Friday, October 29, 2010

Back In the Day

A few minutes ago, I was watching a video that a friend posted on Facebook of 38 Special singing "Caught Up In You" circa 1982.  Watching it was like opening a time capsule.  Oh, how the hairstyles, dance moves, clothes, and lip gloss have changed over the past (almost) thirty years. 

Hey kids!  Want to know how your 40 or 50 something folks looked back in the day?  Hit Youtube.  I'm so serious.

Girls today wouldn't be able to hang with those high waisted blue jeans.  They wear theirs so low that sometimes you wish they'd just say "no" to crack.  I've seen more thongs peeking out of the top of those things than I care to mention.  If WE had a thong can be sure that it was because our panties had gotten wedged most uncomfortably.  Frankly, we thought that bikini drawers were racy.  Not those string things the young ones wear...the ones that they think are "full coverage." 

Panty lines were a given.  Spanx had yet to be invented unless you just cut the feet off of your control top pantyhose.

SUNTAN pantyhose.  No "nude" for us!

The dance moves we did then really haven't changed a whole lot if you were to see us dance today.  We still play air guitar or waive our hands in the air spastically while getting into the music.  Yes, it is most assuredly painful to watch.  But, you know, we really didn't think a whole lot about it, and we certainly weren't grinding away on the dance floor either.  We just moved, snapped our fingers and jumped around a lot.  We mostly waited for slow songs because that was our real comfort zone.

And "Free Bird" was ALWAYS the last song of the night.

If you want to get us going, put on "Sweet Home Alabama," "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" or "YMCA."  The latter generally requires liquid libation...but for our group...that really was pretty much a "given" as our drinking age was a mere nineteen.  A few years before us...eighteen. 

We were the first to actually wear designer jeans.  We usually owned a pair of Candie's shoes although we rarely wore them.  We did wear excessive amounts of clear lip gloss - applied thickly - and generally scented strawberry or bubble gum because lipstick was for grandmas.  Our music was classic, and our hair was ridiculous.  Perms were the norm, and hairspray was as essential then as a hair straightener is today. 

Guys wore short shorts and we didn't think that it was weird...even if they also sported knee high sports socks to complete the "look."  They drove Trans Ams or old cars that they restored.  Big trucks were in vogue.  But not everybody had a car given to them when they turned 16.

I sometimes think back to how much simpler things were back then.  People didn't wait until they were forty to get married.  Kids actually had jobs. College was not necessarily a given.  MTV still played music videos.  We didn't have 350 channels with nothing on.  Sitcoms were standard fare as were reruns of "Gilligan's Island," "Brady Bunch," "The Andy Griffith Show," and "The Beverly Hillbillies."  At night, we watched "Dallas," "Dynasty," or "Magnum P.I."  Soap operas were followed by virtually everyone. 

Friday night television had Wolfman Jack on "Midnight Special," and "Saturday Night Live" was still in its infancy and the original cast was still there.  We rocked out to AC/DC...when the album was fresh off the presses...but we also embraced the theme to "Peter Gunn". 

Nobody ran for exercise unless it was during P.E., they were on the track team, or somebody was chasing them.

Girls waited by the telephone in case "he" called and five dollars worth of gas would be enough for us to "ride around" if we got tired of waiting.  Usually we'd figure out where everyone was headed and we'd all congregate wherever that was.  In the summer, that meant the pool.  Most of the time, though, it meant riding the loop between town and north of town.

The smell of green Jolly Ranchers will be forever etched in my memory as the scent of junior high school.  Close behind is Sweet Honesty perfume, musk oil, and "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific!" shampoo.  I used to pair that with the pink "Tickle" deodorant while I poured over the "Back to School" issue of "Seventeen" magazine.  Nobody ever dressed like the girls in the magazine...but I read up on fashion trends just the same.

I know that every generation has "good old days" that seem to not be anything special until they turn into the distant past.  We are usually under the impression that we are past ready to move along when we actually do...and sometimes silently swear that we will never return to those days ever again by choice.  We keep moving forward...keeping the good memories and shredding the bad.  Becoming who we are meant to be...and less who we were trying out being before we found ourselves. 

Seeing the video tonight brought it all back.  I laughed to myself and thought of how grateful I am that I have moved on.  REALLY moved on.  Oh, I could have been dancing in that room once upon a time.  I wasn't, mind you, but it wouldn't have been a stretch.  I love that our music - including 38 Special, Journey, Def Leppard, Guns 'n Roses, Foreigner, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Talking Heads, Loverboy, and so many more are still loved today when our kids "discover" these for themselves.  I did my part, by the way, and made sure that the kids in my life were well aware of the best bands and songs.  We'd roll the car windows down, turn up the volume and sing at the top of our lungs.

I'm smiling now just thinking about it.   

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hands of the Surgeon

Today, I am waiting on some news.  Someone I love is having surgery today.  It wasn't entirely unexpected as she hasn't been feeling well the past few weeks.  But a hospital is rarely anyone's happy place...with the obvious exception of new mothers.

I've been praying for her this morning and thinking to myself about being where she is right now.  I've had numerous surgeries over my lifetime...most of them outpatient.  I know the routine...the bright lights, ridiculously non-fitting gowns, and the stream of angels that monitor this or prepare that.  I know the taste of the stuff they put in the back of your throat that is awful tasting when you wake up and that horrible process of actually waking up that is something like part bad hangover and part paralysis with a touch of unreality mixed in. 

But I've gone through these surgeries because I needed something fixed.  I needed the pain to stop.  I wanted to be able to walk easily.  I had to be able to hear.  And today, I suppose, that is most assuredly the case as well.  So there she is.

Nobody likes to have the big words thrown out...major surgery...rehabilitation...cancer.  But sometimes those words are true...and they are our reality.  So, we pray, we have faith, and we hope for deliverance, and we put our trust in the hands of the surgeon.

I know that surgeons are ordinary people with extraordinary skills.  I recognize that they worked hard for the privilege of being able to heal others.  They were attracted to the art of medicine, and were able to possess the exact skill set to be successful in that endeavor...a rare sliver of the population.  Their schooling and training took years and more determination and grit than most people possess.  They gave up some freedom when they were young because the competition was so fierce that they couldn't risk it.  They excelled for years for even the remote possibility of being in that operating room today.  They endured rigorous programs, extreme competition, and the constant updating of their skills and methods.  And I for one and glad that they do...and that they even wanted to in the first place.

Because later today, someone wonderful is going to be in the hands of the surgeon.  But I also know that she will be in the hands of the Great Physician.  The former gives me confidence that she is getting the best care humanly possible and the latter gives me peace.  I hope and pray for an excellent prognosis.  After all, I honestly cannot imagine anything else, nor will I entertain it right now. 

So, my prayers go out that she will have peace through this process, that she will do well during the surgery, and that the news will be favorable.  I rest in the knowledge that it is in God's hands...and in the skillful hands of the surgeon. I am currently grateful for both.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On Being Mom

One of the funniest things about my so-called maturation process has been my recent notice to the fact that I'm really beginning to sound like a real mother. You'd think that I would not be surprised by this as I've been a mother for nearly twenty-one years, but parts of the past twenty-one years have been a bit of a fog. Call it sleep deprivation or being overwhelmed...but I look at my two and wonder how in the world they got so grown while also realizing that I can't remember much about the time before they were here. It is like the focus has been on getting these two from birth to maturity...and now that I have one in college and the other one headed that way next year, I'm beginning to see that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train.

Except for the tuition bills.

For years, I had difficulty processing the fact that I was called "ma'am" believing that whoever it was must be speaking to someone older than me. Later, when people called me Mrs. Mixon...I thought that they were referring to my mother-in-law. I've grown accustomed to the fact that anyone under the age of thirty is going to call me one or the other. Seems like yesterday that I was under thirty.

Somewhere in the blur that has represented the last twenty years of my life...which has not surprisingly coincided with my entire stint of motherhood...I went from that...


Not that THIS is the end of the world, mind you.

