Monday, March 23, 2020

Spring in the Quiet

My house was made for this. When you open the front door and the back door, a breeze makes its way from start to finish. I recognized this as I was making a cup of tea in the kitchen, where it seemed as if a fan was blowing on me. But no, it was the good, fresh breeze coming through. It was Saturday, we were all energized by the sunshine and the fact that we were tired of binge-watching British cop shows. I grilled burgers and veggies for lunch and we ate on the back deck. Then we tackled the workshop, a dark, scary place where creatures take up residence and cardboard boxes go to hide. The boxes mate and grow in there, until they almost block the garage door and threaten to fall in on our heads. While my husband dug through his tools with our future son-in-love, planning to give him as many as he could (to get started on housekeeping)...I hauled sketchy, cob-webby Amazon containers into the light. The pile mounted higher than I feared. I know that I should have recycled them, but my bin was already overflowing and I was frankly sick of seeing these monsters take over our workspace. So I did the dastardly deed: I burned them. 

My family knows that I'm a bit of a pyromaniac, 'tis true. There's something a little too fascinating about the beautiful flames, how they take away the garbage, how they provide wonderful warmth. I have happy memories of bonfires, romantic nights, comfort against a cold winter. I was thrilled to get shed of these lumps of thick, brown cardboard. I resorted them to the blaze, jubilant as they slowly disappeared into the sky. The neighbors might not have been so tickled. One of my son's a firefighter. I'll have to ask him how to atone for these sins. 

In a very short while, we had cleaned up and rearranged the whole shop. Marcus pulled away with a trunk full of tools. Ken and Liz and I took our darling Maggie out for a spin around town (Maggie is Ken's golfcart...she lives on Magnolia Street with us, hence the "Mag..") and I must admit, I haven't enjoyed hardly anything as much as I did that ride. The air was fresh and clean (well, except for the smoke wafting from our yard), the sky was crystalline blue, there was precious little traffic, and the neighbors were all out in force in their yards...waving and cheering us on. It was a small town, old school afternoon. Our world is changing and we have no clue what that is going to mean. We have so much technology we are now slaves to it. But maybe we will pull back to the earth, to the rich sky, to the neighbors across the way... to remember what our hands were made for, to remember from whence we came and to who created us. Passover, Easter, starlight...thinking of these things.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Sleep Sweet

There's nothing quite like when your nose itches and you're not supposed to scratch it. I never noticed how much my nose itches until they told us "don't touch it." Add a CPAP machine to that and then you really don't know what to do. All this silliness but then I read about Italy. Then I wonder if we're next. Then apparently, we are. 

I'm considered an immuno-compromised person, with diabetes, overweight (still, but I'm working on it), and a past history of MRSA infections. They say that folks have two defaults, in their sin areas -- either you tend towards anger/bitterness or fear/worry. I'm the fear gal. So when all of a sudden, we are bombarded with reasons to be fearful, when they increase incrementally every day, and the economy starts to heart shrinks and I begin running around saying the sky is falling. Each day last week, I couldn't put my finger on why my stomach started hurting -- there was a knot in there that was getting worse and wouldn't untangle. I talk about trusting God all the time, but then the rubber meets the road.

It just about undid me when I discovered that even our church was shutting down Sunday services for the next two weeks. I knew it had to be serious, if they did that. The pastor sent a link for a virtual morning service, along with a liturgy, verses and hymns to sing -- requesting that our church body "meet" at 10:30 in our individual homes. We hunkered down to have church the old-fashioned way, like they did in the New Testament days (except for the technology, of course!). Our future son-in-love joined us in the living room. I think we were all cranky and tired. Emotional upheaval is more exhausting than digging a ditch. 

The sermon was on point, bringing clarity about what really matters. He was talking about realities, whether there's a virus or not...about eternity, about how we're all gonna die sooner or later, about where the truth lies, and about who (or what) we put our confidence in. I thought of my Daddy up there in heaven, probably chuckling at my fingernails screeching across the floors of life, so afraid to let go of what I can see. I was encouraged once again, to hold all things loosely, look at eternity, look at one day at a time...but especially to abide in this moment and truly trust the Maker of the universe. We all need to do the things our Mamas taught us: wash your hands, don't pick your nose, quit messin' with your face, cover your face when you sneeze,  clean the doorknobs and don't be spittin' on the sidewalk. Get outside in the sunshine, open the windows and air out the house. My sponsor gave me this sweet bit of advice last night: "Sleep tight. The Captain is on the bridge." 

Monday, March 9, 2020

Where's Mama?

If I can't get my Mama on her house phone, I call her cellphone. I'll wait 30 minutes or an hour, then do it again. If that doesn't raise her, I call my sister. And then my brother. They both live within about ten minutes of her. If much time at all goes by, one of us will head over there. She'll have her hearing aids off or she's not home, headed to Emerson to eat lunch at Doug's Place with her friend Sally. Today when we started the calling drill, we were all about frantic. Then I remembered she was at the AARP, getting her taxes done. Much later, she started calling my phone every few minutes. I was on a conference call and couldn't answer. Turn about's fair play. We get all aggravated but then relieved that she's just living her life. 

