Reflections on finding peace and magic in the middle of…


Daily Enchantments

Enchantment: Crayons!


I, like so many adults this year, rediscovered my love for coloring. it started when my boss wanted to do a souvenir coloring book project and brought in piles of Disney coloring books for research. Piled up in the conference room, my eyes landed on the stack of classic Disney and Disney princess pages waiting for hues of pink, yellow, green, and blue. I was ensnared. I grabbed two books and headed to my office, dug through my supply drawer to find the box of 24 crayons I had left over from my teaching days, plugged in my headphones, and set about filling in shapes of Mickey and Minnie in hot air balloons or jungles dark and deep. I was hooked! On an August trip to Target, my husband and I happened to need something in the school supply section, and I sighed over the huge boxes of crayons, settling for a box of 64 when what I really wanted was a box of 96! My husband couldn’t understand my hesitation, but I was worried about spending the extra $1.

In a recent stage production of On Golden Pond, my stage manager gave me that longed-for box of 96 crayons and more coloring books. For Christmas, Santa added a box of high quality metallic pencils and a Benedict Cumberbatch coloring book (be still my heart).

Coloring is a simple, inexpensive, meditative enchantment. Add tunes and a glass of something wonderful to drink and you have your own private party (zen or party animal- depending on your choice of music and beverage). If you haven’t picked up a crayon or colored pencil lately, try it. It’s soothing magic!

Wee Magics and the Most Potent Magic


Living a fairy life is a little tricky. Unless you work in a forest or art studio, wearing wings and glitter is probably not feasible, and answering your boss in chirps, bubbles, or ocarina melodies isn’t particularly conducive to an efficient workplace (even if your full time job is at a ren faire). So you have to find magic in smaller, less obtrusive places.

I like to find magic in nature. Walking on the Texas Renaissance Festival grounds, particularly in the Magic Garden, yields moments of magic every time, if I’m open to it.

This morning, an enormous dragonfly crossed my path, a fat bumblebee was pollinating trumpet vines, and sunlight dappled on little purple blossoms and stone benches. A little garter snake fled from me in the tall grass.

When I walked this morning, I didn’t put my ear buds in, so that I could listen to the birds. When I passed New Market Arbor, I inhaled a sweet smell of flowering vines.


Really, little doses of magic can be found anywhere, if I’m looking: a tiny, tiny feather on the ground, a broken but beautiful dragon fly wing in my drought devastated back yard, wind chimes outside my bedroom window, my dachsund’s tummy. All of those things bring me joy and remind me of the magic that’s in the world.

I think I can also find magic in other, unexpected places: books, music, laughter with people I love, delicious food, wine, and shortbread cookies.

Honestly, though, I think the best place for me to find magic is also the place I tend most to overlook. It’s in my sweet husband’s love for me. After thirty years together, twenty eight of them married, we are pretty comfortable with each other. It’s easy to glance past each other, to listen with half an ear to one another’s opinions, predictions, worries, and dreams. We think we have heard it before. And often we have. But there is nothing more magical than being completely and wholly loved by another, and taking the time to hold hands and really look into that love’s eyes.

Yesterday, I watched a video that is circulating on Facebook. A man in his nineties sings “You’ll Never Know” to his wife, who lay dying in a hospital bed. Their love language transcended deafness, feeble vocals, and poor eyesight. The room was rich and redolent with love as magical as any fairy dust, as any rainbow.

Photo by Tanya Tarvin
Photo by Tanya Tarvin

Love is magic. It’s the best magic. Whether romantic, familial, or platonic, love scatters bits of enchantment wherever it is present.

Many call this “God.” I do believe love is Divine. It is a gift from the One who loves us and hopes that we will share that love.

Look for magic today. Love someone who needs it. Care for the earth. Rescue an animal. Hug a child or elderly person. Watch a sunset. Be thankful. Namaste.

Five Things Tinker Bell Taught Me

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Tinker Bell is sort of the Paris Hilton of fairies. She’s blonde, pretty much everyone has heard of her, and she can act a bit bratty sometimes.

