Sunday, January 31, 2010

Time I'd Like Back

Tonight I spoke about time management to a group of my Phi Mu sisters in Troy. The room was filled with beautiful bright girls who were kind enough to stay awake as I spoke. Driving home, I started thinking of a new kind of time management...and made a mental list of time expended in my life that now - at 46 - I would certainly like to have back. At the time, it seemed ridiculously important, but as they say...hindsight is 20/20.

First of all, I'd like the hours I spent sitting through Weight Watchers meetings beginning in 1977 through 2009. Granted, I actually achieved goal weight 1987...but I can probably stand up there and teach any given lesson...because they never change. The delivery is different, but the message is this..."quit eating like you are in some kind of serious denial because you are going to eventually be unable to move." I is might address denial one week and movement the next, but whatever. I can say that I have learned to eat a minimal amount of salad dressing through the years and I do now actually prefer water. But the drama of getting on the scale, of weighing and measuring everything...and mustering up enthusiasm over a half pound weight loss after a week of deprivation? I'm so over it.

I'd love to have back the time I spent learning the dances in the movie "Saturday Night Fever", the "Thriller" video, and in the heinous Modern Dance class that I took at Troy my junior year. I made an "A" because the lady obviously was watching the other two girls in my group...and not me. Let's just say that I accepted that any dancing I did from that point forward falls squarely into the "white girl" camp...with a heavy undertone of spastic. A friend's son asked me to dance at a wedding last October. I knew he was being kind. But there were entirely too many cameras in the vicinity, and I just couldn't risk it.

Next would be the time I spent listening to people madly in love with their problems. Those people who just want repeat their mantra to...but have absolutely no intention of doing anything to change it. One particular friend had more drama on her own than every other person I knew at the time...combined. I don't mean to be unkind...but there are some times that it is just imperative that we hire a licensed professional. Hope she did.

I'd also like to have the hours back that I spent getting to know people that my children have dated. Granted, I've learned a lot along the way...but a couple of them took a piece of my heart with them, and I don't have time for the mourning period after they leave. I declared a while back that I refused to get attached to any of them, and I've pretty much stuck with that. The funny thing is...I end up meeting not only the ones that make the grade...but the ones that don't. At least life is interesting.

I'd also like to have the time back when I used to complain about being bored. I haven't been bored since 1982. I miss it.

The time that I spent in the tanning bed in 1997 was obviously wasted. As was most of the time in the gym from 1997-2007. I won't even go into the vegetarian phase that I went through for three years after reading a Tony Robbins book.

I would also like to have back the time I spent driving around in parking lots because I was too lazy to walk. If I'd actually walked, I probably could have saved the time in Weight Watchers. Great. Or the phase I went through listening to the Linkin Park Live in Texas CD because one of Jill's guy friends told me I'd like it. I did. Obsessively. I still scare people that A) I actually like this music and B) I know the words.

Oh well. Sometimes you win...sometimes you learn.

I guess the truth is...we all try to do the best we can with the information that we have and invest our time accordingly. Sadly, we sometimes don't get a return on our investment. But sometimes, we get far more than we expect and defintely more than we deserve.

Tonight I don't know if anyone in that room got anything practical out of the time I invested. Frankly, I don't need to know. But I do know that I certainly got something out of it. I got to laugh with my friend Pam who totally cracks me up and I realized that somewhere I passed through a quarter of a century ago is still in good hands. And that alone was worth the trip.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Time Management

Back in the 1990's, when consultants roamed free through the halls of commercial banks, one of the popular topics was time management. Seminars were taught on how to manage our lives using planners, folders, lists and goals. We learned to check off the boxes and developed a sense of pride as we lugged our planners all over creation.

Oh, times have changed. People are peddling faster just to keep it in the road. We have more gadgets to help us stay organized...but can never seem to find the cord to recharge them. We save time by having everything online, but we can't remember the gazillion passwords that we must remember to access anything. And lately...for security purposes...the passwords that we can actually remember are no longer "secure" enough. Great. That fairly insures that I'll be destined to click the "I forgot my password" button fairly frequently.

So how do you stay make the most of the time that you have? You have 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. That totals 168 hours that all of us have each week. If you remove 49 hours (7 hours a night) for sleep, and that leaves a total of 119 hours each week to do everything that you have to do. I realize that Jack Bauer fits a whole lot into his 24 hours, but whatever.

The truth? It is all a matter of priorities. It is determining what is most important to you and putting those rocks in the jar first. But before you think too much about it...ask God what your priorities should be. That one step alone can save you an amazing amount of wasted time and effort.

If you find that it is doing well at work, attending classes, or physical training...then these are the items that you must focus on scheduling first. When you become an adult, these pretty much get mapped out for you if you have a 40 hour a week job. A job takes a massive bite out of those 119 hours that you have to yourself. I laugh as I write that as I know from experience that a 40 hour a week job is actually closer to 55 hours. But never mind that.

Once the largest priorities are determined, you then consider the recurring events that you want or need to, work, class, meetings, and the gym. You consider your priorities around the recurring events and fill in the majority of your time. It is a little bit of a juggling act, but hey...that's life.

After that, fill in time for studying, reading, hobbies, laundry, eating, shopping, calls to family, going out, cleaning, personal maintenance, volunteering and relaxation. You should have about two hours a day left over...if that.

Life passes quickly. Without focusing on what it is that you want to do, you will waste a tremendous amount of time with your ladder on the wrong wall. You'll do some of this anyway. Making a list and thinking things through will save you time and free you to do more of what you want to do. This will become increasingly more important the older that you get.

Just remember this...your time is like a prepaid Walmart credit card. You have only so much loaded on it, and because everyone's priorities are different...everyone's purchases would be as well. The secret is to get the best value for the dollar and to purchase what will best suit your needs. You can buy junk...or you can buy something that you can use for a long period of time. You can use it for short term food...or for long term electronics.

Think of your time the same way. It is yours, but once it is spent, it is gone. If others are counting on you, then you have a higher calling to utilize this time in the best way possible. As a mother, there have been times when I would prefer to buy something I would like to have. But what I want is often sacrificed on the altar of someone else's needs. We may have once joked about college being the time that we "spent our parents' money"...but once we become parents...with the bills sent to OUR address...those words take on a completely different meaning.

While you are making your plans, though, be aware that this very exercise is when God laughs. He will give you choices that are mutually exclusive just to test your resolve. He will make you work harder than everyone else because He has something wonderful for you if you persevere. He will call you to something that you try to run from until you finally beg for mercy in the belly of the whale. Be aware that this is not always a bad thing.d

Oh, you may head off in one direction and find no fulfillment there, and then start down another path. Which means that you have to start this whole exercise over. And over. And over. With each change in your life comes a different set of priorities...endlessly. Your job is to do the best you can with the time and the gifts that you have been given. And then you just leave the rest of it up to God.

Time performed when some time is taken to sit down and think things through with a plan instead of just meandering through each day hit or miss. Making the most of each day - while leaving time for doing the things that make life grand - is a very difficult balancing act that takes time to master. But step by step, day after'll figure it out. We all do...eventually.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Today I was looking at a project that a friend's child recently completed. It was one of those 6th grade self-examination exercises that requires that you look backwards by doing a genealogy and a family tree and ahead by dreaming of what you want to be along with research on the alternative chosen. For this mother - a single mother with three children - it was a major hassle. She just wants her kids to grow up enough so that she can go to the bathroom by herself. But as I was looking over did get me to thinking about my life.

I believe that most of us identify ourselves by a few common parameters, and in ways that we don't really even think about anymore. Our gender, race, age, religious beliefs, political affiliation and where we live define us. We may be color-blind with regard to race, not speak of politics and religion, or be transplanted from somewhere else, but a lot of our framework just is what it is. Other parameters might include how much money we make, our sexual orientation, what we do, where we went to college, who our family was or is, the size of the town we grew up in, our interests, and so on.

What is odd is that sometimes the way we define ourselves is not the way other people primarily view us. It is a really tricky thing to realize that sometimes people think of us as outgoing when we think we're shy, or that people think that we are stuck up when we just feel out of place. In other words, we see ourselves as one thing and other people are nearly knocked down by something else entirely.

I've seen some of the most rabid college football fans alive that are actually people who have never set foot on the campus as a student. But somewhere along the way, they identified with the team, and now it is second nature. I've also seen people who grew up in less than ideal circumstances that studied and worked hard and made something extraordinary out of themselves. I've also watched people with every advantage and a loving family end up on the sidelines of life because they couldn't overcome their own fears to break out enough to live up to their potential.

Thinking about the exercise, though, I thought about who I am...and this is what I came up with in the initial pass. It isn't a comprehensive list, but it does pretty much hit the high points...

I am...politically conservative. To understand why this is so, you would have to understand that I am more attracted to the concept of personal responsibility than I am to being fair. I have come to realize that life is not fair, and never will be. I believe in giving people a hand up...but I expect the church and charitable organizations to fix some of the ills of society instead of government. Help? Yes. Dependency? No.

I am...a Christian. This means that I am a Christ follower. It also means that everything I do wrong is magnified in the eyes of others because some people are under the impression that being a Christian means that I am suddenly perfect. No, it just means that I know what perfect looks like...and I now have a template to shoot for.

I am...married and a mother. That doesn't make me better than other people, nor does it convince me that this role is for everyone. It isn't. I am in the season of life where some days when as a mother...I feel very unappreciated...but I understand that this is normal. As I cannot imagine my life any other way anymore...I am happy.

