Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reaping and Sowing

The other day I planted tomato plants in a garden that Big Dave made for me last year. I have been attempting to grow things in a garden since 1987...according to some photos I took when I was young, thin and not so bright...but have always gotten too excited and wanted to just plant one of everything in a space too small. Oh well.

I'm a champ at growing basil...and my tomatoes are hit and miss...and peppers have done fairly well. But I've never achieved anything close to what I've seen other people produce with far less effort. I've never let that stop me from going through the ritualistic purchasing of the tomato plants every Spring. But this year, I decided that I would simplify...get down to what it was that I really enjoy the most...and plant that. So, I have six tomato plants - two of them cherry tomatoes - some basil, mint, and for some reason that escapes me now - Italian parsley.

While I was digging in the dirt I was thinking about I often do when I slow down long enough to catch my breath. And I realized the correlation between what I was doing...and what my life has really been about...planting something that I hoped would produce a harvest I'd be proud of somewhere down the road.

I guess all of us do sowing of some kind. If we are parents...we are trying to grow good strong families and are investing heavily in those little people that may not be so little anymore. We put off our needs to make sure that they have what they need and a great deal of what they want. We drive them to practices, cheer from the stands, and hold our breath until they are safely under our roofs at night. We attend concerts that make us question our sanity (mine: Backstreet Boys), we pay tuition payments, forego anything new because there is a prom dress or tux that takes precedence, and we don't really even mind. When we get an attitude, we may remind them of what we are giving up...but even as we speak the words we both know that we would do it regardless of whether we particularly liked them that at point in time or not. All we really want as parents is an acknowlegement from time to time that they know we love them enough to sacrifice for them...and that it matters. Because nothing is worse than believing that you don't matter to your child...except thinking that you don't matter to God.

Other times we sow time and energy into the lives of friends. Some are going through a tough spell, and others are just wonderful people with which we enjoy sharing experiences and laughter. We also sow our time into our it at a job, at home, or in a volunteer capacity. We stand outside a clinic with a sign and a prayer on our lips. We cover a shift for a coworker who wants to go to a soccer game. We spend extra time at the nursing home or with a patient. We help a young mother walk a colicky baby so that she can have a few minutes to step outside and feel the breeze on her face in the quiet night.

Most of us focus on the sowing of ourselves without a whole lot of regard for the reaping. We expect that our investment will mature our children into strong, godly adults and other people into lifelong friends. We don't really know what the plan is...we just do what we are called to do.

I like to think of this as my mission field. I'm not perfect, but the people that He has brought into my life are the people that I am intended to impact. Likewise, any person who has come into your path in life is YOUR mission field.

Although you may be called to the ministry or to Africa or China...chances're supposed to do your work where God planted you. You are to try to make a difference with the people that you know but only as you are called to do so. If you aren't isn't your assignment. My friends know that I am not always great about keeping in touch, but that I value their friendships. I don't do hospitals, and I am not much help with people who are in love with their problem or who expect me to follow an invisible script. My mercy quotient is low...but my justice quotient is high.

In my experience, I have found that there are people who get the whole equation of sowing and reaping confused. They believe that because they invested in someone...that they deserve a return. Normally, this return is on their terms and is to be in a way of their choosing. To not decode the hidden message that surely you should have known means that they will no longer be your friend. Sad, but true. Other people believe that any person with a kind heart and a strong shoulder is supposed to take on their every burden as their own. We are not necessarily called to do that either. And then there are those who never sow a thing in the lives of anyone...but they will suck the life out of anyone who comes close enough like some giant emotional tick.

So, as I look forward with anticipation to an excellent tomato sandwich sometime this summer, I'm also thinking about where I am sowing my time, effort and energy. I'd love to have a harvest of beautiful friendships and lives touched in a positive way some day. But just as I am not responsible for all of the conditions that will hopefully make my tomatoes grow...God provides the sun and rain...I will assume that He will provide me with the opportunities to serve the mission field that is uniquely mine for a harvest that will one day truly matter. At least that's my hope tonight.

Each of us has an opportunity to plant our lives into good soil. Sometimes there is a drought...and other times frost will wreck the crop. We just have to nuture those whom we have invested in...and pray that they will be all that He called them to be. And if we are in the opposite the reaping stage...may we be happy knowing that He was honored by those little seeds of faith, time, love, and energy we planted.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Tonight I filled out the dreaded FAFSA for Jill's upcoming junior year. The letters stand for something like "Federal Application For Student Aid" but I think it should stand for "Freaking Annoying Form for Student Aid" instead. Granted, it filled in some of the eight thousand response boxes for me automatically because I have already suffered through this particular exercise in futility on two other occasions.

I call it that because I'll get a form back in a couple of weeks that will basically state that we aren't eligible for any of the grants...but they'll be happy to help us out with a student loan. The truth is...I really want someone to just send me a check for the gazillion dollars it takes to get a kid through college these days so that I can quit considering my fallback plan...selling everything I own on eBay.

For those of you unschooled in this particularly heinous ritual of spring, the FAFSA is a necessary evil for every college bound student. It is the school's marching orders with regard to financial aid offerings...and if you don't fill it out...I'm sure that something just awful will happen. I don't actually know this, but I assume it to be so.

(And yes, those of you who had Coach Smith like I did in the 8th grade...I do know what happens when one assumes.)

