Sunday, February 27, 2011


I remember when I was in college and something was going on with the room that made me have to ask the R.A. for a form to fill out to attempt to get it fixed.  I recall looking at the spelling of the word "maintenance" on the form and thought that it was weird...shouldn't it be spelled "maintainance"?  I thought "ah, instead of 'ai'-  it is 'en' -  as in 'men'" because quite frankly, men seem to have a stronger capacity for maintenance than most women.  In the traditional sense anyway.

I'm sure that there are female mechanics, but I can't recall ever seeing one.  Likewise with copier repairmen, apartment supers, or cable installers.  I'm sure that they are out there, but I just associate maintenance as somehow belonging to the domain of males.

That and bug/rodent/snake killing.  Unless, of course, I am all that stands between it and my babies.  Heaven help it if it is.

Lately, I have started thinking of maintenance in a different light.  Where I used to think of it as "fixing things" that were broken, I've started thinking of it in terms of the time required for me to own something.  Anything.  Where I once thought how awesome it would be to have a pool...I now think of how much time, energy and money it takes to maintain it. 

And I understand why people fill in their pools and never feel a pang of regret.  I'm just not quite there yet...even though we are going to have to entertain people this week coming by to give us a quote on a new pool liner. 

Yeah, a pool liner that is going to cost us the value of at least four of the seven vehicles that we currently own.  (Don't judge...I know how "white trash" that above statement reads.  We drive vehicles until the wheels fall off...literally.  We're selling one of the vehicles and giving another away.  We're keeping the Miata for fun.  So, we will be down to five in no time.)

I've been examining everything in my life from the possessions I own to the relationships I have.  Any things requiring extra maintenance beyond what I can reasonably offer, are going on eBay, being carted off to Goodwill or given to someone else to use.  I cannot continue to hold on to things that don't make me giddy with happiness or that are worth it to me in some other way. 

This "I might need it someday" mentality only means that I don't trust that God will provide what I need when I need it.  That lack of trust is cluttering my house and keeping people that actually need it from having it.  Frankly, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.  We aren't paying a monthly storage fee to store stuff.  So many people that I know are.

With regard to relationships, though, you do have to do regular maintenance.  I have friends that I rarely see, but will always be happy to have an opportunity for us to cross paths.  We have shared history, and they will always have a special place in my life as a result of that acquaintance.  I suppose that's why I am so grateful for Facebook...because I have been able to catch up with people who I cannot see often due to geography or other dynamics...but I am always happy to check in with regularly.  Other friends have such a constant presence in our lives that we can go a week or two (or more) without talking to them and it doesn't diminish the relationship in any way.  We have traditions, private jokes, and are through wondering whether our friendship will pass the test of time...because it already has. 

Then there are those friendships that are based on finding another person who has something to teach us or whose presence in our lives makes our so much richer.  These do take maintenance...but the experience is worth it.  You just can't have an abundance of these friends without making some sacrifice of time and energy...because they require maintenance.

So do marriages.  Those of you who babysit, help plan, and make "date nights" and special occasions even more special for your friends so that they can do regular maintenance on these are doing far more than you know.

I don't know how you feel about maintenance...but for is all about making sure that I keep the amount of "stuff" that I have in my environment as simple as possible.  Yes, I want to be a good steward of what I have been blessed with, but I also don't want to waste hours of my life dusting, cleaning, changing out, or whatever on things that simply aren't worth it.

I enjoy my I bathe, feed, groom, spend time with, and vaccinate them.  I love my family and my friends, so I take care of those relationships...but I have to remain aware of the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.  I enjoy my I have to clean it.  I want my car to actually I have to put gas and oil in it and have it serviced occasionally.

Maintenance is just something that has to be done.  It isn't always pleasant, but it is necessary.  It is also something to be considered before we even think of bringing something into our lives.  The upkeep can trump any joy that might be derived from ownership.  And the time we invest may become so overwhelming that we end up missing the joy in ownership...or even life.

Today I'll be going through another box of "stuff" that is on its way to parts unknown.  Big Dave will be in the garage trying to turn it from the chaoic mess it is right now.  I'll also be mailing off a few boxes of things that I've put on eBay that were "too good to throw away" and I felt would be unappreciated by a thrift store.  I've made $50 so there's that.

But most importantly, I'm spending some time today with my family.  That's some maintenance that I actually enjoy...and am looking forward to as well.  After all, my family is all that is here that I can take to heaven with me the time I spend in maintaining these relationships actually has eternal consequences. The rest of it will be left for other people to have to deal with when I'm gone.  And they probably won't care about it nearly as much as I do.

So, get out there and fix, sort, give, and declutter your life.  Enjoy what you have...and only have what you enjoy.  Be a good steward and think twice before you add to your maintenance schedule...unless it is with people who will bring you closer to the kingdom...or those who've been entrusted to your care.  In those cases...maintain away.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011


For the past several months I have spent a great deal of time thinking about how grateful I am for all of the good things in my life.  And just when I thought that all was well, I discovered that I apparently have let a bitter root take hold in my spirit.  It is akin to looking at something wonderful and being only able to see the flaws in it instead of the beauty. 

I really like it when it is the other way around.

I have been blessed with wonderful friends yet I am frustrated by someone who doesn't appear to like me for reasons that only she knows.  Frankly, it is none of my business what other people think about me, and it may be more a case of apathy than true dislike.  I can think of nothing I can actually point to and say...well, it must have been THAT.  Nope, we haven't had that much interaction. 

