Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Table

John reached over and caressed his mother's hand. Their eyes met and reflected the teardrop that slipped off her cheek and onto the wooden tabletop. She traced it with a look as it mournfully fell, and then lovingly wiped it with the sleeve of her garment allowing her fingers to linger for a moment on the smooth wood. 

Her touch remembered her first born son who had hewn the timber and finished it to a mellow surface. It wasn't the first major piece of furniture he accomplished on his own, but rather a special birthday gift to honor her and show his love. She remembered that day and a small smile skipped across her lips. It seemed fitting somehow that it was a table; a place where they shared meals and laughter, played games, and talked of life and the future. Now, there was only an empty chair and memories. 

Raising him had not been easy. There were challenges. It wasn't that he was disobedient. On the contrary, he was a good son; bright and wise, with a mind and spirit that seemed to capture something mystical; a part of him that lay just beyond her reach. He spent a great deal of time communing with strangers and she could not understand what seemed like more than a need to be the center of attention. At times he would wander off, spending an even greater amount of time alone, while she was left to worrying, and wondering what he was about. However, she understood his need to be alone. Much like him she, herself would take early morning walks in the beautiful grove, just over the hill, to reflect and meditate. It was her time to mull over the responsibilities of motherhood, and seek direction in raising her other, more raucous, boys. 

Her sniffle drew her back to the table and she returned the caress of her sweet son, John. Patting his cheek she rose and went about the preparations. Today there was double the reason to celebrate. It was Christmas and her late son's birthday all rolled into one. This was the first Christmas-Birthday since his death and though he would not be there in body to enjoy the festivities, she knew he would be there in spirit, living on in her heart forever. 

She went to the cubbyhole in the back of the pantry where she removed a package wrapped in  handwoven linen. Inside were three small treasure chests; each one a different size and color, and each boasting its own humbly elegant design. The tallest was covered in a type of red velvet and resembled a small tower with jewels for windows and a lid that opened on a tiny silver hinge. A rectangular, ivory coffer, intricately hand carved, with a cover trimmed and hinged with gold was the smallest of the set. The medium sized one was an octagonal shape. Rich purple fabric set off the red tassels that hung from each angle by tiny sapphires, and a cover that could be lifted by grasping a jeweled handle. These three would be the centerpiece on her beautiful table this Christmas and because they held sentimental value, perhaps for the rest of her Christmases to come.

As a base for the trio, she laid her handiwork across the table. It was dainty and delicate, spun from the finest filament available; a project she had been working on for the past year to busy her hands and detour the sorrow that drove into her heart on a daily basis. The thread was a special gift from her husband, who knew her love for needlework, and shared her loss of a son. The setting of pottery plates seemed to clash with the elegant treasure chests and fragile covering upon the humble table but the contradiction spoke volumes about the character of her firstborn. 

The setting was almost finished. There was just one more thing to do. She arranged the chairs and in her mind determined that her husband would be seated at the foot the table and an empty chair would hold the place of honor. She would sit to the left. 

Heading to her room she opened the wardrobe, pushed a few things out of the way, and uncovered the dress. She hugged it to herself and drunk in the stained scent. All the pain and passion came rushing back and a heart-wrenching wail escaped her throat. It was the dress she wore that day, the day he died. She could not bring herself to part with it, nor could she bring herself to wash the blood from it. Feeling weak from the excruciating scenes that flashed her memory, she stumbled back to the table and draped the dress over the chair. Then she crashed to her knees and remembered.

"She gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some  shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord..."

Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. There at the empty chair, she whispered her thanks for the son of her youth, the Hope and Savior of the world, and the God of her heart. 

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies..."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How the Grudge Stole Christmas!

Every You down in You-ville liked Christmas a lot. But the Grudge, who lived inside of Youville, did NOT!

This imp does not live in a mountaintop mall. It lives in those, whose hearts are too small. Hearts that think Yous don't have their heads screwed on quite right, or don't walk in Yous shoes because they're too tight. Staring out from its cave deep in the heart, it hates the Yous that it thinks are not smart. 

The Yous hang their stockings with bright hopes for the future. But Grudge sneaks on in and quietly lurks there. It growls with its fingers nervously drumming. It must find a way to keep Christmas from coming. For Christmas you see is that special time when Yous get together and spend every dime. They make lots of noise with their hugs and their kisses, and sit down to a feast with their misters and misses. 

And THEN, Yous do something Grudge hates most of all! They stand hand in hand, the old and the small. If it doesn't do something to stop all this love, to break up Yous family and give it a shove, they will stand there together with Christmas bells ringing, and tidings of joy Yous will start singing.

It's disgusting to Grudge, the whole You-Christmas-Sing. For years upon years its put up with this thing. Then it got an idea, an awful idea, a God-awful reason to stop this whole season.

