Friday, July 31, 2009

The iPod - 25 Random Songs

Because once I learn something that's just the way I roll...forever...I'm answering the tag for the iPod songs this way. The instructions say something about turning on your iPod and just jotting down the first 25 songs in "shuffle songs." Well, here goes.

1. Hell - Foo Fighters

Well, here's a lovely sentiment. It is not my favorite song from the Foo...but the lyrics "gather around the fire and I will lead the choir" sound a bit extreme, don't you think? But then again, I kind of associate cantatas with maybe he does too.

2. Miracle - Foo Fighters

Okay, this is better. I think Dave Grohl wrote it when his daughter, Violet, was born. "Hands on a miracle...I've got my hands on a miracle...believe it or not...hands on a miracle...and there ain't no way that you'll take it away." Poor grammar? Um...yeah.

3. If I Ever Leave This World Alive - Flogging Molly

From the soundtrack of "P.S. I Love You" with GERARD BUTLER. I love this Irish band...and it makes me smile when I hear it. Thinking of the movie also makes me smile...a lot.

4. Collection of Goods - Collective Soul

One of the possible three CS songs I don't just love. Oh well!

5. Voulez Vous - ABBA

This is on here because I was inspired after seeing Mamma Mia! on Broadway with my daughter, mother, and aunt. Shoot me. Shoot me now.

6. Plush - Stone Temple Pilots
I really love this song, but I am totally concerned about the lyrics...I'll see if I can...oh yeah, there it is...(gulp) the lyrics..."...and I feel and I feel when the dogs begin to smell her..." What could that possibly mean? NEVER MIND.

7. Come Alive - Foo Fighters

Acoustic guitar...and a song that seems very personal. I really love it..."Desperate and meaningless, all filled up with emptiness, felt like everything was said and done...I lay here in the dark and I close my saved me the day you came alive..." Poetry ala Dave Grohl. This song has absolutely awesome lyrics.

8. My Sacrifice - Creed

When Jill was in Junior High, she and I used to drive with the sunroof open and crank this song UP. "When you are with me...I'm free...I'm careless...I believe...above all the others...we'll fly...this brings tears to my sacrifice..." I always thought that this had a very spiritual undertone. I will never hear it without thinking of my baby girl.

9. Drops of Jupiter - Train

This song was popular several years ago and I loved it on the radio. "Tell me, did you sail across the sun...did you make it to the Milky Way..." I've never really been interested in space travel, and something tells me that the subject of this song wasn't either...probably bad 'shrooms or something.

10. Beautiful Day - U2

I used this song in several Movie Maker videos that I did a year or so when I hear it, I think of May 2006. The irony was...the weather totally the song is not only is kind of funny, totally rocks.

11. The Name of the Game - ABBA

Egad. This wasn't even in the play. Ick.

12. What I've Done - Linkin Park

This is the most amazing video if any of you want to pull it up on YouTube. It is a little disturbing sometimes...but is incredible. I love Linkin Park after one of Jill's guy friends introduced me to it in Summer 2005. I used to know every word of every song on the Live in Texas CD. Radical? Uh, yeah.

13. With or Without You - U2

I remember when this song came out originally...and it has been a favorite for a very long time. "See the stone set in your eyes...see the thorn twist in your side...I wait for you." Beat me, burn me, call me Erma...enough of that...

14. Breakout - Foo Fighters

I love the fact that the breakout he is describing is either his cool...or his face...punky little it. "I don't want to look like, you make me break out..."

15. Precious Declaration - Collective Soul

This is a song that I think is faith-based..."Precious declaration says yours is yours and mine you leave alone now...Precious declaration says I believe that hope is dead no longer..." says it all.

16. Learn to Fly - Foo Fighters

Probably the most familiar Foo Fighters song out there..."hook me up a new revolution...cause this one is a lie...sat around laughing and watched the last one die...I'm looking to the sky to save me...looking for a sign of life...looking for something to help me burn out bright...looking for a complication...looking cause I'm tired of trying...make my way back home when I learn to fly..." Hey, watch the's a scream. Jack Black is in it...

17. Clocks - Coldplay

Another song that I used in my video of London...imagine looking at pictures of Parliament - where Big Ben is - and have this song playing. Awesome. Plus, the lead singer is married to Gwyneth Paltrow.

18. No Way Back - Foo Fighters

YES. YES. "Lately I've been living in my head...the rest of me is dead...I'm dying for truth. Make me more left and right...come on take my side I'm fighting for you...I'm fighting for you. Pleased to meet you take my hand...there is no way back from here...Pleased to meet you...say your prayers...there is no way back from here but I don't way back from here...wake me...I'm ready... something don't seem right I was dreaming I was talking to you..." YES!!!

19. Needs - Collective Soul

A slow ballad..."all around me I see what weaknesses made...too much tomorrow...I think I'll take all today..."

20. Learning to Fly - Tom Petty & The HeartbreakersI'm learning to fly...but ain't got wings...

21. Counting the Days - Collective Soul

THE best senior year song EVER. I used it in Jill's senior video last year.

22. Who Will Save Your Soul? - Jewel

Clever lyrics...

23. Come As You Are - Nirvana

And people didn't know Cobain was nuts? "Come as you you I want you to a a an old enemy...take your time...hurry up...choice is yours...don't be late...take a a an old memory..." And then "Come doused in mud...soaked in I want you to a a an old memory...well, I swear that I don't have a gun, no, I don't have a gun..." And we know that he did...sadly.

24. Runaway - Linkin' Park

From the Live in Texas CD - "graffiti decorations...under a sky of dust..." Angst. Angst. Angst.

25. Alive - Pearl Jam

R-O-C-K O-N. Son, have I got a little story for you...what you thought was your Daddy...was nothing but a...while you were sitting home alone at age 13...your real Daddy was dying...sorry you didn't see him...but I'm glad we talked..." Yeah, that's enough to send your kid to rehab, counseling, or to be the lead singer for Pearl Jam. I'm still alive...

Anyway, hope that answers the question a little better than me trying to figure out how to do it the easy way...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Of Caterpillars and Butterflies

Tonight is the night before the night before the morning that I get up at dark-thirty to move Jill into the Taj Mahal of college living in Tuscaloosa. We have spent her last summer at home purchasing two televisions, a double bed, bedside table, bedding, art, clothing for Recruitment (on the other side, thankfully, this year), shoes, makeup, and everything else that she just absolutely, positively has to have to live life in an apartment with three of her sorority sisters. We will be renting a truck to haul all of this to Tuscaloosa, where we hope she will spend the next three to four years as a permanent resident.

I can hear you laughing, Beve.

Anyway, I'm reflecting on my sophomore year...and how my parents didn't exactly load me up and move me anywhere...much less in a moving truck. I drove the 1973 light blue Mercury Comet with the vinyl top peeling off. If it didn't didn't go. Life was far simpler then.

We just lived in the dorm, recycled our bedding from freshman year, and had jeans, button down shirts, and a few pairs of Candie's shoes. Granted, we had our 13 inch black and white TVs, stereo systems, and toaster ovens. These kids have a full kitchen, washer and dryer, individual bedroom and bath, 42" television, and a microwave. One of them is even bringing a cat.

The funny thing? I honestly didn't blink when I signed the lease. After paying private school tuition since 1996, I'm just used to not having any money...ever.

Where did things get this out of whack?

My friend called today to inform me that her daughter was on her way to Highlands, N.C. with a friend, and would be vacationing for a few days. And what was my friend doing at the time? Latrine duty.

Another mother I've known recycled her clothing for years and years because she wanted her baby girls to be dressed "pretty." Fortunately, the daughters appreciate and love their mother...and recognize her sacrifices on their behalf. So, while they were dressed in the latest styles, she was wearing the same blue suit purchased five years earlier...and never said a word.

Another friend of mine keeps her granddaughter so that her daughter can work and does not charge her for any supplies or any daycare fees. She wants to make it as easy for her as she can.

I also marvel at a couple who have six grandchildren...none of which live in the area. They spend a tremendous amount of time visiting and keeping children so that their children can have a "break" every once in awhile.

Another has a daughter who took an interest in horseback riding. She now works a full time job and two part time jobs to board the horse and keep the daughter in college.

I've also seen parents who spend days, weeks, months...years at ball fields, cheer gyms, skating rinks, or gyms to support their budding athletes. With travel ball...that commitment now goes year round.

The sacrifices that we make for our children to have the best opportunities that we can afford to give them takes a lot out of us in terms of capital, time, and energy. And at the point where we hit "the wall" and think we cannot do any more...we somehow figure out a way to try to make it happen for them.

Sometimes I believe that we are setting them up for failure in that we cannot bear to see them struggle. If they aren't the athlete they want to be...we will sign them up for private lessons and will invest the time to get them there. If they show any promise whatsoever...we feel that it is our duty to see that through. Often, their interest fades long before ours does. But much like a caterpillar trying to break out of the cocoon...without the struggle...they will lack the strength and stamina they need to make it in this world.

So, on the night before the night before I drop my girl off to University of Alabama...I am resolving to let my caterpillar struggle just a little more this year. Although she is responsible and smart, I want to step back even further and let her run with the details of her life more and more. She will make mistakes. She will even fail at a few things. But...her success will be of her own making.

She's a beautiful caterpillar. I suspect that she will be a breathtaking butterfly. Even if she is sitting in her private room overlooking the massive swimming pool and enjoying life while she "struggles."


Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I have the unusual distinction of watching both sets of parents purchase a home right next door to the home they currently reside in...and moving there instead. I do not know why this strikes me as odd...other than the fact that it IS odd. But since when has "odd" seemed odd when referring to me or my family? How about...never.

My mother insists that the reason that they are moving is because they will have more space in the new house, it was a terrific bargain, and they will no longer have to pay rental fees on storage buildings in two counties. Because, unfortunately, that is exactly what is going on right now.

A little backstory might help...

My folks moved from Thomaston, GA to Ironton, MO in 1980. This was the summer before my senior year, and I remained in Thomaston. They loaded up everything that they could into a moving van of some kind, and then spent the next several years as Missouri residents. After Linda graduated in 1987, they decided that it was time to leave. Linda remained at University of Missouri (Mizzou) and graduated four or so years later.