The FAFSA has a list of information that you are supposed to gather before you even attempt to sit down and fill the thing out online. Among these are your child's driver's license (or is it drivers' license...I have no idea),their social security number, your adjusted gross income from the previous year, the year President Roosevelt was born, and the number of stars comprising the Big Dipper. You'll then place any income that you earned in various categories, figure out the school's code, and put in at least two different PIN numbers from a file that you haven't seen in a year, and will insert your mother's first dog's original owner's maiden name. Or something equally random.

Then they have the audacity to ask you to verify that it is correct. I'm still looking for the box that says "I assume so" because I'm honestly not really sure if I answered the questions correctly in spite of the fact that I think I'm intelligent enough to walk and chew gum. Apparently some people are not...or are just chronically lazy...because they have a section where a preparer can do this whole awful thing for you. I guess if you can afford to have someone clean your house, landscape your yard and give you an in-house can afford to hire someone to do your FAFSA. I can only dream...

So, I've finished that chore for another year and I anxiously await the report that will tell me that we are too wealthy to get financial aid. Um. Okay. If we eat ramen noodles and live in the dark for the next year...we might be able to contribute the amount that the government thinks we should be able to contribute as a family. As if. There's no box on there that gives me license to just spout why we need financial aid such as..."female child...likes to dress cute...highlighting mandatory"...apparently by design.

I'm not complaining too loudly, though. We do have the PACT plan (Prepaid Affordable College Tuition) which I can only hope holds out until Brian graduates in 2015. That is the year that I do the happy dance for having both kids off of my payroll and when I expect to be able to resume certain things like buying clothes that actually fit and driving a car less than a decade old. Jill will probably reward my enthusiasm and newfound zest for life with an announcement of a wedding or something (expensive) like that.

On the other hand...that IS only five years away. Could be worse. My friends have children in elementary school and junior high. I have one more year of private school tuition, two years of college for one and four years for the other to go. Then possibly a wedding, a rehearsal dinner...and I can then devote myself to paying off everything remaining...or living in a van down by the river.

So, I'm about to go to bed with visions of numbers and forms and ridiculous questions floating through my head. At least I can check the FAFSA off the list and won't have to visit it for another year. And who knows? Maybe we'll get news that she's eligible for work-study or something like that. Yeah...right.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Heavy Heart

Tonight I have a heavy heart for a family that is hurting somewhere in Georgia. A tragedy has taken two family members and the lives touched by these two is no doubt impacting countless other people right now. Every day we hear of an accident, a diagnosis, or news of someone who was called home after a long life. We read the names on prayer request lists, in our church bulletins and in the local news. But it never really hits home until the name is of someone in our inner circle...someone from our early years...or someone who has made a difference in our lives. But in reality...since all of us are connected in the family of faith...what happens to one of us...happens to us all.

We don't really think about death because life gives us so much to think about in one 24 hour period. We get up, move forward, do what we need to do, and the minutes turn to hours to days, weeks, months and years. We go to - or avoid - reunions, and we are happy to catch up on the positive things that have happened in the intervening years. We watch our children grow from babies to preschoolers to high school graduates in what seems like an instant. But yet we somehow grasp that time will not march on for us forever. Maybe we bury a beloved pet after years of enjoying its unconditional love. Or we see the effects of aging in our faces and hairlines.

Yet for all of this...time fools us because we feel like the young people we were on the inside...even though our bodies are beginning to inform us that the odometer of life is continuously turning over. And every so often we will get news of someone prematurely passing away...and it jolts us back to the knowledge that life is short.

We may attend funerals from time to time. Sometimes these are for people who have had a long and wonderful life and have reached the years when the quality of life has become tenuous. We celebrate who they were to us...caretakers...neighbors...friends. Other times, people have had time to deal with the knowledge that their bodies are failing them and it is almost considered a blessing that the pain is over. But the times when it comes at us out of left field...are almost impossible to get our arms around. Much less our hearts.

Our next breath is not guaranteed. Our happiness is not either. We can do everything right...and have the rules change on us midstream. Some things that we try to analyze them just don't make when the undeserving win or when people make a royal mess of their lives and are able to come out intact on the other side. Unfortunately, although God is in control, tragedies exist in this life. We can't even begin to guess why that is. We just have to trust that there will be an exit door to the pain at some point.

That exit door is called hope. Some people find it easily and others have to live in the valleys of despair for several seasons. Those with a strong faith can pull themselves out of the abyss using it as a lifeline. And those who have been there before can be the most effective witnesses by showing that it can be done.

I am sad for the news that I received today...and will be praying for the family. I know that God is with them...and believe that all of us need to remember what really is important. friends. Be grateful if you have one of the three...overjoyed if you have two...and blessed beyond measure if you have all three. And if you sure that those who are the closest to you know your heart...even if it feels particularly heavy right now.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pressing On

Today I had my office dictionary in hand...(you know, the one with no cover, yellowed pages, and no real has just been in my possession forever) and I was looking up a word. Call it pride...but there are few things that annoy me more than misspelled words. The fact that I am tough on keyboards and I have a laptop at home and at work is not always a good thing. I've found that lately I've been missing a letter here and there in words which I prefer to blame on the equipment rather than operator error. Yes, I type fast and hate proofreading my own work. Just know that if you see that from time to time that I am mortified (in spirit).

