Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Until Next Time ...

Dearest friends, a path is a story we walk, where nothing is known but where a way is made through. I first found the courage to call myself a writer in the mid-1980’s and I had no way of knowing where that path would lead. But, for three decades now I’ve been listening to my voice and finding a way to put it out there for others to read and assess and judge, if they so desire. I’ve written books and articles and essays and editorials and guest columns, all because there was a voice inside that propelled and compelled me to do so. I like to think that writing has kept me sharp and sensitive and aware.

I’ve done my best to write honestly, but tastefully—not always sharing the sordid and deeply personal details, but still conveying the spirit of the moment, whether it be joy or sorrow, satisfaction or embarrassment, disgust or anger.

And it was in 2005 when one of my beautiful nieces introduced me to the blogging world. I was a big skeptic at first but soon fell in love with the kindred spirits I encountered online. Blogging became a quiet place in which to reflect and mull over this thing called life and its many components. With over 750 blog posts under my belt, it’s safe to say that I’ve spilled my soul, and sometimes my guts, right here in this space. Having you along for company has brought me immense pleasure.

I still have plenty left to say, but as a wise man once said, "To everything there is a season," which brings me to the point of this rambling post. I am stepping away from blogging. Maybe forever, maybe not, but I wanted you, my faithful friends, to be informed, should you stop by here in a month or two or five and wonder what happened. With the exception of my cancer story, published back in 2009, and a few others, I have also decided to deactivate all of my previous posts, at least for now, just because.

There are no words to thank you for all of your generous comments, your prayers, and your friendship over the last eight years. Your presence has meant more than I can express, and, if you are so inclined, please come find me on Facebook. I'd love to see you there.

Until next time, dear friends, keep walking your path and keep speaking your truth.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Meet Michael Strahan's Parents

Gene and Louise Strahan
There are those who travel down the road of life tooting their own horns, making sure that others notice them. They are quick to boast of their exploits, where they have been, what they have done, and who they rubbed shoulders with while doing it. I suppose they don’t realize how annoying they are to those of us who get stuck at their table during social events.

Then there are those who, from all appearances, are rather ordinary people, living rather ordinary lives. You never hear them tooting their horns or touting their accomplishments. Yet, when you take a closer look, you discover that they are, indeed, extraordinary people who happen to prefer traveling down the road of life, quietly doing business very well. They are the kind of people with whom you would be happy and honored to share a table. Anywhere. Any time.

Such people are Gene and Louise Strahan, and I was honored to visit their home and interview them several years ago while writing an article for a Christian magazine. 

You've probably never heard of Gene and Louise, but if you’re a fan of professional football, you have heard of their son, hall-of-famer, Michael Strahan. 

Michael Strahan played defensive end for the New York Giants for many years and will join “Good Morning America” full-time on September 6th.

Gene Strahan with his four sons.

While Gene and Louise may have a famous son, that is not what makes them extraordinary. To them, Michael is simply one of their six talented children—all equally special in their eyes. What makes Gene and Louise Strahan stand out from the crowd can be summed up in two words: faithfulness and dedication.

Since their marriage in 1957, Gene and Louise have always been a team. A military man, Gene has been all over the world, but spent a lot of his enlisted time in Mannheim, Germany. 

After his retirement in 1985, the Strahans remained in Germany while Gene worked under the umbrella of Chicago’s City College as the coordinator of the drivers training department in Germany, training military personnel in the driving of military vehicles—everything from jeeps to tanks.

In 1989, Gene and Louise formed their own transportation company, working together as a driving team. For the next 10 years, they carried much-needed humanitarian aid to eastern European countries. Rightfully so, they were called “angels” by many of those who were on the receiving end of their road trips.

The year 1992 proved to be a monumental year for the Strahan family. Michael was drafted by the New York Giants, but something much greater occurred, as they see it. Gene had been attending a “prayer and share” service at the Spinelli Military Base Chapel, hosted by the Pentecostal Church of Calvary. Three months later, on November 25, 1992, he was Spirit-filled and baptized. Eventually, Louise followed in her husband’s footsteps.

In 1999, while still in Germany, the Strahans received an impressive award, in recognition for their 10 years of  “outstanding sacrifice in providing humanitarian aid to Eastern Europe.” This beautiful plaque now sits in a prominent place in the Strahan’s home.

In 2000, the Strahans said good-bye to Germany and moved to Houston, where today they are faithful members at the Church of Champions.

It isn’t every day that you meet extraordinary people like Gene and Louise Strahan. But whenever you do, you just know that you will never forget them, because they are people who will always make a difference wherever they go.


Friday, November 12, 2010

My Encounter With A Former President

Former president, George H. W. Bush is one of the presidents of my time that I would enjoy meeting, which is why my unlikely encounter with him in 2000 remains a highlight in my writing career.