They came back to Thomaston and dropped off some possessions at my grandmother's house, and took the rest of the "perfectly good but not absolutely necessary items" and rented a storage building in Thomaston. The year? 1988. After all, this seemed logical as they were moving to California, and they ended up venturing back to Alabama for several weeks.

That stay in Alabama was quite memorable. They were living with Big Dave and me in our apartment, aptly named "The Dalmatian Arms" because it was a white building with huge black mold spots on it. It was a duplex or quad...not entirely sure...but I do know that our upstairs neighbor was a talkative, yard-sale going, clearance rack scanning, state of Alabama working, K-mart frequenting pack rat. She was hysterical, and I will admit that hearing all about her escapades at the local bowling alley and imagining the fire hazard that was her living space pretty much capped off the $225 per month experience on the edge of the 'hood pretty well.

But I digressed, didn't I?

ANYWAY, my folks decided to stay with us in the living room and slept on a double bed mattress on the floor and shared our single bathroom - which was right beyond the floor furnace with us. After growing up in a house with four bathroom and four people became a huge issue when we collectively came down with a stomach bug of some kind. It was cold enough to have ice in the toilet bowl because we had to keep the window open (or die...we chose life). To this day, the smell of Lysol takes me back. We went through something like two cans in three days. It's a trip down Memory Lane whose closest known depiction is Ben Stiller after the spicy Indian food in "Along Came Polly"...times four.

Several weeks later they left and moved to Perry, Georgia for approximately a year, and then moved to Highlands, North Carolina (and later Franklin) in 1989. The "stuff" just sat in storage, because at $25 a seemed quite reasonable! Out of sight...out of mind.

Ten years later, my sister decided to move to France and she needed somewhere to keep her furniture. My folks had just purchased the house in Franklin, and wouldn't you know it...they had space in their garage. Of course.

In 2004, my grandmother died, and her house in Thomaston became unraveled over a two year period. Two years of sorting through every television she had ever owned, glassware, books, letters, photographs, trinkets, cans of food circa 1974, newspapers, albums, clothes, boxes from the houses of relatives that died in the 1960s and 1970s, and an attic that had not been touched since that time. Wish I were kidding. Did I mention that this process took them two years? Yeah.

Unfortunately, a storage building that my Gammy had also existed in Thomaston that was filled in the late 1960s with family furniture from my grandfather's family. Was this facility climate controlled? Of course not! Had it been touched in nearly 40 years? Hardly. Is it still there minus a few pieces? Absolutely. The only bonus is that my folks consolidated their storage building and my grandmother's...if you can call that a bonus.

In 2006, Ralph's mother died, so they took possession of the house in Phenix City with the intention of staying for two years so that they could then sell it as a residence rather than a rental property. That meant another round of sort and stow and a second storage facility was rented in Phenix City to put my sister's old furniture, and what didn't fit in the house after they gave away or reassigned all of the Phenix City house items.

The Phenix City house items included furniture, but also a legion of unopened packages of clothing from Blair, enough paper towels, rolls of toilet paper Coca-Cola 2 liter bottles, chocolate bars, and Quaker instant oatmeal packets to last until 2013. She had also apparently been channeling Imelda Marcos, as there were at least 70 pairs of shoes...many unworn and in their original boxes.

After donating a tremendous amount to charity, there was still too much "stuff" in the house. So, they formed a path around what was there, determined to get to it if it ever gets cool enough but is not too cold (which means that I had about 8 days that might have qualified in the state of Alabama in any given year.)

Recently, their next door neighbor died, and his children approached my folks about purchasing the house at a substantial discount. Although the rules of real estate are "location, location, and location" folks decided to brave it there and to ask some family members to lease the house next door (the one they are currently living in today). I'm assuming that there will be a future blogpost coming from said experience, but I sincerely hope not.

Part of the reason that this particular home was chosen was due to the extra space that they will have in the new "digs." It also has two storage buildings out back. Egad.

I think that the move will work out well for them but I do believe a little updating is truly in order. This updating includes adding central air conditioning, doing something about the truly heinous linoleum in the kitchen (circa 1970) and removing the harvest gold rotary telephone from the kitchen wall (ick.)

So, now, the fun begins. In a few weeks, I will be allowed to help them move the "stuff" from point A to point B...and if I'm lucky and catch one of the 8 qualifying days this year, I may actually be able to convince my mother to part with the jukebox that my sister had in Missouri in 1986, a stove from our house on Mallory Street in 1980, the piano my grandparents purchased in the 1930s, or some of the half broken, dry-rotted, unusable, space hogging, pieces o'crap that they've been paying on all these many years in those god-forsaken storage buildings. Was that harsh? I hope so.

I believe that "stuff" is wonderful when it is in moderation, and when it has a place and a use. Big Dave and I don't have a storage facility, and I am in a constant state of throwing away/giving away/selling on eBay/donating. Granted, there are parts of my home that look horrific and truly need sorting. I have made headway into some...and have a way to go in others.

But, it is also my fervent belief that God blesses us with material things for our use and enjoyment...but most of all to be let go of so that He can keep it moving. I do not suggest that you sell family heirlooms or casually throw away items just because you want a bigger or better model. I do believe, though, that it is lunacy to keep a size 8 suit in your closet when you have to put another number in front of the "8" to get anywhere close to reality. I know that people associate things with people, and in that vein, I have reminders of my family all over my house. But do I really want to burden my children with the disposal of items that they will absolutely, positively have no connection to in this lifetime? I think not.

So, clean out your closets, and share of your bounty. Let your "stuff" bless someone else. I've found that those times that I released my "stuff" my hand was open long enough so that God had the chance to deposit something unexpected and wonderful into it. Sometimes it was a smile on someone's face...other times...tears of relief or joy. Not only is it worth it...just think of the money you'll save in storage rental fees! Later!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thank a Teacher

My Facebook friends have inspired me tonight (Lisa, Kim, Jana, Sandra, Angie, and Kelley among others) to write a quick thank you note. You are living the life that I thought I wanted to live once upon a time. You are inspiring young minds and are planting seeds of knowledge, tolerance, encouragement, love, determination, discipline, and hope. And it's a very important calling.

I say it is a calling because if you go into teaching for the money...or the time off...or because it was the fastest way out of won't last. But you have obviously been called, and I think that's awesome.

All of us have "teacher testimonials" and I'm going to share a few of mine. I don't know if the people that taught me thought much about who I was among the masses of children that came their way every day. But, it is far easier working the other way around, isn't it?

Nursery school - sometime around 1966: According to my mother, I was quite the handful. Shocking, yes? Because a teacher saw some intelligence in me (or was desperate to get me away from the other children...doesn't matter), I was taught to read by phonics records at age 3. My mother read to me a lot, and my grandmother and great-aunt gave me books as a child that I still own. Their inscriptions are in the covers. I'm still an avid reader.

1st Grade - I had the most wonderful teacher - Mrs. Simmons - at St. Andrews Episcopal School in Jackson, MS. Everybody wanted her, and by some lucky twist of fate, I ended up in her classroom. I'm sure that I learned a lot, but the three most vibrant memories included a Christmas party at her house, realizing that math didn't come as easy as reading, and Dooney Tickner getting to hand out paper towels on the last day of school because we went alphabetically. I swore then that I would marry up the alphabet as a result (and I did.)

2nd Grade - Had a beautiful teacher, Miss Wills, who was kind when I broke a cardinal rule unintentionally. Although I was trying to make a classmate who had been held back feel better by complimenting Mrs. Simmons (his "new" teacher)...Sharon Mason told on me. I forgave her because her family used to take me to Sunday School at their church. My punishment (Miss Wills let me choose it) was that I'd miss show-and-tell for two weeks. I thought it was fair.

3rd Grade - This was a split year because my parents went to do an off-Broadway play during the Fall, and Mom didn't want to move me to Thomaston yet, so I stayed in Jackson with a family I knew. I suppose I was a little stressed out knowing that my parents were gone and were about to be divorced, but I had a teacher who made me practice my penmanship over and over because I kept running the letters together. Today, I have nice handwriting...which I credit to my teacher. This was also the year that the police officers came to the school and begged us to stay off of drugs. I was listening.

The second half of the year, I had Mrs. Grace Hawkes, who was one of the sweetest ladies I knew. She was amazed at how fast I read and went through the SRA 4th and 5th grade to keep me busy (or was she just afraid that if I got through it would not be good). She never failed to mention it to me every time she saw me - even into her 90s. Lynn Hunter and I were allowed to do backbends and flips the last few minutes of the day from time to time, and the song "Wide World" by Cat Stevens still reminds me of Lynn and of Mrs. Hawkes.

I did send her a letter thanking her for the encouragement about a year ago, and I am glad that I did. She died recently...the same week as Mr. Hugo Starling who led the singing for the 3rd through 5th grade at First United Methodist Church in Thomaston. I still know that hymn 153 in the Cokesbury hymnal is "Love, Mercy and Grace" and hymn 121 is "Church in the Wildwood."

4th Grade - I had Mrs. Crawley - who also drove me to school every morning because she lived one street over and my mother was working in Atlanta. She let me play with the guinea pig and encouraged me to study harder in science because beyond the solar system, I really wasn't that interested. She made us do labs in a standard format. She was downright picky about the "hypothesis" - a word that I can spell thanks to her. She made me think about organizing data in a standard manner...a habit I still have.

I had English with Mrs. Joyce Kendall, and loved the word search puzzles that she would give us to do as a treat if we finished our work. She didn't take kindly to a smart mouth at all (trust me on this). She also turned out to be my grandmother's best friend in her final three years of angel that we cannot ever fully repay. In her work with the assisted living facility, she kept my grandmother from entering nursing home care until it was absolutely impossible to avoid, and she treated her with such love and respect that she gave us something you cannot buy...peace of mind.

5th Grade - Mrs. Pennyman was an Olympic gold medalist, and even brought in the medal for us to see. She was also the teacher who sent me for a paddling along with three other culprits for propelling butter beans across the table off of the end of our forks during lunch. I won't elaborate.

