There are 7.7 billion different ones.
Faces, that is.
And though there are such things as doppelgängers, even your look-alike differs from you.
Have you ever just sat and contemplated how amazing and unique your face is.
You know that crooked little smile, the one that made your mom’s heart burst with happiness when you were born? The same one you would like to change as an adult.
And those eyebrows. The ones that, as old age approaches, grow wild and randomly towards the bridge of your nose, but sparse on the edges. Those eyebrows raise with delight when you see your grandchildren running towards your front door, but sag a little when you see what time has done to the lines on your face.
The dimples you donned since birth, the ones that everyone commented on as you were growing up, now take a different path as they have merged with newly formed wrinkles.
Those blue eyes that twinkle back at you in the mirror when you think of your loved ones, and line with moisture when you think of those gone from sight—those eyes have witness true miracles for your entire lifetime. They have seen birth and death, love and loss, mountains and oceans, the changing of the leaves and snowflakes tumbling to earth.
Your lips, the ones that formed your first words as a toddler, locked with your first boyfriend under the football stadium, kissed your husband on your wedding day and pressed against the forehead of your newborn baby years ago, are now much thinner. You notice the feathery lines around their edge as you draw your lip pencil around them to form an outline. Maybe this miracle plumping lipstick will work it’s magic.
Gravity has also done a number on your neck. No amount of creams, potions, lotions or collagen serum will cause the looseness to tighten—only a surgeon can help now.
You sigh, and take another look.
She is beautiful. That face staring back in the mirror is perfect.
She has kind eyes.
Her lips speak of love.
Her neck tosses her head back when she laughs and bows her head when she is praying.
That thing she does with her eyebrows when she is happy and playful is heartwarming.
She is one of a kind.
One of a kind out of 7.7 billion.
“You must’ve been a beautiful baby, but baby...look at you now.”
You. Are. Exquisite.
Paula Estelle Jackson 10-8-19
I learn a lot about myself on the pages of blank paper.
Sitting down in a quiet space, pen in my hand, open journal on my lap, waves of self-discovery roll onshore.
I am thankful.
I am sad.
I am relieved.
I am hopeful.
I am motivated.
I am planning.
I am dreaming.
It is all there.
The rhythmic flow of ink, so thin and precise, seems to have a direct line to my soul as words and ideas spill onto the paper.
In this moment, this quiet solitude, all is well.
Paula Estelle Jackson 10-18-19
There are times
when God seems silent.
As if my prayers
don’t get past the ceiling.
Answers lost in the ticking of time.
Answered by the whispers of Angels.
And somehow, life goes on, time heals or at least forms scabs that turn to faint scars.
And I recognize the ceiling opened when I least expected it, allowing for
Words by Paula Estelle Jackson 10-19-2019
Art by Renee Steger Simpson “Patron Saint of Holy Silence”
The view from Sunday morning is like a nice cup of Cinnamon Sunset tea.
Nothing outside is moving yet. As if the world is a tea bag, steeping in possibilities, it waits for perfection.
The cold snap this week caused pigments in the leaves to stir, and hints of yellow and gold are starting to emerge. And even as the trees are still, yet changing, my hot water is turning a rich color as the flavors seep through my teabag.
There are times when playful neighborhood squirrels cause the metal mobile sculpture outside my window to sway on its fulcrum, but not in this present moment. So is the case with my peaceful mug. It is waiting. It is patient. But it has the capacity to awaken my tastebuds and play.
The cul-de-sac garages are still closed as my neighbors are tucked warmly in their homes.
I reach for my tea. The warmth of the cup feels good on my hands. The smell of cinnamon releases its intoxicating aroma as I take morning’s first sip.
There is nothing but peace in this moment.
And it is as if time stands still for
Paula Estelle Jackson 10-27-2019
You know those dishes.
The ones that wait patiently all year long for their time to shine?
Those dishes which have the main purpose of holding the turkey and dressing?
