Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Hostess with the Mostest Heart Palpitations

I've always been in awe of those who entertain with ease.  I guess we admire people who possess gifts that we feel we're lacking.  I'm sure you know people who have the gift of hospitality.  They're those people who can whip up a dinner party in no time flat and with seemingly so little effort and stress that they enjoy the gathering as much as their guests.  Surely, a few people have popped into your head by now.  I know several come to my mind.  I seem to be rich in southern girlfriends who are gifted that way.   

Last night, we were invited to our friends' house for dinner.....and this particular friend is always that way.  Laurie answers the door all calm and collected.  No smoke alarms going off.  No nervous pit stains on her blouse.  All the food timed perfectly.  David takes the meat off the grill just as the potatoes finish cooking.  The rolls and pie crust- both the shade of golden brown only seen on the cover of the Southern Living Annual Recipe Book.  Everyone is relaxed.   
I consider any hostess, who doesn't sweat through their clothing during the party, to have the gift of hospitality.  That would rule me out.  I look and feel like I am on fire when we have people over.  Don't get me started on how my heart beats like a bass drum in my ears. 

Now, it's not that I can't cook or that I don't know how to set a table or design a centerpiece.  It's the fact that there's just so much to think about.  Timing the food.  Fretting over its doneness.  Imagining the ER full of your friends in 4-6 hours with abdominal cramping and projectile vomiting.  Is everyone's tea glass full?  Is the conversation flowing or did I hear a few seconds of silence?  Is there enough food?  Are their children really swinging from my curtains?  She didn't eat much of her corn casserole.....wonder if it's too salty.  Oh, my word.....look at the size of that cobweb in the corner of that window.  I hope the dog isn't doing what I think he's doing to his stuffed toy.  I should have put another clove or two of garlic in this.  Oh, no, did I point the knife blades in the right direction?  Are they having fun....because I'm not.  Is it hot in here?  (One thing I've learned is that any hostess, who is not blessed with the gift of hospitality, has in internal body temperature 5-8 degrees warmer than that of her guests. Fact.)

It may shed some light on my hospitality inadequacies to know that Blair tagged me in this video, a few months ago, as it reminded her so much of me before company arrives.
In Bible times, I would've probably been a Martha.  Martha's off in the kitchen making the sweet tea, setting the table, and she's as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs as my Daddy would say.  She's clearly irritated at Mary, who's sitting on her bottom doing nothing to help.  I know that irritation, too.  When you're flustered, irritation flows like a swollen river.....like when company is set to arrive in 12 minutes and Davis is out in the garage organizing his toolbox or something equally irrelevant to the situation at hand. 

Anyway, Mary clearly forgot that the main goal of entertaining is actually visiting with the people you've invited into your home.  It's hard to do that when you're sweating profusely and counting heads to see if you have enough lasagna and salad forks to go around.  I imagine it would be super duper stressful if your guest was the Son of God.  What if you saw Jesus sit down in the chair where the cat usually sits knowing how bad she sheds?  Or if you thought his chicken breast was too dry.  Or if there were water spots on his tea glass.  Or if one of your kids blurted out something about how you say bad words, sometimes.  So, yeah, I can totally relate to Martha.  She had a lot on her mind and if her cloak wasn't soaked completely through, I'd be amazed.   

Now, Mary.....well, she was a different story.  I suspect she did have the gift of hospitality.  She was sitting down and not worried about anything but communing with her visitor.  First and foremost, she was going to visit with her most distinguished guest in the history of forever.  She was probably thinking that when they got done and were ready to eat, she'd go in there and help Martha serve it up real fast.  Mary, how did you do it?  So relaxed.  Hello, um, Jesus is at your house!! 

I may not have the gift of hospitality which is why I usually suggest we just meet our friends at restaurants.  What I do have, though, is the gift of focusing on all the wrong things.  I'm super talented that way.  I'd like to think that if I'd been Mary and Martha's roommate and Jesus had come to our house that I could've discerned what was important and what wasn't.  I'd like to think I would've spent more time listening to what I needed to hear instead of worrying that the pillows weren't fluffed on the sofa or that there was a dust bunny under Jesus' wingback chair.  But, I can't be too sure that's where my mind would've been.   

