A kingdom that is divided cannot continue, and a family that is divided cannot continue.” -Mark 3:24-25 (NLT)

The body of Christ is a family, and if we are not united we cannot continue. We cannot perpetuate the gospel, contribute to the kingdom, or in any way attract a lost world to its Heavenly Father. Without unity we are rendered ineffective; impotent; paralyzed; useless. Churches are destroyed by dissension. Marriages crumble when there is no unity. Without a common bond there is no fellowship.

Unity in the body of Christ is a foundational need. We must learn to agree to disagree when the issue is not a salvational one. To argue every little point of doctrine is simply immature and petty. “Now dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won’t be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” -1 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT). “United in thought and purpose”, that is what we need to be. We need to keep our focus on The One who unites us, and His plans and purposes for our personal lives, and for the body of Christ as a whole.

I do not believe that doctrinal divisions are God’s will. To me, they are a manifestation of man’s stubbornness and pride. That’s just my opinion, which is of little value, really. The point here is that whether we are Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Non-Denominational, if Jesus Christ is our foundation – the glue that binds us – we are family. If this family is to continue to be effective here on earth, we must be in unity.

Arguing amongst ourselves, leaving our church family because our pride was wounded, taking on offenses that are rooted in nothing but ego, only serve to divide us and sabotage the work of Christ. I’m not saying you should never leave your church. There are valid reasons for moving on. We need to make sure our reasons are indeed valid, Spirit led and not simply a matter of pride or bruised ego . . . Or because we didn’t like the color of the church walls. God may have put you in that church to improve the decor!

When we are in right standing with God, listening to His Holy Spirit, following His guidance and direction, we will be where we are supposed to be. No church is perfect, no person is perfect. There is NO perfection this side of eternity, so stop looking for it. Be where you are supposed to be, set aside pride, and be honestly open to what God wants you to do. Make unity a priority. Take selfish thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, and fervently love your brothers and sisters in Christ, with all their imperfections.

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. -1 Peter 1:13 (NKJ). Don’t put your hope in the worship music, or the amount of charisma the pastor possesses, or the congregation. Place your hope nowhere but in Christ, and He will never steer you wrong. He will keep us in unity. Amen!

Some Fun Family History

For some reason I’m not quite sure of, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my ancestors and family history. My sister is the genealogist and has many binders full of information that I don’t have access to at the moment as she lives a couple of hours away.

I don’t remember how now, but yesterday I stumbled across some history of the Collins clan in Ireland. I know that my mother’s family came from Ireland. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Collins.

Clan information from Aransweatermarket.com

Apparently, there are sweater patterns for different clans. I don’t really know how legit this is, but I like it anyway. My family heritage is mostly German and Irish. I have only recently been interested in the Irish side since I only recently discovered how Irish I truly am. I’m a lot of German as well, apparently. My dad was only second generation American, as is my husband whose grandfather also came from Germany. Not that that has any bearing on my genealogy, just an interesting side note.

My mother’s family has been here since before the Civil War. Soap makers, I’m told. My sister likes to relay that information because she sees the irony in the fact that the Irish were thought of as “dirty” back in the day. I always thought of them as alcoholic leprechauns, basically. Happy-go-lucky when they weren’t drunk and fighting. A stereotype, I know, and I apologize.

I found a website called “Collinsclan.com” and a little more information on the Collins clan history, according to these people anyway.

History can be a little sketchy at times, and sources are very important. I don’t know the legitimacy of this source, but I kind of like the idea of coming from Barons and Lords. I always felt like there was something regal about my mother, grandmother, AND great grandmother. They all carried themselves with a sense of grace and aristocracy. They were very classy ladies and that’s the truth.

I love the fact that I see both German and Irish in my sons. Joshua resembles his dad; blonde hair, blue eyes, more chiseled features. They both look very German to me.

German actor Til Schweiger
Rich Lenz
Joshua Lenz

Then there’s my Matt-Man. My strapping young Irishman who resembles me; dark hair, blue eyes, chubby cheeks. Not all Irish are redheads. Many are dark haired and blue-eyed.

