Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'Tis the Season

This is Thanksgiving Week, and I've heard everyone I know being thankful about something.  For some it is family.  For others it is time off, fun plans, health, kids home from college, or something equally wonderful.  In the state of Alabama, it is time for the Iron Bowl and bragging rights for the next 365 days.  It is also the week of Black Friday...which I bowed out of years ago after realizing that I am not woman enough to hang out at Best Buy at 4 a.m. to buy something I couldn't even locate in the store.  I thought I'd give it a shot last year after hours at Old Navy because they had men's jeans for $10.  That was a colossal fail in that it was A) impossible to figure out what was left because the shelves had been emptied, stirred up and then thrown back together and B) all of the normal sizes were gone.  What remained would have fit an NBA player or a smurf.  So, I'm definitely, positively, and permanently retired from that particular madness.

Which is perfectly fine with me, by the way.

Because what I am thankful for is that I don't have anything that I particularly feel the need to track down like a bloodhound for Christmas morning.  My kids are beyond Toys R Us and have most of the electronics that they require in this day and age.  They like gifts and want to be surprised, but they aren't driving me crazy with lists and constant discussions and intermittant begging.  Now it is somewhat likely that they'll know most of what they have under the tree...and they seem truly okay with that.

But if I were a fairy godmother with a magic wand...there are a few gifts that I'd like to give some people this Christmas.  Not everybody that would receive a gift would know that they were on my list because I enjoy giving anonymously.  I'd just wave the wand and sit back and watch.   And I'd surely not turn whatever it was back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight.  I always thought that was so lame.

I'd give one sweet friend some peace of mind and some forgiveness for herself.  She can't really control the choices that others make...even though they seem to require that she always be part of the support system when the bottom drops out.  I'd love for her to find healing for herself...both physically and emotionally.  And I'd also like the ingrates that she has to deal with to remember how very special she is.

I'd give another friend a few more hours every day to finally catch up on everything that she can't get done.  She's a single parent and finds that there is far more to do than there are hours in a day.  She tries to make time to take care of herself, but is having to hit her treadmill at midnight just to fit it all in.  I'd wish for her life to be less complicated and more restful. 

Another one needs a herd of elves to clean out closets and drawers that have been long neglected.  She is willing to get rid of things, but is too afraid to lift the lid on that Pandora's box for fear that she will never get it all put away again. 

Another one needs to get her checkbook balanced and have a clue how much money she has.  It can't be easy worrying all the time about how everything is going to get paid.

Others seriously need to meet Mr. Wonderful so that we can all just move on.  Some people need to meet Mr. Wonderful at 35, others at 27, and some at 20.  I am just hoping that the various Mr. Wonderfuls DO show up in 2011 if I have to locate them and have speed dating in my living room or something.  I'm so serious.

Several need healing, others need motivation, and a few others need something to look forward to because life seems to royally suck right now.

Some need to be exorcised of their selfishness, and others need to quit living life as a doormat.

And everybody seriously needs to have a little more fun in their lives.

A few need to remove the word "yes" from their vocabulary and replace it with "are you flipping kidding me?"  I'm thinking of making flashcards for them to help.

At least a few need to quit wishing that life was different and learn to cope with the new reality.

Sometimes we forget that every blessing that we have involves some sacrifice of either time, energy, or freedom.  If we have a house...we have to clean it.  If we have children...we have to raise them.  If we have pets...we have to care for them.  If we have people in our lives...we have to nurture them.  Accepting the blessing without the corresponding sacrifice is what causes a great deal of friction in this world. 

Occasionally, people forget this and only see the sacrifice without the blessing.  Sometimes in reality that's all there is.  People can break our hearts, you know.  But constantly focusing on the sacrifice makes us martyrs.  Constantly focusing on the blessing and not understanding the sacrifice makes us selfish.  Somewhere in between is balance.  And in that space between...we find the abundance of life.

I know that most of the gifts I'd love to give won't be in the flyers tomorrow that are crammed into our little Wednesday newspaper here.  And that's really and truly okay.  I am approaching the age where there aren't really that many items I need that I can't go out and buy for myself.  And I've given up on finding out that I descended from fairies or elves and have magical powers as much as I used to wish that it were true.  But what I can do is pray to find balance and to be as big a blessing to others as possible in the coming year. 

And yes, I'll read about the great deals that are out there for those who know how to snag a deal at an hour when normal people are still asleep.  I wish them well.  I really do.  But maybe the gifts I'd really love to give are those things that money cannot buy.  Peace, love, joy, happiness and the like.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Extremes

This weekend, we received an invitation to a wedding, and to a bridal shower for a wedding that will take place in March.  We were at my sister's wedding a few weeks ago, and my niece's a few weeks before that.  A sweet friend of Jill's is engaged, and I've heard whispers that there are others who are considering the walk to remember.  It appears as though the world is pairing up, planning, and including us in their joy.  This totally rocks, by the way.

