. 

I wish I could say that I always appreciated their unique perspective.  I’ve heard it said that their generation carried “invisible scars.”  My naïve, 20-year-old mind couldn’t begin to comprehend their lives growing up in the mayhem of severe economic depression, the terror of Hitler and the devastation of a world war. 

Mom and Dad’s exemplary character and bulldog perseverance is completely overshadowed by their remarkable humility and desire to help the generations following after them.  They’ve seen the worst of mankind, yet their faith remains stronger than ever. 

When I watch them with their great grandchildren, my heart explodes with thanksgiving and a joy that the world urgently seeks.  Mom and Dad have survived desperate times and dark days and yet give our family a stalwart anchor that no tragedy or travesty can shake.

As I enter my 6th decade of life, I pray that I too will be that shining light to the generations that follow me; never allowing the darkness and the hate of this world to extinguish hope, love and forgiveness. 

Why I Went to Compton

Okay so after my last post, I’ve been getting this question a lot.  “Why would you go to Compton?”  And my answer is “Why wouldn’t I?” 

Why wouldn’t any of us want to see things firsthand?  I’ve grown skeptical of the media’s portrayal of social issues over the years.  I’m weary of agendas and slanted political stories.  I just wanted the truth and I wanted to see it for myself. I wanted to challenge the cultural and often judgmental view against girls and women caught up in the sex industry (prostitution, trafficking, exotic dancing).

I wanted to believe that somewhere out there were watchmen on the wall, people taking action to rescue these girls or at least report the victimization.  I hoped to find that strip club owners were being trained (or at least aware) of how many pimps force their trafficked girls to dance in their clubs. 

Basically, I did it because I care – because my heart breaks over the devastating, life-long ramifications of sex abuse.  We cannot turn our heads and pretend it doesn’t personally affect us, because it does.  It affects our entire society.  Many of these girls will grow up and marry and have families of their own.  And their brokenness will greatly impact their marriages and their children.  I’m not philosophizing.  I’ve seen it up close and worked with these women in recovery/restoration programs.  Sex abuse shatters lives in ways that are impossible to measure.

And that’s why I was compelled to go to Compton and to write a book about the travesty. Because in the end, if we aren’t connected to the plight and suffering of others, then why would we ever be moved with compassion to help them? 

Haunted By Her Eyes

It seemed like a good idea at the time…going into Compton with three other women.  One was a good friend of mine and the other two worked in a ministry to rescue girls from the “track” (prostitution).

I was writing a book on domestic sex trafficking and wanted to – no, I needed to- see it for myself.  Compton is located on the south side of Los Angeles and although it’s only 9 miles from the Pacific Ocean, few of its residents venture beyond a small radius or ever see the ocean.  Two notorious gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, control the neighborhoods, injecting fear and terror into everyone.  The future for the youth is dismal.  Children play on merry-go-rounds within feet of drug transactions, prostitution, filthy language, and both domestic and gang violence.  I know.  I saw it in all of its horror.  

As we trolled the streets in search of girls and women looking for a way of escape, I was dumbstruck by the large numbers of very young girls engaging in prostitution.  Many of them looked to be no older than 14 or 15.  Groups of minors gathered on corners soliciting prospects.

An older girl who is called the “bottom” always supervises the younger girls.  Her job is to enforce the pimp’s rules, collect the money, make sure they don’t escape and inflict punishment.  Because she was always close by, the younger girls were extremely hesitant to talk with us. They knew they were being watched, either by the’ bottom’ or the pimp or both. We passed out water bottles and lip-gloss with a helpline phone number discreetly hidden on the bottom.  I engaged in conversation every chance I could get. 

After the sun went down, we watched groups of girls being chased off corners and running down the street in the middle of ongoing traffic to escape pimps and gang members.  We watched the long lines of headlights coming in from LA.  Clearly, the ‘johns’ were arriving for the evening. The night dragged on as we drove the streets - my feelings of helplessness increasing and my hope fading.  What could I possibly do to help stop this nightmare? 

There was no doubt that these girls felt trapped.  You could see desperation in their faces and hear their unspoken cries.  One of the girls I spoke with was from a small farming community in the Midwest.  Before I could find out how she got to the west coast, we were interrupted by the ‘bottom’ that clearly didn’t want me to know. The ministry we were with confirmed my suspicions that many of these girls were victims of sex trafficking. 

