Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tinsel, Miss Clairol and Gray Hair

Choosing to regard the incoming white hairs on my head in a positive and festive light, I jokingly call them "tinsel."  The pigment production along my hair line has chosen to retire first, thus a very obvious crown of splendor is revealed when I wear a ponytail, which I did today.  

At lunch, my (26-year-old) son and my (60-year-old) husband were inside ordering and I was outside scouting for a place to sit this beautifully sunny February day.  I found a little bistro table with two chairs, then spied a group of young women nearby at a table with an empty chair.  I asked if I could use the chair and they generously said yes.  One of them then informed me the chair was heavy.  

I have a similar wrought iron table and chairs older than the seated young women and was well aware it weighed a tad more than a webbed folding chair.  I lifted it easily and said, "He man!"  I am also aware they may well have never sat in a webbed folding chair and these rainbow colored days, I could have left them questioning my sexuality.  

I didn't care.  I had something to prove and thankfully I didn't drop dead doing it.  As I walked away with the chair, I thought how my arms were strong for the task, a portion of Proverbs 31 I pep talk myself with when I pick up a heavy load.     

After proving I could lift a wrought iron chair with the best of women, my son comes out of the restaurant and tells me he meant for me to nab a table on the street side of the restaurant.  I was undaunted.  It was a mistake anyone ineligible yet for AARP could have made.  I walked to the other side of the building with my graying head held high to join my husband and son for lunch.  

I questioned why they'd want to sit on a busy east-west thoroughfare through town, and my son, who works on this block, said the chances of a panhandler hitting us up were less here--on the shady, windy side of the building where noisy street sweepers and concrete trucks trundled by.  As it turns out, one of the regular panhandlers rode by on a bicycle, looked at me for a moment and kept peddling.  Maybe she thought that old lady didn't have any money.

My son said she'd once hurled epithets at a man who works across the street, so we were spared from having our spare change mooched and from being called ugly names.  The server, who once a upon a time I'd called a waitress, brought out a little kitschy salt and pepper shaker and I said to my husband, "She brought you a toy!"  Before I knew it was a salt and pepper shaker, this is what I saw, minus the two holes at the top.  I didn't have on my glasses at the time.  It looked like a happy meal toy to me!  

Did I tell you, at 50 years young, my distance vision is 20/15?  I kid you not!  Key word, though, is distance.  Right up under my nose I have a serious case of CSS, can't see...I digress.  

My son did his characteristic embarrassed-by-my-mom pose--hand over face, head shaking from left to right.  My husband says, "Oh!  The cow jumped over the moon!  I get it!"  The cow stays fastened by a magnet in case you're wondering, but I suspect you might not be wondering and would have known right away this wasn't a toy.  

We proceeded uneventfully with our lunch on the truck route with panhandlers peddling by.  Afterwards, I rejoiced in my freedom, having raised my children and buried my parents, to do anything I wanted to do.

I chose to visit a produce market.  

I had a ball in there, picking and choosing the best of the fresh squash, tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries, lemons, limes, onions, sweet potatoes, cabbage and now I'm drooling--rutabagas!  I raided the freezer and got some already shelled black eyed peas, butter beans and some pre-snapped pole beans.  I even got some celery from the refrigerator.  I wielded a southern woman's knowledge, telling the manager who didn't know, the difference between a Stuart and a paper shell pecan.  A customer asked and anyone working at a produce market ought to know that.    



At the checkout, a beautiful young woman asked me *twice* if I wanted help with carry out.  I said, "Not yet," inwardly hoping that I wouldn't need help for another quarter century.  Now that I reflect, I think I'll shoot for 85 before I accept help with carry out.

Anyway, I had a number of bags and carried them easily.  I was tempted to air bench press them a couple of times as I left to prove to her this tinsel topped woman had more strength in her arms than she did, working at a job where she pecked keys of a cash register with her forefinger, not much effort to that! 

Standing at the top of the steps down to the parking lot, I suddenly remembered that pride goeth before a fall and I really didn't feel like wiping out there, all my produce scattering where truly old men and women spit their chaw and dip.  Did I tell you my grandma dipped snuff?  Not Grannie, though she used to smoke Kool cigarettes, but Grandma.   

Oops.  I digressed again.  