And then I have recently watched others call it quits.  The stress is too much or the chemistry is off.  The demands are too large and just snuffed out the underlying embers.  The pain of being alone seems easier than the work it takes to keep it together.  The timing is off, the maturity level isn't what it needs to be, or something just changed one day that can't be changed back. 

One extreme to the other.

I think that there are times that life seems like the average of all things good and bad...and other times we seem to be on one of those rides at Six Flags or Disney World that drop you a gazillion stories in an extraordinarily short period of time.  Kind of like going from praying for rain to filling sandbags. 

I know that all of us have daily joys and a lot to be thankful for in this life.  And we should focus on that joy.  Sometimes it is difficult when we are experiencing emotional whiplash from the constant and violent changes from one extreme to the other.  It is at those times that we should be most aware that we just have to enjoy what we can and forgive ourselves for being a little off of our game for a short time. 

I know that it is often said that when you are thrown off of a horse, that you have to get right back on.  This is true, I believe, to some extent.  Yes, we do have to face our fears and not let one negative experience rule our lives.  On the other hand, sometimes we need to take the horse to the barn, go to the house, take a long soak, and rest before we try it again.  All of us are different, and each of us has our own unique way of managing major disappointments.

I am thrilled that we have been involved with so many people who are making lifetime decisions about who they will marry and what they will do with their lives.  I expect that this will only increase in the coming years as my children graduate from college and head out into the great big wide world.  However, there will also be times when I will be listening to someone ask me why they can't find who it is that is meant for them or why their path isn't illuminated in the midst of all of the sweetness and light that seems to be surrounding everybody else. 

I can't answer that other than to say that sometimes we have to march in place so that something can clear out of our way.  Sometimes there is a wreck on the highway of life that has to be cleared and assessed and we are left behind the mess not really seeing what is blocking the path.  Maybe that time is to bring healing to someone who needs it before we meet them.  Sometimes it is because there is growing up that must be done before they are ready to meet us.  Other times it is geography, finances, focus on school, bad decisions that have to be turned around, or something in us that needs changing before it all comes together.

But it is always worth the wait.

Life is full of extremes...calm and drama, boredom and excitement, joy and sorrow.  The existence of one proves the existence of the other.  While we hope to spend more of our life on the happy side of the fence, in actuality, we spend the majority of it as an average of the two.  Or at least that has been my experience.  I love hearing good news because I love moving the needle of an average existence toward the extreme of joy.  It certainly beats the alternative.

If you are struggling today with feeling the rush of wind as you whip from one extreme to the other...just try to enjoy the ride.  Put your hands in the air and trust that God is in control of it all.  There's nothing to fear, and any delays will most assuredly be worth it in the end.  If you are happy beyond measure...enjoy this time of blessing in your life.  And if you are waiting for things to get better...trust that they will be at some point in time.  Just trust and pray.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Favorite Things

Now, I don't mean to go all Julie Andrews on you, but I've been thinking a lot about "My Favorite Things" today.  They have "The Sound of Music" on sale at Costco (for those that care) and apparently my brain honed in on that as I wheeled by for the third time this week and now refuses to give it up. 

I had a similar experience with ABBA songs after seeing "Mamma Mia" on Broadway a couple of years ago.  I even put some of the songs on my iPod.  Nothing like having it on "shuffle songs" and hearing Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" one minute and ABBA's "Fernando" the next.  Like a musical schizophrenia that truly isn't healthy.  Not for me anyway.

Anyway, I've been stuck for subjects to write about and was given a lot of great ideas (thank you to those who participated) to ponder.  I promise to at least attempt to tackle each of them in due time.  Some of them require me to be in a happier frame of mind (ie. the subject of Obama) than I am currently experiencing.  But I have faith that I'll get there soon.

The first step I took was to declare "Happy Thoughts Tuesday" because it was either that or "Totally Sucks Tuesday" - which I had unfortunately experienced the previous week.  I found that this focus on what was going right in the world made a lot more sense than whining about life as I know it or sitting around wound licking, pouting, or feeling bad.  "Happy Thoughts Tuesday" reminded me that I have some really kind friends who told me some really neat things to focus on instead of everything I'd already pondered to death. 

There are so many I hardly know where to begin.  But here's my version...cue the music in your head...and don't hate me when you are still humming this song next week and cursing me silently.

