Friday, January 28, 2011

January 28, 1986

Twenty five years ago today, I was a gangly 14 year old 8th grader at Kleb Middle School in Spring, Texas. At 11:39 a.m., I was standing in the lunchroom with my friends eating greasy french fries, rectangular pizza, and drinking Mr. Pibb. My best friend's birthday had been the day before and we were busy planning a weekend celebration.

A girlfriend walked up from a group of kids gathering around one another and told me the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded just after launch. And that was all we knew. I remember, in my awkwardness, not knowing exactly how to react. We definitely talked a lot about other launches but this one had been even more highly publicized because it carried a civilian. She was a young, beautiful teacher from Concord, New Hampshire who was taking the field trip of a lifetime.

I can still remember the smell of the cafeteria. The following hours and weeks filling with details including the especially cold weather that morning, the mechanics of the explosion, and the men and women America lost that day.

A year and a half ago, gathering around a kitchen island, our kids counting their loot from trick-or-treating, I remember the smell of taco soup as I got to know a new friend. We started talking about our families and how I'd lost my mom the year Tee was born. She'd lost her dad, too, but much younger than me. When I asked her how, she hesitated for just a second.

"My dad was the pilot of the Space Shuttle Challenger."

She went on to tell about that day back in 1986 when she stood in the cold on bleachers in Cape Canaveral, Florida reserved for the immediate families of the astronauts.

She, her brother, and sister saw the explosion but didn't immediately know what had happened or that their father was gone.

She described how genuinely pained President Reagan was as they sat next to him at the memorial service.

And weeks later, when search teams found the crew cabin, a family friend and veteran astronaut who had tirelessly searched for the missing astronauts and was present at the recovery, assured her that he held her daddy.  He had loved and admired him so much and wanted to make sure she knew - his family knew - this great, great man was honored and cared for in death.

I sat mesmerized as my friend told me how loved her family felt by an entire nation who had lost 7 shining stars. Letters came in sack fulls from around the world with words of prayer, admiration for her dad, and encouragement.

There are very few events that have occurred in my life where I actually remember so clearly the details of where I was. 9/11 was one and the loss of the Challenger was another. Twenty five years is a long time but this date is important to remember for all of us.

My friend's daddy would be so proud of her and I'm thankful to know her. She's an amazing woman, wife, and mother. She's incredibly humble, and gracious, and loves the Lord. She has seen His grace and mercy in her life as she has leaned into the One who promises to be the Father to the fatherless.

"We will never forget them, or the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodby and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God'."

President Ronald Reagan at the memorial service for the Challenger Crew

January 31, 1986

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Another First.

My very first job out of college was working for Carl Sewell and his group of car dealerships. He has come to be known as the king of customer service in the industry and, having worked for him, I can attest to why. Even though I wasn't officially in sales, I was trained like crazy on the philosophy that a one time customer is great but not the end goal. Instead, you want to earn a customer's business for life. You want them coming back for years to buy from you because they trust you and trust you'll take care of them.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of going with Dea to buy his first car and he had the delight in hearing me impart my auto-sales wisdom all morning. Delight is my word, not his.

Dea had saved his money and been so responsible and was ready to pay cash for a used car. He didn't want anything flashy, just something that would get him to school and work and out on the occasional date with a girl who was probably going to become a nun but was pursuing her degree in aeordynamics as a fallback. Again, my words, not his.

Our price range was a smidge below what Sewell sells so we ventured outside the box to find a car. Our first stop was actually, in light of my experience at Sewell, pretty fun. After waiting for a good fifteen minutes, the salesman saunteredup to us wearing cheesy shades indoors and asked said, "Y'all looking for me?". He forgot our names several times, and told us he was sorry the car we called about was actually sold but would we like to see what else they had in a price range a good $3000 more than we had specifically told him. He would be happy put it on a note for Dea and finance it at about a thousand percent interest. Good stuff.

He also referred to another customer as a "chick".

I would like to refer to him as something but this is a family-friendly blog so I shall refrain.