I am...a woman. I have survived discrimination and have been passed over for promotions along the way. I didn't sue anyone...I just kept working. I've long since gotten over it...yet I can empathize with other women. I banned teen magazines at my home because I didn't want my daughter to believe that she didn't measure up to the airbrushed versions of stick figures that were contained on the pages within. Having bought that particular lie and destroying my metabolism in the process...I didn't want a sequel to that living under my roof.

I am...a Southerner. I certainly like people from other places, but I just feel especially blessed to live where I do. Granted, I whine when it is hot as Hades here in the summer, but I like that most people here are among the finest people on the planet. Plus, you can't beat the beaches.

I am...overweight. This means that I am not going to look good in 90% of what I'd like to wear, I have to worry about my health, and chairs sometimes scare me. Reunions and formal occasions are remarkably challenging and I worry that I embarrass my family. But I am also 46 years old and it is highly unlikely that I'm going to be the size I was in high school ever again. And I'm okay with that.

All in all...we all have many descriptors that tell other people who we are. Some people will know that they are part of our tribe, and others will feel like foreigners in our presence. The truth is that many of us accept differences and assume that others will give us the same latitude. We just need to understand that this is not always the case. is partly a function of factors that we cannot control and partly a function of factors that we can. It is who we know ourselves to be and who other people perceive that we are. But it is what it is...although it can change overnight...and sometimes does. I just hope that one day when I cross someone's mind...they will identify me as a good friend and a relatively content person. That's what I'm shooting for anyway...

Monday, January 25, 2010


Here lately...I have become aware of how many people are in denial. I'm not talking specifically about the people who are on reality shows...because that goes without saying. I mean those of us who are living our lives and are surrounded by the perpetually clueless.

I see women in their 40's having surgery and wearing clothes that look more appropriate on college girls. They have bought the lie that one can remain young looking indefinitely instead of realizing that at some point it looks ridiculous. I see college girls hanging out of the top of or falling out of the bottom of clothes that would look fine if they were just twice the size. These same girls are, of course, also wondering why they can't meet a young man who can't see beyond what they are not wearing instead of taking responsibility their fashion choices.

The combover is a very sad expression of refusal to let hair follicles rest in much so as the hairstyles from days of yore that some people insist on sporting year in and year out...for decades.

The same is true of those pesky "elephants in the living room"...and pretending that issues like weight gain, eyesight changes or memory loss are not really issues at all. Of trying to ignore someone's addictions, lifestyle or erratic behavior and act as if everything is copacetic...or worse...enabling it. Failing to recognize that mergers at work mean that we aren't in Kansas anymore and that we are going to have to make some adjustments or we'll be swept away bitter and spitting into the winds of change. Sometimes it is just seeing life as it has always been instead of how it actually is...and failing to see that there were windows opened when doors were closed...or that the cell that we thought imprisoned us was never locked...we just thought that it was.

Sad to me are people who give their children everything and then are repaid with a total rejection of their values. Even more sad is when they continue to act as if nothing has changed. They fund the educations or the support of the children well beyond a logical age instead of just pushing them out of the nest and letting them figure it out on their own.

Oh, I don't mean to sound all mean-spirited and judgmental. Lord knows that there is enough of that in this world. It is just that sometimes we live our lives treating the symptoms instead of addressing the problem.

The problem is fear.

Rooted in denial is the fear that we aren't enough or that we won't be able to handle change. That if we act as if everything is okay or the way it always has been...that it will be. We believe that our positive thinking will make what is in our minds match our reality instead of the reverse. We don't like being we overlook minor infractions. Ignoring those means that we begin to resent the fact that we cannot express ourselves. Resentment turns into exasperation...which eventually turns into rejection. Yet we deny why it is that some people annoy us...when the answer is that we have allowed them to hold us hostage because we have been friends forever or by accident of birth or experience.

If we are still drawing breath...we are also getting older every day. Our bodies change, and our inner beings sometimes take awhile to figure this spite of our aches and pains. Many of us only see the person who faced us in the mirror at an earlier point in time, and we live that reality. Or perhaps the fear is the rejection of our friends and family if our children do not follow a conventional path. Or have simply learned from being honest and not having it received well that we need to allow the 800 pound gorilla to sit wherever he wants to sit...even if it crushes our spirit in the process.

But why the fear? It seems so senseless.

Growing older means that we have also - hopefully - also grown wiser. Our experiences may have shaped us...but they have also softened, sharpened, and solidified us. God has been busy molding us through our pain, our shortcomings, and our failures. We haven't wanted to dwell on those...preferring to remember only the highlights of our lives. Highlights are wonderful...but we have to be honest that who we are today was also crafted in the valleys...and sometimes primarily so.

So when I see someone who has a disconnect from who they are and who they think they are...I will say a little prayer for them instead of shooting a look of disapproval. If I am close enough to them to comment, I'll pray that God will give me both tact and an opportunity to be honest if I am asked. I will try to remember that in viewing the circle of life I've seen both the frail become strong and the strong become frail. It requires patience as people come to grips with their limitations. We don't expect a toddler to balance a checkbook...we barely expect a 20-something to be able to...yet we must also understand that taking the keys from Grandma also sometimes has to be done...for everyone's sake.

Well, living in denial is sometimes comforting...but it almost always involves an ugly collision with reality at some point. I can only hope that I am surrounded with people who love me enough to be honest...but who also know me well enough to understand how much honesty I can manage. I believe that I see the world as it is...but I do certainly is easier to pretend that I don't...

Sunday, January 24, 2010


We are all gifted. We all possess qualities that help, improve, or bless others. We may be days old and giving a family hope for the future, or in our later years trying to come to grips with limitations after a lifetime of productivity. But we all have a purpose...or we wouldn't be here.

Some of us have teaching gifts...of possessing reservoirs of patience and enthusiasm that transform children into more than they would have been without the input. Special education teachers give love and acceptance to those who require additional care to bring out their potential. Or perhaps the teaching gifts are to follow the biblical mandate to teach younger women the skills of homemaking, parenting, or being a godly wife.

Others have the gifts of entertainment and artistic expression...of giving us a few minutes of rest from the normal grind of doing everything that we must do. Singing, dancing, acting, or creating something that speaks to the heart. Taking the photographs, writing the stories, and preparing scrapbooks of points in time that fly by entirely too fast while we are just breathing in and out and putting one foot in front of the other.

Others have the gifts of mercy...of fixing broken bodies or broken lives. Being the ears and hands that heal and help. Those who visit in the hospitals and who pray for people that they don't even know because a friend has asked them to do so. Perhaps it is just the mercy shown through being the shoulder that we are searching for when we have made a mistake, suffered a blow, or are confused and alone.

Others have the gifts of administration...of making order out of chaos, for insuring that life goes on in an rational manner. The ones who make it possible for other people to live out their dreams and who know how to put the pieces back together when everything is falling apart. These are the ones that head the committees, manage the funds and plan the path.

The problem is...some of us either forget we have our gifts or we don't take the time to develop them. We are angry because we wanted to be something that we are not. Disappointment has made us diminish what it is that we were supposed to be in this world and so we refuse to participate any longer.

And then there are other people who use every drop of what God has given them to bless other people. They may not be the most gifted...but are certainly the most blessed.

I heard a while back that you can't outgive God. Any scrap of time or energy that you give for the kingdom will not be wasted. Your efforts may not seem like much...but you never know how it will be received by someone else. And aren't supposed to care.

I know that some people have gifts that are universally a beautiful singing voice, the ability to excel in sports, or an intellect that solves medical mysteries. But each of us has something that we can give that makes this world a better place and which would go undone if we weren't here to offer what we have.

So for those of you who pray, bake, write, serve, watch, fund, endure and create for a small circle of admirers...just remember that your gifts are noted by an audience of ONE. That ONE...we are pleased by the exercise of the gifts you are given. So be you...and remember to use every drop of talent and ability that you have...just as you enjoy the gifts of others. Yes, there are times when we feel like our gift is too small to matter...or we are too insignificant to make a difference. It is at those times when if you put your offering will be used most effectively. Don't be afraid...there's a big world out there and a lot of hungry hearts and broken spirits.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Today is gray. There are four colors in the palette outside my tea olives and juniper bushes...the unnatural blue in the pool liner, the bland dead grass color that is echoed in the treeless branches and gray. The wind is swaying the plants and branches but otherwise nature is quiet. It is not raining...although it certainly looks like it wants to pour at any given moment.

Twenty years was pink. At approximately the same time I am writing this, I was reaching for a bundle of humanity that I was greatful had arrived unscathed. Her little face was scrunched up but her voice was clearly making itself heard and her feet looked like her father's. We had known that we were expecting a girl...primarily because I don't like being blindsided and she finally gave it up during the ultrasound.

She is the fourth first child that was a daughter on my mother's side, and she took her place in several four generations photographs that I am pleased that we thought to take. She was colicky and strong willed, but sweet and a good sleeper. She was a late walker but a big cuddler, and after getting the mechanics down...a decent eater.

As she grew, her hair changed from reddish brown to gold and her eyes opened to become a brilliant blue. When framed with the thick lashes bestowed on her by her father and when mascara was applied during her 4 year old dance recital, I saw the future in her little angel face. She was able to learn the dances and had a knack for gymnastics, but not enough interest in either to make it worth the hoops we had to jump through to just get her to classes. Those were the years that I was on the road a lot, and she didn't seem to mind missing out on organized activities...daycare seemed to be enough for her.