To "My Favorite Things" as sung by Maria (who ended up as a Playboy centerfold, sadly)

Raindrops at night so my hair doesn't frizz out...
Clean cars and chocolate and music that's played loud
All non-bill items that Mr. Mailman brings...
These are a few of my favorite things...

Cream colored dog and a little brown one too
Chores and clean laundry I didn't have to do
The occasional burger from Hamburger King...
These are a few of my favorite things...

Jill when she's sweet because she wants to go shopping
And Brian gets a haircut so his Xbox isn't stopping
Cool weather that lasts from November to Spring...
These are a few of my favorite things...

When the dog bites...a deliveryman
And I'm mortified
I'm simply relieved I can locate the proof (of his shots)
And glad that we won't be sued...

Good hair and weight loss and dinner with friends
Movies and free stuff and scrapbooking weekends
Most of the songs that the Foo Fighters sing (I can do without Darling Nikki)...
These are a few of my favorite things...

Days with no drama and no need to whine
When all is well and when everyone's fine
When I'm excited about what the next day will bring...
These are a few of my favorite things...

Sales at the Publix and samples at Costco
Good things that happen to people I know
Friends I don't see much but mean everything...
These are a few of my favorite things...

So, try it.  Think about your favorite things.  I couldn't fit having great relatives, short workweeks, clean sheets, unexpected checks, Alabama football games, Trinity Presbyterian School (less the tuition payments), Christmas, new babies, and days without hot flashes in there, but they are close to the top as well.

My list is my list much as Maria's was hers.  Sadly, I'm allergic to cats (although I own one), I have little use for woolen mittens (although I would have killed for them in New York in December 2008), and nobody wraps up anything for me in brown paper packages (most gifts are traditionally handed to me in a WalMart bag).  Plus, I'm not exactly sure what schnitzel is (sounds like something my shih tzus leave when they are put out with me). 

The beauty is...what makes me happy may make you wince.  What makes you happy may make me shrug.  And that's really okay.  What I've noticed, though, is that the song is true.  Thinking about my favorite things really has made me feel better.  Hope it works for you as well. 

Now, if I can just get this song out of my head before I lose my mind.  Here's hoping.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Funk

Today has been a halfway decent day.  Other than the fact that it was Monday (I guess every seven days just IS), it was raining (we needed it), I'm still fighting allergies (probably to dust) and there has been entirely too much drama in my personal life lately (and the lives of everyone I know)...it wasn't too awful.  There were things to look forward to, things to enjoy, and a whole lot to be grateful for. 

Yet...I am still in a funk.

For the past several days, I haven't known what will turn the tide, or what will make a difference.  I've tried all of the easy solutions and they have all come up empty.  I've allowed myself to rest more, eat more, and do less...but to no avail.  I've had a recent pedicure...so that's out.  I've been reading my books from the library.  I've even baked.  I've planned for Christmas, hunted bargains online, and talked to a lot of people that I care about.  I've savored my coffee, watched the sun rise this morning and spent so much time with my dogs that they are looking at me with eyes that say "Really?  More lap time?"

This morning it lifted for a little as I looked out the windows in the family room at the sunrise.  It was casting purple reflections on the windows, and I was fascinated by that so I got up to have a peek.  I have an extraordinarily large gardenia bush that lives just to the right of the windows...in exactly the same spot that Big Dave would like to put pavers in and relocate his grill.  I just can't deal with having it moved. 

I planted it nine years ago when we moved to the house because a yard without gardenias just didn't feel like home.  Gardenias were my grandmother's favorite flower, and one of my mother's as well.  Both of them rooted gardenias from blooms left in water, but I've never been successful.  I'm trying again, and it looks promising...but it's early yet. 

We have a total of three bushes now because we had to move (unsuccessfully I should add) one because it was in a bad place too close to the house. I refuse to let this other one go if I can possibly avoid it.

I've totally digressed.

Anyway, I looked outside...and on November 15th...in the wee hours of the morning...there were blooms on the bushes.  There were about a dozen white blooms just sitting out there waiting for me to discover them.  I couldn't believe my good fortune.  The gardenias should have been gone months ago.

As I looked at my other two bushes, I saw that there were a couple peeking out from one down by the pool.  I went down there to retrieve them...and on my way back...noticed that all of my rosebushes are blooming. 

I'm so serious.

Needless to say, my office smelled like a florist's shop today.  I loved it.  A sea of paper on my desk and two styrofoam cups loaded with blooms.  It totally rocked.

