Sunday, December 30, 2012

Like a Coin Hiding in the Corner.

The kids' table, which I
graduated from this year.
I've spent all thirty-six Christmas Eves of my life at my maternal grandmother's house surrounded by family.

I love being able to say this so much.

I mean, yes, I often wish I could take an entire bottle of nerve pills to gear up for it, because let's face it:

  • I haven't provided anyone with grandchildren or great-grandchildren. 
  • I'm still unmarried (apparently unhappily, though that's news to me) ;-). 
  • I sometimes straighten these curls which I'm told others would kill for (?!), and not everyone prefers that style. 
  • I'm human, and I often get grumpy. 
  • And, well, it's the most wonderful time of the year. 

My mother and my Aunt Kathy
clearly found the nerve pills.

So rather than basking in the wonder of our Lord's birth, I'm guessing like most of America, I pathetically spend a lot of my pre-Christmas Eve days rushing around for last-minute gifts and cooking for parties and wrapping things and getting stressed over traffic and worrying about not helping my mom prepare for house guests (one of whom is me - yikes!) and cleaning up my own place and what time are we supposed to be everywhere and who-said-what-about-that-again-it's-CHRISTMAS-for-the-love-of-Pete-where's-the-peace-on-earth-we're-FAMILY, all while working paid jobs and living and such, too.

And I would say and maybe have said these things to the Moores, because we deeply love each other, and that old adage about standing in front of a train for any of my family members? I'd totally do it. I mean, I naturally don't want to have to, but I love them so much.

Russ and Greg missed me a lot at
the make-up session and were so
sad they had to text me this picture.
So craving for nerve pills or not, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else come December 24th. You know. We're family.

If you've hung in this far, you get the picture about Christmas Eve at Nan's.

We are a deep fried, Southern bunch who truly loves one another. We are family. Sometimes I'm one of only a few of us nine grandchildren who can be there. A couple of times, the stars (a.k.a. family/in-law rotations) have aligned, and we've all made it, even our Tennessee family who often can't come because of pastoral obligations. Those years get rowdy, as well they should, but man, are they ever the best of times!

Aunt Renee and I
model this year's bling.
Whatever the case, Christmas Eve always has a special facet about it -- sometimes the Toddler of the Year says hilarious things that crack us all up, maybe we're mourning a loss or a harsh blow of life, once in a while my uncles' jokes make my neck wildly splotch up like I have a rash, occasionally my Aunt Renee' and I will fabulously glamorize the place with our must-have Christmas hats and bling, or sometimes we're celebrating new lives that have come into our world through birth or adoption or marriage.

Those of us in adulthood stopped an official gift exchange at Nan's long ago, which as far as I know, no one complains about. (Case in point: right now, I'm blogging instead of cleaning up my living quarters, which could be featured on "Hoarders" at any given time.) So obviously, less is more for me when it comes to intake of gifts.

Sometimes Jeff can't join us
because he likes to dress up
like this for work, so I try
not to complain. Too much.
This year, though, at age 36, I, with the others in attendance, received a gift from Nan. Not the very touching, so very Nan-to-a-T "Here's a little somethin', now you use it for something NICE!" gift, but a tangible, sentimental gift in the form of an old coin that was special to her and my deceased biological grandfather. (I love that I now note "biological" since Col. Cliff "Pop" Ball saluted his way right into our hearts and my family tree.)

Anyway, that coin may not mean a lot to anyone off the branches of our family tree, but in these eyes, it's downright gorgeous. And special. And not anything that I would trade for anything -- even the chance to sit down and chat with Loretta Lynn or Michael Card in person.

And that coin, along with my oversleeping for church this morning and looking for my own alternate means of worship, led me to reminisce on the Biblical parable of the lost coin today. If you're not familiar or need brushing up, Wikipedia summarizes it:

As recounted in Luke 15, a woman with ten silver coins (Greek drachmae) loses one. She then lights a lamp and sweeps her house until she finds it, rejoicing when she does.

In the Scripture, Luke 15:8-10 states:

8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

So because I'm me, that reminded me of a great Caedmon's Call song. I know I need to get into their new stuff, but I'm so stuck in the 90s that I went back to an old favorite, "Where I Began."

I know if you're reading this, we're clearly BFFs, so I won't be embarrassed to admit that I started this morning praying for a bit of worship in lieu of missing what went on at my wonderful church without me, but listening to this song I can sing in my sleep simply ripped my heart to shreds today. Here's a YouTube version:

Lyrics are here, with things that particularly struck me emphasized:

The grass looked greener on the other side
So I tried to snatch myself from your hand
Caught a boat to anywhere but Nineveh
And, well you know, I got spit back on dry land.

A priceless treasure.
Give me purity and many continents
But oh no, not yet.
Like a coin hiding in the corner
Trying not to be swept
And I was trying not to be swept.

Kicking against these goads
Sure did cut up my feet
And didn't your hands get bloody
As you washed them clean -- you washed them!

Here I am again, back where I began
Try as I may I can't get away from you
And all of these roads that lead me to roam
Bring me back home.
Here I am again, back where I began.

So you have yourself your ninety nine 
Isn't that enough for you?
Still you followed me to the shadowed valley
Carried me on your shoulders too. 

I've done the work of Sisyphus
Thinking that I could get over this hill
But the one thing I can't get over now 
Is the force of your will.

Here I am again, back where I began
Try as I may I can't get away from you
And all of these roads that lead me to roam
Bring me back home.
Here I am again, back where I began.

Caleb and Steve Wood, Kaitlyn Lyle
and Uncle Rick Moore hear Nan's tale
of her coins at Christmas Eve 2012.
While I'm admittedly not the brightest, it's always been clear to me the "back where I began" portion of this song isn't a physical point on a map that Siri can help me with. I knew it was a location of the soul.
But the coin part -- that grabbed me this time. Maybe it was Nan's timely, timeless gift. Maybe it was my identification with really needing to sweep today. Like, literally. My floors look like a Macy's stockroom or something.