Irish actor Colin O’Donoghue
Me (Brenda Miller Lenz / Collins on my mother’s side)
Matt in his senior year of high school

Just some fun observations. Genealogy can be a complicated thing and I don’t think many of us are pure-breeds. For instance, my mother’s maiden name was Carr. That name has three different origins; Northern England, Scotland, and Ireland. So, I could have some English or Scottish, or both sprinkled in there somewhere. It’s all very interesting and requires A LOT of time and research. I’ve only done a little skimming here, just having some fun, and all or some of it may or may not be completely accurate.

What I DO know, as a result of my sister’s diligent and tireless efforts is that my mother’s family came from Ireland and My dad’s from Germany. I know more about Germany than Ireland and I am having a lot of fun remedying that.

Big Birthday, Little Freak-Out!

Today is Monday, my birthday is on Thursday. Not just any birthday though, my 60th birthday! That’s a milestone, right? It definitely feels like a milestone! I thought turning 40 was hard! That was a cake walk compared to this! Turning 50 was fun! I celebrated all month and had several parties! This year . . . not so much.

Aside from the pandemic that has plagued all special days this year for a majority of us, my health has put a damper on the celebratory spirit. My quality of life is very different from when I turned 50. Having a movement disorder puts a very different spin on things.

All is not lost, however! I am married to the most generous, big-hearted guy I’ve ever known. His positive attitude has been a lifesaver for me! He makes me laugh every day! He’s my best friend, my biggest fan, and the love of my life! He has been celebrating my birthday all month with little gifts and big gestures.

Under normal circumstances we would probably be taking a trip of some kind. We love to travel and often celebrate special occasions with at least a weekend trip somewhere. Things are very different this year and a hotel stay is not something we’d prefer right now. Which may actually turn out to be a good thing!

Like many are doing this year, we’re turning to the great outdoors. Rich has taken a week of vacation and we’re planning several day trips to national parks around us. I’m excited about it! I was once an avid hiker/backpacker and I’m willing to give it a go with my new “normal”. I’m eager to see just what I can do out there. It will be different, but Rich and I share an adventurous spirit and the ability to go with the flow. We also enjoy just being together. It’s going to be a birthday to remember whatever happens.

In spite of looking forward to our vacation, I seem to be freaking out a little bit about turning 60. I freaked out a little at 40 and it turned out to not be that big of a deal. I’m hoping this will be the same. Things are just SO different. I still had kids at home at 40 and even at 50, and was not encumbered by a movement disorder. I also became a grandma for the first time at 40, that distracted me a little. 😊. I guess I feel more alone this birthday; no kids at home, semi-isolation due to the pandemic AND my health, just a very different picture from turning 40 and 50. Not one I’m ecstatic with.

Life is full of hills and valleys, I know this. Attitude is everything and focusing on the positive is key to maintaining a healthy one, as is acknowledging the negative and moving on. It’s funny though, how you can know things in your head and yet your emotions don’t seem to get it.

I am a melancholy personality and naturally gravitate toward the little black clouds. I am Eeyore in the Hundred Acre Wood. I’d rather be Tigger, he’s my favorite, and I sometimes try to act like Tigger, but it doesn’t stick. That’s probably why I’m having this little freak-out over my birthday. I’m being true to my inner Eeyore.

I just need to remind myself that God is in control and He has a plan. It’s okay to be aware of my own mortality (which is what I really think this is all about) because it’s an opportunity to remember that life doesn’t end for me after I leave this mortal shell. I don’t HAVE to be anxious about getting older. I have a choice. I can believe that my best days are behind me or I can remember that His mercies are new every morning, and believe that the best is yet to come. I prefer the latter. I also prefer to be thankful that The Lord has allowed me to be here this long. I prefer to celebrate His grace, mercy, love, and generosity!

So, damn the high cholesterol, diabetes, and anything else that may be lurking and bring on the birthday cake! (at least for one day). 😂 There has to be some wisdom to go along with the “maturity”, right? Sigh! The joys of an aging body!
A sense of humor is very helpful also. 😉

Happy Birthday to all of my fellow 60-somethings! May we look to the future with hope and joy, and believe that the best is yet to come!

