Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Other Man


I had a date with another man today.
His blue eyes sparkle like sapphires. His smile is sweeter than chocolate. When he hugs me, my heart melts like butter. I’m so in love. Don’t tell Rob—he might worry when he hears I’ve fallen for a younger man. Who’s three feet tall and speaks in short sentences.
My grandson came to play at my house this morning.
On a shelf just inside our front doorway is a plaque that reads, “I may not be rich and famous, but I do have priceless grandchildren.”  And sitting next to that sign are the photos to prove it. We have five grandbabies—four girls and one boy—and we are filthy rich.
We watch our daughter’s three kids fairly often. Sometimes I take the older two granddaughters on a YaYa date. It’s kind of easy to do because they live fifteen minutes away. Our two redheaded granddaughters live in the distant country of Kentucky where their parents are foreign missionaries.  Those1800 miles have put a serious cramp in our grand parenting style, and we owe them some serious babysitting time (which we can make good on now that Chief has retired.) We’re pretty experienced at entertaining little princesses.
But in all his 23 months on earth, today was the first time I’ve ever spent time alone with Will. I picked him up for our date and let him ride in the first class car seat behind me. He narrated the whole drive—I love a man who communicates—and we found every horse and airplane between his house and mine.
His mama has been telling me how different it is to have a son after spending the last six years with little girls. I should have realized—after all, I have a son, too. But it wasn’t until this morning as this little guy strutted through my house, playing with the toy firetrucks his uncle enjoyed thirty years ago that I realized how long it’s been since a little boy last stole my heart.
My own little man will be thirty-three next month. (He’ll hate that I phrased it that way.) But how is that possible? I’m still so young! Images of my son, now grown, flooded through my memory in warp speed as I laughed and watched and held my grandson this morning. I let Lee go to become the man he is today years ago, but there’s still that mother’s heart . . . It’ll sound weird, I guess, but a son wraps his mom around his little finger like he can’t do with his dad, and she is forever changed because of it. My daughter understands this now and reminds me of it often.
So Will and I had lunch together—peanut butter and jelly, of course—and read books on the sofa, and he repeated every word I said like I was the sun in his galaxy. Because this morning, I was. And God gave me a gift of memory in the laughter and hugs from my little heartthrob, Will.
Boy, is Chief ever going to be jealous when he gets home from Florida tonight. I may have to take him on a date to make up for it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Health Nut


We’re trying to eat healthy.
Do you have any idea how many versions of “healthy” there are? Paleo, vegan, low carb, whole foods, real foods, cultured foods, low calorie, low glycemic, traditional foods, and Starbucks. Okay, that last one is where I turn when I can’t figure out who’s right and I just give up.
It all started with a book I read about how eating coconut oil is good for you. I couldn’t figure out how ingesting a suntan oil ingredient would do anything but land you in the hospital, but holy guacamole, Batman, coconut oil is edible. And it can heal everything you ever thought was wrong with you, from tooth decay to moles. Well, I have some moles, so . . .
Just like that, I became a believer.
The next thing I knew, I’d thrown out all the Crisco in my pantry, six bottles of two-year-old salad dressings from the back of the fridge, and four bags of stale tortilla chips from a Memorial Day cookout in 2012.
And the sugar. It’s always about the sugar. Sigh. Only Starbucks still believes in sugar.
Years ago, I had a neighbor who went on pantry purges twice a year, loaded up all the poisonous groceries she’d spent a hundred bucks on at Safeway, and donated them to my family. She knew we had no scruples. And, since I had a side job as a pie baker, I was grateful for every ten pound bag of sugar she threw into the mix.
“Yeah, you can have that, too,” she’d say. “We call it ‘white death’, but I knew you’d want it.”
Well, I didn’t much want it after that.
So this spring I read a few radical books about coconut oil and raw milk and Kumbucha, took myself to a grocery store and then tried to re-stock that lonely cupboard with ‘healthy’ food. I wandered every aisle between produce and the dairy case, reading labels and going blind and, when I was finished, there were only two things crossed off my list. Still, my shopping cart was full—of paper towels and toilet paper.
But no sugar.
As much as I dislike the smell of health food stores, they are the only ones who carry all the weird things I’m feeding my husband now. Oh, sure, Fry’s has four aisles of “Natural Choices,” but that’s only enough variety for amateurs. I’m serious about this healthy/organic/alien way we’re trying to eat. And I want options! I’m not happy with two flavors of Mama Chia, I want at least five before I commit. And are those dried garbanzo beans organic? How about the honey—is it raw? And why do we have to use words like ‘raw’ anyway? I always thought raw things gave you worms.
These are the questions that keep me driving my cart in circles for hours while I wear a clothespin on my nose at Sprouts.
Still, after about six months of re-educating myself, it’s getting easier to choose between real food and the imitation stuff. But, for the most part, I’ve had to give up coupons. They don’t really cater to Kumbucha junkies like me.
One afternoon, I flipped through some coupons that came in the mail. I’d never seen a collection like these before. NASCAR had teamed up with our local grocery store and offered some “race day” meal ideas along with matching coupons. You could save fifty cents on a jar of Ragu and serve your family a Mexitalian delight—“Spaghetti Tacos.”
I kid you not.
Photo attached.