6th Grade - I joined Beginner Band and Mr. Web - in his platform shoes - actually seemed impressed that I had tried the clarinet part in "Hawaii 5-0" and made me want to practice more. I also sold mega amounts of band candy and probably laid the baseline cellulite during these years (followed up by "Introduction to Big Chic" in 7th grade and "McDonald's...the Reality Series" in 10th). I still love World's Finest Chocolate and will buy it from ANY kid who is selling it. I also won the cake baking contest that year although Lynn Smith's cake was totally prettier...a yellow doll cake. For a kid who had never won anything...this was an incredible honor. I still have the heart shaped pans that I made the cake in...they were retrieved from my grandmother's house when it was boxed up and yes, I did actually make the cake. It had pink icing and my grandmother had plunked a live camellia on it as I was walking out. Why I can remember this...I do not know.

7th Grade - Mrs. Wilson taught us the prepositions in alphabetical order in groups of 10 and tested us on them every few days. I can still recite the list. Wish I were kidding. When my kids had to memorize them, they were stunned that I knew mine. I also remember her telling some story about a rabid squirrel and her husband, but I'll just let that go.

Our geography/history teacher told us to pronounce Iraq as E-ROCK and Iran as E-RON. I couldn't have cared less then...but what do we hear about daily now? Yep. She also wanted us to learn how we got the last names we did...and for those with last names like "SMITH"...this was a "duh" assignment. She thought that "Toner" might have come from "Tuner." Not. It actually comes from a very long difficult to pronounce name that doesn't even start with a "T". Thank you, Ellis Island.

8th Grade - Mrs. Braddy, who was four foot nothing tired of trying to make us learn something in Science. So, she divided the class into "wants to learn" and "does not want to learn." Naturally, I was pleased to be in the "wants to learn" group in a way...but when they all walked out (or got sent to the office...can't remember) was drama, drama, drama.

I also remember that Coach Smith - in response to our telling him that we assumed that our notes only would be on the test instead of what was in the book...gave us a lesson in the definition of the word "assume" complete with lines (ass/u/me). Yeah. He was right, too. I also liked him because as a senior I had the insane idea that I'd try to play basketball (a true overstatement). The others would have to shoot three in a row before they could go. Me? One. Just one. Sometimes I'd be there alone on the free throw line as I was pretty hopeless. But eventually, I got slightly better, allowing me to score one point in a game...naturally...a free throw. In retrospect, we had to be winning by a fairly large margin if I was in that game, and was probably fouled because somebody wanted to take a "real" player out...but whatever.

9th Grade - Mr. Thomas Lilliott gave us vocabulary words every week and I diligently memorized them. It was almost like an awakening and I do believe that because of him I love words and writing as much as I do. Most of the vocabulary I have and use today was learned that year. I know that the football team took great joy in locking him in his closet, and that he eventually opted to quit teaching high school, but from him...I learned.

10th Grade - Mrs. King in World History wore a hearing aid. At least once a week, one of two classmates would go up to her desk and not pronounce every word that they were saying so she thought she was experiencing a malfunction with her hearing aid. Several times, people just got up and walked out after telling her that the bell had rung. This was awful and mean, and for participating in this, I am truly sorry. But at the was truly hilarious. And I believe that at least one of the two biggest perpetrators spent time in jail, and the rest of us blew our eardrums out on AC/DC in the early 1980s, so I'm thinking that Mrs. King is getting the last laugh.

11th Grade - Mr. John Gillespie was the band director for the R. E. Lee Marching Band and the Lee High Singers who was also an original member of Dr. Johnny Long's "Sound of the South" marching band in Troy, Alabama. Ironically, I graduated from Troy State University (now Troy University) and my husband was actually in that band for one semester.

I had absolutely no range as a singer, and was more interested in twirling a baton than practicing my clarinet anymore, but I really respected Mr. G. I did learn a slight appreciation for show tunes and classical music, and I now wonder at how he changed the "show" every week in one week...with the boneheaded high school kids he had to work with each year. My children's school band learns one "show" a year. ONE! (And if I hear Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up the Sun" at any point, I cannot be held responsible if I snap.)

12th Grade - Mrs. Watson was our English teacher, and for extra credit (meaning...I was desperate), I spent spring break that year learning the "To be or not to be..." soliloquy from "Hamlet." Egad. But, I was able to get through English 101 and 102 in college with little that was a good thing, right?

In college, because of my two experiences, I cannot really elaborate. My Wesleyan years were two years of non-application on my part, and the Troy years were two years of total immersion in my studies. I don't know if this is still possible to do, but I graduated from Troy summa cum laude because my grade point average from Wesleyan (and other courses) did not transfer and they started over. Hours, yes. Grades, no. Yeah. Amazing what happens when one does not take one's Money and Banking book to study during 3-for-1 drinks at Main Street (in Macon) and instead body slammed anyone speaking above a whisper while studying in the chapter room (in Troy.)

So, friends who are getting ready to go back into the classroom...who are dreading regular hours, no potty breaks, lunch on the go, parents, paperwork, and the new abomination - "mandatory furlough days" - may the Lord be with you...even if you aren't supposed to talk about Him in your classrooms.

And know that among your "flock" there are young people who need what you have to offer - or may be about to teach YOU something. On those days where you wonder why you signed up for this...know that you are special and unique and valuable. Thanks for being you and doing what you do. It really DOES matter.

P.S. And if any of the above scared you into quitting. Don't. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vacation Meltdowns

Today I returned from a five day family vacation in beautiful Inlet Beach, Florida. Although I had wonderful intentions of calling old friends, catching up on some web reading that I needed to do, and beginning an exercise program (laughing isn't polite) during these five days, what I wanted most of all was to avoid the dreaded vacation meltdown.

There are some people who can be with hoards of people for days and are absolutely energized and refreshed from the experience. The more people that are around...the better they like it! The sun, the food, the fun, the relaxation! YES!!

Contrary to popular belief, I am an introvert. Okay, I'm actually on the line in the Myers-Briggs personality thingy between introvert and extrovert...but believe me...after a couple of days...I need a few days of solitude...a strait jacket...medication...or all of the above.

Add father, stepmother, sister, sister, sister, brother, husband, daughter, son, niece, nephew, and other assorted people.

Add sand, salt, sunscreen, sand spurs, sunburn, and approximately 1,300 square feet of living space.

Fold in a heaping helping of political discussion, parenting advice, and every chair that the owner has sent to the "Island of Unwanted Chairs" otherwise known as this beach house. (All of them make that lovely screech sound when moved, too. that [not]).

And if that isn't enough of a perfect storm...add the following LIBERALly (pun intended):

At least eleven agendas...none of them completely complementary with the others and some in direct opposition.

A decor that defies description but includes a palm tree motif, vinyl, burnt orange, fans adhered to the wall, a 1979 Daily Planner, a massive crab taped to the side of the refrigerator, a double bed that is possessed, throw rugs that will send you sailing, and a massive white Naugahyde sectional sofa that looks like Austin Powers was its former owner.

A minimum of one rainy day...generally on someone's only day at the beach. Without wi-fi...everyone is huddled around the 19 inch TV to watch a cinematic classic such as "Spaceballs."

Drama of a mechanical or plumbing nature (this year it was a van steering mechanism locking up, a cell phone that went swimming, and NO flipping wi-fi.)

A couple of inflatable mattresses nobody wants to sleep on but nobody actually wants to deflate when they aren't in use (meaning that we walk around, jump on, or trip over them ad nauseum). The niece and nephew think that it is like their trampoline at home!

Two bathrooms (one designed for pygmies and the other continuously occupied).

Alcohol (enough said).

Unspoken expectations (that unfortunately sometimes get spoken.)

Stress - real or perceived (mostly the latter.)

Generational differences (I was told today by my Gen X, Y, Z, or whatever sisters that my conservative nature is actually me rebelling against the rebelling that my parents' generation did. Well, it is logical...but gee, I just thought I was smart (down, girls...:)).

Diverse parenting styles...meaning...none of us really think that the others know what they are doing. (But we all do in our own way...)

Add this all together...and what you have - in a typical year - is a recipe for a vacation meltdown. And it is about as appetizing as it sounds...

In prior years, vacation meltdowns have occurred (on my part) because I was not asked what I wanted to do (when everyone else was...), being told that I did not need caramel cake (I don't), thinking I had to pay for a meal I had not budgeted for (apparently I missed the "we need to throw in together" part) and watching MSNBC for the third day before I spouted off (I figured if three days in hell was good enough for our Savior before his resurrection...then three days of liberal media hell was enough for me too.)

So, after rearranging their schedules to suit mine, agreeing that I would not have to cook, actually saving money to help with groceries, and pinkie-swearing with my sister, Lara, that I wouldn't bring up politics...I had the first non-meltdown vacation week since something like 1997.

Why is it that we love to visit with people, but we just have to be ourselves in spite of ourselves? What I mean is...I'd love to be a cross between Paula Deen and Carol Brady...but I am

My children are almost grown now...and I see the little niece and nephew doing what my children did only a few (okay...14) years ago. I see the desire to want to eat alone in my sister's face, and so I read an Easter book five times and create a game with dominoes to keep the munchkins happy.

I see my Texas siblings growing into twenty somethings and thirty somethings who are asking questions of life that are different from my own...but relevant just the same. I know that this one week a year does not entitle me to meddle, but I try to put a few cents worth in just the same...(while trying not to cause a vacation meltdown for one of them!)

We all seem to be stepping up into new we get older and take over the feeding and entertainment duties, there is more quiet time for Dad and Irlyn to read, nap, walk on the beach, take pictures, or just pretty much do what they want to do (when they aren't calling for a tow truck or going to Sprint to get a new phone).

So, this year, it was nice. Nice to be able to laugh, see a movie together, wear silly party hats because my niece insisted that we have a garden party at dinner every night, compare pictures, and catch up a little bit. One day, there will be fewer of us making the trips...or maybe there will be more. Who knows?