"I know just what to do!" The Grudge laughed in its throat. And it made a quick change to its hat and its coat. It slithered and slunk that old nasty serpent. With a smirk most unpleasant, it stole every present; the fun Yous all had when the weather was pleasant.

The unity found on an old tilted deck, Grudge smashed it to pieces and growled what the heck! The love Yous all shared, the feasts and the wine, Grudge didn't care, the nasty, old swine. The love and the joy, the peace and the patience, kindness and goodness, was now in all absence. The jokes, and the teasing, and funny kinfolk, Grudge breathed in the sulfur as it all rose in smoke.

Grudge grabbed all the hate, and it started to shove when it heard a small sound like the coo of a dove. It turned around fast, and it saw a small You! Swaddled in love, He was not more than two. The Grudge had been caught by this little toddler, who'd come from above with His living water. He stared at the Grudge and said, "Serpent, old banshee! Why are you taking the love from Yous family?"

But, you know, that old Grudge thought it was smart and so slick, it thought up a lie and it thought it up quick! "Why my sweet tot,"  the old Grudge sneered out, "You're only a light on a tree! You'll fade out." 

Then the last thing Grudge took was Yous log for their fire, and curled down deep in Yous heart, the old liar. On the walls of Yous hearts, he left nothing but looks and hot ire. "Pooh-pooh to the Yous!" Grudge was grudge-ish-ly humming. "They're finding out now that no Christmas is coming! 

"All the Yous down in Youville, they'll never be brothers! They'll all go on thinking, its not about others! That's a scene that I live for!" grinned the old judge, "All the Yous there in Youville holding a Grudge!" So, it paused and put a sludgy hand to its ear. All the sounds of a grudge it wanted to hear. The fighting, dissension, and self-righteousness, all the noises of You-ville holding a Grudge.

"Here it comes!" grimaced that growling old Grudge,  that smoldering sound of fiery drudge. It started in low. Then it started to grow. Grudge rubbed its hands with its face all aglow, stared out at You-ville, popped its eyes and then shook. Grudge couldn't believe the sight it partook. 

In the middle, the heart, of You-ville He stood, sharing with Yous all that He could. The joy and the peace from that tiny Tot put a stop to the Grudge right there on the spot. His love came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.

And what happened then...? Well...the Yous, they all say, that hearts down in You-ville grew three sizes that day! They brought back the presents, not for fair weather feasts...but for Christmas all year because they'd beaten that beast. The Grudge, it was puzzled, till its puzzler was sore. It packed up its grievance and was heard of no more. And the minute Yous heart didn't feel quite so right. They all loved one another with all of their might. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

I Survived Black Friday

Today my mind and emotions feel very much like Black Friday. They are rushing around in my head and heart like little shoppers.  Wrangling and crowding each other for the first place in line at odd hours, they pursue that number one gift or gadget that will make someone's day. 

Mine is peace. I have chased peace for as long as I can remember. Now, before you jump to a conclusion and yell, "You need Jesus!", let me say that I believe there is a major difference between knowing the Peace Maker and tackling peace. In this world we will continue to experience great difficulties and I do not find peace in those things. I do find peace in Jesus, but that does not annihilate the pain and heartache while waiting out the cold, dark hours.

While my thoughts scan the memory posts about happy blessings that many enjoyed on Thanksgiving day, my less than desirable experience finds me looking up toward Heaven and like Rosa, in the 1995 movie, Sabrina, saying, "So I ask to God why I am here. I say, 'Why God?' but there is no answer. So I stop crying. It takes eleven years!"

My eleven years has passed more than five times and just when I think dawn is breaking I discover it is only a lamppost in a parking lot. Darkness still looms on the horizon and I am once again caught up in a lengthy and profound pursuit of that ultimate gadget called peace. Alone in the dark I enter into a sovereign solitude and begin to study my surroundings. 

A lamppost not only provides illumination and reflection, but also, can serve as a marker. Whatever struggle drove us to the dark place is insignificant. What is important is that we are right where we are supposed to be. Without those markers in our life; those afflictions and millstones that drag us down, there would be no peace. 

In all the chaos of black Fridays we learn to surrender to that dark place sooner and abide there longer. It is in these somber circumstances, alone and cold, that we wait for the greatest abundance. Treasures at bargain prices; treasures such as patience, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, and love, all wrapped up in peace. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Let's Talk Turkey

Our property joins that of our farmer neighbor. Like many others he rotates his crops every few years and hires migrant workers to harvest. Last year it was cabbage. Each morning with coffee in hand I watched the hirelings join together as a team to pick and pack those heads of the green leafy vegetable. A chuckle rose in my throat when they tossed the heads to one another more as a game than a job, and I listened to their tune as they whistled while they worked. Eventually the field was stripped and all that remained were dead heads and residual outer leaves which were quickly turned under by the colossal cultivator.