But maybe part of it was facing that I'm legitimately sore afraid of what can happen if I truly open myself up to all that God has for me in areas I've been fiercely protecting -- namely, relationships, how I can be of service to others in an official capacity, ways I can use talents. I've been burned in all of these things before (because I'm so special; I know no one else has, right?), and for the last few years, have been really freaked out by the idea of opening myself up again.

Greg and Nan clearly mourn
my absence at Christmas Eve
Part Deux 2012. It's heartbreaking
to see family this sad at the holidays.

Dust is pretty gross, and nasty things find their ways to corners, but wow, are corners ever the safest of places. Sometimes that safety can even seem better than venturing out, because, you know, what if the Owner doesn't rejoice? What if no one comes to the party the Owner holds for you and you just feel like a regular old coin? What if you're the coin that isn't so rare and valuable?

I'm thinking today, though, that when the Giver and Owner of the coin is family, the Owner of the coin will rejoice to find the coin, no matter how much pre-Christmas Eve hustle and bustle has taken place.

And I'm also thinking that the coin will feel treasured and will, in the long run, prefer that possibly kind of painful sweeping up process to the safety of a dark, dusty corner that may seem protective with its enticing quietness, where nerve pills aren't really needed.

I've thought before that I was "back where I began" in other ways, mainly spiritually. And I believe I have been. I just haven't, before today, seen myself as that rare coin that my Owner might rejoice and throw a party over if I came out of hiding in the ways I mentioned above.

So I'm off to sweep now -- literally -- and I'll do that grateful for my wrecked, ripped up heart, and for my imperfect self, and for both a Family and a family who love me enough to throw parties and send me texts and bring special hats to celebrate our time together.

And I'm hoping my "trying not to be swept" days are over, and my openness to what God has for me in these particular ways is not over.

So, as scary as it is to leave that disgusting corner, let the party* begin.

* If you'd like to contribute to this shindig by way of nerve pills, feel free to direct message me for my address. Thank you, and happy 2013!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Weary World.

Lately I've wondered if I'm not starting to really feel my age.

Whether fumbling with technology, shaking my head at "crazy kids," or contemplating the meaning of it all, every once in a while, it just feels like the world is getting too...heavy.

Some of this, I know, is attributed to living more life. Diseases without cures stealing one last conversation with yet another great, influential friend. Landscapes I love literally being washed away by nature's fury. The list growing longer of people I know, and people they know, who have seen war firsthand. Amazingly willing hearts aching for children, yet unable to give birth or get through an arduous process of adoption. Babies suffering from others' mishaps. Political schemes determining the most innocent lives' outcomes.

Some days, life's just not that easy to live without asking a few questions.

I don't know if that's because this pirate is looking, as Jimmy Buffet so eloquently reflected, at forty, or because the world is getting weirder.

Whatever the case, optimism can be exhausting.

I was reminded, though, while watching a performance of my all-time favorite Christmas carol this weekend, that even though this world is indeed weary, we also have incentive to get excited.

Martina McBride sings it beautifully:

Hope, I'm reminded, is so powerful.

I'm so grateful for faith -- for that divine umbrella of contentment that doesn't resolve all my questions like a fairy tale, but  instead puts them in context like only a Savior can.

In spite of all the ugly, all the weary, hope truly is as beautiful and refreshing as a new day.

What a thrill!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

All it took was just one wink.

43 years ago today, my parents were married.

How, you ask?

Oh, it was the traditional Baptist wedding. Lacy white gown. Black tux. Sweet country church. (That my sister and I grew up case you were wondering.)

But how did they meet?

Well, they went to school together.

So, naturally, they must've met through friends, or through church, or through their pastor.

But since my Daddy was Methodist and my Mother was Baptist and since my Daddy was from Saucier and since my Mother was from Woolmarket, where HER daddy was the pastor (which in case you don't know, was kind of a big deal), they met through other means.

My Mother boldly, while with another date at a high school dance, winked at my Daddy.

Do I think that's nuts?

(Have you MET me? YES! I think that's absolutely, totally, out-of-this-world CRAZY!!! Am I grateful? Well, yes. I kind of adore existing in this beautiful, whacked out world. So....)

Here we are. 2012.

And my Daddy and my Mother have stuck it out, for better or worse, through sickness or health, till death do they part.

And boy, are my sister and I thankful!

Not only do we exist, but we also have learned what it feels like to see love as a decision as well as a beautiful teenage emotion.

Good job, Kent and Cathy.

Much better than I could've done, no doubt. :-)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Word About The A-Game of Adoption.

A little more than ten years ago, the beauty of adoption became very personal to me.

My cousin and his wife, who are much more like siblings to me and my sister, had suffered multiple miscarriages. After much prayer and preparation, they visited a desolate Russian orphanage. During that visit, they met not just one, but two of their sons.

Beautifully, one of my closest friends who was a true sounding board and prayer warrior during my cousins' adoption process got the call 10 years to the day from my cousins' visit to Russia that the baby she and her husband were adopting was being born. (Without thinking every little thing is "a sign," I just refuse to believe that some things are coincidence.) :-)

Within the last few years, several other dear friends and family members' lives have been enriched through adoption, and I'm so thankful it's such a growing and accepted means of family expansion. Many companies -- including the military -- allow for maternity and paternity leave for adoption as well as natural births.

I'm truly grateful not to have experienced what must be unbearable pangs of wanting to have a child, but not being able to. (Yet. Even at 35 9/10, I am certain those wants could still come for this late bloomer -- if not because nature intends it, because my grandmother is willing it day and night from her home in Mississippi.)

Even though I don't have personal experience with those longings, I can only imagine how hard being physically restricted must feel for those who wish to grow their family. I do know from talking with friends who have dealt with these issues, subsequent treatments, and miscarriages, that the resulting hurtfulness is much deeper than anything I could imagine.

For all of these reasons, I love the concept and act of adoption even more. No, an adoptive mother does not experience months of gestational growth, and I can imagine that must be very difficult for those with a desire to fulfill that purpose. But if physical barriers prevent natural childbirth from occurring, I believe adoption is a wonderful, miraculous option that should not be overlooked.