There have been only a few conversations over the time of our acquaintance although we run in the same circles.  It is almost as if we are part of the background to each other respectively, and have really been quite fine with that arrangement.  Or so I thought.  But obviously, somewhere along the line of fifteen years...I started keeping score. 

Sad, isn't it?  Because I'm fairly certain that I'm the only one with the problem.

In all of our lives there are disappointments.  There are awards we didn't receive, crowns we didn't wear, and accolades that were meant for another.  We may have played our hearts out only to lose our spot to someone who cared far less about it.  We may have been overlooked, undervalued, or just plain passed over.  And the little wounds that were made never quite healed properly.  But, of course, we all eventually get over it. 

Pretty much.

We grow up, choose our friends, see the faithfulness of God, and we heal.  We spread our wings and we excel and begin to think that all is well.  Those old wounds are all forgotten...and we assume...truly no big deal.  We think that we are beyond caring about what was so very important to our younger selves because we see that for some...those awards and accolades really were the best years of their lives.  As adults...we are supposed to be wiser...more forgiving...and more spiritually mature.  We begin to trust that the garden of our lives is well tended and that the smoke from the chaff burning that needed to take place has long since dissipated.  Other than normal maintenance...and the occasional transplant...we're just enjoying the garden instead of working ourselves to death tending it.

And then we find a bitter root growing up through it all.

I don't know what it is that bothers me so much about this, and I strongly suspect that she doesn't know...and probably wouldn't care if she did.  She is living her own life, dealing with her own difficulties, and managing the best she can...just like me.  At best, she'd be sad to be misunderstood and at worst she'd think I need to get over it because it is what it is.  And that much is true.

It really is.

Since I've realized it's there...I've been plucking at that root...tugging at it and making every effort to keep it from dropping any other seeds as I do.  After all, in an immensely wonderful garden of friends, there are bound to be a few weeds.  It happens. 

In the garden there are many types of friends.  People who are wonderful but only want to go through the good times with you.  Folks that want to share their deepest problems with you and expect for you to do the same.  Friends that are in your life for a season of time to share a seat in the bleachers or to make your workday tolerable.  People that will tell it like it is and will invite and expect you to do the same.  Or some that make you think differently of yourself because of their immense faith in you and what you could do if you'd just get out of your own way.

I have all of these varieties of friends in my garden of life.  And I'm actually blessed beyond measure that I do.  Some are vintage and others are newly planted...but each is beautiful in its own way.  While there is room for other friends...there really isn't any room for the bitter root that has taken up residence.

I've quit tugging on it and have realized that getting it out is as simple as accepting that there we don't have anything in God's big plan that our being friends would actually accomplish.  That may change someday...and if it certainly won't have done any good to harbor resentment.  Life's too short.  And besides...the Rulebook hasn't given me permission to act like I'm 12.  Not at 47, anyway.

So, it is up to me to let it go.  And I am doing that...right now. 

I feel lighter already...

Monday, February 21, 2011

On Laundry

I am currently on my thirteenth load of laundry.  THIRTEENTH.  I know that some of you out there are muttering to yourself..."lightweight"...but bear in mind that I live in a family of three because Jill does her own laundry in Tuscaloosa.  She's actually done her own laundry since she was thirteen years old...because I thought that making her responsible for her frequent try-ons and cast-offs would make a larger impression than constantly nagging her about it.  Now she's downright retentive about it if someone touches her laundry.  Her Daddy made the mistake of putting something of hers in the dryer that had never been exposed to such, and he learned pretty quickly that it is in his best interest to just let it sit there rather than try to be helpful by moving it along.  There aren't too many things that she will get all up in your business about...but messing with her laundry is somewhere in the top 10.

Brian, on the other hand, would prefer to just go to WalMart and buy new socks instead of washing the 36 pairs that he has.  I'm always amazed when I find a collection of little sock balls (for whatever reason, his come off in a ball rather than flat and inside out like his Dad), wash them, and fill his drawer with clean little matched sock balls.  Brian knows how to do laundry...but that doesn't necessarily translate into actually doing laundry...unless I am out of town and he is desperate.  He'll be that kid in college that comes home at the end of the semester with a trunk full of dirty clothes in Hefty bags.

Or perhaps not.

See, Brian has gotten used to having tons of tee shirts to wear because he stayed the same size for awhile.  We'd buy him more and he ended up with more than he could wear in a month.  Then as he started growing, and went into the next size, his sister (also that size) passed down some generic shirts to go with what I'd been buying him.  Sadly for him - or actually NOT so sadly since we're all pretty pumped about it - he's outgrown all of those. 

On Saturday, he had convinced me to go to Birmingham to look at a car and he was headed to the door when I said, "You seriously must change that shirt."  He had on a tee shirt that looked like he stole it from a 4th grader...which means that all of those shirts are now retired.  Technically, he's down to the few shirts that I had the foresight to start buying a size up a few months back...because we buy tee shirts around here for school about every fifteen minutes.  I'm not clairvoyant but I can already see that The Boy is going to have to do laundry more frequently than he has in the past. 


So, I'm folding myself into oblivion and hoping that I don't find more sock balls after I've finished the final whites load.  I'm sure I will because I always do.  I think that they just multiply under his bed or are released from that alternate universe where the odd socks go...just to cause me to have to look up the verses dealing with profanity.

I wouldn't mind the laundry so much if someone would actually put it away and if I didn't hear Alabama Power laughing at my futile attempts to keep my power bill in the realm of affordable.  I freeze all winter so I can freeze all summer...and the marathon laundry days (I've been at this for three days off and on now) are totally wrecking my levelized billing.