Leaving, I asked Dea what he thought about the salesman. He said he seemed very unprofessional. He made us wait, he tried to sell us a car we couldn't afford, and he called that lady a 'chick'. "And why couldn't he remember our names?"

Yes, Padwon, you have listened well. Mr. Sewell would be proud.

Finally, after having several experiences like this. We finally found a car perfect for Dea. The owner of the lot was great, honest, and low-pressure. He and his wife had been there for 26 years and he told us all about his children and grandchildren.

He was clearly paying attention to his customers.

One of the sales techniques I learned was that, in the close, DO NOT be the first one to talk. Make the offer and then be quiet. Whoever talks first, loses.

The owner told us the price of the car and Dea was silent as a church-mouse.

I on the other hand started immediately jabbering away like a crazy person because uncomfortable silences make me very, very uncomfortable. It's just the way the good Lord made me. And maybe I'd had been overserved at the Starbucks counter and was all jacked-up on caffine.

Perhaps it's why my tenure at Sewell was so short-lived.

We got in the car for a test drive and Dea said, "MaMelissa, you told me to be quiet and then you started talking like crazy! What happened to our plan?"

It was then that I realized I would be paying whatever difference the car was from Dea's budget out of our grocery money. Ramen noodles are healthy, right?

Actually, Dea did a great job negotiating despite me. He got the price he needed and paid cash for that car on the spot. He's clearly a quicker study.

He was so excited and I was excited for him. This was a big deal! He's been really wise with his money and now has something to show for it. And he did it without going into debt or falling into a trap of getting more car than he could actually afford.

And he learned a little about salesmanship in the process - the importance of customer service, the little things, and what it really means to earn someone's business for life.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I spoke at a retreat last fall and shared some stories about the ministry, our lives, and our own kids. At the end, during the Q & A portion, one woman asked if my kids were normal. I knew what she meant. My kids have been exposed to a lot of situations, circumstances, and stories that have impacted forever the way they see the world, people, sin, and redemption. But, she wondered, did they fuss and fight over stupid stuff, whine, talk sassy, drop everything at the front door when they walk in from school, eat entire jars of Nutella before dinner, and, whenever possible, mimic what they see on T.V. - even if it's innapropriate or just plain ridonkulous?

I will now answer that question with a photo.

It was 27 degrees in Dallas this morning. Tee was in charge of putting up the flag at school. I got this picture from a teacher 10 minutes after I'd dropped him off.

Then from a friend. Then from the Headmaster. The school nurse said his tongue only bled a little when they finally got it unstuck from the pole. If we're homeschooling next fall, you'll know why.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

National Treasure.

I love a good story. Especially a surprise that takes you aback, knocks your socks off.

I could watch the Susan Boyle audition on Britians Got Talent a million times. The look on Simon Cowell's face is priceless when she starts to sing. These kinds of stories, I love.

A friend of mine posted another on Facebook the other day. I'd actually seen it before and, because I knew the story, I couldn't wait to see it again.

It's from the Antiques Roadshow and it's a video of one of their Top Ten Highest Valued Items ever.

This sweet man brings in a Navajo blanket that his family has had for decades. The appraiser is rendered speechless. I love the build-up, the way he tells about the history of the blanket, that's its actually a Chief's blanket and a pristine example of the tribe's earliest weavings. It's worth a quarter of a million dollars. The owner, so humbly, voice cracking from the shock, says, "It's just been hanging on the back of a chair."

I can imagine what he's thinking - remembering how, day after day, how he and his family walked past it - barely noticing it. Perhaps it was thrown over him by his mom as a child when he caught that nasty cold that tends to find all our kids this time of year. Except mine because I have willed it away. Perhaps it was spread across chairs and tables to make a fort he and his siblings could play under.

"My family - we're just poor farmers!" The man says through tears. Perhaps he's remembering it being laid across his bed as an extra layer when the heat quit working and there wasn't money to pay for the repair.

Who knows.

But, what he's had on his hands all this time was what the expert calls a National Treasure. He's explained the beauty and value of the simple blanket and the owner will never look at it the same way again. It is worth more than the owner had ever imagined. It's Smithsonian Museum quality and will surely be treated totally differently from now on.

