— Life —

A Passage From My Memoir and a Question for You

From Disney's Alice in Wonderland
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Like Alice in Wonderland I’ve slipped down the rabbit hole. Unlike Alice’s world where, “Cats and rabbits would reside in fancy little houses and be dressed in shoes and hats and trousers,” my world has been filled with “men in suits, driving four door sedans who emptied the contents of our garbage can into the trunk of their car.” 

This is my world, the rabbit hole in the memoir I’m writing. 

Writing this memoir is forcing me to think about every part of my life. Not just the good and happy things or the wonderful people I’m privileged to call my friends, but the bad times and the questions I should have asked… but didn’t. Even more important it’s made me wonder “why didn’t” I ask them? They were questions, begging to be examined, not trivial ones like” Do you like Mexican food?” Instead, I said nothing. 

I’ve always known it’s not because I’m afraid to ask the hard questions or to hear the answers. Sometimes I don’t want to put the other person on the spot or make them feel bad because it wouldn’t be the kind thing to do.

Other times, however, I play it cool… I don’t need to “go there.” 

That’s not to say I never ask the hard questions or know how to respond in a crisis, because I do… in spades. But every important unasked question—and I remember them all—has signaled the beginning of a pivotal time in my life. Regardless of whether I asked the question, 95 percent of the time I already knew the answer.

Much of my memoir takes place in my home of 35 years. The 6,400 square foot, three-story “Spy House on the Hill” as it was known.

You can’t tell from this picture, but it sat on 22 acres and overlooked all of San Antonio. It was the highest point in the city. The left-hand portion of the house with all the windows was my bedroom. The top floor with all the windows was my office.

A glimpse of the views of San Antonio. It was taken just outside my front door under the wrap around veranda. My dog, Phydaux, is standing on the stone wall next to the winding front steps. Each of the pyramids on either side of the driveway housed a low watt bulb. At night, when the city lights came alive, the lights inside the pyramids looked like diamonds suspended from a sparkling piece of jewelry.

In the following passage from my memoir you’ll notice I don’t ask the obvious question nor do I give you the answer. You’ll have to wait for that until the book is finished.

       “I watch him through the binoculars from my bedroom window. A big burly weightlifter type wearing a short-sleeved polo shirt that looks two sizes too small for him. He set off the alarm inside the house when he ignored the “Private Property No Trespassing” sign and did a one-handed vault over the gate at the foot of our driveway. He made it look effortless like he’d jumped over one of those plastic, childproof safety gates that keeps puppies and children from falling down stairs or wandering into rooms that are off-limits. With long purposeful strides he hikes up the hill to the house, then takes the winding front steps two at a time.

       When I open the front door there is no “Hi, my name is… “ He skips the niceties and gets straight to the point.

       “I have it on good authority that whoever lives here needs a bodyguard,” he says. His voice is even and well-modulated with no hint of the implied threat he just delivered, and his eyes drill into mine like he has every right to be here.

       In a tone as calm as his I look at him and say, “You must have the wrong house.” We both know I’m lying. For starters, there aren’t any other houses anywhere near where I live.

       I close the door in his face and watch him retrace his steps down the hill. He turns his head for just a moment, until he sees me, standing in the window, watching him through the binoculars.”

Part of my bedroom before I pulled up the wall to wall carpeting and exposed the beautiful hardwood floors. There was always at least one pair of binoculars next to the sofa, and sometimes the large telescope in the living room was there as well. There were also lots of hidden safes. From here I can count three.

Do you ask the hard questions, or are you afraid of the answers? Or are you like me and sometimes decide not to “go there?” The pendulum can swing too far in either direction… being confrontational or sticking your head in the sand. Neither scenario is a good one. Like everything else in life, it’s all about finding balance.