We don’t want to believe it is happening with American girls but the reality is that it’s happening all across our country.  No longer is there a need to bring in international girls.  Trafficking is big business and even gangs are turning to it for commerce.  A girl can be sold multiple times per day versus drugs or firearms and it carries a lesser sentence.  Runaway girls are easy targets and are usually picked up by a pimp within 48 hours of being on the streets.

The last young girl we spoke to that night said she had been on the “track” for 3 months.  When I asked her where she was from, she shook her head and looked away, tears streaming down her face.  Her eyes were filled with fear- a fear I’ve never known.  She was quickly pulled away by a group of other girls.  As she walked away, she glanced back over her shoulder for one last look at me.  Our eyes met and I mouthed “Don’t give up!”  A few minutes later, I saw her get into a black sedan.  As it sped away, I cried for this girl that is someone’s daughter. 

I cry for a girl I will never know.  I cry for her lost hope and unfulfilled dreams.  I pray for exploitation and victimization to end.  And I hope that we, the public, will be quick to act on their behalf and slow to judge these women and girls because in the end, none of us know their story.

A Letter To My Teenage Self

Hey You,

I’d like to have a real heart to heart chat.  But I know you think I couldn’t possibly understand what you’re going through – because after all, I’m old. 

I’m pleading with you to stop trying to be like everyone else!  No one is better at being you than YOU!  Stop trying to fit in with those cliques of people who are afraid to stand out and stand-alone.  That’s why they copycat one another and shun anyone who has the courage to be an individual.  Simply put, your self-confidence makes them feel uncomfortable, insecure and inadequate.  See…it’s not about you at all and it never has been.  It’s all about them.

Now about allowing other people to limit you – don’t listen to their words.  They don’t know your future or theirs.  You have the choice to ignore their words and discard their opinions.  You are the one who controls who you will become and what you will do.  Most people are too afraid to dream and even more afraid of failure.  Don’t mimic their worthless thinking.

And stop comparing your life, your family and yourself with your friends.  So what if you don’t have the greatest this or that? It doesn’t matter what you don’t have – it only matters what you decide to do with what you have.  Stop seeing lack and problems.  Believe me, when you are older you will be amazed at how strong you have become and how God will use you to comfort and strengthen others.  It will happen naturally because it’s in you and can’t help but overflow when you see hurting people.

And finally, think of something that hasn’t been done.  You are uniquely you.  Whatever you do, no one on earth can do it like you!  The world needs your originality, your unique way of thinking and expressing yourself.  Whatever it is, it is your gift to yourself and to the world.  Be someone’s hope even when you think you have nothing to offer because the greatest secret is that you do! 

Be fearlessly and unapologetically YOU!  It will always inspire and build hope in others – hope that, like you, they can become all that they were created to be. 

Don’t waste time because time doesn’t wait…

Stay cool,

Your Older You

Your "Hello" Could Be Their First...

As the teachers loaded up on the big, yellow school bus during orientation, my daughter wondered what the purpose would be.  She had recently accepted a new job in another school district.  The principal believed it was crucial that they understand what their kids are up against on a daily basis.

As the bus lumbered around curves up and down the neighborhood streets, the teachers grew more and more quiet.  A vast sense of responsibility began to silently rest upon the shoulders of those aboard.  It wasn’t so much about the duty of teaching the young children to read and do math – although that charge is immense.  It was clearly apparent that these precious children would need equal amounts of attention, affirmation and most importantly – hope!

The elementary school had been plopped down smack dab in the middle of cornfields, alongside a two-lane, country road outside of town.  It’s rural setting held all of the charm and beauty that one looking for serenity diligently pursues.  The school stood out for another reason – it’s demographic was 70% poverty.

As the bus ride concluded, the principal took the microphone and spoke.  “For some of these children, your morning greeting will be the first time an adult has acknowledged or spoken to them that day.” 

Those words pierced my daughter’s heart.  Compared to her previous school’s 40% poverty rate, this was a monumental leap in statistics that couldn’t begin to measure the pain and lack in these children’s faces.

Keenly aware of the situation, on the first day of school she knelt down and greeted them by name.  She told each one,  “Good morning, (calling them by name).  I’m so glad you’re here today!  You can give me a handshake…or a hug…or a high five.”

Over and over again, she watched their faces light up in response to her affectionate words and warm smile. 