That side of my family had never had an adopted member before my cousins' boys joined us, but we all agree without hesitation that our days, heartbeats, gatherings and stories have been forever changed by those two precious lives, their biological parents' willingness to do what was needed for their situations, and by my cousins' openness to grow their immediate family beyond their physical means at that time.

There are obviously extensive reading materials and research on this topic that I wouldn't pretend to be qualified to match (including by that cousin himself), but for what it's worth, here's my two cents on the subject: Through adoption, I've seen so many barren couples' tears not dry up overnight, but eventually be soothed by this beautiful means of welcoming lives -- who are in need of loving arms -- into their worlds.

With each friend's process, my heart smiles a little wider for this beautiful A-Game that appears to be more and more commonly accepted.

You go, girls. (And guys.) Open those minds and hearts and homes. Share that love.

It's a beautiful thing.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Growing pains.

One of the most impactful teachers I had in school was not very encouraging. I probably didn't hear "good job" or "way to go" too often from Coach O'Neal.

(Before you ask, yes, I was and still am a total dork. Even so, I'm pretty sure this teacher's behavior toward me wasn't just because I was smack in the middle of my awkward phase, which I would, for the record, gradually meander away from around the tender age of 22.)

No, if memory serves correctly, I think it's safe to say none of us at d'Iberville High -- the graceful, angsty, athletic, pretty, troublemakers, awkward, pimply, mischievous, gorgeous, shy, overeager, troublesome or ambivalent -- walked out of that classroom at the end of A Hall with the warm and fuzzies on a regular basis.

Yet, it seems the majority of us ended the semester, year, high school career, and sometimes even the week under Coach O'Neal's tutelage with a great sense of satisfaction of having tackled something much more complex than the when-will-I-EVER-use-this-in-the-real-world Algebra III equations we inevitably, somehow, miraculously overcame.

In Coach O'Neal's class, we tackled an environment where it didn't matter who "ya mama an' 'em" was. It didn't matter if you wore snazzy Girbaud jeans (my cool friends) or highlighter pink smiley face t-shirts (dorky me). It didn't matter if you had beautiful silky smooth hair or had never heard of hair product but desperately needed to (must you ask?).

What did matter in Coach O'Neal's class -- at least what I recall of it -- was the task at hand. If you were in Trig, Trig mattered. Same for all the Algebras and other advanced math classes.

This isn't to say the other excellent teachers we rave about didn't focus on the same things; they totally did. But Coach O'Neal did it in a much different way, and we all knew it.

Coach O'Neal's focus was sans the warm and fuzzies, and when you got him for your math classes, you were well aware that your work was cut out for you.

DHS didn't have only one math teacher, so I wasn't required to ever walk into this man's classroom. Given that, you can imagine my parents' surprise when I requested him for Algebra I just a year or two after he'd wrongfully accused my very sweet sister of cheating on a test. (Those of you who know my sister KNOW. I won't expound too much.) So to make a very long story a little less long, after The Accusation, my kind parents met with him leading to no results, my sister powered through, took the 0 on the test,  and worked like a dog to pull her grade up.

Because of all this, my parents were understandably mortified not long after when their questionably minded younger child chose this man for not just that one inaugural class, but eventually all four years of really unnecessary advanced math classes during high school.

And looking at this in black text on the white screen, I gotta wonder, why in the world would I do that to myself? Or them? Or Kim, for the love of Pete?

But, feeling the emotions that have come from the reason I've typed these words tonight, of course I know why.

I chose to take elective math classes that I didn't need not to raise advanced or bonus or whatever the geek word for Overachiever's GPA was in the 90s, but to prove something to Coach O'Neal...or so I thought at the time. I thought I was showing him that our family was ethical, and not scared of him.

And maybe, just a little bit, in some ways, I was.

But maybe also, I kind of liked tackling his snuff-dipping, deck shoe-wearing, unconventional, non-back-patting teaching style. Because getting those As and Bs on tests and in classes and subjects I really hated and didn't excel at and had to work for felt much better than any end-of-year academic award in areas that came much more naturally to me.

See, when I was growing up, in and out of the classroom, I received encouragement and warmth and receptiveness from almost everyone. I mean, I was no one's little princess by any means, but I was good for the most part. I did my work and did it well. I only smarted off  out loud sometimes; I didn't push the line too much, and when I did, I apologized.

So getting a straightforward, no-nonsense hour of sarcasm laced with, "If you can do this, show me you can do this" each weekday might've been good for my shiny (hello, T-zone!), happy self. I think I might've even grown to like it a little bit.

And one thing's for sure: there's nothing like a good balance of warmth and reality from high school teachers to prepare you for college professors, the work world, "grown-up" relationships and "adult friends" that come with enough drama to make Ryan Seacrest feel like it's his birthday. In fact, I think can see Coach O'Neal rolling his eyes now!

Only....I can't. And I haven't for many years.

Which is why I'm thinking of him tonight, and why I'm working through this whole Dewey Decimal system of memories, blog-style, like I do when I need to sort out this type of thing.

I learned today that this impactful, sloppy-on-the-outside, studious-on-the-inside instructor o' mine has been dying of metastatic colon cancer, and that Hospice has been called in.

From what I've heard through former classmates, he's donating his body to scientific study, and his family and friends will hold a memorial service on the beach. All this is very fitting for the unconventional, shaggy haired teacher who non-verbally challenged my word-loving self to take advanced math classes and my sweet sister to stay in his class and pull up her undeserved failing grade.

In Coach O'Neal's classes, we at DHS learned to power through more than the successive Algebras and Trigonometries.

In Coach O'Neal's class, I think we all learned how to power through growing pains, which for some of us included an unfortunately late discovery of hair products, and for others might've been the buzzkill of peaking at a very young age.

Today, with the news of his declining health, many of Coach O'Neal's students are powering through other growing pains.

We're all adults now, for better or for worse.

Some of us have procreated.