Yet as I stare at the baskets full of clothes I realize how grateful I am that I have people that wear the clothes I've folded.  How pleased that I am to have raised a daughter that not only takes responsibility for herself...but appreciates what she has...and takes care of it.  That I am blessed to have such an abundance of clothes due to the generosity of others (with hand me downs), David's willingness to donate blood (he's O he's quite popular) where he gets a free tee shirt, and with money that was available to us to use for this purpose.  No, I do not relish the thought of having to put away all of these neatly folded garments.  I'll have to do that, you know, because my guys would just as soon pull it out of the basket as the drawer.

Ah, they're guys.

And the buzzer sounds again...

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Today I realized something very important.  It wasn't something that most people would consider earthshattering, or even more than just a whisper of a passing thought.  I find that some of the most profound things often come at me that way.  One minute I'll be talking to a friend, and then I realize that something that is said just absolutely makes sense, and that it is a truth I've been waltzing around, but hadn't actually focused in on to any great degree.  I find these revelations stunning...but hardly surprising.

All of us have a great store of wisdom from either the teaching of others or our own experiences.  Sometimes we choose to actually ingrain these into our beings, and other times we just let them float around like free matter in our spirits.  We check ourselves and feel that something is vaguely wrong in our spirits but cannot seem to figure out what it is.  We retire all of the usual suspects and then convince ourselves that dwelling on something that we can't even define is just really too awful.  We don't have time to think too much or the inclination to do it either.  We tell ourselves that everything will work out to our good...and we trust that.  But often, we are just afraid to pray about something for fear that we will be disappointed.

My friend highlighted this in our discussion yesterday.  She's not only wise...but she's spent enough time around me to know how to identify the free floating matter in me...and to give it a name.

The name is fear.  And even when we are in the habit of turning things over to God to work out, we keep some kind of cosmic scoreboard.  Sometimes we think that what we want is rarely granted.  What we receive is good...but isn't as great as we were hoping.  Eventually, we get tired of asking, and just assume that we will deal with what comes our way or the other.  Over time, a wall goes up that blocks our relationship.  We won't ask...because we are afraid that we will be disappointed with the results again.  We don't understand why it is that what seems so perfect to us just cannot be easily granted.  What makes so much sense on the surface...and is so small a deed...just remains a longing of our heart.

And because we fear being disappointed, our prayers are sent up quietly and without fervor.  We begin to assume that the answer is "no" we don't press it.  This in turn affects our quality of prayer time, and our faith becomes shallow and weak.  We keep hoping that He will seek us out and try to make it up to us by giving us something more grand than we had hoped...but then that doesn't happen either. 

Until, of course, we have nowhere else to look but up. We find ourselves in a situation where we have nobody to rely on BUT Him, and so we grow closer again out of desperation...out of fear...out of hope that the promises that we profess to believe are true.

Maybe I'm alone in this.  Perhaps I am the only one who has lived this cycle of faith.  This growing closer and growing lukewarm and then growing closer again.  On close examination of the Bible, however, I know that I am not alone.  There were many, many people who walked my path.  If you don't believe me...and you think that Christianity is all sweetness and light...then you have obviously never read much of the Book.  Seriously, although it is a love letter from is also a book about relationships...and a story about the human experience.  Yes, there are some "thou shalt nots" in keep us from making some truly heinous mistakes.  And there are some "thou shalts"...that encourage us to walk a path that will make us the happiest.  But the stories that are contained therein also point strongly at the fact that none of us is perfect...even those who were considered "after God's own heart."

But how does one get off of the roller coaster of fervor followed by apathy?  How does one pray with an open heart and be willing accept whatever the answer is? 

By letting the fear go.  By understanding that we don't have the "big picture," the timing, or full knowledge of what is just around the bend.  We don't always know what our purpose in this life actually is.  We go through the motions with limited information...instead of trusting that whatever He has in store for us may look on the surface as far less than we'd hoped...but is actually far better than what we deserve.  I don't know about you...but every day that I wake up healthy in a house that is filled with people I love...I should consider that enough.  The fact that I have a weight problem instead of being concerned with where my next meal is coming from...should be enough.  That I get to see the beauty of this earth and that I've had the opportunity to travel...should be enough.  That I have family that loves me and friends that will stand by me...should be enough.

But often I complain because one facet of all of that  is temporarily out of whack.  I don't want to wait for resolution for a problem...I want it fixed now.  I don't want to struggle...I want it easy.  I don't want to look at everything that is going right...I want to whine that it isn't going exactly the way I want it.

The only way to get rid of to grow your faith.  Faith is like a herbicide to fear.  I want to eradicate all of the fear from my life that is unhealthy.  I want the weeds in my spiritual life pulled up and burned.  I'd like my faith to grow and prosper and be strong and true...instead of hollow and pathetic as it sometimes is.

But that part is up to me.  It is a choice.  And God leaves that choice up to us.  It is true that we may not get all of the desires of our heart in the way that we lay it out...but He will satisfy any desire of our heart that lines up with His will.  The secret is praying that He will answer it in that way...and will reveal to us how He did.  Sometimes, we are honestly just too boneheaded to see it at first. 