Speaking of the phone, I hate wasting time. When I crank up my car, I'm slipping those earbuds in and making my calls. Why wait until I'm sitting around to do it? Might as well multi-task. I live in my car a lot, buzzing from property to property, shopping, running errands and who knows what else. I have a hard time understanding why moving right into the middle of town made no difference in my mileage. Thankfully, Ken keeps our vehicles oiled up and they last forever. Maybellene, why can't you be true? I fear the people who sold me this last cream puff of a Ford Explorer would be horrified if they saw how many miles and bread crumbs have accumulated in it. But I sure love her candle-apple-red party suit.

Life is whizzing by. I'll soon be to my sixtieth birthday, but I honestly feel like my fortieth was last summer. I remember the pink outfit I had on, and how fun it was. Some days I still get a little scared when people talk about being adultish...I might have to do that someday and it frightens me. Then I remember my age and my Daddy saying that he didn't like old people (I believe he was 78 when he said that). If you concentrate on that (being old), you might just get there. So for now, I'm gonna light my strawberry lemonade candle and think about puppies. Good night and sweet dreams...

Monday, March 2, 2020

Babies Grow Up...

I remember the yard sale to beat all yard sales. The old lady had about 50 cats strowed about her property, and at least 20 of them inside the house. She talked about how they had their own room, but it seemed to me they were taking over the whole property. It smelled like a sewer. I'm an animal lover, but sometimes folks lose all their good sense when it comes to cats. But meanwhile, this lady had the best junk I've ever come across. There was furniture, silver, quaint knick-knacks, all very beautiful and cheap. Back in one of the rooms was the most adorable Victorian bed -- it had a high headboard and a gorgeous footboard, all curvaceous and sweet. Perfect for our then four-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. It needed some love. I stole it for $100, took it home and dunked it in obnoxious chemicals until all the ugly came off it. Then I whitewashed it and had to glue it back together. All that processing did a number on it. It was smaller than a standard full-size bed, so the Original Mattress Factory made a custom mattress for it. I bought new sheets and bedding, painted her room soft, blush pink and set her upstairs like a big girl. She had begged to be near her three brothers, who were (and still are) akin to a three ring circus. She says now, "All I had to do as a kid was hitch my wagon to theirs and watch the parade." Being the baby and the only girl has its advantages.

Well the baby girl is getting hitched in a few weeks. I helped her and her fiance find a house to start off their life together and we closed on it today. He's going to move in now; Liz is going to stay with us until they get married. I keep reiterating that to people. It's old-fashioned these days to wait for anything, much less THAT. Grace of God. 

Last Saturday, we were packing up some of her extraneous things to go ahead and put in the house. We acquired a queen-sized bed for her to sleep in here until she moves, and took down the sweet little Victorian bed to put into storage. As it was loaded into the truck, my heart skipped a beat. The finality of the changes that are starting to come hit me between the eyes. We raise our children to grow up, mature, become responsible and then leave. When that day comes, the world changes for us forever. That don't mean it's easy.

My job as a mother has shifted many times. Each season brought its joys and stresses, but there's nothing like knowing that what you are doing is important. Raising our children was, to me, the most meaningful job in the world. My responsibilities were obvious, with both the pains and rewards exquisite. The horizon for us women after our children have flown is broad and full of possibilities, but I find that there's simply nothing that compares to the sowing and reaping of investing in the life of a child. 

She's not a youngling...she's already a woman, educated, well-employed, decisive, responsible. I thank God for bringing such a wonderful man for her to marry, and I'm enjoying the heck out of shopping and planning her wedding with her. I'm gonna get through it. But she's still my baby. They all are...

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

And The Walls Came Tumblin' Down

It may seem silly to some, to have a "word for the year" -- where you choose a word theme for your next 365 days, but I chose "Surrender" for the year 2020. I also hate the overuse of the term "Journey" but there's no more apt expression for where we are going. 

I love freedom. I stand proudly at any ballgame with my hand over my heart and loudly proclaim the National Anthem and the pledge of allegiance. When I think of America, I think of freedom. At the same moment, I think of all the sacrifices that people have made, people that actually laid aside their freedom to make it free for others. We are not worthy.

But in my personal life, I love freedom too. I might just err to the side of hedonism. I'm a closet Libertarian at heart, where I don't want government encroaching into my business. If I'm honest, I also don't really want anybody telling me what to do. Rebellion is my natural default, though you might not know it 'cause I sugar it up good. I shudder to think what life would be like if the Lord hadn't intervened. Funny thing is, here in my golden years (yes, the sun is golden right here), I am finally learning some of the things that I have resisted all along. I actually always loved a tough coach or teacher, ones that had the temerity to get in my face and not back down. As much as I hate to admit it, that's probably one of the things that make my husband so attractive to me...even though I'd like to kill him for it sometimes. We all need boundaries, walls, in our lives. I want to believe that life is a party and that I can do what I want. I'm a Christian and I'm not going to get over the edge, but I might want to flop my big hairy toe over it. 