What I do know is that sometimes the vacation meltdowns are of my own making. I've always had the choice to speak up but not the courage to stand my ground. I've had the voice to ask for clarification, but have tried to read between the lines too much. I've felt unfavored, but have seriously overlooked the favor that I do receive by those who love me in spite of my behavior...

I do know that the time has come for me to find my own space within the area so that we all have the space to breathe. I have to (gasp!) find my own place next year. This has not been financially possible for the past several years...but if I start planning can be. At least I hope so...

I think that sometimes the meltdowns change the composition of how we are perceived...much like leaving crayons in a hot car. Yes, while we find that they are still technically crayons...often it is just easier to throw them away instead of trying to find something to salvage. Not to mention the stain that they leave behind reminding us of the meltdown or our words of frustration (or worse) that may remain hanging in the air.

It is unlikely that I will ever convince any of them to vote for a conservative candidate, like Foo Fighters as much as I do, or get them to agree that I can't lose weight. But we did all enjoy a movie together, laughed at each other, and we survived and actually enjoyed ourselves.

P.S. Thanks to Lara for being the peacemaker. To Linda and Eric for having such beautiful children in Alex and Tara and for making the effort to get them here to the U.S. to know us. To Kathleen for being the comic relief. To Michael for laughing with Jill through "The Transformers". And to Dad and Irlyn for making the annual date so that we can have the vacation time...and for giving us the freedom to be our "unique" selves. really are a good driver in spite of the fact that I was screaming at you like a banshee part of the day today...and Jill and David...thanks for coming for the quick trip since your schedules (and the weather) were totally uncooperative this year.

P.P.S. And to Mom and Ralph who I know would like to go to the beach...I have a plan. :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

REALLY, people?

This post was originally written in longhand because it was just fitting for this topic, and because I was so fired up that I did it for therapeutic reasons. Obviously, it is now being transcribed here because it just cries out to be.

Why do we make things harder than they need to be? I mean, REALLY, people. Longhand versus the computer is just the tip of the iceberg. My point is that there are times when we are just asked to blatantly accept stupid practices because someone does not think. And even if that individual means well, as many of them do, I just cannot easily accept someone else's agenda if I clearly know a better way. If there is total disregard for my time or if what they are doing or suggesting (insisting) that I do is totally inner critic is going to be going..."REALLY?"

Please tell me that I am not alone in this...

I think that most people consider themselves remotely intelligent in terms of being able to function in their daily lives. Granted, we may lack proficiency in certain areas...but that's why the entrepreneurs in America thrive...including Merry Maids (I SO wish they were cleaning THIS house). And as a whole, we generally have enough sense to do what we have to do to survive. I say that, of course, realizing that there are those of us who are about as organized as a train wreck (quoting my old band director, Mr. G) and that there are others who simply refuse to "do details" along with much of anything else. However, what I'm currently talking (whining) about are those moments when people hand us an edict or put us in situations and our first thought is "REALLY? WHAT?!?"

Case in point. Today, an e-mail directed me to go back to a form that is clearly inferior but we are going back anyway because it was approved and that's that. Nothing has been added to the revised form that would change the spirit of what was approved other than the application of some common sense. Words that were misspelled were corrected, font sizes were standardized, page numbers were added, and the order of some of the information was changed slightly. Oh, but NO. So, I'll use the old form...and three days from now...logic will reign, and I'll have to recopy everything back to the new old form. Got that?

Other annoyances of like manner included a guard outside Sainte Chappelle in Paris in 2006. We were 2 minutes late getting in line, due to a trek that was longer than we thought it would be...with luggage. He wouldn't let us in because they close for lunch. I just wanted to peer in the door...just wanted to see the windows in case I never pass that way again. Alas...NO...because either he didn't understand me, or he wasn't going to acquiesce to a rude pink Crocs.

Or the dog groomer who - despite a 5:00 appointment, made my poor little half crazy dog, Rebel, wait until 7:00 to get his hair cut. I tried to pick him up, but they weren't ready for him. That is, until 15 minutes after I got home having done every errand I could think of. Picked him up at 8:30. He was freaked out, I blew my evening, and the girl had the audacity to act like she was stressed because I hadn't gotten there 15 minutes earlier (I live 20 minutes from town). Really?

I stood in line recently at Weight Watchers as people conversed, signed up, talked, asked questions, and debated the merits of which kind of cheese cracker was better to purchase. I waited. And waited. Didn't want to be there anyway, so I was especially (un)gratified to be behind the social butterflies that insisted on taking their time to dig cash out of 15 spots in their wallet instead of just writing a check...or using a credit card. Really?

Let's just say that I find it extremely difficult to understand why people can't just go for the common sense approach instead of the one that they've always done. I mean...THINK people. Be creative. Look for the better way...especially if it easier on everyone involved.

Now...having said I guilty of doing things in an inefficient manner? YES. Absolutely. But, I've also had friends who were pretty good about checking me on it. In fact, I'm married to the King of Simplification. A man who taught himself to drink black coffee because he thought it was too much trouble to locate cream and sugar every time he wanted a refill. High maintenance?...he is not. Mr. Practical? Absolutely.

Just the's a list of things that have recently driven me crazy...

Hearing someone order a sandwich exactly as it is normally prepared except..."no pickles." I mean...unless you are allergic...come on. To be incapable of removing a pickle from your bun is just the epitome of laziness. To be able to taste the one drop of vinegar on the bread over the other condiments...yeah, right.

Organizations that charged me tax on shipping and handling. Why? I mean...must I pay you above and beyond what I am required to pay by law?

Skinny women who sit in the big chairs at a shower or other ladies function. Really? Can you not perch your size 0 rear end on one of the rickety looking chairs so that Big Mama (often me) doesn't have to stand or fall out from an anxiety attack?

People who forget an item at the grocery store and then make everyone wait as they wander to the farthest point in the store to retrieve it.

Folks who call to borrow something that is readily available at WalMart and would cost $10 to purchase outright. Locating the item will take an hour of my life, and will cost them $5 in fuel to retrieve it from my home. Not to mention the three telephone calls involved to inquire, for me to let them know that I've found it, and for them to ask when they can return it.

Companies who promise to deliver between 2 and 5 but only show up at 5:15 if you have something to do at 5:30, or at 1:30 if you are not home yet. The added bonus is the "Sorry we missed you!" notice. Really? Normally, after this, someone in their Customer (non)Service Department is usually REALLY sorry that they missed me.

People who see a line of ten women waiting to use the facilities yet insist on laying five perfectly aligned layers of toilet paper down on the seat - taking four minutes in the process - instead of just squatting. OR worse...squatting and then leaving spillage on the seat. Ick.

People who choose to have six children yet whine that they don't have enough money to take them to Disney World and go on and on about how unfair life is. I'm thinking that after your fourth child...whining should be outlawed in this regard.

Individuals who dress like total freaks and then glare at you when you stare at their piercings, pink hair, shaved head, mohawk, tattoo, trench coat, dog collar, spandex or guyliner. Really? Then how about you put on something from Old Navy and see if I stare. Probably not.

Overly enthusiastic or positive people. I cannot relate and I vacillate between wanting to be more like them and choking the life out of them. Not good. I honestly do not see the silver lining until I get the dark side out of the way.

People who - no matter how bad your day sucked...theirs sucked worse. You buy something that you are excited about...they got a better deal. You mow your yard...they mow their lawn in a diagonal and edge their driveway. Really? Is life a total competition?

People who dress their daughters like future "Girls Gone Wild" participants and then wonder why they want a naval piercing at 12 and a tramp stamp at 14. Really? This one blindsided you?

Oh, there are many, many more. Restaurants that charge 18% gratuity, but leave a line for you to tip even more (although I do if the service is not heinous). I just think that if you want to set a minimum that you are going to get (18%) happy with that. Don't ask for more. If you are willing to try to earn it...don't take the 18%. Is it really THAT hard?

I hope that some of these made you smile somewhat. I know that the world isn't perfect...and won't be until the end of time. But, wouldn't it be nice...if we could spend a little less time each day going...REALLY? and a little more time each day making the world a little better? I'm trying...I really am...Later!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Have you ever been rendered speechless by someone's audacity? I mean, you are following the rules, minding your own business, and somebody blows out of nowhere with something so out there...that you just stand there and go, "uh...WHAT?" And NO, I am not whining specifically about the crazy stuff that the current administration is doing. After all...I did that LAST night.

But honestly...while I was at CVS waiting on medication to be filled...medication that we may not be allowed to have at some point (sorry...) I saw a paperback copy of Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" sitting on the shelf. And NO, I did not rip it to shreds in aisle 3 although I did seriously think about it.

Audacity is defined (according to as "boldness or daring, especially with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions." Well, that pretty much includes just about everybody I have come into contact with lately.

Teenagers have a special brand of audacity. We know that they are prone to be a bit on the ridiculous side because their brains are not fully developed yet, they have no real sense of reality from which to draw, and they are still a little drunk with power from being the little princes/princesses in the household. I have great kids, but I have been rendered speechless by some of the following comments from mine or from others I have been in close proximity to over the past several years:

"If you didn't want me to expect to have a new shouldn't have sent me to a school where everyone's parents buy their kids new cars."

"Why can't we go on vacation? How is it possible for everyone else to go on vacation but we can't afford it?"

"I don't want a job this summer, I want to backpack in Europe. I won't be able to do this when I'm old."

"The shoes are only $75. I don't know what I'll wear them with...but they are really cute."

"Why is the house always a mess? Why can't we have a maid?"

"Aw man...why can't we have anything decent for dinner?"

"Why do I have to unload the groceries?"

Yeah. I used to think that this behavior was due to a sense of entitlement...but I have come to recognize that this is only part of the story. The other part is that teenagers are just boneheaded. We thought all of the things that they actually said when we were that age. The difference? We didn't dare say it out loud...or if we did...we'd only do it once.

And then there are adults who feel that because of the hand they were dealt...they have a right to a break somewhere else. And unfortunately, that "break" they want involves breaking rules that you have patiently followed. So they have three kids and are too busy to stand in line to wait their turn? They will just go to the front of the line "just to ask a question." They will complain incessantly at work about how much they hate their job, gripe about the lack of promotional opportunities, and will go ballistic if they don't get every week off that their kids are on break from school because they "can't afford a babysitter." Never mind that someone else might be in the same boat.