At the age of four, we enrolled her in the church's kindergarten program, and she attended for two years as we waited for one of the two private schools we desired to open up a spot for her. In first grade, she finally began attending Trinity Presbyterian School...our first choice...and from which she graduated in 2008. Her teachers loved her, but were a little taken aback by the fact that she was active and had a somewhat different way of seeing the world. Guess she inherited that from me.

After years of teacher conferences, we finally heard the fourth grade teacher and had her tested for Attention Deficit Disorder and found that she did not have a preferred mode of learning, nor did she process as quickly as her peers. So, math drills were horrific for her...but we taught her a few tricks of the looking for the easy ones. On her side was the ability to memorize anything...making bible passages and vocabulary words much easier for her than application knowledge.

As she entered junior high, it became apparent that she would be a lovely girl and she survived all of the orthodontics and contact lenses that come during these years. She grew more beautiful every year and became aware that beauty can also sometimes make you a target. Nothing is more difficult than watching grown women treat a young girl poorly as if she is one of their peers. I responded by checking out of friendships with them and befriending the mothers of the boys in her class because they had no dog in the fight.

In high school, she became enamored with someone who we became enamored with as well. Since then, she has dated several people off and on, but we refuse to get attached to anyone. We are waiting for the one who comes to discuss a few things with her Daddy one day before we go down that road again. And while we might like to know who he is...we are in no hurry. We already know that we will love him...because she does.

A little less than two years ago, we watched her walk across a stage and receive her high school diploma. Three months later, she walked into a dorm at the University of Alabama and out of our home. She chose Alabama over Auburn and Troy. She had been accepted to all three. A week later, she went through one of the largest sorority recruitments in the country and became a Phi her mother.

The past year has brought us many new names and faces...of Phi Mu sisters that have come to visit and of young men who have been either suitors or friends. She has completed three semesters and is headed toward a degree in business. We are not entirely sure if this is what she wants or not...but this is the direction in which she has chosen to walk. I am confident that she will figure out how to make it work.

And little girl is 20. She's in that crevice between a teenager and an adult...but just signed her first apartment lease. Granted, we have to guarantee it...but I felt the wind from that wing flap as I sit parked here in the nest. A nest that is becoming more empty by the day as her brother works toward completing his junior year of high school.

Twenty years ago today I became a mother. And like all other mothers I wonder...where has the time gone? But I know that - Lord willing - there will be days of Technicolor when we are all captured by her laughter. There will hopefully be a time when we watch her walk in white to be presented to Montgomery and then one day to a groom. There will be days of blue when she is sad and finds the world cruel, days of green where there is life and hope, and days of yellow when all is sunny, bright and full of possibilties. And I also hope that one day she has a day of pink like I did twenty years ago...and will pass on the family tradition.

I miss the little girl I held. I miss her hugs and her sweetness. I even miss the mundane tasks like brushing her hair and cleaning out her closet. But she is standing on her own two feet now...which is exactly where she is supposed to be.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blonde Moments

Tonight I was in Bed, Bath and Beyond to purchase a couple of items. After wandering all about the store chatting with a friend on the cell phone, I approached the counter with my two items and two coupons. One of the two I presented was one of those codes that you write on the receipt after you call the toll-free number to rate your experience. I had checked to insure that the expiration date was in line...and it was. I made sure that the dollar amount was within the parameters of the coupon and was standing there waiting for the purchase to be completed.

"Ma'am, I don't know why this coupon won't work..." as the clerk scanned the barcode and squinted at the register. She called the "MOD"...which I figured out meant "manager on duty" and then looked at the full length of the receipt I had presented with the code neatly entered underneath. It was then when she looked up at me with a mixture of pity and "I've been there before" and said, "Um, ma'am...this coupon is for Bath and Body Works."

Yeah. I'm blonde. Bed, Bath & Beyond...Bath and Body Works...whatever.

Did I mention that the curtain rod I purchased in this mortifying transaction was too short for the two windows and double door that I needed it to span in my living room? Not that Big Dave didn't measure it for me this morning or anything. And yes, there is quite a large difference between ten and thirteen fudging back it goes. Oh!...the horror.

I do come by it honestly, though. My mother is quite brilliant...but she did once place a call to me on the cell phone we preprogrammed for her to ask me how to call people who didn't have a preprogrammed number. I suppose it was as if the term "cell phone" implied that the word "cell" cancelled out its usage as a "phone."

Her lack of direction is legendary. It was reported that she drove around a field at night looking for a "horse" at which she was to take a left turn...except that it was a sawhorse rather than the living and breathing kind. She later realized that looking for an actual horse would have been an exercise in futility as it would have likely moved all over the pasture. But never mind that.

Once, she drove straight through six exits in Montgomery through to Hope Hull, Alabama before she called me to report that she missed Montgomery. Or the time she called me forty-five minutes into a a ninety minute trip to tell me that she had gotten off at Exit 6. Unfortunately, it was in Columbus, Georgia rather than Montgomery, Alabama.

I've had times when I've shown up somewhere completely unaware of the dress code or I've forgotten the name of someone I've known for years. I suppose that everyone does that. I grew up answering to "Jean Harry Pitta" which was the name my grandmother most frequently called me. She knew better, of course, but she just started down the roster...

And then there are times when we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of someone else's blonde moment. For instance...someone forgets where they are and to whom they are speaking. Ever had anyone tell you shockingly personal information and you are sure that they have had a brain lapse of major proportions? Although quite hilarious, these conversations are often "OH MY GOSH" moments that make us feel like we are in the middle of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" dancing with Tim Curry in his opera hose and garters.

But enough of that imagery. Egad.

Just last week, someone had an employment application faxed to them at work. Never mind that several people are all on the same e-mail based fax number. This translated to having a whole host of people - including her boss - aware that her fax had arrived. As Ricky Ricardo would say..."guess she has some 'splainin' to do."

I guess I'll just hope that tomorrow when I return the curtain rod that the lady who waited on me tonight is not behind the register. Then I'll head over to Bath and Body Works and use my coupon before it expires. If I wake up tomorrow morning and remember that plan, that is...

Blonde moments...those times when we find ourselves defying logic...ours or anyone else's. Mostly funny when we are relaying someone else's moments...not so funny when we find ourselves standing at the check out counter mumbling incoherently and fumbling for excuses. I thought the "guess it was all of the B's" one that I used before I ambled out of the store all red faced and trying not to whack people with the curtain rod as I made my hasty exit was somewhat understandable.

Oh, it's funny NOW...I's OVER and all. I just hope my mother will still be speaking to me after this blogpost. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


A couple of nights ago, I got into a duel of words with someone over my political views. This was someone whose humor I normally enjoy, whose gifted writing has both moved me and made me laugh hysterically, but who is passionate about what he believes. The only downside is his unpredictable tendency to turn on go directly for the jugular in an unnecessarily cruel and hostile way.

Well, it is my belief that people who hurt other people are in pain themselves...or are extraordinarily angry. So, I decided to just go ahead and speak my mind and let the chips fall where they may. And fall they did...

These days it seems that more and more of us are letting our anger out. I know that I have had moments in the past six months that I seemed more intense than the situation called for...and it has surprised people. I normally am not terribly bothered by other peoples' quirks, failings, or choices. Yet, sometimes I reach my limit. I dare say that we all do.
Mainly my responses are that someone has pushed one of the three "hot" buttons of mine that have remained stubbornly sticky and are difficult for me to ignore.

Sometimes a good ole' "hissy fit" is downright comical. We laugh recalling the antics of a certain family member (who shall remain nameless) who had to get control of his temper many years ago. The final straw was his total annihilation of a feather pillow on a hot summer day. As the feathers floated and covered every conceivable surface (including his legs)...he learned that venting the anger involved significant (and tricky) cleanup. Another family member made a conscious decision not to let his temper get the best of him during a softball game sometime in his early 20's. Although family lore has a story of him narrowly missing a brother's head with a crochet ball and hitting a window instead...he rarely ever gets angry anymore...because he no longer sees the point.

Anger often leads to destruction...both in property and to relationships. It has a mind of its own and tears off in paths of self-righteousness. These paths leave a trail of broken feelings and charred trust. Most of us understand the occasional confrontation with a customer (non)service department or even a bad day. Lord knows, we all have them. Even Jesus cleared out a bunch of money changers in the temple in a fit of righteous anger. It happens. We move on.

Because for most of us, in the context of all that we know about a person...we can forgive or even ignore the occasional temper flare. Even people that we don't know as well...we can extend sympathy to if they are angry. We understand the annoyance one feels at having to wait an hour and 45 minutes to see the doctor because his staff overschedules or if someone assigns work that needs to be done immediately...thirty minutes before the end of the workday.

However, we all know people who have a "land mine" personality - meaning nobody really knows when it will be triggered or how much damage it will do. People may love every positive thing about them, but they often tire of living in fear of tripping a wire and setting off a massive explosion. And it is sad when this personality inhabits a person over the chronological age of two.

Oh, we may laugh at a two year old pitching a fit in the aisle at Walmart because those of us who have raised two year olds know what a pleasure (not) that particular experience is. But what about a twenty-two year old that gets angry at his girlfriend and punches her in the face? Or a thirty-two year old that tells his boss what he really thinks and where he can put the job? Or how about the forty two-year old who gets into a fight with his brother-in-law over a college football game? Or the fifty-two year old who stands up at a Little League game and shakes her finger in the face of the coach because her grandson isn't getting to play? Attractive? Hardly.