At the top of one of the pages was the word "press" and I had one of those revelations that this word has numerous meanings and was part of other words that I relate to. I'll try to compress these into a somewhat coherent blogpost as my mind has been galloping with possibilities. It would probably be better for my thighs if I were physically galloping, but whatever.

This past week, my mentor in this weight loss plan told me that when she got weak...she kept focusing on the bible verses in Philippians 3:12 and 3:14 with the words "press on..." She said "when the flesh starts screaming obscenities like 'chocolate cake' and 'fried chicken' you have to press on."

Very true words.

If we look at the temporary discomfort, we never change our behavior. If we don't change our behavior, we march in place. If we march in place too long, we will miss the journey we were meant to travel. If we miss the journey, we will have regrets. If we have regrets, we could grow bitter. If we grow bitter, we are unable to do what God calls us to do in this life. So, in that context...I have to press on.

Sometimes pressing on causes more pressure than we can imagine. We have to explain our choices to other people when they are out of the mainstream. Telling a room of coworkers that you appreciate the effort that they took in purchasing your favorite birthday cake that you aren't eating seems odd. So does turning down red velvet Cold Stone Creamery ice cream cake, a free lunch, and homemade guacamole. And that was just the first week.

After a while, this show of willpower might begin to depress me as the "lifestyle changer", or begin to impress others who had begin to give up that I had it in me. Neither alternative is really the main concern right now is survival. Just getting through the minefield of day to day living is my biggest concern.

I have noticed that some people are starting to crawl into the foxhole with me. They are calling to ask how it's part to insure that I am still atop the wagon. However, while the lower number is nice (13.4 pounds...but who's is really nice is knowing that it is possible. I had all but given up.

I don't mind hopping on the scale right now to see the mind numbing number that is still exceeding my full blown pregnancy with Jill - preeclampsia and all. It has kept moving lower, and I'm beginning to believe that it might be possible for me to be able to eventually purchase something to wear that couldn't shade a family of six if I put it on poles. Oh, it isn't THAT bad...I'm not requiring a crane to get out of the house yet...but dang.

What I noticed this week is that I have ankles again. I'd kind of lost touch with them...but they are back. I've also noticed that my skin is clearer. Must be the vitamins and the incredible quantities of water that I am consuming. Those little changes mean the world to me. I'm far away from buying clothes in anything but size OMG, but the cravings are over and the headache from the caffeine withdrawal wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Yay me.

Anyway, I have discovered other things about myself...such as that I will drive to every Publix in town to find the right low carb pitas and that I may like organic yogurt from Stonyfield better...I now look forward to the 4 ounce cup of "diabetic friendly" yogurt I get each morning. I've also become a huge fan of herbal teas. I mean...skinny women are always offering people tea in the there must be something to it. I got that last observation from my coach, by the way.

So, as I press on to the next week...I am not feeling the pressure of fear of failure. Oh, I may still fail...but I'm asking God to please intervene before I go rogue and end up in line at Krispy Kreme or something. I want to walk down the aisle one day as the mother of the bride and mother of the groom...and I'd like to A) be here and B) transport myself down the aisle instead of riding on a Hoveround or a segway. That would just be too tacky.

If you have room on your prayer list, please put me on it. I believe that I've gotten this far by the grace of God...and because of the time invested in me by a wonderful woman who saw me hurting and threw me a lifeline. If you'll excuse me, Big Dave is about to cook some shrimp and vegetables on the grill, and I think I'll join him.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Random Thoughts - III

Sometimes life is hard, and sometimes life is grand. But all in is a wonderful struggle. We have daily decisions to make, news to bear, and work to do, and somehow we normally muster the strength and enthusiasm to get up and face the next day...and the next. We have people that come into our lives, animals that give us unconditional love, and people that break our hearts.

We vacation to give ourselves a break from a life that is lived on overdrive and to provide our children with enriching experiences of travel, family memories, and because our neighbors do. In fact, a lot of what we do is to impress the neighbors, sadly. We drive our children from what appears to be the cradle to every imaginable lesson, playdate, and team sport because we might find a God-given talent that will surely wither on the the vine if not for our insistence to bring it out, develop it, and hopefully one day help them land a scholarship for it.

We concern ourselves with who they are dating, how they are doing, and try to make sure that they have the ability to fit in. Too bad we don't value the ability to stand out in uniqueness as much as we should. We want a variation of a "sound bite" to give our friends and neighbors as a report of what our children are doing...and accomplishing...instead of praying for them and quietly nurturing them and training them up in the way that they "should" go as the Bible says. We believe that the "should" includes good grades, a plethora of extracurricular activities and marrying up. This is especially important to some of us as we intend to correct any and every mistake that we ever made by insuring that those don't occur with our children.

Where we once kept our feelings to ourselves and in check in front of others, we are now encouraged to express our opinions. We blast telemarketers because they have interrupted our time, we rail at politicians who vote the wrong way, and we yell at the lady in the drivethru who can't seem to manage to get the correct McNugget sauce in the bag. We complain about our looks, our jobs, and our mates. We wish for the opposite of what we have and wonder why other people don't value us. We see the glass as half empty and whine that it is full of tap water instead of Evian.

And then one day we realize that our ladder of success has been on the wrong wall and we have to descend to attempt to find another ladder. Why climb when we can soar? Sometimes, though, we have to have the ladder jerked out from under us so that we can explore what we were meant to accomplish.