I do have a little matronly thing going on...and I say things that crack me up when I read them on my phone where I've text messaged them at some later point in time. Yes, I text because I have children who communicate with me more readily that way than any other. Plus, it is difficult to hear "attitude" in a text message, so it is a win-win for both of us. They get to send it with it, and I receive it without it. Yay us.

One of the changes in "mom-speak" that I have noticed is my continuously evolving use of the word "business."

Age 20: "I'm majoring in business with a concentration in finance."
Age 30: "I need to take the kids to the potty to do their business."
Age 40: "I've been calling on that business for several years."
Today: "What is this 'taking a nap' business I'm reading about on Facebook?"

Yes, I actually texted that last one today.

To me, at this point in time, anything that I'm not real excited about will be considered "business" with a descriptor before it. Like..."What is this not doing well on that test business I'm hearing about?" or "What is this eating out business I'm seeing reflected on your checking account that is making your balance $1.04?"

Yes. Business.

I also say things like "Be careful!" as my kids leave the driveway like it is a magic incantation to keep them from doing stuff like changing the radio station, texting, or zoning out while they are out there. One day, my son just rolled down the window and said, "Really? Like I'm going to drive any other way intentionally?"

I have found myself stopping short of using certain sayings, but I do tend to repeat myself or ask the same question four different ways to be sure that they have answered me accurately like they don't know what I'm doing. Jill's tolerance level for this is pretty low, by the way. She has countered by giving me the entire truth - unvarnished - the first time around. Not that I'm complaining at ALL...but sometimes the truth needs a little varnish. Just saying.

I've found that my friend's "Golden Truth of Motherhood" is spot on, and some days I have to actually sit back and reflect on it when I'm feeling a little bit anxious or cranky for no discernable reason. The "Golden Truth of Motherhood" is..."A mother is only as happy as her most unhappy child." Truer words were never spoken.

When my children are happy...or reasonably so, I find that I can focus on whatever it is that I need to do. On days when they are unhappy, I cannot. It isn't as though I think I need to be involved in everything...but all of those years of sitting in the stands, natigating the waters of "girl drama" or dealing with disappointments wear on you over time. This tendency is also the reason why teachers are having so much trouble today in disciplining kids in the classroom or coaches have so much trouble doing what they do. Because some overzealous Mama or Daddy will come up and chew them a new one because their precious is not getting special treatment.

Yeah, I've had to fight that tendency myself.

Although I sound like a "Mom"...there are a few things that are not uniquely mine...they come from my mother, and her mother before that, and so on. Little gems of information that spill out every so often that make me appear really wise to my children. I'm grateful for those, and for the realization that raising children is a big job, but nobody has really perfected it yet. It legally ends at adulthood, but never really ends. That it puts your heart in a vise, but blesses you beyond your wildest dreams.

And costs more than you can possibly imagine in every possible way.

Yes, I am not only "ma'am" and Mrs. Mixon, I am "Mom." That Mom that wants to know what is going on with her children. The one who "adopts" some of their friends as if they are her own. The person who asks annoying questions to the point that they throw their hands up and give me the truth. The one who wants the best for them even if they don't have a clue what that is. The woman who loves them beyond measure but also enough to make them stand on their own two feet. And for this...I am thankful.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Morning People

At 4:30 a.m. every morning, the alarm clock in my bedroom goes off and most of the time I don't even know it. This is primarily because A) I am under the effects of Tylenol PM or Nyquil, B) There is no significant reason for me to get up at that ungodly hour, and C) It is Big Dave's alarm clock...and sometimes he gets up before it goes off and turns it off so I never hear it.

Yes, my name is Karen and I live with a morning person.

I am so NOT a morning person.

And sometimes, I actually DO hear the alarm and I whine and poke until he either shuts it off or gets up. Naturally, I can lapse right back into wherever I was before I was so rudely interrupted until my clock goes off an hour later.

Morning people get up and greet the day with a smile! They love the early hours where they can putter around, have their quiet time, and not have to deal with ringing phones, technology, or grumpy people.

I am Senora Grumpypants in the morning.

Big Dave can get up and read tons of articles on The Drudge Report, put the dogs out, make my pot of coffee, brush his teeth, and get a shower before the sun even thinks about rising. I can only do this if I am on my way to somewhere fabulous. And I mean REALLY fabulous. Like get on an airplane and get out of town fabulous.

Granted, these morning people fade relatively early in the evening, and more often than not, Big Dave is sawing logs on the couch watching something heinous on television. I, on the other hand, have to force myself to go to bed before midnight.

A friend of mine mentioned that she received especially good service this morning when she wasn't entirely expecting it. I think that the economy has given every business giving "iffy" service a giant wedgie to make them rethink that position. These days...if you don't cater to your customer...that customer is a whole lot less tolerant than s/he used to be. I mean...we are sitting on our expendable dollars and some businesses have found out that YES, you actually have to offer quality service to keep the reason for being in business - the customer - happy.

I'm glad that she had that experience...but I also equally suspect that she ran into a giant nest of morning people. Morning people jacked up on coffee are so incredibly perky that you almost expect them to break into song or something.

I have pretty much the opposite problem at the banks I've worked in through the years. There have always been people there that you just don't talk to until noon. I mean you CAN talk to them, but you'll walk away told off, offended, or with a mile wide attitude problem. I used to enjoy playing with one of the NON-morning people I used to work with...including having conversations with her where I answered for her. I think that she thought I was off my tree...but I just enjoyed messing with her.

I suppose that each of us has a personal rhythm that works for us...and a time of day that we feel most energized. I just know that my happy time is not at 4:30 a.m. I always heard that "nothing good happens after midnight"...well, I feel pretty much like "nothing good happens before 6 a.m." either.

But maybe that's just me. Nah.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Apologies

There are people walking around this earth waiting for two words to be spoken to them so that they can move on from some point in time. They have stressed, hurt, and mourned because someone wasn't big enough to realize that they were wrong and strong enough to utter the words, "I'm sorry." Most of us have these little splinters on our souls...and every so often someone has so many that the infection from the wound can completely poison their system.

We all have been on both sides of this, by the way. I hardly know anyone who hasn't been trotted up somewhere by their mother to apologize for doing something silly when we were young or who stood there waiting for the words to be delivered. Words that we knew we didn't mean because kids aren't wired to see any further down the road than the next week. Or words that someone spoke to us but we knew that they were under coercion and we doubted that anything would really change. Yes, this was back before parents started exonerating their children of all personal responsibility.

But the older we get, the more difficult it seems to be to stand up and be on either side. We sweep our hurts under the rug or minimize our role in whatever it was by justifying that our honesty was necessary. We act like the other person deserved it, or remembered everything that the individual did against us to justify our actions and somehow balance the scales.

Recently, someone I knew received an apology. It was warranted, and it was good for this person to hear it. However, when the apology finally came...the focus was primarily on the shortcomings of the person being apologized to rather than the less than impressive actions of the person delivering the apology. I found this less than satisfactory (to say the least) when I heard about it.

Sometimes we are hurt in ways that the person delivering the pain cannot fully comprehend. Words spoken to us as children tend to get into our hearts and turn into a bitter harvest. No matter how many positive seeds of faith, encouragement, or love are planted, the bitterness seems to overwhelm it all. I know grown women today that believe things about themselves because a boy in their class in the 7th grade told them that it was so. I don't know about you, but I don't know many boys who have good sense at that age.

Other times, we are strangely able to deflect the negativity that someone means toward us by either being ignorant of their true intentions or by not caring about their opinion. Someone may try to make life difficult for us, but just like the Road Runner and Wile E. ends up flattening them on the highway of life instead.

I know that in my life, I'd like to take back a lot of words I said, a ton of the "attitude" that I showered the adults in my life with, and my inability to do the right thing sometimes when I knew I should simply out of fear. I'd like to apologize for not taking advantage of the opportunities I had, not appreciating everything that others sacrificed to give me, and just not being a very nice person at times.

Perhaps for me, the reason that I am grateful for so many of the good things in my life is that I have regrets about the words of apology that I didn't speak. Maybe I realized that people loved me in spite of my awfulness, and that gave me the courage to spread my wings. Or perhaps I now understand that in spite of our best efforts, there are going to be those times when we just cannot avoid being wrong. We ARE human, after all.