🎉🎂🎈🎁🎊💕 (I like emojis)

A Prayer for Help

Dear Heavenly Father,

We need Your help!

Help us to keep walking through these dark days, finding joy in even the smallest things.

Help us to focus on the good and share grace and mercy with one another.

Help us to forgive, the way we would like to be forgiven when we do or say something thoughtless.

Help us to find the truth amidst all the lies.

Help us to remember that not one of us is You. None of us are perfect. We are all flawed and broken in some way, and in need of love and compassion.

Help us to be peace and light in a dark and tumultuous world.

And help us, Father, to never lose hope!

In the hope-full name of Jesus I pray! Amen!

Stories For My Children

Grandma Dixie, a.k.a. My Mom

I’ve talked a lot about my dad in the last couple of posts. Today I’d like to share some memories of my mom. None of you had the chance to meet your Grandma Dixie. She passed away when she was 40 and I was pregnant with Michelle. She knew I was pregnant, but we never really had the chance to even talk about it. She died in the hospital of cancer, quicker than we thought possible.

5-year old Mom at their farm in Arkansas.
5-year old Mom at their farm in Arkansas

Dixie Lee Carr was born April 30, 1940 in Little Rock, Arkansas (her last name would later become Schultz when Grandma Ida’s second husband adopted her). My mom was a vivacious woman; very creative, outgoing, and even charismatic. Unfortunately, she was a bit oppressed by my dad – a very dominant personality. She really came alive when he wasn’t around, which is very sad, but true. I think they were happy in the beginning. I’ve seen pictures of them in the early days, both wearing big smiles. When I knew them, though, there was a lot of fighting. Mom seemed happiest when Dad wasn’t home. In fact, she tried to leave him several times with Grandma Ida’s help. I remember being whisked away in the middle of the day while Dad was at work, by Grandma. Usually we went to my great grandma’s house out in Palmdale – the desert. Dad always found us though. He promised mom that things would be different, and they were for a week or two, then the fighting would start again. She finally succeeded in leaving him when I was in my senior year of high school. Dad finally agreed to a divorce, but he kept all six of us kids.

Happier days with Aunt Lois & Uncle Lelon

In all honesty, I kind of understood Dad taking custody of us. Mom was also somewhat emotionally delicate. Six kids was way too much for her. I remember her having several emotional breakdowns as I was growing up, and Grandma Ida would swoop in and rescue her. Grandma was a rescuer. I’ll explain more about that later. I remember we would go to Grandma’s house for a few days and she would basically take care of all of us. Well, this was all before Diana and David were born, so there was only four of us. I guess by the time my parents divorced, mom desperately needed a break. Six kids and an oppressive husband would wear anybody down.

Mom & Dad with the first four kids (standing L to R; Thom, me, and Mike. Dad is holding Pam).

Mom & baby Diana (baby #5)

So, Mom moved from Norco, Ca. (where we lived when they split up) to Huntington Beach, Ca. and Dad hauled us kids to Texas. He was raised in Texas and tried to live there a couple of times, but Mom hated it and we always ended up back in California. Which was also my preference, most of the time. I finished my senior year of high school in Needville, Tx. at Needville Sr. High while living with Aunt Lois and Uncle Lelon. I never quite understood this part: Dad sent me to Texas first, in the middle of my senior year of high school, to live with Aunt Lois and Uncle Lelon. He and the rest of my siblings remained in Norco until right around the time I graduated. Why I couldn’t have just stayed with them and graduated from Norco remains a mystery to me. I wouldn’t trade my time in Needville for anything though, in spite of the fact that I originally didn’t want to go.

Mom at our house in Norco. She may have been watching T.V. When this was taken.