Some are in our ultimate careers.

Others are still discovering that path.

We all can drive and are probably doing this every day, which might make Coach O'Neal shudder if he were to use energy to think about those very special days in the student parking lot.

Far removed from the sacred halls of DHS, we still might not get warm and fuzzies from each of life's "teachers," but we've probably learned how to scope out the ones who will instruct us well, and which ones we should return to for repeat lessons.

Whether or not we resolved the growing pains of if and only if, other complexities of higher-level math, or Coach O'Neal's sarcasm, we're basically all dealing with the same word problems as our peers now, just as we were back in 5th period.

My sister has been teaching since the late 90s, and is stronger in that environment in every way than I could be for one hour. In the past month, I have volunteered for work projects that were out of my realm, but they needed to be done, so I stepped in.

But no matter what we've grown to do and be, I'm confident that all of Coach O'Neal's students have our own stories to tell and be told, and our own challenges, word problems and solutions waiting to be worked out.

And you know what? We're Warriors. We got this.

So here's to you, your ever sockless feet, and those deck shoes, Coach O'Neal. You won't be forgotten. Thanks for all the lessons.

Sail on.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

No apologies.

Some conversations and reflection this evening has reminded me of a few things I'll never apologize for loving and including on my "must haves."

This list, as Coach O'Neal of d'Iberville High would say, includes iff (if but not if only) the items in Jo Dee Messina's song of old, "I'm All Right:"

Well, I miss 'em, but I'm doin' all right.

No apologies for that. Not on my part. Or on anyone's part, I hope! :-)

Monday, September 3, 2012

5 Things I'm Thankful For (Post-Isaac).

A visit from Mother Nature's roughest and toughest can remind you that it doesn't hurt to be grateful for the little every second you have them. :-)

So on this post-Hurricane Isaac holiday and long weekend o' recovery (God BLESS America!), here are five things I'm grateful for:

  1. Electricity. No need to expound.
  2. Community. While it's painful (and slightly guilt-inducing) to know many are still without power or have damage to their homes and property, it is a wonderful relief to see communities band together to provide service in ways we sometimes forget exist. Since the last storm, that is. Churches sending non-perishables to those who can only get to their still flooded homes by boat. Non-profit workers buying tables full of service workers' meals at the only restaurant open in a washed out town. And the list goes on. Blessed are we.
  3. Communication. I've lived through scarier, higher-category storms without knowing how my friends and relatives in Mississippi were faring, or if they were faring, but thankfully, our family had open communication lines during this storm. Phones worked, my parents' electricity stayed on, my uncle was able to get my grandmother to Tennessee before the storm reached the Gulf Coast -- my relief couldn't have been more palpable.
  4. The work of my hands. To put it kindly, I'm an anxious person. So during anxious times, I've learned that keeping busy is more or less a survival mode for me. For that reason, I can't help but wonder if God led me to work in public relations so I could have meaningful work to do during and after these events. My nail chewing and hair twirling about the overall situation still occur, but at least I have a task. And it actually helps people. This is good, and I'm thankful for it -- moreso with each storm. Because apparently, unlike some, I'm not "mellowing with age." ;-)
  5. Days of rest. See #1.

While I'm enjoying my power being back on and trying not to hem and haw about how to get the yard cleaned up with a bum foot, I realize these are selfish, subjective feelings, and my heart breaks for those who are dealing with everything that comes with natural disaster.

My prayers go out to all dealing with the aftermath of this storm, as well as those who are still trying to overcome and learn to deal with the physical, mental and emotional toll that Hurricane Katrina put the Gulf states through seven years ago.

Thursday, August 16, 2012 disturb.

I heard this prayer today, and was more than touched. I was, well, disturbed. Which is kind of the point, I think:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Sir Francis Drake

Friday, August 3, 2012

How it all begins.

My earliest get-together memories on my daddy's side of the family involve a great group of cousins -- most a little older than me, all way cooler than I could ever aspire to be -- who gave just the right amount of attention to this annoying younger cousin, and without fail, made us all laugh non-stop.

Around the time I was just "getting" jokes (or maybe stopping my bad habit of making up really terrible ones in lieu of using actual humor), I vividly recall my cousin Penny's vivacious presence and command of a room when telling her breaking-news-style funny story of the moment.

To channel Sophia from "The Golden Girls," picture this:

The setting was my Grandma Johnson's house -- a serene environment on a regular day, but bustling with literally hundreds of her descendants and their signature potluck dishes on get-together day.

The year was sometime in early to mid-80s, so the hair was big, shoulder pads were in, and eye shadow and lipstick colors were far from timid.

Enter Penny, who fit the fashion bill perfectly. Always dressed in the latest and full of personality, this particular day in my memory, her jokes all seemed to begin with, "See, there was this guy..."

As an elementary school kid, I may not have even fully understood the jokes and their punch lines, but I did comprehend a few things: Penny was full of life, she wore cool clothes, she and my other very hip cousins didn't ignore me, and most importantly to me at that moment, she was great for a laugh.

Through several decades, quite a few wardrobe changes, a variety of hairspray and product adjustments, a widening of lipstick color ranges, and life choices that for Penny has added a precious husband and two beautiful children, one thing remains: when Penny is in the room, she is the life of the party, and whether or not you're related to the Johnsons, you're guaranteed to laugh at her jokes and creatively expressed stories. They may not all start with "There was this guy" now, but they're always worth a listen.

Within the last few years, Penny and her family have dealt with the ugliness of cancer -- something no one should have to experience. The family's faith has remained solid and admirable, and even during hospital visits, Penny has managed to share her trademark hilariousness in the style that only she can.

With exposure to the medical field and a hospital steeped in a century of faith, I heard recently about a clergyman sharing with a friend that sometimes God's spirit of healing doesn't always come in the form of a medical miracle with the earthly, seemingly win-win results we'd like to see. Sometimes that healing is delivered gently and graciously by a Father who created this world to be perfect, but watching us mar it with sin and subsequently, pain, He proceeds to heal His children by alleviating their hurt and bringing them home into an ultimate situation of comfort.