Even though life has seemed to be no fun lately, I felt like God allowed this connection to my grandmother to let me know that all would (eventually) be well.  You see, the gardenia bushes normally bloom in May.  Since she died in 2004...they have also bloomed in August...the month of her birth.  They have never bloomed three times in one year.  When I saw the blooms this morning I thought to myself...I'm not alone.  Life isn't as hard as I am perceiving it.  Things will get better.  I am loved.  God is in control.

Of course He is!

I think that I'm going to use those eight words (God is in control.  Of course He is!) to remind myself that whatever I'm perceiving may or may not be reality.  I mean...what I am thinking is something negative may actually be something positive in disguise.  I just can't see it until I get far enough down the road to be able to look back and have the "aha!" moment. 

I don't really know why some things work out as they do...but I suppose that the best thing to do is take a deep breath and expect the best.  To look for roses in the rain, and the lovely scent of gardenias in November.  Things that come out of nowhere when we least expect them.  Those are often the sweetest and most memorable points in time.  They can be something as simple as flowers blooming out of season...or people arriving in our life in God's timing and not ours.

Because God is in control.  Of course He is!

I need to focus more on that...and less on the mayhem that has been stealing my joy.  When I do...the funk will be a distant memory.  I'm looking forward to telling it goodbye.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Early Morning Reflections in Real Time

It is very early on Sunday morning as I sit here writing this.  The coffee is ready and the house is quiet except for the sound of my fingers adding words that you are reading here.  Whatever I am allergic to is apparently still blooming because I've awakened again - as I normally do these days - stopped up.  But I am hoping that today will be a better day than yesterday and that the trend will continue for the coming week. 

The sun is shining and I have the privilege to go to church in a couple of hours.  Not everyone does.  Some because they don't have the freedom to do so, and others because they don't understand why they would want to spend a glorious Sunday morning awake and in corporate worship.  I know that in November of each year, our church does its annual giving campaign, and my attendance gets more spotty than it should.  But today, I am looking forward to taking my place, raising my voice, and being blessed.  I hope that I may even have the opportunity to bless someone else by being in the right place at the right time.  You never know.

In my house today are three wonderful people that I'm crazy about.  This is not normally the case.  My daughter is home from college for the weekend because she needed a little time to escape.  It wasn't exactly planned, and she'd really rather have been at the football game yesterday being a normal college student and loving life, but she had a rough week.  I'm just glad that she chooses to come home when life becomes too much instead of creating a shell or shutting the rest of the world out.  I hope that her next three weeks are full, busy, and satisfying and that she won't feel overwhelmed or will waste time wishing things were different.  Nothing happens that God does not permit.  If it is happening to you and you aren't happy about it...then you have to simply trust that something better is on the way.  I know I believe that. 

She'll be home for Christmas - after finals - in just a few weeks for a little over a month.  She worries that she'll be bored, I'm afraid.  And some days...she probably will.  What she doesn't know is that one day she will long to be back home again surrounded by the love of her family with as few cares in the world as she has right now.  At least, that's the way I felt after I finally left the nest and had all of those grownup things like bills and work to stress about and deal with through the years.

My son is halfway through his senior year in a few weeks.  He changes daily...yet wonders why I stare at him from time to time.  He no doubt thinks I'm just doing it to be annoying.  I suppose I'm looking for the little boy that he was in the face of the young man who eats a tremendous amount of food and has an opinion about almost everything.  He has become the "food police" around here...and cannot bear to see us eating something that he knows is not in our best interest.  He is smart and funny and obsessed with Call of Duty on Xbox right now.  I wish he put that time into his studies, but he seems to believe that he can manage his time.  Guess we'll find out in a few weeks.  He is one of those people that has a quiet confidence in himself and his abilities and I really admire that.  I don't doubt that he will do well in life at whatever he chooses to do.  Getting him to actually choose will be the tricky part.

David is reading about what is going on in the world from the many blogs and websites that he frequents each morning.  Occasionally, he sends me a link to something he finds interesting and I'm amazed at what he is learning.  For someone who did not enjoy the classroom very much...he spends an extraordinary amount of time absorbing information.  He can not only explain his positions...he can quietly but convincingly defend them.  I admire that and enjoy watching someone assume that he is as laid-back as he appears to be trying to win with him.  They know not with what they are messing. 

Today has a lot of potential.  I don't have to report for work, and the chores that I have remaining are easily managed in just a couple of hours if I'm lucky.  Well, it could take hours to put away this folded laundry, but I'm hoping for the best.