Jesus told her, "Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing.  Only one thing is essential and Mary has chosen it....."  Luke 10:41-42  MSG

Ouch.  That hits all of us Marthas in the face.  In entertaining and in life, I hope that whenever I get the chance, I'll choose the substance over the surface.  That I'll focus on the presence not the pretense.  That I'll look at the content not the cobwebs.  That's where the best of life is.

Y'all have a good one!                     

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Back in the Saddle

Well, a lot has happened while I've been on my little vacation from writing.  Some good.  Some not as good.  Let's start with the not as good.....

My sweet mother-in-law, who's suffered from Alzheimer's for several years now, was moved into a nice assisted living home.  It had become difficult for Davis' dad to physically care for her as she's declined a good bit over the last few months.  He was valiant and faithful in his care for her and still his main concern in life is her and her contentment.  Of course, this move has been an emotional one for all of us.  It marks the end of how things have always been.  You know we all have those turning points in our lives when either, through death or growth or a thousand other reasons, something changes and life will never return to the old way again.  After 62 years of marriage, their home won't be the same.  Holidays won't be the same.  Traditions will be altered.  Our family won't be quite the same. 

I think it's true what they say about women being the heart of the home.  They provide warmth and tenderness inside its four walls and bring the loving finishing touches to family gatherings.  I started to realize this the first time I drove up to my Grandmother's house and she wasn't there to sling that side door open to greet me.  I wasn't sure I'd ever had to open that door and let myself in.  Nobody yelled out, "Who's that coming to my house?" in a chuckling voice.  Something was missing.  Something had changed.  Her warmth was gone.  And when I walked through the screen door into her kitchen, I lost it.  Right there.  My life had reached a turning point because her presence was missing from that place.         

Now, my mother-in-law isn't like the ones you hear jokes about in late night tv monologues or see on the big screen as the antagonist.  She's never been overbearing or critical or nosy.  She has never pouted or put on guilt trips or demanded her opinions be heard.  No, she's just quite the opposite.  She's humble, kind, and giving.  She's selfless, hard working, and gracious.  Always ready to help.  More concerned about you than herself.  And even with dementia, she still has her same meek spirit.  I wasn't sure there was another living soul as kind and selfless as my own Mama until I met Davis' mother.  And for that, we have both been and continue to be doubly blessed in the mother department even as life takes a little bit of a turn for us.
Blair and her Granny

On a happier note, we celebrated Blair and John Samuel's August birthdays while I've been away.  I rearranged some furniture.  Painted the sunroom.  Worked a lot of hours putting out new merchandise at the stores.  Caught up with some friends.  Did my share of relaxing.   

And, perhaps most notably, Carson got his driver's license since we last talked.  Now, those of you who have driving children know what I'm talking about when I say that having a new driver in the house brings out all kinds of conflicting emotions.  Oh, all the worries about fender benders and distractions and speeding.  You want to keep them safe and start them out slow......but you're out of Ro-Tel tomatoes for which your Pinterest recipe clearly states "No substitutes" and there he sits.....eager to drive somewhere.  Anywhere.
You know how it is those first few days that they drive to school. " Now, text me when you get there and when you leave to come home."  Every time the phone rings, you're like, "Oh, Please don't let it be him saying he's jumped a curb..... Backed into a beamer......Rear- ended a Mercedes......Turned in front of a Porsche.....Side-swiped a Corvette......Knocked over a parked Harley."  Because, well, you know insuring a teenage boy driver is only slightly less expensive than keeping a space shuttle in orbit.  So far, he has an impeccable driving record so we're good. 

Another interesting thing happened while I was gone.  My brother, Lee, (left) raced in the Trans-North Georgia last week.  He biked 350 miles across the entire state through mountains and forests and some paved roads in only 2 days and 22 hours which according to my calculations is 2 days and 21 hours too long to ride a bicycle.  During the almost 3 days, he slept a total of 6 hours and grabbed whatever food he ate at gas stations along the way.  Starting from the South Carolina state line, the finish line was the Alabama state line which calls into question not only his sanity but our relatedness.  He finished 8th at 41 years old and I'm a very proud sister.....or, at least, they say I'm his sister.      