I almost spit out my Kumbucha.
Spaghetti Tacos? Crunchy corn tortillas filled with Ragu drenched spaghetti noodles. A “HEARTY MEAL for race fans.”  Ta da. If I was a NASCAR enthusiast, I’d have been offended.
Or not.
So yesterday, in between spine crunching and neck cracking, I described this repulsive dinner idea to my chiropractor. A man who has dedicated his life to helping people like me become healthy. A man who knows that Vitamin B-12 is a better choice than a grande six shot espresso.
But still, a man.
“Sounds pretty good to me,” he said, as he pushed on my vertebrae and showed my backbone who’s boss.
“You’d eat a taco shell filled with saucy spaghetti strands?” I asked incredulously, straightening my shoulders and rotating my neck.
“Sure,” he answered, “it combines my two favorite foods—Mexican and Italian.”
“But there’s no meat anywhere!” I exclaimed.
“No, but if you pour a little maple syrup on top, it’d taste pretty good,” he responded.
I couldn’t believe he wasn't as repulsed as I was. I mean, he's a doctor.
“Don’t you think it’d be the same thing as eating a . . . Sandwich sandwich?” I pushed. “You know, like a slice of Rye between two pieces of Wonderbread?”  I waited for him to come to his senses and realize it was disgusting.
“Well, that does sound a little dry,” he admitted, “but again, cover it with a little maple syrup and I could get it down.” And he grinned.
Either he was kidding or he loves NASCAR. 
See, that’s the reason I never know who to believe in the debate between grain and no grain, dairy or no dairy, taste and no taste. I think that, in the end, all our food choices in life will come down to these two things: is it loaded with ‘white death’ or does it need a little maple syrup to choke it down?
I see another pantry purge coming on. I think I’m going back to my Starbucks diet.
They never confuse me like this.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tears


Robin Williams died last week.
It wasn’t an accident. Nor disease. It was his mysterious choice, and it broke America’s heart. Arguably the best comedian we’ve ever loved, the well has gone dry, the laughter turned to tears—only questions remain. Facebook is full of his funniest moments, all of us grasping one more second of a life evaporated. Gone too soon.
We “are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”*
Everyone thinks depression got the best of Robin. I’m not an expert on the subject, though probably just like you, I’ve experienced it.  It’s miserable. What is ironic to me is how many funny people are deeply wounded human beings, harboring sadness within. Still, we love the self-deprecating humor comedians have spent a lifetime honing. We cheer on the honest and obviously flawed person who lets us laugh at his shortcomings.
Better him in the spotlight than us.
Laughter happens when we identify with a comedian's story. That’s what makes a good comic—connecting with the audience. And laughter is good for the soul. “A cheerful heart is good medicine,” a wise man said, “but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” **
So I wonder—does it ever surprise you to think that the very funny person standing in front of you uses humor to cope with his pain?
I can be funny. I love being funny. I love it when somebody gets my joke and rewards me with outright laughter. Compliments are nice, too, and a few times I’ve won Toastmaster awards for telling hilarious stories. The truth is, though, that whether my writing and speaking brings a tear or a chuckle, the source of my anecdote is often something painful.
And that’s the other irony.
There’s a richness that flows from a melancholy heart. Beauty from ashes, some say. And even when someone dares to reveal a deep hurt, there comes a point where you have to make a joke about it or you would be crushed in the telling. Laughter lightens the atmosphere and gives us hope that we’ll smile again on the inside.
If only someone had been there last week to make Robin laugh. Or maybe to let him cry. How I wish there could be a happier ending.
It’s so hard when the curtain falls on a tragedy. 

