Weather on the 8s

  
PRESS PLAY BEFORE READING MOM!

Four score and seven years ago today, a very special lady celebrated her first birthday.  Did she have cake to crumble and icing to smear?  Did her mom have to make cake from scratch in the 1920s?  Three full years before the great stock market crash of ’29?  Was she the apple of her mama and papa’s eyes as they had not yet given birth yet to her two brothers?

Was she an easy baby?  Or was she fussy?  Did her parents ever tell her?  Does she remember?  Have I ever thought to even ask?

Her childhood for me is but a remnant of out of focus and scattered black and white photos with so many people I never knew but have a deep need to know now so I will always remember.

I’m talking about my mother.  Today she turns 88.  Double eights.   In her grandson Tyler’s world, that would make her a mere teenager, a ripe 16 year old.  But we know differently.  Time passes quickly and in a blink she surely must have gone from being a baby to a child to a lovely teenage woman coming of age at 14 when World War II started when Germany invaded Poland.   Her Sweet Sixteen was eclipsed by Japan bombing Pearl Harbor.  So many young men died; so many young wives and mothers cried.

Perhaps that is why she hates to see American soldiers, young boys and even girls now, shipped off to distant lands like Iraq and Afghanistan because it brings back memories of the boys of her youth who never came back.  When the war ended she was my daughter’s age now.  At twenty years old, just like her granddaughter Caroline who is enrolled in college, she too was enrolled in college in the big city of Manhattan……Manhattan, Kansas that is.  Good old K-State.

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Before long she was out and working full time at Boeing.  What was it like mom?  Making airplane parts?  Being the first generation of women who worked full time?   Dating flyboys in bomber jackets with big egos who probably smoked cigars and drank everything “on the rocks” while dancing to Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller.  I look at pictures of you in slender skirts and pearls with a wave in your hair just so with your Bette Davis eyes and I think I can almost hear Glen Miller’s “In the Mood” and I want to go back in time with you.

I want to be there in the dance halls where the smoke was thick and the women were all beautiful and hoping their man would be safely home this time next year.  I want to stand with you when American Pride was in full swing as much as the music that characterized your generation.  I want to look into your young eyes as you were waltzed off your feet to “Moonlight Serenade” by…..   By whom mom?  Did you tell me?  Why can’t I remember?  Will you write your stories down for me so I will always know?

I want to be the one that pins a fancy jeweled brooch on your tweed herringbone suit.  I want to position your hat just right and then we’ll go to the movies and come home and sneak a smoke.  I’ll pretend I’m Veronica Lake and you can be Lana Turner and we’ll hit the streets of Wichita and turn heads everywhere we go.

Maybe our food will be rationed but our imagination and wanderlust to see the world outside this state of wheat and sunflowers, this dust bowl smack dab in the middle of tornado alley, will never be stifled.

I’ll go with you and I’ll fuss the boy out who left a tack on your chair for you to sit on when you first starting teaching high school English, Latin, and the merits of Shakespeare in Syracuse, Kansas.  And then I’ll quietly fade to the background when your long legs, superior intellect, and proper grasp of the King’s English captivated my father’s heart several years later when you taught Freshman English at Wichita State.

Yes, he was so lovestruck he wrote you poems and tried to impress you with his writing as well.  You were a pioneer in that area my dearie too.  Long before there was Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, there was my mom who easily got away with marrying her student nine years her junior, because after all, who could tell the difference?    What are mere years when two hearts fall?

I’ll ride in the backseat of your Peugot as you and Dad make your way to Alaska to live in Fairbanks.  I’ll put on a fur parka and enjoy taking a dog sled ride with you across this frozen tundra where the dark of night sometimes lasts only a few hours.  We’ll watch the Northern Lights and then I’ll sit by the fire with you and Dad in the log cabin he built as you plan your dreams for the future, not knowing then what we both know now.  Some of our dreams come true; others don’t.  And yet life still has a way of working out for the best!  While your friends from rural Kansas were making babies and cooking Friday night pot roast, you were off exploring new lands.  I was with you then in spirit.  You just didn’t know it yet.

Soon you were off to Athens Greece.  That’s where you both made me.  I started out so small and unaware that someday I too would have another sister, my beloved sister from another mother, who also calls Athens home.  But that would be years later.

It was back to Omaha, Nebraska so you could bring me into the world.  Dad was given the news overseas in Greece where he promptly passed out cigars to his fellow Athenian workers to announce the birth of his “son”.  It’s okay now.  I watch Mad Men.  I get it.   The sexism.  The 60s.  The cocktail parties.  It all went together.

