Monday, March 11, 2019

The Mark of Music

I was in Hobby Lobby, last week, shopping for spring cemetery flowers. Hobby Lobby is known for their Christian values and so they're always playing instrumental Christian music for their customers. An old hymn, "Abide with Me", came on and, as I shopped, I sang the entire hymn in my head. Word for word. Every single verse. I knew them all. We still sing hymns at our church, but I hadn't sung that particular hymn in many years. Even so, its words were still branded into the deep crevices of the mind of a woman, who can't remember why she came into a room, most days. Two or three older hymns followed that song and the words just kept coming; bubbling up to the top from the dark caverns of my memory. I knew that I could recite a lot of verses of many of the hymns, but, that day, I was particularly aware that my memory had held onto those precious words for such a long time.

My point is not to brag about my steel trap photographic memory or my most impressive religious background, but, growing up in a Southern Baptist church, the hymnal is just part of who I am. And, as a kid, when you were there every single time the doors were swung open, well, there was bound to be some lyric retention. Like many of you, since I was tall enough to prop my hymnal on the back of the pew in front of me and read the words, I've been singing the beautiful poetry found in the hymnal's pages......which are all bound together in a leather-ish cover, whose color is usually a perfect match to the sanctuary carpet. Carpet/hymnal coordination requirements are spelled out in the Baptist by-laws, I'm pretty sure.

Anyway, I've always loved music and I will give my Daddy 90% of the credit for that. Our mother has a beautiful soprano voice and she was always singing to us when we were little. She taught us a lot of songs that I can still sing to this day like "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree" and "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea" and "Jesus in the Morning". But, it was my Daddy, who kept music playing all the time. He either had his turntable going or a PBS musical special on TV or just the weekly Lawrence Welk Show blaring. In the car, the radio was always set on public radio or something light or even his practice cassette for the next church choir program. Neil Diamond, Roger Miller, Abba, classical piano, Glen Campbell, Mahalia Jackson. We listened to it all. All the time. And, day after day, we slowly learned to value it.

Daddy had a pretty stressful job that required him to sit at a drawing board for hours and hours, each day. He was self-employed and had a small office building in our backyard, where he'd go to work. He was always staring a deadline in the face. Always getting a lot of calls from people, who needed to ask him questions. I don't think it's bragging when it's your Daddy, but he was a very gifted, intelligent man, whose opinions were highly regarded and sought after in his field. The way he performed under pressure could've made the difference between a building standing or a bridge collapsing. What he did was important and very stressful. But, no matter what time, day or night, if you went to visit him in his office, he had on his music. Mostly classical. Sometimes, something else. I think music, in some way, helped take some of the weight off of his shoulders as he leaned over that drawing board. Somehow, it took him away from his work, even while he was in the throes of it.

All of that to say, because of my parents, I can't remember a single day of my growing up that wasn't doused and saturated with music. I'm sure it wasn't always my favorite music, especially in the teen years, but, every day, I was exposed to the beautiful places that music could take me. The emotions it could stir. The different moods it could create. And, each day, I grew to love and appreciate the gift of music a little bit more.

I suppose the hymn thing in Hobby Lobby just made me realize how deeply music touches and just how long it lingers with us. It's been by my side throughout my entire life. There are vivid memories of particular songs that I will never forget. Like listening to "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" in our blue Ford as my legs stuck to the white vinyl backseat. I can still sing all the words to "Bicycle Built for Two", which I sang while dressed as a daisy in my 3rd grade play. I can recall every word of "There's a Hole in the Bucket" from watching Sesame Street all those years. I remember my heart beating in my throat as I sat on the piano bench, praying my memory wouldn't fail me as I began "Fur Elise" at my piano recital. Music helped me learn my ABCs and the books of the Bible. I was so proud when I learned to play "See the Bear", my very first piano piece. Hearing Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, or The Police still makes me feel 17. Theme songs to Dallas, Happy Days, The Love Boat, and The Jeffersons would always call me to the television set. I remember an emotional "God Bless America" being sung on the Capitol steps on 9/11. There were lullaby tapes I played as I rocked my babies, which I can still sing, word for word, even though they've long since outgrown my lap. There were Barney songs I couldn't get out of my head and Bob the Builder. As a 50 year old, I can recite the lyrics I sang in children's choir. "Fairest Lord Jesus" was the first piece I played in church as an offertory hymn. I will always remember I walked the aisle to join the church as a new Christian to "Jesus is Tenderly Calling". "Pomp and Circumstance" put a lump in my throat when I watched my son walk across the football field in his cap and gown. And when the strings commenced their playing and I turned to see my daughter in white on her Daddy's arm, it completely took my breath away. Music goes to our deepest parts and leaves indelible marks there.

Nothing could ever herald the Christmas season like music does. No one feels more special than when their name is inserted into a rendition of "Happy Birthday". "The Star Spangled Banner" always makes us stand a little straighter and "Taps" will always invoke a sense of reverence and gratitude. Music can take us back in time. To another place and a different time. It can stir emotions we thought were dead. It understands our sadness and has just the words we need to hear. It takes us closer to the throne of God than any other format or spoken word ever could. It articulates when we are at a loss. It celebrates with us and breathes new life into our steps. It understands when we want to be alone or don't have an appetite for words. It is always appropriate for the occasion. In sadness and elation, it is there. A friend for all seasons.