I'm also incensed by people who tie everything to race, gender, age, religion, background or seniority if it suits their needs. If we could have just one public issue involving race without Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson involved, I might just pass out from the shock. And just for the record...I'm not holding my breath. I liked Al Sharpton a lot more when he had a cameo in "Mr. Deeds" than I do when he's on Fox or any other network...anytime...anywhere.

In the years when unemployment was low (um...which would be...NOT now...) I learned to accept that service providers would be shockingly audacious. I had almost resigned myself to not having phone calls returned, waiting in doctor's offices for eons, and not being thanked for my business at any food establishment except Chic-fil-A. I listened to cashiers at the grocery store verbalizing their hatred for management and their coworkers while I pretended to be searching for coupons in my purse. I became immune to wait times on help lines that exceeded the gestation of elephants.

Don't even get me started on the audacity of celebrities...who believe that their talent, exposure, or family money entitles them to dictate what is acceptable when the lifestyles that they often adopt are certainly anything but.

Audacity. Wouldn't it be better to channel that boldness for good? To have the audacity to respectfully but strongly state and defend your beliefs. To look at others whose audacity shocks you and to kindly suggest an alternative way of thinking? And for them to have the audacity to embrace it? Here's hoping...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Common Sense

When America needed a voice to push it into one camp (English rule) or the other (independence), Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet that used biblical references to convince our forefathers that independence from Britain was a good idea. We probably memorized this fact for a quiz in U.S. History in high school with absolutely no clue how profound this was. Paine put words on paper, those words provoked thought, thought translated to action, and history was changed. Amazing, don't you think? And all because people used their God-given common sense.

Today, we have the opportunity to turn on a computer, television, radio, or open a newspaper to find out what is going on at any point in time in our world. This has, unfortunately, made us quite lazy in the process. Why think for yourself when someone on television is willing to tell you what to think? And the constant barrage of information has also made it increasingly difficult to make sense of any of it anymore. In fact, while America was mourning the loss of icon Michael Jackson, the current administration was trying to get cap and trade (energy tax), health care reform, and a second stimulus package considered. And where was America? Watching the memorial service and the governor who had the mistress in Argentina...instead of researching what this legislation is meant to change. As for "hope and change"...I can only hope that my America is not completely changed...for the worse.

Because our lives fly by at a pace that defies logic, we become more and more dependent on others to sift through the information and provide us with everything in a nutshell so that we can attempt to be somewhat cognizant of what is going on out there. The big three: laziness, overwhelming data, and a vicious cycle. do we break the cycle? Well, we have to invest time figuring out what we believe...and why. And it can't stop at "because it sounds like a really good idea" without regard to how it will be funded and without regard for the Constitution.

The problem is that the rules changed dramatically because a lot of normal Americans got busy, starting thinking that their input didn't really matter, and trusted that America was too big to fail. This occurred simultaneously with an undercurrent that elevated intelligence above God. And those of us who know how frail the human mind is in comparison with an awesome God...we cannot relate to this school of thought. Naturally, those valuing intelligent and creative thought above everything believe that those with a solid belief in a higher power are too vapid to be anything but the lemmings that they think we are.

Oh, and that "too big to fail" thing? Look at the recent fate of some of the icons of the financial world and industry, and seriously ask yourself if you still want to remain in the dark or not.

Yes, we sit on the edge between appreciation of the sacrifices made to retain our right to freedom...and having bondage forced upon us. Our values are in direct conflict with each other. One side wants to be free to live life without barriers, but wants barriers put in place to protect people who are...well...NOT them. The other side wants to live life with restraints based on Judeo-Christian values but with as little government intervention as possible. One side favors choice, and the other favors life. One side favors equality, and the other favors individual responsibility. And both sides have good Americans with these opposing views that mean well.

While it would be nice to remain a "centrist" - a Switzerland, so to speak, in the midst of warring is imperative that Americans make conscious choices instead of working from a default setting of "status quo." Sadly, the lines are so clearly drawn at this point in our history that the only determining factor of what is about to occur is noting who is in power at the time. Unfortunately, by putting power in the hands of one side or the other...without the ability to override...when those who serve in government are more interested in their own a recipe for disaster...and certainly not what our Founding Fathers had in mind when the system of checks and balances was devised.

So, as we've been busy building our careers, loving our families, and caring for our neighbors...we have also collectively been asleep at the wheel. And those who have been worshipping at the altar of the mind have taken control of the primary information source...the media. And the media is used to change our thoughts because if it is on the news...well, it MUST be true, yes?

The truth? No...a thousand times no.

We should be willing to hear both sides of every issue...something that has become increasingly difficult to manage with a media that refuses to assume that the masses are intelligent enough to discern the truth should it actually be presented for consideration. And we are finding out that although we may not agree with every thing that is said...those with an opposing view from the mainstream media actually do have some mighty excellent points.

Time flies by so rapidly. We let something go because we have to manage possessions, relationships, income sources, and our own limitations. And as we try to get through the days...we fail to realize that a wolf is at the door.

Our legislators are passing laws that impact their fellow countrymen...people that they are sworn to represent...that they have not had adequate time to read. Everyone is concerned about getting something for such an extent...that there appears to be no limit to what is demanded and little regard for the consequences of actually obtaining it.

And those who had the audacity to ridicule a sitting President a year ago, do not appear to apply the same standards to the current one. Is this a lack of intelligence on their part? Or do they believe that we now have to make the shift back toward respecting the presidency because they have an intelligent President that they can respect? hypocrisy, and why I cannot bear to continue to entertain the ideas of those who change the standards to suit themselves. Who put the media in charge of setting the standards for who is worthy of our respect? Those who value intelligence, but not God?

Not only do I believe that this is un-American...since this country was founded on Christian values...but unsound. Don't underestimate those of us who believe that America is special...she is. If she weren't...would people have come here for a better life...for generations and generations? People in the media who are trying to convince me of how uninformed I am appear to be missing the fact that I am informed enough to know unsound policies when I have them shoved down my throat.

So, use the common sense that God gave you. Learn basic economic theory. Don't accept what you hear from any source without taking the time to hear all sides, and then seriously...realize that you are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Billions of dollars have been committed to a stimulus program that is said to benefit the banks...and primarily the investment banks. America's wealth and privilege is directly tied to a sound financial system and a capitalistic society. In a capitalistic economy, if you have a good idea, and people are willing to pay for it, then you can directly benefit from your idea and your work.

Granted, capitalism isn't fair. But the idea that we can have a better life for subsequent generations is what kept our ancestors striving to survive and prosper. Take that away...and you may have something that resembles "fairness" but as long as humans are on this will never be fair. And frankly, I don't want it to be. As Dave Ramsey says..."I'm better than I deserve." In America, the vast majority of us are just that.

Yes, I want the soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan. But more than that, I want my President to quit apologizing for our success to the rest of the world. Every time he says that we are no better than anyone else...I think of the sacrifices made by countless families for the privileges he apologizes for as he delivers his unimpressive speeches from his teleprompter.

No, I do not want the government involved in all aspects of my life. Do you?

Use some common sense. Read. Study. Listen to people you respect. Pray. Get involved. Think. And above all...don't give your country away because you were too busy watching a stupid reality show, it was boring, too hard to understand, or you just weren't interested enough to formulate your own opinion.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Tonight I was having dinner with my scrapbooking ladies and enjoying a lovely meal at Wishbone Cafe...a local restaurant. Among the many topics we discussed...which ranged from grandchildren (theirs) to vacation weeks (mine), flooded houses (thankfully not mine) to how incredible the tea is (addictively incredible) has been totally bothering me. And I cannot exactly identify quite why.

Now while I cannot remember if this is a borrowed or original idea of my friend Cindy's... but it is her opinion, nevertheless, that A.A. Milne - who wrote the Winnie the Pooh stories - basically covered all personality types within his characters in a brilliant manner. She went on to say that every group - even ours - has the various characters within it.

I started doing a mental inventory of the various characters I could remember: Pooh, Rabbit, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Tigger, Owl, and Eeyore. I thought, "Well, perhaps this is a theory worth consideration." So, naturally, I contacted the oracle (Wikipedia) and will attempt to paraphrase the results that are no doubt totally accurate and insightful (much like the weight listed on my drivers' license).

Eeyore was the grey donkey who says things like "Oookkkkaaaay" and "Thanks for noticing me." He was considered pessimistic, depressed, and the antithesis of his best friend, Tigger. On the bright side, he was also described as "capable of great compassion."

Of course, Tigger's line..."bouncing is what Tiggers do best..." as he bounded into total chaos and cluelessness more frequently than not. He was completely overconfident, cheerful, outgoing and competitive. Just a regular old "Mr. Happy."

Christopher Robin was just there in the stories saying "silly old bear" a lot...but just seemed to be furniture in the majority of the stories.

Pooh was a little obsessive (about honey), very kind, not terribly bright, but universally loved. He got himself into all manner of issues, but was easily forgiven due to his sweet nature.

Piglet, due to his small size, was a little quiet and sometimes fearful. He "conquered his fears and tried to be brave." Tigger pretty much freaked him out, he was an ever-loyal friend to Pooh, but generally referred to himself as a "Very Small Animal."

Owl was considered wise - for obvious reasons having to do with the stereotype. He offered his solicited and unsolicited opinions, told stories, was apparently a heinous speller, and was one of the two real characters (along with Rabbit) among the stuffed ones.

Kanga was the mother of Roo, and she was viewed as a kindly mother figure who took excellent care of her son. Roo represented the exuberant active questioner that was encouraged...and sometimes expressed opinions and statements that were thoughtful and intelligent.

Rabbit was a take charge type and the master of "elaborate plans." He was a wonderful organizer, but he tended to miss part of the "big picture"...and because of this weakness...tended to make things far more difficult than they needed to be. He was also constantly trying to bring about change in the unchangeable...namely Tigger's exuberance.