The past few weeks have been difficult for people that I love, but the news that I'm receiving seems to carry some rays of sunshine that healing is on the way.  I also have one person close to me who is dealing with a soured relationship, but I honestly believe that once the pain subsides a bit from the wounded pride, that all will be well.  I don't think that people understand how relationships should work these days anyway.  We are all sold a bill of goods about finding "true love" and our "soulmate."  Maybe some people do.  Others just seem to find a person that brings out the best in them, can tolerate their weaknesses, and who has the commitment to stay the course.  I don't know what that's called exactly...but it seems to work for an awful lot of people.  I think that we should all celebrate when we find any relationship that works...in our families, our friendships or our love relationships. 

I believe that love finds us when we are unaware and most frequently through friends, fate, or common ground.  David and I found each other through the first two...I went home with a girlfriend for the weekend and he happened to see her car and chose to stop.  He went out with us that night...and the rest is history.  I know other people who met through work, in the youth group at their church, or because they were volunteering together.  I just know that when it works...you just know.  There is little doubt...and virtually no worry.  There is just a longing to be together, and a mutual respect for each other's feelings, hopes and dreams.  It is a two way street.  When something doesn't work out, it is usually easy to leave the blame at one or the other's feet.  But the truth is...there is something better on the way.  Just keep moving forward...and don't look back.

The world is waking up now...I can hear stirrings that will translate into the beginning of my day as I normally know it.  The dogs are up and will want to be let out and then fed.  The dishes will need to be dealt with along with everything else.  I do love my quiet time where I can just sit here and reflect before I jump into life as I know it.  I equally appreciate that I have a purpose for being here...even if it involves endless laundry.

Yes, today has the promise to be a good day.  I don't know if it will follow through on its potential, or if it will be one of those that at the end of the day will find me saying, "I'm SO glad THAT'S over."  It could easily go either way.  The fact that it has the potential for greatness, though, gives me a little bit of hope.  Sometimes we just need a tiny bit of hope to turn into the faith we need to propel us forward.  Then, as each day passes, we add that little bit to the next and so forth...until we are walking more comfortably and confidently again. 

I'm sincerely looking forward to that. 

So, I hope that you are having a good day today.  I hope that your life is full of joy and pleasant surprises and that you have a lot to look forward to and be grateful for this Sunday morning.  If you are walking by faith and are focusing more in putting one foot in front of the other than in admiring the scenery...I hope that something will happen that will illuminate your path a little more brightly today so that you can rest your spirit a bit.  After all, Sunday IS a day of rest.  Enjoy your day.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Some days you wake up and know instinctively that things are not going to go your way.  It is just a feeling that follows you around like a cloud of doom just waiting to rain on your parade.  Sometimes it starts early and just goes downhill from there...and other times it comes out of nowhere lightning bolt that feels like a kick to the head.  But either way...life is not fun for a time...and it just seems to get worse and worse...and worse.

The stormclouds refuse to part.  The rain falls...and falls...and falls.

It is at times like these that I normally want to curl up in the fetal position on my couch.  I want to stop being a grownup and let someone else take the reins.  I want to watch what I want, eat what I want, and not deal with anything unpleasant.  I feel like a little kid who has trick or treated for hours...only to find out that he's only allowed three pieces of candy a day instead of the motherlode he was expecting.  In short...I'm experiencing that part of life that all of us know...but none of us like.  And most of what is happening is actually happening to people that I care about...yet it seems just as bad as if it were happening to me.  Sometimes...even more so.

I could whine, throw things, or pitch a fit of monumental proportions.  I could shake my fist, drain my body of tears, or cuss a blue streak that would melt your ears...but why?  Why do I find it necessary to rail against the things that seem to be going in more directions than a basketful of feral cats?  Well, it is generally because I'd love for life to be a little more like nirvana and a little bit less like what it is.  And I suspect I'm not alone in this.

But as I sit here and ponder what I'd like to be different...I realize that there is a lot that is going well.  The electricity is obviously still on as I type this.  My fingers are able to allow me to find the keys and my brain is still capable of stringing words together to form sentences.  I am well fed and reasonably healthy.  I should be grateful for all of this.

And I am.

But I am also wishing that I could fix some of what is wrong.  I won't elaborate exactly what that is, but let's just say that some of it involves people in hospitals, some has to do with financial issues, and the rest has to do with wanting people I love to have the desires of their hearts.  Some of it seems really easy for God to fix if He just would.  In my not-so-humble opinion, of course.  But He hesitates.  And I squirm and fidget.  Primarily because I realize that I can't fix any of the above.  And because there is a part of me that knows that He really is in control and that His timetable is rarely going to coincide with mine.  It is only in retrospect that His seems to make perfect sense...and mine looks ridiculous.