My phone is full of music with even more on my computer. All different kinds. All different genres. From all across the years. Songs that remind me of childhood to new songs I heard last week. But, I've noticed that, if I'm just mindlessly humming, my mind's playlist always defaults to those old hymns from those hymnals that rested in the pews of Highland Baptist Church. They are forever etched into my memory. And when my days are cold or my nights are fearful, without even realizing it, I go to that mental file of scripture put to melodies and something timely will rise to the top to warm me, calm me, and remind me who God is.

Some of my favorite hymn reminders.....
"Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter, bind my wand'ring soul to Thee"
"O, cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to hide from Thee"
"Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?"
"He hideth my soul in the depths of His love and covers me there with His hand"
"He whose heart is kind beyond all measure, gives unto each day what He deems best"
"Just one glimpse of Him in glory, will the toils of life repay"
"When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay"

I think I've told you before that I gave my Daddy an iPod when he was sick with cancer. I loaded it with all kinds of music. I had a lot of music in my iTunes library that I knew he liked and I purchased more. I even transferred some of his favorite CDs onto it. When I had, what I thought was a really good collection of his favorite music, I gave it to him. He was amazed that new technology could hold all of his music on one little device, which could be taken anywhere.

I remember sitting at the hospital with him, one day, when my Mama had gone home to get some rest. I had some paperwork I needed to do, so he put his earbuds in and laid back in his bed. The pain that was etched so deeply in his face seemed to melt away as he closed his eyes and enjoyed his music. I think I even detected the slightest hint of a smile on his face. I'm not sure where the music had taken him, that day, but it was somewhere away from that hospital room. His pain was lost someplace in the harmony of the notes and the lines and the words. I have no idea what he was listening to, but it was ministering to him. Maybe it had transported him to another time in his life when he was young and strong and healthy. Maybe it had taken him to the throne of Jesus, the giver of his hope. Maybe it was warming him with memories of what a good life he'd had and how much he was loved. Wherever he was in that moment, it was a better place. And that's what music has the power to do.

"With the right music, you either forget everything or you remember everything."

He told me, before he died, that the iPod was the most wonderful material gift he'd ever received. He said it brought him more joy than any other material possession he'd ever owned. Not that it was the most expensive or the most impressive, but I think, in his physical decline, it took him to the places, where He could no longer go and I imagine to a place where He was looking to soon go. 

In two weeks, it will be 10 years since my father died. He was a good, good Daddy. The least I could do was reconnect him with his old friend, music, in his last days.

Thank you, God, for the gift of beautiful music and the people who share it with us.

Hope you have a song in your heart today.



Wednesday, March 6, 2019

We Have These Lovely Parting Gifts

Ladies, this is the time of year when I go for my mammogram and try to give you a friendly, little blog reminder to get yours by trying to find the humor in the awkwardness that frequently rears its head in a woman's preventative health plight. So, yes, schedule your mammogram if you're due one, please. But, that's not what we're going to talk about today. No, today's post is a different public service reminder about another important screening test. The colonoscopy.

I turned 50, last May, and you know what that means. Yes, today, I went for my first colonoscopy. And according to this sheet they sent me home with, I'm not supposed to make any financial decisions, sign any legal documents, operate heavy machinery, or climb any ladders for the rest of the day. I hope online shopping doesn't fall under the financial heading, because there's been some of that.

Anyway, I've had several friends who'd relayed their colonoscopy experiences to me, through the years. Some good. Some pretty ugly. So, really, I didn't know what to believe, but, you know, I'm a stickler for timely checkups and routine tests. I know something will kill me, one day, but I'd like to delay that day a little while if I can.

So, armed with my little list, I bought all of my party supplies and was ready for the big prep day. Fat Tuesday of all days. Let me tell you. There was nothing fat about my Tuesday. I'd bought the box of Dulcolax and the MiraLax in a bottle similar in size to fabric softener. Oh, and the quarts of Gatorade to mix with it. The Gatorade flavor is a difficult decision to make at a time like this. You have to stand there on the grocery aisle and contemplate which flavor you'd most likely keep down when mixing it with chalk dust, therefore, tainting your view of that particular flavor from that day forward. I couldn't see Glacier Freeze or Frost Cool Blue having much chance of staying down, so I went with Fierce Grape and pretended like I was drinking a Grape Nehi….albeit laced with sawdust. I noticed the label on one of the meds described the product as providing gentle, predictable relief. Let me tell you.....there was nothing gentle there. And the only thing predicable about it was that you were going to be on the toilet. Relief surely wouldn't have been the word I would've chosen either. All lies.  

If doing that all afternoon and night wasn't enough, the sheet said to get up at 5:00 am the next morning and drink another quart of Gatorade laced with the horse laxative. And you know how I love those early morning hours. To get up early on Christmas or to leave on vacation, yes, but not to sit in my bathroom losing electrolytes. As I so rarely to never do, I watched the sun come up as I guzzled my morning cocktails. And it comes to a point when you start to wonder, what else could possibly be in there? Maybe a piece of gum I swallowed in 5th grade that had gotten hung up somewhere. It was kind of like the clown's handkerchief that just keeps coming and coming out of his coat pocket. I got on the scale, this morning, fully expecting to see my first driver's license weight. You know how the little lines flash, while it's calculating your weight? "Come on, 105. Mama needs a new pair of shoes."  But, no. I couldn't figure out how it wasn't, though. It was the weight of my mailbox running days, though, so there's victory in that.   