So anyway, I've missed blogging.  I really have.  I do enjoy this more than you can imagine.  But, from time to time, I get bogged down in my own self-imposed pressure to be interesting enough to warrant your time.  Sometimes, I think it's good to step away from your routine and get a fresh perspective on the things in our lives.  Does it belong there, first of all?  And if it does, just to take time for a deep breath before you get back out there.

Hope y'all have a good Monday!   



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I Can't Even Think of a Title

Ok, so I have something that I need to tell y'all.  It's kind of awkward but I feel like I need to level with you.  You may have even picked up on it already so I just need to come clean, right here and now.  I've been suffering from a mild to moderate case of what I like to refer to as blog constipation.  That is, I've been having difficulty writing posts without a pronounced lack of ease.

I sit down to write a post and I........
Sometimes, I......
and then.......
or I..... 
or just........
Finally, I give up......
and start saying things like......
and with a tinge of self-pity, I proclaim.........
I've even been tempted to.....
But, I stop and remind myself that blogging is fun.  But, since it's been making me feel more like this.....
and this.......

I decided I may need to take a little time to work through this constipation. 

I'm not sure if it's the heat or my mood due to the heat or laziness or lack of inspiration or just what but blogging, this summer, has been a real effort.  Sure, I go through times when words and ideas flow like Niagara Falls and, other times, it slows to a trickle.....like a washing machine drain hose.  Right now, I'm in drain hose mode.  I could continue to trickle through it, but it wouldn't be fun for any of us. 

We'll get through this.  We've done it before. 

This, too, shall pass.

When the blockage is removed, I'll be back.

I promise.     


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Is it just me or do you talk ugly to yourself, too? 

I was cleaning the kitchen yesterday and all of a sudden a thought popped into my mind.  It was a random regret I had from years and years ago that just started buzzing around my head and then hit me square in the face.  Came out of nowhere, too, like one of those big, red wasps that stings you before you know what's happening.  Pop-in visits from regret aren't an uncommon occurrence for me, though.  It would be nice if it would, at least, call first before dropping by.  I can't tell you how many times a regretted flashback will come into my head and I go to lecturing myself .  Usually, it goes like, "Ugh, I was so stupid.....why did I do that?" or something as equally encouraging and heartening.

Now, I'm not talking about big things.  Not like regretting the time I got high on drugs, robbed a convenience store at gunpoint, tied up an old man, stole his car, and led authorities on a high-speed chase until finally crashing into a group of nuns having a bake sale for their orphanage.  No, nothing like that.  I'm just talking about maybe something that I said to someone 20 years or more ago that I wish I could take back or 1,000 other incidents that I regret when I look back at them through the lens of age and maturity.  You ever do that?  Beat yourself up about little things that are over and done and too far behind us to do anything about?  Things that are forgotten by just about everyone but you. 

I was thinking about that.  The more years we live, the higher our regret pile can grow.  Not necessarily a pile of large, bulky items which would require the renting of one of those big, green dumpsters.  No, just a slow accumulation of little scraps of regret.  That person you should have visited.  The time you should've kept your mouth shut.  The time you should have spoken up for someone.  The time you were too slow to forgive.  The time you could have been a better friend.  When you did the minimum but could have done so much more.  All the time you wasted.  The opportunities you blew that will never come again.  The decisions that seemed right at the time but so obviously wrong now.  Through the years, those little fragments accumulate, one by one, and sometimes the wind catches them just right and and blows them right back in your face.

I wonder why our minds are eager to roll out the welcome mat for regret.  I wonder what makes us unable to move past former things that cause us remorse.  What about our nature makes us want to go back decades, in some cases, and lament?