Knowing that I can't change any of it doesn't really make me stop wish that things were different, though.  And I find that this is the tricky part of the equation.  I don't want to seem ungrateful for all of the blessings in my life, or appear to be low on the "faith-o-meter" either.  I believe that things generally work out as they should.  I truly do.  I realize that eventually some of what is bothering me now will eventually change one way or the other without my fretting simply by the passage of time.  If I hang in here, I might even have the awesome opportunity to watch God move in ways that I can't imagine right now. 

When things are easy, good, and like I want them...it is a little more difficult to see God's hand moving.  I assume that is just the way that things are meant to be...or I fall into error thinking that it is my hand doing it. 

So, right now, I feel like perhaps I'm feeling a little off-kilter because I haven't been as connected to Him as I usually am.  Perhaps the present difficulties are a way of getting my attention off of myself and what I want and more on what His plan is and what He wants.  Funny thing, though, it could take hours, days, or years to figure it all out. 

Gee, I hope not.  I've been down this road before...and I'd like to take an exit to the scenic route as soon as practical.

I hope that the answers will come quickly and that resolution to what is bothering me and people I love will come easy and be relatively pain-free.  Somehow I know that this is wishful thinking.  I know that there are some changes that need to occur.  There are some sacrifices that will have to be made.  There is some heartbreak that has to be worked through, and some healing that has to happen with time.  There is the great unknown out there and all I can do is stand here and wait for someone to strike a match so that I can see a little bit farther down the path.  Or set it all on fire.  Don't know which would be easier at this point.

Sometimes we have these points of reflection that we look back on and wonder why we thought that everything was as bad as we thought it was.  After all, we are not to worry about our lives.  I know that in my head, and I'm currently in an arm-wrestling match to convince my heart to just trust that all is being worked out for my good and the good of those close to me.  My heart always eventually gives in, but it is annoyingly hesitant to do so without a period of at least considering what is happening.  Almost as if I have to wrestle it, pin it, and then give it up.  All three of these activities are uniquely painful and time consuming.

I don't know how long this current set of trials will last, but I'm going to be spending the next few days turning them over to God one by one.  It is the only way that I know to find peace.  On the other hand, I'll be spending an equal amount of time praising God for all of the good things that He has already bestowed on me.  This is incidentally...the only way I know to find joy.

I'm quite sure that I'm ready for a little - or a lot - of both. 

Most of the time we take the little droplets of difficulty and we manage these fairly well.  Other times, the rain picks up, and we try to find our way out of the storm.  But there are times when we just have to abandon all hope of remaining dry and we just look up at the rain and just stay in it with our faces tilted toward heaven.  The storm will eventually pass.  I know this to be true.

So, this where I am right now.  And I'm sure that in time...all will be well.  Until then, I'll be in the rain...and will hopefully sometime soon be singing and dancing in it as well.  Beats tears and angst hands down.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Road Trip

Two friends of mine go on vacation frequently and take their children.  They go on great trips, Auburn football games, and to amusement parks. If they go to an area...they look at all of the fun and entertaining options that they have to choose from...and they actually make a choice and go.  They get a great deal on their flights, hotel rooms and activities.  They also seem to come back full of wonderful memories and they seem to look forward to their next adventure.

My family is SO not like this.

We just returned from a journey from Montgomery to Austin, Texas in a minivan.  The minivan is actually confirmation to me that God loves me, because I originally reserved a full size car.  My new friend, Erin, at Enterprise upgraded me because she either had an abundance of minivans on the lot, or because she is just a wonderful and merciful soul placed in my path to keep me out of prison.  I prefer to believe that it is the latter. 

The three of us - Big Dave, Brian and I started out at the ungodly hour of 5:00 a.m. last Thursday morning.  Big Dave is a morning person.  Brian and I are SO not.  We got on our way...and Brian slept for several hours.  This was wonderful because we didn't have to consider his opinion when we stopped every hour for a pit stop and to refill our coffee.  This madness went on for the first five hours of the trip.  At that point, we noticed a direct correlation in the amount of fluids being consumed and the number of stops we were making.  I never said we were bright.

Oh, and my friend asked me this morning where we made our first stop.  They normally stopped at the Alabama-Mississippi line when making a trek to San Antonio.  Us?  The Mitylene exit in Montgomery (10 miles from the house)...and every McDonald's between here and Mississippi pretty much.

We eventually got into a rhythm...and ended up stopping less frequently as the day went on.  This was a good thing as our original time trajectory had us arriving in about double the time it should have taken.  Apparently we were saving that bit of "specialness" for the trip home.