With my colon set back to factory settings, Davis drove me to the clinic and they called my cell phone as we were driving into the parking lot. We were a few minutes early, so I didn't know what the rush was. I mean, these people were obviously anxious to see my colon. They immediately called my name when I walked in and I staggered back there like someone, who'd been up all night drinking....laxatives. I noticed there was only one other patient in the whole clinic. I remembered it being full of people when I'd taken Davis for his, so I thought the desolation was odd. Maybe there were some cancellations. People who couldn't keep down a poor flavor choice and had to abort the mission. No wonder they were calling me out in the parking lot. These people needed something to do.

Of course, the sweet nurse took me to curtained area #1 and gave me the run down. It was the usual instructions we, women, are used to hearing. "Take off everything, put this gown on, and I'll be right back." She told me I could keep my socks on. How generous. A friend and I had just discussed, after her colonoscopy, that we don't know what it is, but you can take our clothes, our privacy, our dignity, but if you'll let us keep our socks on, then we're good. There is such a sweet, sweet comfort in the socks. Can I get a witness? Davis tied me up in the back for that extra layer of coverage that those gowns so excessively provide. After all the standard things they have to do, I was left waiting and thinking about the macaroni and cheese I'd been craving during the hours spent sitting upon my throne. I'd spent the entire Fat-less Tuesday carefully weighing all of the delicious options for my first meal. I'd decided it would include macaroni and cheese. The good soul food kind. And I couldn't wait. I'm not sure where the craving came from. Perhaps it was my body's way of begging for something to help clog the drain, if you will.    

The good thing about an almost empty building is there's no waiting, so they got me right back. Can you imagine being the person who does this every day? The Treasury Department couldn't print enough money to pay me to do this type of work. But, thank goodness, the Lord calls some of His people to the ministry of dirty jobs. Next thing I remember is that it was all over thanks to some good pharmaceuticals. I might add, the pharmaceutical companies are doing some good work. Mighty fine work, I tell you.

Two hours after I came in the building, I was walking out. My parting gifts were a Moon Pie and my very own color pictures of my colon to take home. I mean, I guess it's my colon. Not that I could pick it out in a lineup or anything. Maybe they just print out the same pictures and tell you it's your colon. Really it looks like the hose that comes out of the back of your dryer, but I digress. Anyway, the pictures are really an odd size, so I think I'll have a hard time finding frames to fit them. I'll just have to hang them on the frig, where we all hang things of which we're particularly proud. Oh, and I forgot to mention the sheet I left with said I'd be receiving a card in the mail in 2029 reminding me of my next appointment. Woop woop. Perhaps Jesus will return before then.  
All joking aside, the colonoscopy really wasn't as bad as I'd heard it built up to be. They've come a long way in making the meds much more palatable than the horror stories I'd heard. I'm a big gagger, so if I didn't have trouble getting it down, well, it's really not that bad. When I was younger (you know, back in my 30's and 40's) I thought I'd just roll the dice on the colon thing. I mean, I get everything else checked, so I thought I could let that one slide. But, I lost an old college friend, last year, to colon cancer. He died before he reached the age when he should've even been screened for it. He was a joyful soul with such an awesome sense of humor. So full of life. Colon cancer took him way before the sparkle had left his eyes. Another close friend had a scare with her first test, recently. They were able to find and treat her problem before it turned bad. So, for that, once every decade, yes, I can sit in the bathroom for hours on end with my eyeballs floating in grape Nehi gone bad and wake up at 5 a.m. to do it all over again. Why? Because, I'm a big girl. And what's one more item on a woman's medical torture checklist anyway? 

As women, we busy ourselves taking care of so many people. We wear ourselves out making sure everyone in the generations, between which we're sandwiched, is seen about and is healthy. We have to make it a priority to take care of ourselves, too. We can't do all that we do if we aren't in good health. And, my goodness, if we didn't do what we do, who in the world would? The lint trap in the dryer would never be emptied and I don't even want to think about the inside of the microwave. I may die tomorrow from something that has no yearly screening or scheduled testing, but I'm going to take advantage of the resources and capabilities God has provided for us to help ourselves and let Him handle the rest.

My people need me way too much. Really, they do.

Make those appointments, ladies.




Thursday, February 21, 2019

Caboose Parenting

I just want to say, first of all, that I've been so blessed by you, lately. For the last two or three weeks, I've been especially touched by more than a usual number of notes, kind words, and emails from you. You've been so uplifting and encouraging to me. And I love that I've even gotten to meet some of you recently, too. There's not much that makes me more excited than having someone approach me with an apprehensive look and ask, "Are you the Muffintop lady?" I can't tell you what hearing from you means to me. It's like a shot in the arm. And for those who've left comments, lately, I'm getting a message that you're not being notified by email when I respond to you, so please go back and look at your comment so you can find my response. I need to check into that issue.

No matter what it is, if we do something routinely, we will, invariably, have times when we ask ourselves if it really matters. I think, in those times, God uses us to fill each other's tanks.....keeping us all fueled to carry on with whatever our thing is. And you have certainly done that for me. Each of your words and encouragements have gone straight to my heart and I just wanted to tell you so. I'd be lying if I said I don't ever struggle with words or finding blocks of time, attention, and energy to invest in blogging, but it never fails that, in those precise moments, I'm always, without fail, rejuvenated by your timely words to me. Thank you for that. From the bottom of my heart.