I’ll try to make this as brief as possible, but a bit of background is needed.

One morning, The Man and I drove to College Station to visit the George Bush Library. As long as I’ve been old enough to notice, I’ve admired George and Barbara Bush for a number of reasons. One, I think they are modest and down-to-earth people—the kind of folks a country girl like me could share a pot of beans with and feel totally at ease. But more important, I always appreciated the fact that Mr. Bush displayed great leadership skills during his presidency. As former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said, “When George Bush was president of the United States, every single head of government in the world knew they were dealing with a genuine leader.”

The George Bush Library impressed me so much that I came home and wrote about it, and on September 24, 2000 the piece was published in The Dallas Morning News, along with a great drawing of the former president, by Randy Mack Bishop.

A few days later, I walked to the mailbox and discovered a package addressed to me. The return address was from my then-editor at The Dallas Morning News, so I thought nothing of it, except I noticed it was a lot bigger than the normal envelope that he usually sent my tearsheets in, following publication.

I opened the bulky package and inside was yet another package, addressed to me, in care of The Dallas Morning News—with a return address from the "Office of George Bush."

My mouth fell open. I think my knees even shook a little. What on earth was going on?

Inside the package was a personal note from the former president, saying that he had read the column I wrote about his library, and how much he enjoyed it.

He had enclosed an inscribed soft-cover copy of his fascinating book, All the Best, and said he hoped I enjoyed reading it “half as much” as he enjoyed reading my article. And then, in his own handwriting, as a post-script to the note, he penned, “Dayle – We ran out of hard cover copies—not one in the office—so sorry.”

By this time, I was in a bit of shock and sitting down. And, for some reason, there were tears in my eyes. Silly perhaps, but to think that a former president actually read what I wrote in a newspaper was humbling enough within itself. Add to that the fact that he took the time to dictate a letter, then add a hand-written note at the bottom, then inscribe a book to me, then have someone get it all together and mail it to me, in care of the newspaper, well ... I was deeply honored and humbled and overwhelmed. And that’s putting it mildly.

A few days later, I wrote to thank him for his kindness and generosity, and to let him know he had given me an unforgettable moment as a writer. 

Even a decade later, the memory of this still warms my heart.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Our Evolution of Camping

This is a story about how I went from a hotel kind of gal, to an RV and camping enthusiast. If you want the shorter version, without all of the photo illustrations, you can click twice on the following image from July 18th's Beaumont Enterprise. But if you want the rambling version (oh, joy), with all of the photo illustrations, scroll on down.

In 1994, my husband purchased a used pop-up camper. On the day of its delivery, we popped the top and unfolded its canvas walls—right in the middle of our driveway.

My friend next door walked over and presented a dubious scowl. "Is this yours?” Kathy seemed shocked.

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

She laughed. “I’m sorry, Dayle, but you don't look like the camping type. You’re much too…. prissy.”

Truth is, I haven’t always considered myself the “camping type” either. I thought folks who frequented RV parks were either a) not very bright, or b) broke. Possibly both.

But early on in our marriage, my husband insisted camping might be fun. So, in the summer of 1982, we borrowed a friend’s trailer, invited my sister and brother-in-law to join us, and headed to Florida.

(1982 - The Man on our first camping trip, in a tiny borrowed trailer)

Our campsite was a shady spot. A picnic table rested under a grove of pines, and just beyond a hedge of shrubs, white beaches and emerald waters awaited us.

As we set up camp, I was acutely aware of the sounds around me. Birds chirping. Gravel crunching as folks walked past. An occasional wind rustled the trees. Everything seemed alive, and yet the noises were remarkably calming.

In the past, I’d always been a hotel kind of gal, but I was curiously being mesmerized by this natural setting. I remember thinking: I can’t believe I didn’t know this existed.

As the week unfolded, I had a revelation. Chaos and busyness ruled my life—even my vacations—but a natural environment calmed the mind and body.

Such a thought seemed radical, but by stepping out of my normal routine I was able to identify exactly what had been missing. Previous vacations were spent doing and going and rushing, all sandwiched between irritating encounters. Crowded hotel elevators. Televisions blaring from hotel rooms and cafés. Children screaming while being dragged from amusement park rides. No wonder I returned home from such trips exhausted.

Out here in nature, things were different. Even the children seemed more relaxed as I observed them playing board games at picnic tables, riding bikes down dusty trails, or throwing a ball around. In spite of earlier doubts about camping, I was close to conversion.

On our final evening, we sat talking in soft tones beneath the pines, a stream of moonlight falling across our laps. The impact of that peaceful moment was unforgettable and impossible to put into words. A moment like that can only be experienced.