I made it to my truck, not parked in a handicapped spot, and when I got home once again handily carried those bags inside with one trip, about four to each hand.  A few minutes later, I got the shot gun ready for some stubborn salesmen who wouldn't leave, but didn't point it at them.

It's not the easiest thing sometimes, to be a seasoned southern woman, but I'm working on it and I pray the good Lord gives me a very long time to do it.  I think I'm being sensible about it, really, not putting God-knows-what chemicals on my head trying to disguise the fact that I'm not 29 anymore. Who knows what else would happen to my faculties when Miss Clairol leeched into my brain?  

Now the above picture was truly what first came to mind.  Where in tarnation was that filed in the matter in my head, gray like some of the strands on my head?  I googled about and discovered Miss Clairol is not a Miss anymore, but simply Clairol.  Well, Clairol can't do a blessed thing for neck crepe and droopy boobies, more neon signs of old age, so why bother trying to disguise aging hair?  

I've heard getting old isn't for sissies.  My late mother-in-law said, "Gettin' old's hell."  

I haven't found it hellish yet, but so help me, I'm going to do this aging thing with as much dignity as I can, believing Proverbs 16:31, I'm sporting a crown of glory or splendor, depending on the translation.  Elsewhere in Proverbs, it says I am (or should be) clothed with strength and dignity and can laugh at the days to come, but today, it seemed, the laughs were on me!      

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

...Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise

RIP Robert 09/26/52 - 02/11/09

The Crucifixion

26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who weremourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying,“If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
I'm not sure
the broken places
were ever mended
but your travails
did not go
by your Jesus
You acknowledged Him
at the end
You knew Him
all along
during the decades
you dowsed
your heartaches
They would not
go away
as certain tormentors 
though you tried
to wash them 
into oblivion
You knelt
and asked Him
into your heart
and war waged
for decades
No demon from hell
or satan's emissaries
on Earth 
can taunt you
where there are 
tears, death, mourning,
crying or pain
All those things
are gone forever
and though 
it feels
you are, too
I know
that I know
that I know
I will see you again
as I did
in my dream--
young, strong,
wearing garments
of red--the blood
and white--the righteousness,
an undeserved gift
mercy granted!
I was looking
at your likeness
in a photograph
on the mantel
which captured
the culmination
of your life's hardships
and in you walked
old things 
had indeed
passed away
Thank you
for the hug
I needed
the reassurance
I love you, Bubba
Some judged you harshly
and serrated tongues
cut jagged wounds
on your already
torn heart
But you have risen
above all that
and those who continue
to recount the bad 
have the stench
of death 
on them
instead of the
Good News
which Jesus proclaimed
with every ounce of His being
the crescendo
on the cross
where He gladly
"Truly" our Lord said
on February 11, 2009
"today you will be
with me
in Paradise" 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Another Throwback Thursday: My Best Friend is a *itch!

The family Australian shepherd, our granddog Maggie, was in the living area, on the couch where her "Grandpa" doesn't want her to be, and I was in the craft/computer room frittering away time on Facebook, not feeling too guilty as two electric servants, the dishwasher and the washing machine, were hard at work.

Suddenly, a knock, knock, knock in the laundry room told me the washing machine was out of balance.  I got up quickly to redistribute the clothes, and Maggie was already in there looking at it as if to ask, "What's wrong with you?!"  

Earlier this morning, she barked at our cat, Ashley, when she made the mistake of curling up in my recliner for a cat nap.  I used to scold Ashley when she'd sharpen her claws on the sliding door or dining room window screens, but I don't have to anymore.  Maggie now runs to where Ashley is misbehaving and barks at her!

Today's TBT picture is of me and Maggie in my truck.  How classically southern is that?--a Georgia girl, her dog and her truck.  This is 2010.  Maggie is approximately 10 months old here and I'm 47.  

During Maggie's first year of life, she frequently ran off to a nearby horse pasture to follow her instincts to herd.  The problem with that was she had to cross the intersection of two major highways to get there!  It's a wonder she is still with us today.  There was that day I was freshly out of the shower, wearing only a nightshirt, and my husband called and told me to get over to Perimeter Road (one of the highways facing the horse pasture) right then, he was trying to get Maggie to come to him and she refused.      