So, I went with Carson to an academic insight day for prospective business students at Mississippi State, this week. I can't believe that, in 5 months, Davis and I will be official, card-carrying empty nesters. Sniff. Anyway, we set out for Starkville to attend the various meetings that were planned to introduce the soon-to-be students to the business school. I was excited to be going in McCool Hall, where I'd taken several classes back in my day. Of course, I found it to be, like many things there, mostly unrecognizable from all of its renovations. Near the end of the day of activities, they separated the parents from the students. The students went to one auditorium to get the feel of a university classroom setting and the parents went into another for a Q&A with the dean and advisers.

Well, the first time parents were raising their hands right out of the gate. They had questions about accessing their children's grades and staying informed of their attendance and all sorts of other nervous inquisitions. You could hear their trepidation in their voices. Finally, the dean, who'd likely dealt with many of this type of parental unit in her day, asked for a show of hands of the parents, who were there with their first child. A large number of hands went up and most of them belonged to the most frequent questioners of the afternoon. Then, she asked for a show of hands from the parents, who were there with their last child. A lot of hands, including mine, shot up with a kind of whoop whoop sort of sound effect to go along with it. I dare say there may have even been a hint of a hoot and a holler. The staff commented that they always get those same differing responses. Clearly, the latter group was the more relaxed and unconcerned group of parents as they'd already experienced the growing pains of letting go of the firstborn and saw this as the first step toward getting their last dependent off of the payroll. They were a little older than the first set and hid their weariness less effectively. These parents were hungry for some relaxation. They had travel brochures, vacation home floor plans, and fishing boat catalogs that they'd been saving for this very moment, which was finally in their sites....thus causing the more audible hand raising.  

I can't say that I'm going to hoot or holler when Carson leaves. Probably more like sniff and snot. But, I'm certainly not as apprehensive as I was when Blair was at this point. There's just sort of a relaxation process that takes place between the first and last child. Maybe after seeing that you didn't kill, maim, scar, or irreversibly alter the first kid, you gain some confidence in your parenting skills and give yourself a little breathing room. Or, perhaps, you're just better poised to see that, even though you didn't exactly follow all the books with the first one, well, they didn't become a carny or get an animal bone piercing in their chin or join the Moonies or anything, so what's the worst that could happen the second time around?  But, really, I just think that it's more of a fatigue issue. You're older and just too tired to worry yourself over the little things. Blair has noted, on several occasions, that things are a lot different for Carson than they were for her when she came up through the system. The way she talks, it's not near the maximum security prison around here that it was in her day. I guess it's more of a white collar kind of lock up now, so it's probably a good thing that we're almost done with Carson's up bringin'. We likely couldn't hold out to monitor him for much longer.

Davis and I will be married 27 years on Friday and we've been in the child rearing business for almost 25 of those. I suppose it's good that, after Carson, we're only left with an animal to guide and nurture and, even with that, we're not doing very well. Davis installed an underground fence, about three weeks ago, to keep young Ruby confined to our yard. We live outside the city limits, where dogs are free to roam, but we weren't sure about Ruby and her vagrant background. We didn't know if she'd see us as just another stop along the way. We didn't have any kind of barrier for Sugar because, well, we've talked about her rule following nature before. Ruby, well, she's another story. We didn't want her stubborn, undaunted, mischievous self wandering off or being a nuisance to the neighbors. Our collection of shoes of unknown origin was starting to grow. So, Davis ordered the fence and got it buried and hooked up to the power source. He placed the little white flags all over the perimeter of the yard where the fence ran.

There was only one last step left. One small step. To train Ruby. To put the collar on her and lead her around the yard and show her the boundaries. To let her hear the beeping warning that would go off when she approached the flags and pull her back, so she'd associate the beeping with stopping and retreating. Eventually, she'd have to feel the shock to put it all together that the flags marked her limits. That was supposed to be the next and final step. Then, the rain came and the flu came and the pretty white flags became just something for Ruby to walk around on her way to the neighbors' yards to get their shoes.

Davis and I stood in the kitchen, this week, watching Ruby frolicking freely through the window. I said, "Are we ever going to train her on that fence thing?" "Doesn't look like it," Davis said as we watched our pound dog of unknown descent with her well bred friends, Izzy, the boxer, and Olive, the Corgi, having the best time. She was running back and forth from our yard to theirs....trampling the little white flags as she ran to and fro. I know I've smooshed a couple with the car and I saw Ruby with one in her mouth, the other day. Basically, we have all those little white flags tracing our property lines to give the impression that our dog is in the throes of some sort of intense training, when, actually, Davis and I are the ones in training. We are being conditioned that if we find an unfamiliar object inside the white flag area, we should busy ourselves finding its rightful owner and anything that happens outside the flagged perimeter is really none of our business.

She's almost got us trained.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Family Loop, My Foot

Blair and John Samuel came home, this past weekend, and it was such a beautiful day, Saturday, that we decided to take the dogs for a walk at the lake. In our city, we're fortunate to have a couple of lakes with a paved walking path winding around one and hiking trails and bike trails in the woods surrounding the second lake. The weather beckoned us to come and enjoy our local treasure and Blair, John Samuel, and I loaded up the two dogs to head there. Carson had homework he needed to get done and Davis had a stop he needed to make first, so he was going to meet up with us when he was done.