But all of us need to start looking around with an appreciative eye because we've spent way too much time complaining and not enough time thanking God for all that we have.

So, for any of you who are feeling the pangs of regret that you turned down invitations because you were fearful of the perception of others...vow to never let that be an excuse again. Look for the greatness within each person you encounter...and appreciate the gifts and talents that God prewired into every one of us. After all, we are all reflections of Him in some way. Let your children feel the sting of defeat and learn lessons that will strengthen them and make them capable of navigating this life. Without the knowledge that they can fail and survive...they will never know...or at least fully appreciate...the joy of perseverance and succeeding. They'll need that grit to be able to stand true to their faith in the midst of what the Bible promises will not be a bed of roses.

If people need them. If you've been down that road them the rabbit trail that you found and get them safely headed in the right direction. If you are a warrior...fight for what you believe in. Picket, write, call, and pray. But don't help people who God doesn't place in your path, that are in a pickle because of their own stupid decisions, and if you don't have the means to do so. If you try, you'll only sign on for a stint in codependency that won't break the cycle...and will certainly break your heart and empty your wallet. If God calls you to sure that it was you that He called.

Be strong in your faith, true to your word, and exceptional in your output. Try to use what is at your disposal, and quit wanting the newest, brightest and best. That kind of gluttony and vanity will eventually consume you. Use any power you are given for the greater good, and realize that when you at your weakest...God will step in and work beside you so that everyone sees His power working through you. He normally uses common vessels to do great works.

If you've made mistakes, acknowledge that and move on. Letting that define your life means that you'll have a lifetime of regret and bitterness and not much else. If you need help...ask. But don't expect other people to drop everything to talk you through something more than one time. And for those of you who do help...expect nothing in return. Not even "thank you." If something does not go according to plan, there is probably a reason for it...and that is that it simply wasn't your destiny. Accept it and quit living in the past.

I don't know why I am so full of philosophical thoughts today...but this is what God put on my heart to here it is. I'm just the messenger. I hope that you find peace and dignity, strength and beauty in what faces you today and that you'll remember that looking up is the answer to most of life's problems. Frankly, it is designed that way.

So, watch a sunrise, listen to a baby's laugh, call your mother or children, and see the irises and daffodils bloom. Be happy. Quit worrying. Stop striving so hard. Give up your expectations of yourself...and others. Breathe.

Thanks for reading. :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When She Laughs

When I was a young mother, I remember a specific afternoon sitting in our house in Deerfield on the couch...just Jill and me. She was about four months old, and had finally gotten over the colic (a real buzzkill to motherhood if there ever was one). The house was quiet, and David was not home it was just the two of us. What I remember most is that we sat there that how she watched me with those beautiful blue eyes and just smiled and laughed. I have burned that memory into my heart and mind's eye...and can still recall how her little face looked at that point in time. While I loved her from the first moment I held her, I can honestly say that it was at that moment that she truly stole my heart.

As time went on, she grew into a strong-willed toddler and on to a preschooler with long blond hair and enough energy to light up a room...or destroy it. She would twirl in circles to make herself dizzy and would then sit in the floor and laugh hysterically. She had a cute little raspy laugh that was hypnotic, and eyes that watched intently to make sure that I was watching her. It was in my best interest to be most of the time I was.

Years later, groups of girls ran through the house and out to the pool squealing and laughing. My girl was usually right in the middle of them. Sometimes, I'd end up driving them around somewhere so that they could safely play "Chinese fire drill" as we listened to Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" or AC/DC at high volume. In my rearview mirror I'd see the braces flashing as they'd sing along. It was either my music, Nelly, or something equally heinous like the Backstreet I introduced the girls to "real music."

When she was in 9th grade, I saw her face light up when she was given special treatment by her 11th grade Powder Puff coach. He ended up being a part of her life - and ours - for the next couple of years. I have dozens of pictures of them smiling and just enjoying being young. She and her best friends would laugh and dress up and do crazy things like head to Blockbuster with their hair in a gazillion ponytails...or something equally tacky. I just remember catching a glimpse of her beautiful smile as often as I could (compliments of Dr. Chapman and some large amount of money that I've tried to block from my consciousness).

During Rush (now called "Recruitment" but whatever) she walked out under the Phi Mu letters with her beautiful pledge sisters and I was smiling so much my face hurt. She looked at me from across the crowd and I had another moment of connection. I know that all daughters need to be free to choose their sorority...and that there are so many legacies that it is even difficult to have that as a benefit...but when they choose really is a moment that is uniquely special.

Now that she no longer lives under my roof, I've found that what I really miss the most is hearing her laugh...and seeing her smile. I know that she has excellent friends, sorority sisters, and has met some incredible people in Tuscaloosa. But I miss my girl. Text messaging is fine for mundane things like reminders or information exchanges...but I really love is when I get a call and I can see her smile in her voice. Times like that are magical.

I know that in time, some young man is going to come along that makes her laugh and sees her beautiful blue eyes and finds that she has captured his heart...just like she captured her Mama's heart twenty years ago. I know that he will be special because we've been praying for him for many years. And I have a it "Mother's Intuition" that one day when I ask him when she is most beautiful he'll say..."when she laughs."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Random Thoughts...The Sequel

I'd like to be light tonight but I don't really think that I can. There are times in life when the clouds sweep in and you just have to trust that eventually the sun will shine again. I don't know if it is the colder than normal winter, the political climate, or just being battle weary, but I'm tired.