Several weeks later, off we went again.  This time to Oberhochstadt Germany where I would live for the next four months.   Back to Nebraska and Kansas to see family and then Pasco, Washington.   Why can’t I remember the photo of the baby girl in curls kissing her red puppy dog Rudy?  I want to remember this in a way that is real and not observed by looking at a picture.

By the time I turned four, we had moved to Raleigh, NC where we established deep and permanent roots.   I went to school all twelve years with the same neighborhood friends, a rarity that doesn’t exist now.  When I was very young, I remember we were always having company or going to see family.  Meals and traveling in our yellow convertible Cadillac and playing with cousins and favorite aunts and uncles were common.  It was what families did back in the 1970s.

We must have traveled like every weekend or something until my 8th birthday.  It was May 17, 1973.  I was bedridden and covered head to toe with a wicked case of poison ivy.   While my friends’ moms made Watergate salad, I watched Watergate hearings and President’s Nixon’s scowling jowls wave in the wind as he insisted “I am not a crook” before he ultimately resigned.  Years later I would vote Republican anyway and become politically obstinate in my own views.  I guess you can blame it on the poison ivy.  It made me sympathetic towards Nixon I guess.

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Suddenly it was just the two of us.  Two little women in a huge house, alone, with no brothers or men, just our wits and creativity and a hatful of kittens to propel us forward.  And on we marched.  While other moms traded meatloaf recipes and made new creations with Jello, you quit smoking and took me to the mountains as we watched falling stars.  You took me to the mountains in upper New York State and also to Corning Glass Works and watched glassblowers turn sand into liquid glass and form it into works of art in front of our very eyes.  We went to the mountains of Georgia and I learned yoga at an early age.  We went to Myrtle Beach a lot and I rode my raft in the ocean and played shuffleboard!   We were not only hippy chicks, we were hip.

And when I was twelve we went to San Francisco and rented a tiny car and you drove us on the twisty Lombard Street of San Francisco.  I thought I had turned into the Beach Boys’ California Girl, if only for a week.   We went to beautiful Monterey where we saw sea lions crack clam shells as they floated on their backs.  I went to camp in the wine country of Napa Valley where all the kids asked me to “speak” like a trained dog because of my southern accent that came out anyway despite your best attempts to teach me to talk correctly.

The years passed quickly after that.   My rebellious teenage years collided with your transition to the full-time work force again.  Other moms stayed home and continued to play bridge but you knew there was work to be done, and a teenage daughter to deal with, and bills that had to be paid.  Still, you found the courage to date, and even become the President of the Capital City’s premier group for single parents and their families.  You didn’t wither up and shrink into depression when Dad left, instead you thrived, and we became brave and adept at traveling and creating our own adventures and defining our destiny.  You sought leadership outside the world of homemaking and had the solace and comfort and coffee of a dear neighborhood friend.    You thought I was out playing, but I was watching too.

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I was watching and learning.  I learned that the world is full of endless possibilities.  Sometimes we will choose right and sometimes we will choose wrong, but God can use both kinds of choices to teach us and guide us towards becoming who He already knows we are capable of being.    I learned that fried green tomatoes are tasty.  I also learned that eating cereal for supper won’t kill a kid and is one of my favorite family suppers to this day when I have other things I need to do.  Perhaps it is the secret of slim Or at least for the first few decades of life.

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I learned what kind of mother I wanted to be someday.  I wanted to be a mom who created her own destiny, not just be “somebody’s mother” or “somebody’s wife.”    You taught me it is okay to have shared dreams as well as dreams of my own.  And that is a good thing.

When you retired after many years of working for the state, and then ultimately as a bus driver for the airlines (go mom!) that is when you best found your niche in life:  Helping me by helping me with my kids.  Oh how they have been so blessed by your presence dear mother.  Having a baby in the 80s, 90s, and then the “oh-ohs” as I like to call it, was made more special because you have been in it.  Like you, I knew 40 was plenty young enough to still have a baby.

Three decades you’ve faithfully served at “watching” my kids when I worked or maybe just worked out or ran errands.  You have always been there, more steady and true than the rocks at Stonehenge.  Just like my childhood, you’ve shared with my children the love of many a cats, and now a beloved dog.

Every morning the local radio gives the “weather on the 8’s.”  Well here we are mom.  The time is on the 8s!  How is the weather?  How is the view?  Here it is, the third of May and yet it feels like Autumn with a cool 60 degree morning in Raleigh, North Carolina.  It may feel like Autumn in your life too.  But this much I know is true:

You have lived a long life.  Indeed, you have lived a blessed life.  God has blessed you with so many years, and with a strong body and mind that still is going strong.  I know your body has slowed somewhat, but your heart is still strong.  Your will is still firm.  And your love is long.  It is eternal.  It is the song that goes on and on.  Long after you’re gone, and I’m gone, all that have come through me, and beyond are gone.  It is our Sentimental Journey that transcends time and place and keeps us as one until God carries each of us safely home.

