All posts for the month February, 2014


Published February 26, 2014 by mssprinkle

I am on stage

before an audience of fifth graders

in our classroom-cage

for hours on end every day.

Accountability is the buzz word

Everybody seems to have heard

How would you like to stand here

and meet forty narrowed eyes

(okay, 38 – Jakeen’s asleep)

They break my heart every year

and I have the summer to heal.


Thank You, Daddy

Published February 25, 2014 by mssprinkle

I turned 12 only a few months after moving from a big town to a little one, after my parents finally got divorced, after it was becoming far too obvious that something was simply wrong with my mother.  

Memory is very kind.  Looking back on that twelfth birthday, I know there was ice cream involved and my mother flaked out, again.  I don’t remember the guest list or exactly why some of the other possible adults didn’t figure more significantly into the memory-worthy frames (Grandmother?  Aunts? It’s hard to think they weren’t around – they usually were — oh wait.  Perhaps they were and they were dealing with MOTHER directly…).

Somehow it fell to Daddy.  And I was deeply involved in h-a-t-i-n-g my daddy at this time.  But 38 years later when I look back on that birthday I see a tall, skinny, awkward engineer with ice cream on his tie, trying to be friendly to middle school girls he’s never met, and making my party possible.

How did he even get there so fast?  How did he know I needed him?  Why wasn’t my venomous blame enough to keep him away?

Just so you are reassured, dear reader, I have indeed thanked him.  I have asked him those questions.  He laughed, and cried a little, and he didn’t really have any answers for me.  He teased me about the over-the-top parties I have thrown for my own children, and gave me a gruff little hug and ambled out into the garage.


Walking on the Moon, Hopping up the Curb

Published February 23, 2014 by mssprinkle

I was born with my knees put together wrong.

Every once in a while I hear myself telling somebody that, for whatever reason, and I feel like I have a 50-years-in-ten-seconds flashback of all the ways my life has been different because of this simple fact.

I was born with my knees put together wrong.

There are no pictures from my babyhood with the braces on my legs, but people in my family have talked about them.  Others have denied them.  I don’t recall.  I remember a lot of things I wanted to do that I couldn’t, and I am grateful to cousins and friends who sneaked behind the back of the elementary school to try to help me do a cartwheel -“How can you not know how?” – and then ran like crazy to get the grown-ups when my knee (predictably) dislocated in the process.

I had my first knee surgery in seventh grade, and it seems like I had a cast or a brace on one leg or the other for the next 5 years.  My parents and grandparents were run ragged driving me 200 miles back and forth to the medical school and trying to keep me from doing things I should have known I couldn’t do.  Like march in a parade.   Man, I wanted to march in a parade.  I loved band.  And you didn’t have to know a drill, it was just a straight line.  My friends thought it was a great idea – “How can you now know how?” – I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face when he spotted me in that band.  Cracked my cast, had to be taken back to Lubbock for a replacement, but I MARCHED IN A PARADE!

I was very firmly told that every step I took was a step I would not have later in my life.  They had done what they could for me.

That was very hard to comprehend.  In Heaven I will be able to march in parades, I will probably even be a twirler.  I will be able to wear whatever shoes I want, whenever I want, and I will learn to dance.

Fast forward.  College.  Babies.  I sat at the bottom of the trail and watched my family explore in the National Parks and enjoyed passing out Popsicles after sports practice.  Life was pretty good, but eventually I hurt myself in a way that required more medical intervention on the knees.

This new knee doc looked at my x-rays and laughs, “It’s the Nightmare Knees!”  Turns out he went to that same medical school and remembers not “me,” but my knees, from class.

It seems he had a few new tricks up his sleeve.  I wound up with a couple of new, tiny scars, and whole new plan.   That old slogan changed to “Every step you take now give you two steps later on!”  Wow!


All those years of saying I wanted to, but I couldn’t.   I thought I was brave to even try.  “Poor dear,” had to suddenly get up and do something.

I’m not Wonder Woman.  I found out getting sweaty is not that great.  But I can put one foot in front of the other and walk just about anyplace I want to, and for quite a long way on a good day.  In my forties I have done things I never dreamed I could do in my twenties.  How many people get to say that?  Maybe lots, but it feels downright miraculous to me.

One day I was standing with a bunch of my students after school, waiting for them to be picked up, when one of them suddenly hopped up the curb.  Two feet flat hopped.  I was impressed.  They all started doing it.  I couldn’t even imagine which muscles to move to do so.  Bless them if, just like my friends and cousins forty years earlier, they didn’t decide to teach me.  “How can you not know how?”

I did not get hurt.


You Can Get There From Here

Published February 14, 2014 by mssprinkle

I live in a town that is jokingly rumored to have been laid out by drunk Indians.

<quick glance around for the politically correct police> GASP Now, I want to say right quick that I am very respectful of Native American culture, and I have a lot of compassion for folks dealing with drinking problems… that’s not really what this post is about, and it IS something Waco people joke about, but not in a mean or hurtful way… sheesh – I know the expression came from back in the day when it wasn’t such a big deal to say stuff like that…)

The truth is there’s no direct way to get anywhere here.  Kind of like there was no clear, concise way to say what I wanted to say in that paragraph right there.  You know what I meant, I know what I meant, there’s just no easy way to actually SAY what I meant without making it worse.

In Waco, you may know exactly where you want to go and not be really certain of the best way to get there.  The former pastor of my church seriously believed that to get ANYWHERE in this town, you simply had to go down Valley Mills Drive.  We have more than 250,000 people!  We are not a two-red-lights kind of place.  Valley Mills is a lovely, big street, but its not really on the way to EVERYWHERE.

My but there are a lot of things in our society that suffer from the same concept – if you want to get ANYWHERE in this life, you simply have to _______________ (fill in the blank here:  maintain this BMI, attain this level of education, make this amount of money, drink this!).  And you know what, nobody is going to try to discourage most folks from a little exercise or going to college.  The problem is when it begins to seem like that’s the ONLY way to get where you want to go.  Chubby girls are worthwhile human beings most of the time.  “Middle” income people wake up happy pretty often.  There are several grocery stores in Waco that aren’t on Valley Mills Drive!  Wow!

Another feature of my fair city is what we call the “spiral.”  We don’t have a loop, we have a spiral, and you kind of have to know how to do it if you want to drive around the outer edges here.  You will not wind up back where you started unless you make a couple of turns and cross back over the river.

Once again, I draw an analogy to life planning.  Your path from where you are to where you want to be may not be a nice, neat little circle.  It may very well be that you have to make a couple of turns and cross the river.  You may have really expected the road you were on to come out at a certain place – marriage, family, job – and there’s a train crossing in front of you with a sign that says “No Outlet” just beyond that.  It’s okay.  Make a turn, look for a landmark, and keep going.

I’ve been reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World.  She talks about the potential for finding spiritual practice in a bit of wandering around.  I think she would like Waco.  There are lots of ways to get anyplace in this town.  Maybe not always one BEST way, and you may find yourself off the path you planned, but there are lots and lots of hidden good surprises (We have the best small zoo in the country!  Who knew?!?).  You may run across a few of the odd surprises (don’t act like your town doesn’t have one of those odd old gentlemen who wave to everybody while they just walk all over town smiling and making folks uncomfortable.  You’ve got something like that and you know it).

You can think about the path your life is taking.  Where do you want to go?  You can get there from here.