Well, right off the bat, we disobeyed the rules and took the dogs on the paved walking path, because (1) there were only a couple of other people on the entire track and they were on the opposite side of the lake. There was no one that the dogs could possibly bother and (2) Davis, the rule follower, wasn't there to stop us. We walked about 1/2 mile when we saw the gravel path that led back to the wooded trails. I guess my conscience got the best of me and we decided to get on one of those trails and enjoy the woods for a while. There's a main path with several different trails shooting off of that. Basically, there's a trail suitable for any activity or fitness level. That's why when we passed the trailhead marked "The Family Loop" I thought that was where we belonged. The name indicated a leisurely stroll through the woods, which could be done even with several small children in tow. Davis and I had been through there and that was exactly how I remembered it.....just a sweet, little walk through the woods with a couple of streams running under cute bridges along the way.

So, we hopped on the trail and let the dogs be our guide. I'd woken up that morning not feeling the best. I couldn't put my finger on anything specific. I just wasn't 100%, but, surely, I could do something as non-strenuous as a family nature walk. Well, as I mentioned earlier, there are many trails winding through the woods back there and they intersect at many points. We were unfamiliar with that particular area as we usually walk another section of the park. So, after my Fitbit said we'd walked 2 miles already and there was no sight of the trail's end, we determined that surely we'd veered off of the Family Loop and, somehow, gotten ourselves onto, possibly, Satan's Trail or Death Angel's Pass. I mean, unless the name, Family Loop, was referencing families, who just happened to bring along a survival kit or perhaps families who wished to die together alone in the wilderness.

Anyway, it was no wonder we got off of the loop with the heavy blanket of winter leaves covering everything and the signage being a little spotty. We'd crossed over onto the bike trails, obviously. We'd top a steep hill and walk a few level steps, only to be met by another incline steeper than the one before. Of course, Blair and John Samuel and even the dogs were just scurrying on up the hills, but I was lagging behind and I'll just attribute it to not feeling up to par and leave it at that.

                                My view for most of the walk.

Well, we'd grilled burgers for lunch, right before we left for our walk, and I'd had a LOT of tea to drink, so this extended hiking session was getting me into sort of a 50 year old woman kind of bind. Finally, we turned another corner to see yet another mountain ahead of us, and that's when it happened. Our situation had gotten me tickled. Now, a tickled 50 year old woman out in the middle of the woods with a full bladder is not a situation that's going to end well. Ever. These are favorable conditions for a monsoon. So, in my laughter, I instructed Blair and John Samuel to stop. Holding my arms up into the air for emphasis, they turned around to hear me say with my legs crossed, "Ok, everybody stop! Nobody laugh or move or say a word!" I needed total silence to concentrate on the problem at hand. I could hear Blair filling John Samuel in on the situation, "Mom's trying not to wet her pants." I attempted to regain my composure and tried walking a few more steps, but it wasn't happening. It was now or never. I had to go. The humorous situation was more than the ol' bladder could take, so I yelled ahead, "Ok, I need both of you to walk way ahead where you can't see me. And I mean waaay ahead." It was a really kind of a big moment. For the first time in my life, all of my 50 years, I was about to relieve myself outdoors. And, while my brothers are probably beaming, while reading this, my mother has likely fallen backwards out of her chair. Someone should check on her.

Anyway, I got off the trail and found a suitable spot to relieve myself. I wasn't sure what a suitable spot looked like for a girl's first time at outdoor urination, but I thought it looked nice enough. Small trees around for me to catch myself should the need arise. The entire time, I was praying, "Oh, Lord....please, please, don't let some unsuspecting soul become subjected to this freak show by walking up through here ." My prayer was answered and I pulled up the remainder of my dignity and went to catch up with my family on the Family Loop gone bad.

Meanwhile, Davis texted me that he'd made it to the lake and wanted to know where we were, so he could join us. "We are lost. That is where we are. Gather a search party." As I'm communicating with him, John Samuel turned around and said that he certainly hoped no one had a game camera mounted close to my "bathroom". Oh, that was a good thought with which to keep my mind occupied. Maybe even a grainy video of me squatting near a tree would end up on our Community Watch page with the caption, "Does anyone know this woman?" I could imagine someone responding, "Yeah, I know her. Indecent exposure woman is married to trespassing man with the camera and clipboard from last week."

I looked at my Fitbit again and we were at 3.5 miles. I yelled ahead...…"Y'all go on and save yourselves. I've had a good life." But, being the compassionate people they are, they wouldn't leave me there to die. We continued our walk, talking about things like how many more hours of sunlight we had left, why we weren't hearing any helicopters yet, and which dog we thought would be the most tender and juicy. (We were only kidding, animal lovers. We'd starve first.)

In a minute, Davis came up through the woods to meet us. He was the most beautiful vision. He walked with us to where the bike trail finally came out at the main trail and then we walked another downhill mile or more until we made it back to his truck, which was far, far away from where we'd left our car. My Fitbit was just before contacting the authorities for unusual behavior. Surely, I'd been abducted running up those kinds of numbers.
                       In the back of Davis' search and rescue truck.

So, the next morning, I woke up and got all ready for church. I was so happy to be going with all of my kids there with me. But, I plopped back onto the bed and confessed to Davis that I was sick. My scalp ached. My back ached. My hips ached. My teeth ached. All of my nerve endings throbbed. I had an impressive fever. I peeled off my Sunday clothes and got back in bed, isolating myself from everyone for the rest of their visit. I know what flu feels like and I've diagnosed myself as having it, albeit a more modest case as I had taken the flu shot for the first time, this year. "Get a flu shot," they said. "It will keep you from getting the flu," they said.

So, the moral of this story is that excessive physical exercise causes the flu. Warn your friends and neighbors. And, also, no 50 year old woman has any business out in the woods after having three glasses of tea, unless she's willing to bare her behind to the heavens and to the earth. And, lastly, joy can be found even in life's unplanned detours.