According to her creator, J.M. Barrie, Tinker Bell is “exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage. She was slightly inclined to EMBONPOINT [a plump hourglass figure].”

Though her voice is the tinkling of bells, she speaks with salty language, calling Peter a “silly ass” when he suggests she be Wendy’s fairy, since he is a boy and can’t have a fairy, and tries to have Wendy assassinated upon entrance to Neverland, telling the Lost Boys to shoot the “Wendy Bird” on Pan’s instructions. When it counts, though, she drinks poison to save Peter from death. She is complex and common, a mender of pots and pans in Neverland.

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I adore her. I adore her in her spoiled diva-ness, her single-minded purpose to be the center of Peter’s world, no matter the tactics required to get there. I adore her little puffy Disney shoes and her leaf green short dress.

Tink may arguably be the most popular of all Disney females. I know she hasn’t infiltrated the airwaves with a song like Elsa’s “Let It Go,” but she is now the central character of the entire Disney Fairies franchise, she flies over Aurora’s and Cinderella’s castles every night during the Disney fireworks, she even has a 5 1/2 inch replica at Madame Tussaud’s. She flies over the opening credits in Disney films, sprinkling magic over the logo, and her star was the celebratory star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame 50th anniversary. Tink is legit. I mean, Reese Witherspoon is going to be playing her in a live action film- an Oscar winning actress as Tinker Bell! You can’t get more legit than that!


My daughters and I recently met Tink at her home in Pixie Hollow in Disneyland. There were several cute fairies to be found in Pixie Hollow, along with some very cute scenery. But when we got to Tink, we were like little girls! She was petite and perfect, right down to the puffs on her slippers. Our favorite Tink, however, is angry Tink. We like her saucy and belligerent. This Tinker Bell was so sweet, dainty, and smiling. We asked her if she would mind doing a photo (of course she wouldn’t, that’s what she’s there for), but we asked if she would please do the angry Tink face. She told us she really wasn’t supposed to, that she was to be kind and polite at all times or she’d get in trouble with Peter. But after a quick glance to make sure there were no little ones waiting behind us, she crossed her arms and made a perfect pout.

Tinker Bell, common or not, is a fairy who knows what she wants: Peter’s affection and to be the baddest fairy on the block (or Hollow or island).

As I have stated before in my blog, I didn’t come into my love for all things fairy until I was an adult. I didn’t see Disney’s film of Peter Pan until I was in my late twenties, so my love for Tinker Bell comes from a grown up place. Here are a few things I have learned from Tinker Bell:

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1. Have a marketable skill, but look wonderful while doing it! In the Victorian England of Tinks’ creation, a girl might need a job, a way to pay the rent on one’s tiny treehouse. Tinker Bell is a tinker- she mends pots and pans! But she looks beautiful while doing it, she is, after all, wearing a “skeleton leaf.” I have not quite mastered the art of looking fabulous while I work, I am usually in some dowdy pair of capris and flats, with my hair dangling without style. If I could wear wings to work, that would change instantly.

2. Puffs on shoes are always appropros. When I was in junior high and roller skating rinks were all the rage, I saved my pennies for a set of yellow puffs to tie on my skates, they pretty much looked just like Tinker Bell’s shoes in the painting at right. Though they didn’t glow, they made me feel quite invincible on the wood floor, enough that I would teach myself to skate backwards. But not, however, enough that I would work up the courage to ask Rob P. for a couples skate.

3. Being clapped for always makes you feel better. After she has drunk Peter’s poisoned medicine to prevent him from swallowing it and dying, Peter calls on all the children who believe, if they can hear him from Neverland, to clap to resurrect her. The applause enlivens Tinker Bell so that she can be resurrected and go with Peter to fight Captain Hook. I like applause, too. I love coming our for a curtain call and being lauded. And clapping doesn’t have to be literal- a friend or coworker can notice something you did well, a spouse can remind you why he chose you, a child can wrap her arms around your knees, telling you “you’re the best mommy in the world.” Applause comes in many forms, and it makes us feel better.