This is the week they get to shine.
We have those special place settings in the Jackson home. For many years it was just a dream of Benny’s to have a set of Spode Woodland dinnerware.
As dreams have a way of doing, his became a reality.
I had been dreaming, too; not of dishes though. My heart loved the mountains and I had been dreaming of a vacation home in Ruidoso where we eloped so many years ago.
My dream manifested before his, and thus the great marriage of a mountain home and Woodland dishes consummated.
And then life happened. Choices happened. Moves happened.
The decision to pack up our lives, sell our vacation home, and move two thousand miles away...happened.
And the dishes waited. They weren’t the ones we grabbed anymore for a sandwich, or a plate of spaghetti. They didn’t rest on the table for a casual dinner with friends. They didn’t hear the laughter from children or gossip from neighbors anymore. They could hear voices through the door of the cabinet they slept in, but the words were muffled and the space was dark.
Another year has come and gone since they were given the task of service. This year will be like the last. Emerging from their slumber, Woodland will dress a new dining room space. It’s a smaller, more cozy place. It’s a smaller guest list, but so beloved. It’s a table of bountiful blessings, cherished family and forever friends.
We will dine, we will laugh, we will unbutton our pants if we forgot to wear the stretchy ones.
We will give thanks.
Paula Estelle Jackson 11-25-2019 written on what would have been my mothers birthday. Photos from 2018
Our plan was not to forget about them.
In fact, quite the opposite.
Benny’s love for flowers extends way past silk and permanent botanicals and reaches all the way back to his childhood.
His grandmother’s green thumb must have been a dominant gene because both he and his sister have a way with plants and flowers.
As a small child Benny would beg to spend time with his grandmother, Dorothy and his real cowboy grandad, Roscoe, as many children do.
But he was different.
Imagine a young four year old boy, when asked what he wants to do while at grandma’s house replying “let’s go to the nursery and buy flowers.”
That’s our Benny.
They would spend hours shopping, planning, hauling, digging, fertilizing, watering and marveling at the return on their efforts.
As an adult, this passion became even stronger, and he would spend most of his days off cultivating beautiful flower beds and pots that would be the envy of the neighborhood.
It’s just who he is.
And so the fact that we had taken the time to move all of our potted orchids to the pool house for the winter meant we completely intended to keep them alive despite their dead appearance.
To look at them you would have thought it better to toss them in the dumpster.
It truly seemed hopeless.
I remember the day I purchased these at the store. It was definitely an impulse buy. And to indulge a little secret about me, I’m pretty frugal. So the mere thought of spending an extra ninety dollars on my grocery tab cause me to pause. But those flowers spoke to me as I entered and I could imagine the delight of taking them home to Benny and watching him adopt them into the family. I knew he would have the perfect place for them to thrive and bring us joy.
In the prime of their life, their little green plastic pots had been surrounded by a beautiful white ceramic cache pot and blanketed with Spanish moss. Their stems had been sturdy but pliable, staked up with a small, iridescent child’s butterfly hair clip. The multiple varieties we enjoyed were pure white with pink centers, fuchsia and hot pink, and each plant had been showing their beauty for months.
As time has a way of doing to all of us, they began to droop a bit. What once was a bright, white bloom became a little brown on the edges. One petal would fall lifeless on the sofa table, and then another. The stem that once proudly stretched to the ceiling with green boldness, was turning brown and brittle—almost stick-like.
We came home from work one day and found their days of bringing us joy were over and now their presence was more of a daily reminder of the brevity of life.
We missed the spot of color they brought. We missed the brightness.
And that was the day we moved them all to the pool house. We weren’t for sure they would bloom again. We had heard rumors, but had never tried it for ourselves.
The thought was that we would go out weekly and place an ice cube in each little pot, speak to them kindly each week and hope to see them again in all their glory.
Months went by. The cold days and busy lives took precedence over the pots waiting silently out back.
We forgot about them.