That morsel of wisdom, though beautiful, is never easy for this incredibly human, frail mind to swallow.

My selfish soul, who has only experienced earth, wants Patrick and Penny's love story to live on right here in the South, where I feel they both belong. In their human bodies. I want them to celebrate anniversaries until they're old and gray. I want their children to always be able to call their mom on the phone and hear her stories, or her admonishments, or her encouragement, or how to cook their favorite meals.

But, as we can all celebrate, I'm not God.

He has bigger plans for this beautiful family that will undoubtedly spread their incredible story of faith and childlike love for His will farther and wider, and I'm entirely too feeble-minded as a mere human to know what those plans are.

Even with that knowledge, am I happy about their situtation? No way.

Do I understand it? Of course not.

Would I change it in a heartbeat given the power? Absolutely.

But it's not my option, and that is truly good. My truth to accept is that my cousin was brought into our lives not merely by family dynamics, but by God's willing hand.

There are probably greater reasons Penny came into the Johnson clan, but I like to think our Heavenly Father knew I enjoyed a good laugh, even at an early age. I like to think He knew my sister was fascinated with shoes and that we enjoyed Penny and Sherry's fashion shows (which may or may not have also been known to the rest of the world, including Penny and Sherry, as dinner at Grandma Johnson's house). I like to think that God used a hilarious, savvy, fashionable businesswoman to show me that girls do and can just wanna have fun, and that He used that same hilarious, savvy, fashionable wife and mom to show me that wives and moms also do and can just wanna have fun. I know God used that hilarious, savvy, fashionable believer to reiterate to me that Christians do and can just wanna have fun.

And I know without doubt that no matter how long His spirit of healing lasts in its earthly form for any of us, our Father who art in Heaven will continue to use Penny's story to show the value of strong faith and trust, the beauty of a bright smile and deep laugh in spite of circumstances, and the unmatchable fire of pure love for family.

So, all this leads me to think it's high time to change the beginning of Penny's story.

I mean, I'm the first to admit that "See, there was this guy" did have its day, but maybe it's time to switch it up a bit.

Because now, when I talk about Penny, I hear myself beginning her vivacious story with, "See, there's this really hilarious girl."

No matter what escapade we're telling of Penny's, we'll never forget the punch line. And we know that as always will be her trademark, we'll have a great laugh while sharing these precious, unforgettable memories.

Penny, thank you, thank you, thank you for these sweet memories of laughter, love, time spent with and dedication invested into this family. Thank you for creating the family Facebook group so we could all keep up, share photos and reconnect online. Thank you for writing the beautiful intro to that group about the Circle of Eleven. It touched many of us in a lot of ways.

Hugest for "my memory box," as my nephew has taken to saying, thank you for never neglecting to make me feel special, no matter how young or irrelevant or dorky I was. (And yes, this applies to last year's family reunion, too.)

It's an honor to be your cousin.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   Maya Angelou

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Nervous as a cat.

Some things make me nervous as a cat. One of them is controversy.

Please don't ask me why. I'm not saying I'm proud of it.

But the graphic sure is funny, isn't it? :-)

:: sigh ::

Saturday, July 21, 2012

High Five.

Five things I'm thankful for today are:

  1. My job. Not only do I realize how fortunate I am to even have a job in this economy, I'm also aware that enjoying that job puts me in a unique and beautiful category. I prayed for this for so long, and now I am here. Blessed am I.
  2. My foot. My stupid, sore, ugly-shoe-clad, plantar fasciitis-ridden foot. Were it not for this foot, I wouldn't appreciate the 8,456,293 neglected pairs of shoes in my closet that I WILL wear one day when this foot finally heals. I also wouldn't look forward to things like running, walking distances, adding variety to my exercise routine, or doing anything that puts weight on my foot. So, you know, good reminder. Every dang day. 
  3. Upcoming getaways. Switzerland, you ask? The West Coast, perhaps? Maybe a little jaunt to the Pacific Northwest? Not quite. But from my anticipation of a road trip that'll include visits with friends and family, you'd think I'd won an Oprah dream vacation. It's really nice to have things to look forward to.
  4. Stress. Yeah, I know. This one's a little Pollyanna-ish, even for me. But still. Feeling stress reminds me that I don't always feel that way, and that there is a difference between good stress and bad stress. (Maybe I'll blog more on this later. It's a topic that interests me.) So I am grateful to recognize the difference between the two, to realize this isn't my norm anymore, and to find ways to relieve it!
  5. LOL. A teacher I had in high school was great about laughing at her own mistakes. I saw this at the time, and thought I caught on, but I think I'm aware that with each new mistake -- minor or major -- that I maybe don't have that down quite so much. So God bless Mrs. Farris for sharing her stories and demonstrating the value of laughing out loud as often as possible. Since she was attacked by cancer a few years back and I didn't get to say these specific words to her, I really hope she knows just how valuable those lessons were to me. (Also, the typing skills are coming in handy, too.) Knowing Mrs. Farris, I have no doubt she's still cracking herself and everyone around her up, even in Heaven. I'm striving daily to ace that test myself. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What Not To Say.

Do you laughingly tell people you "have no filter" when you speak? Better yet, is one of your points of pride how thoughtfully you dole out each.and.every.word before opening your carefully groomed mouth?

If your eyes lit up while excitedly nodding at either of these questions, you're cordially invited to read my rant -- ahem, blog post -- on a few things I recommend never saying. 

Please note that I don't make these suggestions* because they're rude or even because they're just plain silly. No, no. There is much more calculated method behind this madness -- I promise.

I offer these sentences as items to never, ever, ever speak because 
a) they either apply to absolutely everyone, or 
b) they apply to absolutely no one. 

Hence, better left unsaid.