Two little words that can free people are "I'm sorry." We shouldn't overuse them but sometimes we do. I know that if I bump into someone I say "Sorry!" without thinking. Perhaps "Pardon me." would be more appropriate.

An apology can allow a wound to be cleaned out and healed over. It offers us an opportunity to start over and give the negativity and pain a natural exit. The importance cannot be glossed over in this day and time...when we consider ourselves so busy that we cannot be bothered with everyone else's feelings and emotions.

Try to remember that letting go of past hurts takes that person's power over you away. Failing to forgive means that they have you imprisoned in a cell of sorts. I don't know about you, but I really don't want anyone who has hurt me to have that kind of power over me. So, even if they haven't asked me to forgive them...I probably already have.

I'll admit that it isn't always pretty.

And those of you failing to apologize because you cannot find the words, it has been too long, or you think it doesn't matter...know that it is never too late to show someone that you think enough of them to try to make it right.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fire Drills

Years ago, while dead to the world, but technically in a geographical sense in the hamlet of Troy, Alabama, I was awakened by the blaring sound of the fire alarm in the dorm. I remember thinking two things at that moment: 1) Get out and 2) This dang sure better not be a fire drill. Something had better be on fire.

I mean, standing out in front of the dorm at 3 a.m. in the dead of winter while feeling the call of nature and realizing that it was indeed a drill...was definitely not my happy place.

I'm still not a fan of the fire drill. You know...those times when someone else's poor planning, feeling of urgency, or lack of courtesy somehow becomes your emergency. When you are tooling along the highway of life, and you are suddenly you hear a siren and realize that you are armed with a red or blue light and traffic is stopping to let you pass. Usually when I find myself in this predicament, it takes me a few minutes to put on the Fire Chief hat because I'm a little slow on the uptake. "Slow" may be an understatement, actually. I normally don't react because I've already checked the whole freaking out thing off my list on the front end. If you look at what might possibly go wrong and prepare for it, then when something actually does go ablaze, you are in a little bit of denial because you think "I've got this." And sometimes you do.

Recently, that happened at work. I won't go any specifics for obvious reasons and also because I don't discuss that part of my life generally. But I will say that it was an excellent reminder to be more vigilant about asking questions like "When do you want this?" or "Does this guy have a direct line to the big bosses?" before handling things in the order in which they are received. It ended up okay, but for a few hours, I had my adreneline up.

Some days seem like you smell smoke before your feet even hit the floor. The car won't start, the dog is acting weird, or something you were supposed to do the night before was ignored or forgotten. Maybe the power went off in the middle of the night and you have no idea what time it really is...but you suspect it is later than it needs to be. Or you find that your day is scheduled with one awful thing after another and your only refuge is a bathroom break and the time in the car from one burning building to another.

I have days like that sometimes...and I detest them. you know...when you leave the house...realize that you left the phone on the charger, you get into the one lane on the interstate (or the drive thru)that isn't moving, and your lipstick is in your other purse. The phone system is down at work or the computer update the night before means that there is quirkiness that has to be worked through before you can actually begin to get anything done. The phone rings five minutes after you sit down and rings fairly incessantly all day.

Yeah, I love it when that happens. (I'm totally lying.)

On the other hand, there are times when you don't prepare because you didn't know that there was a chance that anything would or could go wrong. You do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it, only to find out that there's been a last minute change in plans and all your work was for naught. But never fear, there's a new you'll need to get right back on it. Okay, THOSE do tend to freak me out a little. But every time that it happens...and I survive it...I build confidence that I can handle the next disappointment, challenge, or pending disaster.

Life with the young people I've raised has taught me that tight scheduling or sometimes scheduling them at ALL is the equivalent of saying, "Yes, Sir, may I have another?" I've had more fire drills of last minute papers, book reports, projects, signed papers, and mandatory forms that had to be returned yesterday to prepare me for this eventuality for decades.

I have found, though, that each of us has vastly different ideas of what constitutes an emergency. For some, it is any deviation in their well devised plans whatsoever. For others, it is when the sprinkler system has gone off and they are wondering why it is raining in the building. We are all wired differently, and for the most part...I am very grateful for that.

When Jill was about seventeen months old, she choked on a piece of a carrot while David and I were enjoying our anniversary dinner. Nothing will throw a damper into a dinner than having your child turning blue and finding yourself meeting the pediatrician in the emergency room. While I was two doors down for a paramedic who wasn't home like Prissy from "Gone With the Wind" - David was busy turning her upside down and getting the carrot out of her windpipe.

Of course, I'm not always totally useless. When we have a situation to work out that requires creative thinking or just making do in a MacGyver-like fashion...I'm your girl. I suppose that I learned my limitations - or the possibilities for actually being useful - during times of stress and challenge.

We don't like those very much, though, that stress and challenge, do we? We like happy surprises, no doubt, but we all lock up when we hear the sirens or get that telephone call alerting us to the fact that something is on fire somewhere. Yet, if we never experience it...we really never know what we are made of or how much improvement is necessary so that we can get through this life.

Even if we learn that the smoke detector does indeed work at 3 a.m. in the dead of winter.

Every day we get those little drills that prepare us for what life is going to bring. We are never given more than we can handle, although sometimes we wish God didn't trust us so much or think so highly of our ability to manage what is thrown at us. Sometimes we are able to relax knowing that we will hold strong in the storm, and other times, we are shocked at how incredibly unprepared we are.

So, when you get your next fire drill, just remember those times when you prepared, or were challenged, or grew to meet whatever was placed in your path. And know that sometimes a drill is really NOT a's showtime.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Christmas - 68 Days Out

Other than yesterday's blitz on Costco, I have rarely been making it out to the retail hubs these days. If I have a tremendous coupon or a pressing need, I'll relent. But most of the time, I find that standing in a mall or shopping establishment "just to look" is about the equivalent of being on a strict diet and standing in Krispy Kreme just to smell the sugar in the air. And about as effective in keeping temptation at bay.

Christmas is in less than two months; a fact not lost on me primarily because of my annoying "Think ahead!" mentality. But I'm expecting that Christmas 2010 will be a Kate Moss kind of Christmas in the gift department. That is...THERE...but ridiculously thin.

While Big Dave and I were riding to Gulf Shores to see Bon Jovi the other night (now THERE'S a gift that keeps on giving)...we were talking about what we might like to have for Christmas from each other. We figured out that other than one or two things that we could easily just do without (because we have) or go get ourselves (but haven't because we don't want to be anywhere near retail), we are pretty much at a loss.

The Christmas mornings of my childhood were filled with mounds of items from my list that were dutifully chosen after perusing the Sears Wish Book for hours. I always looked at it as the fulfillment of those wishes I had stored up all year long as I charged through life in my matchy-matchy outfits ordered from the big version of the catalog. Yes, I was a victim of mail-order shopping before online made it cool.

I remember waiting with my little sister until everyone in the house was awake...including my poor Uncle Harry who had been up (along with Mom) until all hours the night before playing cards with Aunt June and her family. I'm sure that he cared little if at all about the newest doll acquisition or seeing which games we would be begging him to play for the remainder of the afternoon. Some of the early years, I remember not being able to actually see what I had received because someone was filming the unveiling of what Santa had delivered and the bulbs were so intense that the resulting footage closely resembles me looking exactly like a deer in the headlights.

I suppose that it is because of those memories of Christmas being so joyous that I feel the need to try to replicate that as an adult. Except that the cost of everything to bring a smile on the face of someone I care about is so much greater than it used to be.

Which brings me back to my dilemma.

I'm using every tool within my disposal to figure it out this year. I'm trying to be creative but without losing the opportunity to truly bless someone in the real spirit of Christmas.

On both sides of the family, we have started drawing names so that we can enjoy a little of the festivities without applying for a loan. That hasn't really slowed my roll a whole lot, though, because I still dearly love buying into the illusion that I can find "the perfect gift" while keeping everything even. My mother was a master at that while we were growing up and my children are especially good at determining if someone got the better deal after all of the dust and unwrapped gifts - are settled.

I find that most of the time, we end up swapping gift cards, though. This seems to be a bit ridiculous to me.