One morning after the harvesting was done I once again retreated to my porch swing. The air had turned crisp and an early haze hung over the empty farmland. There was no more laughter cracking the quiet, or whistled tunes competing with the sparrows. I was alone in the stillness and began to reflect upon the attitude of the workers. I realized they did not only harvest a cabbage crop but also reaped an atmosphere of gratitude. Their dominant mood was a positive work of artfully mastering dry, dusty labor into an environment of influence that lazily drifted into my back yard.

Thanksgiving Day is only a few hours away and we know that great gatherings and delicious dinners don't just happen. It requires some planning and preparation. And so does gratitude. But also in this we must leave room for hardship. 
H.U. Westermayer said, "The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."

Harvesting gratitude does not mean we disregard the labor of life. But that we leave the residual to the Colossal Cultivator. It doesn't mean that we are removed from the pain and suffering, or the disappointments and failures. Rather, it is a remedial remedy that acknowledges our struggles and gives us the strength to move beyond them and bring healing to our spirit. 
This Thanksgiving let the peace of Christ keep you in tune, and in step with each other as you cultivate thankfulness. Don't go off and do your own thing. Let love have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your life. And while you're at it, whistle a tune while you harvest your gratitude, dance to a little Plymouth Rock, and be thankful you're not a turkey :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Today I'm Sad

~Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad. ~ Henry Wadsworth

~ You must be strong now. You must never give up. And when people make you cry and you are afraid of the dark, don't forget the light is always there ~

~ I cry with desperation ~ 

~ You know somebody, and they cry for you. They stay awake at night and dream of you. I bet you never even know they do, but somebody's crying for you ~

~ Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will make me go in a corner and cry by myself for hours ~

~ I laugh because I must not cry. That is all. That is all ~ Abraham Lincoln 

~ I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live ~

~ We grow through adversity. We need not seek it out; we can all look back at moments when our lives were in utter chaos, desolation and despair. Growth comes when we respond to adversity by stretching just an edge beyond our talent and experience." ~ Dr. Robert D. Wald

Friday, November 12, 2010

Snow, Snow, Snow Friday Five

My friend Singing Owl has this to say about the coming winter. "I am looking at the weather forecast with a sigh of resignation. You see, our glorious unseasonable stretch of sunny days is ending and rain mixed with snow is in the forecast. The weather guy actually said, "This is probably the last nice day till spring, folks..." So, I am trying to plan ahead. Help me out, please."

I'm always glad to help out a friend so here is what I do when it's cold outside:

1. What is your favorite movie for watching when curled up under a wooly blanket?
This time of year, it's hard for me to pick a favorite movie. There are so many wonderful ones that just feel like cold, and snow, and Christmas. But, under that wooly blanket; which by the way, would be red with lovely wide, white fur to match the dresses of 'the Haynes sisters', I would snuggle up to White Christmas.

2. Likewise, what book?
Light the fire, burn the candles, and get cozy for a book by Richard Paul Evans. I love to revisit the character Mary, because I too mourn the loss of a daughter. I weep each time I read about the letters in her Christmas Box, and the tears I shed are cleansing. 

3. What foods do you tend to cook/eat when it gets cold?

When the weather turns cold, I turn to soups, stews, and chili. My mother used to make mulligan stew. I wish I had the recipe because it was a childhood favorite of mine. I think she may have gotten the recipe from her Navy dad.   

4. What do you like to do if you get a "snow day" (or if you don't get snow days, what if you did)?

Ahh...the beauty of snow days. I tie back the curtains and love to watch the snow fall, blow, and drift into mounds of a white wonderland. The fire crackles, and I feel warm and free to do anything I please. It may be baking chocolate chip cookies, curling up with a good book and hot chocolate with tiny marshmallow pillows, or crocheting a new afghan.

5. Do you like winter sports or outdoor activities, or are you more likely to be inside playing a board game? Do you have a favorite (indoors or out)?
At fifty-eight with a broken thermostat I like to be inside. But, I have my old Arabian friend who likes  a clean stall and having his hay and grain served up proper, so I really don't mind donning my warm woolys and spending some time in the stable. Afterward, a warm fire, popcorn and a movie is a winter staple :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bent But Not Broken

The sumptuous sunrise was sneaking up on the crack of dawn. Morning doves and sparrows were rehearsing a score fit for a rising production. The velvet curtain haze, heavy from the sultry day before, slowly rolled back to reveal a mighty scene surrounded by Arcadia azure clouds and pastel puffs of pink. Early shadows cast an amber glow on waves of grain, and prism dew drops, strung along the way, sparkled tiny rainbows in narrow aisles. Perfect peace was center stage and the only intrusion was that of an occasional cricket catching the early show, or the scurry of a furry creature running late for a very important date. 