 Stay well.         


Friday, February 8, 2019

Not of This Wacky World

I'm sure I'm not the only one, who's starting to feel like I must have fallen asleep and woken up on a different planet. A place, where everything I've ever known or held to be true, right, or just is being turned on its head. Things that have always been viewed as noble and honorable are being shamed. Things that were once ghastly and horrifying don't cause so much as a blink anymore....even garnering thunderous applause. A place where the logical is seemingly invisible and the irrational is the new standard. It's a time when people don't know whether to sit or stand....looking all around instead of inside their hearts to decide what they should be doing. Even with what should be the most obvious choices or the givens, we're frantically checking ourselves against the reaction of others. I mean, being caught out of step could prove disastrous, these days.

It's a time when you can be destroyed in an instant because of a wrong word or foolish decision made in decades past. There is no forgiveness. There is no room for error. No expiration date. No benefit of the doubt. No redemption. No common sense approach to anything. A lifetime of good and helpful deeds could never right a past lapse of judgment or poor choice of words dug up by the wrong hands. There is a low hanging cloud of apprehension hanging over us as we speak or write. I'm even a tiny bit uncomfortable as I type this seldom traveled muffintop ground. We've all seen what can happen. The slightest slip can land you on the front page or penniless or ostracized or, heaven forbid, without any followers.

Even the strongest cave to the pressure. Bending and snapping under the weight of what we should or shouldn't say. What we should or shouldn't accept. What we should or shouldn't do. Just ask the person tasked with finding a singer for the Super Bowl's national anthem. Or stations looking for sponsors for a show embroiled in some sort of petty scandal. No one wants to offend even if it means a large number of people have to miss out in order to concede to the efforts of a small group of opposition. Even Christian leaders and artists are found trying to tip-toe around the areas that could come back to bite them. The pressure to maintain fans and increase followers causes words to be chosen most carefully and issues to be skirted. These are the new rules.

The values and beliefs, which were once considered admirable, are now the butt of prime time jokes and celebrity tweets. The things we were taught as being virtuous and holy now act as a bullseye for anyone who'd like to take a shot at those who still believe that way. Those old, archaic ways are the new signs of ignorance and intolerance. This type of deriding is acceptable only in the case of  Christian beliefs, but is never to be tolerated when aimed at any other group of people. These Christian people are fair game and its open season. So, we find ourselves lowering our voices instead of using our normal tones. We've seen the mockery that could come our way if we call too much attention to what we really believe. And it's done so loudly. So publicly. No one likes to be mocked, especially in front of others, right?

These days, the need to feel vindicated or proven right in our opinions overrides any other need.... especially the need for truth. At the end of the day, if wearing the jersey of the winning team means the truth has to be manipulated, then so be it. Egos are so grossly oversized and their appetites so insatiable that to sacrifice the reputation or character of another soul by misrepresentation is completely acceptable if it ensures your opinions are validated and you are affirmed by the example you make of them. There is no consideration of the lasting effects of those who opposed you. The important thing is that you are seen as being the one who is right and victorious.   

It should cause us all great dismay to know that we'd be fined and/or imprisoned for touching a sea turtle egg or harming an eagle's full nest, but don't dare be so bold as to suggest that it's immoral to do as you please to a human infant with a soul just before its birth. A growing number of states are hoping there will be stricter penalties in their jurisdiction for removing sea oats from the beach or fishing without a license than for killing a human baby at full term. The day before its birthday. The shameless gall of a leader, who would lean into a microphone and, without any hesitation, explain how a child delivered alive by accident, would be laid aside, while conversations and decision making take place. God, help us that a costume worn decades ago, though grossly callous and horribly detestable, drew the bigger response than the idea of murdering a baby in a way widely deemed too inhumane for the most violent criminals among us. But, it seems that's where we are now.

It is no longer acceptable to disagree. Total conformity to the other side is the only acceptable solution to the problem. In the event that this is not achieved, the destruction phase must begin. Defamation. Humiliation. Delegitimization. There is no longer the possibility of two opposing views coexisting in harmony. There is not enough tolerance on hand for that even though the word is a favorite among those who lack it. Unfollow. Unfriend. Block. Boycott. We feel empowered by all of the ways we can cripple and silence each other.      

I know this isn't sounding like a very uplifting post as is, hopefully, the usual here, but hang on. I've tried to sit and write about a few other things, this week, but my heavy heart kept coming back to the new depths of our heartbreaking descent and the tremendous pace at which we're traveling there. I don't think I can have a blog with the word, motherhood, in the title and not speak a word on the recent issues. I guess I just want to encourage us to not look frantically, from side to side, to see what we should be thinking and how we should be behaving in this world that has obviously gone insane. God's word should be our only gauge. Our only cue card.

I hope this will be an encouragement to others, who feel the same way about the recent goings on. You are not alone even when you're made to feel that way. I know we can start to believe that there are only a handful of us left. A mere smattering of those, who reject all the garbage we're being fed. Some days, we may feel awfully conspicuous and a bit self-conscious as we stand alone in a crowd. Standing there dumbfounded and wondering how in the heck we got to this wacky place, where we find ourselves. But, take heart. There are multitudes of us who are feeling like aliens, who've landed on a different planet. We refuse to assimilate. We have to be here for each other. And pray for each other and for our country.

And stand together.  

Not afraid to use our outside voices when necessary.

