The Answer

It all started back in January when I was watching CBS Sunday Morning and saw a story on Chris Rosati…..this story to be precise.

 

Krispy Kreme Heist <<<click on it

I felt an instant connection and draw to Chris and his insane idea to steal a donut truck and go around town giving out free treats….why? Well, given his same circumstances it is just exactly what I would do. I started thinking that someone in Fort Worth, where I live, should do something equally crazy to honor Chris in his fight against ALS….and I was just that crazy person. So I drafted some amazing friends who gave of their money and time…and we did this.

Donut Giveaway <<click on this

You see Chris Rosati knows the answer. His disease may be terminal, but it doesn't matter at this point….because of the answer. I have blogged before about life being very small moments of perfection. Watch out for them because sometimes they are moving quite quick in front of you. I witnessed one of those moments, the CBS story, and knew that Chris had the answer.

"Love is the answer, and you know that for sure." John Lennon.

Hand someone a donut and they smile, a simple thing. I saw it on TV in January and experienced it first-hand in March. A random act of kindness, big or small, is based in love. My friends and I felt the impact of the Rosati event in North Carolina on the day we gathered to give total strangers a smile. It wasn't about the donuts though you see, it was the act toward a fellow human….the impact…..the ripple effect. We all want to matter. In the end of lives, whether it comes at 20 years of age or 98, we want to know we mattered while here on earth. It isn't about money in the bank, or celebrity, material possessions….it is about the people one impacts with the answer.

I am willing to bet that Chris Rosati has been impacting people in a positive way his entire life, his illness just gave him clarity, focus, and urgency…urgency to shift gears into overdrive. I commend him for what he is continuing to do with his life.

I think I will grab hold of some of that focus and urgency and ramp up some of the things I do in my life to help others. I have always been a "doer." Today, I want to encourage you to become one too. Don't read this blog and think it was cool what we did and then go about your day. I want you to create a moment of perfection today. Work on your answer. Do not procrastinate or rationalize…start a project that will create one of those ripples of your own. It feels really good, let me tell you. It feels great to have the answer, better than a chocolate covered…well, you get my point.

"If you are not impacting someone, then this whole thing is a waste." Chris Rosati

"Get off your ass and go do something for the greater good." Julya Billhymer

Food For Thought

“Juju, there’s a woman out in the parking lot setting up the party, but that has to be your grandmother,” said Mrs. Short,   Mrs. Short was Juju’s second grade teacher.  Nope, said Juju, that’s my momma!  Juju didn’t even have to look out the window, she knew Jewel was out there unloading the 62 Tan Cadillac that was loaded with cookies and big restaurant size drink dispenser.

Juju further knew that her 78-year-old grandmother was probably securely seated in her favorite chair at her house in Haltom City, watching “Days of Our Lives” or another one of her programs…she had never learned to drive ruling her out immediately.  Juju was used to people thinking her parents were her grandparents.  She was number seven of seven, coming at a time when her mother was 40 and her father was 49.  Juju’s mother had a large swath of grey hair starting at her forehead and flowing all the way to the rear of her head.  People were recently calling Juju’s mother “Maude” after a popular TV show.  The two women had two similarities…hair and attitude.  Juju’s mother did not care for the moniker, telling Juju that people like to put down women that were smart and spoke their mind.  “Never let anyone silence your opinions Juju!” said Jewel.

The Harrison Lane Elementary second grade class was putting on a performance of Little Red Riding Hood for the school.  Juju played the lead because Mrs. Short said she was the only girl who could memorize all the lines. 

dispenser
Jewel did not come into the school to watch the performance.  She worked for one hour out in the parking lot, setting up a long table for a treat buffet.  By the time the play was over and the entire second grade was lined up, the table was perfect.  Colored paper decorations were attached to the pressed, white linen table-cloth with the floral design.  Dozens of cookies were displayed on shiny silver platters.  Juju’s father was a chef and he had “donated” some the equipment from his restaurant.  He even took the time to carve radishes into pretty little roses that complimented the icing on the trays of cookies.  The big drink dispenser was full of iced cold lemonade, just sweet enough for all the kids to line up for seconds.

Mrs. Short was speechless, when Juju had volunteered her parents to cater the event, she had no idea what the result would be.

radishes

After all the kids dispatched with the table full of goodies, they marched single file back into the second-grade hall, no one looking forward to the afternoon math class. Juju enjoyed being the girl in the spotlight that day, but the funny thing was, it was the party in the parking lot that made her swell with pride…not her starring role. Her parents had taken great pains in ensuring that the table was decked out and looked just as fancy as the buffet did at the place where her father worked.