As I strolled along, heads propped up on pillars of gold invited my touch, and I moved my hand across the tops of gilded wheat. Its spiked hair and knotty kernels tickled my palms. Intermittently, a bent reed bowed to me, and  I resisted the urge to straighten it, knowing that my feeble attempt to correct it would break the already bruised fiber.  Even my most tender touch to coax it to an upright state would destroy what was designed to thrive in this predisposed prominence. 

These stalks pushed through the stubborn sod and burst into life just as the others. Their substance, as valuable as those that surrounded them. Their worth, no more, or less significant than any of the hundreds standing beside them saluting the sun. The only difference was their stature.

Some of us are kindred to these bruised reeds. Designed to thrive in a bent but not broken ability, we are blown over by the wind of circumstance, and pounded to live as an incurvate. Like clay, we are centered and turned taller until tipped by any number of influential iniquities. It might be the design of a debilitating disease, disability or depression; the crease of a sacred trust violated, or the shape of physical or sexual abuse. We might be stamped by the loss of a child or molded to mothering one with a disability. It could be that we are folded by a formidable financial crisis, or mottled by a multiple of these miseries.

But the fact remains, we are bruised reeds thriving in the fertile soil of Ecclesiastical truth, "The race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant, or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come. As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them."  (Eccl. 9:11-12) 

Had the lot been cast differently, we might have been any other head on a pillar, but it was not meant to be. If we feel degraded and discouraged in what was created to live in bruised ability, we might attempt to force ourselves to stand straighter only to find it impossible to do so. The striving for self correction does nothing more than force us to horrendous habits and helplessness. Our feeble fix only finds abuse, our self acclaimed ability only bias, and there is no lack of others who stand over us in pity or judgment. In our bowed state we must also endure pietistic platitudes. Those vile verdicts of the religiously righteous that make judgments upon us and tell us we can be healed if we have more faith, more prayer, more holiness, more...more...more....The flippant fingers that try to feebly force us into the upright position by spiritualizing pain with the sublimity of suffering, positive proclivity, and the too blessed to be messed, stressed, or pressed mentality.

The reality is this. It is precisely our bowed state that gives us strength in weakness, and honor in humility. The apostle Paul knew it as a thorn in the flesh. Agonizing affliction and confounding constraints are of the highest value. Suffering that is allowed the presence of God becomes something more, something beautiful. God takes our thorns, weaves the heart of the gospel into them and places them upon our head as a crown. Yet not one pierces without His knowledge. Those drops of bereavement from the sharpest thorns produce the most delicate roses whose petals sweeten the world with compassion, tenderness, and love. 

That we can stand tall in humility, yet bow to kiss that Hand that hurts; that we can find, in the midst of suffering, a love for our fellow man that is greater than our own; that we can commune with the Christ of the cross and carry his gospel in the very heart of our pain is the liberty of the bruised reed, and the healing of the brokenhearted.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Five Friendship

Talk about writer's block! Mine has been more like a few square miles. I've been around and around that block for the last month and haven't found one crack to squeeze through. Even though my little plot has been filled with an array of scenery, I have not been able to write a single line about depression, oppression, highs, lows, surprises, demises, or mass hysteria. So, in an effort to jump start my pertinacious pen to put something in writing I am sharing a Friday Five from over at revgalblogpals where Songbird writes:

"If you're ever in a jam, here I am. If you're ever in a mess, S.O.S. If you're so happy, you land in jail. I'm your bail. It's friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship. When other friendships are soon forgot, ours will still be hot.

I'm thinking a lot about friends these days, the ones who rush to you in times of trouble, with a casserole or a socket wrench or an invitation for coffee or lunch or a trip to the foot sanctuary. We meet friends in school or on the playground or at church or in the workplace and even on the Internet. Even as blogging has experienced some decline, the community here has been strong."

For today's Friday Five, here are some questions about friendship and my answers. If you would like to play along, leave your answers in my comment box.

1.  Who is the first friend you remember from childhood?

This is a painful one for me. I didn't have a childhood friend. My home was not kid or friend friendly. I do remember beginning a friendship with someone, I think her name was Kathy. Her dad owned the bar that my father frequented whenever he had the chance. One day our fathers got into a heated argument and I was never allowed to see Kathy again. When I was sixteen I met my best friend. We've been married for 41 years this November. 

2. Have you ever received an unexpected gift from a friend?

I am sorry to say, I have not.

3. Is there an old friend you wish you could find again?  Or have you found one via social media or the Internet?

I have no old friends to find, but I do enjoy making new ones on Facebook.  

4. Do you like to get your good friends together in a group, or do you prefer your friends one on one?

I enjoy both, but my preference is a group.  