So, here's a list of what I'd like for Christmas (not so that anyone reading this will add or delete me from your list), so I can get some thoughts out on paper (or cyberspace...whatever) and quit pondering it in my head.

1. A day of peace and $25 to go get a pedicure. The former means that nobody wants me to prepare, fix, find, or do anything for them. The latter means that I can sit in that comfy chair and actually feel like I've had a massage (because I can't stand people I don't know touching me). Yes, I do have to listen to the little man tell me what a disgrace my heels are, but I can live with that.

2. Perfume. The only trouble is...I don't know what I like because I can only smell the first two scents and I have to go into retail establishments to search. I'm counting on people who choose what scents to put in the advertisements I receive to tell me what's out there. So far, what's out there seems pretty lame.

3. Merry Maids. Yeah, this has been on the list since 2001.

4. Gift card to Bonefish Grill. I'd love this so that Big Dave and I can actually go on a date. We are supposed to be empty nesters next year, and even if Brian stays here to get a newer car instead of independence, we're going to act like he's gone for entertainment purposes. We're sure he'll understand.

5. A goat from World Vision. No, I don't actually want the goat...I want someone who needs the goat to actually possess it. I just want to know that somewhere in the world...there is a goat out there making someone's world better because I didn't get more stuff that I don't need. My friend, Carol, gave our scrapbooking group a goat a couple of years ago. It was an awesome feeling to open the card and know that her generosity in our names was out there really helping someone who needed it.

I realize that Christmas is not only about what we is about what we give. It is about keeping our hearts open and our appreciation levels high. It is about the celebration of the birth of the savior of the world, and about reflecting that joy by blessing the people in our lives. I get that completely. I really do.

It is just that we are faced with Christmas decorations in October, we want to bless people in the way that they can best receive it, and we have fewer resources at our disposal. We've also learned that the older we get...the less we need, want, or can use.

This year, I am making a conscious effort to use the gifts that God has given me wisely. I'm staying out of the stores...including the online ones. The "reason for the season" should be front and center...not the trimmings or trappings that I have come to know as "traditions."

As I write this, there are approximately sixty-eight shopping days until Christmas. To put this in perspective...sixty-eight days ago, school was starting. Yes, it really is just around the corner.

So, today, as you venture out to purchase your candy corn and are incensed to see that the Christmas decorations are already out at your local retail outlet, start thinking about your holiday and how you want it to be this year. You have time to make it different...better...brighter.

And yes, you still have time to order your goat from World Vision.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


A few weeks ago, Big Dave and I went to our local Costco after church. Brian wasn't with us, so we didn't have to endure the normal sackcloth-and-ashes routine that accompanies any unauthorized (in his opinion) stop. We consider ventures without him like training wheels for the empty nest that should occur sometime within the next two years if we're lucky. I mean, we love our kids...treasure them...and wouldn't trade them for love nor money, but we are ready for them to get off of our payroll. (And hopefully to enjoy having them admit how good they've actually had it. I'm not holding my breath.)

We entered the store after waving our membership card by the guy with the clicker by the door who was kind enough to hand us a cart. No offense meant, but I'm wondering if the person who wrote that job description in the Costco personnel manual actually got through it without laughing hysterically. I suspect it reads something like this..."Must be able to manage a clicker and hand out carts. Must not look too scary and possess the ability to say 'hello' to customers entering the store. Should be assertive enough to keep folks cruising for free snacks out...yet friendly enough to steer them to the membership desk and get them indoctrinated into the 'Costco family'. Complete and total lack of ambition considered a plus."

We steered past all of the electronics and jewelry because I draw the line at putting TVs in the bathroom and that's the only place that there isn't one. I am also SO over jewelry. Jill will just take it anyway.

We walked up the aisle and found the pool chemicals that we were looking for and hoisted the 40 pound container into the cart. Big Dave looked around and noticed that some of the "sample professionals" were getting items out, and so we slowly walked by the meat section and pretended that we were pondering the purchase of a package of ribeye steaks. We casually turned around and happily accepted a sample of some kind of ravioli that was very good but was extremely overpriced. Ravioli seems to be a big deal at Costco...and can be prepared numerous ways. My only experience with it prior to sampling at Costco was from Chef Boyardee.

We then proceeded to sample our way through the store. Because once he's had one sample...he's going to have them all. It's Big Dave's way of feeling that he's getting his money's worth to offset the annual membership fee.

I'm so serious.

It is nothing for him to have multiple samples and then to attempt to engage the person in conversation. He'll listen to their spiel and nod appreciatively. We don't just sample...we visit. Sometimes, they'll even give him some to take home if it is a bar of something...probably because they think that it will encourage him to move along.

Occasionally, we'll end up with whatever they are hawking. I mean, we've tried all sorts of interesting things as a result of these visits. Some of them have been really good like the peach mango salsa, some kind of vitamin water, and some multigrain tortilla chips that totally rock. Of course, some of them are now banned from the house - like the frozen baguettes - because we'll eat every one of them within days.

So, while he was gleefully checking out the samples, I went directly to my right and hung out for a few minutes in my version of nirvana. It is the refrigerated room that houses the vegetables and fruits. To someone who can never get cool is quite wonderful. I spend a little too much time in there, apparently, because a skinny little Asian woman stared at me like I was some kind of sick lettuce molester or something.

We browsed through the book section...which reminded me that I need a library card...and then took a cursory glance at the clothes. I glanced over at the floral section wistfully, and then moved onto the toiletries. I mean, there's just nothing like purchasing a package of Head and Shoulders that weighs more than a newborn. And then trying to wrestle with that sucker in the shower. I suppose that's easier than trying to house 144 rolls of toilet paper in your pantry, though.

But our visit was like most others...we got what we came for and a lot of things that we didn't. And we were checked out dutifully at the door by the lady with the highlighter who counted our items because heaven knows we can't be trusted to walk thirty steps from the checkout to the door (with absolutely no merchandise anywhere nearby) without being stopped.

Bottom line...I chilled out, Big Dave pigged out, and all was right with the world. Plus, I had the added benefit of walking what was probably close to a mile around that store to help offset those samples. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Last night, America watched as the Chilean miners were pulled out of the ground after something like seventy days. Most of the people I know watching this believed it to be a miracle of sorts...a unique point in time where the results of waiting and working to free them was to be savored by the rescuers. The rest of us just enjoyed hearing or watching the miracle unfold. So many times, news of a mine tragedy has been on the news cycle for two days and then laid to rest along with the victims of the tragedy.

Not this time.

I remember a similar situation years ago when a little girl named Jessica fell down a well. I was watching when she was pulled out...dirty and wide-eyed...but alive. I remembered thanking God for the opportunity to witness a miracle and for giving us these opportunities from time to time to keep our faith fresh and buoyant. There is so much on the other side that can drag it down.

I know people in this life who are in need of rescue, but they appear to be quite normal, just walking among us. They live lives of "quiet desperation" and manage to get through pretty much everything while they are waiting to get through the valley or finish climbing the mountain. We see them every day and either choose not to get involved, feel it isn't our business, or are so wrapped up in our own selfishness that we can't make room in our lives for them.

Some of us try to feel better about it by sponsoring a child, volunteering to go on a mission trip, or taking a casserole to the home of someone who is sick. We pray for them while sharing the situation with others, we send cards with words that we hope will heal, or we just sit and listen while they work through their feelings of doubt, anger, or frustration.

Life is an ongoing process...and if we are still here...there is a function for us to perform. It may be as rescuer...or we may find ourselves at the mercy of others such as doctors, counselors, or emergency need of rescue.

Recently, someone close to me has been through the wringer with regard to some relationship drama. After forty-seven years, I have seen my share of failures but I've also seen a significant number of phoenixes from the ashes, too. Because every relationship is different, so is every difficulty and resolution. I can give advice, but mostly these days I want people to face the facts, abandon false hope, and prepare for every eventuality. But I'll admit that I sincerely love to see something work out. Right now, I don't know if it will or if it won't. I just know that I am glad that I invested some time talking and trying to strengthen someone that I care about for whatever is headed her way. At least I know that she knows the truth about herself, all of her options, and what she must do to get through it.