 

*James 4:14

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Seeing Red

It caused quite a stir around here.

And I wasn’t even at home when it happened. I just read about it on Facebook. That’s what’s so great about social media—even from the top of a mountain in northern Idaho I know what’s going down in the desert.

It was a flyer. An invitation. A titillating tri-fold mailed en masse to both churched and unchurched families in our town—one per family, please. Bright red letters punctuated the slightly suggestive photo on the front page. (They always use red for messages like these. Kind of makes me wonder what’s up with Christmas colors.)
The out-of-focus photo on the right revealed two red high-heel clad feet caressing another in a high-top Converse tennis shoe—horizontally—while the eighty-point crimson font slid in from the left margin like it just ran a . . . red light.
SEX DRIVE, it proclaimed. Maybe it should have arrived in an envelope or shrouded by a magazine blinder with a warning to parents. Remember—this appeared courtesy of the postal service to thousands of families whose latch key kids bring in the mail every afternoon. And a few of their parents saw . . . red.
Is your sex life what you hoped it would be?” the inside flap asked. “Does something inside tell you it could be better?”
Well, those are kind of personal questions. I’m not sure I know you well enough to discuss what goes on behind our closed doors. Who’s asking, anyway?
Scanning my very own tri-fold, demurely buried between the water bill and my bank statement in the pile of mail on our table, I opened the fancy flyer and stared into four cherubic faces at the top of page two. The children’s program info had lead billing over an ad for junior high and high school classes which promised to help teenagers “make great choices.” And a full page offer to meet some good looking guy pictured holding a red rose adorned page three. There’s that color again. “All first time guests on August 3 will be entered to win a chance to meet Sean Lowe,” the enticement read.
So . . . who paid for this mass mail out?
A church. Finally, at the bottom of the page, a church website took credit for the invitation. A church which, one parent pointed out, holds services for the time being in a nearby elementary school. That really creeped out one of my neighbors.
Boy, did my husband and I ever have a lot to talk about. We looked at this mailing from as many sides as possible, guessing at the misdirected intent behind its flashy form:
1.      Everyone has a sex drive. So people might have their curiosity piqued by the cover question. Yes—people of all ages with keys to the family mailbox.
2.      God created sex (the flyer confirms that). So if people need to learn about sex, they should attend church. Okay, well, that’s better than learning about it from the backseat of a car. But is that why people attend church? Sounds like a misleading way to lure visitors through the door. 

3.      Sex is no longer a three letter word. (Are there any three letter words?) It’s the plot and ploy for nearly every tv show, commercial, movie, music video and lyric that saturates our airwaves and overwhelms our living rooms. So why not discuss it in the noble framework where it was designed?  Because most parents still believe it’s their personal responsibility to explain this gift to their children—appropriately and privately.
Maybe this flyer should have been handed out to adult church members. At the very least they could have saved some postage. Maybe members could be trusted to invite a friend to attend the series—you know, personally, where a personal subject like this would be discussed. And maybe the people in charge of creating this flyer should not have assumed that unchurched adults are an easy target if the word “sex” is the lure.
Frankly, that’s where I think they missed the mark. Well, that and the Sean Lowe lottery. I’m still seeing red over that one.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hope