Happy Birthday Mother!  May you be blessed today and always.

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From the daughter and the family who loves you more than words can adequately describe.

Elizabeth

PS – I apologize in advance for all spelling and grammatical errors.  It’s not for lack of teaching.  But I too am getting older, and sometimes I forget what you taught me.  But I’m still young enough to relearn.  😉

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What We Draw Near

Cojoined Tree CIMG3853

     We have a new dog.  So I’ve been taking a lot more walks in nature.  So now it’s me, the dog, my son, and sometimes if I can manage one more thing in addition to a pocket full of treats, water bottles, poop bags, cell phone, and car keys, I bring my camera too.

       I’m finding that dog-walking is actually God-walking.  I’m walking with God as I enjoy all the good things God has blessed me with.

We walk together, my dog, my son, and I– sometimes talking, sometimes quiet, all the while finding amazing things to sniff, pick up, explore, and take pictures of.  I feel joyfulness in nature’s solitude and joy in fellowship with those that I love.  And it feels as if there is someone else with us too.  I can’t see or hear Him.  But it’s more than a feeling or intuition.  It’s just a knowing.   

     On one of our walks I saw this amazing tree.  I was immediately drawn to the tree.  For it is a co-joined tree.  Or at least that’s the term I gave it.  Is it one tree or is it two?  Have you seen one like this?  The base spreads out and out pops another tree, but they share the same roots, the same source of nourishment.  I looked up.  Oh my!  Look son, this tree is holding hands with that one!  Or at least that’s how it appeared.  They are not connected at the branches, but they certainly look like it.

The tree was at a concrete reminder of what I’m learning in my current bible study.

     Right now I’m elbows deep in another amazing Beth Moore bible study where we are studying the book of James.  James was the brother of Jesus (actually half-brother if you count the fact that God was Jesus father and Joseph was the father of Jesus, his three brothers and unspecified number of sisters).

The entire book of James is the one of my favorites because it is hard-hitting and puts the gears in motion to the words of our faith.  James teaches us about:

  • Not just enduring trials, but rejoicing in the process of the trial because of the way it refines us.
  • Being doers of our faith, not merely hearers of the word.
  • How our tongue is a source of both blessings and cursings and it is the rudder that guides our ship (tell me about it!)
  • How we are to eliminate all prejudice in our life and be active in works of mercy, especially regarding the poor.
  • How we are to yield, not show partiality, do good deeds, and to sow seeds of peace and goodness.
  • There are warnings about judging others, warnings about arrogance, and putting too much stock in “our plans” for our lives.
  • There are also warnings about riches and money.  If we lose our humility, then what good is our money anyway?
  • There is great wisdom about being patient while we suffer.  Oh yeah, who doesn’t want some of that?  It’s okay God, just take your time on this one, I’ve got all LIFE!  Seriously though, like we have a choice during our trials?
  • He concludes his six-pack of wisdom by talking about the power of prayer and how we are to help others who wonder away from the truth.
  • The whole book, all seven pages of it (in my bible anyway) is easy to read, but takes a life time to fully grasp.   But my favorite part might simply be this small nugget of truth:

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

     In this same chapter we learn how we don’t get what we most want in life because we don’t ask God, who created not only the whole universe, but also our tiny little self.  We spend our entire lives as if we want to be remembered like Frank Sinatra’s song:  I did it……”My Way!”  Or we ask God for something, but we ask with wrong motives.   Oh come on, who among us hasn’t chuckled as we identify with the little kitten on Facebook who woefully prays, “Lord if you can’t make me skinny, can you at least make my friends fat?”   Do we not sometimes pray for God to exact our rendition of fairness and justice?

So what to do about all in life that ails us? Inequities?  Relationships that go sour, or worse–end in abandonment?  Sickness?   Lack?  Trials of every kind?   Stress?  People who can’t seem to get it together, understand us, or do what we want them to do in order to get along?    Are we supposed to just totally surrender all?

Well, I read James and the answer is one I don’t like sometimes:  Yep!

But that means the other guy wins, I don’t get my way, I won’t be understood, it will hurt, or I can’t fix this.  Right.  Now you are where you need to be. 

Believe me I can write this better than I always live it out in my own life, but it really is true.  We waste so much valuable time we could be living, doing what we really love or at least finding out what that is, by trying to either manipulate or persuade people or situations to our liking to make life more tolerable.