Most of us would like to be rescued from quite a few things: boredom, a tedious existence, pain, sickness, a test we didn't study for properly, car trouble, people who creep us out, the IRS, and any other unpleasantness. What we don't realize is that sometimes when we are left in the pit to deal with whatever it is without deliverance, we learn an awful lot about ourselves in the process. We learn to plan properly, take care of ourselves, keep better records, and that some people are actually ridiculously amazing...if we can just get through that exterior of theirs or those annoying habits that give us pause.

I hope that today you will find comfort in knowing that there are many things that you are rescued from from which you are probably unaware. And if someone asks you how you are doing, instead of responding "hanging in there" you'll perhaps be like Dave Ramsey and say "better than I deserve." Because honestly, that's probably the most truthful response I've ever heard given. Because every one of us is blessed in some way beyond measure.

So, enjoy your day. If it has trouble in it, I hope that you will see the way out clearly. If you have been in the pit for seventy days like the miners...I hope that seeing them freed will give you some hope for your situation. And if you see someone else barely hanging on, I hope that you'll lift them up and place them on solid ground in any way that presents itself.

Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fan Club

Years ago, and I do mean YEARS AGO, my friend Dee had a purple room. It was pretty and girly, and was like entering a happy place when I would hang out with her...playing jacks and jumping on the big rocks outside and doing whatever else it was we did on the weekends during my childhood. Her room was purple - if I recall correctly - because it was Donny Osmond's favorite color; a fact we learned from the oracle - Tiger Beat Magazine. We were young and didn't know that some of the people we were following would grow up to be train wrecks (ie Leif Garrett, Danny Bonaduce). But bless Donny's heart, he stayed somewhat normal. I wonder if purple is still his favorite color?

I didn't then, and certainly wouldn't now be a member of any official "fan club," but I am definitely a member of quite a number of unofficial ones. I'm a fan of kids who make good decisions and are poised to do amazing things with their lives. I'm a fan of quite a few authors including Max Lucado, Nicholas Sparks, John Steinbeck, and Jen Lancaster - as diverse as that particular group is. I'm a fan of anything my brother-in-law cooks on the grill, my sister-in-law's pastry creations, and pretty much anything that our family cooks at Thanksgiving (except those frozen mincemeat pies...ick). I'm also a fan of SEC football, and numerous other organizations with which I have been associated with over the years that I won't name here because I'll undoubtedly leave something out.

I'm also a fan of a number of people that I am proud to call friends. People that I either knew when I was young and have only grown to respect and appreciate more as I've gotten older. Or people with which I've worked, attended church, or raised children for the past several years. People who have laughed and cried and stressed with me through all of my seasons of life. Who call or e-mail me on my birthday and who ask about my family. Those who care enough about me to try to find out where I am if I go MIA from time to time like I tend to do.

I'm a fan of people who think, make the most of what they have, and who don't expect everything to be perfect. Of those who see that life is not just one big cake...and if someone's slice is bigger than theirs it isn't a reason for jealousy. No, they know that life is just one big bakery, and if someone has a bigger slice than they do...that they can go get another slice from another cake at some other time. I don't know why I am talking about cake when I can't have it, but I suppose that it is because I'm a huge fan of cake as well. Literally.

All of us have our preferences and our likes and dislikes, and rarely are they ever the same. I know this because my musical tastes appear to be an aberration of sorts. I only know a few people who like the same music I do that are my age. But it's okay. I don't like cantatas, bluegrass, or jazz, so I get it. So I won't attend concerts with my friends? I've survived this long...I think I'll be okay. I'm still a fan of the music.

What gets us through life sometimes - especially in the difficult moments - is having that fan club that supports us when the going gets tough. A group that tells us not necessarily what we want to hear...but what we need to hear. A group that reminds us of everything that is going right in our lives when everything appears to be going wrong.

I worry about young people sometimes because they don't appear to have these. There is still too much immaturity, or competition, or self-centeredness to really be there for someone else. They'll listen, and try to make things better, but their ability to support is pretty limited. They mean well, but they don't have enough life experience to really give good counsel.

They see a friend who has something that they want, and they can't bear to be around the friend because it reminds of them of what they don't have...instead of seeing that if this person has it...there's hope for everyone. They want their lives mapped out but want to do it themselves...regardless of the fact that they possess no navigational skills whatsoever. They have no respect for the concept of waiting for anything...because they can only see today and possibly tomorrow. Anything beyond that may as well be twenty years down the road.

Don't get me wrong...I'm a fan of young people. A big fan. I've edited papers, sat in the bleachers, written notes, and prayed for my share of them through the years. I just know that they need to be more supportive of each other...and less envious. More understanding that everyone succeeds on a different timetable...and less angst-ridden if they are a beat behind. More aware of the world of opportunities that exist to them...and less afraid that someone's "more" means their "less".

Fan clubs...we all need them. When we are going through the difficult patches of life, or even the joyous ones. When we are taking a step of faith, or when we are quietly waiting for a season. Or when we are wishing we could peek at the future because we aren't so fond of our present. Our fan clubs remind us of the possibilities, of our unique contribution to life, and that they have faith that can help us move the mountains of our own unbelief in our abilities and gifts.

So, jump out there today and be a fan. Be rowdy. Cheer the significant someones in your life to new heights. Be an encourager. Take everything you have and use it to the greatest advantage...even if that means that someone else will benefit...and nobody will ever know of your part in it. And if you see a young person who does anything that is a step in the right direction...make sure that they know that you are sitting in the stands...cheering wildly. After all, you may look up someday and see them sitting in the stands cheering for you.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


When I was young, I used to like it at Christmas when teachers let us make paper chains to drape around the room. I loved taking little strips of paper, gluing or stapling them together and making everything look festive. Part of the fun was making every other one red or green. Even at that young age I remember getting frustrated when someone wasn't with the program and put two green or two red together. I was a little too much of a conformist at the time to fully appreciate individual expression.

That's certainly changed.

In my teen years, there were some really interesting fashion and hairstyles that I somehow survived somewhat intact. Not completely unscathed, mind you, but I did buy into the preppy look...which doesn't completely mortify me when I walk down Memory Lane. I still wear L.L. Bean moccasins and shop there regularly.

One of the styles from that illustrious decade was the gold herringbone chain that was worn along with the add-a-bead necklace. Oh, don't act like you didn't have one or date someone who did.

In my early married years, we joined a Sunday School class that was extremely wonderful in that we were all in the same phase of life, and we had those people who can actually plan and execute activities that everyone attends and enjoys in charge of logistics. I grew spiritually during those years and can trace many friendships I enjoy today back to that time. It was my first introduction to the concept of a prayer chain...a way for spreading critical news through the class and getting prayer warriors on their knees. It wasn't a visible chain...but visible changes occurred because of its existence.

A few Wednesdays ago, as I was walking back to my car after supper at church, I was thinking about the items in my car I needed to return and how awesome the grilled chicken salad I'd had for dinner when I was snapped out of my thoughts by the sound of someone calling my name. It was an old friend just saying hello, and we stopped for a few minutes to chat. She said that she was headed upstairs to teach a Bible study group and invited me to join her.

I did because there certainly wasn't anything particularly fascinating about returning a shirt to Dillard's. I ended up having a really lovely time.

It struck me that all of us are chained together in some way. Perhaps it is through memory, in real time, or because God has given us a purpose that involves the other. I firmly believe that my friend spoke to me that night not only because she is cordial...because she is. I think she also listened to the prompting of God to invite me because He knew I've been wanting to get involved with a small group as I've been away from a formal Bible study group for a while. He used my friend to move me back into the place where He wants me to be, and I'm enjoying the experience. Our bonds of friendship forged the way for the invitation to be accepted and for me to be ultimately blessed.

I used to hear a saying that there were three types of friends: friends for a season, friends for a reason and friends for life. I've found that this is very least in my experience. I've had friends that I've been so very fond of, but I rarely see anymore because of time or distance. There was a time when we spent a lot of hours together contemplating life and at the time...assumed that we would always be close. But just because we no longer travel in the same circles, doesn't mean that their influence doesn't still linger. Because it does.