5.  Does the idea of Jesus as a friend resonate with you?

Most definitely! Jesus is the friend who has always been there for me. In my childhood, He was my familiar Stranger. I felt His presence in my loneliest and most painful times. He is still the one I run to, cry to, scream to, and bare my soul to. I am so grateful He choose me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy Trails Bites the Dust

The crowd of jovial juveniles pushed in toward the retaining wall that separated the seating from the arena. A thousand hands stretched the expansion while a swarm of voices nearly drowned the melody of the theme song. 
Peanut inched her way closer, but she was not pushy. Watching for any minor break in the throng of boys and girls dressed in cowboys hats, fringed shirts, and western boots, she squeezed through. Finally, she was close enough to reach out. She waited a little impatiently, shuffling her weight from one foot to another and wished her mom was there for this exciting adventure. 

Born in her mother's later years, she was the distant baby of the family. One up from her was a brother fifteen years her senior, and before him a sister, a brother, and another sister. The age difference and being the last of five not only made Peanut the baby but also a 'lonely only'.

It was the younger of her two sisters that retrieved tickets to the show in Milwaukee. This was the sister that acted as mom and babysitter while her own mother worked a full time job. Peanut both deferred and despised the arrangement. 

Although her two nephews were her only playmates, many times the tussling trio got into blustery brawls over their relationship. The nephews  would yell, "You're our sister!" and Peanut would scream back, "I am not, I'm your aunt! I have my own parents!" and they would volley, "Uhn'ah, 'fraid not, they're your grandparents!"..."Are not!"..."Are too!"..."Are not!"...and on and on it would go on until her sister would hear and bellow out the window for the three of them to stop their fighting.

Peanut tried not to let it stick but she always felt embarrassed that her parents were older than other parents of kids her age. When people would ask her mother or father, "Is this your granddaughter?", she wanted to shrink away in shame. Ultimately, that was one of many times that her father would make his stabbing reference to her being the "afterthought". When she was old enough to understand the cruel tag, her feelings of being unwanted and unloved were cemented into place. 

Now, the famous cowboy on his big Palomino was just a hundred feet away. Slowly he made his way along the wall, leaning in toward the children, and shaking as many hands as he could. Some of the wee fans were lucky enough to get a fingers fumble of the horse's long silky locks. The theme song continued in the background, "Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then." 

Peanut's heart jumped the starting gate and raced around her chest. The pounding excitement echoed the hoof beats of the approaching Palomino. She thought about how she would feel, shaking the hand of the King of Cowboys. But, even more, she thought about the thrill of being just inches from his famous golden horse, and maybe, stealing a stroke of his fine flaxen mane.

Roy and Trigger were the stuff heroes were made of to a little cowhand like Peanut. Seated upon his metallic mount, Roy Rogers faced trouble with courage, lived on the side of right, and defended the weak. But the thing that drew her into the sliver screen scene was Trigger. 

Billed as the Smartest Horse in the Movies, Trigger, got his alias because, "He could turn on a dime and give you some change." Being quick on the trigger, the name stuck. That big shining stallion brought the brilliance of equine sunshine into her life and made a burning impression. 

Seeing him in the arena, rearing, dancing and hosting a seat for his owner was like a dream come true.  Now, here he was, in the golden flesh, before her eyes.

Peanut nudged forward a little more, reaching out like a beggar for bread. Just inches from her the couple came prancing forward. Closer! Closer! She stretched further toward the finish line; the grand finale. Then, her thoroughbred heart fell harder than most, crashing to the track, broken and crushed. The shakers before and after were a hand longer and easier for the king to kindle. In a flash he and his magnificent mount were past. 

Peanut dropped the disappointment into her bottle of bitter pills, and twisted the seal. She tightened her grip on the paper program, all that was left of the moment; a shiny comparison and mass copy autograph. Wrapping her arms around it, she hugged it to her chest as if  she were embedding the memory deep within. The stinging tears damned up behind her eyes and the burning in her throat were almost more than she could swallow. But, she forced it down with the water of will.

To Peanut, the experience  was more than idol worship. It was something deep down in the quiet torrents of her spirit that she longed to know. The genuine admiration for her existence as a child of worth, a child who was accepted simply for who she was, without the striving to be loved. But the One who would enter into that void and fill her heart was still the silent Stranger, who showed himself in the beauty of a golden stallion. 

*Note:   Recently, the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans museum in Branson, MO closed its doors and items from the famous couple were moved to Christie's in Manhattan to be auctioned off. Among them were the remains of Roy's famous horse, Trigger. 

Peanut still admires the "Golden Cloud" that could rear high and lay low the worst villain, yet softly prance into a weak life and warm the timid heart of a child.

Friday, September 10, 2010

ABCs From a Steamed Mirror

FRUSTRATION! Have you been there? Have you been stuffed into that place where life, relationships, or circumstances leave you disappointed, annoyed or depressed?