The once flourishing back yard and pool that summer found to be teaming with laughter and games and yes, skinny dipping, went silent through the winter. The pool house that hosted many friends, margaritas and dance parties, closed her doors like a cocoon to the potted ferns, aloe Vera plants, a lime tree from our year in St Augustine, and yes, those four dead orchids.
The days grew longer and all chances of freezing temperatures faded into the background. Our first day off became planting season for Benny.
We emerged on the cocoon to find a surprise. Amongst all the yellow fern leaves laying on the floor from lack of water and warmth, our little aloe Vera had grown exponentially and the lime tree, despite the neglect, had weathered the winter beautifully.
And nestled in the corner showing signs of life again, were those four orchids. New shoots of green had broken through, roots were taking hold in the dry, hard dirt, and little buds were making their early appearance.
Time. That’s what they needed to come back to life. They needed time.
And hope. That’s what we needed to experience them again. We needed hope.
As The Good Book says...
There is a time for everything
A season for everything under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to uproot.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build.
A time to weep and a time to laugh.
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
And I might add...a time for hope. Always hope.
Paula Estelle Jackson January 3, 2020
Bible verse Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
This was written in July 2016 before moving back to Texas after living a year on the beach in Florida.
Lately, the beach has been offering many life lessons for me.
I don't actually believe the beach holds magical powers, although there is definitely an energy at the edge of the world that is unmistakably addictive. But there is something fabulously rewarding about designating some quiet time in whatever location you happen to find yourself to listen to nature.
This past year, I've been lucky enough to have lived on the east coast, eaten from her rich offerings, drank from her fountains, and immersed myself in her indulgences, so the deep waters have lent her wisdom to me in many ways.
This morning, the sun had already opened the day, the sandpipers were searching for food, and the treasures from a long night of crashing waves had washed up on the shore. It was as if they were calling me to bend down, pick them up, turn them over, study their tales of faraway travels and deep sea survival.
I'm not sure what causes the "mother load" of shells, creatures, and sea glass to wash up on some days and other days, the sand is merely dotted with gifts, but today happened to be a day with a plethora of wonders.
And as I stepped over shell upon shell and the waves rolled under my feet in rhythmic timing, I noticed that each shell embedded in the sand, tiny as it was, was leaving a huge imprint in the water as it poured back into the ocean upon its retreat.
I stopped, grabbed my phone out of my pocket, and began taking photos of this small wonder.
At first, I noticed a rather large shell, standing by itself. And as the waves rolled in over the lone shell, covering it completely, and then proceeded to gush back out to sea, that single shell was making a large triangle shaped wake of its own.
I thought about the personal implications of this. I stopped to ponder what large impact a single shell can make. And then people came to mind who do this every day.
It made me think of Monica Dunlap, who just last week made her transition to heaven, but left a huge triangle wake behind her. The thing I remember most about Monica was that she was dedicated to Loads of Love in Lubbock. And if I understand it correctly, she spent hours a week, washing clothes for people who were either homeless or too poor to be able to afford a washing machine. I can only imagine the great care she took in washing and folding clothing that belonged to strangers, and the feeling they must have gotten when they went home with clean, fluffy and Downy filled clothing and sheets.
Then, there is Maggie Guthrie, and her sweet family, who leave large trails of selflessness consistently. Not only do they have Brynne's Smiles, and constantly give back to the Ronald McDonald House, Share the Warmth, Make a Wish and countless other ways they contribute to their community all the while teaching the value of giving to their children, but they also have Koda's Kamp which allows the siblings of terminally ill children a place to go and just be kids. I know there are many ways this family gives back when no one even knows about it, but the triangle wake they are leaving behind them is felt by thousands.
There is my friend Lucretia who is just about the most selfless and giving person I know.
I met her on Craigslist. Seriously.
We met in a dark alley. Not seriously.