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4. Sometimes inappropriate language gets the point across best. When I was a little girl, my mother would not allow the use of the words “fart,” “butt,” or “crap.” Or, for that matter, “darn.” Hard to imagine, right? I clearly remember the first time I said “butt.” I was on the playground in fifth grade, we were seated on the blacktop, lined up in classes to walk back into Sally B. Elliott Elementary School. I looked around to make sure no one was paying attention to me (I don’t know why I bothered, I was ever the Invisible Girl), then whispered behind my cupped hand: “Butt!” When lightning didn’t strike, I said it twice more. As I moved through junior high and high school, I occasionally dusted my sentences with a choice naughty word. After my husband left ministry, I decided that one of my new-found freedoms would be the occasional cussword, in appropriate social settings. Now, I know some will disagree with me, but I think strong language can be empowering. I am tired of women being expected to talk pretty and sweet all the time, damn it.

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5. Fight and sacrifice for the one you love. I don’t condone the pulling of hair, like Tinker Bell did to Wendy, nor the attempted assassination. But props to Tink for doing what she felt she had to to protect Pan. The heart knows what it wants. Tink loved Peter, and no other girl was interfering with that. When Hook poisoned Peter’s medicine, Tink drank it herself to keep Pan from dying. There are people in my life whom I love completely without reservation or hesitation. Not only my husband and children, but other family members or dear, dear friends. I think that to love and be loved so completely is magical, no fairy dust required.

It takes faith to fly. Faith in one’s own self, in one’s dreams and aspirations, in the universe that holds us. J.M. Barrie, Tinker Bell’s creator, had this to say about belief: “For to have faith is to have wings.” It has taken me long years, but I hope that my wings are finally sprouting.

Clap Your Hands If You Believe!


At various times in my adult life, I have played a fairy in my tenure as an entertainer at the Texas Renaissance Festival. I have played two queens- Titania (the good queen) and Mab (the bad queen). Titania is a Shakespearean fairy, the queen of the fae in his popular play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mab, sometimes called Maeve, can be found in Celtic mythology and is also featured in a Shakespearean play- Romeo and Juliet. She is the warrior side of feminine fae royalty. When I played her, I was the wicked queen, thwarting true love between my fairy born daughter and her mortal lover, but I couldn’t help injecting her with humor, donning magical “flight goggles” and swooping through Sherwood Forest like a demented dragonfly.


I’ve also played a silly sprite named Hush who could not speak, but only blew bubbles and tooted notes in the little ocarina she wore around her neck. Hush would weave ivy garlands and create sculptures of twigs, string, and baubles she had picked up on the faire grounds. These sculptures were always placed in the mouths of a clay planter shaped like three upright fish, which was across the creek from the patron path in the Magic Garden. After sculpting or weaving, Hush would lay down for a nap, and I could hear parents pointing me out to their kids: “Look, there’s a fairy taking a nap! Blow her a kiss!” This fairy is especially dear to me. She was born in a year when, due to a medical mishap, my vocal cords were paralyzed and I couldn’t speak. Her bubbles and music became the language of the silenced actress.


I spent one faire weekend as Puck, a mischievous creature who tumbled about and ate Twinkies from the Twinkie henge my fellow fairies and I created. Yes, there were a few ants and bits of dirt on those Twinkies. We suffer for our art!

I love being a fairy. I love the color, the sparkle, the playfulness, and the look of wonder in a child’s eyes when she blows a bubble with me or  hears my ocarina. I love that little ones gifted me with dragon tears or flowers. I love spending time amongst the leaves, water, and dappled sunshine that grace our faire’s Magic Garden.


When you spend so much time sprinkling fairy dust on little ones, some of the dust is bound to land on you, too.