Back to Mom. I think she came to Texas to visit once, after I graduated and was once again living with Dad. I was working as a grocery checker at Kroger in Rosenberg and we were living in a trailer somewhere between Needville and Rosenberg, I believe. We weren’t there long before we moved into a dilapidated farm house off Highway 36 in Rosenberg. It was on a beautiful piece of land, but the house was in terrible shape; slanted floors and no running water. We didn’t even have mattresses on our beds. We slept in sleeping bags on the metal frames. NOT comfortable! Anyway, before too long Dad and I got into it over someone I was friends with and he kicked me out. I high-tailed it back to California as quick as I could and moved in with Mom.

At the time, she was in an apartment in Huntington Beach, working at an electronics company in Irvine as the receptionist. I don’t remember working at all while we were in that apartment. In fact, I think we moved to our condo closer to the beach pretty quick after I moved back because most of my memories are in that condo. It was about a mile from the beach (maybe a little further), and several of my siblings rotated in and out of there while we were there. Thom was there the longest I think. He and I used to ride the bus to the beach every day then come home and hang out drinking Schlitz malt liquor and smoking a little weed (I was a wild child for awhile). I worked the night shift at a Carl’s Jr. down Beach Blvd. a little way from our place. Beach bum by day, fast food worker by night. My mom’s boyfriend also lived with us. His name was Richard Carrville, but everyone called him “Hap”. He was a goofy guy and I never figured out exactly what Mom saw in him, but he was good to her and they even ran a trucking company together for awhile – D&H Trucking.

This was taken at Uncle Rick’s house, I believe while we were living in Huntington Beach. L-R sitting is Pam, me, and Mike. Mom is in the chair behind us.

Eventually, Mom got me a job at the electronics company she worked at – Delta Electronics – as their Document Control Clerk. It was actually a really interesting job. I worked a lot with the engineers, made blueprints, and kept track of all the schematics and blueprints that the engineers used. I enjoyed it. I met two of my best friends in the world there; Bob Scott and Tanja Devitt. Bob was an engineer and Tanja was a secretary. They were important parts of my life for many years. I’ve lost touch with both of them now. The last time I talked to Bob was when Josh and Matt were just little guys. Tanja I last spoke to shortly after we moved into the John Thomas house – some 30-years after we first met. She was my maid of honor at my first wedding to Jim VanKeirsbulck – another story for later.

Anyway, this is the beginning of the end of Mom’s story. She got very sick while we were both working at Delta Electronics. I remember having to drive home from work because she was too tired to do it. She ended up being diagnosed with lung cancer (she was a smoker and so was Hap). At first, it was Hap who took her to all of her doctor appointments and treatments, but eventually it interfered too much with his work (he was a trucker) and Grandma Ida came to help. I continued working at Delta, going to the beach as much as possible, and basically living in denial of the fact that my mother was dying. Strangely enough (or maybe not so strange) I feel like I got to know my mom better than I ever had growing up. There was a short period of time when the cancer went into remission and I’ll never forget it because some of my favorite memories with her were made in that short little window of time.

At the time, I was dating an adorable guy named Pete Capello. Pete was very outgoing and my mom loved him! He was Italian and a dancer (and that’s all I’m going to say about that). He and I used to go clubbing and one night Mom went with us. We had so much fun! I think Mom was kinda in her element; socializing and flirting. She looked very happy that night. We didn’t stay out too long for her sake, but it was plenty long enough to create a great memory. Another night, it was storming and we heard that the waves were really high down on the Huntington Beach Pier. Mom and I hopped in the car and drove down to check it out. We ended up taking a walk on the pier, in the rain, with the waves crashing over the side of the pier. It was awesome!! I will never forget it as long as I live! In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a real smart thing to do as storms have wiped the end of that pier out a few times. I don’t think we walked all the way to the end though, so we were fine.

Shortly thereafter, Mom went into the hospital for the last time. The last time I laid eyes on her; Grandma Ida, Uncle Sandy, Uncle Rick, and myself were standing around her hospital bed. She was completely incoherent under the effects of morphine. It was very sad. I went home and later that night, Grandma woke me up to tell me she was gone. Twenty days before my twentieth birthday, I lost my mom and Grandma lost her daughter. To this day, some 40-years later the memory still makes me cry. I wish I had known her better and I am thankful that I got to know her as well as I did.