Love, Brenda


  • Renee February 22, 2020 at 7:33 am

    I tend to “ not go there “ but I must say as I am 62 now I “tend “ to maybe not be so intimidated , and I will ask much more now , in this stage of life it took me long enough…What a beautiful bedroom , the woodwork is fantastic…

    • 1010ParkPlace February 23, 2020 at 6:14 pm

      Rene, I agree with you. With a change in age often comes finding our voice and we plus we’re more inclined to use it. I’ve never had a problem finding my voice, but I’ve discovered we need to know when to use it. I know a woman who is proud that she “confronts people.” Calls them on their BS. She thinks it’s a strong virtue, when in reality, it makes her a b!#$%. The woodwork in that house!! Oh, my! You should see the dressing rooms, the closets and the bathrooms! Oh, my stars! It was one of a kind. There wasn’t a person who came to my home who didn’t want a tour. Thanks for reading, Rene! Brenda

  • Joyce Sullivan February 22, 2020 at 7:47 am

    As a member of your Greek chorus that looks upon the play and says aloud what we all know to be truth, our yet-to-be-spoken lines are forming as we enter your pyramid lit driveway bounding up the hill. Write on, dear one. We are here with you to hold you up and help give you air to breathe so you may speak the answers to those questions you’ve always known.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 23, 2020 at 6:16 pm

      Do you write, Joyce? You have a beautiful way with words! Thank you, sweet friend, for your encouragement. This has been a real challenge! Love, Brenda

      • Joyce Sullivan February 26, 2020 at 5:51 pm

        I write a little. Perhaps I’ll pick up my pen again thanks to your kind encouragement

        • 1010ParkPlace February 26, 2020 at 9:09 pm

          I’m glad to hear this Joyce! You have talent! You might see where it takes you. xoxo

  • Mira February 22, 2020 at 7:47 am

    I am so looking forward to reading your book. Thank you for the teaser.
    Finally, at 69 I have the courage to ask the questions and push for explanations. I too, usually, have known the answers before asking the question. I love being my age—it’s taken me this long to become (almost) fearless.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 23, 2020 at 6:18 pm

      Mira, “Almost fearless!!!” What a grand statement! I imagine a lion tamer in the ring, able to face and deal with most anything. I think that happens to many of us… if we’re lucky… as we get older. Thanks for letting me know you’re interested in reading my book. It means a lot. xoxox, Brenda

  • Donna Nance February 22, 2020 at 7:54 am

    Write on…looking forward to the finished book. At seventy-two, I now long take things at face value.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 23, 2020 at 6:20 pm

      Hi Donna, I know what you mean! It’s hard to take things at face value. We’ve heard too many stories, too many excuses, met too many flaky people. Our BS detector has been sharpened. Thank you for reading my blogs and for supporting me as I write! I appreciate you!! xoxo, Brenda

  • Jack February 22, 2020 at 8:52 am

    Brenda, you have that gift of communication to which every writer aspires. Your words not only capture your reader’s imagination, but they also, in succinct fashion, inspire thought, often on a most profound level.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 23, 2020 at 6:23 pm

      Oh, my! I’m not sure what to say to that other than thank you, Jack! I hope the book doesn’t disappoint. xoxox, Brenda

  • Terry February 22, 2020 at 9:03 am

    Nope. I am totally non-confrontational. Loved the spelling of “Fido”! So looking forward to your book. Thanks for the excerpt!
    Terry in Tyler

    • 1010ParkPlace February 23, 2020 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Terry!! When people would comment on the spelling of Phydaux’s name, I would tell them he was French. LOL! You’d be surprised how many people took me serious. I’m glad you’re looking forward to my book! It encourages me to keep writing. Thank you! xoxox, Brenda

  • Diane February 22, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Oh, my word, Brenda! This has me shaking in my slippers!
    There are so many times when I should have spoken up as well. But, for whatever reason, didn’t.
    But nothing like this.
    Nothing like this…

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Sweet Lady! I’m glad you haven’t encountered anything like this, Diane! Very glad, and this is only the beginning. xoxox, Brenda

  • Barbara February 22, 2020 at 10:06 am

    It’s obvious to those of us who read your blog that you haven’t lived a “regular” life but bodyguards? Were you in danger? From who? What happened? I want to know more!! Now!! Please hurry Brenda and finish your book. We want to read it! xXo Barbara

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:09 pm

      Barbara, Thanks so much for the great comment! I LOVE all of your questions!! I’m working about 5 hours a day on this book. Hurrying as fast as I can! xoxox, Brenda

  • Judy February 22, 2020 at 10:20 am

    Miss your blogs so much. Love it when I find something from you in my online Inbox.