Other friends were brought into my life to teach me, lead me, or change me. Once the job was done...there was no reason to continue to be in touch. But I remember the friend from Troy, Laura, who called me most Thursday nights during her break between classes at AUM where she was in graduate school. She and I had survived the last two years of the finance curriculum at Troy and she started work on her MBA right after graduation. Those phone calls prompted me to take the GMAT and apply for admission just to shut her up. Getting my MBA in December 1988 was in part because she kept nudging me to do it because she wanted me to keep moving forward. I have no idea where she is now...but what I do know is that she changed my life for the better.

When I was ten years old, a remember watching a neighbor friend's grandmother crocheting, and I became fascinated. She took the time to show me how to do it, and I actually went home and practiced. Although I can only do very basic stitches, I've made numerous afghans in my life for other people because she took the time to show a little girl how to do something productive. In fact, I still have the first crochet hook I bought in Maxwell's dime store on the square in Thomaston all these years later.

Another friend of mine told me sometime in the mid-1990s that she envisioned me as a teacher. I don't know if I was grumbling about career advancement (or lack thereof) or if it was just one of those conversations that you have over lunch. But I was asked to teach banking classes shortly thereafter, and I accepted the assignment because I remembered her words. I ended up teaching for ten years after that until the run of banking classes ended. I still miss it.

Sometimes chains of the heart are formed through marriage. I have several brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews that share the same last name that I do. One of them is getting married tonight. We will form a link with another family as a result. I suppose that family falls into the "friends for life" category although this certainly isn't a given.

Oh, there are negative connotations with the term "chains" but mostly these have to do with being in a predicament that is against our will. We are chained to a desk, a burden, or a particularly difficult relationship. But those notwithstanding, the chains that we are pleased about are due to a conscious affirmation of the ties that bind us.

I like the concept of having those ties that bind...and envision them sometimes as being there to guide me when I am swimming out into the deep water. I can stay anchored with the freedom to explore life...but without fear that I can never make it back to shore.

These also providing me with the knowledge that God uses other people to get me through this journey called life. And their lives make a beautiful chain that may not alternate in the colors as I might expect them to, but they adorn it beautifully just the same.

Just like those paper chains did to our drab little classrooms in elementary school.

Bucket List

I realize that I am hovering somewhere in the neighborhood of middle age (as strange as I find that concept) and suppose I need to be composing my bucket list. A few years ago a movie came out that inspired a number of people to quit waiting for "someday" and start living every day with the importance it deserves. I think that's a noble concept...and as much as I enjoy listmaking, I'm a little surprised that I haven't given this much consideration.

With all of the possibilities out there to explore, I suppose I'll start with the easy things...those items that are most definitely NOT on the list. Things like skiing, jumping out of an airplane, or climbing Mount Anything. I'm also not intrigued by the idea of traveling to any continent other than the one I'm on, Europe, and possibly Australia. I don't feel called to mission work in parts unknown, and I'm not really that enthusiastic about vacationing in Central America either. A video a friend posted about the dreaded bot fly pretty much sealed that one for me. If you are headed that way, more power to you. Post your pictures on Facebook so I can feel like I've been there too.

I don't want to own anything from the animal kingdom except a small dog and a cat that stays outside and doesn't require anything but food and an occasional scratch behind the ears. Okay, that's a stretch in that there appears to be grooming bills that I'd really rather not think about right now. Rebel and Dixie both visited the groomer this week and it was fairly ridiculous cost-wise. Rebel looks like he's being recruited for some military K-9 unit right now, and he's on my list for growling incessantly during the visit. That gave them just cause to charge me another $20 for being hard to handle. Good thing that the daycare didn't charge that fee when Jill was little.

I am not interested in anything that involves me wearing a bathing suit, a costume, or protective gear. Frankly, I find pantyhose challenge enough in the costume arena after shedding them six years ago and never looking back. And the bathing suit? I think that this will be an impossibility unless I can someday afford some major plastic surgery or the suits from the 1920s somehow come back in vogue.

I am hopeless at other languages, can cook well enough to survive, and have as much house as I've ever wanted. In fact, when it comes time to actually clean the house, it feels surprisingly large and burdensome.

Cars don't impress me, I've never accessorized particularly well, and all of the things I've needed and most of the things I've wanted have either been received or the desire to have them has evaporated. Sometimes that evaporation process has been watching other people try to figure out what to do with whatever it was...and being glad that it was them and not me.

Yes, my children survived not having a four-wheeler, golf cart, or Barbie car. We've gotten by without beach or lake houses, farms, or vacation homes in Highlands. Those things are nice, and I think it is awesome that other people have them. No sour grapes here. I just love that I can visit them when invited and enjoy them too. Kind of like the difference between children and grandchildren.

In short, I'm pretty content with my life as it is. I've learned to be that way because whining about it does absolutely no good. Trust me...I've tried. And just when you think you have life all figured out, anyway, you inevitably learn that you could not be more wrong.

But if I must...I will say that I would like to visit London and Paris again...which is a strong possibility in 2011.

I want to call Merry Maids for a thorough cleaning, I want the pool liner placed, gravel in the driveway, and the porch ceiling fixed. Actually, that all sounds more like a "honey-do" or a wish list than a bucket scratch that.

I want to attend the graduations of both of my children...high school and college. Granted, I will probably only be in one of the photos because I'll be behind the camera, but whatever.

Seeing my children grown and happy (and hopefully married if that's what's in the cards for them) and laying eyes on any grandchildren that God may bless our family with is a sincere and strong desire of my heart. Of course, many of the people in my family have gotten married and/or had children in the past five years, and I now have fourteen people related to me now than I did in 2005. At this rate, we'll have babies in the family for awhile. So, I'm good...for now.

Being completely debt free and able to bless other people anonymously is something I've always hoped to do more than I've been able. I love supporting kids going on mission trips, helping people who are starting out, and making someone's special days even more special. It's just hard to do that when you are trying to get Capital One, Chase, or American Express off your back.

I'd like to revisit New York, Pennsylvania, California, and St. Augustine, Florida within the next ten years because I have family there that I love living there, and there's no reason not to visit. I'm headed to Texas this November, Lord willing.

I'd like to weigh less, and I'm working toward realizing that dream, but surprisingly it isn't as important as it should be to me. Funny how a lot of things we just think we can't live without are exactly like that. I want to look better, feel better, and keep my folks from worrying about me. And I'm going to get there...eventually.

Seeing some great concerts, visiting Las Vegas, writing something amazing that resonates with people, running in a race, and being here for whoever needs me round out the list.

I'm not that difficult to please, you see.

I don't really know what life has ahead for me. I know that I am hoping for a long and happy life, but I think everyone hopes that this is the default setting. But I've actually realized most of the dreams for my life already...being the overachiever that I am...and when I got to a few of them I felt like the price to enjoy the panorama wasn't worth what it cost to get there.

Except for that karaoke thing with the girls at Stubby's Pub a few months back. That was totally worth it. I'm sure that the young men filming it to put on "YouTube" probably thought so as well. I don't think that "Hen Party" is going on a world tour just yet. But I do look forward to getting the band back together at the reunion next year. It will be our 30th. That hardly seems possible.

I think that bucket lists are great ideas for keeping us focused on the possibilities in life. Everyone has different dreams, goals, and ambitions, though, and where my list is pitifully small, other people may have a lot of ground to make up.

It really is fun to see people do just that.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Girls

Last night I sat with three great girls who are in college and talked until all hours. We resurrected their high school romances, spoke of what they have planned after college, and even touched on the subject of college life. I suppose that everyone's college experience is different depending on where you choose to go, what you want to do, and how much you invest yourself. That being said, it is always fun for me to hear how their lives are going. Kind of like a mini reality show that doesn't creep me out like so many on television today tend to do.

Somehow, these three came from three separate communities to meet as three of eighty-five girls in their sorority pledge amazing feat just in itself as competitive as Rush is. So, not only are they my daughter and her two friends...they are my "little sisters" in a sense as well.

