Sunday, August 29, 2010

Little Things in God's BIG Plan

It was no little thing when my friend Katie said she was sad and maybe in a state of depression.  You see, her only two sisters (Susie and Nancy) have died in the last few years leaving her the last of her "Little Women"  family.  
I knew this time her help would take more wisdom and insight than I could offer so I suggested that she go to "His High Places" a Christian retreat center in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.  
Well, you know how it is to put your heart and mind into the hands of strangers  -- no matter how highly they come recommended.  She must have been desperate because she drove to Blowing Rock last week and tentatively settled into her little apartment for a week of peeling back the layers of pain to discover her old true self again.
By Wednesday she called me to say she caught herself smiling as she was driving down the mountain for lunch.  Something she said she couldn't remember doing for a long long time.
Her counselor had assured her that Jesus was with her and for her and had great future plans for her even as she navigated through her pain. 
Did she dare hope?  Was He really in this with her?  Was it His will for her to be led to this place of beauty, grace and hope?
When she sat down in the restaurant she noticed two women seated at the next table digging in to some delicious stuff.  She asked them what to order and as women do they began to connect.  
They asked what brought her to the mountains and she told them about HHP.  "Write that down" one of the women told the other.  "You never know when we may need a place like that!"  "We're sisters and we don't know what we would do if one of us left the other behind."
As the meals drew to a close and everyone was heading to their cars they said their good-byes.  
By the way my friend said "I'm Katie."
The sisters looked over their shoulders and one  said .....
"Oh, I'm Susie and this is my sister Nancy."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

If You Knew Hairy -- Like I Know Hairy

I was quite surprised to read this morning in the news that men find frugal women sexy.  Hmmmmmmmmm.  You could have knocked me over with a re-used zip lock bag.
  Well, just call me Miss Sensible Shoes because that no spending Pheromone is never going to be in my DNA.
I guess sexy is in the eyes of the beholder because frankly George Clooney never made my heart skip a beat until I saw him wearing a  hairnet in "Oh Brother Where Arte Thou."  A man who isn't so vain as to not have a laugh on himself is the guy for me!

I once had a crush on a boy in college who could fake-trip and fall so realistically that it would draw huge crowds of concerned passers by.  I was oh so willing to just bask in his limelight and spend the rest of my days like Mo Dean standing by his side.  But alas it was not meant to be.  (I hope he found an adorable Physical Therapist and they stumbled  into the sunset.)  
God is good because he sent me a man who understands how to handle a bad (or no) hair day.

Be still my heart.
I'm proud to say - those apples are fallin' straight down from that tree!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fair With A Chance of FUN

There is no place I know more random or fun than the Kentucky State Fair.  It is a feast for the eyes, tummy and  evidently the gastroenterologists  have discovered it now and left their mark.
Here are some of my favorite shots of this year's fair.

The Balloon Man Show

How many ways can you interpret "Starry Starry Night" by Van Gogh?

 Needle Point
Paint samples art.
Apple pie edible art.

Photography exhibits. 
Recycled beer can art.  "Keep drinking, honey.  I need more cans."

Then the ever popular "Ugly Lamp Contest" sponsored by 

(Don't miss the expression on his little face)
My beloved Cole Thomas' collage that won an honorable mention!
And truly "Where else but the Kentucky State Fair.............
Michelangelo's "The Touch" in knotty pine.

The Easy Button

Weddings are full of mini crisis' that mask a lot of hidden emotions.  Taking it "Easy" is the best way to navigate the hurdles. 
They are opportunities to  grow into a closer family.
This wedding was rich with moments, flavors, sights and connections for a lifetime.
My friend Debbie always says -- at the end of the day weddings are just two people who want to be married to each other.
So wise.

No this is not a flower girl -- it's the father of the groom holding flowers for the bride while she fluffs up.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Living In "The Waltons"

I love mindless work when shared with friends and family.
It is a good vehicle to say the things that inspire, tickle and puzzle you that you just wouldn't get around to in the rush of daily life.
"Come on in there is plenty to do"
You know, like the women in the kitchen on The Waltons. 
Last night we assembled mason jar luminaries and cook book give-aways for the wedding on Saturday.
You can be sure it was akin to the Red Tent. 

These are the days.  The little bricks that build the foundation for a momentous event and the beginning of a new life.
"What me worry?"  The father of the groom.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Do!