A joyful, confident expectation of good.*  

That’s what I told her hope is, while she chewed her fingernails and waited for the phone to ring. It’s what God means when He tells us to hope.
“I jumped for joy when I read that!” she said.
Then yesterday – devastation.
“What happened,”  I begged God, my pen accusing Him in bruising speed across the journal page before me. 
“I’m so confused. I think I made things worse. Now here I sit, wishing I’d never learned to type. If faith is leaning on Jesus in absolute confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness, how come I’m always falling down?” **
I bet it’s my anemic faith.
“You are good. You keep telling me in my crises to expect You. But what about in the crises of others? Can’t I expect You there, too? Now I don’t know anything, except she got bad news yesterday—how is that good?”
Where are You, God?
“I’m in the dark again,  questioning Your . . . what exactly am I questioning? Your goodness, Your power? No. Your desire to step up and heal? Maybe. Your willingness to rescue?”
Yeah. That’s the one.
“It always comes back to that for me, doesn’t it? And then it becomes personal again. Are You our Champion? Do we matter to You in our exhausting daily wars? Is it wrong to enjoy this life and ask for a longer visa?
“I know ‘heaven is for real’ and people want to stay there when they get a glimpse of it. But for many of us, it’s the blurry stuff of gospel songs and sweet by & by’s—even fear. The enemy aims at our bodies, but it’s our hearts he’s after. He steals our peace and confidence in You.
“And how about this easy explanation some people give: “God heals perfectly when He takes people home.” You know that’s not what we prayed for. You knew what we meant—You’re not a greasy lawyer with slick answers. And You’ve given us authority to ask for things that will be granted to us.”
What am I missing? Does prayer even work?
“I’m losing ground in the tug of war where I was taught never to believe out loud that You heal the sick and do good. Not today. Not in middle America.
“Please heal him, Lord. Please talk to me. If this is the battle I think it is, if Your women are a great army, then this is just a skirmish and it’s not over yet. Because we’re praying.” ***
My troubled eyes fell to the Bible open next to me.
Be glad. Be in high spirits. Jubilantly rejoice. Sing praises to His name. Cast up a highway for Him Who rides through the deserts. A protector is God. You did restore and confirm Your heritage (us) when it languished and was weary. You, God, in Your goodness, did provide for the poor and needy. (Psalm 68)
Well, it wasn’t an explanation, but it was an answer. Spent, I closed my journal and got dressed for church.
Two hours after my debate with God, eighteen hundred miles away from my friend’s pain, an Anglican priest—his sermon finalized that morning—began to preach. I sat up straight in the pew as he began reading from the same chapter where I’d debated God that very morning—Psalm 68.
“God is [already] beginning to arise, and His enemies to scatter; let them also who hate Him flee before Him!” he read from verse 1.

“For nine days, the Bible says, the disciples and the women believers waited in the upper room, devoting themselves constantly to prayer. It was the in-between time,” he said, “the time between the promise and the reality, the realization.
“Prayer is central to our lives, to who we are as believers. Prayer shapes belief—what we believe about God. And when we pray, we reveal the things we believe.
“We imagine we are somehow responsible for our state in life because of our choices, good or bad.  Therefore, we think we don’t deserve God’s goodness. But in John 17:1-11, Jesus is bold when He prays. He looks to heaven and invites His Father to be faithful to His promises. He puts His Father’s honor on the line.”
I fell in love with Jesus again. He couldn’t have spoken more clearly to me if He’d hit me with a fig tree.
“Look at the story of Lazarus,” the pastor continued. “Look how He prayed at the grave of a man who’d been dead for three days.”   
“ ‘You always hear Me and always answer Me when I call You,’ Jesus told His Father. It was an invitation: Do on earth the things you do in heaven. God alone is in control. Jesus challenges God to be faithful because God is faithful. He’s saying, ‘Lord, prove to your people that You are faithful. We glorify you. Provide for Your people.’”          
My son, the Anglican priest, had no idea of the battle which took place in my soul that morning. He did not hear the way I questioned my Father’s heart before I came to worship Him. It wouldn’t have mattered if he knew. It’s not my faith that’s on the line—it’s God’s. And He has enough for the both of us.****

“Expect the Holy Spirit to show up,” the young priest concluded.
That’s just what hope does. 

 

 

*(2 Corinthians 1:7, Amplified Bible)
**(2 Timothy 3:15, Amplified Bible)
***(Ps. 68:11, Amplified Bible)
****(Galations 2:20)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Betrayal On Nottaway Hill

When he was three, he wore a batman cape and a pointy-eared hat I bought during the After Halloween Clearance Sale at a fabric store. When he was five, we painted his name in bold block letters on the back of a red vinyl coat I found at Goodwill, added some black galoshes from their shoe shelf, put a plastic junior firefighter helmet on his head and wished him a happy birthday. We were pretty broke that year.
 
My son always loved role playing games.

But roles have reversed and the games have gone weird. I just don’t get them. There’s no dress up box. No cowboys. No Indians.

Now when he plays a role, there isn’t a pseudo superhero in sight.