Brian's willingness to sleep meant that Big Dave and I were free to listen to talk radio and actually converse like grownups.  We stopped where it suited us because there were two of us...and one of him.  He had the entire back of the minivan to frolic about in and trash out.  He slept.  We rode.  It rocked.  I read two of the books I checked out of the library and kept up with o  ur progress on the GPS.  I wondered to myself why we didn't road trip more often.  Yeah, I honestly did that.

We got to Austin in approximately twelve hours.  Even with all of the stops.

After unloading at the hotel where we scored a room at a bargain price including free breakfast (because it was an Embassy Suites...but whatever) and parking (which saved us $13 a day)...we went to visit my sister and her (then) fiance at their home for dinner.  After coaxing Big Dave back into the van (intense begging on my part...and I said I'd drive) and the GPS version of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, we got there.

Needless to say, Big Dave drove back to the hotel.

The next morning, we got everyone up so that we were able to take full advantage of the free breakfast that was a REAL breakfast (thank you, Embassy Suites...you TOTALLY rock)...we started our day early.  Manicure/pedicure appointments were at 10:00.  That meant that we had all of the bridesmaids and girls in the family being "beautified" simultaneously. 

The chair with its awesome massage back and the warm water of the whirlpool bath for my feet made me feel so wonderful after a day in the car doing nothing but feeling worn out nonetheless.  I chose a lovely shade called "Bubble Bath" for my nails because I was copying the bride-to-be.  The lady painting my nails was conversing in some language I didn't recognize but I'm fairly sure that she was whining about my cuticles.  I truly didn't care.

After a remarkable lunch...we went back to attempt to do flower arrangements for the tables.  The fact that nobody was particularly gifted in this area mattered not.  We just plowed through the roses and greenery to create eighteen masterpieces.  I was really proud of that effort by the way.

The evening was spent at the Rehearsal Dinner...where we went to Threadgills...party of 60.  The food was good...and the company was even better. 

The next morning was breakfast...and then the ceremonial trip to the local Emergency Medical Care Facility.  Yes, Tara had something on her arm that looked like it required medical care.  Since I am a wuss and did not have other people on our contract with Enterprise, I drove Linda, Eric and the kids to have it checked out.  A ridiculous amount of money and two prescriptions later, we were back on the road again toward the hotel.  Turned out it was a bite of some kind that we believe was a spider.  If she starts shooting webs out of her wrists or climbing walls, we'll worry.   Somehow, I think we're safe.

The afternoon was spent eating a great lunch at a restaurant called Perlo's.  I really should have ordered a libation, because shortly after that...we went shopping at what the locals call "SOCO" or the South Congress area.  Jill ended up with a peacoat, sweater and boots within a one hour time frame.  Thankfully, we had to leave to get dressed for the wedding or it could have gotten truly ugly.

The wedding was a wonderful affair that completely suited the bride and groom.  I won't elaborate on that right now because I want to do it justice later...if that's even possible.

After the wedding, and the after-party after the wedding, we went home, packed, and said our goodbyes. 

At 5:00 a.m. we were up again and trying to check out of the hotel, get the van packed, and locate a liquid substance resembling coffee.  We succeeded in all three of these endeavors.  By 5:30 we were in the parking lot of a convenience store in downtown Austin screaming at each other about who knows what.  All I know is that it was A) too early for that junk and B) pretty much reflective of the remainder of the day.

We settled in, and the kids slept for several hours.  If only "several" could have been replaced with "the majority of" instead.  Alas, NO.

We stopped more times than is imaginable...and ended up taking back roads in rural Texas compliments of the GPS.  It wasn't bad...but it did stretch out the trip an extra hour or so because you can't blow through Podunk, Texas going anything but the speed limit.  Thankfully, we didn't have a face to face encounter with Johnny Law, but we did see a whole host of people out there who were going to be supporting the local economy by paying for speeding tickets.  We like Texas, but not THAT much.

Somewhere in Louisiana we stopped at a gas station and Jill made the mistake of searching for some gummy worms and vacating her seat.  She refused to get back into the van until Brian moved, and he insisted that he wasn't moving.  I was at the point where I honestly had given up hope that we'd ever get back to Alabama anyway, so I just let them wait each other out.  Finally, he wore her down and she hopped in the back of the van.  I won't even try to relay the dialogue...but the gist of it was that she was not very happy with this turn of events.

How's that for tactful?

Anyway, we eventually made it through Louisiana, survived lunch at Longhorn Steak House, and then got through Mississippi too.  I began to think that maybe...just maybe...we'd eventually get home.

Jill's boyfriend met us on the outskirts of Tuscaloosa so we could get her out of the van and keep moving.  I could not have been happier to see him. 