It is times like these where you have to decide whether you want to get up and move on...or simply wallow in it. I've had to keep moving out of I'll keep doing that here as well.

So, on the bright side...all is well. My family is healthy, our lights are on, and the dog isn't pregnant. I have things to look forward to, people I will see soon that I haven't laid eyes on in person in 25 years, and I've lost a total of 11.2 pounds as of this morning. Big Dave is busy, Jill is excited about someone she has met, and Brian is 5'5" and doing well...other than the fact that he seriously needs a haircut.

I have my parents, I have my in-laws, and I have a job. The pantry is full, the bills are paid (for March anyway) and my kitchen is clean. I wasn't cut off today in traffic, and I have enough underwear to last me the rest of the week. I even got a coupon for a free pair of panties from Victoria's Secret today in the mail...and if I get really down...I can always go in and ask the salesgirl for a thong in a size small...just to watch her squirm.

My dogs are vaccinated as are my children. We have the medical care we need (well, as of today anyway) and I don't hate Verizon as much as I normally do in spite of the fact that I am now using one of the free phones we got with the service in 2006. My text messages are interesting to say the least. (Who knew that "Asian" and "Brian" were the same unless you click it to change when you text.)

There were young people in my house last Saturday, so my hug quotient is up, and that's always positive. As is the fact that the local law enforcement didn't call us the week of Spring Break. Plus, Brian has been giving me the occasional hug without my asking him to. Guess waiting on him hand and foot is an effective strategy in this regard. Whatever it takes...

My birthday was great, and my folks were very generous with me. I also received a birthday cake...half of which is in my freezer...and none of which is on my hips. (Granted, the cakes from the previous 46 birthdays probably are...but not this year.) I was taken to lunch by friends and was blessed with sweet sentiments, gifts, cards, and even flowers from Big Dave.

There is a pitcher of sweet tea in the refrigerator, so I won't have to hop up and make any for the two consumers...because apparently mine tastes better than anyone (or they are simply too lazy to make it themselves). There's also a pot of soup that I made yesterday for Brian to eat this week. It was my Gammy's recipe...and I feel her presence when I serve it.

I've laughed at good jokes, rested when I could, and have even nearly finished a book this week. I've reorganized my photos, watched two movies, cleaned out my trunk (after a year) and managed to accept the fact that Dannon Light & Fit Sugar Control yogurt is not nirvana...but it is not gag-worthy either.

So, I'm looking up for rays of sunshine. An excited phone call from my daughter. A request for take out from my son while he's working...which lets me know that I'm still needed. The sounds of gentle snoring (or not so gentle) from the couch. A video call with my sister in France.

These are the ins and outs, the ups and downs that define my life. A life that I'm trying to live well...but sometimes struggle to understand. I don't like it when the bad guys win, and I've never been the kind to sit on the sidelines indefinitely. I'm more of the "Braveheart" kind than anything. So, the developments as of late in the political realm have caused me to want to don some facepaint and head north with a sign. (Don't worry...I don't own a gun.)

Anyway, sorry for the rambling, but I haven't written in a few days, and this is what was in the brain today. Bits and pieces of life. Points in time...thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Break

Today I want to smile. I have been taking some serious B-12 and B whatever vitamin supplements, have lost seven pounds, and I'm still basking in the glow of my birthday week. I've also consumed enough vegetables to make a vegan envious and enough water to keep me going to and fro on a fairly frequent basis. I guess I can consider that exercise.

I've been struggling with my weight since I was a and on...and I know exactly what I need to do to not have issues. But knowing and doing are not exactly the same thing. I mean, I understand that the road to hell is paved with good intentions or something equally profound.

I haven't written for several days because I've been a busy girl. But it is now Spring Break. It is for the rest of the world, anyway, who are at the beach, the ski slopes, on a mission trip, or somewhere else fun. I haven't been able to go on Spring Break for years. You'd think I'd be sad, but I've entered those years where my kids would actually prefer to go on their own.

This past Saturday, I had a whole host of Jill's sorority sisters and ATO friends through here for the fastest consumption of grilled hamburgers on record, and a reorganization of vehicles that was absolutely hysterical to witness. They are all at the beach and I am pleased to report that I have not been called to bail anyone out of jail yet. I consider this a good thing. I can say that this particular group did not leave a mess, thanked us profusely for feeding them, and actually made me wish that they were staying longer. I really do miss having a bunch of kids around the house.

I've also turned the odometer of life this week to the big number 47 and I'm not quite comfortable with it yet. I do like the number 7 a fact, I moved my wedding day to 7-7-85 because I hated the number 6. That meant that I got married on a Sunday. A little unusual, but that extra day gave me time to visit with people who had come to the wedding and that totally rocked. So, I am hoping that this coming year will be a good year. If the birthday festivities are any is off to a good start.

I have been on a food program for the past five days. I will explain later, but I can say that it is not Weight Watchers (aka Rehab)and I'm only accountable to one human being other than myself...and God. One day I will tell the story of how this all started, but I'd really like to relay that to you when I have gotten a little bit farther down the road. The only thing I can say is that this is God's timing...not mine. Trust me on this. I had to turn down a Peggy McKinney peanut butter fudge cake for my birthday. I'm so not kidding. My coworkers and Big Dave enjoyed half of it, and the rest of it is in the freezer. I didn't touch it...and I wasn't really tempted.