My mom was creative and crafty. She sewed most of my clothes for me when I was younger. She could draw like nobody’s business. Thom inherited that talent from her. She had a green thumb and could grow anything. She was a wiz in the kitchen. She could make the most amazing meals out of seemingly nothing. She adored our brother, Mike, even though she used to throw her hairbrush at him when he was trying to talk to her while she was on the phone. I’m pretty sure Mike was her favorite. She called him “Mickey Mouse”. Her nickname for me was “Brandy”. No one else has ever called me that. She and my grandma spent countless hours at our kitchen table in Santa Ana, surrounded by a cloud of cigarette smoke and coffee steam. My mom always had poodles! From the time I was little and we lived in Garden Grove, I remember her having a poodle. I hate poodles, but she loved them. Her favorite flower was the red carnation. I had one in my bridal bouquet in her honor when Jim and I got married. The yellow rose was her and Dad’s flower, according to Dad. I remember thinking she was so beautiful when she would dress up for a (rare) night out with Dad. She loved to laugh, and she was a fighter. Her ancestors were Irish and she had that same spirit; feisty lovers of life. She gave cancer a run for its money, but it just wasn’t enough. Her grave stone in Westminster Memorial Park on Beach Blvd., says “Thy will be done”. I don’t know why it was His will to take Dixie Lee Miller from this world at the young age of 40, and leave six kids motherless, but it was.

I can still see her smile and I know she would be crazy about all of you! I so wish you could have met her! I can only hope that through these stories and the few pictures that I have, I can somehow keep her memory alive enough that you can feel like you know her just a little.

Until next time!
I love you bunches!
Mom 😊💕

November, 2018

Grandpa Miller a.k.a. My Dad – Part 2

When last we left off, dad was in his heyday at The Sundown; shooting pool and playing poker. Well, as I mentioned, he had a day job. At this point in time I think I was in second grade at H.B. Anderson Elementary in Garden Grove, California.

Dad drove a truck for the old White Front stores that don’t exist anymore.

I don’t know what kind of truck it was, but it wasn’t an eighteen wheeler. It was more like a delivery truck and he stayed local. Quite often, he would take me with him on his deliveries. I loved doing that with him, and he always took me somewhere cool for lunch; a burger joint in Newport Beach, a hot dog stand in Anaheim. It was an adventure to a 7-year old. My dad was a foodie before it was a thing. He loved to eat out. I’ll never forget one particular time, he and mom took me to a nice restaurant called “The Dream Machine”. It’s not around anymore. I’ll never forget what we ordered! It was called the “Viking Feast” and it came out on a huge wooden plank; all kinds of meat and vegetables. You attacked it with your fingers and it was so fun! I felt really special and grown up that night.

Another favorite restaurant was the Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse. It is very famous and still around. They have a strict “no ties” rule and if you wear one inside they cut it off and hang it from the ceiling. It’s a very rustic place with trees growing inside it and amazing food! I can still taste their steak fries!

We went there just as often as we could. The whole family loved it! Then there were the cheapy nights when we went to Pup n’ Taco, a privately owned chain of fast food restaurants in Southern California. They haven’t been around since the 80’s, but the fact that they lasted something like 30-years is amazing to me! The cheapest food I’ve ever had. Possibly the reason I have never liked hot dogs. 😂
Well, enough about food. You probably get now, why I like to eat out so much. I think it’s genetic. 😉

Oh! I just flashed on a memory from the apartments we lived in across from The Sundown and Stater Brothers. Across the parking lot from us there lived a family with several kids, all redheads. One day my brother got in a fight with one of their boys. My Uncle Mavis was visiting at the time (my dad’s uncle. I’ll share more about him in a minute) and he and dad were watching from our apartment door. Keep in mind, these guys are old school country boys. Kids fighting is entertainment to them. Well, the neighbor seemed to be getting the upper hand on my brother so who does Dad send in to help? Me! Fortunately, I was a bit of a tomboy and had no problem with dad’s request. Once I joined in the sisters of the other boy did the same. It was pretty much a free-for-all and I couldn’t say for sure who won, but my memory tells me we did. 😉. Keep in mind too, we were all under 10-years old. Not a lot of injury was inflicted on either side, but Dad and Uncle Mavis had a good laugh.