On our second camping trip, in 1983, we went for the whole tent experience, and I’d say it pretty much climaxed when I crawled in one evening and found a snake coiled up on my cot. Yikes! After nearly tearing the tent down, I still managed to finish the night—and the trip—in a good mood, but a girl has her limits. That was the beginning and the end of the tent-camping era for this gal.

(1983 - The year of the tent ... and the snake.)

Our daughter turned eight the year we bought the little pop-up, and I discovered that camping with children is less stressful than the hotel scene, for several reasons. Children are calmer in a natural setting. You don’t have to worry so much about what they’re wearing, or if they get dirty. There’s room for them to unleash their energy. And they don't want to stay glued to the television all night.

(1994 - My sweet daughter and Princess, the year of the pop-up)

In 2000, we sold the pop-up and bought a used 30' bumper-pull trailer. Going from a pop-up to this had us feeling like the Jeffersons—we had moved on up! While it was still close quarters inside, it had a full kitchen, a queen-size bed, a sofa that made a bed, a dinette that made a bed, roomy closets, an indoor bathroom (hello!) and a bathtub, to boot (double hello!). Heaven on wheels. This was our home-away-from home for the next nine years.

(2000 - We enjoyed this 30' RV for nine years.)

So, what attracts me so much to camping, you might ask. For starters, camping is more economical, but more importantly, it offers a chance to “unplug.” It allows the mind and body to disconnect from the synthetic world of artificial noises and electronic bombardment, and connect to the real world—a world filled with life and soothing sounds. But that's not all. Consider the following:

* You don’t have to squeeze into an elevator several times a day.
* Your pets are always welcome.
* Whatever is in the fridge is yours for the taking.
* You know the sheets on your bed are clean, because you washed them. And if they’re not, it’s your dirt.
* You can go to breakfast in your pajamas.
* There are paths and trails that beckon the curious soul.
* You have a front-row seat to nature’s wonders.
* Camping brings you closer as a family.

After three decades, we now consider ourselves camping veterans. In 2008, The Man retired. A year later, after much research, we sprang for a 38-foot Fleetwood and are so blessed to be able to travel extensively, something we dreamed of doing for many years, and something we never take for granted.

But I've discovered that the charms of camping have less to do with whether you travel by RV, or enjoy camping in tents or in on-site cabins. Camping is mainly about getting out in nature and drinking in the magnificent views by day, and inhaling the night air. It's about slowing down the pace.

(2009 - Cloud Nine, as we call our Fleetwood coach,
with Goldilocks following behind.)

Gary Smalley, founder and president of Today's Family, an organization which sponsors family enrichment seminars, traveled across the country interviewing "unusually happy" families, trying to find a common thread. Speaking with each family member separately, Smalley discovered one activity they all enjoyed: camping trips.

If you don’t know beans about camping, here are a few suggestions.

Start small.

State parks are a great choice. Click on this link to find the destination of your choice.

Plan ahead.

Many campgrounds fill up early, especially on weekends. It’s a good idea to make reservations.

Gear up.

Check out this website for advice from the camping pros.

Have fun.

Take board games, books, puzzles and things like dart-boards and horse-shoes. Bicycles make nice additions for afternoon rides through the park.

RV parks usually have swimming pools, and some offer a large variety of sporting equipment for your pleasure. In addition, look for paths and trails for casual hiking. Lazy evenings are a good time to bring out the guitar for a little round-the-fire singing, while roasting marshmallows and talking about the day’s activities.

Until next time, happy camping!

Article first appeared in The Dallas Morning News, by Dayle Allen Shockley. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Unseen Hand ~ My Cancer Story

Not all cancer stories have happy endings, but some of them do. These happy endings can sometimes be attributed to advances in medicine; other times they are made possible because of faith in God, and a divine healing touch.

This is my cancer story and it all began on a crisp September morning in 1973, when my father drove me to the dentist’s office for a routine filling. As the dentist prepared to administer a shot of Novocain, he stopped short.

“There's a knot right here,” he said, pressing an area inside my left jaw. “Have you noticed this before?"

I felt inside my jaw and found the small knot. I shook my head no. I’d never noticed this before.

The dentist seemed concerned and asked if I had a parent with me. I told him my father was in the waiting room.

After a brief conversation, most of which I don’t remember, the dentist sent me and my father down the hall, where an oral surgeon examined the area in question and said he needed to lance it for a biopsy. “I will call you with the results," he told us.

A few days later, the disturbing news came. It appeared that the knot inside my jaw was a cancerous tumor. We were referred to the Head and Neck Clinic at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for a complete evaluation.

At M. D. Anderson, we met Doctor Oscar Guillamondegui (fondly called Dr. Guilly by the staff), who ordered more testing before a final diagnosis could be made.

Over the next few weeks, my life became consumed by tests and people poking me. But at last, we sat in a small room, waiting for the report.

