Juju was actually proud at the moment she puked the three Pink Things into the Six Flags trash can.  She had just successfully completed her first ride on the Mine Train Roller Coaster.  A tall kid, she could have accomplished the feat the summer before, but had balked just as she reached the point of no return on the long ride’s line.  She had turned on her heels that day and ran as fast as she could to the Log Ride.  Hearing the mocking laugh of her sister Junene in the background did not bother her at all, another day she had thought.

Little did Juju know, her time would come on a July day in the summer of 1970.  Juju’s mother and sister had somehow convinced her in the darkness of that night that they were waiting online for the “Mini Mine Train.”  The Mini Mine Train was the sedate little sister to the scary and unyielding regular version.  The comparison of the amusement rides and the personalities of the two sisters would one day ring true to Juju’s adult memory.  On this day however, Juju took her place in the seat next to her mother and the cross safety bar clanged to a locked position.  As the train moved forward, out of the station, Juju looked overhead and read the sign as she flew underneath it…..what did that say???  Juju looked at her mother with all the disgust, fear, and betrayal an eight year old could muster.  As the train zoomed into it’s first sharp turn, Juju could be heard screaming in the darkness, “YOU TRICKED ME!!!”

At the end of the ride, Juju was giggling and running ahead of her mother and sister…off to find her place in line to try it one more time.  The second run took place about five minutes after the pink spewing….Juju was hooked on the speed and the funny feeling the coaster gave to her stomach.  Six Flags would become a yearly stay-cation, adventure that she would enjoy up into college.


The park closed on that long ago night at 11pm. Juju and her mother ended up at the Race Car Track, her personal favorite.CP43
Juju would push the pedal to the floor board and pretend she was Mario Andretti. Her mother, Jewel, always game, would play along with her imagination. Mother and daughter were both laughing so hard that tears were streaming down their faces as they approached the pimply, pit crew. There was 10 minutes left until the park closed. Jewel looked at the vacant line and back to the kid begging them to exit the hot rod. Jewel said, “Kid, I will buy you a Coke if you take your foot off that master brake and let her go around one more time.” One dollar exchanged hands and Juju was once again racing around her imaginary Indy track.
One dollar bought that summer memory, decades later it has become priceless. Juju can still remember the motor vibration on her hands as she gripped that steering wheel. Throwing her head back in laughter, laughing into that long ago night, hoping for one more Pink Thing on the way to the car.

Enjoy your summer.

Thank You Jewel.

My mother was 20 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Jewel had me 20 years later and growing up she liked to regale me with stories of her life and America during “The Great War.”  My mother and my father were members of that group that Tom Brokaw likes to call, “The Greatest Generation.”  It was a different war, I realize that now….it was not Vietnam or Iraq.

When my mother, Jewel, heard the radio reports and listened to FDR tell America, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself,” she, like millions of other people, knew she would be of service to her country in some capacity.

The term “Rosie the Riveter” was first used in a song in 1942, but soon became part of American culture as millions of women stepped up and took over jobs, not normally held by women, when large numbers of men entered the military branches to fight in the war.  Jewel started working for Tesco Corporation in Tarrant County, Texas and was one of the first women “meter readers” documented in the state.


That wasn’t enough for Jewel though and she soon joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp (WAAC) and traveled to freezing temperatures in Illinois for basic training. About 150,000 American women eventually served in the WAAC during World War II. Besides nurses, they were the first women allowed in the U.S. Army. My mother drove a supply truck for the duration of her service. I have blogged before that she met my father, a mess Sergeant, making a delivery one day. She would eventually give him seven “deliveries” with me being lucky number seven.


I sit in my office today thinking about all this because this Sunday is Mother’s Day. I got up this morning thinking about how I now really hate Mother’s Day and I need to change that around….hence this blog. I need to think about stuff like this and just how damn cool of a mother I had on this earth. I followed Jewel’s lead out of college into a service position, I was a police officer for eight years before going to law school. I like to think that if I was around in 1942, I would have joined the WAAC too. I like to think that Jewel and I had lots of similarities, all the while knowing that we were so completely different human beings.

This Sunday, I will raise a glass to Jewel and think of days gone by. I will silently thank her for service to family, community, and country. I will remember past Mother’s Days when she would be waiting for me and my siblings on her porch swing….knowing I would have some beautiful flowers or a plant for her gift. Who am I kidding? I think and honor her every single day of my life. I don’t need a stinking Hallmark card holiday to do so, do I Jewel? You are in my heart. You are the reason I serve my clients every day to the best of my ability. You are the person I want to be proud of me.

I would give anything to be sitting on that swing with you today Jewel. Sipping on a Fresca and listening to you talk about your garden or the neighbor’s “damn dog.” I miss you desperately.

What I would envision myself doing is giving you a big bear hug of thankfulness. Of course, I cannot do that any longer, so this blog will have to suffice.

Happy Mother’s Day, Jewel, I humbly thank you.


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. 

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.


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.


View original 681 more words

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…

View original 1,202 more words

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