Okay, maybe a LITTLE. But the bottom line is...I didn't eat it.

I don't know if it is the fact that I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, am starting to feel better, of if it is the benefit of being disciplined that is making me happy. Or the B-12...

Whatever it is, I am enjoying my seven pound weight loss and the love of friends who have taken time to speak words of hope and encouragement to me. I'm grateful for the time that a person who has pulled herself out of the pit of despair took to explain a new program, and for friends who have told me that I can do it. And I can...if I keep my eyes where they need to be.

This is a point in time when I am happy. I realize that this could change tomorrow...but I hope not. I am enjoying having a little bit of peace from the stresses and worries and drama that comprise life as I know it. Oh, normally I laugh a lot, and I think even more. But for now, I'll just enjoy this "Spring Break" even if I don't get to go anywhere fun. The B-12 is enough for me...for now...:)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From Monday

Tonight I am not sure if I want to write about something that is knocking at the door of my heart, or if it needs to percolate another day or two. Sometimes sitting here to write is like that...I look at the screen and wait for God to either put something on my heart or for my fingers to tap out something that someone else might benefit from reading. Other times, I just like to write to please myself, and to record the hysterical things that seem to happen to me with somewhat unusual regularity.

I think that most of us wake up to every morning and either have a plan to follow...or we don't. We hear that every day is an opportunity, but many of us look at it either as something we must get through...or one day closer to the weekend. We love our time to ourselves, don't we? I mean...we enjoy either scheduling it with activities that make our hearts soar or we are grateful that there is no plan to follow at all. Everything else seems to be a necessary evil.

The other day, I posted a request on Facebook to tell me something good that people experienced on a Monday. I know that not all of my over 300 friends logs on every day, and other people may not have wanted to participate. But those that did respond made me smile. The beautiful descriptions of a sliver of their respective lives.

The first response was from someone living north of here who was enjoying the beautiful sunshine on a random March day. After months of record breaking snow, she was able to just take in not only a change of pace, but the warm kiss of the promise of Spring.

Like the weather outside...sometimes our faith seems to get cold. And sadly, sometimes it is a long winter. We carry on...shoveling our way out of something or beginning to accept the cold as the new reality. But God has other plans. He sends us a ray of hope...of sunshine...of something different. We are just sometimes too busy shoveling our own paths to be able to notice the change. I'm glad that my friend noticed it and was grateful for it!

The second expressed gratitude for wonderful things that were happening for her family. Her sense of relief from some burdens was evident. She also acknowledged the sunshine and I could almost see the smile on her face through her words. She expressed hope that things are going to be better for the people she loves. I love that. I also happen to know that she has posted that she's had some difficulties of her own lately. But she was daring to hope for the best for the people she loves. What an awesome attitude!

The third response was from someone who lives an incredibly busy life as as evidenced by the flow of the various activities she described. She commented on the beauty of the day, and seemed to derive joy in many different ways. She seemed to understand that investing time...being in the company of children and other extraordinarily important. She was focused on her goals, but was also taking the time to breathe a little as well.

So many people set goals that they chase without stopping along the way to invest in the only thing we can take to heaven with us...other people. My friend spent her day moving toward her goals, but also invested some time in the lives of other people. She "gets" it.

The fourth was from a grandmother who spoke of singing sweet songs to her granddaughter...songs that she was proud to note that her daughter also sang to the little precious as well. Just thinking of this reminds me of the time that I spent rocking my children and breathing in the sweet smell of Johnson's baby lotion and feeling the soft skin of their little arms. I smiled when I read her comment because I know how much she values little ones in general...and her family specifically.

The fifth response was from a mother who was pleased to have had the opportunity to spend time with her young teenage daughter. She seemed proud and also awed at the wonderful young woman her daughter was growing into. While teenagers are sometimes challenging, this mother was expressing pride and also hope for the future through this wonderful daughter of hers!

What was so inspiring to me was that my friend has established open communication with her daughter. This will prove to be very helpful to them both in the upcoming years. Having survived the teen years with a daughter that I am equally proud of...I can say that she is obviously doing something very right in raising her. And that gives me hope for the future as well. Too many parents are bowing at the altar of pleasing the children...instead of raising the children to be active participants in this world by following God's calling.

The final comment was from a friend who spent her Monday looking at the interworkings of a women's ministry. She felt welcomed and encouraged, and enjoyed the time that she spent learning about the ministry. Her final comment was an expression of joy that she could see the body of Christ - the ministry and the church - working together so effectively.

Frankly, I'll admit to wanting to see more working together and less division in the church. It is unfortunate to see people set up little kingdoms instead of working for THE kingdom. It is also difficult to realize that although we'd all like to be the hands, eyes, or hands of the church...there are times when we are one of those internal organs in the body that are critical...but sometimes not visible. In this age of people who like to be front and center...finding people who are more interested in doing God's will than in promoting their agenda is sometimes incredibly difficult. I was happy that my friend saw a wonderful example of the way it is supposed to be in action.

As I think about the responses...I am grateful that my friends shared their impressions with me. It gave me a chance to think of how many different things in this life can bring us joy. But the most important thing I notices was that not one of them was happy for anything that money could buy. Not one.