I didn’t really know about fairies when I was a little girl. I did not have a mom that fostered a belief in the magical, I did not own any fairy tale books. I did not know about Tinkerbell, nor own a wand or set of nylon wings. So I live that magic now. I live it with my own daughters, who not only grew up with their own sets of wings, they watched their mom don wings and makeup and carry a pouch of dust and stones to share.

We are told that once we reach a certain age, usually around ten, that play is for babies, that it’s time to get to the serious stuff and stop daydreaming. That’s ridiculous. What is this beautiful planet, if not a work of breathtaking magic? What is true love, if not incandescent magic? What is a loving family, if not the most precious, magical miracle of all?

Living life playfully saves us. It heals us. It gives us hope when life buffets us with illness, debt, and loss. I believe that keeping one’s sense of wonder at little things (like the shimmering dragonfly I saw in the wildflowers this morning) gives us the power to stand up each day. Spending time stargazing or cloud watching opens our hearts to the loving energy that is so very needed in our world.


I refuse to buy into the idea that because I am in my forties, I have to sit around in a curmudgeonly snit, or spend my time doing only practical things, thinking only practical thoughts.

I refuse to give in to cynicism.

I live magic and imagination at my faire, and now I want to bring it home. So, I am starting a fairy garden in my back yard. I will be sharing bits of that journey as it goes, from plantings to furnishings. And who knows, I might just don my wings while I work.

Let’s Go Fly A Kite!

kiteI think kites are dreams. I mean, really, when you’re flying one, don’t you sort of feel as though you’re floating alongside it, aloft like a dandelion seed, rising and falling on unseen wafts of air? I have not flown a kite in years, but I used to love to send a kite up into the air, running with the string, giving it slack or yanking it taut to keep it soaring.

My daddy loved to fly kites. When I was a kid, he would sometimes bring an armful of newspaper to the kitchen table and call me and my brothers into the room. We would gather scissors and tape, I would usually decorate the kite, and Daddy always stressed the importance of the tail. On other occasions, Daddy would see a kite at the store and on impulse, he would snap it up and take it excitedly to the cash register. This was a real splurge for us, money was always scarce. I think maybe Daddy bought kites when he was feeling discouraged and needed a lift.

Maybe kites are prayers, too. Though always a man of faith, church was not something my daddy attended regularly. I am not sure what his personal faith journey was, I know there were some real hurts inflicted by well-meaning but misinformed church leaders. I know that in my own arrogant twenty-something faith years, I probably landed a few good blows, too.

Perhaps my daddy sent kites up when he wanted to connect with the Almighty. Maybe by getting his focus off the heavy gravity-soaked earth under his feet and onto the vast expanse of blue sky, he could send a little whisper to God on the breeze. Maybe God whispered back.

The year my daddy turned fifty, I learned something new about my him. While visiting us for Christmas, he and I had stayed up late to talk. He told me, for the first time, that he had always wanted to be an Air Force pilot. That was his aspiration throughout childhood. When he applied for the Air Force, his eyesight prevented him from being accepted into flight school, so he went to the Navy instead.

Maybe for him, kites were also Air Force jets.

Anyway, once our kite was ready, Daddy would load us three  kids in the car and we’d head to a field, usually at the nearby elementary school, and we would fly our kite until it broke or darkness fell. Those are some of my favorite memories with my dad and my two brothers.

11427195_10152818410851097_4664171811351207828_nRecently, my eldest daughter, Hilary, posted a photo on Facebook of she and a friend flying kites on the beach in California. She’s another dreamer, off in L.A. pursuing a career in film, putting away doubts and only listening to voices that encourage. I love that image- sun, sand, kites aloft, and my daughter’s smile.

My daddy was not the only one who loved kites. The Chinese are credited with inventing them thousands of years ago. The Afghan people fly kites competitively. Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner is an exquisite chronicle of a father and son who run after fallen kites. I loved that book.

When I taught junior high theatre, there was always a day after standardized testing when the kids took the kites they had been building in math class out to fly. The halls were filled with such laughter and excitement- flying a kite is way better than sitting at a desk doing endless formulae, and I know that flying their very own colorful creations is probably one of their favorite school memories.