I believe that there are times when there should be public outrage...when politicians pass brainless legislation, or when judges release pedophiles on parole. And yes, coworkers or bosses are going to try our patience. Even renewing your car tag is always a threat for a blood pressure spike. But to rage against people - especially friends - for not agreeing with you? To attempt to make them feel that they are inferior human beings for daring to disagree with you? I think not.

I find that most of the time we can head off our anger if we honestly try to see things from a different perspective. People who lived through the Depression have a hard time parting with things. Folks who participated in Civil Rights marches remember the unfairness. And kids who have never been denied anything don't understand why they can't have everything...even if we've done our best not to spoil them. We have to temper our expectations (no pun intended) so that we don't turn into rabid banshees...especially those of us approaching the hormonal years. letter short of "danger" as I've seen in my church bulletin at some point in time. Its evidence is seen in the newspapers every day as someone shoots their cousin over a pair of tennis shoes or trashes someone's reputation because a boy she likes prefers someone else.

The antidote to anger is hard to figure out. For me, I try to find the humor in a situation. If that doesn't work...I'll look to get away from whatever is irritating me beyond belief. Over time, I do tend to get more rational. I will admit, though, that some SEC football coaches make me mad enough to look like any of the unfortunates on any random episode of "Cops."

So, for my friend who "unfriended" me on Facebook several weeks ago and then blasted me the other night...I wish him well and hope that he finds happiness...and perhaps a local anger management class. I'll miss his witty commentary and knowing how his life on the complete and total other end of the spectrum from me (in just about all aspects of life) is going. But I won't miss the light treading and the walking on eggshells that those who are friends with him have to do. I'll be more free to be me unapologetically instead of worrying about being politically correct. And that totally works for me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

OMG...the Acronyms!

Most Americans do not feel like they have enough time to do everything that they have committed to, have volunteered for, and must do to survive most days. We have been taught to say "no" more often yet have been encouraged to volunteer our time. We have been given more opportunities to pursue interests on a scale unknown to past generations and we have golf weekends, girls' weekends, season tickets, and trips that we enjoy. Where we once worked ourselves into a coma and enjoyed our two week concurrent vacations each year, we now enjoy twice as much time off and considerable understanding (compared to our parents and grandparents)from bosses when we need to attend something at the school or a game at the ballfield.

In fact, we are actually the minority if we do not have several outside interests that consume our free time. These interests are as varied as we are. So, like a little Pacman...these interests eat into our free time and energy. Our closets and garages become filled with the ghosts of interests past and our clothes are slung over the treadmill in the corner of our bedroom. It is almost like we have to keep trying to be fulfilled and still fit in all that we have to do.

In a crazy quest for efficiency, we have found it far easier to use certain acronyms to communicate. It used to be substituting "bye" for "goodbye" or "thanks" for "thank you." Now it is "TY" for "thank you" and "BRB" for "be right back." I don't know if this is a good development or not!

I didn't really notice this at first because I work in the land of acronyms as a banker. The only group that is more efficient at the use of acronyms is the military. In banking, we've abbreviated everything for the nearly 25 years I've been employed in the industry. Words like "individual retirement account" became "IRA" and "certificate of deposit" became "CD." I've known FSRs (Financial Service Representatives), RMs (Relationship Managers) and CSRs (Customer Service Representatives). Funny, but I've found that about the time we stopped saying the word "service" in those titles was about the same time we pretty much quit offering it.

Saying "H1N1" instead of "swine flu" tended to make us less paranoid of pork and it sounded far more official. Using the term "WMD" instead of "weapons of mass destruction" was definitely shorter...but it began to sound more palatable as well. The medical industry has gone wild of late with its acronyms...and has given us a whole host of ads that drive those points home. I'll admit that I'd gladly give up my daily reminder of "ED", "PMS", or "ADD".

Over the past several years, the use of instant messaging shortened several phrases such as "LOL" (laughing out loud), "ROFL" (rolling on the floor laughing), "OMG" (oh my gosh [my choice]) or "TTYL" (talk to you later). These translate beautifully to text messaging...the primary mode of communication with my teenaged children...until I asked Jill a question in a recent (rare) telephone call and she said "IDK."

"IDK" (I don't know) pretty much was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for me. It's cute the way that she says it, but I figured that before long, we will be down to a series of random letters or grunts to communicate. Great. Just in time for my close vision and hearing to be starting to go.

I figure that she will eventually just text me the following: "HMDBM? I have to go to TGT. I'll BRB2U...TTYL!" Yeah. Lucky me. (Interpretation: Has my deposit been made? I have to go to Target. I'll be right back to to you later!)

Who wants to give up hearing "I love you" or "you are special to me"? I don't. Getting "ILY" just isn't the same, is it? So, I'll be more cognizant of the shortcuts that I'm making and I'll be sure to not miss opportunities to say the words instead of abbreviating them. Well, maybe I'll let the "ED" people keep that one...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Love and Life

Tonight I am watching "The Notebook." I liked the movie the first time, and now that I'm watching it for about the fifteenth time, I am finally figuring out what it is that draws many women to movies like this...and this movie in particular.

All of us recognize that we have one life to live, and that we are to make the most of every day that we are given. We are to make the best grades, practice anything at which we are gifted relentlessly and make sure that we guard our hearts and watch our reputations. For some people, this seems to be a no-brainer...a simple continuation of the life that they have always lived. All of the pieces of the puzzle seemed to fall into place without great angst or effort.

But for others, the struggles to perform well in school or find the right path somehow sets them on a course of wandering aimlessly about. In spite of how it looks, all that most lost souls are looking for is affirmation, love, or significance. And for people who have always had these...the attraction to the wide road seems a little foreign and difficult to understand. But wanting to matter, to be the center of someone's universe and to feel valued is something that God planted in each one of us. The problem is...we try to find it through other people instead of through Him.

Watching this movie...where the well connected and beautiful girl meets the boy from the other side of the tracks and falls in love attracts us because of the way we see him make her feel. He possesses the qualities of devotion and the ability to keep his word that seems to be foreign in many young people these days. Admittedly, I would be as upset as her parents are in the movie...and probably would have acted just the same as they did when presented with a similar storyline.

What I noticed is that Ali...the lead female character falls in love not once...but twice. Both are completely devoted to her and her biggest problem comes in choosing between the two. But while we see her hitting the rafters in her love life, we also know that she suffers from Alzheimer's in the later years. So, somehow the pain and pleasure are balanced...which makes her experience more realistic.

In our lives, there are parts that we'd like to improve, and other parts that we take for granted. We focus on the love stories because we can relate to these most universally. But we forget that we have been given extraordinary lives in other ways. And as I've heard it said...if we could place all of our troubles along with everyone else's in a pile...and were allowed to choose...we'd often take back most - if not all - of our own.

I love watching the great romances, and I do envy those who have those. I didn't...but we have a quiet but wonderful relationship that has survived three years of dating and nearly 25 years of marriage. It most relationships do...but we have managed to raise two beautiful children in a home that we designed on a napkin over breakfast one morning (we later involved an don't worry)...with a pond out back over which the sun rises each morning.

I'll continue to watch movies that tell the stories, but I'll remember that those who receive tremendous blessings in one area of life often suffer in another area. Not always...but I think that appreciating what we have and being aware of our blessings keeps us from focusing on what isn't going right.

If we're lucky, we'll find someone who loves us throughout life, we'll find work that makes us feel productive and relationships that make us feel significant. But if we are still here...then we still have purpose...and hope for a happy ending.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Today I purchased a purple candle on sale. It was a guilty pleasure bought at a very reasonable price that makes me smile just thinking about it. After all, candles aren't fattening, extravagant, or even necessary...unless, of course, your power is out. Part of the appeal, though, was the color purple.

Granted, a critically acclaimed movie by the name "The Color Purple" exists...a movie that I understand is good...but I've never caught randomly nor did I remember to put it on my queue when I had Netflix. But this week alone...both Danny Glover and Oprah have disappointed me with their it is unlikely I'll be renting it anytime soon. However, if I understand it correctly...the color was associated with abuse and pain. Perhaps the whole "Barney the Dinosaur" thing was just an extension of that pain. That is my personal belief anyway.

My experience with the color purple is nothing like that. It is the color of most of the violets that I fell in love with in honor of my grandmother. Granted, there are pinks and whites...but the majority of them range from the palest lavender to the deepest royal purple. Violets surround me at work each day...and make me feel somewhat at home in that environment. They do adore the fluorescent lights, you know. Gammy had violets in her home for as long as I can remember, and she would keep them by the window and talk to them. Apparently they liked the attention.

Purple reminds me of the horrible grape bubble gum that I would ride my bicycle to Sing's Food Store to purchase along with an Icee on Saturday afternoons after the cartoons were over. Later I purchased Blow Pops in grape and Now or Laters and Jolly Ranchers before school as a treat to help me survive junior high.

Purple was the color of my friend Dee's bedroom growing up. I can still remember being at her house and playing games of jacks, walking on the big rocks and learning that basenji dogs shed real tears.

It was also one of my two favorite colors...along with orange...which in combination screamed "could your taste be more 1970s?" I remember that Donny Osmond's favorite color was purple, and that this fact seemed to be of prime importance to the people writing for Tiger Beat magazine. I should know...I read enough of them. And while I wasn't a true Donny fan...I did understand the appeal.