Keeping a journal is a way for us to track His movements and to keep that free-floating anxiety at bay.  As we see His hand move in situations...we can look back at how He has.  So many of us trust our memory for this.  I don't know about you, but I can't remember what I had for dinner two days trusting my recollections isn't always in the realm of "good ideas."  Plus, the movements are often tiny.  But just because I don't get an epic answer to prayer doesn't mean that God doesn't love me.  It just means that I'm getting my answer in installments...or on the layaway plan.  I mean, sometimes I've prayed for something and it is answered...but it is answered when I've forgotten that I asked for it in the first place.  I'm embarrassed to think of how many times I've forgotten to say "thank you."

Fear.  It can be positive or negative.  It is positive if it keeps us from doing those things which are not in our best interest.  If it keeps us from being respectful and in line.  But it can be negative when it prevents us from having all of the joy that we are allotted.  When we fail to see the blessings that are ours for the taking because our faith is so small.  When we distrust the goodness of God and feel that He is turning His back on us.  When we see the blessings of other people as far greater than anything we've ever received...or should expect.  I personally think that Dave Ramsey has it right when he says to the question "How are you?"..."Better than I deserve."  Aren't we all?

So, drive the fear away today.  Pray.  Praise.  Trust.  Give the free floating anxiety up...and stay grounded on what you already know is true.  Come back.  Pick up the Book.  Don't wait until you are flattened by life to look up.  Keep your faith in the good times and in the lukewarm times that are actually quite special if you will only look for it.  Find friends who will not necessarily be a shoulder...but who have something to teach you...and will lift you up in prayer.  Quit worrying about the details...and knock down that wall blocking the sun (or the Son, I suppose I should say).  Take it as it comes, and fear not. 

Fear not.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Good News

Yesterday, I got a call from a friend to tell me some good news.  I'm personally a huge fan of good news and so I welcomed what she had to say with open ears and a grateful heart.  I find that in my experience, what we are more likely to hear shared is bad news where someone's troubles, weaknesses, or bad choices that have come to light are on display for public consumption.   So, it was lovely to hear a friendly voice bearing tidings of joy in an otherwise fairly mundane day. 

A few weeks ago, she and I had a conversation.  Because of something she said that she wanted to do, I ended up doing something that she had requested.  As a result of moving along what I had done to the next step, she found herself in a place yesterday to have a conversation with someone who was searching.  Because her words are always filled with life...a previously unsaved individual realized that she was in the presence of someone who was bringing Jesus' love to her where she was. 

The lady realized it...and my friend had the joy of praying with someone to bring her into the kingdom.  She called me to relay the incident.  That's good news that you want to share.

The reason that I am relaying this without attention to detail is that it doesn't matter who it was, where she was, or what she was doing.  What matters is that it happened.  Because someone dreamed something...and someone responded.  Because someone spoke the truth and another person recognized it as such.  And Heaven's population increased by who knows how many in the long run just because of the one who joined the ranks yesterday.

I don't know where you are this morning as I write this...if you are happy and carefree, brave and struggling, or apathetic and bored.  I've been all of the above at various points in time.  I've had things work out exactly as I've planned (rarely), better than I deserve (often), and embarrasingly awful numerous times.  I just get up the next day...hope for the best...and hang on for the ride.

That's what everyone else is doing, too, by the way.  Everyone.

What I realized with the good news, though, is that each of us has the capacity to dream, to respond, and to share.  We are the stewards of our time and resources, as much as we think that these have been hijacked or that we are imprisoned by our choices.  In some cases, we may be busy or locked up for a time.  But often we stand at the bars of the prison and wail...not realizing that if we'd only turn around or look up...we'd see the escape route.  We are prisoners of our own making in a place where we know the governor.  He's just letting us sit there until we remember that and ask for a pardon.

So, as you go out into your life today...don't be afraid to dream.  And do not fear telling pieces of your dreams to others.  I am not suggesting that you cast your pearls before swine to be trampled underneath.  I can assure you that this made the list of "do not's" in Proverbs for a reason (Been there, done that, and I have the tee shirt in various sizes).  You know who you can trust...or should have a really good idea.  So dream.  Think through the possibilities.  Don't be afraid to express yourself.  And if you don't know people who will hear your dreams and support them rather than riddle them with holes or belittle seriously need to find new friends.

On the other hand, don't be afraid to be a dreamcatcher, either.  If something is in your capacity to it.  If you can use your gifts and talents to bring someone's dream closer to reality, don't let anything stop you.   Be obedient.  Share.  Even if they tell you that it is too much trouble.  Even if they don't know what to do with your enthusiasm.  Even if you think you might have wasted your time.  Not everyone knows how to be a joyful recipient.  Most of us prefer to be on the giving end, you know.

You may be surprised by what happens as a result of your obedience in the service of a friend.  You may see an outline of the much bigger picture or God's hand at work in something.  It takes all of us, you know, to get everyone from Point A to Point B or we wouldn't be here drawing breath.  Just remember that something that you do today...or fail to do...may have eternal consequences.  You just may not always be aware of it...until later.

Be bold.  Dream big.  Be faithful.  And then watch what happens when you are.  Even if nothing in your life is going well, you can certainly step out of your own misery to bring someone else's dream to fruition.  You might actually find that taking a break from your wound licking is actually quite refreshing.  I know I have found this to be true in my life.

I hope that you hear good news today.  The kind of news that makes you realize just how necessary you are.  I also pray that someone will be put in your path who needs what you alone can uniquely provide...and that you will recognize this and respond.  Enjoy your day.