They all attend University of Alabama and they live in apartments close to campus. They are in their junior year, majoring in different disciplines, and none of the three has met Mr. Right yet. Well, if they have, they are currently unaware of it. They hope to find "him" someday and are quite open to it...but they aren't in any hurry either. Right now, they are just looking for someone to enjoy spending time with in addition to their circle of friends. Someone to treat them as they deserve to be treated...which is with respect. After hanging out with them, I can't see how a young man wouldn't want to.

They are all beautiful, bright and funny. Their dreams for the future and personal tastes are unique but yet not enough so to prevent them from being good friends. They made me laugh hysterically and remember well that point in time in my own life. And while I really wouldn't like to relive that time at all...I do so enjoy being young with them through conversation.

I know that being in college these days is certainly a mixed bag. They have to deal with technology to survive. All of their assignments, papers, communication, grades, and even the purchase of football tickets...are all online. They meet people sometimes by checking out who their friends are on Facebook or looking at their pictures...and who is in them. They have more social opportunities than is imaginable, more temptations to bypass, and more options from which to choose.

Gone are the days of exclusively lecture-style classrooms, an expectation to live in the dorm for four years, and cafeteria food. I mean, you CAN live in the dorm and eat on campus...but not everyone does. Most of them have cars, fewer than should have jobs, and the majority have more than they deserve at this point in their lives. They will live for four years pretty much the way that they did at home...less the hassle that they got from Mom and Dad. There will be highlights (like having the school win a National Championship) and there will be lowlights (any given drama-filled Thursday - Saturday night). But this is their path...forged by the choices they've made, the people they've met, and the time in which they are living. They are young and beautiful and full of fun. That last part, by the way, I actually WOULD like to relive.

Romance is different these days as well. Although there are still some wonderful young men out there that have been raised right, they seem to be in the minority. Maybe it was that way back in the day as well. I suspect it probably was. The way that most of them treat the young women that they profess to care about seems to be ridiculously unkind. Perhaps it is their immaturity, or maybe it is that their phones are already ringing with some hyper-aggressive female who is elbowing her way to the front of the line before he has even changed his status on Facebook to "single." I don't know. What I do know is that they don't appear to feel an obligation to think about anyone else's feelings but their own or their circle of male friends. And that saddens me.

Not only for the young women...but for the young men who are going to live with some serious regrets for not being a man of character when it really counts someday. Or when karma catches up and they get it ten times over when their hearts hit the shredder and they think back to they pain they caused. I don't think that they always intend to leave a wave of pain in their wake. I just think that they need to learn how to be grateful that some wonderful girl agreed to spend time with them in a dating relationship...and honor her...and himself...enough to take the responsibility for the failure if he chooses to walk away.

Most of the time, he gets off the hook by telling the world that it is her fault...that she was clingy, or argumentative or "crazy." Unfortunately, he is more often than not believed and then escapes to wreak havoc somewhere else. He doesn't stop to think that the girl he are treating in this manner is someone's future wife. Or at the very least...someone's daughter, sister, or friend.

It is difficult to imagine that in one more year, they will be halfway through their last Fall Semester and will be about six months away from graduation. They seem to be so alive in the here and now...which is actually refreshing. None of them has an agenda for her life...they are just watching it unfold day by day and choice by choice, until the day they wear a cap and gown and receive a diploma. I'm not entirely sure that they even know what they will do then. They trust that they'll figure it out when the time comes. And I believe that they will.

I know that life isn't easy when you are young. There are so many paths to choose and so many hoops to jump through that it is confusing at best. Some of their classmates will go on to graduate school and will postpone the job market for a few years. This really doesn't seem to be a bad plan considering that they will be entering the job market in a time of ridiculously bad economic uncertainty. Unless something miraculous happens in the next eighteen months or Publishers Clearinghouse shows up on the doorstep. Guess they can hope.

I loved being in their worlds for a little bit last night. Their troubles seem light to me with my ability to look in the rearview mirror of life. Yes, they have some skidmarks on their hearts and they've all amazingly survived the first half of their college experience somewhat intact. Not everyone does. I know that to them, though, figuring out what they will do, where they will live, and if, when and who they will marry are monumental decisions. They haven't learned yet that God will provide everything in His time and that trying to hurry Him along is futile. That they will have some regrets that they will carry with them, and some experiences that will change the course of their lives.

I know that I've had people who have breathed words of encouragement that I've somehow believed as gospel, had people who loved me when I was not only unloveable...but downright awful, and I've ended up making a life with someone I met at age 19 in a state next to the one I grew up in. Had you asked me at 14...I would have assumed that my life would have unfolded very differently. But I've figured it out, by the grace of God, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these three will as well.

Maybe they will meet their life partners during these years, and maybe they will not. Perhaps they will be lifelong friends...or maybe they will never see each other much after graduation. Hopefully, they are learning enough to make them employable...but they may end up keeping a home and raising children instead. But whatever they decide to do, I know that they will figure it out in due time.

And this is as it should be. I just know that I enjoyed hanging out in their worlds for a little while. I was blessed by the experience. And someday...when the time is right...I suspect that there are three young men out there that are going to be blessed beyond measure.

I know that they certainly blessed me by giving me a few hours of their time last night.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


One of the grandest parts of being a human being is having the ability to choose. We often look this gift horse in the mouth because we are inundated with so many options every day that we tire of the luxury of the freedom of choice. Sometimes, we just want someone to decide for us because even something as innocuous as a simple trip to the local Starbucks can be quite the adventure with all of the various beverages, types of milk, sweeteners, and sizes from which to choose. Other times, we find that we have honed our ability to choose to a fine point. We become so particular or choosy about everything that a typical "girls' lunch" can become a waiter's worst nightmare.

Some of us are better than others at choosing. This is quite the understatement, you know, because we all know people who are brilliant in various areas of life...except one. They may choose the right college, career, place to live, and company to work for...but end up with a spouse that is completely jaw-droppingly wrong for them. Or...someone has the means to live in a place where their property could appreciate and instead chooses to move somewhere that quickly becomes crime-ridden and unsafe for some inexplicable reason. Or someone is so certain of what they want to do after college that they end up choosing a course of study that takes them down to the last semester - student teaching, the capstone class in the business school, or clinicals. It is usually only then that that they suddenly realize that they have picked Door #3 with the jackass and hay bales instead of the trip to the French Riviera.

I suppose that nobody gets everything right. I mean, life isn't terribly predictable and even our best intentions can go awry. Personally, there are some decisions that I've made in home decor that have been truly awful. I also had some kind of love affair with eyeliner during my youth that now seems like an abusive relationship in the photos from this sad little point in time. I have to overlook that when I look at those pictures...because I treasure them as actual proof that I was once young and thin.

Today I listened to someone hurting as a result of someone else who is making a pretty boneheaded decision today. Someone is throwing away something valuable and good for something that is fleeting and ridiculous. It makes no difference, however, for whatever reason, and no matter how bizarre it seems, it is that individual's choice to make. And, I might add, to live with.

Every day we make choices about what we will eat or drink, how we will invest our time and money, and who we will choose to care for or ignore. When we are young, we think that we have plenty of time to work through all of it, and sometimes that is true. But what we don't know then that we learn later that when we make choices...there's usually some opportunity cost involved. We may gain something...but we lose something else at the same time. Sometimes we don't really understand what we are giving up until it is too late.

I have known people who get stuck on something that happens in their lives and have difficulty seeing anything except that mountain. I'm not saying that where they are is unimportant...because to them it isn't. They didn't choose for something painful to drop into their path, but it did. Maybe they were the victim of someone else who made a choice that altered the course of their lives. Or they were the cleanup committee after a crash or fall. But what many of them don't seem to understand is that they really do have a choice of their own to make when the storm is over and the waves recede. They can move on...or choose build an altar to the great disappointment/failure/loss...and worship there daily.

Other times, we find that we are grateful for the way some of our decisions turned out. Maybe we picked the right mate...or we have a wonderful family...or are doing something occupationally that we absolutely love. We look back and are amazed at how we got from point A to point B when for a while we seemed hellbent on going some entirely different direction. I know people who dated for years and years and then ended up happily married to other people. Or like a family member of mine...retire from one occupation to follow a second career.