The last two hours were incredibly slow...but Big Dave kept driving.  And driving.  And driving.

And then...suddenly...after fifteen or sixteen (I honestly lost count) hours on the road...we were home. I didn't kiss the ground...but I did consider it.

I remembered that the reason we don't go on road trips is because we've always felt that we needed to take the kids with us.  Some families can pull this off.  We (apparently) cannot.  I did a trip with the two of them in 2006...in Europe...and swore "never again."  It took a family wedding to get us motivated to go for the sequel.  It will take something equally important to get me back in the minivan again.

I'm just glad that we were in the minivan...and that I am not in prison. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I am currently on a road trip with my family.  I am writing this from an Embassy Suites hotel in Austin, Texas at 10:19 at night.  Fox News is on the television set, Big Dave and Brian are punching each other in the arm, and I am sitting in front of my computer.

Those last three totally make me feel like I'm at home.

Monday, November 1, 2010


I almost didn't write tonight because my rear end has grown roots in this chair from working on a rehearsal dinner video all day.  I'm not complaining...I am honored to be asked to handle this responsibility...but that being said...I'm glad it's done.  Back in the day when I got married, we had the ceremony videotaped...but we didn't have anything like what has become standard fare at Rehearsal Dinners over the past few years.   

Boy, did we get ripped off!  Or did we?  I mean, weddings today are nothing like what they were back in 1985.  Back then, we had our twenty minute service, a reception in the Social Hall at the church, and then we drove to wherever we were honeymooning.  I got married at 2:00 in the afternoon, was headed out by 4:00 and was eating dinner at Darryl's Restaurant (now a Hooters...which saddens me greatly) in Montgomery...two hours away.   I did have a nice reception and two awesome cakes that my sister-in-law made for us.  And although I know that there was money that was spent on this soiree, I don't believe that it required a second mortgage to pull it off.

Needless to say, there was no DJ, no chocolate fountain, no sit-down dinner, and no alcohol.  We had a champagne toast the night before.  It would have been great except that the groomsmen thought it would be just awesome to take Big Dave to a "club" in Atlanta to celebrate his last night of bachelorhood.  As you can well imagine, I was thrilled about this prospect (not)...especially since they messed up my party.  He arrived back at about 3:30 a.m. from what I was told AFTER the ceremony as we left the church.  Funny how he waited until after I'd signed the papers.

He figured it was better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.  Big Dave knows me well.

Anyway, he got back just in time to get a couple of hours sleep before his Dad woke him up to move chairs from the Rehearsal Dinner back to wherever it was they originated.  When he returned from that errand...he finally checked his tux and shoes (like I'd asked him to do the day before, naturally) and found the white shoes that went with his black pants and ivory dinner jacket.  (Mr. Billy Daniel opened his store to save us from complete and total social disgrace.  He will always be on my list of my most favorite people EVER for this kindness - among with many, many others).

Other than a lukewarm shower because everyone else had beaten me to it and a near meltdown by my grandmother...something about looking like an "old washerwoman"...the day wasn't bad.  No rain, disasters with the reception, or anything else.  Well, we did have to kneel during the ceremony without a prayer bench...which was unplanned and certainly unrehearsed the night before...but at that point I could get up somewhat gracefully.  I mean, when the preacher says "kneel"...you kneel.

Today's weddings are more "events" than ceremonies, and they definitely reflect the bride and groom far more than they did when I was making wedding plans.  We tended more toward "traditional" and "we've always done it like that."  Not anymore.  And actually, I kind of like it this way.  I think it is fun to be surprised by the little unique touches at each event. 

There are still issues like the number of attendants, seating arrangements, and the inevitable last minute snafus to work through.  But it always seems to work out.  And for the guests...it is just fun to see what is going to transpire.

I've enjoyed the seven weddings I have attended over the past three years.  Each was unique and beautiful.  The brides...especially so. Very soon I will be attending my eighth wedding...and my sixth for a family member over this short period of time.  After a hiatus of twenty years in family weddings, now my siblings, cousins, and nieces and nephews are all getting married.  In a few years, I'll add to that the friends of my children and then (gulp) my two.

Yes, I do realize that someday I'll be the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom if that's the path they choose.  I'll be the mother of four that I had always hoped to be with two children of the heart that I hope are out there somewhere.  I just hope that they like me.  And that the reverse is true.

Weddings remind us that two people fell in love, decided to make it public, and survived the planning and execution of an actual wedding.  It is a time for us to remember how it was for us...or how it might be someday.  It is just one of those occasions where you just want to celebrate and be happy and be glad to be a part of it all.  I know that's how I feel about it.