When lunchtime came it was quite obvious which children had gone without dinner the night before.  She gently told a number of them to slow down as they tried to inhale their food.  After witnessing that tragedy, she armed her classroom with more snacks than she could store in her closets.  She thought often about the older siblings who helped get these children on the bus…but especially those students who did it by themselves at 6 years old.  Her heart was naturally soft toward her students, but remembering that we never know what these children are going through at home should always keep the rest of us from being quick to judge.

When I checked in with her to see how her first week was going, she recounted instance after instance of her sweet 1st graders.  And now she knows exactly why God brought her here – He had pre-chosen, one by one, every child that He knew needed her.  Who knows how huge and far-reaching her impact will be in their young lives?  Maybe someday she will get a small glimpse.  But for now, she couldn’t ask for a greater purpose!

If I Could Change My Name

You might as well learn now that I’m a little quirky and I love to have fun.  It seems my family does too because they get a kick out of creating weird nicknames for me.

My kids call me Lamb Chop…Mony…Ramon…and Maurice.

My Husband calls me Marv…Curly Sue…Sparky McVee…Kid…Claude and the most romantic of all…Little Buddy!

People outside of my family have gotten in on the game too.  I’m called Momma Hubbard (even by those older than me and I’m not that old folks)!

Honestly I’ve never loved my name…Ramona Kaye.  Well actually, I loved the name “Ramona” once my grandmother told me the story of a beautiful Native American Indian Princess named Ramona.

You see all of my life I thought my grandfather was part American Indian – thus making me part Indian as well.  In the summers, my grandmother took us to visit tribes around Oklahoma.  I’m not sure what her intentions were exactly but my natural assumption was so that I could get in touch with my roots.

And to further drive that message home, they took me to the top of 7 Falls in Colorado Springs so I could see the grave of the famous Indian princess, Ramona.  I even had my picture taken along side it!

So naturally all of my life I’ve continued this story to my kids and basically anyone who would listen…until years later when quite unexpectedly my bubble was completely burst.  I discovered that I am 0% Native American Indian and in fact, 48% Irish!  Thanks a lot Ancestry.com!

Well that explains the fly-away curls and my love of Lucky Charms (especially those devilishly good marshmallows)!

So after a bit of a struggle with a mild identity crisis, I gave up on the notion.  If you really want to make me smile, call me Gidget, Buffy or Sandy (from a few of my favorite 1960’s beach movies) or just about anything and I’ll most likely answer. 

Because after all, it’s not so much what people call you, as it is the affection that comes behind it …even if that means your nicknames include Little Buddy!  Ha!

The Day Big John Was Gone

I hope you’ve been fortunate enough to have a giant of a man in your life at some point.  I’m talking about a real man’s man – not a pretender, not a wanna-be’r.  I mean a man that can slay your emotional dragons, believes in you more than you do, is a fierce protector and a man that sees the way things ought to be and then does everything in his power to right wrongs.

Have you ever been loved like that?  What if that man wasn’t even your own father?  What if he was an uncle who loved you as if you were one of his own?

John Coker was a big man, not only in stature at 6’5”, but also big in heart, soul and his faith.  When he entered a room, he engulfed it with his booming voice and broad smile.  No one laughed harder at his jokes than he did.  He was a born salesman with unparalleled charm and extreme likeability. 

Our history was rich and deep. He and my Aunt Judy kept me for extended periods from the time I was a toddler.  I cannot imagine my life without either of them. Uncle J had two children of his own, yet he always found time to call and check on me.  I was 59 years old when I received his final phone call.  I didn’t know that would be the last time my phone would light up with his name.  Strange how we think our heroes are invincible and will always be with us.

Whenever I would tearfully try to express how much he meant to me, he would smile and say “Darlin’ I’m just doing what comes naturally.”  Those words really struck me then and even more now that he’s gone.  I’ve become keenly aware of people that God has brought into my life at different points – people that desperately needed a “family’s” touch, even if only for a season. 

I hope that Big John is smiling as he looks down at me and I can almost hear him saying, “Darlin’ keep doing what comes naturally.”

No More Someday

Someday when I have more time.  Someday when I have more money.  Someday when I'm in better shape. Someday when the kids are grown.  Someday...

A couple of months ago I woke up on my 60th birthday and 'someday' had arrived.  Like it or not, that feeling of 'what am I waiting for' hounded me throughout the day, much like a house guest who had worn out his welcome. 