"And be not conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God."  Romans 12:2        

"Pray also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel."  Ephesians 6:19

"Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech."  2 Corinthians 3:12

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:7

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven"  Matthew 5:11-12

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world."
John 15:19

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31

Have a great weekend! See you soon!




Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wintry Conditions and Its Link to Lawlessness

Davis and I got home, a couple of days ago, from getting away for a long weekend. We went to Bardstown, Kentucky to attend the funeral of the father of our friend, David. Picturesque town and such hospitable people. They invited all of the Mississippi travelers to join the family, after the service, for the noon meal provided by the ladies of the church. I'd just like to insert here that, no matter where you go, you're in good, loving hands when you're being cared for by church ladies. They're just a special lot. Thank heavens for the ministry of fried chicken and banana pudding and the sweet hands that prepare it. Amen.

Louisville was the only city I'd ever been to in Kentucky, so it was nice to visit the place named "America's Most Beautiful Small Town", a few years ago. I was so happy to meet some sweet Muffintoppers there in the bluegrass state, too. Hey to y'all.

From there, we went back down to Nashville for a couple of days. Davis and I feel like we're two Mississippi anomalies in that we don't really like country music. Even though the city, where we live, boasts as being the hometown of the Father of Country Music, I can only list about 8 country songs ever recorded, since the genre's Mississippi conception, that I've liked. Because of this, most of our time was spent at historical sights....except for Lincoln's birthplace, which was closed due to the government shutdown. It was our Clark Griswold moment to drive up to locked gates adorned with the unfortunate signage.

We did stay at the Opryland Hotel for the first time. I'd been there to look around, but had never stayed there, so that was nice. If you've never been, you should go if you get the chance. From the moment we arrived at the hotel, we heard much ado about the impending snowstorm that was coming and would almost certainly leave the South looking like Quebec. We kept hearing people mention the coming precipitation and, first, Davis' dad called and then my mother to warn us of the winter apocalypse that was imminent. I mean, like Davis, who is weather obsessed, wasn't already well aware of the forecast and the hour by hour probabilities. But, that's just what southern parents do when the weatherman mentions any form of frozen all the young'uns, no matter how old they are, to warn them of how slick the roads will be. We assured everyone that we'd be home well before the blizzard of '19.
We got home, Monday night, and Davis ran to the store for a few essentials since we'd been gone. He ran into the milk and bread stampede.....fellow southerners gearing up to be snowed in for, perhaps, months. School had already been cancelled for the next day and that was their cue to rush out and get their obligatory ham, cheese, peanut butter, bread, milk, Little Debbie's, and maybe a can or two of Hormel chili. I mean, we don't even flirt with the possibility of starving during a winter weather event down here. It just ain't gonna happen.

Well, we got up, the next morning, and, sure enough, there was snow. I'll share a couple of pictures from around our place for those of you, who live in warmer climates and don't get too much snow of your own.
          I know. Isn't it just beautiful? 
"Oh, the silent majesty of a winter's morn." - Clark Griswold 
(This is how most of our snow forecasts turn out, down here. Sigh.)

Anyway, when we got home, we both had some catching up to do with our work. Davis, since retiring from his job with the Department of Agriculture, started doing insurance inspections for several different companies. It's a nice change of pace from his former office job. He gets to be out and about inspecting homes and businesses and it really suits his gift of attention to detail.

Well, he was in the shower, last night, after a long day of working out in the treacherous snow, and I'd sat down in my new chair to relax....which I am loving, by the way. I got my iPad and leaned back and put my feet up. I checked my emails, texts, and then started scrolling down my Facebook feed.

I follow a local Community Watch page, which alerts people in the area about crimes and suspicious cars or behaviors. Somebody is always posting pictures of something that's going on in our town, so imagine my surprise when I saw someone had posted a still picture taken from their home security camera of a man walking across their backyard, who I thought looked a tad familiar. I zoomed in on the picture and my suspicions were confirmed.

It. Was. Davis. With a caption something like..."Does anyone know this man? He was caught on my property by my surveillance cameras." There Inspector Davis was on our local crime watcher page. With his clipboard and camera around his neck. It was such a proud moment. My husband's picture had garnered the heading, Do you know this man?

"Um, Davis," I yelled out toward the bathroom, where he was getting out of the shower, "you might want to come see this," I continued. As I'm calling him, my phone starts vibrating and ringing and dinging and all the things that one's phone does when one's family is suddenly at the center of a small town scandal. Davis emerges from the steamy bathroom to discover he's one of America's most wanted, while I'm explaining the situation to one of the concerned friends on the phone. Ding, ding, ding. Ring, ring, ring goes my phone. Friends reaching out to inform us of Davis' appearance on the page, which features only the most lawless among us. I assured everyone that we were aware and were working to diffuse the matter....even though I kind of liked this new bad boy image Davis had suddenly acquired. I reached out to the man, who'd posted the picture, and the situation was quickly resolved. Bad Davis was then restored to Good Davis, once again, and the world was right again.

Davis might be the most straight-laced, law abiding, responsible citizen that I know. He adheres to all laws and rules and regulations....even the dumb ones......and the ones that almost everyone else ignores.....and the ones that cause a trip to Kentucky to take much longer than it would if, say, I were the fact that he was the one in our family to end up on Community Watch has given us all a healthy dose of belly laughter.
Well, it's now 2 a.m. and I've got to go to bed. We'll talk early next week!

Have a great weekend!  