    What a ‘teaser’ you just wrote. Who was that guy? Would you have done something different today than when that episode happened? Please tell me more…….

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:15 pm

      Judy, I miss you as much as you miss me. As you can see, I’m popping in from time to time, plus I’m writing.. diligently. Would I have done anything different? No. Part of me was afraid of giving more information than I got from him, and the other part of me wanted to have a closed door between us… and access to my gun and a telephone to call 911 if needed. I never discovered who he was, but there were two BIG reasons why someone might have sent him. I was living in scary times. xoxox, Brenda

  • Pat February 22, 2020 at 11:08 am

    I have been off line and out of touch for 6 months and so glad I am able to return just in time to see this post. Your memoir in the works sounds so intriguing. I can’t wait to read more.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:17 pm

      Hi Pat! Great to see you, here! Thanks for reading and leaving me a comment. I hope you like my memoir when it’s finished. xoxo, Brenda

  • Sandra Sallin - Apart from My art February 22, 2020 at 11:14 am

    I don’t ask the questions. Never think of asking the questions. I guess I don’t want to know the answers or don’t feel it’s for me to ask. I know this is a problem I’m still dealing with. Miss you.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:22 pm

      Dearest Sandy, I find it so interesting that most of us don’t ask the big questions! Fascinating! There’s a study there for a psychology grad student. I miss you as well. You should come up to Elizabeth’s neck of the woods in March. I’ve been invited to speak to a group there. If you’re interested, ask me or Elizabeth about it. It would be wonderful to have you there. The night before someone’s having a cocktail party for me. I’m so flattered! xoxox, Brenda

  • Barbara February 22, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    Being naive for a third of my life or more, I didn’t ask the questions. Having grown up with controlling parenting, sometimes I didn’t realize that there were questions which I should have asked! Naturally, much angst, drama and unwanted consequences ensued. Examples: my 2 marriages that “seemed to be a good idea at the time”.
    Later, I took assertiveness training, and went too far at times, questioning So.Many. Little.Things…unnecessarily!.
    At this stage (The Golden 80’s) , I’m happy to say that I have found more balance, and peace…..hard-won, and much appreciated.
    Wishing everyone a happy Leap Day (Feb. 29th)… please leap into some fun and good experiences!

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      Dear Barbara, Hard earned experience! Yes! There’s nothing like it, even assertiveness training, which I would think would be difficult and so counterintuitive. The “Golden 80s… ” I love that term because it shows us there are still so many things to look forward to in life. Yes, let go of the many, tiny little things. Stop needing an answer for things like that and just LIVE! Loved your comment! Thank you! xoxox, Brenda

  • Gigi February 22, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    I have now learned to ask why are you asking me that when a question to me seems impertinent to another or is too personal. Also, when a person offers advice by saying I know you have not asked me but.. I now say your are right I have not asked you when in appropriate. I have learned to listen more intently and take my time responding in kind and will not be intimidated. I think some people thinking they are being assertive are just unmannerly and rude and frankly it is none of their bees. Dr’s. and others professionals do not itimidate me either after all I am engaging their services.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:42 pm

      Gigi!! Love your response! “Why are you asking me this question?” I know someone who takes great pride in being the thorn in everyone’s rose when in reality, she goes beyond being rude and inappropriate. She is a B!#$% Love hearing you’re not intimidated by doctors. So many people are and don’t ask ANY questions. A friend died from complications to breast cancer treatment because she treated her doctor like a God and wouldn’t dare to even ask for clarification if she didn’t understand something. Such a heartbreaking loss! xoxox, Brenda

  • Colleen Fuller February 22, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Your memoir passage sent a chill down my spine. Can’t wait to read more. When I was younger I didn’t ask the hard questions. It was easier to pretend everything was fine. My question to you Brenda, why did you open the door?