I suppose that this hypothesis is correct...most groups do indeed have people who would fit into most of these roles. The reason that I love the characters is that you not only see the strengths in also see the flaws. Unlike hero worship...where you only see the positive...the characters are real because we see both sides simultaneously. And isn't that exactly what our relationships do?

But what do you do if you are assigned a character that you don't see as yourself? What if you discover that everyone sees you different than you view yourself? Well, that happened to me tonight.

I won't elaborate, but I will say that it is sometimes difficult to realize that how you see yourself is only part of the picture. How others view you can sometimes be quite revealing. Sometimes you are friends with people but must understand that these friends may only be able to handle a certain percentage of your "uniqueness" at any given point in time. We all tend to fill in the blanks of others to suit who we think they are or should be. I know I'm guilty of it myself.

But God made us all unique. When I talk incessantly about certain subjects...I can see the eyes of my friends glaze over...much like mine do when we are discussing subjects that I could not possibly care less about when the situation is reversed. We believe that our friends should love us in all things...but it is far more likely that our friends love facets of us and are tremendously forgiving of that which is less desirable.

I may be a big fan of Foo Fighters, Collective Soul, scrapbooking, Gerard Butler, old movies, food, my dogs, and my family...but many people that I love and that love me back sincerely do not share my passions. And I suppose that it is really okay...because every once in awhile someone actually does. And I get to say - like the Eeyore my friends say that I am - "Thanks for noticing me..." Later!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Verizon Can Bite Me

People who are my age or older still remember the concept of the "party line" where several families shared one telephone line, or remember a time when a home had only one phone line that the entire family shared. And somehow, with the assistance of pay telephones, we were actually able to function. If we were late coming home...we got grounded. If we broke down...someone stopped to help us. Life was slower paced...and somewhat kinder.

Somehow in the 1980's, it became trendy...and have a cell phone. Granted, these first few generations of phones were primarily relegated to the car...because they had a giant bag and a bulky headset that we had to maneuver. Later generations were still pretty big, and with the antenna pulled out they looked more like a military walkie talkie. Just look at any movie from the late 1980's or early 1990's, and you'll see what I mean.

Over time, the phones got smaller, cooler, more colorful, and delighted us with cameras. Those same cameras that stupid vapid children are taking naked pictures of themselves with and sending into cyberspace. Kids figured out that texting us was far easier and less annoying than actually talking to even adults learned how to text in order to actually communicate with their children. Today's cell phones have morphed into mini computers that continue to wow us with applications that the average person I know cannot figure out...much less see the screen of without great difficulty.

But I digress.

Because today, I had the unfortunate experience of actually daring to attempt the third circle of Hell...VERIZON. Yeah, can already hear the screaming and smell the brimstone...can't you?

Over the weekend, Brian's phone - the one he just had to have last MARCH inexplicably died. Just quit working. I could have been the fact that he has dropped it 75 times and it rides in his back pocket most of the time. But never mind THAT. I mean...the kid is out of commission and his girlfriend is starting to text Jill and Big Dave since he is unresponsive. And then today, Jill's phone charger broke off in the phone that SHE got last year. Great.

OH, just so you cell phone is now three years old...geriatric, actually. It is something like 95 in phone years. Should be on life support. The current phone's sister actually cashed in about two months ago taking all of my phone numbers and contact information with her. I'm surviving with Brian's old rejected phone. But hey...right now...I'm pretty proud of the old girl. My phone represents one of the two models currently working in our household.

For several weeks, I've been considering an upgrade. We feel that we should save this phone in case Mom's phone dies since she has one exactly like it. Trying to retrain her to use a new model will not be pretty, as my mother is a brilliant woman...but is NOT, I repeat NOT Y2K compatible.

By this time, Jill and Brian are having the technology DTs and are pacing the store. There is a lady at the front door whose sole purpose is to ask us to sign in to the screen. Done. Is she helpful? No. Is she busy? No. Do I want to ask her why she is standing there while we all look like refugees? YES. Apparently, some Mensa candidate at corporate thought that all customers needed to be greeted at the door. I'd so totally prefer actually getting helped. Wouldn't THAT be unique and a breath of fresh air? Totally.

Anyway, we walk in, and take a quick look around. It looks harmless enough...there are about 20 people wandering aimlessly through the store...going from one display to another. There are exactly three people on the floor that work for Verizon according to the nametags they are wearing...including the lady who isn't doing jack squat at the door.

One of the two people actually working is a very large man who does not move quickly. He takes what seems like 45 minutes discussing the merits of phone service with people who must be new customers, because I actually see them get a bag and depart the store. He then calls the name of one of the two friends we run into in the store...both of which have been waiting for over an hour.

For one of our's trek into the bowels of retail represents his third visit to this particular store since last Friday. All the man wants is a belt holder for his Blackberry. The very Blackberry that he has for work...but hates because he doesn't understand half of the functions on it. Just a holder...not some newfangled service, an upgraded phone, or anything else. The first time...the large man (whom he refers to as D.A. - I'll let you fill that in)...doesn't know what he is talking about and so he leaves...vowing to come back when someone less clueless is working.

So, he goes back in the following day. The guy who waited on him on Saturday told him that it will be Monday before the holder comes in. So, he braves the dreaded Verizon store again on Monday...and...after sitting there for over an hour...he finds out from D.A. that it isn't in. Big Dave has offered him one that he cannot use. Oh, but now the fight is on. Our buddy is coming in every day until he gets his holder. I wish him luck with money is on...Verizon...I'm taking Day 39 in the pool.

While we were watching him struggle...and were trying not to laugh...we talked to the other friend who has just been served...sort of. He has three phones with Verizon and one with AllTel...and although they've just merged...he has to buy another phone because the phones can't move across from one service to the other. Even though they are now going to be one company. He found it cheaper to get a free phone and just buy out his contract with the other service that is now part of the same company, but it really isn't because in this brave new world of unreality...if they can find a way to milk additional money out of you...they AREN'T the same company. If the money they can pluck from your wallet is the same...then they will pick the most annoying means to deal with you. So, for those of you going from Chad at AllTel to The Network at me, it will be expensive, annoying, or both to be officially welcomed to Verizon!

I'm just thinking...B-O-H-I-C-A (bend over, here it comes again...) Yeah.

And then the big guy calls our name and we start walking over to his counter in the middle of the store. But WAIT. A shrew jumps out and says something to the effect that she was skipped in the line that is posted on the computer screens in the store and that SHE is actually next.

By this time, I'm beginning to be like one of those women on "Repo Man" where I want to jump up and get in her face. I don't, but I do state louder than I need to that she can have her stupid place in line because I'm probably going to die in this building before I actually get waited on anyway.

The teenage boy that looks like an Abercrombie model looks over at the crazy lady (me) and goes back to looking at the phones. The other victims (otherwise known as customers) are just ignoring me. This is probably good because I'm sure that there are cameras all over this store, and I so do not want to turn up on some reality show. The reality of Verizon is enough reality for me.

So, again we wait. And then our friend Matthew shows up out of the back to help us. The only problem is...Matthew has just started with Verizon today. And he's from not only does he not have a clue how they do anything...but he's still reeling from the shock that represents all things Verizon.

He tells us that both of our phones that need replacing by the insurance we pay $12 a month for (2 phones)have to be sent off...they can't just give us new ones. Something about water damage. I doubt it...but I no longer care. All I think is..."swell".

And if I want the phone I was looking at...even though I haven't had a new phone in three will cost me $170. OH...I'll get $70 back by 8-10 weeks. I think not.

Time invested in Verizon tonight: 2 hours. Accomplished? N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

But I did get to experience the sackcloth and ashes routine of my normally cool and collected daughter who is cell-phone-less for the next 18 or so hours. Will she survive? We shall see.

I suppose that tonight taught me a few things...

1) Be happy when your stupid phone works and quit worrying about the latest bells and whistles. So the phone can't take pictures that will win the photography contest at Costco? Big flipping deal.
2) Customer service is primarily dead. This is not because people don't want to is because there aren't enough people alive to fully staff a Verizon store during any given day between 5-8 pm. And since they can't make you happy, they are just trying to keep you from taking them out in a blaze of glory.
3) Teenagers are truly tied to technology. My phone has lasted for three years because it lives in my purse. Theirs are dropped, dunked, and utilized nearly constantly 24/7. They text at the speed of light. Taking their phone away - even for 24 hours - is the equivalent of asking me not to read before I go to bed at night.

Well, hopefully UPS will bring Jill her phone. Brian has not requested his new one online yet...wonder what's up with that? OH, he's using his Dad's...

And if I see that troll from the Verizon commercial with his band of "network" people, I'm just going to ask that maybe 10 or 15 of them get to work instead of standing there so that people can actually get served in the process. As if. Later!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


As a parent of a rising high school junior and college sophomore, I have heard one statement more and more frequently from other parents. When referring to a son or daughter the age of my children they often say - "I only hope that (s)he makes good decisions." I have uttered these words as well, and I sincerely wish this for my children. I'd love to loan them my wisdom and insure that they don't hurl themselves headlong into pits I've crawled out of by the grace of God. And without giving them any ideas...I've schooled them as well as I can in this training program called parenthood. The older that they get, the more I see my job narrowing significantly to eventually primarily emcompass what I perceive to be the big three: watch, hope and pray.

It is my stringent belief that much of our life is rolled into the choices that we make, and the rest - heredity, environment, expectations, opportunities, geography, and timing do the work of fine tuning our lives into something unique. And while we do not have control of the circumstances of our birth or our upbringing, there comes a point where our decisions begin to steer the ship - for better or for worse. Whether we pilot that ship alone, or with someone at the helm, is one of those decisions...but it may be the most important.

In early adulthood, we see the smorgasbord of potential occupations, opportunities, and options as a bit overwhelming. Which college to attend, which job to accept, what we are going to do as a profession, and where we are going to live are all major life changing decisions. Nobody disputes this, and although we would all like to have all of the answers when it would do us the most good, the majority unfolds in unexpected ways due to the influence of others, and to the uniqueness of our individual situation. We celebrate people who seem to get it right...those who perform well in school, have exceptional athletic ability that earns a scholarship, who have a calling to the ministry, medicine, or education, or those who have a strong relationship with the Lord from an early age. And while these are definitely worthy of celebration and admiration...the majority of us get our answers in a far less impressive manner.