Charlie Brown

Poor Charlie Brown never could get his kite up past the kite-eating tree. Dreams denied, indeed. The classic loser cannot fly a kite.

And then there’s the classic Disney film “Mary Poppins.”

I always cry at the end of the movie “Mary Poppins.” Somehow, the Sherman brothers, who wrote the song for Walt Disney’s film, perfectly captured the joy that comes when you fly a kite. With its lilting melody and hopeful lyrics, a kite lover can close her eyes and remember exactly how it feels to send a kite soaring, all at once “lighter than air.” In that film, the kite is a symbol of a healing family: “Up, through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear, come, let’s go…fly a kite!” A family needs a moment when the air is clear. So does a dreamer, or a God seeker, or a middle-aged former teacher who wonders at every turn what in the world she’s supposed to be doing.

Mary Poppins kite

Life is kind of like kite-flying, I guess. Wind dictates direction, sometimes we go in ways we never envisioned. The glass-covered strings of our enemies can cut our own fragile strings and send us plummeting to earth, shattered and broken. Hopefully, a kite runner, maybe a loving family member or an attentive friend, occasionally even an random stranger, picks up our damaged kite and, with glue and tape and love, puts us back together so we can give it another go.

All this talk of wind and adventure and dreams has made me want to go kite-flying. I’d better go find tuppence for paper and string. Time to build my own set of wings.

Downward Dog- literally!

ImageThe title of my blog is “Finding Peace in the Middle-” in the middle of this crazy journey called life, in the middle of the life of a marriage, in the middle of an extremely hectic job, in my middle- aka my waistline. Yoga has become a big part of the quest for serenity. I have always loved yoga, but not for its stillness. I love sweating, shaking muscles and pulling my limbs farther than I think they can go. When I first started my practice, I used the poses as an opportunity to multi-task, thinking through show designs, lesson plans, and household to-do lists. Clearly I did not get it. This summer in the Bikram studio it took every ounce of my concentration to attempt poses and manage to breathe, and it clicked. Yoga is peace. Aggressive peace, but peace nonetheless.

With Meet-the-Teacher night, a visit to my vocal cord specialist, trips to the fabric store, and fighting a sinus infection, I have only managed walking and some time at the track. This evening, for the first time in three weeks, I was able to haul out the mats. It was a beautiful evening, the temperature moderate for Houston with nice breeze, so I did my practice on the back patio. Within five minutes my legs were trembling and sweat was dripping down my arms. Temple pose nearly broke me, but I went into downward dog, which in this practice is a really nice breathing transition before it gets tough again, and who should come give me a kiss but my own sweet dog, Audrey.

When I practice yoga, she always stations herself nearby. She gives me kisses while I am in downward dog, then lies beside me patiently waiting through plank and bridge and boat. When I finally relax onto my back for some wind releasing pose, I get more kisses, as if to tell me she’s proud of my hard work.

See, Audrey is also one of my most treasured sources of tranquility. A rescue schnauzer around the age of eleven, Audrey is also living in the middle (well, maybe closer to the end, but I refuse to consider that). She carries a little extra weight, has two enormous benign cysts on her tummy, is losing her teeth and eyesight, and naps a lot. Yet she also loves to go for walks, brightening when she sees me put on my athletic shoes and eagerly dragging me out the back gate. She walks with purpose, too. No crazy meandering or dragging paws, she sets her sights straight ahead and trots happily along, her ears bouncing in the most perfect dog shadow ever cast on a cement street. In that way she is very much like me. Her favorite sleeping place is in my closet, preferably on top of one of my sweaters or t-shirts. She likes her isolation and takes a while to warm to strangers, but once she has accepted you, you are hers forever. In that way she is also very much like me.