Years of silencing hopes and dreams, while putting others first, had compounded like interest on a CD that begged to be cashed in.  I cringed as friends and acquaintances talked about retirement and dreamed of long, lazy days.  The thought of "existing" like that was particularly nauseating and bored me to tears. 

I took quick mental inventory of every dream I had stashed away.  The older I get the more I realize that dreams aren't generally fulfilled quickly and that it's possible to work on them simultaneously while simply "doing life".

So this is for all you millennials out there and the baby boomers and even you members of the Greatest Generation.  Don't rob yourself today by waiting for a someday.  We've all heard it said "It's never too late," but unfortunately many of us don't believe it.  How do I know?  I talk to people all the time who live in the land of regret because they believe they have used up their quota of opportunities and good breaks in life. 

Can I encourage you today that nothing you have endured has to be wasted.  No loss, no mistake, no missed opportunity.  All of those heartaches and disappointments are rich with experience, perspective and knowledge but only if you choose to let them be. 

So I hope by sharing this that at least some of you will join me and avoid getting in line with the someday crowd because someday it will literally be too late.

Amarillo's Loss

Funny how you meet the most interesting people when you are doing the most ordinary, mundane things.  

My husband recently went to get his hair cut at the same old barber on an ordinary day, doing a routine thing he’s done for over 45 years (at least by himself).  His usual barber wasn’t available so he was seated in the chair of a young man he’d never met.  

My husband quickly learned that his name was Zack.  He was barely in his twenties, had a few tattoos on one forearm and a mop of dark hair.  He was a country boy – from Amarillo to be exact.  Zack had been in town for a little over a month.  He didn’t know a soul when he moved here.  He lived in his car the first week when he hit town while he looked for employment.  He said he was fortunate to get hired quickly and went to work at the barbershop right away.

What impressed us about Zack was that he voluntarily removed himself from familiar surroundings and family and friends.  And he did it sacrificially with no help from anyone.  When my husband asked him why, his response was this:  
“When you’re put in uncomfortable situations it makes you stronger.”

Zack has a 16-year plan…not a five-year or a 10-year.  Sixteen-year!  Not sure why he chose that number and my husband only had time to find out a little about his plan.  What he did discover was that this young man valued uncomfortable growth, and action steps that defied the average person’s logic and reasoning.  What he didn’t care about was other people’s opinions or limitations.

I’ve thought a lot about Zack and wondered…am I carefree, strategic and unafraid to follow my life’s visions?  I want to be.  Everyday I want to be more comfortable being uncomfortable.  Because in Zack’s words…"then I will be stronger.”

The Big Road Leads into Town...

If ever there was a grandmother, I had one.  And this grandmother of mine had a way with words like no other.  Her expressions left people scratching their heads but made perfect sense to me.  They were like an enigma, a carefully wrapped gift – with incredible wisdom tucked down deep inside. 

Grandmother was a motivational speaker in a time when only loud, brash preachers got the platform at country tent revivals.  So she preached her message of positivity whenever and wherever she could.  While other “proper Southern” women were busy bartering homemade and canned goods, ironing and the like during the Depression, she went door to door selling insurance and bartered all that “woman’s work” out and paid for the rest with her earnings. 

My very young parents and I lived with my grandparents for some time on their farm.  That time spent together forged a bond so strong that no Herculean effort could’ve broken.  Even after my family moved out, I continued to spend time with her.  There was no other person on earth I would’ve rather been with than my grandmother, Jennie Mae. 

Grandmother continually encouraged me as if she saw something inside of me that I didn’t see myself.  “Caint never could” – translation, “if you think you can’t, you’re right.”  “That possum’s on the stump” – translation “the time is now, do what you gotta do.” “I’ll explain it for you but I can’t understand it for you” – meaning “you know what to do, now figure it out for yourself” and “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride” – translation “it’s not enough to just wish something would happen.”

Grandmother cheered me on as I tackled my fear of speech class, drama, speech tournaments, debate class, school newspaper, pep squad, etc…  I always knew she was proud but I always knew she expected more… more because she believed I could do it.

So here I am again…at this stage of life…putting myself out there once again, paying no attention to the gossips, critics and the naysayers.  Why? Because dreams don’t have age limits or time limits or any limits at all – especially to the dreamer. 