There’s just a box in the middle of the dining room table, stacks of character cards, thousands of cardboard confetti pieces, and a ten chapter instruction manual with a table of contents devoid of  a very important warning: 
“This Game Cannot Possibly Be Completed In Under Four Hours.
Blow yourself up with zombie dynamite in the first roll of the dice. . .
if you know what’s good for you.”
I never got the dynamite card.
Two years ago I played Arkham Horror with my son and at the end of the night I wanted to throw myself under the wheels of an oncoming ghost train. He said it was an easy game to play. He lied. I spent four hours running from zombies. I don’t even believe in zombies.
And . . . history repeated itself.
“Hey, Mom,” he began a couple of weeks ago, “I have some new games I know you’ll love. They’re easy!”
I should have faked a stroke.
“You have your choice,” he was saying. “Eldritch Horror or Betrayal At House On The Hill?”
Those were choices? Whatever happened to Monopoly or Candy Land?
We role played two days in a row and I’m here to tell you I was betrayed twice in his house on the hill. More on that in another blog. For now, I was given the role of a nine-year-old girl with the eyes of Satan.
“She’s better than the creepy séance woman on the other side of the card,” my daughter-in-law told me as I stared in Arkham Horror at my character’s picture. “She only has three points of sanity but five points of speed.”  So? Most nine-year-olds have five points of speed. Toddlers probably have fifty but there weren’t any toddlers in this edition.
Here’s the catch: they always tell you this is a team game. That’s how they suck you in. It makes it sound like a charity event. No competition. No losers. Just win-win.
What a lie-lie.
The goal was to build a house where we could all live like the Waltons—or maybe the Munsters—and search for a treasure. Right up to the point where one of you turns out to be a traitor. And there’s a haunt who shows up somewhere. Then all bets are off, and it’s every character for himself as you try to escape an imploding house in your Nightmare At House On The Hill.
My son explained the rules to us. I took eleven pages of notes—typewritten—while Lee kept asking me, “Is that clear?” Yes, I don’t understand, I nodded.
In the first round my husband, Rob got stuck in the basement where he attended his own funeral and then escaped from his coffin. I have no explanation. But it does seem like the afterlife might be located in the basement. I had the mystic elevator all to myself and didn’t know how to make it go down to his level from where I was stuck on the third floor.
“If I get out of this alive,” I thought to myself, “I’m naming my next dog Claustrophobia.”
It was all downhill from there.
On the verge of cracking up, our team spirit gave up the ghost three hours into the mini drama. My daughter-in-law observed, “Lee, I feel like you don’t remember how this game works.”
I never knew how the game worked.
“That’s fine,” he retorted, “I’m not responsible for your feelings.”  Jessica rolled her eyes and the dice while muttering something under her breath aimed in his direction.
“What was that, Captain Losington?” he challenged.
Nobody told me Captain Losington was a player. If they had, I would have chosen him instead of a demonic nine-year-old with only three sanity points.
Captain Losington rolled some dice and announced that she had decided to collapse the house. Her nemesis husband looked strangely pleased and, suddenly, I realized the two of them had it in for us from the very beginning. It was all starting to make sense. There was no treasure. No team effort. No sense to this game. This was payback for that batman costume. Mr. and Mrs. Losington were out to get us.
I made a frantic effort to steer my mystic elevator to the basement where Rob had been trapped with his own casket for seventeen turns. And by frantic effort I mean I rolled some dice and asked my turncoat kids what three blanks and a two meant.
“It means I’ve locked you in the attic for all eternity,” Jessica said with an evil laugh. That’s how they always treat the mother-in-law—throw her in the attic with some moldy bread and turn up the TV so you never hear her voice again. I broke out in a cold sweat.
Outside a real live storm was building momentum and heading our way. “That purple pin is us,” Rob said as he showed me the radar on his phone.  Perfect. With any luck, I thought, I can experience the collapse of two houses tonight.
Punctuated by a clap of thunder, Captain Losington rolled a sixteen with a pair of dice that only have one and two and blanks on their sides, took her character to Bahamas, and the rest of us put our character cards back in the box, flat like the house that had crushed us. The game was over.
Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we’re free at last.
It was eleven o’clock, I’d lost another four hours of my life to role playing, and faced a walk outside in the pounding rain without my umbrella where I’d surely be struck by lightning and do the impossible feat of being killed twice in the same evening. And my hairdo wouldn’t survive very well either.
“We could put a plastic bag over your head,” Jessica said with a sardonic smile, and my son laughed his evil laugh, revealing that he had struck a deal with his wife while I was sleeping through the game’s instructions, and would soon be joining her in the Bahamas.
I knew it. They’re all traitors, if you ask me. See if I make him any more fireman suits.
 