I love the whole story but it actually makes me think of something else. Someone told me once that, if we could see each other as the Lord sees us, and as we will be in Glory, we would want to literally fall on our faces and worship each other. In reality, though, I have a tendency to walk past people in my life, people in my neighborhood that seem so familiar, and barely see them at all. Habits get ingrained, life gets busy, and I stop appreciating the intricate weaving the Lord has done to create all the beautiful people He's put in my life.

I'm praying He'll open my eyes every morning to see people as He sees them. As treasures. Eternal, image-bearing, treasures of infinite worth.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I guess there's no need to come up with a Superhero name.

So, over Christmas, Trey gave me a much needed new laptop. He researched, and bargained, and cajoled several retailers and surprised me Christmas morning. Then, nada, zip, zilch. We, for the life of us couldn't get the thing to work like it was supposed to. Perhaps it's because he may or may not have bought it out of the trunk of a Chevy Impala just before midnight on Christmas Eve.

Or, perhaps, it was me.

And, since Trey did not, if fact, buy the computer out of the trunk of a Chevy Impala, we concluded that it was indeed, me.

I swear, all joking aside, there have been several moments that we have both looked at each other and thought I have some sort of electromagnetical force that prohibits my computer from actually connecting to the internet. Kind of like a super-hero except without the strength or agility. Literally, everyone else in the house could connect except me - including - and evidenced by a previous post - my dog.

So, over the course of the last few weeks, I have spent hours on the phone with various technical support representatives from both my ISP and the laptop manufacturer. They were all named Stan. Odd.

Then, yesterday, out of the clear blue sky, all the doohickeys that make a computer talk through the space/time continuum to the internets came together in a beautiful symphony.

It looked like this...


We didn't know what to do! Trey was both bewildered and a little hesitant to hand the computer over to me fearing I might short out the thing with my super-charged touch (and not the good kind)

But, to my delight, I'm all up and running and have changed the password so Scout can't hack in anymore because I wasn't born yesterday. As we speak, I'm sitting in a little spot out in public sipping a little something-something and enjoying my newfound mobile-ness and lamenting the fact that I am not actually a superhero.

Starbucks you ask? No. That would be McDonald's because those fries aren't gonna eat themselves.

And, on that note, it reminds me of a little randomness I'm going to share since nothing super exciting happened this weekend except we celebrated the life of one of the greatest proponents of the Civil Rights Movement ever.

One day, I met a friend for lunch at a little, cute, healthy lunch place in Dallas. That night, my bank called to tell me they had frozen my account because an unusual purchase had flagged it.

"Um, excuse me but, it's in Dallas. What was so unusual about it

"Yes, ma'am, I understand your confusion. It's just that you've never made a purchase there before."

"Seriously? So if it had been at, say, McDonald's, no problem.?"

Silently reviewing my account."Yes, ma'am. A purchase at McDonald's would have been consistant with your spending habits and would not have flagged your account.

And that's why I am not a superhero.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bowl O' Cotton.

First of all, I think Scout has something to say to you...

I'm sorry. And I'm sorry I called Tucker "Taco". It was's just that he reminds me of a little, tasty, crunchy, sna...nevermind.

A few of you have asked what kind of dog Tucker is. He's a "teacup Maltipoo" and pretty stinkin' cute. I use the quotes because, like Scout (labradoodle), Maltipoos are somewhat of a designer dog because they're usually carefully bred so you get the best of both breeds. But, also like Scout, it seems as though his crossbreeding was more like a crawl under the fence sort of accident, resulting in a kind of knock-off on seedy Canal Street in NYC kinda thing, and therefore, the price was right. For Santa, of course. We prefer to call them both junkapoos.

So, Friday night Trey and I and some friends headed wester than West Dallas for the 75th Cotton Bowl Classic at Cowboys' Stadium. And, although we are biblically one-flesh, and have been married for 15.5 years, Trey used "Man-Rules" to get out of wearing a Texas A&M t-shirt to the game. "You know, if you didn't actually go to the school, you can't officially wear the shirt."