Purple was a color reserved for royalty...a rich color unusual enough to catch the eye. I knew nothing of royalty other than the Burger King and the Dairy Queen because this was before Charles and Di hit the scene. It didn't stop me from watching Disney movies and seeing the color splashed on the screen whirling around the princesses. I was not always the best movie-goer though...I had to be consoled after seeing the forest fire scene in "Bambi" and I don't think I particularly enjoyed "Fantasia" either.

But in childhood, purple was the color of blackberry juice on my fingers after picking wild berries in the amazingly hot Georgia sun. It was the color of the prettiest Easter eggs dyed with the Paas kit we purchased every year. It was the one time that I could count on being allowed in the kitchen to do something other than put ice in the tea glasses or to get silverware.

It was the color of an unfortunate shirt that I owned but never dared to wear somewhere in the land of discowear and Farrah Fawcett wings. It would have matched the Candie's shoes I had in my closet that I only wore occasionally...a fashion "fail" of major proportions.

Purple later became the color of Willie Wonka, Elizebeth Taylor's eyes, and animals won at the fair. We drank Nehi grape soda...after which we sported little purple moustaches and ran in little sugar induced circles until we were dizzy. It was the color of the cheap Monopoly properties that I always purchased and the ones around the corner that I always wanted but rarely landed on.

Prince came along and sang about "Purple Rain" and was apparently enamored with the color as well. Although he sang of "Raspberry Berets" and "Little Red Corvettes"...he never fooled me. He wore purple ruffled shirts and eyeliner and embraced the royal image of his a big and somewhat unfortunate way.

Later, purple was the prominent color of Wesleyan College and represented the class below us that we initiated well. It was one of the main colors of my wedding china that I am pleased to own but rarely use. Later, it became a diversion from the endless pink that I dressed my baby girl in and lavender was a color in of the Beatrix Potter motif I had in her nursery.

As she grew, Jill began to see purple as a "lucky" color for her. She wore a purple ribbon in her hair the years that she made cheerleading...even though the school colors are red and blue. I assure you that one day...there will be purple accents in her wedding flowers...just in case. She recently purchased a purple cocktail dress that she hasn't had occasion to wear yet. I suppose that I'm okay with that for now.

Purple is a color that can be warm or cool...light or dark...regal or playful depending on the hue chosen. It is the color of morning sunrises and beach sunsets. It is the color of pansies, eggplant and grapes. It occurs naturally in nature...but is still unique enough to take your breath away. I love purple although it is not my favorite color. It is just different enough to be special and just familiar enough to be comforting. Like an old friend...

Thursday, January 14, 2010


There is a story about the training of elephants that explains how a huge pacaderm (yeah, I had to look the spelling of that one up) can be kept from running off by a tiny rope and stake. When the elephant is a small beast, he figures out that he cannot free himself, and as he grows older, he fails to make the connection that he is bigger and now able to get away. As long as he feels the rope around his leg, he remains convinced that the desire to escape is futile.

Well, because I am an elephant fan of sorts...seeing as I do generally vote Republican and am a University of Alabama fan (Roll Tide)...I find this rope around the leg limitation to be pretty amazing. And pretty revealing when applied to the likes of us.

How many of us feel the rope around our ankles? We are slaves to the woulda-coulda-shouldas as surely as we are to sweet tea, grits, and barbecue here in the South. We tend to live by a few rules that are unique to us, but a bit foreign to the rest of the country. Actually, I'm pretty glad that we have them. But in the midst of our traditions, we've built little fences, and have remained tied to the little stake instead of wreaking havoc on our nearby surroundings at times when havoc is in order.

For generations, many of our citizens have voted Democrat because we certainly weren't rich and in no way lined up with the values of the rich Republican fat cats. We hung on to FDR and JFK and LBJ for dear life. But I've noticed of late that there are a lot of pacaderms running amok in the "red" states. And about that "red state" you not find it hilarious that the South is primarily "red"? Why? Because we have more rednecks per capita? Perhaps.

We've also tended to marry younger than the general population. I was at David's Bridal last week with Jill looking at ball gowns and a girl who could not have yet graduated from high school was there with her entire family trying on gowns. In my own family, I have been the youngest to marry (at 22) in three generations. My personal opinion is that when it is is right...but you have to be able to support yourselves without outside assistance before I toss birdseed at you or purchase a toaster.

Oh, there are more fences that we build around our traditions, our rights, and our families...lines that we place there that folks who know what is good for them had better be aware of and not cross. We expect a certain mode of behavior here and we reject the notion that going to church on Sunday, sending thank you notes, and expecting manners from our children makes us less intelligent or less worthy of respect somehow.

However, it is true that we are a little intense about college football.
Case in point...this week, an arrogant football coach left an SEC team and went across the country to head up another program. My thoughts? Good riddance. The parents of the recruits and players? Furious. Student body? Angry enough to determine that the best form of protest was to burn a mattress. I have no idea what this could in "you've made your bed, now you've got to lie in it?" Or perhaps it was just handy. I'm betting on the latter.

But as Southerners and as Americans...we don't like to be fenced in. Erecting fences or unintentionally fencing others out, however, is another matter entirely and something that we are sometimes prone to do. Moving into a new town means that you must learn the local politics and backstory. Because not knowing who was what when and how it all comes together can put one at a terrible disadvantage. It is the social equivalent of being female and wearing white shoes after Labor Day or failing to paint your toenails and insisting on wearing sandals. These things are just not done. Not without people thinking that you are tacky anyway.

So we surround ourselves with those that are special or familiar to us and we fence others out. This is done as we stand in our little worlds like tethered pacaderms unable to break out of the circles we travel in by our own inability to recognize the state we're in. We fear change or appearing like we think that we are better than we are known to be. And this alone keeps us from being brave enough to break free.

Every once in awhile we come upon someone who does not see, have, or recognize any limitations. Fences do not exist to them, and they are either a breath of fresh air or a total handle to deal with. But they serve as reminders that life doesn't always categorize itself into neat little boxes and that at times the little fences we create serve as grounding points. And from that...appreciation for what we have is possible...and admirable.

Fences...they can keep you out or in depending on which perspective you have. But the truth is...none of it means anything if it compromises relationships or the purpose for which we were created. So, this pacaderm is going to tread lightly but with the knowledge that the rope is not restrictive. There are so many strings attached to so much of life...that I'm going to just believe that God has given me the strength to get through anything. Because He has. And He can do the same for you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sweet Stories

For the past couple of weeks, Jill and I have been reading Nicholas Sparks books. Some I've liked better than others, I'll admit, but I've enjoyed the escape. I'd love to be able to conceive a story, put the dialogue into the mouths of fictional characters, and then sell about a gazillion books while calmly negotiating the film rights. Oh well...I can dream.

Sparks' books remind me of a hidden expectation that I suppose many of us tucked away when we were little girls...and I totally blame Disney for it. We were introduced to the concept of princes and fairy godmothers and happy endings and then we calmly waited for our turn to shine. Most of us have been a witness to a proposal or have asked the newly engaged for details of how the question was asked. We smile and applaud and are happy to acknowledge that two people have made a choice to become one.

And as we grew up and realized that we had to be content with Prince (or the artist formerly known as Prince...whatever) instead of a real one...and that fairy godmothers were definitely in short supply. So, we began to put all of our stock in the hope of the happy ending. Perhaps too much so.

In most women is the desire to be chosen, pursued and admired. It never really leaves us...although many husbands seem to stop this somewhere along the way. I suppose it goes both ways, if you really think about it. We want a lifetime love and a sweet story of our courtship to tell our grandchildren. We expect our lives to be charmed, our spouses to be perfect and our children to be even more so. We tend to not be big fans of realism, either. We don't like realizing that we chose incorrectly after years of hanging on, that our children are bound to make decisions that we do not particularly agree with, or we chose a career that has become something foreign and burdensome to us as time has passed. And for those of you who are wondering...I am not necessarily speaking of my own experience.

But Sparks' books put us directly into the lives of people trying to live the dream. The stories may not end right or end well...but living the story is worth the risk. As Garth Brooks put can miss the pain...but then you'll have to miss the dance. We'd rather dance and be awkward and foolish...than to sit at home waiting for the phone to ring. We prefer to believe that life will work out well even though we know that there are realities such as divorce, terminal illness, and tragedies in this life.

I'm looking at sweet stories from a totally different perspective now. My life has been good by most standards...and great by even others. It isn't perfect, but I've lived most of the dreams I originally had for myself, and I've been blessed beyond my expectations...or even what I deserve. I might change a few my metabolism, my bank account balance, and some of the boneheaded decisions I've made...but I've been very lucky to have had it work out as well as it has. I suppose that it was helpful that I gave up on Disney a long time ago...well, for myself, that is.

But alas, yes, I am the mother of a beautiful daughter. And I want that perfect sweet story for her. Is this wrong? I know that we are very early in this game, but the reality is...any young man that she meets from here on out could be her Mr. Wonderful. When I read in the newspaper that the Texas quarterback proposed to his girlfriend this week (Colt McCoy) at the stadium by popping the question on the Jumbotron...I can't help but be envious. I can't help but wanting something similar for her from the right young man one day. There's a part of me that wants desperately to encourage her not to settle, and another part of me that realizes that this is not my choice to make. I'd really love some assurance that everything will turn out well. Wouldn't it be great to turn to page 143 and find that she ends up with the right one?