I believe the loving and caring for an animal may be one of the very best sources of peace and healing the the Divine created for us humans. We get so bogged down in our daily concerns, so worried about paying bills and losing weight and impressing peers that we lose our joy. My grandfather kept shelties after my grandmother died. He named them Buddy or Feller, and they walked with him every day, and he talked out all his loneliness when he brushed their luxurious coats. He administered their heartworm treatments faithfully according to the schedule on the sheltie wall calendar hanging on the kitchen cabinet. The dogs went fishing with him in his boat and sat with him while he went through physical therapy after knee replacement surgery. I am convinced that his love for his dogs, which was returned a hundred fold, was what kept him alive, healthy, and alert into his eighties. It is no coincidence that he died just a year after giving up his sweet Feller.

Dogs just sleep and eat and play and scratch and chase squirrels and love their people.I am not sure what cats offer, not being much of a cat fan, but I imagine it has something to do with the pacifying effect of rubbing their fur while they make that wonderful purring sound. Fish swim soothingly, hamsters entertain and make us laugh (especially when they put on hip-hop clothes and dance), and rats like to cuddle (at least, that’s what rat owners tell me). Reptiles as pets I will never understand, and have no desire to.

Animals are simple. They don’t try to acquire more belongings, they don’t stress over promotions or grade point averages. They love, and they listen, and they let us know each day in their own ways that life is a simple and precious gift.

The Hobo who saved my marriage (really)

When I was younger, I did not readily trust people. Having been pretty battered by my parents’ marriage and in need of police protection from my mother more than once, simply being told that I was loved didn’t quite cut it. I developed very high walls and very dense shields. Very few of my peers had the patience or wisdom to scale those walls.

Then I met Travis. Now, I have recounted how lightning struck in my Aunt Molly’s kitchen when we saw each other for the first time, and that we knew we were meant to marry about a week after we met, and that I got scared and made us separate for a while.

In January of 1986, we sang together in a wedding in the Broadway Church of Christ wedding chapel, and I looked over at him and realized I was just being stupid. The man who loved me better than anyone ever had was patiently waiting for me to decide that he was what I wanted. So I did, that night.

Once we- no, I- decided to make a romance out of a friendship, no holds were barred. This was it! We talked marriage from that point on. We took our classes together when we could (as voice majors, that was pretty easy) and he walked me to class when we had different schedules. After classes he sat with me when I worked in the SUB or called me when he could from his job at Jent’s House of Music. We started looking at rings, and I found a wedding dress on a trip to Brownwood, before there was even a proposal.

Halt!!!! My still-fragile heart finally realized what was happening. It called to mind all the ugly of my parents’ union. With no warning to Travis and no rational decision on my part, I stopped speaking. Not only to him, but to everyone. I went through days of silence, walking to classes and to my dorm room, where I lived alone. Recently I found the letter he wrote me during this time, it was delivered to my campus mailbox. He pleaded with me to break my silence, if not to him, then to anyone I trusted. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

One afternoon after class, he grabbed my hand and took me to his car. We drove to Maxey Park, where he spent hours trying to break through to me. He walked away, very angry, and I sat in stony silence, really not sure why I could not speak, I just knew I couldn’t.

Then a man was there on the bench across from me. I had not seen or heard him approach, but I heard him ask me if I was okay, if I needed help, if I needed an ear. He spoke to me of trust, he spoke to me of letting go, he spoke to me of the killing power of fear and keeping love walled out (I am not making this up). He spoke until I was able to uncross my arms from the front of my chest, release my shoulders from around my ears, and relax my jaw. I never said anything to him, at least I do not remember doing so, but when Travis approached, this man simply walked away. Travis sat down and held me while I cried and finally surrendered to his unconditional love of me.

See, sometimes I wonder what the heck God is thinking, and if He has forgotten me. Then I remember that He sent an angel, a real one, who encouraged me to let go and let Travis love me. On the occasions when I have doubted God’s love, I remember the man He gave me to demonstrate His love for me here on this earth.

And I remember the angel who saved me from myself on a bench in Maxey Park in the spring of 1986. If you see a slightly disheveled man hanging around the benches, keep an ear out for the flutter of angel’s wings.

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