She bought a piece of furniture from us on Craigslist because God will use the darnedest things to bring folks together. We hit it off because she's easy to love. And when there has been a need in my life, you know the really awful ones like loading a moving truck, my Craigslist friend was there with work gloves on. She always goes beyond the call of duty. She packed my pantry. She encouraged. She probably even had boob sweat--which is the sign of a true friend. But Lucretia doesn't just bless people who are her friends. She is constantly doing things behind the scenes for random strangers. She bakes for Tech kids who live far away from their families. These aren't kids who can repay her or who have family members who have asked her to care for them. Nope, these are kids who might not have a holiday meal if it weren't for Lucretia. She somehow knows the right time to call, the right time to bring bagels and the right time leave a huge triangular wake behind her with so many acts of kindness.
I continued my beach walk, allowing the sand to squish up between my toes, and the warm water to rush around my ankles. A few steps more and I saw tiny shells, dotting the shore. And as the water flowed away from them, back to the ocean, I saw hundreds of tiny triangular wakes. Some of them overlapped each other, some of them small and others bigger. And again, I began to ponder.
We are all like those tiny shells. We each have ways that are used to bless one another. We all have small things we can do to impact others.
Whether we are a big shell today or a small shell grouped with a bunch of other small shells, what we leave behind can make a difference in our world.
*This was written in July 2016 just before moving back to Texas from living for a year on the beach in Florida.
I stalked someone today. My daughter would call me a "creeper". But I couldn't help myself.
I was returning from my morning walk on the beach, heading home to shower and to get ready for work.
And that's when I saw him.
My heart started racing and a smile came across my face as he walked, unknowingly, about twenty feet in front of me.
Now, I know what you might be thinking..."you're married" or "he looks too young for you" or "that's creepy, you cradle-robbing-adulterer-wanna-be". You would be correct on the first two accounts...I'm happily married and this guy would be too young for me.
But you see, I was attracted to what his essence represented, not what he looked like.
The Weekend. He represented The Weekend.
This was something I hadn't experienced since moving to Florida. He represented leisure time, spent doing what he wanted to do. He represented rest, relaxation, fun. I was compelled to follow him.
Donned in swimming trunks, water shoes, and sunglasses, my new infatuation headed out of his driveway with a cup of joe in one hand and pulling his kayak in the other.
I've been fortunate enough for the last year to live about six houses from the ocean to the left and six houses to the inter-coastal waterway on the right. Though aside from my morning walks, I haven't had any time to experience much of it. And this guy, with his fancy kayak in tow, was heading to the calm waters of the inter-coastal waterway, to enjoy a Saturday morning float.
I pulled out my outdated iPhone, and like any good stalker would do, I engaged the silent button. I mean, how embarrassing would it be for me AND him if he heard the click of my camera taking pics of his backside?
I snapped a photo. That should be enough to put in my blog, right? But nooooooooo. He turned the corner and I had a better angle.
Click. I take another.
And here's where is got more creepy. He turned left to go towards the water, I should have turned right to go home, but I was compelled to follow him, so I turned left as well.
Click! I take another.
I'm sure he was aware of me but had no idea that I was journaling his path. I mean, I look innocent enough. Just a chubby, middle-aged woman with boob sweat and rubbing fat thighs enjoying her morning walk.
I knew I had enough photos, but I couldn't help myself. I followed him all the way to the water.
We exchanged the usual morning greetings. We talked briefly about crabs. I mean, that's normal, right? Maybe not, but there were literally thousands of crabs where he launched his kayak. He mentioned it. I responded with "yeah, we have them in our garage at home."
He got in the water. Click. Click. Because one shot wasn't enough.
I headed home.
Stalking time had run its course.
But for a brief moment in time, I witnessed something beautiful, something that I haven't seen for myself in a while now. Something that I look forward to having again when we move back to Texas this week.
It's called a weekend. And I'm ready to experience this again!
HUMOR-IST (is that a word?) I can find and expel (the word expel makes me think of passing gas) humor in most moments of life