One of the "acceptable" sins in the Christian world is gluttony. We can holler about alcohol and adultery and stealing, but you better not mention the buffet out back. It's one of those things that we all have to do (eat), but when to stop is a whole 'nother ballgame. And I have indulged my Christian freedom to eat way more than my quota. In fact, that's what I say to my grandkids when they ask why Yaya can't have a brownie: "Sweetheart, I've already had enough of those." And it's true. I've got eternity in heaven to get all the rest of the goodies. Down here, I've done had enough. And that's okay, really, it is. You'd think that was the death of freedom, but actually it's the opposite and I'm waking up feeling all giddy inside. Happy surrender!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Silver Linings

I looked in the mirror the other day, pondering when it was time to get my next highlight appointment with my beautician (who happens to be my newly-minted niece). I did a double-take as it seemed as if my hair was fresh from the salon. I checked my calendar to see when my last appointment was. It made no sense. It should be growing out by now. It was really early in the morning, the room was rather dark...the light of day finally revealed the truth: I went silver almost overnight! 

These crazy young folks are paying big bucks these days to get their hair "silvered." At first I thought it was awful, but then I started to see the beauty in it. Then there was some lady touting makeup for mature women. She had silver hair too and was gorgeous. My husband has always begged me to grow my hair out. It's already to my shoulders, but apparently men think their wives should keep the hairstyle they had when they were 21 and new brides. He has repeatedly asked me to quit highlighting my hair. "Let it go natural," he says. When natural is the color of dishwater and as limp as a noodle, Mama hoofs it to town to get some light and texture in there. I told him years ago, it was either highlights or a permanent. He opted for the highlights. I still shudder at the Poodle Years. I've been a happy camper, staying the perpetual blonde of my youth. This puzzling new development has left me perplexed. How did it happen that quick? Why did it happen? Am I missing crucial minerals or vitamins? I'm eating really good stuff right now, with no processed or artificial food. My fingernails are coming in like horse hooves and I feel like a million bucks. So why the emptying-out of all that color? I read in the Scriptures where it says, "Gray (silver) hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life." Hey, I might just take that one. Old age doesn't mean wisdom, necessarily. Well-worn paths can also be considered ruts, but it depends on whose wagon you're following. 

I remember the hoary heads of so many of the people I have loved, with the wish of just one more chance to kiss those dear faces. What I didn't know was that some of them were still ten years old inside and had no clue that they were old. Others gave up early and hung up their boots while they were still supple. Nothing can stop the march of time, but we can laugh at the future and not live in fear. For me, that is only possible because I know the One who holds my hand. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

More Precious Than Gold

The Scriptures say "a man of many friends comes to ruin." I didn't understand those words for many years. I thought a pile of friends was just peachy. Then I realized that, in truth, no matter how social or extroverted you are, you only can have a handful of good friends. There's just not enough time or juice to keep up with a gozillion friends. And a faithful friend is rare indeed. I have seen where bad friends take people down treacherous paths. I had one such comrade in my freshman year of college. She was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Before long, she had me skipping class, staying up half the night and missing church. I had grown up with a simple and parentally-ordered life, so the advent of eating a whole package of Oreos or swilling all the Coca-Cola I wanted was wild partying, in my mind. I was the willing participant to these follies, much to my parents' chagrin. When I came home that first semester with a D in New Testament Studies and skinny as a rail, they didn't quite know what to do with me. I wasn't drinking or laying out with bad boys, but I was definitely out of control. When things began to teeter to the dark side, I had to take a hatchet job to our friendship. And it pretty much took an implement that violent to rend me away from her. There's a reason the Good Book says, "Bad friends corrupt good morals." My friend went right on down her path and ended up getting kicked out of school, on drugs, with a baby and no Baby Daddy to help her. But for the grace of God I could've tromped right into the mess with her.

I was reminded today of the value of a good compatriot when I had breakfast with one of my oldies but goodies. We go way on back to fourth grade. I have a few, very wonderful bosom buddies. They're all better than me. I probably pull them down. Honorable, conscientious, good, fun people. Salt of the earth. I've collected them over many years. They come from my many seasons of life: Mama, one from birth (my sister), grade school, college, our early years of marriage, church, family, another that I birthed (my daughter), and others that my sons married. They are the kindred spirits that link like DNA to your soul. Time and space don't matter. A year can go by and we link back up like sisters. 

This morning's talk with my dear old friend was pure gold. Memories, children, grandchildren, Mamas, work were all spun into a sweet amalgam of time, too short. True treasures are those moments and days where we get to exchange our lives. I don't want to ever take that for granted.