But we look at those times when our course was altered because someone encouraged us, made a suggestion, saw something in us that we'd never considered, or simply cleared the way. Sometimes, there is no other explanation other than believing that we found the right path for our lives only by the grace of God.

But each of the tiny decisions made hour by hour and day by day eventually become, well...our lives.

Maybe you are one of those people that struggles with decisions. Who weighs everything pro and con and makes the final decision after much soul searching and angst. I suspect that you've found that a lot of decisions get made for you because you were still weighing your options when the buzzer went off. There's nothing wrong with being intentional about what you do...but sometimes flying by the seat of your pants is actually a liberating experience. I don't recommend it as a way of life, but when it truly doesn't matter if you have the creme brulee or the red velvet cake...flip a coin...or just order them both.

Other people make decisions at the speed of light. They are the "" crowd...and they blow through life like a miniature tornado. They go with their "gut" and they spend a lot of time apologizing. On the positive side, though, they tend to be able to get folks out of tight situations, they don't spend a tremendous amount of time worrying about the details (primarily because they don't have time) and can be counted on in a crisis to at least be doing SOMETHING.

It takes all kinds, I suppose.

So, as you go through your life tomorrow and the day after that and so on...remember that you always have a choice. You can allow things to bother you...or rise above them. You can choose to love, get involved, experience, start, try, recover, grow, finish, forgive, improve, master, overlook, respond, or retaliate. Or not. The choice is up to you. And if you happen to choose that you can eventually find your way back home.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Been There...Done That

Brian is a senior in high school this year and in our world that means that we have had senior lunch, senior video, and senior-riding-on-the-firetruck-in-the-Homecoming-parade that I've had to witness and/or participate in as well. There have been other senior moments this week that I'm sure I'm forgetting...which I suppose constitutes a senior moment of another kind entirely in itself.

Brian is my second child, so this whole "senior year thing" is not my first rodeo. That doesn't mean that I don't just means that the blush is off the rose. It's like picking out everything that you are getting for Christmas and then opening your gifts and going "Yay! Just what I wanted!" I mean, there is only so much enthusiasm that one can muster up in this situation. Because what is coming is fairly predictable. If the school is good at anything...and it is actually quite good at many things...but it is especially good at maintaining traditions.

I had fun talking with some of the Moms at these various events this week. Some of them have been at it longer than I have because some of them have four and five children. Some, like me, are wrapping it up this year. Others were blessed with children who showed up when they thought they were done...and so they'll be around for awhile. Others are wide-eyed and excited because they've never been through it before. I remember it well.

The Moms are fun, though. Because our children have attended the same school...on the same campus...since kindergarten...we're pretty much like family by now. Fortunately, we tend to like each other in spite of that. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses as well as our place in the group. We work together, don't have any prima donnas, and we all show up for most everything. We're just all in shock that these kids are talking about where they've been accepted to college. Seems like we were all just stressing out over the fact that they were driving.

I suppose that the coming months will race by like all other senior years tend to do. I've been watching classes pretty significantly since 2005 and can locate most of them in the memory banks of my heart. I've seen football games, endured cheerleading tryouts, and enjoyed hearing the band and seeing the dance team perform...for years. I've seen class parties that we throw that the kids take for granted because we've been doing it since they were barefoot walking up and down the halls. (Yeah, another one of those traditions. Shoes are not required until the 4th grade.) We've worked together, mourned together, and grown together as parents through the years. And here we are in the home stretch about to dismount the horse we've been riding all of these years. It's okay, though...because we'll be hopping on another one called "college" soon enough.

Yes, this week I was reminded that I've been there...done that. As I watched the parade, I saw in my mind's eye my beautiful Jill as a cheerleader marching in the parade. I saw the boy she dated in high school - a football player - as a senior dressed in his coat and tie in my memory. I saw Brian in braces when he was in the 7th grade...his first year to participate. Today, I saw three beautiful Senior girls that were chosen for the Homecoming Court (along with representatives from grades 7-11) and remembered the names of the queens from 2003 forward.

I remembered the Powder Puff game and how Jill was so happy to be a part of that when she was in 9th grade. She met that boyfriend she had during Homecoming because he was the coach for her grade. The following year, at the Homecoming Dance...he asked her to be his girlfriend. All of those memories...bittersweet.

But I look ahead at what is yet to come. Times that we will try to make this final year of their time at Trinity meaningful and celebratory...because is it something they've earned...and of course...a tradition. I know from experience how fast it will go by. I know that the past three years - the last time I was a mother of a senior - certainly have.

I'm blessed to have been there...done that. And at times when I think that I know everything that is coming...I hope that I'm surprised in a pleasant way from time to time. That I have a good conversation with a kid that I discover has grown into the fabulous young man or woman that I always knew he or she would. That I strengthen bonds of friendship that will last beyond the whole "friends for a season" expectation. That I will stop and enjoy this time because when my son graduates next May...I will graduate as well.

And I think when this senior year is over...I'll be ready. Hope so.

Friday, October 1, 2010

On Clutter

There's a new television show on called "Hoarders" that I've refused to watch. Apparently, something goes wrong in someone's head and the "stuff" in their life begins to take on significance to such a degree that they end up lost in a labyrinth of their own making. I cannot imagine being in that particular scenario since the biggest messes I have to tackle involve a bedroom that has some disorganization and a closet that is somewhat overflowing due to the generosity of friends. My attic is empty except for Christmas decorations and two boxes that belong to my sister from cleaning out my grandmother's house six years ago.

But I think that everyone has "stuff" in their life that constitutes some kind of clutter. I know people who can't just establish a permanent residence for certain items, so they end up buying them over and over just to be sure that they have them when they need them. Occasionally, they will get on a tear and clean out drawers and find that they have six pairs of kitchen scisssors and 63 rolls of Scotch tape. You'll go to the pantry and see that they have bought enough green beans to get them through the apocolypse and have a lifetime supply of toilet paper. What they don't have, however, is space.

Over the past twenty years, our homes have grown bigger and yet we've stretched out into climate controlled storage facilities, or just the old fashioned kind. I had a family member who had family furniture in storage for nearly 40 years before some of the items were taken out and distributed. The remnants were finally consolidated with another storage facility belonging to another family member. We've been swearing that we'll get that one cleaned out...and we will as soon as we can find a free weekend without temperatures in the triple digits or football games that we want to see.

Sometimes we find it difficult to let go and we want the reminders of days gone by all around us. Other times, we just don't have the time or the will to deal with everything that needs to be sorted and parted with effectively. But by not doing it, we are actually letting our "stuff" have dominion over us...instead of the other way around.

I am probably guilty of hanging onto some things longer than seems reasonable. I still have a couple of items that I received as wedding gifts but have never really used. We've been married for twenty-five years, by the way. I keep them because someone thought enough of me to give them to me in the first place. But I'm learning that by holding on to some things, my fist is tightly clenched...which makes it impossible for God to put blessings into an outstretched hand. So, with that visual in mind...I'm trying to peel my fingers away and use them to dial Goodwill.

I think that most people look at their "stuff" as either a reflection of themselves. I know I see some of my clutter when I look into a mirror...literally. Being overweight is actually clutter of a different nature. I've been cleaning that house this year, but I definitely still have some additional renovations to make. The concept of "body clutter" is not original, by the way...I stole that from somewhere and it has stuck with me. Like these extra pounds.

Sometimes the clutter occurs in our relationships. We exhaust ourselves trying to take care of other people that really need to be taking care of themselves. I've had to pick up my ball and go home on a number of occasions in my life. Not because I didn't love the person or their friendship...but because I couldn't keep being the person that they wanted me to be or I was somehow hindering their growth into what God intended. I miss some of them and will always be happy that our paths crossed, but I do not miss the drama or their expectations at all.

I'd encourage you to find a pile of "stuff" today sitting forlornly on your dining room table or in the trunk of your car and deal with it, but I doubt it would help. I have to be "in the mood" to clean and I have to have sufficient time to think about what I am doing. During football season, that is all but impossible. And I'm okay just shifting the piles around as company comes or as I am so inclined to work through one. I suppose as long as I'm not naming's okay.