It just doesn’t work like this.  In an odd sort of way James is a structured way to a sort of Zen-like happiness.  When you can truly rejoice in your trials because you know God’s in it, when you can let go of outcome because you know God will work it to the good (even if not here on earth or in your lifetime)  then you can truly be at peace.  You can be at peace and find joy as you suffer.  That’s what it means to share in Christ’s suffering.    This is how we become “strong in character and ready for everything!”  (James 1:3)

We ultimately have to make peace with our own demise.   I believe God teaches us (by giving us plenty of opportunities) to let go of everything else first.   Control really should be a synonym for futility.

I always say:  We are all just renters here.  At the end of the day, we own nothing, for tomorrow is not assured.

It’s good to lean on true friends and family sometimes.  But some things only God can fix—in His own way, and His timing.  Lean not on your own understanding, we are taught.  We can take it a step further—we can lean into the one who made us and loves us as if we are the love of His life.  That’s because we are.

We are all on a journey in life, trying to navigate through trials, learn a few lessons along the way, experience blessings, and hopefully be one to others too.  Like the trees in the forest, we are each unique with our own family branches and occasional nuts (but that’s another blog) and fruits.  Some of us are in full-bloom and some of us are watching the last of our leaves blow away   But as we each draw near to God, not only does He draw near to us, he draws us closer to one another too.  Like co-joined trees, maybe where we each of us ends, is the place where God begins.  God, our home base—He is at the core of our roots that nourish us and grow us, and when the storms come, though we sway, He helps us to still stand tall.

The Moment That Changes Everything

New BabyThis is it!  This is the moment that changes everything.  You just know it intuitively.   It’s every cliché in life rolled into one big split decision:

  • Should I or shouldn’t I
  • This could be the beginning of ……………
  • I (or my family) will be forever changed if I (we)……..

Have you ever had a moment in life like the one I’m talking about?  I’m talking about newness.  Maybe it’s a decision you’ve contemplated for some time and it keeps you up at night, but today’s the day you finally act upon it.   Maybe it’s something you’ll decide on a whim but will have life-altering consequences none the less.  Maybe it’s something that just seems to overtake you and it’s as if it was predestined just for you.  Maybe you’ll make this decision solo, or perhaps some collaboration is involved.  Either way, if you take even one step forward, if you even inhale even one breath of life into this decision, without a doubt life is going to irrevocably change. 

     It’s that BIG MOMENT when you:

  • Say YES or I DO to…………
  • Have just one last drink and put the keys in the ignition anyway, and then ……
  • Take your company public even though you are risking……..
  • Decide to move all the way to…………
  • Kiss someone for the first time knowing that…….
  • Run for office even though……….
  • Want to feel something different than this so you try……
  • Decide to no longer be held captive by the secret of……
  • Pick up the gun and…….
  • Despite any fear of failure, take your dream job doing…..
  • Gaze into the eyes of a baby less than a minute old and your heart floods with….
  • From this moment on, I will live different and choose to believe…………

Think about it.   If you’ve pondered this for a while you know without a doubt, life will never be the same.  Even if you make a decision on a whim, especially if it’s a bad one, an immoral one, perhaps a dangerous one, there is always that one-second hesitation that says  uh uh uh….maybe I better not.   Perhaps it’s something you’ve always wanted to do and this is the moment you say yes, even though you are unsure of future outcome.  Temptation.  Risk-taking.    These are the moments we meet at every crossroads.  How will you decide?

      I call them God Moments.   We either walk with Him or walk away from Him.  Perhaps we don’t consult Him at all, but I believe either way, He is watching, always aware, knowing the future before you take even one step forward.  Even if you’re unsure, perhaps you’ll seek His guidance and wisdom before or as you go through this decision process.  Perhaps you deceive yourself thinking this has nothing to do with God, I’ll just handle this one on my own, thank you.  How will you decide?

     This is the moment you could lose everything……or gain everything.  It’s the moment where you put your chips on the table.  Maybe you’re risking money.  Maybe you’re risking revelation of truth.  Maybe you’re risking your entire heart.

Nervousness.  Butterflies in the tummy.  Heart over head.  Head over heels.  Terror.  Exhilaration.  Freedom.  Passion.   Love.

Today is MY DAY that changes everything.  I have no doubt it will radically alter my life and the life of my family.  It’s something that happens all over the world every day.  As a writer, I know for sure it will give me plenty to write about. 

      What is it you ask?  Ah….the cliff hanger.  Stay posted dear friends.  All will be revealed soon!   I’ve buckled my parachute to the best of my ability.  Now there’s just one thing left:

      Go ahead and jump!