I know that there are no real princes or fairy godmothers or perfect endings in Nicholas Sparks books. I mean...every once in awhile he throws us a bone...but he's just as likely to let someone have Alzheimers, die in childbirth, or something similarly sad. What he writes is about our worst fears...intermingled with our best hopes. Which is strangely a lot like real life.

I'm hopefully writing lines somewhere in the middle of my book of life...and I'm watching my sweet girl in her early chapters. She's already encountered an unkind mother and less than stellar suitors in some regards...but she always keeps hoping for the best. I hope that her faith will be rewarded in God's time with a wonderful husband. It is my hope that her sweet story would make Nicholas Sparks green with envy.

Sweet stories...we all have some form or fashion. We just need to remember to trust that God will weave the various threads of love, honor, purity, hope, pain, and endurance into a wonderful tapestry that testifies to a life well lived. We may have one of those blockbuster romances that inspires, or one of those quiet ones that is the cornerstone of a foundation for generations of love. Whatever your story is...I hope that you'll be grateful for it. I know I am...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


The first time it happened, I had attended a dance recital and saw a girl whose mother I was friends with at church performing beautifully. She seemed to have a grace and confidence that made her shine as she floated with the other dancers on the stage. So I sent her a letter to tell her so. I didn't really know her that well, but God laid it on my heart and I felt compelled to send the letter. She received it and her mother thanked me for taking the time, but she did admit that the child wondered why someone she didn't know well had written her. It made me doubt what I thought God was telling me and so for a number of years, my pen was silent.

Fast forward a few years...and I found myself face to face with one of those "thorn in the side" people that are brought into your life to remold you or to shave off the rough edges. This individual came in the form of a credit administrator who had the power to approve many of the loans that I was presenting when I was a commercial lender. He did not like the fact that I was wordy and that I tried to cover all of the bases. So, he was honest with me...and not in a kind way. He was ruthless with packages I presented and only let things through once he had battled over every point he could think of to raise. I learned to write my loan packages with no unnecessary words and by being honest about the strengths and weaknesses of each package I touched. I double checked addition on every column, researched industries relentlessly and quit being so thin-skinned about his disapproval. In fact, I came to expect it. So, when I left to go to work at another bank, God nudged me to send him a "thank you" note. I knew I was a better lender because of him. Granted, he had at times made my life a living hell...for five years. But I had become a pretty decent lender in the process.

I procrastinated and never made the time to send the note. He died two months later of a massive stroke. I've never forgotten falling short. And I've never been able to express to him the value of the lessons that he taught me. Who knew that my full time job would become writing and analyzing loan packages? Why? Because I could write a loan package that was easy to understand but covered all of the bases.

Since that time, I have never failed to pick up a pen when God has prompted me to do so. Letters have been sent to people as He directs without a lot of intervention on my part. The notes are in His time...not mine. In fact, from time to time, I've run into someone who has thanked me for a note that I'd forgotten I'd sent. Which just proves my point...the words may have come through me...but they are from Him.

Some people might think that is a little pretentious, but I don't. I believe that everyone here has gifts and talents that are unique and special. The true mark is that the person fails to see what a "big deal" that gift is in the service of others. Because our gifts really aren't for us to enjoy even though we often do. We forget that sometimes.

For me, I believe that my gift is words. God created in me a passion for reading and writing that borders on the obsessive. There have been times when I have been sitting at my desk at work and someone comes to mind. So I send a letter to them. I have no idea if these words matter to them or not and is none of my business. My job is to take God's prompting and to do as He asks. To encourage, to congratulate, or just to notice something that someone has done. I don't feel obligated nor compelled...I just write.

May I recommend the same to you? If you are ever touched by someone's work, accomplishments or just their presence in your life, would you tell them so? So many of us assume that people know how we feel about them...and then a time comes when it is too late to tell them how very special or necessary they are or were to make you who you are today. I'm not really suggesting that you make a list...but I am saying that if God puts someone or something on your not hesitate. I did once...and I do not advise it.

We don't really know what effect our positive words can have in the life of someone else. Just to know that someone believes in us and cares enough to take the time to write is an amazing gift. I received a gift just like this a couple of weeks ago from a relative that I have not seen in many years. It meant a lot to me. In fact, notes of encouragement that I have received for the past 25 years are still in my possession. I re-read them sometimes when I am beginning to doubt myself.

Words have power. God must have thought so since He left us the Bible to reflect upon as His collection of encouraging notes to us. So, write others when you are prompted and expect nothing in return. You may be speaking words of life to someone who desperately needs to hear them. My friend reminded me of this through a song I posted to my Facebook wall tonight. She took the time to think that I might enjoy it and get something from it. I did. Thank you. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010


January is a good month for new beginnings. A new year...and a chance for life to change in positive and productive ways. Many people make resolutions because they see the opportunity to hope and to dream. To visualize themselves with a life better than the one they are currently living...or at least to move in that general direction.

I find it odd that most people are procrastinators. We tend to put off doing those chores that do not excite out closets, doing our taxes, or filing paperwork. Term papers are done at the 11th hour, and we find in reality that we actually do invest a lot more time dreaming than doing. We visualize what needs to be done, but then we let ourselves get distracted. Anything...television, a phone call to a friend, the computer, shopping, or the laundry.

And so it after day...month after month...year after year.

In my opinion, the problem we have is not necessarily procrastination...but clutter. Every item that we own has a corresponding amount of maintenance assigned to its ownership. If you own a have to get it serviced. You must change the oil, wash it, replace the tires, and put gasoline in it. Fluids, belts and wipers have to be replaced periodically to keep the vehicle in perfect working order. It must be insured, kept out of violent weather and stored somewhere in the yard or garage. In other own a car...and it owns a piece of you. Well, at least a piece of your time and money.

Now, apply this principle to every item that you own. Every tablecloth has to be stored and pressed. Each plant has to be fertilized and watered. All of the knick knacks have to be dusted. The dogs have to go to the vet and require cute little sweaters (oh, wait...that's just my dogs). Jewelry has to be cleaned and insured. Electronics have to be updated with the latest software.

Over time, because we are as blessed as we are...we accumulate clutter. We have more clothes than we can possibly ever wear out if the styles wouldn't change. Men have it far easier in this regard, and also find their closets bulging over time. Big Dave is a perfect example of this. Although he has added some midsection weight...he has been virtually the same size for the past 28 years. His closet is a virtual "Island of Misfit Clothes" and he has put out the request that we not purchase anything for him for any holiday until he lets us know it's time. I was proud to purchase two new pair of jeans for him because he had flat worn out the two pair that he had. Banner day for me.

In fact, weight is actually "body clutter." That thought is not mine...I heard it somewhere and I have come to believe that it is true. We don't want to waste that last piece of we store it on our hips. We don't want to let out our grief or despair or depression...and so we stuff it down with cheese curls and kill two birds with one stone. I may not have a storage building to which I pay rent...but I have one that I carry around. And this is not a good thing.

How we actually make a resolution stick is to make a little change that we hold our ground on and then another and another. Eventually, we can look back and see the progress...but we have to be prepared for this to take awhile. It is kind of like getting on the treadmill with every intention of walking an hour and then talking ourselves into 30 minutes. We'd have been far more effective to have gone in there with resolve to do thirty minutes and then attempted the whole hour once we were already there, watching Fox News on TV and sweating like a pig. Then, hopping off at thirty minutes would have not only given us the satisfaction of a job well done...but the whole hour would be "gravy" instead of disappointment had we achieved it. Oh, but no. We berate ourselves for falling short and then make a sad little promise to ourselves of an hour and a half the next time. The next time, unfortunately, becomes two weeks later...or never. A death spiral of good intentions gone south that is way too familiar...for me at least.

Decluttering our lives gives us power. It frees us to be able to do the things in life that God has intended that we do. We aren't as harried and stressed because we don't have to spend a tremendous amount of time dreading the hurdles and maintaining the stuff in our lives. We end up more effective, happier, and more focused. This is not to say that we should not have nice things. It is to say that each of us is unique in finding the line between blessing and curse.

So how do we declutter? Well, we set realistic goals and throw away the calendar. We only have the we plan the future (putting our gym bag in the car for example) but we don't live in it. We don't give in to the temptation to look too far up the mountain...we just look for the next place we are going to put our feet. Instead of swearing that we'll clean out our closets, we decide that we will pull out those things that we do wear and set those aside. We'll look for any necessary repairs (hems, cleaning, etc.) and then put all of the colors together. What remains in the closet gets put into the piles of "maybe" or "Goodwill". Then we go back through the "maybe" pile three more times before it is placed in another pile. I'd be willing to bet that 90% of what is in the "maybe" pile will not make the cut to "yes". You aren't wearing it now because it doesn't fit, it doesn't flatter you, or it has outgrown its original purpose. Toss it...and bless someone else by getting it out of your closet.

If you can make one change...the rest of the changes aren't quite as painful. That's been my experience...and that's what I'm counting on to make this year more effective than the last one was.

As for me, I have a lot of body clutter that needs to go. It is difficult to change my eating, spending, and activity habits drastically because I don't want to overwhelm myself. But I'm going to do what I can in 2010 but what I am focused on is TODAY.

By the way, last year's resolutions were to give something away every day, to clean out a lot of closets, and to write. Those were the ones I kept.
This year, I want to read the book of Isaiah through the prophets, to lose weight (no goals), and want to do another advent box project next Christmas. There are others...but those are the ones I'm pretty sure that I can do. Why clutter up my resolutions list with the improbable?