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Paper

Today is Valentine's Day and I'm watching Big Dave sort a ream of paper into stacks so that we can report how much money we don't owe to the I.R.S.  This is the first step of my Spring ritual of paperwork that makes me want to pitch a fit ala Veruka on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory...only slightly less British.  After I get this information compiled and wince as I pay TurboTax a ridiculous amount of money to submit my tax forms electronically, I then have to sit down and complete not one...but two...FAFSAs for my two college students (yes, Brian is graduating in May).  I wrote in detail of my experience with the FAFSA last feel free to roam the archives of the blog for that gem in your spare time between 1 and 2 a.m.

After the FAFSAs are completed...I'm pretty much free to just do the normal maintenance of bills, receipts, and other general crapola that comes into this house at a rate that seems just absolutely breathtaking.  I realize that I could stop it by getting on some list that bars stuff coming in here...but every so often there is truly a gem among the rocks.  I mean...I got a coupon for a free bottle of Karo syrup last Friday...and a coupon for a free carton of yogurt one day last week.  So, I continue to let the stuff come into the house...and I try to get it back out of here before it grows roots and reproduces.

I'm seriously of the belief that if you cross a J.C. Penney ad with a newsletter from a non-profit organization...a Visa offer appears magically.  Or something like that.

I literally take trash out of here every day of my life.  The term "take it out of here" takes many forms, though.  I never miss a chance to drop stuff without my name or address at any given trash can in a retail shopping area or at Costco while I'm filling my tank.  I also take advantage of the trash can at Chick-fil-A (because it is so conveniently located just beyond the drive in window and it is like drive-thru trash drop off) for anything that might have gravitated to my car. 

Most days, I have something from either Victoria's Secret or L.L. Bean that must get out of this house pronto.  Those people are seriously killing trees at a most alarming rate if my mailbox is any indication of their marketing determination. 

A lot of what I receive has to be shredded or torn up into little pieces of confetti.  I don't know how many calories this exercise burns every day, but I suspect not nearly enough.  I also take some paper and pass it on if I can.  I learned this little trick from my parents.  They bring me old magazines to read...and then it becomes my problem to dispose of as I see fit.  I usually see fit to make sure that the address label is off...and then leave them (along with mine)...well, wherever.  One time, I actually got onto FreeCycle and offered them if someone would come pick them up.  They were gone that day.  Amazing.

Paper seems to be the medium that I revolve a good deal of my life around.  I work with paper.  My free time is spent with photography, scrapbooking, calligraphy, writing notes, writing in general, wrapping gifts, and reading.  That's the positive side.  On the dark side, there's junk mail, memorabilia that I haven't put in an album, newspaper clippings I mean to send to people, and other items that I just cannot part with at this point in time.  Like the three months of Southern Living that I have not made time to read yet.

I know.  I'm so bad.  I also have a Readers' Digest, two Ladies Home Journals, and five months of Better Homes and Gardens that have not been touched.  I've been too busy reading Jane Austen books on my Nook.  The Nook may not be paper...but it is an electronic extention of my preferred medium.

But I suppose that all of us have sirens that call to each of us.  Mine is paper.  My friend's is paint.  Another's is cloth.  Another one's is things that grow.  Yet another's is things she can cook or bake.  I think that all of us find something that makes sense to us because it just suits us.  Of course...this is all very good...but can be very bad simultaneously.  We just have to learn to deal with it so that it doesn't take over our lives.

Because sometimes that tends to happen.  Anyone ever had a craft room, garage, closet or room get overrun because the siren's song outran our ability to manage it all?  Yeah, me too.

So, right now, I am trying to manage this paper tiger and get everything lined up so that I can have a little bit of peace about it.  After all, there are far more positive things to do in the world of paper than deal with that which is in the land of the I.R.S.

Like enjoy a good book.  Clip some coupons.  Send an encouraging note.  Or receive a check in the mail. 

Yeah.  And to do that...I have to do THIS.  Guess I'll get back on those forms...

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Apparently in this life I am not meant to be the proud recipient of a decent flower arrangement.  Lord help us at my funeral.  I mean, I can take down the name of a florist that has just done something amazing for someone else...and then order from them at a later date...only to be disappointed.  I don't know if it is some bad flower karma or something more sinister at work...but if there is anything on this earth that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not meant to have a decent flower arrangement delivered.  That's why I have been hitting Costco and buying their roses and putting them in vases that I recycle.  Far less frustrating...

Oh, I can grow African violets and I have some Christmas cacti in this house (or is it cactuses...too lazy to look) and I once had a poinsettia that looked like the poinsettia version of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree...after surviving for two years on inattention.  But aside from these freaks of nature...I have really had a time dealing with anything floral.

My grandmother had a green thumb.  My mother's is light green.  Mine is gangrene.  Just saying.

So, today I ordered an arrangement that is going to be a gift for someone's special occasion this weekend.  I had a coupon and marching orders that it was to look "non-Valentines' Day" but with pink somewhere in it.  I had a website, a picture, and a heart full of hope.  So I placed my order, choked down the $15.99 delivery fee and waited for The FTD "Breathtaking Beauty Bouquet" to arrive. 

It arrived all right.  Looking like someone with a bad hangover and little flower arranging experience threw it together.  No offense meant to the individual who did it if they were just having a bad flower day but I'm quite sure that it was not "beautifully hand arranged and delivered by an artisan FTD Florist" as it is touted on

Unless the artisan was smoking weed.  Which would actually pretty much explain the condition of my arrangement.

Words really fail me at this point...which is highly unusual...but as I sit here with it looking at me, I am going to try to do it justice.  I don't want to sound shallow...but flower arranging is supposed to bring joy to the recipient, yes?  It is supposed to brighten the day...make the heart sing...or something like that.  This one pretty much just makes me go "what the heck?"