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:39 pm

      Dearest Colleen! So happy to see you again! I answered the door because frequently, if the gate was open, people would knock on my door and want a tour of the house! That always amazed me! I would never presume to knock on someone’s door and ask that. It was a very famous house, with lots of stories attached to it, so people at my door were kind of amusing. This guy fit into another category. Thanks for letting me know you’re interested in my memoir. xoxox, Brenda

  • Juliet February 23, 2020 at 7:02 am

    You’ve beautifully created anxious anticipation … I must know more. And, you’ve made me think. I, too, often don’t ask the questions. Even when finding myself in potentially threatening situations. xo

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      Hi Juliet!! So many of us don’t ask questions! So interesting!! Love that you want to know more about my book! It’s great encouragement, so thank you! xoxox, Brenda

  • Laureen Satabe February 23, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    You constantly amaze me, enlighten me and give a smidgen of insight into your amazing life. I CANNOT WAIT to devour your book!!Laureen

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:43 pm

      Laureen, Thank you, dear friend, for your encouraging comments! I’ll keep writing! Love, Brenda

  • Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski February 23, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    I’m still getting over what a big spectacular house that was. I have regretted not asking questions numerous times qhen i should have. Water under the bridge now.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:46 pm

      Rebecca, The Spy House on the Hill… There was nothing like it. It dazzled and intrigued me almost every day. That house and I had a love affair with one another, and if an inanimate object could love in return… I know it loved me. Hope you’re doing well after caring for your significant other. I think about you from time to time. Sending love… Brenda

  • LA CONTESSA February 23, 2020 at 7:59 pm


    • 1010ParkPlace February 24, 2020 at 1:50 pm

      LOL! You’re cute, Elizabeth! I was just about 30 years old when he knocked on the door. I will tell you he was obviously “in the know” about our lives. There were two HUGE things going on at the time, either one of them were scary and risky. You’ll have to read it in the book. I’ve hesitated to write my story because it still may not be… wise… for me to tell all, but… Que sera sera! I’m tired of keeping secrets. xoxox, Brenda

  • Laura Lee Carter February 24, 2020 at 9:49 am

    Hello Brenda and congrats on your new book! The part of this piece I relate best to is:
    “Regardless of whether I asked the question, 95 percent of the time I already knew the answer.” That not trusting in my own knowledge and wisdom really bothers me now. Why has it taken this long to know that I know as well as anyone else what needs to happen next in my life?
    Why did I forever look outside myself to KNOW? Steven Levine called this “Boundless insecurity” and I’m done with that now!

    • Brenda Coffee February 24, 2020 at 2:10 pm

      Thank you Laura for your comment. The book isn’t finished yet, so let’s hold off on the congrats until I get to the finish line. I’ve never been insecure to where I needed someone’s opinion on what I should do next. Hurray for knowing who you are and what’s in your own best interest and making those decisions for yourself. Huge growth point!! BRAVA!! xoxox, Brenda

  • Laurie Stone February 24, 2020 at 10:37 am

    Shiver! Now I need to know what happened! Did you ever see him again? And yes, the art of good story telling is always leaving them wanting more. Miss your wonderful blog on a regular basis.

    • Brenda Coffee February 24, 2020 at 2:16 pm

      Thank you, Laurie! To my knowledge, I never saw him again, but he could have been one of the “men in suits” who stole our garbage or the men who broke into our house…. But that’s in the book. My life then was… Let’s say difficult, scary…. We did windup getting a bodyguard. Our attorneys pressured us into getting one. He was the sniper on the San Antonio SWAT squad. Where ever we were… There he was. We travelled separately but if we went to the movies, he sat behind us, or at a table near us in a restaurant. Interestingly enough, a few years later when my husband died, he attended his memorial service. Thanks for jogging my memory. So many “out of the ordinary things” happened in my life. A great many are falling by the wayside in this book. xoxox, Brenda

  • Jae February 24, 2020 at 10:55 am

    Wow, you leave me wanting more!