So, as you go through your day tomorrow, remember to pry the fingers of ownership that your things have on you. You'll be happier and have more time to do what you need and want to do. The simple things mean the most anyway. Plus, the joy you get from giving things away to others who need them cannot be overstated. Trust me on this one.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


A friend of mine recently had a birthday. This is not particularly unique in that birthday celebrations are a fairly common experience. Some of us enjoy them immensely while others of us cringe with the realiation that the odometer of life continues to click away.

Birthdays are meant to honor the day that the world was graced with the presence of someone. They may take the form of a quiet family celebration, a dinner for two, or a loud, raucous gathering of people from the four corners of the earth. They may be to mark a "zero" birthday as someone changes the first number of their age for another ten years.

The actual birth of a person is generally marked with celebration tinged with fear of an approximately seven pound bundle of wonder. Perhaps there were problems that meant that expectations had to be altered. But whatever the feelings, an actual birthday is usually a memorable event for a family. Although my sister was in France giving birth to my nephew and niece, I remember the joy at getting the call. I remember being late for class as a junior in college when someone ran down the hall to tell me that I had a telephone call. A call that announced a son for my Dad and stepmother. I remember visiting the hospital and two friends become parents both the first and second times...arriving at the moment in both cases when the birth certificates were being signed.

A first birthday is normally marked with a little being sitting in a high chair and getting to experience for the first time...the joy of sugar. Photos are snapped incessantly and the little thing is surrounded by relatives and friends who cannot believe that a year has already flown by.

The first decade has parties with themes, and activities and magical cakes. It is where the joy of receiving is far more prevalent than the joy of giving, and where parents attempt to recreate any missed experiences that they had in their own lives. Every child loves to be the birthday boy or girl. And for the parents...these years are marked with rarely having a weekend without a birthday party squeezed in somewhere.

At age ten, we fill up our two hands and marvel at the fact that this will be the last year we can physically display our age to people. We are crossing over to the point where we are expected to tell rather than show, and where spend-the-night parties prevail.

And then we become teenagers...a moniker that strikes fear into the heart of the adults in our lives and a period of time where we might get to mark a "sweet 16" and have the opportunity to learn to drive. Dating and flying off to college come during these years when it seems like we are perpetually too young to do anything really "fun" we keep wishing those birthdays around each year.

Age 20 is particularly longer a teenager...but not yet an adult in every sense of the word. The birthdays in our 20's seem to be no big deal...we are no longer a kid...but we are young. We may be pairing up and starting families, establishing our careers or completing our educations or training. We may be enlisted in the military or buying our first home. Time is not our enemy.

When we turn 30, people start talking to us about "getting old" and being exhausted. We've shifted into overdrive in almost every facet of our existence. We strive so hard that we often burn out along the way...marriages left like roadkill, or health issues begin to present themselves. Our days are filled with soccer practice, baseball games, and church activities. Our parents are generally still in good health, and our children need us more. These birthdays click along in a blur...and we begin to see the seasons change more quickly and the days pass into months and years at warp speed.

At 40, we really begin to see the view from on top of the hill. Perhaps our waistlines or hairlines have taken a permanent vacation or we become "ma'am" to people that don't seem to be much younger than we are...except that they are. We are stretched thin and some days are actually dangerously close to snapping. We begin to understand that some of our dreams are going to be put on hold permanently, and we begin to accept this. We lose people that were important to us...teachers, church friends, and neighbors...and we may have to deal with losing family members as well. Economic challenges begin to mount as we educate our children and begin to realize that we have reached the apex of our earning potential. And the birthdays continue to roll around with each seeming to do so more quickly than the last.

At age 50, parties are planned...but are kinder than a decade ago. Our children are leaving or have already moved from the home. We begin celebrating silver wedding anniversaries and are watching our children get married. We realize that "looking good" means something entirely different than it did at 18...and we're okay with that. In fact, those who don't get that fact - the cougars - are looked upon with disdain. Okay, a little bit of envy too...but definitely some disdain.

When we turn 60, we begin to look toward retirement, are usually enjoying grandchildren and are still in great health. We may choose to travel now that our financial burdens are normally significantly lifted. We may start living some of those long-shelved dreams...anything from the trip of a lifetime to getting a tattoo. We may downsize and prioritize because the rat race of acquisition has left us with a house full of things that have no meaning to us. We may have even learned a tough lesson by having to clean out the house of a relative and we swore that it would never happen to us.

And then we turn 70. Did you know that there are no "Happy 70th Birthday" cards at the local Hallmark store? The number birthdays cards appear to cease at age 60. With people living longer and having wonderful, fulfilling lives, you'd think that this would not be the case. But it is. In my family, the 70's and 80's were periods of time when there may be some renovations made...but everything else was still within reach. The 90th birthday marked a time when a slowdown was finally necessary.

Birthdays give us the opportunity to mark where we are in life, and give others the chance to let us know how much they appreciate our presence in their lives. They might be difficult to experience sometimes, but they are coming around whether we choose to celebrate them or not.

So, this year as you celebrate your special day...remember that you will never pass this way again. Try to remember the joy of adding another finger to the physical presentation of your age instead of just giving it the middle one. You will never be any younger than you are today again. Frightening thought...isn't it? Or we can choose to be happy that we are still drawing breath. Can marvel at the joy of expectation of good things to come or at spending time with family.

Plus, you normally get to eat there's that.

Excuse Me, But Does My House Look Like a Best Western to You?

There are cute little stickers such as "Motherhood isn't for sissies..." that people grace their minivan bumpers with as they drive down the highway of life. We see them and smile because these little short snippets of wisdom pretty much capture the truth...sad as it sometimes is. Granted, there are the totally humorless ones such as "Save the Manatees"...but if we see something adhered to a bumper...we almost always make an attempt to read it in the hopes that it will make us crack up. At least I know I do.

In the South, we have our share of smart alecks, but we also hold our tongues and think far more than what we let actually get airborne. Oh, we aren't above pitching the "Oh no, she didn't!" hissy fit or putting someone in their place when it is really and truly necessary...but a lot of the time we sacrifice a lot of what should be said on the altar of hospitality, good manners, or being Christian about something. This is usually erased fairly quickly because we then gossip about whatever it was to whoever will listen...which puts us right down in the mudpit with them...but I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah...about motherhood not being for sissies.

Truer words were never spoken (or adhered to a vehicle). I mean, when we were pregnant, we had to listen to everyone's rendition of any difficulties experienced with conception, pregnancy, or labor in graphic detail. I've been in such diverse environments as a baby shower, a dentist's office and an elevator describing my 95 pound weight gain during my pregnancy with Jill. Yeah, the one where I looked like the Michelin Man and couldn't get in and out of the Jeep Wrangler I was driving without worrying about scaring people or hearing them whisper, "Bless her heart..."

I then graduated to the discussion of poop...a new mother subject that never seemed odd at the time...and one that actually spawned new friendships in the line at Toys R Us and the pediatrician's office. Why we are fascinated with this is possibly because they've sucked out our brain cells while we were carrying them or we are so sleep deprived that we actually think that someone - anyone - actually cares.

Once she stopped screaming nightly from colic and started sleeping through the night, we began two years of rocking her for 45 minutes and reading "Goodnight, Moon" so much that I can still recite most of it without even thinking hard. We got cereal in her after three weeks of rejection, and then finally got her to walk two weeks before her first birthday because I was having none of the comments about how lazy she was while everyone was there celebrating her birthday. Guess if I hadn't carried her everywhere it might have helped.

After her biting phase, cutting teeth, adjusting to her new little brother, and a well documented and quite hysterical aversion to school pictures, we got into the meat of her training...kindergarten. Later, five elementary teachers suggested that she might be a victim of the dreaded "Attention Deficit Disorder" before we finally got her tested and medicated. She made it through mean girls, boyfriends, cheerleading tryouts, high school, learning to drive and choosing a college pretty much intact. Looking back, I see what a miracle that was.

And boy has it been a ride.

But nothing prepares you for that whole "letting go" thing on the other side. And it is probably the part that I have handled the least gracefully. I've wanted to jerk a knot in males who act like children when they are closer to being men than boys. I've wanted to speak my piece about how something should be when I know that the decision is not mine to make. I've held back doing the things that are easy for me but harder for kids to adjust to such as making appointments and figuring out how to get a part time job. I've met young men that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up...not because they are bad guys...but because they are so obviously not Mr. Right...for her. And through all of that...I've been managing to keep my children speaking to me.

So, imagine my surprise at being confronted this week with a female houseguest that I laid eyes on one time in three days. She came in at all hours of the night and pretty much did her own thing while she was here. She wasn't driving...and I don't think she was whooping it up all over Montgomery. I mean, even if you want to whoop it up all over's just far more difficult to do than it should be. Or so I've been told. But her behavior was just downright tacky.

I've had to keep from saying the words, "Excuse me, but does my house look like a Best Western to you?" to this young lady. A young lady whose mother would die a thousand deaths if she had an inkling that her child had come to my house and acted like we don't mind her coming in "whenever". Whenever turned out to be no earlier than 1:45 a.m. And what do you do with this? I mean, I could go all "gonzo" her mother, pitch a fit, confront her about it...but I swore that off after I texted one of Jill's friends who was being a jerk and we needed to know if the date was on or off. But, alas, it wasn't my battle...and I came off looking like a stressed out, hovering, crazy old bat...which I suppose was pretty much spot on. (Come to think of it...he was a houseguest here at the Mixon Best Western too...)