  1. I'm not good with confrontation.* - Who is? Unless we're terrorists, attorneys (no offense, attorneys), or collection agents by choice, can any of us say we've perfected the art of confrontation, and get jazzed up about it any at given time? Not I, said the redhead. Which is why there's an asterisk by this one. Well played, RJ.
  2. It's just that I hate being sick. - Really? In that case, I can see why you took the time to point this out, since it certainly makes you incredibly unique. Most people I know (including me, who's not feeling well right now, which is why you're explaining your distance from my germ even though you're dating me) rather enjoy not being 100%. Huh. Now that you've cleared that up, I get it now, and can appreciate your uniqueness even more. Sweet! 
  3. My life is just PERFECT! - This is one of my biggest pet peeves. While I, too, have been so full of contentment that it would take an atomic bomb to ruin my joy, no one can really say their life is perfect. Plus, when people do say that, it almost sounds like they're trying too hard. You know? Why not, "I'm so thankful things are going well" or "I really couldn't ask for more right now"? Why the word "perfect"? Ugh. (At this point, I always feel like I have to give some disclaimer that I'm not bitter about life, but I'm not even going to try that. I mean, I'm not. If you believe me, great. If not, this blog is voluntary for you to read, not required. Right? Wow. That was freeing!)
  4. Literally.* - If you don't know the meaning of this word, do not use it. If you know the meaning and cannot literally apply it in the sentence you're using, don't include it in your sentence. Period.

* Items marked with asterisks are things I sadly know for a fact that I've actually said out loud. Hopefully only once, though. Then I caught myself and mentally tarred and feathered the little rebekah inside my head. May you do the same if in a similar situation. I mean that in the nicest way possible. Obvs.

Do you have suggestions to add to this list? If so, feel free to "throw me something, mister," and leave your feedback on this blog post. I'm always open to new pet peeves. It's probably a big part of what makes my life so literally perfect! 

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Funny how quickly I rush to the computer when I need release for worries, but how delayed my post is to shout from the (blogosphere) rooftops the sincere gratitude I feel the minute that same concern is relieved.

Don't get me wrong. I felt like I could run a marathon when I heard a good report on a loved one's health. But isn't it easier, all the way around, to log complaints than it is to give praise? I find that's true at the grocery store with customer service, too. Kind of sad that it applies to my Giver of Life.

At any rate, the relief I did and do feel at this very positively answered prayer is best summed up in a decade-old song by Nichole Nordeman, aptly titled, well, "Gratitude."

Watch the YouTube video:

The lyrics are here:

Send some rain, would You send some rain?
'Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid
But maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case . . .

We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If You never send us rain

Daily bread, give us daily bread
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight
Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger's view this time
Or maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case . . .

We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
A lesson learned to hunger after You
That a starry sky offers a better view if no roof is overhead 
And if we never taste that bread

Oh, the differences that often are between
What we want and what we really need

So grant us peace, Jesus, grant us peace
Move our hearts to hear a single beat
Between alibis and enemies tonight
Or maybe not, not today
Peace might be another world away
And if that's the case . . .

We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need
And if You never grant us peace

But Jesus, would You, please...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Great Concern.

My Grandma Johnson was a very strong woman in every sense of the word.

Deeply rooted in her faith, sturdy in physique, able to mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually take on just about anything that came her way, and not one to succumb to even the slightest cold.

(Seriously. I'm not sure if it was the Vicks salve she used each night before bed or the hymns she lifted up to Heaven with her sweet alto voice every day, but the woman never went to the hospital until the month before she died -- including through the healthy births of eleven children. You read correctly. Eleven.)

Part of that strength I remember so vividly was Grandma's stubbornness. Whether pursing her lips about the "healthier" 2% milk she did.not.order on her grocery list or turning off the TV when "filth came on" by yanking the plug from the wall, Grandma Johnson knew her mind, and was not shy about sharing her determinations.

[In case you're wondering, yes, I am her biological grandchild. Shocking, I know! :-) ]

One of the most precious memories I have of Grandma is her quick reassurance to anyone telling her not to worry about something, "I am not worried. The Bible says not to worry. I just have great concerns."

Ranking right up there with the "You are my sunshine" tune, regular sleepovers next door, picking blueberries in the summer, watching her beautiful hands make those delicious chicken and dumplings with eight decades of love, and her favorite saying of "God has an all-seeing eye and an all-hearing ear," I think I heard the "great concern" statement so often that even at a very young age, I was hiding grins at the idea of Grandma Johnson not worrying about this or that.

Grandma's point, of course, was that she didn't want to disobey God or His Word -- a compulsion so sincere and pure that just thinking about it makes me teary eyed as I type. But admitting she did still have the feeling behind worry was so sweet, and equally earnest.

When things bother me -- usually those pesky ones I can't do anything about, naturally -- I quickly realize why God instructed us in His Word not to worry.

I mean, yes, it's easy to do. Hard not to do, actually.

But man, it can eat away at you, can't it?

I guess everyone probably processes differently, but some days, when something big worries me, I get jittery, or start clenching my teeth, or can't keep my hands or mind busy enough. On really good days, I do all of those things.

Then on other days, I'm good for absolutely nothing, but in the opposite way. I could sleep all day -- all day! Grandma would have had a FIT! -- with no productivity, all over something I have absolutely no say-so in.

So even if most people process their troubles better than my extremes, how are any of us really of much use to anyone, especially God, if we do spend our time worrying? It's kind of hard for me to focus on something I need to do accurately, like fold clothes, if I am bothered that much. To take on tasks for others...well, that's nearly impossible.

So, I get where Grandma was going with her "great concerns." And some days, I'm right there with her. I definitely can't just let troubles drop off my radar and pretend they don't exist. But I can remember that I'm not the Pilot, but I am here for a reason, and if it's to be the best passenger I can be, then I certainly can't do that by obsessing about things I can't control.

Also, I can remind myself to breathe. Come to think of it, maybe that little secret was behind Grandma Johnson's ongoing relationship with her Vicks salve. :-)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

So Special.

A high school commencement address is sweeping the nation these days.

Ok, if not the nation, at least the news stations, and if not every news station, then most definitely the PR circuit.