Dr. Guilly got right to the point. "The knot in Dayle's mouth,” he said, “is a mucoepidermoid carcinoma buccal mucosa—that is a malignant tumor of the minor salivary glands." He said it was rare in someone so young. He recommended immediate surgery, followed by 25 rounds of radiation, but said he wouldn’t know my prognosis until he observed how deep the roots were.

A heavy silence filled the little room, broken only by an occasional sniffle from my mother.

We asked for a moment alone before making any decisions. All year, we had planned a trip to the mountains in order to attend a church convention. The convention was the following week, and I begged my parents to let me go. Maybe God had a special healing for me there.

After seriously considering our options, I will always be grateful that my parents agreed that we would go to the convention, as planned. Dr. Guilly wasn’t thrilled with waiting, but he understood the reason behind it. He asked that we schedule surgery immediately upon my return.

On the last night of the convention, my father—a minister—had arranged for me to be prayed over, according to the Scripture found in James 5:14-15: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

Standing with my dad at the front of the large arena, a group of ministers touched my head with oil, asking God to heal me. It was just a simple prayer, really, but my young heart was bursting with faith. I fully expected something spectacular to happen—indicating I’d been healed—but nothing out of the ordinary occurred, at least not just then.

After the service ended, my sister and I were walking with friends to a nearby café, when I had the strangest sensation inside my jaw. It felt as if the tumor was being squeezed—like a pimple. The sensation lasted a second or two, followed by a feeling of excess moisture in my jaw—again, much like squeezing a pimple. That may sound crude, but it’s the only way I know to describe it.

With a heart filled with hope, I reached inside my jaw, fully expecting to find the tumor gone. But it wasn’t. I said nothing to no one, but kept faith in my heart. I knew something supernatural had just occurred.

The next day, we drove back to Texas to prepare for my surgery. Since The Knot was still evident, I decided to say nothing about my experience to anyone. In retrospect, I wish I had spoken up and shared what had happened with my family, but I didn't. I was afraid maybe they wouldn't believe me. I did, however, ponder it in my heart the whole way home.


On Halloween night, 1973, I was escorted to a hospital room trimmed with black cats and orange pumpkins. Undaunted, I slipped on a hospital gown and crawled into bed.

Early next morning, a nurse came in with a gurney. I climbed aboard and we rumbled down a wide hallway, my family walking beside me in a solemn line. When we reached the place where we had to part ways, we joined hands while my dad led us in prayer, asking that all would be well.

Inside the operating room, a woman took my hand. "I'm the anesthesiologist,” she said. “I'm going to give you a little stick now.” Slowly, she pushed in the syringe. "What is your doctor's name, Dayle?” Even though she stood at my head, she sounded far away. I tried to answer, but couldn't. Then the room went silent, and I knew nothing.

Hours later, I lay in my room listening to Dr. Guilly describe the surgery to my family. He explained that when he reached the tumor, the roots appeared to have been—in his words—"shriveled up.” He said it as if it were the oddest thing he'd ever seen. He said because he was certain of complete resection, no radiation would be needed, just frequent visits for check-ups.

Even though my jaw stuck out like a grapefruit, I smiled a victorious smile, goose-bumps covering my entire body. Suddenly, the feeling I'd had outside the café made perfect sense, for that's precisely what it felt like—a hand squeezing my jaw. I had no doubt whatsoever that I had received a miracle of healing.


Last year, I visited an Ear Nose and Throat specialist about a chronic sinus infection. While there, the subject of my long-ago cancer came up (just a routine question on a form) and when the doctor asked what my diagnosis had been, he turned around sharply and said, “Well, it must’ve been a low grade tumor because had it been a high grade one, you’d most likely not be here now. The survival rate for patients with minor salivary gland tumors isn’t very good.”

I was thrilled to tell him, “I'm not sure what grade tumor it was, but prayers went up all around the country for me.” I said, “I’m sure that the surgeon did a great job, but it’s because of God that I’m here today.” The doctor smiled and said, “Well I’d never be too proud to share that kind of credit, that’s for sure.”

In summary, I am a testimony of the healing powers of The Great Physician. I don't know why God chooses to heal, or why He doesn't. My father-in-law passed away from cancer at the young age of 59, even with us praying for a miracle. I can’t explain why I received my healing; it's certainly not because of any goodness in me, or because of anything I have done. Some things just can't be explained; some questions have no earthly answers. But I do know that I'm forever grateful for God's mercy and favor. If I’m diagnosed with a dreaded disease tomorrow, I will not complain, for since 1973 I have been living as a walking miracle! Who could ask for more than that?

Merciful Father, life's trials have given my faith roots—unshakable and unmovable. Without hardships in our lives, we'd never know the thrill of receiving a true miracle. Thank you for granting me another year of living!


A version of this story appears in Silver Linings (Pacific Press), by Dayle Allen Shockley. All rights reserved.