So, here are a few rules that I think that teenagers should understand and try to live by. And before you give me advice...believe me...I know that I am an adult, this is my home and that I should have spoken my mind. I will in the future. But this just caught me so off guard, that I've been sitting here all caught up in this "what the..." moment.

1. If you are a guest in someone's should be in before midnight unless accompanied by someone who actually lives in the house. And NO, the dog coming in with you from outside does not count.

2. If you are under 21, you should not discuss how you talked to a couple of gang members in a Waffle House at 3 a.m. when you were out of your mind drunk and were surprised at how cool they were. Come to think about it, I really don't want to hear about it if you are over 21 either.

3. I do not need to know who is a "ho" or the who, what, where, when and how of any of your extracurricular activities. I'd really, really, really rather not know.

4. I am really not interested in how broke you are when you can manage to entertain me with your exploits involving alcohol, tattoos, or both. Especially when you are whining that your parents don't give you any money while you are sitting on your butt at home not trying to find a job.

5. Your brushes with the law are none of my business.

6. If your parents are crazy, I probably don't need the details. If it's that bad...we'll get a licensed professional or law enforcement involved.

7. Please don't call me from jail. Although I will pick you up from any location in Montgomery County if you "accidentally" drink something...I am in no way going to feel obligated to bail your sorry rear end out of jail.

8. Yes, I can proofread your paper for you...but I'd appreciate it if it is legible and you have at least attempted to string words together.

Oh, there are more...but most of these are some of the actual discussions I've had with various kids over the past six years...and most of the time kids who were not my own.

No, motherhood is not for sissies...but it is wonderful. There are times when I look at the kids who are actually growing into great, normal adults and I think about what a process the whole thing is from start to finish. And my bumper sticker suggestion? I just want one that says "Mother." That one word pretty much sums it up.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Light years ago, there were four channels on television...ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS. Because I grew up approximately an hour and fifteen minutes from Atlanta, sometime in junior high school we got WTBS - Channel 17. It was Ted Turner's cable network, and it ran movies and reruns of programs including The Beverly Hillbillies, I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan's Island and Bewitched. Within a few years, there was an explosion of cable options...but I remember when...

In fact, one summer, I got into "Lillias, Yoga and You" on PBS out of complete and total boredom. I was thirteen. Had I known then what I know now...I'd have paid closer attention and would be slim and teaching yoga somewhere right now.

I also remember watching until the national anthem was played and then being devastated that I had to go read or something instead being the little night owl that I was. I don't hear any station go off the air anymore. Now they just fill the time with infomercials and heinous crime shows.

I used to be quite the TV hound when bored, and can still tell you the Friday night lineup from sometime in the early 1970s including The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Room 222, The Odd Couple and Love American Style. Stupid shows...all of them. But that was my sad little life at the time. Later on, football games replaced my Friday night television watching. I've never looked back...

But then and now, I am always captivated by "Bewitched". I didn't know anyone named Samantha, Endora, or Tabitha...nor did I know anyone who had so many nutty relatives who was clearly not a Southerner. The relatives got on my nerves, but Elizabeth Montgomery was always so put together that I just bought that she was the "black sheep" of her family for being normal much like Marilyn was in "The Addams Family."

I didn't even mind the interchangable husbands...both named Dick in real life but neither of which I particularly liked a whole lot. I was more partial to Dick Sargent...primarily because he wasn't as annoying as Dick York but I couldn't see her settling for either one of them. Someone like Gerard Butler? Yes. These losers? Absolutely not.

But what I really loved...was her clean house. And that she chose a nice, normal existence (such that it was) over the alternative. She seemed to be really and truly okay with it. The fact that she wanted to do her own housecleaning meant that she was a little touched. That one thing alone probably sealed her as a shoo-in for that Lizzie Borden role that my mother has never forgiven Elizabeth Montgomery for...since she could obviously do crazy. I only know one person who keeps a house like Samantha Stevens did. ONE. I like to go there because it is the house I'd like to live in if I weren't so hopelessly domestically challenged.

I think now about what I would change if I could just wiggle my nose and make things jump in line. First to go? The extra weight, the junk in the bedroom that refuses to stay straight, and President Obama would be back in Chicago working as a community organizer. I'd have the driveway in front of the house fixed, a new puppy (potty trained of course) and I'd have Merry Maids in every day. I'd have the dogs groomed, my hair perfectly coiffed, and I'd be traveling...DAILY...without the hassles.

And that's just for starters.

But I'm old enough to have realized that if you make one change...then there are consequences that follow. And where Samantha could figure out away to tie up all of the loose ends (in 30 minutes no less), I just don't think I have that in me. Which would mean that someone would try to have me committed. There are days that I might qualify as it is without the nose wiggle.

So, I'll just imagine a life without hassles or messes, dust or drama, and I'll appreciate when things actually work out right. Sometimes they do when we least expect it or in spite of our best efforts.

Plus, I've tried to imagine my life as Samantha...and it is quite comical. Rememeber how Sam would be surrounded by monkeys tearing up her living room while Aunt Clara was trying to remember what she did to get them there in the first place?

Believe me...had they been monkeys in my living room, they would have been leaving monkey bunk everywhere and throwing it on the walls...or it would be mating season. Aunt Clara would be menopausal and mean as a snake instead of just cute and bumbling. Uncle Arthur would be having issues with his new husband and there would not be enough alcohol in the state of Alabama for me to have the ability to deal with the likes of Gladys Kravitz. And Serena? She'd have her own reality show along with the other skanks. I won't even visualize issues with Tabitha and Adam...especially because Tabitha had that whole nose wiggle thing going on as well...and she looked like T-R-O-U-B-L-E standing in that playpen back in the day as it was.

Oh well, my bedroom is a mess, my driveway needs regraveling, and I'm overweight. Big whoop. At least I am conforted by the thought that there are no monkeys in my living room. Not today anyway. And for this...I am grateful.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


This weekend we are at a crossroads. Our daughter, Jill, did not perform as she had hoped in her accounting class, and she is now concerned about the need to change her major from business to something else. But what else? That's the big question on the sign at the crossroads where we find ourselves now standing.

I say "ourselves" because it is her Daddy and I who are funding the four year training course otherwise known as college. And we, like most parents these days, are finding that the money tree outside is more like the money branch or the money seedling than anything else. Oh, we have paid private school tuition for the better part of the last two decades, and you'd think that this outlay would prepare us for the money pit that is also known as college. And that is where you would be wrong.

So, I did what every good hovering, panicked, running on fumes in the financial arena does when presented with information of this nature and I started looking at potential occupations for my little precious. Granted, she is going to do exactly the same thing that I am doing and it will be her decision, but I couldn't stand the suspense of not knowing just how close to the brink of disaster we'd be if she decided to change horses in midstream. The answer - thankfully - is "not too bad". Most of what she has taken to date has been either a general studies class or could cross up for something else (ie economics can count in the same category as psychology.)

Now I am waiting for her to ask the burning question...and that is "what do you think I should do?" And to this there is no correct answer. This is that grand crossroads where you have to accept that you may train them up in the way that they should go...but there comes a point where they have to believe in themselves and trot off in a direction for better or worse.

I have always been fascinated by that bible verse by the way...Proverbs 22:6. I've always thought that it meant with regard to a Christian upbringing, but I think it may be more than that. I somehow believe that it means that we - as parents - are to help discover and encourage the natural talents and abilities which God infused into the little beings in our care. We are to look for their passions and temperaments as well as their natural abilities to steer them toward something that will eventually allow them to support themselves while giving them the ability to be used by God for kingdom work at the same time. I should have gone into an English or journalism major...but I settled on business. What I now do is write for a a bank. Interesting.

With Jill, I see a beautiful, organized, efficient girl. She loves her family, friends and animals. She can memorize anything...and is literal, honest, and able to express herself. She hates being the center of attention (although she is beautiful and doesn't like being ignored either), will not sing in public (although she adores music), and manages her money well (she goes directly to the sale rack). She is not interested in fame, following a dream, or seeing the world. She will make a wonderful wife one day as she isn't spoiled in a negative way and she is one of the most loyal people I know. As a mother...she will be patient and will provide the perfect combination of stability, reliability and love that children need to feel grounded.

She would be content to be the center of someone's world, raise children, and figure it all out in her own time. But you know...sometimes you have to figure it out now and trust that the pieces will fall into place later on. We'll see if she is she will stay in the business school, move to education, or even public relations. I have no idea which will best suit her...but God does.

Funny how we make our plans sometimes and we carry on until we get to a crossroads. Perhaps it is a serious disappointment, the realization that Plan A is not in the cards, or because someone has told us that there are limited funds and time is running out. It may be a layoff, a family change, or a move to a new locale. And when we get to the fork in the is then that we decide to look up.

We are currently praying that Jill will make the choice that will take her not only in the direction of her undisclosed as they appear to be right now...but in the direction that will lead her to God's best instead of having to watch her loop back around to it after spending some time in the desert. Time is precious...and I don't want her wasting any of that treasure.

This'll find us sitting on a bench just outside the crossroads. It isn't my favorite spot, but perhaps one day, it will make perfect sense that we decided to dwell here awhile. But ultimately, I will have to leave her on the bench to wrestle this tiger alone. And from what I know of my girl...she will be victorious. She'd better be...the money tree is looking a little pekid...