I have often thought that secrets to happiness in life are somewhat wrapped up in contentment and appreciation. My friends have it right...and I am happy that they do...and that they cared enough about me to share their impressions. Thanks, ladies.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Great Expectations and Great Intentions

I have figured out that my life is mostly lived in the perfect realm located on the corner of "great expectations" and "great intentions." These sound like one and the same to the untrained ear, but Great expectations spring from a desire toward nirvana. To have a little piece of heaven on earth...the best possible outcome...the mountaintop experience.

Great intentions can be anything from meaning well to actual execution. They are simply grand ideas with just a thread of possibility. The difference between the that great expectations actually give life to a great intention.

I mean, we are all dreamers in one way or another. Some of us have the capacity and derive enjoyment from creating order, making plans, or problem solving. We see the boundaries...and either choose to be put in the corral or we jump out there and just hope for the best by whizzing past the boundaries to see if it is indeed an electric fence...or a mirage. When we are knocked back...we simply head off in a different direction.

So, in my life right now, I have great intentions of cleaning up my house, being fiscally responsible, and eating nutritious, budget friendly and perfectly balanced meals. I also have great expectations that my family will prosper, my spiritual life will be healthy, and I will be seated in the audience for those important passages in life.

As I watch the Academy Awards I think of all of the great expectations of the various people that have been nominated. The fact that even being nominated forever gives them the title of "Academy Award nominee" before their name. If they are successful, they just change "nominee" to "winner." Apparently, the nomination alone is worthy of being noted...and I suppose that's right.

So as you go out into life...dream big things. Have great expectations. Believe in yourself and in the people who surround you. We all have great intentions of being the perfect friend or spouse...instead of great expectations of being just that. We only pass by some people for a brief time. Let's make the most of that time by leaving an impression that we were kind...loved others...and offered encouragement.

Let's change those great intentions to great expectations. In some cases, it isn't a big is just a step or two. But taking that step could change our lives. In other cases, we may have to work hard to activate that switch within us that makes us soar. Having other people in our corner certainly makes the ride a lot smoother...or at least a whole lot less lonely. And there is a lot to be said for that...

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Week

Part of the downside of writing is that sometimes you feel like you are putting something out there and that life's busyness keeps other people from reading your offerings. This may be a good thing sometimes as after a particularly busy week myself...I REALLY want to get all snarky and give in to my inner redneck. So, I'll just assume that a small audience will be reading this as there have been fewer comments than pounds lost of late...which I never really thought were correlating factors...but whatever. (By the way, love you, Mom and Ralph! Keep reading!)

It has been a week. A W-E-E-K. One of those that you are kind of glad to see move on because you go from one extreme to the other and up and down and all around either enjoying life immensely, wondering where you went wrong and yet strangely wanting to laugh hysterically at how random it all is. So, I'll pull back the curtain and just throw some situations that happened this week so that you'll know what I am talking about.

In other words...welcome to my world...

My children attend a private Christian school and have since 1996. Through the years because A) I am a working mother and B) I was not born in Montgomery...I found that I did not get the "room mother" assignments and was instead relegated to the dreaded "games at the Christmas party" status. This was primarily because nobody really wanted the job of corraling 25 sugar-fueled kids who were getting out that afternoon and couldn't care less if they got a worm on their apple that day or not.

I survived. And because of this...I got one of the two coveted positions for the graduation reception. It's rather difficult to mess it up...because generations of uber-organized women have created notebooks that have every conceivable question answered. But, there is one freelance page called "lessons learned" that the former year's chairmen get to write as they pass on the five inch thick notebook that weighs twenty pounds, a one inch notebook for the other co-chairman, a two inch notebook with pictures from 2003 forward, and individual notebooks for the ten committee chairmen which include matching printed titles on the covers. I kid thee not.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm just glad I can quit wound licking that I didn't get to be the cheese straw chairman in 2007. I'm now SO over it.

Well, the notes for the class of 2008 were written by someone with a wonderful gentle spirit and the ability to make each of her points appear as if written by a heroine of a Disney movie. The notes for the class of 2009 were pretty much going to be "ditto" I just jotted down a few comments last Fall and then shoved these observations into into one of the notebooks. A couple of days ago, the senior coordinator asked me for the updated notes. Um. Well. Let's just say that MY updates were just a bit more "me"...which may or may not be a good thing.

For written by a Disney princess: "We tag teamed so that we each had time to go home to dress and arrive fresh and ready to go."

My version: "We tag teamed so that we were somewhat coherent as it is a mother of a long day and don't even think about wearing heels or you will be laughed at...a lot."

Or perhaps this one...

"Be sure to call the *name of business* and make sure that you have the sandwiches delivered by 6:00 pm. You will need to place damp paper towels over the sandwiches to keep them fresh for graduation."

My version: "Be sure to call the *name of business* and make sure that they have the sandwiches delivered by 6:00 pm. Insure that they don't slip any egg salad (or heaven forbid...tuna) in there. No. Just no."

Oh, it will be FINE. There are only 64 mothers who will be mad if we mess this up. Like that's even possible with the notebooks and all.

Another day this week I went to help serve dinner for the kids doing the play. Other than cutting up celery with a plastic knife like some kind of MacGyver episode gone awry, it was fine. There were a gazillion kids, and other than the fact that I had a personal summer somewhere in the middle of it, one of the juniors was throwing up in the bathroom with a stomach virus she tried to fight because "the show must go on", and I was fighting my amazement over how much everyone has grown up over the past two was cool. I really do love to help. Plus, my ability to empty huge bags of trash...a skill set I mastered in McDonald' always a plus.