Well, the color scheme and the vase actually match the picture.  It is indeed yellow and pink.  Because this was a special occasion, I upgraded from the normal arrangement with the huge benefit (all in caps) of VASE INCLUDED for something called "better" for the bargain price of $10 more.  Frankly, if this is "better" then I'm fairly sure that the "normal" one would just totally tick me off. 

Anyway, there is this green feathery stuff that I've seen with roses poked all about the arrangement.  There's also some serious greenery all around the base of the arrangement.  Is it in the picture?  Um, that would be NO.  The only greenery in my picture is the leaves from the "bright yellow Peruvian lilies" and the stems.  This thing looks like a jungle.  A very disorganized asymmetrical jungle.  A sad little very disorganized asymmetrical jungle.  Five year olds could have arranged this greenery.  All jacked up on Sugar Smacks and without their ADD medication, undoubtedly.

The bright yellow Peruvian lilies are indeed in there.  They are just weird and awkward and gnarly looking.  The pale pink spray roses are also there except in our case they are like anorexic versions of the ones in the photo.  They are also a big long in the tooth as evidenced by the faint tinge of brown around the outside of the roses.  There are also some pink Peruvian lilies...except that they clash with the pale pink spray roses and give it this vintage look that makes you think that something is horribly wrong.  One thing that is definitely horribly wrong is that the roses are long in the tooth and the lilies are still in an incubator.  Closed up and looking like they won't open before next Thursday.  By which time, of course, the rest of the arrangement will be on life support.

After looking at the arrangement for several hours, and trying to hope against hope that the lilies might open up and shock me with some cosmic alteration into what is in the sample photo, I e-mailed the florist to see if we could get this straightened out.  I'm sure that this message will go over well at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning when someone comes in to work and reads my little message written in under 750 characters.  I know it is under 750 characters because I had to cut out about half of what I wanted to say because it wouldn't let me send my first draft.  Because it was after hours...I wasn't too shocked that I didn't get a call back. 

But after I looked at the flowers some more and it seemed to get worse instead of better...I realized that FTD really shouldn't stand for "fixing to die."  So, I called the customer service number to report my unsatisfactory arrangement. 

Yeah, I kind of need it by 3:00 tomorrow. 

So, I called FTD and was on hold for nine minutes before somebody hung up on me.  I called back and told the first unfortunate soul who answered that I was willing to hold but if they hung up on me again that I was calling American Express and just canceling the transaction.

Poor Ronald.  It just wasn't his night on the FTD Customer Service hotline.  I am not exactly sure where Ronald was answering the phone, but I am entirely sure that English was not his native language.  I'm guessing somewhere in India or Korea...because I only understood four out of every ten words and he had to repeat himself...a lot.

Anyway, we finally came to an understanding.  He would have the florist pick up the unsatisfactory arrangement and bring me something that actually came closer to "Breathtaking Beauty."  I'm thinking when the florist realizes that they have to deliver it 37 miles (one way)...that they are going to be wishing that they'd paid a little closer attention to quality control on the front end.

Ronald assures me that I will be happy with the quality and that they will be deliveed by 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.  I think that Ronald is living in an alternate universe and just wanted to get "crazy lady from that Alabama" off the line.  I is two days before Valentines' Day...and I'm fairly certain that all of the florists in town are all sufficiently medicated to deal with the onslaught of males who have failed to order flower arrangements in adequate time to actually get them there on Monday.

Actually, that medicating might explain my by "Valium."

Big Dave, being the male that he is, actually took out a tape measure and discovered that the arrangement is two inches shorter than it is supposed to be and one inch less wide than advertised.  I suppose that the liberal use of the word "approximately" in the description takes care of that, though.

So, tomorrow I will see if Ronald can pull off a miracle or if I get a replacement arrangement that is even worse.  Hopefully FTD will then stand for "finally, truly delightful." 

If not, Ronald may want to find some medication.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Call me crazy, but the last thing that I'm generally attracted to in people is a high capacity for drama.  There are some folks who tend to attract it like a magnet despite their best efforts - but I find that these folks are generally also gifted with an incredible wit and way of turning it into something absolutely hilarious.  Some of my most Depends-worthy moments in life (I don't wear Depends...just work with me here) have been the result of someone's horrible day that is so incredibly awful that one cannot help but see the humor in it.  Kind of like how people laugh when folks fall down instead of going "Ooh, are you alright?" 

Big Dave is one of the "laughers" as is Jill.  I tend to just go into Prissy-in-Gone-With-the-Wind-mode...which essentially means that I stand there looking lost waiting for someone to tell me what to do.  Trust me, if you are in some serious trouble and need someone to dial 911...if I am standing there...I only hope that you have the presence of mind to tell me to snap out of it and dial the phone.  See, when the chips are down, "I don't know nothing about birthin' no babies..." or much of anything else when there's a crisis going on.  Now you know.  Have your emergency on someone else's watch.

Others suffer quietly along picking up the pieces of everyone else's life while trying to figure out how they entered that particular alternate universe.  It is almost like trying to rake a yard with massive trees before all of the leaves have fallen off.  Oh, you can rake and bag and it might look good for awhile, but then the wind will blow, and there's a fresh batch of stuff to rake and bag.  I know people who have so many bags that they really just need to either deal with the constant falling of the leaves (or in this analogy - drama) or cut down the trees.  Since the latter option is normally not available without some some serious prison time, and moving isn't always an option...they go out there faithfully every day gathering up the leaves until they run out of energy...or bags.