Paul said, "I am still not all that I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven."  Phil 3:13-14

My goodness, if anyone had anything to look back on and lament, it was Paul.  Can you imagine the thoughts that might have run through his head while he was cleaning his kitchen?  "Oh my goodness, all that persecution.....I was such a jerk as Saul!  Oh, and the whole Stephen thing. Ugh!  Stupid, stupid, stupid" (repeatedly slapping forehead) Yeah, if anybody had reason to run back in time and roll around in the stench of regret, it would've been him but he lived in the day and with a concentrated effort toward becoming better.  His back was turned to his past and his face was pointed toward what God wanted him to do. 

When the remnants of regret start blowing up in our faces, we have to turn our backs to the wind and focus our energies on living this day, the one right here and now, and living it in such a way that is better than we did it yesterday and working toward it being even better tomorrow. 

God doesn't live in the past. 

Opportunity doesn't live there either. 

So, let's turn ourselves around. 

That's where we can make a difference.

Y'all have a good one!                        



Monday, July 25, 2016

A Log of My Whereabouts

Well, I'm back from all of my this and that. 

My trip to market in Atlanta was fruitful for the stores but, oh, so exhausting.  I must just be getting older or something because it laid me out flat for several days.  Market induces a level of tiredness which is unmatched by most anything else.....with the possible exceptions of childbirth and fighting forest fires.  It's just 11 or 12 non-stop hours per day of walking and shopping as fast as you can.  Making quick decisions on what you think will sell in your store and what won't.  It's just down right physically and mentally draining.

(As a note of interest, I have to mention that my Sanuk yoga slings were, by far, the most comfortable footwear selection I've made to date for any market trip.  Get yourself some.) 

There was this young lady who looked so familiar to me and she took my order in one of the showrooms.  Then, I remembered.......oh, yeah she used to be one of my dependents!  Now, working with her own money!  (Insert Handel's "Hallelujah")  Proud mama moment.      
My friend, Jean, and I shared a hotel room along with her daughter, Mary Barrett.  They're both a hoot and I enjoyed them so much.  Jean has an interior design business here in town and was shopping for clients.  And here's small town Mississippi for you- Jean and I have known each other since high school when we belonged to the same social service club.  Our daughters ended up rooming together in college.  Jean's mother-in-law is one of my very favorite people and customers.  And she and my mother knew each other when they were in college.  People are connected in all sorts of ways in the South.  If we don't know you, we know your mama or your cousin......or someone in your family likely has a connection to someone in ours someway, somehow.  It's just the southern way and I love that about us down here. 

Carson got home from his trip to Boston the day before I got home from Atlanta.  He was gone for 10 days.  On a church bus.  From Mississippi to Boston and back again.  Our music minister, David, plans an awesome trip for the teenagers every year on which his patience obviously abounds.  I told him that those who drive other people's children across the country are deserving of their own beatitude.  I don't know what they should inherit, but blessed are those who drive church vans full of urchins, who are of no blood relation, over large swaths of the continent......like as in 2,800 miles.  Blessed are they, indeed.   
So, while Carson was gone, Davis and I purchased his first vehicle. I don't know why we waited until he was out of town but it's just how it happened.  I did text Carson from the dealership for some limited input...."Car or truck?"  He steered us toward the trucks and we took it from there.  I'm sure nothing could have been more frightening for him than knowing that his vehicle coolness level was in the hands of us, Joni and Davis.  When he got home, though, he seemed overjoyed with our choice.
I've hardly driven myself anywhere because he's so anxious to chauffer whoever needs a ride and I must say that I've really gotten better with the whole passenger thing.  Probably because he takes after his dad and is a really good driver.  He gets his license next month and he's just a wee bit excited about driving himself to school this year.   
So, we all got home and then headed to the beach for a short stay.  It was there that, once and for all, I broke up with the beach.  Maybe it was these hormones I've been talking about but I just had to finally tell it that I didn't have the same feelings for it that I once did.  I told it that, sure, I loved it at dusk but, the rest of the day, I just wasn't feeling it.  It had gotten too clingy with its sand in every nook and cranny.  Its love burned hotter and hotter all the time and I just couldn't handle that kind of heated love affair at my age.  I'd changed.  We'd grown apart.  I had to shoot straight and say, "It's not you, it's me, beach." 