Juju sat down at her desk in Mrs. Forrester’s math class and looked out the window. There was her mother, now folding up the long table that would stick out the back trunk of the Cadillac, on her trek back home. Juju watched as her mother turned the car south onto Harrison Lane, back towards the modest ranch-style house her large family shared.

Years later two of Juju’s friends remembered that day and the fancy snacks served on silver platters. Juju asked them if they remembered the play before the snacks….they did not. It seems Juju’s parents were on to something. People remember good food and presentation….they incorporate it into their memories. Juju knew this to be true because almost all of her childhood memories were attached in some way to food. Her family were “foodies” long before the term became fashionable.

Remember that Christmas eve? The one where we had 80 people over for dinner? Yeah, that one. Remember your third birthday? The one where momma made the birthday cake to look like a lamb? Oh yeah, right! Remember when we went down to ride inner tubes down the Comal River? Yes, when dad made a huge fruit boat with lunch that Saturday and grilled those pork steaks? Yeah…..yeah.

Juju doesn’t remember much of the play at all, not her costume or anything. She does remember sitting on the curb chomping on a cookie that was almost too pretty to eat.

Juju was watching the Food Channel last week and felt a tear rolling down her right cheek. Forget chopping onions, carved radishes can do that to you too, even after several decades. Those radishes were food for thought…the thought of a greying mother of seven, working hard in a hot, Texas parking lot. Creating a memory that remains of a sweet afternoon so long ago, as sweet as that lemonade…and that was some mighty fine lemonade.

Shots Fired, Officer Down! (Part Two)

Originally posted on Dyke in the Heart of Texas:

And after that brief commercial break….our story continues.

Well, the keys explained why the car wasn’t moving. The wife told me that her husband wasn’t hit. Ross’s return shots had all went right through the center of the back window and out the front….unbelievably missing both occupants.

I could hear the siren of back-up Officer Fritz approaching the scene from my west. The hammer on my Smith & Wesson was ready to strike it’s mark….as the suspect started to exit the vehicle. I asked for hands and he showed me hands, no gun. He was screaming, “please, kill me!!” I would have gladly obliged him, but again, no gun.

In a split second, he turned and ran right into the path of eastbound traffic and headed across the center median of the four lane highway. Officer Fritz saw this and drove his unit across the median, in hot pursuit.

I…

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Shots Fired, Officer Down! (Part One)

Originally posted on Dyke in the Heart of Texas:

It was November 6, 1988 at about 12:40 a.m. and I was on patrol on the east side of the city. I checked out at a tire store because I saw a suspicious car pulled up by the back door. I gave the dispatcher the plate number of the vehicle to run on the computer and began to investigate.

I let my guard down a little when I checked the hood of the car and found the engine was cold. I started walking the perimeter, along with my handy Mag light. The dispatcher called out, “221?” Go ahead, I replied. He told me the vehicle was “clear,” meaning not stolen and no warrants attached to the registered owner. The address was local, so I checked a few doors and went back to my unit.

I had graduated the police academy just 9 months before this night.
Low seniority had bestowed…

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Almost a Christmas Story

Juju was  standing on the aqua colored, vinyl kitchen chair, on her tip-toes.  She could see the box of Pin-Wheel cookies that her mother evidently did not want her to see.  Juju’s mother was Christmas shopping with her older sisters and her father was glued to the evening news in the living room.  Juju figured she needed more height.  She was the tallest girl in third grade, but the marsh-mellow filled chocolate cookies were still just beyond her reach.

Juju’s mother had a habit of hiding the good stuff…her personal cravings.  With seven children, sweets in the house usually lasted about the time it took to rip open the bag…think a dozen donuts in a police briefing room.  Juju went to the hall and retrieved the yellow pages from the phone stand.

The phone book provided the necessary extra four inches and Juju’s fingers grabbed at the Nabisco delights.  As she grabbed the package though, another  smaller box behind it toppled to the floor with a loud, snake-like rattle. Juju jumped down and picked up the small yellow box with the word “Daisy” written  on the side.  Holy Cow!  This could only mean one thing Juju surmised!  Somewhere in her house was the Daisy BB gun she had begged her father to buy her for her birthday on Christmas eve!!