Really? Hmmm. What about when your kids go there?

Totally different, if it's your kids. Man-Rule.

Seriously? Seriously.

Thankfully, we were with lots of others who were sportin' some sweet maroon and white. Our friends had a tailgate before the game and, according to Trey when asked by our kids, the second best thing about the game was Mr. Leftwich's Homebrew...and his sandwich.

They were both AWESOME! By the way, his first thing was 'being with momma' which he only said to make up for the fact that he wouldn't wear the shirt.

On the way into the stadium, Carrie and I saw this little number and had to venture inside. It was some kinda crazy, tricked-out, limo-bus with strobe lights and a wet-bar. There's actually another shot where we look scared for our lives because the van started filling with it's much over-served occupants who were asking us to stay awhile. We, however, reached deep into our bag of tricks and got outta there in a split-second.
"Nine kids. We've got nine kids between us!"
Finally, inside the stadium, we realized that Jerry Jones really is trying to take over the world, one Jumbotron at a time.

The presentation of the flag.

And the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band both gave me chills.

The Tigers being this close to the end zone one more time did not.

Although we were out-scored, we had a great time.
One of the old Aggie traditions is that when the team scores, you get to kiss your date. It's a fun tradition unless, of course, you refuse to wear the t-shirt of your spouse's alma mater. Then, you get a warm high-five. And a cold shoulder. ;)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011



Woof's up?

Oh, darn, did I give myself away with my dog jargon? Man! I'm so bad at staying undercover.

Guys, this is actually Scout.

You remember me right? I'm Melissa's "favorite" dog.

Hey, I'm not under any delusion that this is a good picture of me. Not a great angle - obviously - and according to Dr. Wood, I could stand to lose a pound or twelve because my mom decided to take the entire month of December off walking me in the morning and I may or may not have gained some holiday fluff. Those cheesballs with all the pecans on the outside are my absolute fav.

Anyway, this post is certainly gonna be cheery because Christmas was AWESOME and life has NEVER been better.

Can you read the sarcasm in my paw-typing. Seriously, are you impressed that I can work this kind of blog magic without opposible thumbs.

At least that makes someone. You see, a couple of days before Christmas, Santa texted my dad with some kind of crazy S.O.S. message. It went something like, "I need your help...B.P. Oil Spill got us behind...blah...blah...blah...I have something special for Olivia and you need to go pick it up."

Maybe it should have read something like, "I hate Scout and I want to make her life miserable." because that's what ol' St. Nick has done. I actually used to like the guy when he was bringing me big bones with bows and soft beds. Now, he's dead to me.

Wanna know why? One word. Tucker. He brought us Tucker.

A little bitty speck of a dog who has turned my apple-cart all kinds of upside down.

1. He's all small and stuff and I can barely see him so I almost step on him 'cause he darts around underneith my feet. The thought of him squishing under my paws gives me the heebie-jeebies and makes me all jumpy.

2. He's all friendly and naive to the dog-world ways. Dude, stay out of my kennel and don't go near my food...or my couch. Especially my food. And my couch.

3. My mom and I used to have this sweet time in the morning where she would get her coffee, sit on my couch, and pet me real nice-like. I loved it but now, Taco (as I like to call him) is always curled up on her lap. THAT IS MY LAP even though I don't fit on it anymore because I'm all fat and actual dog-size.

Anyway, I'm not saying I'm proud of myself but I'm doing my best to work through my anger/resentment/jealousy. Last night, I worked through some of it with a nice helping of trash-food that I spilled all over the floor while everybody slept. Which is also why I'm fat. It's a vicious cycle.

My mom and dad are going to the Cotton Bowl tomorrow night even though, besides her, I'm the only other person in the house who will cheer for Texas A&M. I know I just called myself a person. Leave it alone. I'm in crisis.

So, while they're gone, I may just cheer for LSU to spite her. And growl at Tucker real, real, mean like. And eat the food right out of his food bowl. And not even care about the calories.