Our animal communication styles are decidedly different.  He wants to dominate, command and subdue and I am more like Dr. Doolittle, though animals will respond to my point and glare gleaned from mommyhood days.  Maggie and her Grandpa were having a standoff and Maggie was winning!  I responded promptly to Grandpa's barked order because he is ordinarily a gentle soul who never bosses me about, but Maggie didn't know him as well as I do and she wasn't budging.     

In broad daylight, clad only in a nightshirt and flip flops, I stood on the shoulder of Perimeter Road, calling to Maggie who was stubbornly ensconced in the median across from the horses.  She telepathically took my pulse first to see if I was as upset as her Grandpa, decided I wasn't, and bounded across two lanes and jumped dutifully into my Explorer.

As suddenly as a puppy stops chewing everything within its reach, Maggie stopped running off and became glued to my side.  True to her breed, she needs a lot of affection and often sits or lies touching me.  Sometimes all 44 pounds of her jumps into my lap when I least expect it!

Maggie was adopted by my younger son and his girlfriend within the year the older of my two brothers died, her primary residence with us at The Ponderosa, where she had more acreage to bound than in town.  My grief for my brother was nearly engulfing, too much for other humans, and Maggie sensed that.  She was completely available for my thoughts, tears and prayers. One evening while she was still a pup, we were sitting on the front porch after dark.  I was in awe of the majesty of the night sky and knew the Maker of it held the power to release me from the stubborn grip of grief. Suddenly this precious little creature began to growl, moved from my side and positioned herself in front of me.  

She wasn't big as a minute then, but like the day she arrived at The Ponderosa, she was oh so bold.  I don't know if she was confronting a creature in the woods or a demon sent to torment me, but she stood her ground, hackles raised...and that was the moment she completely won my heart.  Her protective vigilance ushered in a much needed breakthrough.  
At the time my brother died, I'd been abandoned and turned on by several dysfunctional extended family members while I was helping care for him.  He had his own liquid demons in life to battle, and in the end, not enough close family members stood loyally by him.  I learned the hard way that when someone dies leaving unresolved issues literally in their wake, the aggrieved misguidedly seek another target.  I commenced building a fortress to keep out those who, in better circumstances, would have grieved with me.   

Enter a silky-coated Australian Shepherd puppy to the rescue. My son's girlfriend wasn't completely up the back steps with our newest family member cradled in her arms before Maggie was boldly barking at residents who'd preceded her by more than a decade, the family cats.   

All the chaos a puppy brings to a household mysteriously, miraculously transformed a twisted grief journey to a straighter road toward internal peace and recovery.  I believed the Lord Himself sent this animal into my life to help cement what He'd already tried to tell me, weeping may endure for a night, but joy is sure to come in the morning.    

In 2013, circumstances prevented my son and his girlfriend from keeping custody of Maggie--exorbitant pet deposit, move across the country, small apartments, etc.  It appears that Maggie's fur-ever home is with Grandpa and Grandma.  I had told them I realized Maggie was their dog and I was ready (emotionally, but I didn't say that to them) to relinquish her.  Yeah, maybe I lied a little, but humans still come before animals and if my son and his girlfriend wanted to take her, I intended to send her with them as bravely and graciously as I could pretend.    

My son said to me, "She likes you," emphasizing the word you.  Maggie loves everyone in the family, even those who could do without her affection, but I was the person to whom Maggie was most attached.  It just kind of happened by default; the kids gave her as much time as they could, but with several part-time jobs and numerous college classes between them, they didn't have the amount of time a very affectionate dog needed.  Along that part of their lives, time was all I had, blessedly, to work on the business of healing my heart, broken over the loss of a sibling who had never once said a harsh word to me. Ever.  

my late brother, my baby and me, Christmas 1999
I later learned my baby boy told my older son that he couldn't take Maggie, he didn't want to "break Mom's heart."  

Pausing to wipe my tears.  I'll wait while you wipe yours.

There are days when I threaten to ship my rambunctious Maggie to Colorado to be a crag dog to my mountain climbing son and his girlfriend, then she'll lay her head on my knee or my chest and I melt, affirming she is still at the right place at the right time.    