All the neighborhood kids had a BB gun and Juju was tired of begging her friends for a turn as they shot Coke cans off the creek’s edge in her north Texas neighborhood. Robbie Ray had one, Roderick Paul had one, even Donnie Gene had one and his parents didn’t have much money at all.  All kids on Juju’s street went by two names.  At dinner time you could stand in the middle of the street and  hear a cacophony of mom’s voices; standing at front doors, yelling their kids names and calling them for dinner.  “Roderick Paul, come on now!  The roast is on the table!”

Juju and her sisters did not have middle names, an anomaly in the  South for sure.  Her mother always told her that her last name was long and enough to deal with without having a middle name.  “Girls will marry and your maiden name will become your middle name,” she told Juju.  Men need middle names, so Juju’s mother gave her two sons the names of James Edward and John Garfield.

Juju carefully placed the box of BBs back up on the refrigerator and hid it with the crinkly wrapped box of cookies, one of which was now sitting on the kitchen table and the other securely in Juju’s mouth.  Her mother would blame her father for the theft, Juju thought to herself and giggled. Juju had premeditated  her crime earlier in the day, making a point to tell her mother that she didn’t like marsh-mellows at all.  Coming from a kid who had eaten fish sticks for the entire first grade, her mother had bought the story…..hook, line, and sinker.  :)

For the next week Juju day-dreamed about her BB gun, envisioning great games of “war” and “Gunsmoke” with her buddies.  It never occurred to Juju that all the kids she played with and who had BB guns were all boys.  She had to act surprised when she opened the long box that would surely be handed to her by her father.   Juju practiced looks of surprise and awe in the bathroom mirror.

The day finally came, Juju’s eighth birthday!  With family all at the house for Christmas eve, Juju patiently waited on the sofa. There was always one special gift under the tree designated as her birthday gift.  It didn’t matter that it was always wrapped in Christmas paper…Juju was spoiled rotten and the gift always made up for the fact that she had to share her birthday with the rituals of the season.

Christmas carolers were heard at the door and Juju’s mother gave them cookies and made her annual request for a song not on their list.  Juju was called to the front porch and tapped her toes as ten strangers from a local church sang her the Happy Birthday song.  Until she was five, Juju had thought all people have strangers come to their door and sing to them on their birthday.   All the while, in her head, Juju was dreaming of strapping  the Daisy rifle over her shoulder, as she crawled on her stomach to help her friends reach the bank robber’s camp just on the other side of the creek that ran under Pipeline Road.

Once back inside the living room of the small ranch-type house her family shared, Juju’s mother motioned at a small box with red paper, under the tree.  Juju could hardly contain her merriment at the thought of opening that box of BBs.  She felt confident with her acting ability upon the opening of the package. The previous year, her older sister Junene had opened  up five of their gifts while their parents had slept.  Junene expertly re-wrapped each gift, threatening Juju to secrecy.  Versing her on the art of “cover” the next morning as their ruse went undetected

With the entire family watching, Juju ripped into the small, red box.  A Snow White watch??   Whoa Nelly, what??  Juju’s face looked like it did the time her mother told her grilled liver tasted just like sirloin…it does not.  “Well, that’s not the reaction I was looking for Juju,” her mother said.  Juju gulped, a mouthful of disappointment and quickly strapped the watch on her left wrist, a forced smile on her face.

After her older siblings had left the house for their own homes, Juju retired to her bedroom.  Her disappointment had lasted about ten minutes before she thought that the BB gun was going to be her big Christmas gift the next morning!  Juju could hear her parents engaged in a  loud conversation in the kitchen.  Did Juju’s mother just say BB??

Juju tip-toed down the hall and heard the following interaction between her parents.  Jewel said, “You spoil her, she doesn’t need everything she asks for!” Jim, “I know, but she is the last one, my baby!”  Jewel, “A girl doesn’t need a gun!! That’s why I took it back to the store.  She already plays football with all the boys on the street and have you seen her bicycle?  She and Roderick Paul dismantled the swing set and turned their bikes into choppers like on that damn hippie movie!!!”

That’s why I took it back to the store??  Juju was not getting the BB gun, she looked at her wrist…Snow White told her it was time to go to bed.

The next morning was going to be an Oscar worthy performance, just as good as the acting in Juju’s favorite movie,  Mary Poppins.  Christmas of 1969 turned out to be pretty darn good.  Juju loved the Monopoly, Twister and Operation games she received. Her big gift was a guitar, a gift that she had asked for to learn Beatles songs on…..a gift that would sit in the corner of her room for the next three years, collecting dust.