My girlfriend Leslie's son is getting married on Saturday.  We have flown home to help with the arrangements. 
It will be a farm wedding at Black Acre Farm.  What fun!
Black Acre Farm Jeffersontown Kentucky

Tonight we will assemble little cook books with the recipes of the pies friends and family are contributing to the reception.
It is so wise to include others in the preparations for a family celebration.  Everyone gets to own the glory.  It becomes a reminder of the honor of loving and being loved.
In some ways it is a mini seminar on the things that matter most all decorated and served on silver trays.
I feel sorry for the folks who write and check and just put on a show.  They miss the opportunity to look out their everyday window and see a village waiting walk down the aisle with them and into the rest of their lives.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Take A Load Off, Baby

We were one of the first in line to see the newly released "Eat, Pray, Love" or as I declared as we exited Eat, Pray, Snore. Oh, the anguish, oh, the drama over a woman who just wasn't happy in her boring life.
She took off for Italy and recreated a temporary family while relishing the incredible food. I can relate after taking cooking classes in Rome in December and basically chomping my way across Europe. Good stuff. America who?
Then she decided to try to work out her guilt over dumping her husband by going to India for wisdom. I have the same thought about that as I do when I pass a "Palm Reader" sign outside of a trailer on the highway.
"If you're so smart why are you living in a double wide?" Or as in the case of her neighborhood in India -- why isn't that wisdom helping the community to get those dying children out of the filthy streets?
So she chants some non-senseical words until her mind goes numb and she experiences placidness. Distance makes the heart grown calmer -- I guess. I know I always feel better about my life when I'm several continents away from my weedy garden.
With a new quieter spirit she heads to Bali. There in a house that looks like a Disney set sitting in the middle of the most beautiful lush landscape in the world she runs into Javier Bardem and this is a real stretch... falls in love.  Imagine that?
Paaaalease! Is this spirituality?
Last night we Tivo-d a Lifetime movie titled "Amish Grace". It is the true life story of the families whose daughters were murdered execution style in their little one room school house in Pennsylvania. The theme of this flick was forgiveness too. But this wasn't based on a bad hair day or a whim this was about true victims and their choices to either become bitter or to forgive.
Warning – it is a six Kleenex and Afrin nasal spray movie.
These Amish families didn't look to themselves. They didn't run away. They didn't become their own god. They were submissive to the God they had followed for years. There was a season of wrestling and questioning. It got gritty but in the end the same characters that were in the beginning scenes were in the closing scenes. Big difference.
Half way through Julia Robert's agonizing over her ability to forgive herself I couldn't take it any more. I turned to Papa Joe and said -- That girl needs Jesus.
Yes, I am that woman for whom the movie industry has spent fortunes to inspire me to keep my mouth shut in the theater. But I can only take so much.
The basis of our faith is He took on the forgiveness issue for us. He showed up in court and paid the fine for our traffic violation,
Jesus says "Cast all of you burdens on me for I care for you".
Or as the song goes:

Take a load off baby

Take a load for free

Take a load off baby

And put your load on me.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Well, Shut My Mouth

Last week, when Papa Joe was on the road,  two of my girlfriends surprised me with a picnic dinner and sleepover here.  We toasted the next year and caught up.
At this stage of life it is critical to have friends with insights because without the stress of child rearing it is easy to get proud and complacent in an ever shrinking sphere of "me."
We discussed ways our children could find more joy or just plain peace in their hectic lives. Jan ( my post surgery caregiver -- so we have NO secrets now) said that although we have accumulated 60 years of hard earned and painful wisdom we need to listen more and share less.  The key to a good relationship with anyone is first try not to bore them to death.
But, but, but what about all of those helpful hints like microwaving the kitchen sponge?  Or how vitamin D is the new miracle cure?  And would it be fair to not mention how important it is to answer the questions of life before you find yourself incurable and no preacher to conduct the service?
Probably better to let them read their own magazines, listen to their own still small heart voices and just allow the quiet between us to  be filed with laughter and praise.
So what's the point of all of this hard earned knowledge I've accumulated to this point in my life?  I don't know  -- but I'm pretty impressed.
Maybe I could begin by taking my own advice?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Face It

Have you ever wondered when did I get so cautious ?  When did a little mess or extra effort become the brick wall between me and some fun or a memory that will follow me to the grave?  I have.
Last week when I was with the grand kids we made a decorated cake for Cole Thomas' birthday.
He has become quite the little chef so it was fun to pick a design , decorate it and eat the creation.
Before we blew out the grill lighter (couldn't find a candle and it was his idea for a substitute) Cole asked me;
"Have you ever wanted to put your face in the cake after they sing Happy Birthday?"
"Never -- how about you Cole?"
"Yep!  Always have"
"Well then go for  it!"
""UUUUGGGHHH" the other kids said.
So I cut a  big piece for just Cole and we launched into....
"Happy Birthday to You....."

The cake.

The "candle".

The memory for a lifetime.
He LOVED it!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Free Willie Part 2

When we moved back South one of my new friends was Willie. He was the gardener for the people who lived across the street from us.