Apparently an English teacher in Boston – no, it’s NOT a coincidence that several of my favorite things are involved here – gave a graduation speech that is ruffling some feathers.

Why, you ask? Did English teacher David McCullough tout controversial issues? Go against all his school's mission statement stands for? Proclaim the Jerry Sanduskys of the world innocent?

Well, not exactly.

David McCullough told this graduating class that they were not special.

This might be a problem were that ALL he told them, but of course, his speech wasn’t just one sentence. (You’ve been to a graduation, right? You know this.)

So there were other words in the speech, among them being:

“Climb the mountain so that you can see the world, not so the world can see you."

"Go to Paris to BE in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly.”

"Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them."


There are other high points, too -- many of them wickedly humorous -- but please, watch for yourself.

This link should take you to YouTube, where you can watch:

I’m also pasting text below.

I hope you get from this less than 15-minute address a bit of what I did, which is basically a nicely packaged synopsis of "Dead Poets Society," 2012-style.

Kudos, teach.

Transcript courtesy of

Dr. Wong, Dr. Keough, Mrs. Novogroski, Ms. Curran, members of the board of education, family and friends of the graduates, ladies and gentlemen of the Wellesley High School class of 2012, for the privilege of speaking to you this afternoon, I am honored and grateful. Thank you.

So here we are… commencement… life’s great forward-looking ceremony.

(And don’t say, “What about weddings?” Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective. Weddings are bride-centric pageantry. Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there. No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession. No being given away. No identity-changing pronouncement. And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos? Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy. Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator. And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced. A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.)

But this ceremony… commencement… a commencement works every time. From this day forward… truly… in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school, you and your diploma as one, ‘til death do you part.

No, commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism. Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue. Normally, I avoid clich├ęs like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field. That matters. That says something. And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all. Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same. And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.

You are not special. You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.

Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman. And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.

The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore. Newton, Natick, Nee… I am allowed to say Needham, yes? …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns. Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs. But why limit ourselves to high school? After all, you’re leaving it. So think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you. Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by. And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe. In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it. Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… although that hair is quite a phenomenon.

“But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection! Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!” And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic — and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You’re it or you’re not.

If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning. You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. (Second is ice cream… just an fyi) I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning. It’s where you go from here that matters.

As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer. You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, “pursuit”–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube. The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life. Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow. The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil. Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem. The point is the same: get busy, have at it. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands. (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life. Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)

None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.

Because everyone is.

Congratulations. Good luck. Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives.
David McCullough

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thankful Tuesday.

Five things I'm thankful for today are:

1. My health! I'm grateful to have been spared from major illnesses, but also to have had pesky minor ones pinpointed, diagnosed and treated. I am feeling like a new person and could not be happier for modern medicine!

2. My past. God truly blessed my "broken road," from the wise to the less than brilliant decisions I've made, He's and led me to greener, stiller pastures, where His peaceful waters flow. I know the present wouldn't be possible, or as appreciated, without the past. Duly noted. Credit given.

3. My peeps. I have this ridiculously supportive and comprehensive cadre of friends and family whom I can rely on when I need them, but who are also there when I'm having a random thought, feel the urge to share a joke, or absolutely must consort with on the latest happenings. I love this. And them.

4. My work. I get paid to do what I love. With people who encourage me in every way. I'm challenged, and it's right. That is all.

5. Love, sweet love. From friends welcoming babies into their families to ones receiving new spouses, love, sweet love is in the air. It's fun to see new beginnings and to be reminded of that excitement and freshness. And I get to watch these chapters unfold!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Johnson Five.

The top five things I plan to do once my foot heals and stops acting so, well, lame are:

1. Dance. Like nobody's watching, even if they are.

2. Run, Forest, run!

3. Kickbox. 5:30. Mondays. Spectrum on Perkins.


5. Take a lot of walks. Just because I can.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

On the Bookshelf: The Last King of Scotland

I just closed the cover on Giles Foden's "The Last King of Scotland." Even though I had a remarkable trip to that country last year, I never would've picked up this read about a physician in Uganda had a friend not handed it to me.

Now that I have picked it up and finished it, I'm reminded again of the value in exploring genres that are not second nature to me.

There are a few gory scenes, but if you're interested in a book that makes you appreciate democracy, this is a good one.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Abused Puppy Syndrome.

Ever had a friend or relative whom you look up to, but who seems to result in physical pain from giving you the time of day?

Typically, when that happens to me, it's a pretty easy decision to limit my time, emotions, and connections with the person. Yet somehow, some way, some people manage to creep in and slip through that tolerance filter. That phenomena never fails to leaving me shaking my head over what appears to be sincere rudeness. But after some sadness, a rant or two, and a little time, I eagerly think that person -- who's clearly proven themselves to be ridiculously uncaring -- will be different the next time we communicate.

My brilliant cousin and I have come up with what we think is a sadly appropriate name for this disorder: Abused Puppy Syndrome.

In my opinion, if you think that term's too harsh, you've never been treated badly by someone you continue to eagerly and innocently go back to for more. Be thankful for that!

In my experience, Abused Puppy Syndrome probably could happen to anyone, but most often strikes optimists. We bound into a situation expecting the best, eagerly perform our best tricks, whimper away after getting negative reinforcement, lick our wounds for a bit, then get starry eyed again when we see the giver of negative come back. Surely she wants to play with me! It wasn't THAT bad last time! Wait till she sees THAT NEW trick. She'll never frown at us again!

So. This probably sounds like a literal abusive relationship. As in, someone I've dated. To clarify, not the case. (Praise God above.) My experiences with this have providentially been very few, and have always involved those people we love but don't always like: family.

So what's the solution? Become hardened and jaded? Snarl at the "abuser" and refuse to bound through the yard when he drives up? Stop learning fun new tricks?

Well. Yes. That's one approach. However, that approach happens to leave me empty and sad.

So, instead, I keep doing what I do, and reaching out (but just every so often, not every day). I'm not saying this is The Answer to this situation, but since cutting off family isn't an option I can live with, it's the route I take.