Just this morning, I found myself in the flaring bulls eye of frustration. I pounded my desk and shouted the age old question, "Why?" But, the incident that fired my meltdown was only a spark in a blaze. The forest fire of distortion, differences and diminishes in my life are making heated transitions for me that are metamorphosing.

When life hijacks our expectations, and makes heavy demands; when delight turns to drudgery, stress levels elevate, and discouragement descends, we lose our focus, and frustration is funneled into the core of our being.

That frizzled feeling is well described by an American Novelist, "When life demands more of people than they demand of life, as is ordinarily the case, what results is a resentment of life almost as deep seated as the fear of death." 

Frustration stinks and the odor is putrid. A nauseating stench of decay that rots our joy and turns the stomach until the only option is to vomit out all the dissatisfaction and anxiety in tears, or an angry bout. 
A comedian once said of frustration, "Set the kitchen timer for twenty minutes, cry, rant, and rave, and at the sound of the bell, simmer down and go about business as usual." 

But, when our anger diffuses, our tears dry up, and we've spent the last scent of foul frustration, how do we go about business as usual? More than likely the cause of our unraveling is still present, stitch ripper effects are still tearing at us, and we feel like we're coming apart at the seams. 

If you're housebreaking a puppy, the solution may be as easy as mopping the floor. But what if the little teether just chewed a hole in the middle of your brand spanking new carpet and there is nothing left anywhere in your budget to repair or replace the floor covering? 

Or, what if something more serious, more transitional, drags you to the edge of sanity and stress?  It isn't so easy to simmer down and go about business as usual when your whole life is changing. 

After setting the timer, and a teary rant, I was saved by the bell. Banging my head on a firm surface must have knocked some sense into me because I started to think about the control that my life circumstances were having over me. It really was disconcerting to see myself as an emotional tossed salad acting like a fruitcake. I imagined myself dying in a fit of frustration. My gravestone would read, 'Here lies Peanut. She was nuttier than a squirrel turd.'  
I'm convinced frustration is much like the Act of God designation on an insurance policy. I can not be insured against what life is most likely to throw at me, and I can get hot and steamy over it, or I can try to see the healing in the heat. I find it is always easier to write on a steamed mirror, so here are my ABCs on frustration.
Accepting frustration  as a normal human response helps us to own it and take responsibility for it. Instead of asking, "why is this happening", the better question is "what can I do to meet or override this challenge".

Before giving vent to an outburst of emotion, move toward the frustration and see what life lesson it offers. Take a good, honest look at the culprit. Ask yourself, "Am I doing too much, expecting too much, spending too much, taking on too much responsibility?"

Create a belief system that is based on gratitude. Be thankful for the good things, and control your thinking. 

Next time you are tempted to run a muck through the forest of frustration remember: It only takes one match to start a forest fire, but sometimes, it takes a whole box to start a campfire. Name your matches true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, and gracious. 

Summing it all up friends, I'd say we will do best by filling our minds and meditating on these. Think of the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; and things to praise, not things to curse.  

Friday, August 6, 2010

From 0 to 60 in Under 6 Flushes

Birthdays; those once a year days we celebrate our coming into the world. Birthdays are good for you, the more you have the longer you live! By the time you get to sixty, there's more candles than cake. But, old age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative.

On Friday, August 6th, my daughters and I decided on an all girls bright. We converged on Boucher Imports of Racine, to bestow 60th birthday wishes, hugs and kisses on our favorite guy; daddy to them, hubby to me. 

Arriving like a triple troika, we were the cat's meow and looking like the next up; four of us all in a row with balloons in tow, and a birthday bag of goodies. 
After the big "Surprise!", I took a place beside my old fiddle and listened to the sweet tune of excitement coming from our tootsie trio, young and beautiful. 

For a moment a memory harmonized with three little girls in curls, and pink birthday cakes. I blinked off the nostalgia and resisted a sudden urge to sing Achey Breaky Parts to my other half.

We wished the birthday boy a hearty congratulations on reaching the big 60 and told him  to keep a positive attitude. After all he's only sixteen in Celsius. He should be thankful he's still playing with a full deck. He just shuffles a little slower now.

I told him there's still fire in the furnace, but now it's called heartburn. Then, I gave him this little birthday gift fit for a sporty man of 60 who thinks getting lucky is finding his car in the parking lot. 

He won't have any trouble finding this little baby! A brand new 2010 Flusher from Latrine Imports. Manufactured by Willy Makeit and Betty Won't. This little number goes from 0 to 60 in under 6 flushes and is guaranteed to keep him on the go.

Happy Sixty Ricky!! 