Sir Thriver

Behance.net Tooth Pain

Painting By Takahiro Kimura – Tokyo, Japan

 

#$&^@(!!!  Rats!  That’s what my brain keeps thinking every five minutes.   For I am a teensy bit bummed right now.    I’ve been up most of the night with throbbing nerve pain on my upper right molars.  I know what it is:  I need an emergency root canal.  Again!  Sixth time, in fact!  God has blessed me with many great things, but sadly amazing teeth isn’t one of them.  And in case you were wondering, I do brush and floss and don’t drink soda.

This unforeseen and unfortunate medical emergency has coincided “perfectly” in its timing with our family vacation trip to Disney World in just a mere three days.  We are so looking forward to our first vacation as a family of five since our youngest son was born seven years ago.

Merry Christmas from Adversity!   Happy Blue Year!  You’ve just been given a citation for exceeding the speed limit under Murphy’s Law.

So as I lay in bed all night in a futile attempt to snatch moments of sleep between these nerve-shattering contractions of the mouth, I’ve had some time to have a few choice words with God.  Primarily this one:  Why?  Or these two:  Why now? 

I winced at what I think may be His reply:    Why not?

Why should I be exempt from suffering any more than the rest of the world? I realize that in some other part of the world, perhaps Cambodia, at this very moment there may be a nearly toothless fisherman who would laugh at the simplicity of my situation.  I can after all go to a dentist.  I do have access to dental care, even credit to ultimately arrive at a remedy.  That alone is worth so much.

Gahhhh!  Even now, the throbbing is fairly insane!  No matter.  I will still write.  I will use my suffering.  I will not let it defeat me.  I am however humbled by it; it reminds me, yet again, I am not completely in control of my own life.

Perhaps one of the most import things we can ever do in life is to learn how to not just survive inconvenience, pain, trauma, illness, and other drama in life, but how to thrive in doing so.  Striving towards excellence in all situations should be our modus operandi.

But it’s hard.  It’s hard when you hurt, be it physical or emotional.  It’s hard when there seemingly is not a person around.  It’s hard when others just don’t get it or are too busy.  You’re going to have to go deep and deal with this with God.    Or you can try and handle it all on your own, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll reach the end of that resource fairly quickly!

      So how do you survive adversity?  How do you go from survivor to Sir Thriver?  (Or Ms. Thriver, as the case may be.) 

      Stop counting your sorrows and start magnifying your blessings.  It’s all about perspective.  You can see your life as a glass half empty or just about full.   Which thoughts you feed will determine the words you say and thus the feelings you carry.  Focus on what is good, pure, true, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy—you know that already!

       Stop looking to other people for understanding.  I’m not saying stop relating to humans.  I’m just saying there isn’t always a strong enough person available to carry all your burdens.  Remember, they have some too!  This is where faith steps in: when people walk out.  You will not always get what you need from other people.  But you will from God, if you allow your own doubts to be extinguished by a love that knows no limits.

     Stop focusing on FEAR.  Start STEPPING OUT in faith.  Christian writer and speaker Joyce Meyer said the acronym of F.E.A.R. stands for false evidence appearing real.  How true this is!    We let what we are afraid of paralyze us from doing what we know we need to do.  I can’t let fear of pain, finances, or outcome keep me from going to the dentist today.  So in 81 minutes, I’ll have the opportunity to pick up the phone and make the call that can change all this.  What call or faith step do you need to make or take today to make that change?

     All things can be used for good.   Romans 8:28 doesn’t say that all things ARE good, but that they can be used for good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.  It’s easier to see situations and people as “lessons for life” that God uses to grow us, when we look beyond our line of sight, beyond the person or circumstance staring us in the face, and beyond our human understanding.  If you can trust God who gave you life, you have already taken the first faith step to thriving!  Congratulations!  You have accepted that you can’t control everything!

Pain, suffering, death—it’s all part of life.  It’s the part where we want to hit the fast forward button that doesn’t exist.  We don’t get to walk around it.  Through it all, this is the only way.  Just remember, you are not alone.

Pain Wisdom:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.   Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Philippians 4:8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
   in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:2

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.  ~ C.S. Lewis

One Day this pain will make sense to you

Princess of Grace

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PHOTO CREDIT:  KAROLINA KOTKIEWICZ

So maybe I wasn’t born into the Royal Family and beseeched with adoring Brits and Royal watchers the world over tracking my every hiccup, pimple, gaff, dress of the day, pound gained or lost, and event attended by infinite mobs of paparazzi with camera lenses the length of yardsticks.  I’ve never had women faint or men swoon and lay down their coat for my dry clean feet to tread, simply because of my existence.

I’ve never been deserving of security detail, a personal hairdresser, chef, or secretary to manage my job of social engagements and charitable work, though I would love to have the latter three just for kicks!

When I was pregnant with each of my own brood of three children, the world didn’t stop spinning if I woke up hugging the royal porcelain throne.  I certainly wasn’t given a diagnosis with as many syllables as Princess Kate has been given.  No, I was simply told, “It’s normal; now go eat a cracker.”