Is it fun? Not always. All better? Not yet. But can I sleep at night? Yep.

And for me, that's worth a lot more than the approval of even people I share DNA with.

If you have an abused puppy syndrome story, would you mind sharing your solution? Since family is forever, and since I'm not anticipating major personality changes in myself or anyone else anytime soon, I'd genuinely like to hear it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Giving up.

Since my first Mardi Gras as a Louisiana resident, I've been practicing the discipline of the Lenten season.

Stopping eating bread. Starting daily devotionals. Making more of an effort in various areas. Etc.

What I grew up considering a Catholic-only tradition has taught me as an adult the value and pain of sacrifice, as well as the purpose of this season: the reminder of the ultimate gift Jesus gave us when He willingly offered His earthly body to be brutally murdered on an unhygienic cross for no reason except to absolve slackers like me.

Because of that reminder, Lent will probably always be a part of this Protestant's life, whether or not it's part of the church I attend. (For the record, the practice IS encouraged at First Presbyterian of Baton Rouge, which I wholly appreciate.)

In the past -- and possibly for most of my life -- I've been an over-committer. I've said "yes" too much, spread myself too thinly, gotten burned out, and developed stress from volunteer projects. Stress from volunteer projects. (Can that be right? One wouldn't think so... But yes. I have managed this.)

Don't worry, though, because apparently my new move resolution in '07-'08 was to NOT over-commit, and boy, have I ever stuck to that. In fact, I've stuck to it so well that I've become, as my Nan would say, "plum lazy" in certain areas of my life. Saying no has gotten entirely too easy for me -- so much so that I pretty much let myself to do that as often as I want.

So this year to mark the Lenten season, I've decided to give up, well, giving up. No more slacking after I've committed. No talking myself out of something that's on the calendar. No excuses.

Will I be jumping into the junior league of BR in the next couple of months? Well, no. (Um, baby steps!) But I WILL hold myself accountable in two major areas of my soul and body: church and the gym.

So, goodbye, giving up. I'm afraid I'm giving you up.

See you around Easter!

Or will I....? :-)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valet Grocery.

Once upon a time, there was a redhead who really didn't mind grocery shopping. While Wal-Mart was never her favorite place for its own special reasons, grocery shopping itself was never a dread.

Then, the redhead hurt a toe and developed plantar fasciitis. The podiatrist said to stop all activity to help the foot heal. Inactivity didn't help the foot, but the redhead did discover Valet Grocery.

At first the idea seemed crazy -- paying someone to buy groceries? Who is that lazy? But, after months of severe pain from minimal walking, and after subsisting on fast food and convenience store items every few weeks, the redhead needed groceries. Without the foot pain that would surely come from hobbling down a grocery store aisle, if limping around the office was excruciating.

So, Valet Grocery it was. And what a surprise: the delivery fee was only $5. The grocery prices were reasonable. The driver who made the delivery wasn't creepy. The order was accurate. The deliver was made on time, every time. And the foot didn't have to hurt any more from the purchase.

The redhead recommends Valet Grocery. It works it. And is worth every penny of the $5 delivery fee. Plus gratuity.


You should give it a shot.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Conveniently, now that it's Wednesday, I'm committing to join the #SilentWriters movement comprised of prose bearers everywhere who dedicate 60 minutes each Tuesday night to writing in silence.

My writing may not always turn up here, but at least some of it should.

There. I said I'd do it, and I will. Let's see what comes of this newfangled #silentwriting. :-)

Monday, January 30, 2012


I know I have at least one faithful reader who will ask why I didn't post much lately next time we talk, so I'd like to clarify that I'm not in a slump or funk or hitting a speed bump. I'm just getting back into (good) routines and am busy!

But the blogs, they are a-formin' in my head, so watch this space.

And thank you for caring. :-)

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Yo Yo Diet.

As a small child hearing about my grandmother's latest fad diets, I swore I'd never participate in those.

Eat cabbage soup (and only cabbage soup) for a month straight? No thank you.

We also heard often about the grapefruit diet, were offered Tab on a regular basis, and were able to recognize what was left of Nan's house after Katrina mainly because of the Slim Fast paraphanalia.

There was no reason for me to not know about a fad diet, or to be attracted to one. And I was NOT going to have any part of it. Ever.

That is, until I gained weight. When that happened, um, YES I want to lose weight quickly, easily and with as little effort as possible! I can sprinkle this powder on my food and drop 10 pounds? Bring it on! Drinking this shake will curb my appetite? Leave that blender out 24/7! Having a tablespoon of that type of vinegar after a meal will absorb fat? Pucker up!

Ah yes. My strong opinion of fad, yo yo diets was deeply rooted and not going anywhere...until my situation changed and I needed a solution.

A yo yo approach to anything is pretty unhealthy, really. I'd not thought of emotions and attitude in quite that light till I read a very familiar passage of scripture this week:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” – James 1:2-8

How easy is it for me to be disgusted by bad driving...when I'm not in challenging traffic?

How often do I judge those who make political choices I don't agree with...having never been challenged by circumstances other political parties work to change?

How much does divorce disgust, who's never felt strongly enough about anyone long enough to marry them?

(I could go on and on, but I've probably alienated enough readers for now.)

My point is, all situations could lead to yo yo behavior. And since my volatile emotions are no more attractive than Nan's diet of the week in the 80s, I clearly can't rely on my own devices for stability.

Now that weight is a challenge for me, I can totally imagine that dieting could count as a "trial of many kinds." Yet, the only time I've "counted it pure joy" was to relish the relief that a shallow ex-boyfriend would stop harassing me with 30 extra pounds. Probably not what Paul, or God, had in mind with those words.

When I think of getting into a funk as the equivalent of committing to the cabbage soup diet, it's not such a comforting option.

Developing perseverance may not be easy, but it certainly seems healthier in the long run. Not to mention easier to be around.

So long, yo yo behavior. I think it's time to give perseverance a shot.

Friday, January 6, 2012


First day of carnival season, and I get the baby. That's what I get for caving to the temptation.