He was a black gentleman in his 70s and he knew exceptional dogs when he spotted them because he would always make a fuss over BJ Honeycutt our chocolate lab and Mr. Sam Pickens our English Pointer. He called BJ "Big Red" and  said he'd take him off of our hands if we ever had to give him up.
He also admired our Crown Victoria."Big Bertha sure is a fine automobile. They don't make them like that anymore"
Willie was the kind of man who would seed my yard with winter rye grass just to be friendly and once when BJ threw out his shoulder Willie was who I called to help me get him to the vet.
They don't make them like Willie anymore either.
Came the day..... When Papa Joe felt like it was time to replace my car.  She had 179,000 miles on her.
We always donate our cars so I asked if we could bequeath her to Willie. Joe thought that was a fine idea.
Since we were living an hour’s drive away from the house we had started out in I called Willie to ask him if he was still interested.
He surely was so we met at the courthouse that week and signed all of the adoption papers.
It had been so long since we'd lived up North that I had forgotten about the Dixie button on the dashboard.
Three nights after we left the courthouse I sat bolt upright in bed and said "Joe! I gave a car that plays Dixie to a black man!"
All I could hope was that Willie wouldn't discover that button and think I was a bad person.
Nearly a year later I was in the Winn Dixie parking lot when I heard my name being called out. I turned around to see a beaming Willie all propped up in the driver's seat of Big Bertha.
"Oh, Willie" I blurted out "How are you?  I hope you don't think I'm a bad person because that car plays Dixie?!
You see I lived up North and I needed something to remind me of the South."
His kind, accepting and gracious eyes looked back at me as he said "Of course not. We're friends. But I'll tell you this......... No one in my neighborhood has one like it!"
I imagine not.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sometimes You Just Need to Hear Dixie Part 1

When Papa Joe and I married  he imported me to Mainline Philadelphia  where I felt like an onion in a petunia patch.

No sweet tea, no Ginny's Diner -- home of the 16 oz.Sweet Daddy Burger (and yes that is Ginny with a "G".) and forget tomato sandwiches or calling cards.
Homesick doesn't even begin to describe it.
I went to a Southern friend's home one day and almost cried over the pimento cheese.
All of a sudden I found myself so sentimental about my roots that I would extol the benefits of living in the South to anyone who would ask me what kind of an accent I had. Wish it were Dixie Carter but alas it's closer to Loretta Lynn.
One fateful day a car parts catalogue was delivered to our house by accident. I flipped through it and discovered that a woman could actually buy an air horn to be installed in her car with a variety of songs.
Lacuca Rocha didn't call my name but  I saw way down the long list of Lawrence Welk favorites the option of "Back home in Dixie."
Very reluctantly Papa Joe allowed me to indulge my obsession.
The stereo installer wasn't even familiar with the tune so after he first put it in it didn't play anything familiar just beep honk squeak honk.
Imagine the intense afternoon I spent while we stood in a greasy garage and sang it over and over until he could hook up the horns in proper order?
Finally my car Big Bertha was retrofitted and with the push of a button she played Dixie.
From that day forward when someone blew their horn at me before the light changed or the checkout woman at the Acme scowled at me when I said "Hope you have a nice day" or any other un-Southern behavior was exhibited.....I blew Dixie upon my exit.
"Oh, I wished I was in the Land of Cotton....."
And now I am.
I would never play that horn down here because down here it has become a symbol of white prejudice.
I wonder what goes through a black mother's mind when she hears that song. Does she fear for her child and his future?
It is a sad loss but I can live without that.
Back in Philadelphia it was like hearing The Star Spangled Banner when you are out of the country. That song in that place was my Olympic, standing on the winners block, moment.
My way of saying; "Can you hear me now?"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

For my birthday this year Papa Joe took me to the Billy Graham Memorial Library in Charlotte North Carolina. We just loved it!

Ruth Graham is buried there and the setting is beautiful.
These are the words she chose for her parting shot. They reflect her wit and humility.
I have always loved her from afar. She was basically a single mother as Billy traveled the world preaching the good news. Her children say she was a force to be reckoned with and fun at the same time.
Her book "Sitting by My Laughing Fire" is a collection of poems she wrote over her lifetime.
Here is an example -- she wrote as a young college woman on the eve of meeting Billy:

Dear God, I prayed, all unafraid
(as we’re inclined to do),
I do not need a handsome man
but let him be like You;
I do not need one big and strong
nor yet so very tall,
nor need he be some genius,
or wealthy, Lord, at all;
but let his head be high, dear God,
and let his eye be clear,
his shoulders straight, whate’er his state,
whate’er his earthly sphere;
and let his face have character,
a ruggedness of soul,
and let his whole life show, dear God,
a singleness of goal;
then when he comes
(as he will come)
with quiet eyes aglow,
I’ll understand that he’s the man
I prayed for long ago.
(From Ruth Bell Graham’s Collected Poems)

The Bible says "You have not because you ask not." Well, she asked and look how God answered her prayer!
I guess the hesitation in asking God for anything is the responsibility that comes when we realize He is real when He grants our prayer.
If you have an opportunity to go to Charlotte go to the library. You will love it!