Uncle Mavis! What a character he was. He was my dad’s uncle so really my great uncle, but we just called him “Uncle”. I loved that man to death! He was loud and boisterous and did magic tricks like the old “watch me pull a quarter out of your ear” trick. He also used to make us these old-fashioned wooden airplane things that he whittled himself. They’re actually called Hui Sticks or Magic Propellor. You rub the stick up and down the notches and it makes the propellor spin.

We were enthralled with them – especially the fact that Uncle Mavis made them. We thought he was magical! He taught me how to play chess and how to float on my back in the pool. He and dad would argue all the taboo subjects; politics, religion, whatever – and they would get LOUD! Uncle Mavis had one of those voices that just naturally projected anyway, so when he actually yelled. Wow! I adored him. Sadly, I lost track of him as I got older and didn’t even know when he passed away. Your Aunt Diana found out what happened to him while doing some of her genealogy research. Apparently, a nephew or somebody lived with him toward the end and wouldn’t let anyone have contact with him. Diana can tell you more of THAT story.

Oh man! I feel like like I could sit here and tell stories all day. Remembering this stuff just brings an avalanche of memories. I should probably write them down while I can still remember them. Like the time I went to a Brownie meeting with a friend from school (still living in the apartments and in second grade). In case you don’t know, the Brownies are a part of the Girl Scouts. Anyway, at that time I rode the bus to and from school. This particular day I took my friend’s bus home with her, unbeknownst to my parents. I don’t remember all the details or how they found out where I was (probably my friend’s mom), but they did and I was in a heap of trouble. The funny thing is, it didn’t even register with me that I might get in trouble for doing this. I was just going home with my friend. Kids! It was a different world back then. We were taught not to take candy from a stranger and that was about the extent of our “stranger danger” training. This wasn’t a stranger though, and my parents never told me I had to come straight home from school – until that day. 😂

Which reminds me of another story, many years later with another little girl. This one wasn’t her fault, but it was a huge scare nonetheless. I was at work one day and my then husband, Art, calls me to tell me that my then 7 or 8-year old daughter never showed up to school. I rush home to find cops at my house wanting a picture of my daughter. I am FREAKING out! Worse case scenarios are running through my head. Almost every police officer in LaPalma was out looking for her. One of those beautiful police officers decides to double-check at school and guess what? Michelle is sitting in her classroom, right where she’s supposed to be. Turns out, she was a few minutes late and the teacher didn’t mark her present! I was fit to be tied and that teacher and principal got an earful! Parenting is such fun! 😂

Okay. I’m done for today. I’m sure there will be more Grandpa Miller stories, as well as stories of many other favorite characters. Until next time!

I love you bunches!

December, 1989ish

Stories For My Children

Grandpa Miller a.k.a. My Dad

Me & Dad at the Fallingleaf house in Garden Grove

My dad is on my mind a lot right now. This past Tuesday would have been his 81st birthday. And just days before that, I started seeing a commercial on T.V. Featuring the song “Hey Good Lookin'” by Hank Williams, Jr. Dad used to sing that all the time, and would often greet me with an Elvisesque “Hey good lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?” Especially if I was in the kitchen.

Your grandpa was quite the showman. He loved to dance and sing, and could do a mean Elvis impression. I know why Grandma fell for him. Despite all the stories of what a terrible father he was (and he certainly never won Father of the Year), he had his moments and definite good qualities. He was also an awesome grandpa!

Our house in Santa Ana (where we lived from the time I was in 4th grade until my sophomore year of high school) had a built-in pool. I even remember the address; 2321 W. Monte Vista. Every now and then dad would play in the pool with us. He would let us stand on his shoulders then dunk himself under water and spring back up, catapulting us into the water. We loved it! He taught me how to dive in that pool.