Grow old along with me the best is yet to be...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Today, July 31, 2010 records a distinguished chapter in our family history. My son is being hooded in a grand summer ceremony in Stegeman Coliseum at UGA. David receives his PHD in Bio Chemistry and  Molecular Biology. 
The first chapter was written into my book the day he came into the world.  After hours and hours of natural labor and well into transition, I wondered if Lamaze was a man, because right about then, I wanted to take his bottom lip, stretch it over his skull, give him an epimysiotomy, and watch his head pop out. 

Finally, my little prince was crowned and out he came, all boy! The rest is history. Now, he stands well above me. But, when I look into his eyes, I see the little boy that stood before me on his first day of school, surrounded by the young man on his way to a bright and promising future. And this is what I want to say to him.

Dear David,
The day you were born I felt like I was given the greatest gift on earth.  When we were alone, I cradled you in my arms and gently unwrapped you from the blue hospital blanket. I counted your fingers and your toes touching each one as I numbered them. And then, I lifted you up and dedicated your life to God asking that you would do great things, and you have.

The day you left for kindergarten and college felt the same for me; pride mixed with sorrow. I kept thinking to myself. "My little boy is  growing up. He is starting school. He is taking his first steps to making  his own way in the world. Will he be kept safe? What can I say to him to assure he is prepared?" But, the only words I could force past the ache of letting you go, was "I love you." 

Up to that moment in kindergarten, I held your heart. Until one morning you left for school  wanting to bring Mrs. Margis flowers from our back yard. I knew then you had given  away a tiny piece of your heart, and bigger pieces would be given away later. I am so glad the bigger piece now belongs to Fabi. She is wonderful!

The day you left for college, mini videos flooded my mind; your first steps, birthdays, dinosaurs and legos, gardens and trees, your famous words, "Mom, I have three things...", and a scrapbook filled with certificates for the best. I suddenly felt terribly inept. I held your lifetime in my heart for that moment. But you were always competent and independent in your knowledge, and I was insecure and like a glass, half empty of what I could give to you.

The pride I feel for you is so overwhelming I can barely contain it. Tears are my only outlet. Tears for the minutes I mused over you, and the minutes I missed. I hear your voice say, "Mom, it's ok. Don't worry about it." Yet, I find myself wanting to confess to you my imperfections, explain away my inadequacies, and apologize for my parental psychoneurosis; as if you have some giant eraser to wipe the board clean and exonerate me from all my mistakes. 

Today, you are the doctor in the house. Your list of achievements is long and I know will grow longer still. You amaze me, and fill me with pride. But the real value is not in what you have done or will do, but in the fact that you exist and I have the honor to call you my son. My wish is that all your wishes and dreams come true, and your concoctions make history.

Once again I find myself standing at a doorway thinking to myself, "My little boy has grown up. He has finished school. He is making the world a better place. What can I say to him?" The only words I can force past my tears are, "I'm so very proud of you and I love you!"


Monday, July 19, 2010

Party of 15 and the Red Light District

They say, you know you're a mom when private peeing goes out the window; tiny fingers pry open your sleeping eye while a small voice asks, "R-yo in 'dare?"; and you hear your own mother's voice coming out of your mouth. 

You know you're a grandmother when you hear, "I want gwamma to do it"; you trade loose change for a million dollars worth of hugs; and perfect love comes in smudgy feet and sticky fingers. My grandmother days started fifteen years ago. 
Yesterday, we celebrated my grandson's golden birthday. July 15, 1995 was his grand entrance, but as many birthdays go in our family we usually party on the closest Sunday. 

It seemed fitting that the weather was somewhere up of  90 degrees because the day Josh was born it was so hot the birds had to pick up their worms with potholders. I remember that day. One minute my daughter was helping me put in a window air conditioner with mouths so dry we salivated out our armpits, and the next we were off to the labor union and local delivery. 

Speaking of that wonderful gestation strong enough for a man but made for a woman, I do believe God has a sense of humor, since the only thing that shrinks in that nine months is your bladder, while boobs, butt, and baby enlarge. I often wonder about Eve in the garden. How many bushes did she have to water on her way to the fruit aisle?  

Theresa's labor was a lot like this blog. Straining, crying, pushing for it to get to the point. So, here it is. We had a birthdaylicious bash yesterday. The babies and other terrorists hijacked gramma's house and there's nothing more fun in the world than being held hostage for a family party of 15. 

We started out with a taco dip and swam 'til we were pruney, sipped sloppy ice-pops, milked the chocolate cow dry, had birthday cake in a tub, and did our crazy candid camera thing. But, what made the day was the red lights and district ambulance.

My hernia on hiatus made a surprise visit. Why it decided to show up yesterday is an esophageal mystery. But there it was; vomiting, boa type constricting, shortness of breath, and insurmountable pain. After forty minutes and feeling like I would be the death of the party we dialed 911. 