Yes, it’s not always easy being a mere serf to servitude and simplicity, complex array of daily chaos.   It’s challenging indeed.  There are no minions to blame.  There is no staff to assist.   There is only my individual blood, sweat, tears, and frequent sleeplessness that accompanies the challenge of trying to do it all: work a day job, raise kids, assist parents, volunteer at church and school, clean house, laundry, attend and reply to endless paperwork, pay bills, feed pets, chauffer children to school and activities, help with homework, find time to play, oh and breathe!

The real challenge is trying to find the essential time known as “Liz Time.”  Yes, these are the precious hours necessary to rejuvenate my own soul: writing, photography, my beloved bible study group, or trying to catch up with good friends.

Living life outside the palace is messy.  We sorely lack a protocol of propriety.  It’s not always structured and it’s rarely consistent.  Yes, high drama occasionally exists outside the drawbridge but doesn’t make the press (thankfully)!  There is no portcullis at our home’s entrance to shield us from the dangers of the outside world.  We have no moat to slow down the uninvited guest or Royal Guard to interrogate and arrest the annoying solicitors who all come at inopportune times.  Ready or not, our house is always open.

But before you grab a monogrammed hanky and cry for me Argentina, hold your horses.  I am grateful for my commoner status.  Above all, I am grateful that I don’t live inside a fishbowl where perfection is the water one must constantly swim in.  For I know this much is true:  I would drown.  Quickly.

See I have evolved over the years.  I have reframed my thinking.  I am not a slave to my family or even to forces outside my control.  I am indeed a princess of three things:

     A Princess of Procrastination:   Ask any accomplished, or worse, struggling (aka “wannabe”) artist, writer, painter, visionary (okay…I’ll stop there) and they will tell you this:  You sometimes must procrastinate regarding your duties of life in order to nurture your high calling, even if at this moment it is perceived only by you.   For who knows the plans God has for you?   Perhaps, you were born for such a time as time as this.  Translation: To respond to intuition and to occasionally shirk what others perceive as duty.  Wisdom whispers quietly sometimes.

     A Princess of Prognostication:  Yes, because the winds of perpetual change often blow in and out of our home, it sometimes feels as if our so-called fortunes can only be predetermined by the accuracy of my prognostications.  That is to say, if I freak out better and more efficiently, you will get off your butt and see the urgency this particular situation requires and quickly get on board!  Indeed! A prophet in her own household is rarely met with honor.  So be it.   My predictions, assessments, and royal decrees march onward, until even I am reminded of a simple truth:   Submit.  Pray.   You are not in charge.  Even though you sometimes act as if you are. 

     A Princess of Peripatetic ProportionsNothing lasts forever.  This too shall pass.  Wanderlust.   The world is so beautiful.

These thoughts comfortably coexist in my brain.   Life is sometimes challenging on the home front, but it’s equally good as challenges not only make us stronger; they reveal who we truly are.

In the midst of trial, I’ve been known to contemplate what life is like outside my kingdom.  What is happening at this moment under the Eiffel Tower?  Does the Taj Mahal have a five o’clock shadow?  Is a child crying for her mother in Halong Bay?  Will the Asteroid belt continue holding up around us?  Who is hurting near me?  Can I help?

I realize life is indeed good.  Blessed, in fact.  This is not of my making, but of God’s.  He has given me life, health, and a family to be grateful for and good things too numerous to count.  He has given me tears to assist with trials and a trust to deal with life on life’s terms:  a temporary assignment.    Because I don’t have to be entirely responsible for generating my own strength or controlling outcome, I am immensely grateful.

I am a princess indeed.  A princess of grace.  Thank you.  Thank you very much!

It’s All Good

Wow, has it ever been a week!  It started on Monday!  I had just gotten my weekly manicure and pedicure at Paradise Salon when I chipped my middle nail on my right hand as I fumbled for my Jag’s keys.

“Lord, have mercy!” I shouted to no one in hearing range.  I was already running late to meet Betsy for lunch.  She always chastises my organizational skills because I never get to lunch first.  How are we going to have enough time to plan EVERYTHING necessary for the Association’s Charity Ball now?  I can just hear her think this as I peel out of the parking lot.

Fine then.   I wouldn’t have even been late if I hadn’t spent the extra fifteen minutes this morning arguing with my husband. When I opened the dryer earlier that morning, a rogue blue sock had tumbled out in a sea of my silky whites.

“WHAT’S THIS?!?!?    Damn it, Charles!  If I told you once, I have told you a thousand times, DON’T MIX COLORS WITH WHITE!”  He just doesn’t get it.  He thinks apologies should just cover everything.  Well not this time, mister.  I want you to learn to listen to me!  Clearly he’s off his meds again.