But, oh, how I'll always love you at dusk......and when the moon is full and shining on your waters.  And if it makes my people happy, I'll come and visit every now and then and we can remember all the good times we've had.       
So, that's where I've been since I posted last and, thankfully, there are no more trips on the calendar for a while.  Nothing big happening except for school starting on August 4, but we're not ready to discuss that yet. 

We're just not.

Y'all have a good Tuesday!

It's good to be back to business as usual.      



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Don't Tell Me You Like This Weather

Well, I can't hold my tongue another minute. 

We have to talk about this heat.

I think I've made my feelings about hot weather pretty plain. 

I loathe it. 

I detest it. 

I despise it. 

I abhor it. 

And if I could think of any other synonyms for hate, I'd keep going.

I've tried to be a big girl about it, though. 

And not whine or gripe or complain. 

But, today. 

Today was my breaking point. 

I ran errands all day.

98 degrees. 

108 heat index.

3,000% humidity.
In and out...in and out of the hot car.

Sunglass fogging up every time I opened the door.  

Then, I came home and did a couple of things outside. 

And that's when it happened. 

My heat threshold had been crossed.

I came back inside. 

Wet with sweat. 

And I was mad. 

I started stripping off clothes. 

And saying things under my breath as they flew across the room. 

I grabbed my desk fan and held it up to me.

Until I was sure my body temperature was back down to the 115 degree range. 

Hormones could have tipped the scales. 

I don't think hormones really pair well with extreme heat conditions.

Where the two collide can be an ugly place. 

A testy place. 

So, in conclusion, I want to give you my opinion...... 

Summer exists only to remind us that Hell is a real place.

And you don't want to go there. 

So, don't tell me you love summertime or I'll look at you like......
Because there's no way anyone can love this. 

No way. 

So, tomorrow, I'm hitting the road, headed to market for the weekend.  Blair is already there working in her company's showroom.  Carson is in Boston with the youth group from our church.  And Davis will be here sleeping on both sides of the bed.  We'll all be returning on different days and, after a weekend trip to the beach, next week, we'll be home to stay because....hello..... school is about to start!  While that does NOT make me happy, it does signal that we are one step closer to closing the book on this, my most dreaded season of the year. 

Y'all have a good weekend.  

And whatever you do, do it inside!.     


Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Public Service Announcement

It's summertime and, with everyone at the beach or pool, we could all use a reminder to take care of our skin.  As a public service announcement on sun safety for the young people, I thought I'd share an account of my recent dermatology appointment:

I'm in my late 40's and, like most people my age, I spent the first half of my life trying to achieve the perfect tan.  I know it's hard to believe and I really don't like to brag but there was a time when I could roast myself to the most beautiful shade of brown.  I'd say the hue could fall anywhere between Cinnamon Toast Crunch brown and Werther's Caramel brown depending on weather patterns and my commitment.  It was pretty impressive, I must say. 

Now, color like this didn't come without some sweat equity.  It required dedication and the readiness to suffer for the cause.  You had to be willing to put in the hours.  A boom box, a bottle of baby oil, and a good pair of aviators were essential.  And if you had something big coming up, like a dance or graduation, well, you'd need to pull out the big guns.....maybe the vegetable oil or iodine. 
I specifically remember several of us climbing up on a friend's black shingle roof, one day, armed with very little sense, a bottle of Wesson Oil, beach towels, and a desire to alter our skin tones in a most extreme way.  I'm sure that smell we thought was someone frying chicken was simply our own pan-fried epidermis.  I look back and wonder.......Where were our parents?  But, I guess they were watching the Guiding Light with a cup of Postum and couldn't be concerned with us.  No, I really don't think we knew much about the sun back then except that it could cause wrinkles. 