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Uniquely Loved

Last Friday, Davis loaded Ruby in his truck and they headed to the vet clinic. The shelter had her all checked out and vaccinated, but they don't include a heartworm screening in their standard checkup and we wanted to get her tested as soon as we could.

Through the almost 14 years of having our Sugar, we'd grown accustomed to loving a dog with a surplus of phobias with a trip to the vet being at the very tip top of that lengthy list. Checkups were always just a miserable experience for everyone involved, so we were prepared and very experienced to deal with Ruby if it became apparent that she suffered from the same affliction.

They left and I was anxious to hear a report on her disposition at the doctor's office. I felt like a nervous, new mother, I guess. It wasn't long before Davis called and he was chuckling. He reported that Ruby went in and spoke to everyone with her wagging tail banging against everything in its way. It's important to become acquainted with your healthcare providers, I suppose. When they put her on the table to trim her nails, she rolled over on her back to give them easier access to her belly in the event that they should want to rub it. She was certain that they would want to. Davis said she didn't care what they did to her. She just licked them and stayed on her back, looking all around the room from her upside down vantage point with her hanging lips exposing her teeth as if she was smiling.

Bless it. There wasn't much that Sugar wasn't scared of and yet we've not found anything that scares Ruby. So far, we've experienced fireworks, heavy rain, the vet, gunshots (we live in rural Mississippi, so not to worry), vacuum cleaners, small children, strangers, UPS drivers, and nothing bothers her. All of those things would send our poor Sugar into orbit. Shaking. Panting. She was just a nervous sort from the very beginning, but, from what we've seen, Ruby couldn't be more unconcerned.
 These pictures may give you a glimpse into Ruby's personality. My apologies for the pose on the right. We're still working on the appropriate and inappropriate ways in which a lady sits. You can take a girl outta the streets, but you can't always take the streets outta the girl.    

Behavior and personality are other areas where they differ. Sugar stayed in our yard for the most part. Even in her younger years, she never bothered anything. Her desire for her world to remain calm and predictable kept her from getting into any trouble or doing anything unwise. She was a rule follower. And kind of a wallflower. She liked to keep to herself and her family. She was quite content to lead a quiet life.        

In contrast, the neighbors have seen me struggling to get our current pet back home.....breathless and toting Ruby, who's gone limp in protest, while clutching a turtle's shell between her teeth. (We can only pray it wasn't someone's pet.) I'm in my pajama pants, mumbling something under my breath about how she better be glad she's so cute. My hands under her armpits and her long body dangling between my knees as I walk; trying to get her hardheaded self home from introducing herself to the neighborhood. As we await our underground fence installation, she's brought home the neighbor's flip flops, chewed through the shoe strings of my new tennis shoes, faked tee-teeing in order to acquire a treat, continues to be vigilant in moss retrieval, and ate part of a Brillo pad, which resurfaced, the next morning, if you know what I mean. I find myself texting SOS messages to Davis. Pleas like the ones I used to ask of him when the kids were little and I stayed home with them....."Please, tell me you'll be home soon?!"

I was sitting on the floor with Ruby and stroking her head, the other night, and I told Davis that I didn't think I was going to love Ruby the same way I loved Sugar. I didn't mean that I wouldn't grow to love her as deeply, but I think it will just be a different kind of love. Sugar had needs and fears and dependence issues and so I loved her in an assuring, nurturing way. She really needed a lot. She relied on me a lot for peace of mind and encouragement.

Ruby. Well, she needs none of that. Since the minute her sedatives wore off from her girly surgery, we don't see where she needs anybody for much of anything except to fill her food bowl and throw her ball. She's pretty sure of herself. Confident. Under the impression that everyone should have the privilege of meeting her. She hasn't run to me for any kind of comfort or reassurance. She does love to cuddle, when she doesn't have more pressing matters to tend to like, say, moss displacement or turtle butchery. She's just an independent girl, which I suppose that comes from her former life. To love her the same way I loved Sugar would probably just get on her very last nerve and not meet any of her needs.  

During this completely different experience, I've been thinking how, like the two dogs, I guess we don't really love all people in the same way either. Our kids. Parents. Friends. Co-workers. Everybody has their own story and their own set of quirks, strengths, fears, needs, and experiences. Everyone we meet needs something different from us. And while we love all of our children the same amount, we may not love them in the same ways. We certainly don't parent them the same, because they each respond to things differently. We quickly learn what each person in our lives needs and we try to meet them there in those places. To love everyone the same would be to patch some spots that don't really need care and attention in some people and to leave other holes that they do have gaping and empty.

I don't imagine God loves us all the same either. I don't mean He has favorites or loves some more than others. I just think He knows all of us so intimately....down to the very center of who we are and where we've been. He made us and calls us His children, so if anyone would know what we need from Him, He would be the one. He knows where we're hardheaded and go limp in protest if we're reined in. He knows what makes us anxious and what we need to help us stop shaking. He knows what we're really good at and the places where we're most confident. He knows where we're weakest and the things that make us feel unworthy and self-conscious. He knows the kind of encouragement we need to carry out His plan for our lives. He knows the people to send to love and help us along the way. He knows that the kind of love one of us needs might be wasted on the next person. He knows us all by heart and I think He fashions His love toward us accordingly.  

So, as Davis and I wind down our child rearing and are shifting gears (bigtime) in our dog rearing, I'm reminded to be glad that we have a God, who tailors His love and care to fit each one of His children. We are all uniquely made. All uniquely loved by Him.
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"
I John 3:1   

Y'all have a wonderful day!