    • Brenda Coffee February 24, 2020 at 2:28 pm

      Thank you, Jae. I just read your powerful post about your relationship with your mother. I understand some of your hurt. Many of us do. In many ways it shapes who we become and how we think of ourselves. In my case I became stronger when my mother and I role reversed when I was 12 years old and she was 40. It never went back, and it wasn’t what either of us wanted. Since I don’t know you, the only thing I can say is you’re smart, insightful and eloquent. Wrap your arms around your grownup self and move forward… with deliberate intention… Sparkle and love yourself and know you are worthy of being loved and adored. xoxox, Brenda

  • Beth Havey February 24, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    WHAT SHE SAID — I mean all the comments above. You left me hanging, which is a good think when you are a writer. So keep going GIRL and
    please share more of this. Beth

    • Brenda Coffee February 24, 2020 at 2:29 pm

      Thank you, Beth!! I appreciate your encouragement. Everyone’s encouragement. I will write and rewrite until I think it’s good enough to submit to a publisher. xoxox, Brenda

  • Rena February 24, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    How can you torture us like this! I cannot wait for this book and I’ve been begging for an awfully long time!

    • 1010ParkPlace February 25, 2020 at 11:24 am

      You’re adorable, Rena! I love you! Thank you for your steadfast encouragement and support. Brenda

  • Mithra Ballesteros February 25, 2020 at 10:10 am

    I’m intrigued! The unasked question! Wonder how many hours of writing and self-reflection it took to get there. And your pacing is great! Very very hard this memoir stuff. Keep on truckin’!

    • 1010ParkPlace February 25, 2020 at 11:29 am

      Good! I’m glad you’re intrigued, Mithra! I’ve ALWAYS known when I let a question go unanswered, like “Who sent you here to tell me I need a bodyguard?” Memoir is a different animal from magazine articles and blogs, that’s for sure! Thanks for the input and encouragement. I appreciate you! xoxox, Brenda

  • Doreen Mcgettigan February 26, 2020 at 8:33 am

    As I read this I was screaming (in my head) “Don’t open the door.” You opened the door and now I have so many questions. Keep writing forward!

    • 1010ParkPlace February 26, 2020 at 2:52 pm

      You’re probably smarter than I am, Doreen. I opened the door! At that point there were bad things all around me: In the house, out of the house… It was my life, 24/7. I’ll keep writing. Thanks! xoxox, Brenda

  • SYLVIE KAHL February 26, 2020 at 11:09 am

    You have my attention! I can’t wait to read more. What a grand home and my theory is much like the other ladies when we get to a certain age we become less fearful and can take the “answers” now….(66 and going strong)!

    • 1010ParkPlace February 26, 2020 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks for your input, Sylvie! I’m writing and writing… Sometime I should just post a blog with photos of that house. Every room was unique and intriguing. I like hearing that so many of us aren’t as fearful as we were when we were younger. Wouldn’t it be tragic if we were still nervous and afraid? I know a woman about our age who’s afraid and unsure of almost everything. I feel so sorry for her. xoxox, Brenda

  • Hilda Smith February 26, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    Put my name down for pre order! You have led some life Brenda xxx

    • 1010ParkPlace February 26, 2020 at 4:17 pm

      Hi Hilda!! How are you? So great to see you here! My life has been… unusual… shall we say. I’m glad you’re looking forward to my memoir. xoxox, Brenda

  • Lucy Wilson March 8, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Wow! If this is just a small part of the book, I’m with Hilda – put me down for pre-order. I almost got to go on a trip to Italy with you and Kyra a couple years ago but you had to cancel because of a water issue at your home. The trip was fabulous and I can’t help thinking how much your presence would have added. I know I’m going to get to meet you one day. Take the breaks you need to take care of yourself and keep writing. Again, like Hilda said, You have led some life, Brenda.

    • 1010ParkPlace March 10, 2020 at 9:01 am

      Lucy!! So great to see you here! It’s been a while. I went with Kyra the next year, but I, too, want to meet you some day. At some point, perhaps you can advise me on places where you are to do a book tour/reading!! I’m glad to know you’d like to read my book. Sending you love, sweet lady, Brenda

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