I’ll never forget it. I was terrified, standing on the edge of the shallow end staring at the two glass dolphins on the bottom, listening to dad’s instructions. I couldn’t do it for the longest time. It was one of the rare occasions that dad actually displayed patience. He promised me everything from a new doll to a new wardrobe if I would just dive in. I don’t remember what finally did it (I was 9-years old), but I mustered the courage and finally dove in just like he told me. The bribe window had already closed, but I felt pretty proud of myself and have basically been a fish ever since. We spent many fun-filled hours in that pool!

Dad with Shelly, Lissy, Josh, and Matt at our Fitzpatrick house in Concord.

Dad liked to entertain too. Pool parties were common occurrences in our Santa Ana house. Grilled hot dogs for the kids and steaks for the grownups. I remember that because I always wanted the steak. Dad had regular Friday night poker parties too. He let us watch as long as we fetched beers for them. The mornings after were our favorite. The poker table was still set up and us four older kids would sit and play with the cards and chips (poker chips). Eventually, dad taught me how to play a few poker games; 5 & 7 card draw and stud, Mexican sweat, 21. He taught me how to shuffle the cards and ante up. I haven’t played in decades and don’t remember a lot of it, but I can still shuffle a deck of cards pretty well.

Dad was actually a pretty talented guy. He was an amazing pool player and won lots of trophies. We even had a pool table for awhile and he seemed to really enjoy teaching us kids how to play. When I was seven or so, we lived in an apartment in Fountain Valley, Ca. Across the street was a Stater Brothers shopping center (apparently they’re still around. ) complete with a bar called The Sundown (also still around!) where my dad spent quite a bit of time hustling for beer money.

Stater Bro’s. back in the day.

He had a day job, but most nights he could be found at The Sundown. Sometimes on the weekends I was allowed to go with him during the day, when it was quiet. He participated in his share of bar fights back then too. I remember him coming home one night, his face a little bloodied and his shirt inside out. He was the sweetest drunk, very loving and affectionate. Quite the opposite of his sober self. He could be and more often was, a bit of a tyrant. I grew up with welts and bruises from his belt, mostly out of anger or frustration. He was not a level-headed disciplinarian.

In spite of the fact that I grew up terrified of him most of the time, I loved my dad and grew to appreciate him and his perspective as we both got older. I have a lot more stories to share about him, but this is getting lengthy. I’ll do a part two next week, so stay tuned! Until next time!

I love you bunches!

August, 2009

Stories For my Children

Starting At the Start

On the day that I was born, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States and Richard Nixon was Vice President. The top 5 songs in the U.S. were; Elvis Presley – It’s Now or Never, Brian Hyland – Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, The Ventures – Walk, Don’t Run, Chubby Checker – The Twist, and Brenda Lee (my namesake) – I’m Sorry. The popular show on T.V. was this one. It ran for years because I remember watching it.

Gas was $0.31/gallon. A gallon of milk was $0.49, and the average house price was $16,500.00.

Saturday, August 27, 1960 in Santa Ana, California at this hospital, Dixie Lee Miller gave birth to her first child – me!

She and my dad, Bobby Lee Miller, lived in this house. Lee is a popular name in the south. My mom was from Arkansas and my dad was from Texas – born in Oklahoma, but raised in Texas. I know very little of this time as my parents weren’t big storytellers or sharers.

I believe Dad worked for Thrifty Drug Stores at the time. They’re not around anymore
I remember Dad taking us to their ice cream counter when I was older and had a couple more siblings. It was always a treat!

Dad used to bring me home these dolls called Nancy Ann storybook dolls. I believe Thrifty sold them.
I had them all and LOVED them! I don’t know where they went, but I really wish I still had them!

The first house I really have any memory of is this one:
12413 Fallingleaf St., Garden Grove, Ca. It looks very different now. When I lived there that white fence wasn’t there and the front yard was all grass except for a driveway going straight up to the garage. There was also a big shade tree of some kind in the front, not a palm tree. The fence that went along the side of the house was all wood, no concrete. We used to watch the Disneyland fireworks from this front yard in the summer time. The first time I ever ran away was here. I went to my friend’s house across the street. I remember my mom helped me pack a paper sack. I couldn’t have been more than five. I wasn’t in school yet. I’m sure she got a good laugh out of that.