It was almost the year Juju got the weapon of her dreams.  By January Juju took on the role of a rogue Indian in the neighborhood “Gunsmoke” games.  Robbie Ray loaned her his tom-a-hawk…she rationalized it was better than a long-rifle anyway.

That Christmas is now the one Juju thinks of most often, it was  ….Almost a Christmas Story.  Having watched that ubiquitous movie about seventy times…..and every time she does tune in, her mind goes back to re-live her own memories.  It is the  favorite Christmas of her childhood….the year she learned you don’t need everything you wish for to create magic.  The year she first learned her mother was watching certain things closely and beginning to question choices.  The year she heard her father voice nostalgia and love at his last child growing up too fast.

Juju still loves Pin-Wheel cookies, when she can find them, and  still hates liver.  She still thinks it would be fun to go shoot cans with a BB gun and to play touch football in the street….and she still believes in Christmas bringing  magic to your life.

Even if it is a five-minute moment, enjoy the magic of the season.  Happy Holidays

A Hand in History

I was 23 months old on November 22, 1963 and about 30 miles away from the exact location where the thirty-fifth President of the United States was murdered that day.  Of course, I have no personal recollection of the assassination, but in a way this horrific act helped shape my childhood and life.

JFK was my childhood hero…is still my hero.  My entire life I wanted to establish a link to him….to reach out and touch something that he touched during his lifetime.  One day in 1992 I saw this picture and instantly knew what I had to do.

billjfk

William Jefferson  Clinton visited the White House on July 24, 1963 as a member of Boys Nation.  The 35th President of the United States reached out and firmly grabbed the hand of the 42nd, and a historical photograph was snapped.

Clinton was campaigning for re-election in 1996 and had a scheduled stop in downtown Fort Worth.  I went down to the appointed spot 5 hours early, got myself front row center of the stage and waited.  The President arrived with Ann Richards and other notable Democrats in Texas.  It was thrilling to see everyone and to listen to Clinton rally the fateful.  I gave my camera to the total stranger next to me and told him to snap my picture with the President because I just knew we were going to shake hands and I would have my link to JFK.

After his stump speech, Clinton made a bee-line to the front row and was walking directly to me!  I looked at the guy and he had my camera ready to go!  The President grabbed my hand with his right and draped his left hand over the top.  We had a brief conversation and I could hear the click of my camera.

It was 1996 so I had to take the film cartridge to the drug store for processing.  Two days later the prints were picked up and I nervously ripped the envelope open.  Inside the envelope I found six pictures of the side of my head??!!!  Not one photograph of the handshake between me and 42!!  What an idiot!!  How did this happen??  He was a stranger, I couldn’t even track him down to strangle him!!

How long did I have to wait before I got another chance at Clinton?  2008.  Yes, twelve years later Bill Clinton was traveling through the DFW area stumping for Hillary and her historic presidential campaign.  One of his stops was in a field in Grapevine, Texas.  Like a dozen years before I showed up about 4 hours early and stood in 35 degree weather in a dirt field behind a civic center.  Where else in America would this happen?   The motorcade pulled up on time and secret service exited with Clinton who jumped into the bed of a pick-up truck to give his speech.  His speech that day was unbelievable and the 200 or so people gathered were yelling and cheering for him…and Hillary.

During his speech, Clinton looked directly down at me several times.  Did I have a professional photographer with me you ask?  No.  Did I at least bring a friend to secure a good photograph this time? Again, no.  It was in the middle of a work day and self-employment was the only reason I was able to attend.  I once again looked to the stranger next to me and asked her to snap a photo of the President shaking my hand.  “How do you know he is going to shake your hand?” she asked.  Just trust me, I told her….he is going to finish his speech and walk right over to me. …and that, he did indeed do.

President Clinton walked up to me and I told him my name and  quickly rattled off a question about the media bias I thought was evident and favoring Barack Obama.  I couldn’t tell you a thing about his response except the first two words he uttered, “Well Julya.”  I’m sure it was a mighty fine answer, it was just that he put both his hands on my shoulders and looked directly into my eyes!  My response was not Monica-esque, but what they say about the man is correct.  The entire outside world disappears for him and it appears that you and your question are the ONLY things that matter to him.

At the end of his answer, he took his hands off my shoulders and the moment happened!  We shook hands and I heard the woman next to me say, “I got it!!”