Strangely enough, most of us spend the first eighteen years of our lives focused on the short term and build our view of ourselves within those constraints. We are overlooked in high school and become convinced that college will be more of the same. We make a mistake that defines our life. We win every award, title, or contest and are universally loved and admired. We have a family history to overcome. We have every advantage and have no reason to believe that life will be anything but what we have known it to be. As such, it is obviously sometimes a good thing...other times...not so much.

All of us have heard of people who do exceptional feats at a young age...and we are fascinated by this. I think of the young gymnasts, ice skaters, swimmers, singers, and pilots and I am awed by not only their talent, but by their determination and focus. I remember spending Friday nights in my childhood secretly wishing that I could be in The Partridge Family or would actually learn to be exceptional at something. Unfortunately for me, in this regard, I was a late bloomer.

However, most of us are the product of the decisions that we have made. If we trace our lives forward, we can project where our education, family influence, intelligence, and talent should lead us. We then confidently head out in the direction of our dreams...or whatever graduation speeches tell us to do.

When we are older, though, we have both the benefit of hindsight and foresight. we have mourned the death of some precious dreams we held, have learned to appreciate the moment, and believe that there is still some unexplored territory. For instance, I know the answers to many of the questions I had at 18. I have had the time, encouragement and opportunity to develop certain gifts, and have had to let others atrophy. For instance...I now have the drive to write, am paid to do it in my employment, and derive a lot of enjoyment from it, but I can no longer do a back bend. Oh well.

But as I trace the path of my life, I am also able to trace the hand of the many people who came to nudge, suggest, or drag me kicking and screaming from point A to point B. My life is more than just the conscious decisions that I made. I had other people who saw potential in me, just like I have seen and encouraged potential in others. Sometimes a simple suggestion at the perfect time sent me out on a different trajectory than I would have followed had the intervention not occurred. Granted, there were times when choosing one option meant saying no to another. Failing to choose at times gave me the direction I would follow by default. Choosing poorly sometimes limited my choices in other areas. Life is like a multiple choice test where there is often more than one correct answer to every question. And other times, no matter how you are going to get the same answer.

It has been my opinion, based on my faith, that my life has been a series of choices that are secondary to a primary purpose that God put me here to accomplish and has revealed to me over time. Some of my early stupidity gave me wisdom...although I wouldn't recommend learning the hard way. Overcoming obstacles and having little fear of being transparent gave God an advocate that He has used to affect other people's lives. And for some reason, I am one of those people that other people tend to ask an opinion from on occasion. So, as I look at my failures, I sometimes see them now as proof of God's redemptive power. I also see them as part of the mosaic of who I am. A mosaic that wouldn't be quite as interesting without those dark stones to more heavily define the light ones.

As a parent...yes...I hope that my children will make good decisions. I have been fortunate in that the big decisions I made...marriage partner, children, profession, geography...have worked out for me thus far. I'm also hoping that I can correct some poor ones I've made in terms of taking care of myself, being more organized, and focusing on what is most important. With God's help, I will...and so will my children. Later!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tuscaloosa Trek - Part I

Today I was invited to drive 2 1/2 hours to Tuscaloosa, Alabama...home of The University of my daughter. Jill is taking a summer course and had to take one of her proctored tests in Macroeconomics. Unfortunately, she has about as much of a natural bent for this subject as her mother did, and had been up all night studying, reviewing online lectures, and taking practice tests. Since the girl that she and Emily are staying with did not get through with class until 5:00...she was looking to fill her afternoon. She decided that today would be a great day to show me her future home.

This desire to show me her new digs coincided with my final vacation day this week...and she apparently could not bear the thought of her mother spending another day in her hot pink moumou. (Editor's note: "hot" describing the color pink and certainly NOT the moumou or the wearer of said sad little garment.) Never mind that another day of sloth had previously sounded like an excellent plan to me.

I decided to spend gas money to travel up and see the place that she will be residing next year with three of her Phi Mu sorority sisters...a place known by Big Dave as "The Taj Mahal" and by Jill as "The Barn" due to the fact that it is barn red in color. The subdivision is known as "The Retreat" and it houses approximately 275 houses that hold an estimated 1,000 students. It is brand new, has a pool that is amazingly large, tanning beds, and a workout room. All that is lacking is a pool boy named Raoul in a Speedo, and a tiki bar for it to seem like any random condominium at the beach. It is every college student's idea of a great place to live and every parent's nightmare.

Nightmarish in that these kids are living far better than we did in our starter COLLEGE. No "Early Salvation Army" decorating scheme. I doubt that there will be pictures of "Dogs Playing Poker" or a neon sign flashing "Live Nudes" or "Corona". Somehow beer can pyramids in the window just seem strangely out of place here. Which is both good...and sad.

Jill jumped over the deck ( read DECK) and opened the house so that I could take some measurements in her private room. The private room with the private bathroom. No arguing over who cleans it because each of the girls has her own. I am pleased because this means that Jill will not carry on the legacy of having her roommates lock her in the bathroom until she cleans it which was the fate of one of Jill's direct relatives (that is so NOT her mother).

The closet is eight feet across. This will provide her with at least eight times the amount of room she had last year in the dorm. She has under the bed shoe boxes that will hold 48 pairs of shoes. Lord help us if that isn't enough. Her feet quit growing in the 7th grade...and she has most of the shoes that she's owned since that time. I have probably owned 48 pairs of shoes in my adult

We spent approximately one hour discussing where her bed should be, and the pros and cons of placing her television where it makes sense versus where she thinks it would be most aesthetically pleasing. We also considered curtain options for the double window in her bedroom, baskets that would best fit in the shelves already in her closet, what size bathmat she will require, storage options, and whether dark wood, white, or black should be the furniture color.

This was done while her friend, Jack, measured endless possible areas, offered opinions, and tolerated our banter back and forth. I have decided that I like Jack. He obviously has a he did not run screaming from the room or even look uncomfortable during any of our escapades. He seemed to find us funny...although I'm sure that inside he was thinking..."shoot me...shoot me now." Oh...and I was particularly excited that he understands big words, knew to say "yes maam" every other breath, and can actually differentiate between "acceptable country music" and "please turn that crap off country music." (Which...just so you know...nearly ALL country music is the latter for me.)

I find it hysterical that their names are Jack and Jill. They are not dating...and after spending today with us...may no longer even be speaking...but I digress...

The kitchen area includes a long bar that will seat all four of the girls, and the large living room has a "wood-like-ish" floor. Well, it is actually flooring that looks like wood but is designed out of some kind of indestructible stuff that will survive not only our girls but the frat boys across the way. The trimwork is done in the "arts and crafts" style...and the windows are lovely. The added touches of a built in pantry, black appliances, nice carpet in the bedrooms, tile floors in the bathrooms, built in desks in the upstairs bedrooms, a huge laundry room, front porch, and the deck are quite unbelievable.

Well...not so unbelievable when you multiply Jill's rent times four. Yeah.

Anyway, after seeing it, I started to understand something...that upon leaving my house in three weeks...she will now become a resident of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She will have a real address other than the Phi Mu house, and she will not be coming home for the summer next year. Her future visits will be between semesters, and I'd be willing to bet that some of these will be spent on a cruise ship, lake/beachhouse or ski slopes somewhere (assuming that she can afford it).

I realized today that my little girl is a capable young woman who has earned the right to live in the "halfway house" of adulthood - even if her "halfway house" looks far more like the "Taj Mahal" of college living than "The Barn" that one would expect. I also like that she is spending time with people who can carry on a conversation and are on the dean's list rather than people who are very cute but cannot figure out how to use proper grammar...much less the proper fork...because they are far more comfortable with one that is plastic.

She and I had lunch with her soon to be roommate, Emily. We chatted about turning the utilities on, having adequate help to move everything in, and renting a big truck to haul it all up there. Just hearing their excitement and their big plans was worth picking up the tab.

Even the trip to the SuperTarget in search of some items on her well constructed list turned out to be fun. After discussing the merits of big pillows and actually picking up two...we moved on to a shower curtain liner, a small table, looked at desks, a full length mirror, and baskets. Poor Jack and Emily went with us. He must have had a dreadfully boring day on tap for this particular trip to have been his choice for entertainment. In the end, we ended up with the shower curtain liner, the mirror, and two Coke Zeros. Time for said excursion? One hour, 10 minutes. Nice.

Anyway, I was honored that she asked me to come. And although I might have actually gotten some housework done had I decided to stay is equally possible that I would have been watching Foo Fighters videos on YouTube or some movie I've already seen 100 times. I'll take my Tuscaloosa trek over that...ANYTIME. Later!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Times Like These

I have been a Foo Fighters fan since I heard "Learn to Fly" several years ago. I didn't really think that much about it because I wasn't listening to anything consistently except for a few bands...most notably the group Collective Soul.

The name "Foo Fighters" was intriguing to me, and so I looked it up on Wikipedia (fountain of knowledge that it is) for a semblance of an explanation. What I found was that it was "a term used by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II to describe various UFOs or mysterious aerial phenomena seen in the skies over both the European and Pacific Theater of Operations." Actually, there was another "F" word in front of Foo Fighters in the military sense...that was later cleaned up for the "official records." I find it almost fitting that this particular "F" word appears to be among lead singer Dave Grohl's favorite and most commonly used. It is also the only thing I would change about the group's public image hands down.

Dave Grohl was formerly the drummer for Nirvana which disbanded at the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994 since most fans identified the band primarily with Cobain. The songs that Grohl recorded were written during his time with Nirvana...but reportedly his lack of confidence in his work when compared with Cobain's caused him to keep them to himself. Whether that explanation is true or simply rumor is unknown. But after turning down a job as the drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Grohl did the unexpected and recorded his songs under the name Foo Fighters.