But then there's those folks that jump right in and stir it up...look for it...nurture and feed it...and then insist on feeding the masses.  The people that you cannot complain to because they will tell you something that they know or are dealing with that will make your arm hair stand up.  It is as if they are like explorers on some kind of twisted quest to live on the see what a human being can tolerate and not spontaneously combust...or burst...whatever.   It is these people that I wish could get into something like cross country skiing, mountain climbing, or lion taming.  Something that plays to their inner nature so that I could just carry on with my nice little boring existence.  Boring is actually something I cling to because I'm so anti-drama.

Today...without really meaning to...I ended up in the midst of some drama.  Oh, my fingerprints are all over it and it is obvious that I am involved.  But I'm caught between two sides that make total sense but also don't make sense at the same time.  I tried to address it with humor...but some people just don't "get" my sense of humor...and I suppose that's okay, too.  There's always some things about other people that I don't "get" either.  I won't elaborate here because that would be tacky.

So, here I am floating in a sea of drama.  Me!  The person who is a retired "pleaser" and who sees the big picture and doesn't freak out under normal circumstances.  I just plod along expecting the best and anticipating the worst.  Who read the tea leaves of the situation and thought I knew what direction it was headed.  And was wrong.

Wrong doesn't really scare me, though.  Because I have faith that it will all work out okay.  The worst case scenario here is that some people are disappointed.  But I honestly think that we'll come up with a solution.  We just had to get it out there to consider.

See, faith is a real antidote to drama.  I know that sometimes when you are being tossed around like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz during the tornado scene, it seems like things will never turn out right.  But eventually they do.  Faith makes that possible.  You just have to ignore the bluster and focus on the fact that you know who is in charge.  And it isn't you.

So, all of you drama inducing folks out there (none of which I'm sure have time to read this because they are dealing with...well...drama)...know that most of us are on to your game.  For those of you dealing with the fallout of someone else's "stuff"...I hope that you find better days ahead.  Keep raking furiously...or just give it up and let it be.  And for those of you who just can't seem to avoid getting in the midst of it in spite of your best efforts...bless your hearts.  Just don't forget to call me every so often and fill me in.

I can always use a good laugh...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I recall reading Hamlet in senior English.  I know this because I memorized the "To be...or not to be..." soliloquy during Spring Break because I'm pretty sure I needed the bonus points.  Since there are actors in the family, you'd think that I'd have had an easy time getting into character and truly being able to channel the angst...but that's where you'd be wrong.  I was too busy trying to make sure that I didn't miss a word of dialogue (and thus blow my chance for the points) that I didn't care what I was long as I was quoting it verbatim. 

I'm fairly sure that Mrs. Watson took pity on me.  She probably thought I was some kind of freak of nature for doing it anyway. 

But that's who I am.  A freak of nature.  I think that's who we all are in our own unique little way.  I spent, decades...trying on different personas without a clue of what I was doing.  I tried on more personalities, habits, ideas, looks, styles (sadly, this was also the 80s), and ways of viewing the world than I can actually imagine now.  Somewhere along the way, I finally realized that growth didn't necessarily mean that I had to start completely over everytime I faced a disappointment or had a setback. 

I just had to learn to be true to myself.

In Hamlet, there is a speech by Polonius (whose purpose I cannot remember...and I only know his name because I "googled" it) that includes some advice such as "neither a borrower nor a lender be" (oops, guess I blew that one on both sides as I spent ten years as a commercial lender and American Express says "who's your Daddy" to me every month).  But the quote that is in Act I, Scene iii (lines 78-80) is:

"This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day.  Then cans't not be false to any man."

I'm not exactly sure what the context of the quote was...and I'm not exactly sure what it is supposed to mean.  But I'll tell you what it means to me.  After all, if you've read this might actually stick with me through this. 

What this means to me is that we have to be true to who we are uniquely created, gifted, and placed to be on this earth, in this time, and for those we encounter.  If we do so, then we will fulfill our purpose...and will be someone that others can trust to be genuine and unique. 

But then again...maybe I'm reading too much into it.  Hard to tell.

Being raised in the South, we tend to understand a few realities of life fairly early.  We know that it is important to be polite.  We understand that some people play by different rules than we do and that sometimes this is acceptable and overlooked, and sometimes it is not...and avoided.  We want to be a credit to our families, to our church, and to our communities.  We are to be applauded for being our best self...but are better served to stay within the boundaries of acceptable behavior lest we become too outrageous or different.  One of the worst things one can be is "different."  Maybe it is the same in the other parts of the country...but all I can really speak to is my own experience.

It is difficult to be true to yourself while you are trying to fit in and not embarrass your family.  It is hard to tell people your honest opinion about something or stand for anything when you aren't sure that you have the capacity to stand alone.  Being true to yourself is hard work and takes a strength of spirit that a lot of people just don't have.

So, life turns into a compromise.  We hold back our true feelings and wishes because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings.  We make excuses for why we don't pursue our dreams.  We go through the motions of life...looking for a better day...because we just cannot quit putting our light under a bushel. 

I don't know what voice is in your head tonight.  Maybe it is someone who told you that you aren't as talented, beautiful, strong, or capable as you once believed yourself to be.  Perhaps you just wore yourself out trying to take on the world in your own strength.  Or you may just be feeling tremendously alone because nobody can see what a wonderful person they are passing up in you. 

I don't know.  But what I do know is that you can start by being true to you.