Because in the end, The big road leads into town!  (translation -  don’t hide yourself or your dream.  Go for it because gettin’ to town is your destiny!)

Sometimes You Just Gotta Put Your Head in the Sand

Instagram. Twitter. Facebook. Snapchat. Pinterest. Youtube.  Vine. Periscope. Wechat – you chat…everybody chat! Whaaaaat!

And we wonder why discontent and anxiety are on the rise.  FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is real, people.  Researchers have coined a new term for those of us who fail to quit or at least decrease time spent on it– it’s called social media reversion.

This bit of news caused me to reflect.  My husband and I started a tradition called Pappa and YaYa’s summer camp.  Recently we took our oldest grandson (and our 3 daughters because …well because they refused to be left behind even though it was grandparent camp ha!) to San Diego.  Four fun-soaked days of Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, beaches, snow cones, swimming and minimal “rules” left us all “happy tired”.  We finished the camp with our usual commemorative sign with date written in the sand.  Ah success and another one in the books.

Then last weekend, we joined the family at a local watering hole downstream from the Brazos River - because what else do you do when its 100 degrees and high humidity in Texas! We were in an area called Big Rocks Park where the rocks are really big!  And they hide under the water so that you stub your toe, rack your knees and struggle to look cool.  Add to that, a generous layering of super slippery moss and you’ve got yourself a slimy recipe for disaster.  The afternoon was spent entertained with people watching (taking bets on who would fall), laughing as the grandsons slid belly first down baby waterfalls and creating memories we will never forget.

I’m pretty sure our oldest grandson was just as happy exploring, slipping and sliding there as he was on the elaborate grandparent camp trip to California.  And for sure our youngest grandson needed no help entertaining himself with the infinite grains of sand and numerous minnows nipping at our toes. 

So the lesson my grandchildren taught me:  be in the moment, be content and put down the social media.  Tune the world out!  Sometimes you just gotta put your head in the sand!

What If It Had Been Me Under The Bridge That Day

His braided hair formed neat cornrows and his clean clothes were damp from the intense heat and humidity.  He carried a large, vendor type box of candy bars as he made his way in and out of the stores.  Me, in my usual hurried errand running mode, had dashed into the cleaners to drop off some clothes.  I heard the bell ring as he opened the door behind me.

“I’ll be with you in a minute,” the employee said.

I turned to see the man looking at me, a huge smile crossing his face.  “You can help him first,” I said as I turned back to count my husband’s shirts.

“Oh no, he can wait,” she answered.

“Would you be interested in buying some candy?” he asked in a pleasant tone.

“Oh, no thank you,” I responded without much thought.

“Okay. Would it be alright if I said I liked your curly hair?”

“Alright now, he’s trying to guilt me!” I thought as I turned to shut down any further advances. 

“Ms. Hubbard, do you want to pick up your clothes today?”

“Oh yes, let me run out to the car and get my wallet.”

That’s when I noticed his arm, drawn up close to his side and his weak hand trying to hold the box.  It was obvious he has some paralysis on his right side.

I waited a minute until he had walked out of the cleaners.  When I went back in, I asked the clerk about him.

“Oh, I had the same reaction when I first met him.  I asked my boss about him and that’s when she told me his story.”

“Oh?  What’s his story?”

“He worked at a restaurant around the corner and one night he stayed late to help the manager lock up.  When he came out, he had missed the last bus so he took the shortcut under the bridge to catch another one three blocks away.  When he was walking beneath the bridge, some guys jumped him, robbed and beat him within an inch of his life.  If an officer hadn’t driven by, he would’ve died.  He spent a couple of months in the hospital.  He has permanent brain damage now and he sells candy as part of his “job” for the non-profit that houses him.  Everyone around here knows him.  I buy candy from him every chance I get.  Ms. Hubbard?” she called after me as I rushed out the door.

“Excuse me?” I hollered and waved for him to come back.  I brought him over to my car where my daughter was waiting.  She quickly assumed there could be trouble so she shot me a dirty look and grabbed her cell phone and my purse.

“What kind of candy would you like?”

“I don’t want any,” she answered skeptically.

“Sure you do! I’m buying some, so tell me what you want.”

After a brief minute of discussion, we settled in on Kit Kats.  He thanked me profusely and walked away.

“Mom! What are you doing bringing him over here to the car? He could’ve robbed us or worse!”