With the exception of guitar work on one song, he wrote, sang lead vocals and played every instrument on every song on the first Foo Fighters album that was released in 1995. Quite incredible, if you think about it. Most expected him to catch another band and remain a drummer. Thankfully, he chose to move his project forward. When the album was successful, he was then faced with the problem of actually filling out the band when it was time to begin touring.

There was band member turnover because it was abundantly clear that Grohl was the driving force of the band...much as Cobain had been with Nirvana. But the fruitbasket bandmembers seems to have settled down now. The band is unique in that the current members are free to work on their own projects independent of Foo Fighters...and they do.

The primary reason that I adore Dave Grohl is that he dared to imagine his future differently than others did and he followed through. He did the unexpected and succeeded...following the "Road Less Traveled" so to speak. If you watch the videos for the band's'll see Grohl primarily in self-deprecating roles. He seems to be "real" and totally comfortable in his own a nice guy who is someone's brother who happens to be in a band.

I view him as someone approachable and down to earth. If he would clean up his language in interviews and concerts I'd be happier...but there is honestly no mistaking his genius. And although he yells a lot like most rock lead singers do...he can actually sing. In fact, the band toured a couple of years ago in a totally acoustic format. The last album, released in 2007 "In Your Honor" included both acoustic tracks and regular tracks. Again...still doing the unexpected...but in a positive way.

One day, I bought a CD at Target called "Red Room" that was incredibly cheap and had a ton of new artists on it along with a couple of songs I'd actually heard before. The best by far was the version of "Times Like These" that is still my favorite. It is a live version, but it is slower than the one on the Foo Fighters album, or any of the other live performances I've seen courtesy of YouTube. It is about as close to perfect as I've heard it performed.

The words are wonderful...and the music is in my humble opinion...brilliant. I love the fact that the song can be played fast and upbeat or slow and thoughtful. And it works both ways. I also love the lyrics...

I am a one way motorway
I'm the one that drives away
Then follows you back home...
I am a street light shining
I'm a wild light blinding bright
Burning off alone

It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you learn to give again
It's times like these you learn to love again
It's times like these, time and time again

I am a new day rising
I'm a brand new sky
To hang the stars upon tonight
I am a little divided
Do I stay or run away
And leave it all behind

I honestly don't know what was in Dave Grohl's head when he penned this one. He may have been speaking globally about life...about something that we'll never figure out, or about choices we make in life. I personally believe that it was the latter.

I believe that the song refers to a period of decision...commitment...and hope. Almost as if he was trying to decide whether to take the safe way, or to take off in another direction into the great unknown. But hey, that's just my interpretation. All I know is that something about the song, the group, and specifically Dave Grohl just resonates with me. I admire his faith in himself...and appreciate that he didn't take the easier road. If he had...some of my favorite songs probably wouldn't exist. And THAT would be tragic...later!

My Favorite Things - Part 1 of 2

For me, just the stringing together of those three words "my favorite things" brings to mind Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music"...who compiled a list that seemed totally random at the time...and now even more so. Whiskers on kittens? I mean...soft fur on kittens...yes. Whiskers? Really? Am I alone in this?

So, as a tribute to things that I am a big fan of...I'm going to list a few of my favorite things. Trust me...I have absolutely NO inclination to break forth in song, to put these in any logical order, or to try to defend myself. They just are what they are.

1. The beach.

I have been a fan of the beach for many, many years...which is a shame, really, since I have a fair complexion. And frankly, "fair" is an understatement. Oh...I can tan, all right. But lately I've come to realize that the tan is actually a complex network of freckles that band together to keep me from crisping up and becoming a victim of spontaneous combustion. Through the years I have endured water blisters, peeling, sunburn, and dry skin just to have that "healthy" glow. Now, at 46, everyone says "skin cancer" every time I consider going out to the beach to read a book under an umbrella and a bottle of SPF 85 is forced into my hand. Just so you know...SPF 85 does not have that great Hawaiian Tropic smell that the oil does...and is almost sticky. What's the fun in that? So, for me...the beach is now enjoyed either before or way after prime sunning hours...or some random time like October...or better yet...January. Not that I'm just raring to jump into a bathing suit at any point in time, either.

2. Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies.

As a Brownie Girl Scout in 1970, my mother was the cookie chairman. The protocol at the time was to receive a box of cookies that contained the five different types of cookies for sale, and then go door to door selling the cookies for fifty cents a box. There were no new offerings each year...just Thin Mints, Peanut Butter, Trefoils, Sandwich Cookies (chocolate and vanilla) and one other kind that I cannot remember now (and it wasn't the Peanut Butter Patties, either). So, being the competitive soul that I am...I went door to door with a piece of notebook paper and got preorders before preorders became known as preorders. I sold a ridiculous amount of cookies relatively speaking and managed to tick off most of the girls in my Jackson, Mississippi neighborhood. However, I became a huge fan of the Thin Mint...and even though the boxes contain 3,000 calories...I still buy at least one box every year. And eat every one of them.

3. Music.

I was introduced to music at a young age because everyone in the family was musical. I was in choir, singing groups in junior high and high school (and have a picture in the heinous harvest gold robe to prove it) and I've always been a fan of rock music. I morphed over to alternative as well in the 1990's.

The problem is...although I can sing on key...I have NO range whatsoever. Meaning...I cannot sing over multiple octaves like normal people can. I can go to a point, and then it turns into something only heard by dogs. I can lip sync with the best of them because I've had to in portions of almost all hymns in church. Well, BIG church. Contemporary praise songs are do-able because they only have something like six notes in them.

It also explains why I love rock don't need a huge range to sing along.

I sincerely appreciate musical talent in others. My uncle Harry, and nephew (William) can play the piano beautifully. I love groups like Collective Soul and Foo Fighters because of the versatility that these bands have. They have songs that just speak to me.

I've even played the violin and the clarinet in this lifetime. I would add piano to that...but Mrs. Metcalf pretty much slapped my wrists with a ruler enough in 4th grade that I lost all desire to even try to pick them up off the keyboard. I must have weird wrists...I couldn't shoot a basketball either. I've always wanted to play the guitar...but cannot seem to muster up the desire, courage, and time to do so simultaneously.

I love how music can transport you to wherever you were when it was played most often. How you can be uplifted or excited and change your mood entirely based on what you are hearing. I love to see raw talent combined with a spark of the divine morph into something that soothes, exhilarates, or teaches. I love how certain songs seem like they were written just for me. I also love to hear sweet voices of little people like my niece and nephew who sang "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" while they were here. Teary? Absolutely.

4. Words.

I am a bonified word junkie. I love a witty twist of a phrase, a new way of saying something, or words that convey exactly what I am thinking...even if they are someone else's. I love song lyrics, poetry, and bible entries, stories, and written explanations. I figure that this is the gift that God has given me...the passion and a consuming attraction to the written word. I believe that this is a noble gift in that He apparently thought enough of written words to see that we have the Bible as a resource to track His thoughts, history, and deeds.

I love going back and seeing where I was at any given time through words I've written, and I am glad that there have been times that someone has been able to read something that has entered my brain and found its way back out to my fingers...and has found it worthy of comment. But even if I wrote into a vacuum...and I have for many years...I'd still write. And I'd still read what others have written. I even like audiobooks. If I lose my eyesight...or hearing...I am SO learning Braille.

5. The Bible.

Where else can you find a book that tracks the history of a group of people, notes their failings, tells a story of redemption, and gives hope? For those who have never actually read this book cover to cover, you will be shocked and awed by the level of soap-opera worthy storylines, total nut jobs, people who seem like modern day people that you actually know, and unexpected twists and turns. The names are a bit much sometimes...but if any of you have checked a roll at a local elementary school lately...they aren't far off.

I have found that it contains guidance to just about any problem or issue that I have. And while it encourages me toward duly notes that I am totally unequipped to take that path on my own. Although I spent many years believing that "church people" were perfect...and I knew that I wasn' was comforting to know that although being Christlike is the is the journey I take to get me there. I am not expected to be perfect...and it's a good thing, too...I am only charged with trusting God to teach me to be more like the One who is.

6. Photos.

Photographs have been a part of my existence since childhood. My grandmother photographed us in restaurants, at every family gathering, and at any point where we were dressed up and looked presentable. And today it is me who photographs in restaurants, at every family gathering, and whether we are presentable or not. In fact, my mother swears that the only picture that will survive for future generations is the one I took of her with no makeup (Christmas 2004) or in London in front of Westminster Abbey donning a Gilligan hat and multiple layers of clothing. Due to the sheer volume of photos I have taken...I highly doubt it.

I love photos in that they represent us at various stages of who we were along the way to becoming who we are. For many of us, we look back to a time that was happier, easier, and where we were thinner. For others of us, we look back and see someone that we wish had been wiser and made better decisions, was more confident, and had owned a hair straightener. (That would be me.)

I use photos to track the moments in time that deserve to be noted...trips, weddings, funerals, birthdays, graduations, births, reunions, concerts, holidays, vacations, or the first day of school. And I also use them to see the moments that are the everyday, mundane moments that I want to hold on to...sleeping babies, splashing in the pool, pets curled up on a bed, friends at a barbecue, my yard from my back door, my son and his friends playing Guitar Hero, or my husband brushing my daughter's hair. Time marches on...but the photos are a marker of what was...and what was often very wonderful.

7. Gardenias.

My grandmother wore a perfume called "Jungle Gardenia" and her room was alive with the scent of these sensitive but beautiful white flowers. In every home that I have owned, I have also owned gardenia bushes. I currently have three...and all three now bloom twice a year every year. This is irregular, I know. They have been doing it since 2004 - the year my grandmother died. Once in May when they are supposed to...and once in August...the month of her birth. She died in late July just before her 98th birthday. As I was scrapbooking and crying on her birthday that year, I looked out the window and saw a gardenia bloom just outside my window. I felt immensely better just seeing this reminder of her so vividly and so poignantly.

This year, after visiting Gammy's sister and her family in Pennsylvania this past May, I came back to three completely and totally loaded bushes. The buds were not even on the bushes when we left. I believe that she was happy we made the trip.

(To be continued...)