Lunch was pretty much an exercise in futility as Betts shot down all my ideas for the ball, but giggled that annoying little 7th grade laugh of hers, as she showed me her designer’s plans for the ballroom that all her friends just raved about.

On Tuesday my daughter Crystal informed she got a B- in Honors Calculus.  Seriously?  After all that money we spent on tutoring last year?

“College is competitive Missy.  I don’t know what your problem is, but you need to pull yourself together.”

“Okay, Mom!  I get it.  I know!  Dad went to Brown, as did his father and his father.  I am doing my level best to march lock step in line with your plans for me, so I won’t be the first to break our family honored chain of tradition!”

   Crystal does that.  She has this way of being sarcastic when she knows she screwed up.  Deep down, she knows her father and I only want what’s truly best for her.

The rest of the week was exhausting.  I was dealt an impossible to do list:  Take our oldest son Will’s Tahoe to the shop for an oil change.  A second meeting finalizing the Charity Ball plans.   Take my mother in law to her weekly bridge club.   Deal with the frisky exterminator, what’s his problem?  Finish my Christmas shopping for all 6 of our siblings and their kids!   Unload all the groceries and then realize I forgot the freaking dental flossPeggy, our housekeeper of fifteen years gets sick the week of Thanksgiving!  Great!

Finally, on Friday I had to chaperone Jason and an entire class of second graders on a field trip to what else?  A water treatment plan where we all learned how raw sewage is recycled back into water.  I swear from this day forward, it’s Evian or nothing at all for me.   Then, wouldn’t you know it, when I was at the smelliest part of the water treatment facility, about a half mile from where I had parked, I tripped over a rock, and broke the heal on one of my brand new Jimmy Choos.  I had to finish the field trip by precariously balancing my weight on my good left leg and tip-toeing on the right.

I barely got home in time to watch Days of our Lives.

What’s this?   Right there smack in the middle of our wall screen, our dusty old box TV with rabbit ears from the attic was perched on a card table.

I called my husband at the hospital immediately!  “Page Dr. Clark stat,” I yelled at the very rude receptionist.   You’d think a busy metropolitan hospital could page a neurosurgeon in under twenty minutes.  What if someone had an actual emergency?

    Twenty minutes later, Charles informs me the overhead projector is broken so he took it to be repaired this morning.  “So I set up our old TV in the living room, because I know that’s where you like to sip your coffee as you watch your Days.”

    “Thank you,” I mumbled.  Bless his heart, he really does try sometimes.   I collapsed in a heap on the sofa.  I couldn’t help it.  I started crying.

Suddenly a memory crept up towards the surface of my consciousness.  When I was a little girl, probably no more than seven, I can remember I once fell off my Princess Daisy bike and scraped my cheek a little bit.  My granny Pearl was the one who parted my hair back off my face, wiped the dirt and blood off with her clean little hanky, and kissed my tear-stained cheek.

    “There there, my baby girl.  It’s not so bad.  You’re gonna have days like this,” she softly whispered.

“Yeah, but I’m going to be in the Little Miss Charleston Pageant this weekend and now I’ll be the only one who is ugly.” 

She laughed and laughed.  That made me cry more.  “Child, you’re no more ugly than the sun is freezing.  You’ve got to relax sometimes.  Just go with the flow.    It’s all good!”

  It’s all good.  I try to remember that when I have a week like this one.

I do something next I haven’t done in a really long time.  I probably haven’t done this since my granny used to take me to Sunday school all those years ago all decked out in bobby sox and Buster Brown Mary Janes.  I get out my bible.  I close my eyes and open it up to any old random page.  I put my finger on the page.  I open it up.  Then I smile.

Well, golly gee, I can just hear my granny say, look at the encouragement the Good Lord left for you today:

For we know all things work to the good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.  Romans 8:28

     It’s all good.  Indeed.

Don’t Get Caught By the Eyeball Police!

Photo Credit: Lambert Hulton Archives/guardian.co.uk

      That’s because in our house Little Brother is watching you!  Yes, he roams the kitchen table like a roaring lion waiting and watching for a disobedient dinner patron to commit this most dreadful of sins:

Praying with your eyes OPEN!

If there was a word that described the pace and structure of our house, it would be this:  HAPHAZARD.   So on the nights I cook dinner, if I’m not utterly exhausted, and if I happen to muster up the energy to clear off random acts of homework, unfinished Lego kits, half-sorted piles of junk and legitimate mail, and other miscellaneous objects from our kitchen table in order to have a “family dinner”, then I usually insist that we say a blessing.