“You don’t know his story, sweetie.” I proceeded to repeat what the woman had told me.

A couple of minutes later, she leapt out of the car and chased him down the street.  By then, a storefront owner had given him a cupcake and another one had given him a cold water bottle.  She called after him as businessmen walked by with scowling, disapproving faces.

“Let me buy some candy from you!  How’s your day?” she said loudly so as to show everyone within earshot that she respected and honored him.  Attitudes began to shift and it became obvious that people were reevaluating their stereotyping.  

As we passed him on the street, we rolled down the window.  “Have a great day! God bless you!”

“God bless you! Thank you friends,” he called back as he waved wildly.

As we drove under the bridge, we talked about his thankful attitude and cheerful outlook despite the brutal attack.  Extraordinary!  Fiercely remarkable! And I couldn’t help but wonder, what if it had been me walking beneath the bridge that day?  Do I have enough hope and joy and love in me to care about others like he does, despite his life being forever changed?  I wonder…

All I know is that I’m quite sure I met an angel that day.

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Stone Cold Stunners & Other Wrestling Moves That Prepared Me For Life

I grew up in Oklahoma City, land of WWF matches, drag racing strips, roller rinks and Sooner football.  At a young age, the wrestlers that came to town fascinated my brother and I.   Andre the Giant was his favorite and I had a crush on Gorgeous George.  We frequently argued over who would win if they were ever scheduled in a match.  I mean there was no comparison – Andre the Giant was a hulk at 7’4” and Gorgeous George was only 5’9”.  But to say George was confident would be an understatement. No one could match his flamboyant style as he entered the arena to the melodic notes of Pomp and Circumstance, donning his sequined robe as his ring valet tossed rose petals at his feet.  His showmanship was legendary and later both Muhammad Ali and James Brown would cite GG as the inspiration for their own self-promotion.  Anyway, no one could convince us that the wrestling wasn’t real and I actually cried watching a match on WKY TV when a ceiling tile fell on GG’s head, cutting it open and spilling blood into his golden curls.

Life Lesson #1 – You don’t have to be the biggest or baddest to win.

Life Lesson #2 – Stone cold stunners and other heavy blows may knock you down but you can choose to get up and keep fighting.

Life Lesson #3 – Be creative and enjoy your individuality. 

Fantasy is a fickle mistress.  If you don’t believe, then it is nonsense to you.  But if you believe, you will open you heart to unexpected life lessons and a world of imagination.

Duct Tape & Other Beauty Obsessions

Duct tape, that powerful, gooey, silvery gray roll of gravity-defying magic.  How could we live without it?  Growing up, I watched in wonder as my Granddad secured, repaired and stabilized countless pieces of farm equipment, fence gates and the rusty holes in the Quonset hut near the barn.  He would smile at me silently, almost as if saying, “Yep, duct tape is a farmer’s best friend.” 

 As if it couldn’t get any better, one day in the 1960s he discovered super glue.  Super glue was like duct tape and baling wire on steroids.  Excitedly, he applied it to the bottom of his glass toothpick holder and pressed it onto the dash of his new Cadillac – it was stuck like Chuck!  Wow! Who knew such an astonishing product existed.  Granddad finished his last days exhausting every possible use for super glue his imagination could create. 

After marrying, I learned that my family wasn’t the only ones with a duct tape obsession.  An aunt (who shall remain nameless) desired a more youthful appearance.  In a brilliant display of creativity, she pulled the skin on the back of her neck taught (much a mother dog does when using her mouth to pick up a pup by the scruff of its neck).  She slapped that tape down, popped the collar on her shirt up to disguise it and reveled in her accomplishment.  That’s what you call a redneck neck lift! 

And another female in the family, rather than wasting money buying different chain lengths, uses tape to stick her necklace to the back of her neck and covers it up with her hair.  Voila!

So there you have it – my family’s hush-hush beauty tip! Well that and our secret Kool-Aid concoction (Kool-Aid, honey and cayenne pepper)… THE perfect all-in-one lip stain and lip plumper!  But that’s for another day…

Don't Hate The Player - Hate the GAME--- WHAT???

Okay so I’m sitting with my daughter in a lounge and overhear the best man proudly and loudly make this toast to the other 8 including the groom, “To our wives and our mistresses – may they NEVER meet!”  Laughter and the clanking of shot glass ensue. 