Another day this week, I was at the school for a meeting for the French trip that is offered every other year. It costs a ton o'dollars, but it is a great trip that is limited to 12 participants. Brian wants to go, but he is in the third group that she'll accept applications from...and I find this annoying. The sophomores currently in French II get preference over kids who finished French II last year...which I find unfair. I'll see if he gets accepted...but if not...sackcloth and ashes will be an understatement. They truly don't want that. You'll have to trust me on that.

At another point in time this week, I was waiting at a bank for the drive thru teller to get it together. Apparently she was having issues with one or both cars that I was I remained uncommitted to either line. As I looked in my rearview and saw nobody there, I saw a lady racing to beat me to the line that had just cleared. Oh, she was honking her horn like I had done something wrong as she almost took my mirror off to get by me. I will not elaborate any more...but I will say that this particular female Philistine with her white trash manners infuriated me. She then got through before I did...which made me even MORE angry.

The old heifer...

I spent time this week on the phone with a friend who was calling me to listen to her concerns about the realities of college scheduling. These days...if you want your child to graduate in less than seven might want to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the various requirements of your child's university and the department of the chosen major. It's not like they are going to read anything to figure it out on their own. That's part of the evil plan to keep them tethered to your checkbook for as long as possible. I can't afford more than four years of college. After all, I've been paying someone to educate these children since 1994.

Another memorable phone call was a screaming match with one of my children about certain paperwork that was required to be submitted. I knew this because I had researched the situation. The last straw were the words..."but I trust my advisor..." Any parent knows that those are fighting words. This particular verbal exchange was as I was sitting in my car in the parking lot at work...the car that has a political magnet on it because a friend asked me to put it on there. Yes, I'll vote for him, but I am now a rolling billboard. Guess I can check that one off of the bucket list.

I also almost came unraveled at the people who are putting in new cable outside the bank. They parked something that was extremely loud outside my window and this was droning on all afternoon. Yes, that helped my productivity this week immensely...not.

If you are still reading...I hope that you can see that my need for a great night's sleep and a huge serving of chocolate are not only justified...they are truly for medicinal purposes. It's either that or a case of Little Debbie's.

Tomorrow's agenda includes the actual cleaning of my house. One of the downsides of regular time versus daylight savings time is that I can easily justify not cleaning dirt that I cannot see. If I CAN actually see it...I am usually headed out to work or to church. Tomorrow is "no excuse Saturday" so...I'll be up to my elbows in gradu by 7:00 am. Yay me.

On that note, I'll bid adieu. I hope that you have read this, but judging by the lack of comments I've gotten lately...I'm just as likely to believe that you are not. It's okay, though. I love you anyway.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Today is a gray day. The skies are full of rain and the fog is giving it that eerie monochromatic look that signals an "inside day." The gray is a non-color...more of an idea than a real color. It is somewhere between white and black...between dry and wet...and between day and night.

Gray days remind me of the in between...of being in suspense...of waiting. They are not celebrated except in poems like "Fog" that we are all required to memorize in English somewhere along the way. The fact that it is undefined puts it in a neutral isn't forced to take a stand...but claims the area between two opposing views.

I know people that love the gray area...they take elements of one opinion and some of the other and live somewhere in the middle. It is the land of the negotiator...of the compromiser...of the politician. It is somewhere that people go to try to temper an extreme or to find common ground. It can be a sliver of difference...or a wide expanse.

Gray is the color our hair turns when it decides that it cannot continue being the blonde, brunette or redhead of our youth...if it doesn't decide just to leave altogether. It signals that time is marching on and can even be seen in the faces of our canine friends as they age. Gray represents wisdom...or simply longevity. It is something that signals the "in between" of youth and our reward.

Gray reminds me of sweatsuits and athletics and laps walked preparing for a 3-Day event. Of the in between of out of shape and fitness. Of seeing the It also reminds me of sunsets, raw oysters, and that time just before dark that found me walking on a beach reliving the day with skin that was tender to the touch looking for shells that had washed up.

Gray is the color of cute baby kittens and whales and dolphins and mice. It is the color of elephants (Roll Tide!) and the unwanted opossum that wandered into our garage a few weeks ago. It is the color of birds and moss, and even the stuff that grows on our leftovers that get shoved to the back of the refrigerator. Apparently God uses gray a lot in his creations to place against the colorful backdrop and make them stand out. Gray is a wonderful accent color in that regard.

It is akin to silver but is also perfect in its vagueness. It requires only a few colors in the Crayola 64 because it is out of mind most of the time. Yet gray is really rarely out of sight. It is the color of stainless steel, and computer printers, and office decor. The speakers in the ceiling that are inconspicuous and the shades that mark our black and white photographs.

Today is a gray day. It is full of promise, but also does not generate excitement. But it is a reminder that sometimes the neutral days can be special, too. That the glorious blues and greens, yellows and pinks of spring are just around the corner...but just not quite ready to make an appearance. For now, the gray is just reflected back in the puddles and the sprinkles of rain on my window and seem to be just suspended between winter and spring.

In time, the gray will turn to blue or to black...and the clouds will be puffy and white. But today we are in the gray area...and that is honestly and truly alright by me...