Tell yourself the truth.  Drop the facade.  Quit expecting the fairytale and look at what is in front of you.  It may not be much...or even what you think you deserve...but it is what it is right now.  Determine within yourself that you are going to be you...100% of the time.  Oh, you can temper your "youness" to preserve people's feelings...but don't let others' directives, wants or expectations for you drive you any longer.  You can listen...but you ultimately have to quit relying on other people to reflect "you" back to you. 

If you want a relationship with someone and they have turned you is their loss. 

If you have a dream but nobody is encouraging it...pray about it and then keep plodding forward.

If you have people in your life who suck the life out of you...cut them off.  Set boundaries.  Move on.

If you have too much time on your hands...fill it with something productive.

If people ask for too much of your time...politely help them find alternative arrangements or just say "no."

If you feel alone and undervalued...then step out in faith that you are just a breath away from having everything in your life improve.  It is usually at the point where we think there's no way out that we quit banging on the door bolted shut...and see the open window just beside it.

If you are pretending to be something you are aware that almost everyone else is doing the very same thing.  Be bold.  Drop the mask.

If you want more friends in your life...then take the initiative.  Too many of us sit around waiting for someone to come to us.

Those are my thoughts as I reflect on being true to myself.  I can say that there are times when I would like to still be in that phase of life when it was still possible to change my life drastically and be okay with it.  Today, I am pretty happy with who I am and what I have to offer.  Not always, mind you...but often enough.  Part of that is the realization that I can't pretend to be something that I'm not for long.  I'm just not that good of an actor.

Just ask Mrs. Watson. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On Being a Pack Mule

Sometimes I go through weeks and feel like the days are flying by and everything is fairly copasetic. I go through the days without too many cares...and manage somehow to get things done.  And then suddenly...out of nowhere...I start having days that seem monstrously long and tedious with drama, ups and downs, and cares that feel much bigger than they actually are.  And this goes on for awhile until the skies clear and everything seems to be headed back to the land of "normal" again.

As "normal" as my life ever gets, anyway.

Right feel like a pack mule.  I've been carrying a lot of baggage, worries, and "stuff" and I'm just about worn out from the effort.  After a period of relative normalcy, I had a perfect weekend and then started feeling like I was being weighted down about mid-week last week.  After a fun weekend with my scrapbooking friends, I came home to the realization that I was in full-blown stress mode.

I don't do stress well.

I won't elaborate as to what is going on, because it really isn't any one thing.  It is a combination of items that I've failed to deal with coupled with an inability to get motivated to finish some of what I've started.  My emotional tank is empty...which is odd because I just topped it off a week or so ago.

But then again...I've been here before...and I know the culprit.

Some of us are born to be dreamers, some are meant to be directors, and others of us are meant to be doers.  Oh, we all actually have a little bit of the ones that do not dominate, and I suppose that it is possible that we can be all of these simultaneously.  But our purpose here generally lines up with a strength in one area above the others...and we tend to see the world from that viewpoint.  At least that's been my experience.

Doers commonly get worn out from an innate (and sometimes insane) inability to say "no."  They believe their purpose to be in serving others...and they will exhaust themselves to that end.  They stay busy trying to please...trying to keep all of the balls in the air...and attempting to figure out how to simply matter in the grand scheme of things.  They are...therefore they "do"...and usually have an aversion to being the center of attention. 

Directors are exhausted by having too many monkey wrenches in their plans or too many people with agendas that they have to manage.  These are the people who organize, make things work, and aren't afraid to take charge.  They stay busy trying to make things happen smoothly and efficiently, and the outcomes of anything they touch  to far exceed anyone's expectations.  They are fine unless something unthinkable happens on their watch or when the plans they have get thwarted.

Dreamers are dragged down by disappointment.  They believe in the ideas that God puts in their heads as not only possible...but from Him.  They look at everything in light of how wonderful everything can be...and then cannot bear it when it isn't.  While not all dreamers are creative types...most of them seem to feel more and see more in everything than the general population.  Sadly, this is a double-edged sword.  Seeing the silver lining is great...but guessing what is bound to go wrong can be immensely frustrating...especially when it does. 

So, knowing myself...I know what is wrong with me right now.  And I'm really ready to be unburdened.  None of us are meant to carry what we cannot fix, change, or affect.  We are to leave that securely in God's hands.  Not that we normally do this without a fight. 

In case you do not know me...I'm a dreamer.  I love for the best to happen to everyone I know...and I celebrate when something wonderful happens.  I love the possibilities that life opens up and I normally embrace change when it isn't drastic.  But I can be nearly incapacitated by disappointment.  As an antidote to that...I try not to get my hopes up about anything.  I've spent a lot of years trying to convince people that I'm not being negative or talking myself down because I know that's its just a defense mechanism.  Sometimes I fail mightily.  What I hope won't happen actually does...or what I hope will happen actually doesn't.  But that's life...and you just have to roll with it sometimes...even if you feel like life is a windshield and you are the bug.

The good news is...when we are at our lowest points and we feel more like Atlas with the weight of the world on his shoulders instead of who we actually are...we don't have to stay that way.  We can choose to let it go and rest easy knowing that it will all work out as it should...eventually.  Oh, I am not suggesting that everything is sweetness and light...and everything will end up right...but I can say that a lot of what we stress and fret over really ends up being okay in the long run.  There's no sense in shaking our fists at the heavens and demanding an answer for what we don't understand.  We probably wouldn't like the answer anyway.

At least not initially.

This week has not been fun.  This pack mule is ready to drop a load of worries and regret that things aren't different at the foot of the cross.  I need to be free to move freely, to rest...and to dream.

How about you?