It’s only fitting that we should ask God to bless our food for the nourishment of our bodies and oh did I mention the “hands that lovingly prepared it”?  Anyway, my six year old son still prefers the standard:

God is Great

God is Good

Let us thank Him for our food

By his hands we all are fed

Thank you God for daily bread

 

Sometimes I throw in a quick extra request before everyone can shout Amen and start digging in.  I’ll wiggle a sentence or two sideways in that brief interval before the first mouth utters first syllable “A” and mutter something about a world event, “and Lord, please bless our soldiers who are digging in and trying to stay safe from enemy fire” or “please bless the starving children in Africa.”   Or I may say, “Please bless our daughter as she travels out of town this weekend.”     The point is I try.

Prayer is important.  It’s important to me.  But generally my family just wants to eat, if there are actually full plates sitting before them.  The “please bless and save the world” prayers are preferred at bedtime, not meals.    See my son likes the prayers, but what he really likes is to be the enforcer and check the table for any wandering eyeballs that happen to reveal themselves behind lids that should be closed.

“(Sinful person name)’s eyes were open!”  he gleefully proclaims if anyone opens their eye at any point during the prayer before Amen is stated.

He should be a lawyer I think.  He expects obedience to “the law.”  No mercy is granted, and if my son was sheriff, you would be flogged in the public square for not adhering to the Eyes Remain Shut regulation of mealtime prayers.

I sometimes sigh and wish our grace at meals were more full of….well, grace!  Less legalism, more words full of thanksgiving and grace and Godly requests for others.    I want prayer to be our habit of love, not our obligation to following a rule.

I believe that is how Jesus wants us to come to him…with thankful hearts, with prayer and petition making our requests made known.  And then the peace that surpasses human understanding will guard our hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.

That’s the idea anyway.  It’s just that sometimes that’s when the cat jumps up on the table.  The solicitor phone call rings.  Ding Dong goes the doorbell.  The forgotten oven timer finally sounds reminding us that the food I prematurely took out is now ready.  Prayers are started and quickly interrupted.  Eyes open and my son is taking names and calling them out.

We live in a busy world and when did it get so hard to just make a family meal happen?  You know; the table is cleared and set, steaming hot healthy food waits to be ladled onto shiny white plates, iced drinks await to be sipped, napkins are in laps, prayers are said, and Dad is ready to slice the meatloaf.  Sweet children patiently await the food to be served.  Then we’ll all talk about our glorious day and how blessed we are.

OK, scratch the record at this point.  Still as moms we try, and dads too!  Interruption is our standard and peace seems to be our exception, but still we press on with endurance to have a family meal, complete with meaningful prayer and good food that we are indeed thankful for.

As for me and my household?  Well, we all try to keep our eyes shut as long as possible.  Never mind the plank that frequently juts out from them, we just don’t feel like getting a verbal citation from the Eyeball Police.

A QUICK prayer for your family dinner: 

Lord Jesus, please bless the mother’s hands today who tried her darndest to lovingly prepare a family meal after a full day of work and responsibilities, for kids who are not perfectly behaved or quiet, and a husband who doesn’t make it home on time because he works so hard.  Bless the solicitor who calls because they’re just arriving at their second job because times are tight, and the cat who reminds us he’d like to eat too, if it wouldn’t be too much of a bother, and the little Cub Scout who just happened to sell popcorn at an inopportune time to raise money for his troop.  Bless our over-scheduled lives and our sometimes under-nourished souls.  May we remember that even when we don’t give You the praise for our dinner and even more so for our lives, that You are still watching over us, blessing us, and in control.    We thank you for not only the food that nourishes our bodies, but for You who feeds our spirit and nourishes our life.  Help order our time so that we may enjoy eating as a family and with minimal distraction and drama.  And Lord, please keep us safe from the Eyeball Police!  Amen!

PS – I’ve made this meatloaf and it’s really good. Especially the bacon topper! It’s essentially the same as my mother in law’s recipe, but I was too lazy too type it, so I pulled this from About.Com

1950s Meatloaf Recipe:

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef (chuck is best)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork sausage (seasoned or not)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1 to 2 large cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper (sweet capsicum)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 package dry onion soup mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste, divided use
  • 2 to 4 strips bacon, cut in half (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine ground beef, pork sausage, eggs, bread crumbs, garlic, sweet onion, bell pepper, oregano, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, onion soup mix, milk, and half of the tomato paste. Gently mix only until combined. Do not overwork the meat or it will become tough. Form into a loaf. Cover with the remaining half can of tomato paste. Weave the bacon strips over the top.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let meatloaf rest 15 minutes before cutting to serve.

Yield: 8 servings

1950’s-style Meatloaf Recipe Photo © 2010 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.