 
 
** * Photos of your adult children in costumes are the best revenge.  ;)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Well, Shut My Mouth

This is going to be hard to admit.

I’m not doing it.
Yes, I am. Confession is good for . . . somebody’s soul. Maybe not mine, but if it makes you feel better about you, then it’s worth it.
I think.
Well, anyway. Last month I did the thing I said I would never do.
I was mortified a couple of years ago when somebody chewed me out for arriving late to a group study. It wasn’t the first time I’d shown up late for this meeting—it was just the first time I had a good reason. But the leader didn’t ask for an explanation. Instead, in front of twenty other women, she jumped right into lecture mode, bordering on downright fury. Showing up fifteen minutes late, it turns out, was inexcusable, even if your stupid dog chewed up your favorite gardenia bush that morning. So I left. And never went back.
So far, so good, right? You’d have done the same thing, wouldn’t you?  And when the leader called later to apologize and rationalize her behavior, you’d have told her what I did:
“I would never speak to anyone the way you spoke to me today.”
Right.
That’s like telling your husband you’d never hide a charge from him, so why didn’t he mention the new golf club in the garage?
Or maybe that’s just me. Great. I’ve already said too much. I knew this was a bad idea.
So . . . time passed and I kept my word. I did not speak to anyone the way she spoke to me that day. Not immediately.
Okay, now I’ve got your attention. See how you are.
I kept my resolution until last month. Then suddenly, for no forgivable reason, while learning “how to listen” with a completely different group of women, I spoke rudely to a lady sitting next to me.
You’ve lost all respect for me now, haven’t you? No? You saw this coming? I really wish you’d warned me.
I could make excuses for my bad behavior, but I know you’re too smart for that. The bottom line is this: I alone am in charge of what comes out of my mouth.
I don’t know where I heard that. I guess I could have read it in the Bible. Or a fortune cookie.
Anyway, after failing our class in Compassionate Listening 101, I earnestly apologized several times, was graciously forgiven—and promptly forgotten. The lady I offended never returned to our group.
So that night I went to bed, spilled my guilty guts to my husband the golfer, reached for the magical sleeping mask those CPAP guys gave me last year, and was instantly transformed. With my disguise in place and a piece of tape across my mouth (to compensate for floppy jaws which wake me up), I quickly fell asleep.
It was a magical moment, unparalleled in the annals of human history, unequaled since the Man of Steel first changed clothes in a phone booth. I think that’s illegal now in most states.
Here in Arizona, though, for eight solid hours on that night, the world was safe from my both my unhinged jaw and tongue.
You are in the presence of a SuperHero.
I am . . . Paper Tape Woman! Through the dark of night til dawn’s faint light, tardy friends and rookie listeners are safe and secure while I slumber in silence. Just as long . . . as my mouth is taped shut.
In some circles I am also known as Famous Last Words Woman. But I’m resigning from that gig. I can only handle one superhero identity at a time. And I didn’t really enjoy posing here as True Confessions Woman, no matter how good it was for your soul.
You’re underwhelmed by my limited powers, aren’t you? I wish I could promise you twenty-four hours of uninterrupted security, but a girl’s gotta eat, you know.  Eight hours of respite from my tongue—the unruly muscle St. James dubbed “a restless evil, full of deadly poison”—is all I can promise you. If I take a melatonin and nobody sets the alarm, then maybe I’ll sleep til nine.
It’s not a lot, but it’s a better promise than anybody on Capitol Hill can offer. In fact, I confided in a close friend the other night about my secret identity and the faux pas that forced me into silent seclusion and SuperHero-dom. Her response would have knocked Clark Kent’s glasses off.
“Oh, my God,” she said in mock surprise as she listened to my contrite confession, “you’re . . .  human!
No, I am Paper Tape Woman. Sheesh. SuperHeros don’t get no respect.
And I still haven’t learned to keep my big mouth shut.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Greener Pastures