My full circle moment was complete the next day as I printed off the picture at the camera store by my house.  I laughed out loud when I saw it and realized I had learned nothing in the past 12 years!!  At least this time I have proof that the encounter truly happened and not just a picture of my thick head of hair!  It is actually a very good shot of the secret service guy though, don’t you think?

potus

JFK shook Bill Clinton’s hand….and I had shaken Clinton’s hand,  now twice.  In the weird world that exists in my brain, that was my connection to my childhood hero, I was happy.  The picture doesn’t show the actual handshake, that is true, but I am hoping for another chance…maybe in 2016?

Growing Up Juju (part 20 in a series)

“There she is momma, the girl I told you about!” said Millie Bidman, Juju’s arch nemesis in third grade.  “She  NEVER wears a dress!!”  Both Momma and Millie laughed and walked past Juju into the school cafeteria to attend the PTA meeting.   Juju looked down at her faded blue jeans, her favorite pair with the peace sign patch on the left knee.

patch

I could wear dresses again Juju thought to herself, and I will one day when the mood hits me.  Little did Juju know that urge would not come around until fifteen years later on October 11, 1986 at a relative’s wedding.  But on that night she strutted over and took a seat next to her mother who wore denim peddle pushers and a starched white shirt.  The president of the PTA was talking about the price of chocolate milk as they both yawned in unison.

Juju’s third year at Harrison Lane Elementary was the first year that the school had lifted the rule that  girls no longer had to wear dresses everyday.  Until that day, Juju had shopped each summer’s end with her mother at Watson’s Department Store.  Five new dresses in August for weekly rotation in the Hurst, Texas school.  A pair of shorts was purchased to match each dress;  to prevent Juju’s bum from making a public appearance on the kick-ball field during recess.

After the big announcement, Juju moved on from Watson’s to the Army Navy Store that her older sister adored.  Faded blue jeans in every conceivable style, with huge bell-bottoms.  They also had a huge rack of blue jean patches to make the jeans display your personality.  (“Pieces of flair” for kids coming of age in the 1970s). The jeans had to be worn with chukka boots, Chuck
Taylors,  or huarache sandals…some sort of rule Juju heard about that came from California.  Everything weird came from California according to Juju’s father.  “Fruits and nuts” he used to say. Juju thought  California just had good crops and better shoe fashion sense.

After getting home from the PTA meeting, Juju went to her room to lay out what she was going to wear to school the next day.  T-shirt with Keith Partridge silk screened on the front?  Check!  Hip hugger jeans with the H.R. Pufnstuf patch?  Check!  Tan chukkas?  Check!  This outfit was  really going to chap Millie’s ass…as Juju’s mother had a habit of saying.  

The next day at recess Millie and her two friends skipped up to Juju as she sat on the grass behind the kickball field backstop. The trio all had colorful dresses on and knee high white go-go boots. They looked like the dancers on Laugh-In Juju thought, how can they run in those things? “You better stay away from Gary said the short red head. Gary? Juju inquired? He was a boy in her homeroom that always smelled like a cross between Old Spice and a Whataburger. He picked his nose and then skillfully placed the boogers at the back of the desk in front of him. The kid had a certain skill set. Yeah, Gary the red head snotted back. He likes you, we have proof! It seems Millie was carrying a torch for the nose picker and that revelation made Juju smile. A crumpled piece of lined notebook paper was thrown down to Juju’s chukka wearing feet. She unwadded it and read the following: Which girl do you like best in the third grade? A scratchy reply spelled out J-u-j-u. Millie screamed down at Juju, “You wear boys shoes!!!” The squeak of vinyl filled the air as the girls marched off.

Millie would never find out why Gary loved Juju, but Juju instantly knew. Gary was the only boy on his little league team that could actually throw a curve ball. He would go the rest of his life and never admit a girl in a Beatles t-shirt showed him how one day on a lonely field off Redbud Lane. Juju wasn’t bothered by Millie or her back up dancers again the rest of that year. Millie was left to ponder what the tomboy had over her, watching as Juju and Gary sat up in the bleachers talking about Brooks Robinson.

Closets can be filled with all sorts of stuff in adolescence; cleats, jeans, baseball gloves & bats, Battleship games, and plastic snakes. Juju wondered what a boy kept in his closet?

She, herself, might be in one for the better part of the 1970s, but nary a dress would ever be found.