A beach trip was always good way to jump start your summer tan.  We had a senior beach trip the week before our graduation.  When you went to the beach, you felt compelled to make the most of your time because, well, the sun's potential to char you was so much greater there and you had to take advantage of every second of its destructive potential.  We'd get up and hit the beach by 10.  Yeah, I know they tell you now to avoid the sun at its peak hours of 10-2 but that was the exact time we aimed to be sprawled out across the sand.  And sunscreen?  Pshhhhh.  Its only purpose was to salvage the rest of your beach trip in the event of a nasty burn on day one.  If you applied sunscreen to the scorched areas, you could go back out and scorch the un-scorched areas the next day.  I mean, an even tan was the goal here, after all.  All areas had to be equally scorched so that after your skin had blistered, peeled, and healed itself, it would turn an even and glorious, long-awaited bronze.  And let me tell you, when I walked across the stage at my high school graduation, I was as brown as a biscuit.  That diploma wasn't the only thing that I'd earned.     
Oh, if you really worked hard and stayed with it, you could maintain the color of 3 Musketeers nougat for the duration of shorts season and the resulting self-confidence that brought along with it was nothing short of empowering. 

Fast forward 28 years and you're at the dermatologist's office for your bi-annual mole, freckle, and strange skin growth check.   Well, kids, first, they put you in this room and tell you that they're going to step out a minute while you strip down to your granny panties and cover yourself with this paper sheet.  Just so you get an idea, the term sheet is quite misleading and the coverage it provides is only slightly more than one of those paper bibs you get at the dentist.......but I digress.   

So, anyway, I know you're thinking that's no big deal but stay with me.  So, the doctor comes in and brings a nurse because, well, you're naked and witnesses are needed, I suppose.  Really, if the truth be known, it's probably more of a distraction for the doctor knowing that if he makes eye contact with the nurse, they will both bust out laughing at you and won't be able to get themselves back together. 

Anyway, the doctor will tell you to lie down while your "sheet" is pulled back to get a look at all of your sunspots and moles and strange, new crops of only the Lord knows what.  You see, kids, the beautiful tan you work so hard for will, one day, turn into these brown, old people spots all over your body. You know.....just like your grandmother has on her arms that you think you'll never get.  When you get my age, they'll be like the countless stars in the sky except they don't twinkle and no one wants to lie on a blanket and gaze at them.  Yes, your brown spots will be as numerous as the descendants of Abraham.   

So, then, as if two people weren't enough of an audience, the doctor may see a spot that needs a fresh set of eyes and another doctor may be called in to look.  You're instructed to roll over on your stomach.  Let's stop here.  Have you ever tried to roll over gracefully while naked on a 4 foot table all while 3 people are watching you try to keep your paper sheet in the places where it's most needed?  You haven't?  Well, let me tell you......it's not an easy thing to do that while maintaining any amount of dignity.  I dare say that even Ginger Rogers would've had trouble making that maneuver look graceful so you can imagine how I must have looked.  To give you a reference which you can understand, it's like when you attempt to get on a pool float, stomach first, in front of a group of people at a party, while trying to oversee that your bikini components stay where they need to be.

So, after your awkward flip is complete and the staff regains their composure, they'll pull back that paper sheet, which looks more like a crumpled piece of Bounty, at this point, and they'll inspect you like a rump roast at the USDA.  I know you're thinking that doesn't sound too bad as you sit there with your flat abdomen, muscular thighs, and toned arms but your body will have likely made some changes by then.  You'll notice, when laying on your back, that your boobs part like the Red Sea.  And with nothing to hold it in, your muffin top will spread out across that table like you're in your second trimester.  And you'll have plenty of time to take an inventory of these things and ponder them in your heart while they check your many constellations of brown spots under the fluorescent lighting. 

After you've been inspected, they'll freeze, burn, shave, snip, cut, and whatever else they feel like doing to anything that is shaped weird or is the wrong color or is growing in size......or maybe they're just in the mood to play with their freezy spray thingy that day.  Either way, you'll leave there with some little, round band-aids like they put on top of your grandpa's head.  Oh, and very little dignity.  Let's not forget that.

So, happy tanning, kids. 

Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Hope it's a good Monday!