I might have had a little meltdown last night . All because of the “A” word. And the “D” word. Adventurous Dog. My stupid dog likes adventures. She doesn’t like secure backyards—a closed gate is an invitation to dig her own tunnel. She doesn’t care if she’s locked in a crate—she just channels Houdini. And running through a back pasture doesn’t make her feel contented—it makes her think she’s Superdog and can jump high fences in a single bound.
She can. Yesterday she went AWOL while we were on vacation. Instead of terrorizing our daughter’s goats and showing the roosters who’s boss, she went over the wall when no one was looking.
This is starting to become a habit. And it’s really cramping our style.
She hates the car, so we can’t take her on trips with us. We’re wearing out dog sitters. And neighbors. And welcomes. Even the microchip company wants their chip back.
I’m at a loss.
We’ve owned this crazy, friendly, loving animal for ten years, ever since we rescued her from the pound—and certain annihilation, I might add. Don’t you think she should feel grateful and kiss our feet every day?  Okay, well, she does kiss our feet every day. And lick our faces and our jeans and our furniture and the sliding glass door . . .
She weighed thirty pounds soaking wet back then and when she lay on the floor she looked like a bath towel with ribs. You should see her now! We fattened her up a whole eight pounds. We gave her a place to sleep, her very own personal name, and we pamper her with five dollar squeaky toys that she punctures and disembowels in five minutes flat. I even call her into the kitchen every time I spill food on the floor just so she can feel important. And she has her own Christmas stocking.
I ask you, what more could a dog want???
Maybe she’s having an identity crisis. I think she’s part ferret. She weighs 38 pounds soaking wet, but it’s spread out stem-to-stern a good three feet long. The dog’s a freaking noodle. She’s squeezed through places not even a cockroach can master.
At least there are compassionate, honest people in the world who take in runaways like her. Neighbors captured her and kept her from becoming coyote chow. But she’s too self absorbed to be grateful. My daughter retrieved her this morning and sent me a picture of our dog staring somberly out the back door, looking like Dorothy without her red shoes.
Well, she brought it all on herself.
She did the crime and now she’s doing the time. She’s in the slammer. The lockup.  The Big House. Until we pick her up and take her home, Katy said she’s on house arrest and will only be allowed supervised yard visits. No more herding the goats without a license. No more barking at the horses. Even the exhausted mousers are grinning like Cheshire Cats. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they all put her up to it . . .
Come to think of it, I bet they saw her coming a mile away. That’s plenty of time to plan a scam. A little high five between the goats, a fist bump among the chickens, and Sydney’s goose was cooked. Yeah, yeah, it all becomes painfully clear!
There's no place like home, city dog—you weren’t made for Adventure. It's time to face the truth.
You’re just no match for livestock.



Photo courtesy of Katy Brady.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tea For Two