Hmmm…my first thought was to judge him for his actions and forget his intentions, assuming they were noble in some small way.  But you see I firmly believe (after spending another whiskey-soaked hour observing their boisterous camaraderie) that these misbehaving boys just wanted to be seen as players – even if just for one evening.

What is that about?  Who are they kidding?  A quick eye survey around their table depicts beer bellies, shriveling, neglected muscles and struggling hairlines.  What happened to all the vim and vigor of the ‘glory days’ long gone?  They spoke of first wives, hot girlfriends and evaluated every female that walked by.  They sneered at a table of mature women as if begging them to confront their bad boy behavior.  Bullies are bolder in groups and rational people tend to not want to become their targets.

Proud, that’s what they were.  Proud of who they thought we thought they were. And obviously thinking that’s what women want.  So why do women tolerate this behavior as acceptable? Do they hope and pray that it will disappear someday or at least not get worse?

 

Wake up girls!  This is a character weakness or as my husbands says - a flaw.  And it’s not pretty.  Ladies, you are worth more than that – much more!  And guys – we don’t think you are who you think we think you are – so don’t blame it on the game.

Not What I Had My Face Fixed For

 “Dear Mrs. Hubbard, blah…blah…blah…”  I read the first sentence of every letter before tossing them into the trash.  I didn’t read the rest – did it matter?  “Rejection.  Not interested.  Not a good fit.” That's all I saw.

Why didn’t someone tell me that major publishers only accepted less than 1% of all children's' book manuscripts? I’d heard people speak of “hopes being dashed” and I always wondered what that meant.  Well, now I was clear. It felt like being slammed against a rocky shore and then relentlessly pummeled by brutal waves over and over again.  It was the evilest form of rejection known to man, OK... well at least known to me.

Editors, schmeditors!  “Who needs them anyway,” I told myself.  I’ve read plenty of boring children’s books and couldn’t understand how the big publishers ever accepted them.  And don’t even get me started on the unimaginative artwork.  

In the words of my grandmother, “This is not what I had my face fixed for!”  After a few weeks spent alone donning an impressive pout, I came up with a plan B.  “If they choose not to do it, then I’ll publish it myself.”  

Well, that was easier said than done.  This was 1992, before the public had access to the internet, before Youtube and A Dummies Guide to (fill in the blank).  Long story short, after many and I mean many phone calls, I met with a printer and tried to figure out what is aTrade Zone, where Reynosa, Mexico was and did I have to go there to pick up my books myself???  Good gosh, I didn’t even have a passport!

Confessions of A Reluctant Writer

I never set out to be an author.  I never aspired to be one.  Can I admit that I really don’t even like to read books?  How laughable is that! My publisher and I argue about it all the time.  She says I’m an author but I prefer to say I'm just a storyteller.  But somehow, tangled up in all of my hesitation and excuses, I managed to write 4 children’s books, 3 adult fiction books and 1 devotional.  Go figure!  Life has a funny way of corralling us into the things we least want to do.

It all started with a thought…which led to an idea…leading my husband to say,  “You should write that down".  And so I did, fully expecting to put it aside, forget about it and go on my merry way.  But the story wouldn’t leave me alone, pestering me like a 4 year-old in ToysRUs.  It was relentless and kept growing inside of me like a headache that wouldn’t be ignored.  Every time I sat down at my computer and emptied my mind of the daily ideas, more came, multiplying faster than I could process them.  And so before I knew it, I was writing…  like a lot!  

First came the children’s books.  As the mother of 4, they fit nicely into my simple mindset and comfort zone.  They weren’t too threatening and the singsongy rhymes were fun to read to my own kids and the children at the schools and book signings.  Who wouldn’t love, “Bright and sunny was the day when Peggy Piggy rolled out to play.  I’m all alone.  This is not fun.  I need my friends.  Where’s everyone?” And so on and so on.  The kids smiled and I giggled along with them - yet inside my heart was full and happy because they were absorbing the ethics and values embedded within the rhyme.  

I guess my husband was right, I should’ve continued my elementary education degree.   Maybe I missed my calling?  And maybe I didn’t.

All I know is that now I am immensely thankful for every creative idea and I treasure each one as if it was pure gold.

In the words of my wise publisher, “Don’t rob the world by dying with anything left inside of you.  Die empty!”

And that is where my quest begins...