It must have been quite a sight. Eight people crammed in my bedroom, and me with my head in the toilet, gasping for breath and white knuckling the seat as if I'd go down with the next flush. But, like a mother in delivery I didn't care what I looked like or who was in the room. I just wanted the pain to go away. 

With vitals read, levels good, and attended to by three handsome paramedics in blue, I was back on my feet quicker than a jack rabbit in a stew pot. It was time for my gentleman callers to pack up and head back to the station in Husher.  

Husher, is a four corner, blink of an eye town consisting of a combined police and fire station, a town hall, a used car dealer, and Husher bar and grill. With the wee alehouse being just across the street from the fire station, many a firefighter has been known to stop for an off duty brew or taco Tuesday.

Being that the pub is just a half mile from our house, it also made a convenient place for my daughter to work a few years back.

So, before my rescuers left, paramedic #1 asked daughter #3 if they had met before. My daughter politely replied in the negative and #1 insisted. With a slip of the tongue he left out the all important "at" and said, "Yeah, didn't you use to work the corner?"  

We all looked at one another in sparkling shock and burst into side splitting laughter.  Of the two, I'm not sure who blushed brighter, my dazzling daughter or the radiant rescuer.  But it certainly made me feel in the pink on a golden birthday!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Monster's Ink

Have you ever had one of those days when you wake up feeling like 'It' came sometime between twilight and dawn, and stole every once of your joy? This morning I dragged myself from my bed feeling like something colored my world with black ink and wondering what monsters will chase me down today. I summed it up like this.

Will the dog play duty on the floor, 
Or the cat tear the screen from the door? 
Will the horses get sick? 
Will I come in with a tick? 
Will the monsters increase more and more?  

Will the window's bad pane
Leak the thundering rain? 
Will the ceiling fan last
Til' the summer is past,
While those monsters sing their refrain?

Will the bills yell "Attention!" 
While I fail to mention 
The blue house is straining 
For a fresh coat of staining
With the monsters collecting their pension?

Will my kids need a favor
 While life holds no flavor? 
Will my washer never get fixed
And my dryer stay nixed
While those monsters make life even graver?

Will my spouse need a lift
When I've nothing to gift?
Will the bank fail to sanction
The loan modification
While those monsters are causing a rift?
But wait, there's a door
On this monster's work floor,
To help with life's riddles
It's crossed in the middle,
Where the monsters no longer keep score!

The flowers are all pink 
And the doorknob is zinc.
There is oh so much more
Just inside this great door.
And here there is no monster's ink!

Have a great day ya'll!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Olive Garden Rap, Broken Bronze, and Eight Eyes on a Sparrow

Once a year my three daughters and I make our little pilgrimage to Olive Garden. Ultimately, one of us, or all of us, come with roses in hand to meet as promised. The "Let's go out and be incredibly thankful that we are still together!" is our pledge, born out of the death of my daughter eight years ago and has been steadfastly kept. This year was a bit more challenging to keep that promise, but with a few adjustments to everyone's schedule we all met as planned.

The evening started out with a bit of an edge, as the hostess was not one with the most-est and refused to honor our special request for the corner booth. Her excuse was that there were no servers for that 'one'! Now friends, I can respect the fact that a whole area is closed with no wait staff. But, mind you, this was ONE booth in an area where five other booths were being served. It was time for the Mominator! Converging on the enemy with blossoms in tow and a bow of diplomacy, the bugaboo was exterminated. Feeling like I just won the war of the roses we moved to the booth we desired.

Tucked away in our shadowed, little corner of the world, we  munched a meal, mingled memories, lingered over laughs, and a downed a decanter of sangria. We included our server in our hilarious celebration. Afterward, he informed us that we were the talk of olive town as the four beautiful women seated at booth #whatever, and our lavish laughter was the entertainment for that section. We were rewarded with a free dessert and an after dinner show rapped by our server. No kidding folks! Our server rapped us a poem about death, life, and inspiration.

Feeling a little blushed but beautiful we left the olive behind and headed for the headstone at Westlawn. Arriving at our destination we discovered the plaque unkempt and the handle of the inverted vase broken off. We were all silent for a moment as a non-voiced violation passed between us. Not only because of broken bronze but at the unfairness of life, the cheat of death, and a host of other painful memories and emotions. 

Then with dogged determination we decided that this year while laying our roses to rest, it was time for Sharon to get back in on the family photos.


 We knelt in the wet grass. 

Joked about an empty wheelchair. 


Hugged a ghost and kissed a spirit. 



We laughed off our grief and in the end each of us knew we would continue to look up.

Walking back to our ride we noticed something small and speckled in the grass. Looking closer we discovered a baby sparrow. At first we thought he was injured, but when I reached down to touch him he fluttered away. We left brimming with belief and hallowed hope for the future when one of us exclaimed, "His eye is on the sparrow!"

                                        And I know He watches me!!

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