“Can we have a tea party, YaYa?” she asked, her five-year-old eyes wide with anticipation.
I hardly ever say no.  The old china cabinet—really just a bookcase in disguise—has shelves full of double stacked floral patterned teacups. And everybody knows real teacups are a lot more fun to use at a tea party than tiny little plastic ones.
She knew I’d say yes. Immediately she began pulling on the cabinet’s doorknob, but that’s where I had to intervene.
“Let me open the door, Allie,” I said, as I crossed the room.
It’s a temperamental cabinet with precarious shelves and an uncooperative knob that doesn’t even oblige me very often, though it’s known me for twenty-five years. You’d think it’d give me a break. Actually, that’s what I was afraid of. I didn’t want the door to come flying open and baptize my grandbaby in broken porcelain.
But how do you explain that to a five-year-old with an “I can do it!” look in her eyes?
This morning, lost in thought, I found myself staring at that stubborn old cabinet for no apparent reason. I like the unique beauty of its every single cup. I even like the weathered wood of the doors, which sort of keep my little treasures safe behind glass.
But I wasn’t thinking about tea parties or broken teacups today. I was thinking about broken hearts. Broken relationships. Broken dreams.
And forgiveness.
Right now, listening to easy jazz in my favorite coffee shop, I don’t want to go back to my dark thoughts of this morning. It’s painful, and kind of embarrassing, to cry in the middle of Starbucks. You’ll never know the end of the story unless I do, though. Thank goodness the napkins are plentiful and free here.
I have some broken relationships that I would really like to mend. And, as a “good Christian” and decent human being with failures of my own, that seems like the right and proper thing to do. Advice is plentiful from the well meaning. “Forgiveness is for you,” they say, misunderstanding what’s already happened in my heart. “You don’t want to become bitter, do you?” But forgiveness isn’t the issue. Trust is.
How do you have a relationship without trust?
Injury caused brokenness and estrangement.  And, even though I’ve addressed the wound with professionals, the pain keeps resurfacing, taunting me with a promise of total healing if I will just get on the phone, explain my silence, and let bygones be bygones.  “Then we could all move on,” goes the thought.
But I’ve learned that forgiveness doesn’t heal wounds or wound heels. Instead, it extinguishes  my claim to revenge. That’s the part that frees a crippled heart—surrendering the right to retaliate. Still, like a soldier wounded in battle, years later you can find yourself imbedded with shrapnel. After one terrible experience. Eventually every piece will come to the surface, but seldom all at once. And, one piece of shrapnel at a time, you must deal with the wound caused you by someone else.
Even if you forgave them.
So I leaned on the counter, staring at an old china cabinet that threatens at any moment to surrender to old age and throw a dozen fragile teacups onto the tile floor. And I remembered how eager my granddaughter was to open that difficult door all by herself. Determined to enjoy a party with me.  Impatient to help.
And I heard the Lord.
“You’re anxious to help Me, too,” He said. “But you told me you’d let Me handle it.”
He was right. I did.
“If you try to fix this relationship yourself, instead of waiting for Me to do it, you’ll regret it as much as if Allie opened that door by herself.”
I got the picture—I’m quick like that.
I also got relief. He wasn’t disappointed in me. He does not expect me to “fix” things. He’s still removing the shrapnel, piece by painful piece, from my heart. Healing, and maybe even some amount of reconciliation, will happen on His timetable—not mine or anyone else’s.
He’s the only One Who can safely open those fragile doors.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bless This Mess


I planted both tennis shoes firmly in the mucky ground, leaned in with both hands on the tailgate of our old Datsun pickup, and gave it everything I had. Rob gunned the engine, threw it in first gear, and sprayed me from head to toe with mud and grunge. It seemed like such a good idea in theory, but in reality—not so much. Finally we called some experts to tow us out of our own front yard.
That’s what happens when you park your truck on top of a saturated septic drain field. After seven inches of rain. In Florida.
Life is messy.
I don’t like messiness. I like neat and tidy and pleasant. I know I didn’t get a vote on whether or not to attend this event called Life, but since I’m here I’d really like it to be worth the effort. For me, that translates into no problems, no hang-ups, no headaches.
You know, I think I missed my own memo.
I can’t seem to avoid messy. I hate that. Right on the heels of imperfection, my strategy is to pretend everything is fine. You might wonder why. Or maybe you can relate. See, if I pretend everything is fine, I won’t have to face fear and failure and heartache. I won’t risk rejection from the other impersonators all around me. And I won’t have to change.
It’s kind of a dumb plan. It reminds me of that definition for insanity—doing the same thing the same way but expecting different results. Like the time I put flour and hot water in my new Tupperware gravy shaker and the lid blew off. “There must be something wrong with this thing,” I muttered as I wiped hot slurry off my face, and re-filled it with hot water and flour—three more explosive times.
Wow, was that messy.
The hardest part of trying to live perfectly in an imperfect world is . . . trying to live perfectly. The other hard part about trying to be perfect is admitting that you’re not. Don’t you think it’s a little scary to take off your mask and let people see what’s going on underneath?  Still, nobody knows the battles I fight everyday unless I stop covering up the scars. Worse than that, no one can stand beside me and double the odds that I’ll survive.
Not unless I stop pretending that life isn’t messy. Not unless I admit that sometimes I’m a mess. Not unless I stop being surprised that there’s very little in my life I can control.
Is there an upside of messy? Absolutely. I qualify to be loved by Jesus. Embraced by Him. Accepted by Him. Just as I am. Only the imperfect may apply. Those who are perfect don’t need Him. And I do. Desperately. Which proves, I guess, that my life is messy.
Here’s what I’m learning—embrace the messy. It’s a relief to stop pretending. And relax—the truth is there’s nothing I can do to make Jesus let go of me or be disappointed in me. He’s not afraid of a mess.
He really loves me.
And you.
Put that in your Tupperware and shake it.