I actually have a lot of great memories from this neighborhood. My friend, Tammy Bywater, who lived across the street. We played Barbies together all the time and my younger brothers played with her brother, Curtis. John Fitzpatrick was a teenager who lived down the street in a house with a pool. The pool had a big bamboo fence around it and he used to babysit us. He drove a car with an “Aoogah” horn and I remember him telling me that the “Aoogah” meant “I love you”. Something I always looked forward to was the ice cream truck with it’s magical music coming from it and this truck: the Helms bakery truck bringing us donuts! I think I liked this one even better than the ice cream truck!

I also have a couple of traumatic memories from this house. Like the time Dad accidentally ran over my baby brother, Mike, as he was backing out of the driveway. Praise God he survived and was just fine, but it was scary. Or the time one of my dad’s friends accidentally dropped hot cigarette ash on my hand. I still have a tiny remnant of the scar. Or when we were about to move from that house to Texas and leave my beloved Grandma Ida. I remember crying in her lap because I didn’t want to leave her. We were very close my entire childhood, but there will be stories about her later.

I think that’s enough reminiscing for one day. We got a new treadmill today and your dad needs help setting it up. We had no such thing when we were kids. We did all of our running around outside. It’s a different world! Until next time.

I love you bunches!
Mom 😊💕

May, 2019

Stories For My Children

It was recently pointed out to me that the stories of our lives need to be shared. They are not just for us and I agree. My parents and grandparents are gone, as are most of my aunts and uncles. When I think of the stories that went with them, stories I will never hear, I feel sad. Their stories could have shed so much light on where I came from, who they really were, and family history in general.

In a lot of ways, my parents and grandparents were enigmas to me. The world they grew up in was so different from mine. They didn’t share their feelings like we do now. Appearances were everything and dirty laundry was not to be aired in public. You chose a practical career that could make you a good living. “Follow your bliss” was not a thing. Even when they did share stories, they were only the amusing or positive ones.

I don’t want my children and grandchildren wondering who I was when I’m gone. There are many stories that they’ve never heard. So, I’m starting a new segment here for posterity. For my descendants who want to know the stories. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I have a ton of journals that they can read and I even have a couple of mom and grandma “fill in the blank” story of my life books that I’m working on.

Family history is so important, I think. To know who and where we come from is a huge part of our identity. Obviously, I can’t share every nuance of every day of my life. Heck, I don’t even remember every day, but I’m hoping that through these stories, my children will feel confident that they knew me (and if he’s willing to share, their dad/stepdad too) long after we’re gone. Stay tuned!


The Key to Carefree

I had a thought today about responsibility and worry. Mainly because I read this this morning: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” -1 Peter‬ ‭5:6-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬. And: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” -Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

Some of us are natural worriers, I daresay moms especially. Our jobs are so huge and we put so much pressure on ourselves to get it right. There is so much to be concerned about! But, WHY do we worry? For me, it’s felt like a kind of obligation. If I don’t worry I may come across as unconcerned. People may think I don’t care. Sometimes. Other times I fear failure, or I’m afraid of the pain that would come with something bad happening – either physical or emotional pain. The bottom line it seems, is fear.

What if I totally trusted God and His sovereignty over my life? What if I did exactly what His Word says and cast my cares on Him? What if I truly was anxious for nothing and rejoiced in every day that He made for me? Even if my worst fears came true.

So what if people think I don’t care? If they think that, they don’t really know me and their opinion matters not! Bad things happen in this life; terrible, tragic things. My hope, however, is not in this life. My hope is in Jesus Christ and spending eternity with Him. This life is but a breath. Why waste it worrying when God has much better plans? Even when He allows the world to have its way in my life, He’s there controlling it and working it for good.

Being carefree does not equal irresponsibility. It equals trust and faith that I can do my best and give God the rest, and He will handle things in the best way possible for all concerned. I have to trust that even the heart-wrenching situations are for some divine purpose that I may or may not be privy to. I am His child, He is my Heavenly Father who knows best. Trust is key to being carefree.