Maggie is content to run while I walk trails in the woods, and she performs other important duties like keeping the cat and household appliances in line. Her unconditional love, the type we frail humans can't always give, saw me through a rough patch in my life. Some are offended when it is pointed out that God spelled backwards is dog, but I'm not.  It's high praise to one of His finer creations; in my case, one renewed in my spirit that God's Word and love is unfailing.   

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Love Story

Click the link above for wise words on the topic of love.

Use the drop down arrow to the left of the word "update" to choose your preferred version of the scriptures.  

Under each reference, there is an option to choose "in context" for deeper study.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

2014, here we go!

The kitchen calendar has just been turned to February, and though I've accepted how fast time flies, I still marvel.  Some nights pass so quickly, I believe the Lord is pushing the fast forward button so He can hurry up and bring us to our forever home with Him.  Of course that means somewhere on the other side of the world, someone's days are rushing by!

My fondness for winter is non-existent, but my heart is warmed midway by the celebration of Valentine's Day on the 14th.  I enjoyed the cartoon Valentine's Day cards exchanged in elementary school and I've relished the romance of grown up gifts of love.  At Sallas-Mahone Elementary School, in a building which no longer exists, we'd color Valentine themes on a paper bag, tape them to the window sill and on Valentine's Day they'd be filled with cartoon cards and if one was lucky, a heart-shaped lollipop would be threaded through one or two.  

In 2009, the older of my two brothers was buried on Valentine's Day, and remarkably, it was one of the sweetest Valentine's ever.  My husband quietly presented me with flowers, candy, and a card on which he wrote that he was so sorry these came on a sad day for me.  His gesture of thoughtfulness was the first thing I saw the morning of my brother's funeral, waiting for me on the dining table.  The way my husband artfully expressed both his love and condolence at once has been one of many beautiful treasures he deposited in my heart.  

I have an affinity for all things heart related which dates to a pink plastic locket my daddy gave me; I wore it proudly on a plain string necklace.  It was perfect for a little barefoot princess who'd rather climb a tree than wear a tiara.  There were roses embossed on that little locket, which may have come from a box of Cracker Jacks, but was a treasure to me nonetheless.

On the first Valentine's Day my now husband and I celebrated, he presented me with a gold floating heart necklace, encrusted with tiny diamonds.  We knew each other barely a month then, and the gift was a sweet predictor of the future we would share together.  I handmade a card for him that year, 1983, and it is now falling apart, but he has held on to the symbol of my love as I have the necklace.

When our love grew our family by two, I began a tradition of making Valentine's baskets, little square red plastic buckets with a chrome handle, lining those with heart-dotted tissue paper and filling them with candy and little trinkets.  They'd be on each family member's respective dining chair Valentine's morning and it appeared they were anticipated with as much joy as the Christmas stockings we'd dig into each Christmas Eve.

I don't recall the year, but my late mother-in-law began distributing important papers and photographs to each of her seven children, and I thought it so appropriate that my husband's baptismal certificate was dated February 14th.  He's so sweet!  I close my eyes and imagine how blessed his mother must have felt holding her fifth child.  She and my father-in-law both said they would have had more children than their quiver full of seven if time and biology had permitted.  Being that I am a fourth child, a surprise baby at that, I've never frowned on large families, but rejoiced in the number of blessings!

Our blessings have grown up in this speed of light passing of time, and one of the things I've done to fill the time suddenly available is work on photography skills.  The picture taken above captured a Valentine the Lord made for me in a 'gator filled swamp, 2012.  I am captivated by the natural beauty of His creation and I was in awe of this unfurled lily pad, shaped in love.  It wasn't until I examined the picture more closely on a computer screen that I saw the shining star, further depicting His ultimate love for mankind, the announcement of the birth of His Son, glowing over Bethlehem.

Sometimes I am overcome by the hate in the world, but February reminds us to look for and express the love!  It's there, and to allow it to be blotted out by unkindness, well, that's a shame.  I need to respect my Lord more than that! This life is spotted with heartbreaks and loss, but His love is expressed so deeply and so dearly, it deserves priority focus!  Like the overwhelming beauty of a delicate lily in a swamp fraught with dangers is His all surpassing love for us as we traverse this world on our way to Him.

Look for all of life's sweet Valentines He blesses us with--all month long, all year long, all life long.