Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Transitions

My Dad has asked my sisters and I to start coming up with ideas for Thanksgiving and family traditions. Since the baby of the family just turned 19, it may seem strange that we’re JUST NOW getting around to creating traditions for such a common holiday… Our former Thanksgivings were almost all spent at the family farm in the Ozarks (minus the few years we lived on islands and one or two others where the drive was longer than 9 hours- thank you Navy :)

Thanksgiving used to go like this:

The family would bundle into our minivan, later our suburban, and finally just take two cars and drive to northern Arkansas- a small town called Heber Springs. The tree leaves would have lost most of the radiant red and orange colors and be down to the yellows and browns. The air would be crisp and cool allowing sounds to seem sharper. I LOVED arriving late in the evening when it was dark because we had to drive down and around the mountain into the little town. There were twinkling lights and the car’s windows would be so cold that my breath would fog them up as I savored the view.

The little town is so full of memories because both of my parents had relatives that lived there. We’d stay with my Dad’s parents and spend Thanksgiving day at the farm with my Mom’s extended family.

When we were younger, we’d pile into my grandparents’ house with the long single hallway that connected the main living space to the den/office. Three bedrooms and a tiny bathroom opened up into that long hallway where my sisters and cousins and I played football, monkey in the middle, bowling, did puzzles, and generally got in the way of any adults trying to get anywhere. Occasionally we’d get to commandeer the tv and watch one of the 4 or 5 Disney movies my grandparents owned (my favorite was Bambi), but usually the menfolk watched football and the womenfolk would go shopping and antiquing, leaving us kids to fend for ourselves. We’d often get kicked outside to play where most of our games involved imagination because other than a tire-swing and the old boat by the fence, I don’t remember any toys. The nearby middle school track and playground were a great attraction and the pretty downtown park- but we usually needed an adult and a vehicle to get there.

Thursday morning would find us in front of the tv watching the Macy’s Day parade while Mom brushed and fixed all four of her daughters’ hair. Once we were sufficiently bundled, brushed and staticky, we’d pile into one vehicle, wave goodbye to my Dad’s relatives for the next 7-10 hours, and drive 15 minutes to the Holland Farm. Here anywhere from 85-120 cousins, aunts and uncles gathered to spend the day together. We’d arrive around 10-11am and immediately greet grandparents, before running to play. The Farm is HUGE. The kids would be scattered on the old bag swing, hanging on the fences looking at the cows and mule (and later horses), petting the dogs, watching the guinea fowl and chickens, climbing into the big red barn’s hayloft for some hay fights, poking at the tractors, tossing a football, catching up with cousins from the other side of the continent, walking around the old tennis court, searching through the empty small house used as a storage space, and daring each other to mess with the old white bull that hated the color blue instead of red…easy to do since most everyone was wearing bluejeans!

Once most of the relatives had arrived, the kids would be summoned from all points of the farm for the prayer and the meal. Thanksgiving was a time to be thankful and so Uncle Tommy and Aunt Mary (my Granny’s big brother and his wife) would start by mentioning family members that couldn’t join us or had passed away that year and then any new arrivals: spouses, babies, or even boy/girlfriends (how embarrassing for them!). Then someone would be asked to pray before we formed a line for the delicious potluck meal. I never paid enough attention to which family member brought which dish. Aunt Mary cooked all the rolls and kept them in a large cooler wrapped in dishtowels to keep them warm. There were several different sides and some that were almost similar but not quite so that you never had enough room on your durable Chinet paper plate. The tiny kitchen counter would be hidden under all the dishes which meant desserts had to go on a completely separate table at the window behind the little dining table (which was reserved for Uncle Tommy and his siblings and their spouses…and didn’t used to be big enough).

Most of the family would eat outdoors at long folding tables with metal folding chairs. The big front lawn had plenty of room and it rarely ever rained on Thanksgiving- only 1 or 2 times that I remember. Those years the tables were squeezed under the carport and we managed. :)

After the meal, the tables would be folded away and the men would have their annual football game (the old men vs. the young)! The women would sit in the folding chairs along the front of the house and cheer on their spouses and sons. The girls and any boys too young to play, would climb onto the roof of the storm cellar for a better view of the game. I rarely watched, because usually we’d saddle up Old Sally (the mule) and later our cousin’s horses during this time. I preferred to ride. One year I rode a particularly stubborn tall black horse. She decided that she wanted to go the opposite direction I was pointing her and tripped herself. When she started to stumble I thought: “Oh she’s fine” but that quickly changed to shock when she fell over on top of my leg. The stirrup kept my foot from being crushed, but my knee suffered some trauma and every once in a while when I’ve been running too hard or worn heels too long it flares up in pain. I spent the rest of that afternoon watching the men’s football game while icing it and the next day in the ER getting x-rays and a pair of crutches. :)

After the football game, the tractors are attached to the long trailers and hay bales are loaded onto the edges of the trailer to form seats. Many mothers have packed quilts and blankets that are brought out as padding and insulation from the chilly November evening. The family then piles on for the long ride around the farm. We go through many gates and the ride takes about an hour as we go through several of my uncle’s pastures which once were full of cattle but now are mostly tree farms. The cows follow us and eat the hay we throw to them. One year we grabbed my cousin’s hands just in time as the bale he was sitting on was ripped from the end of the trailer by a couple of very hungry cows! There are also deer quietly watching us through the trees and we cross some beautiful brooks. The Ozarks are just stunning.

We get back to the farm as the moon is rising and partake of our second or third helpings for the day before families slowly begin to depart for the evening. The fireplace and the outdoor fire pit are some of the most popular places for the adults while the kids grab some flashlights for fun variations of hide-and-seek or tag.

Eventually our parents bundle us up and take us back to our Dad’s parents' place where we are spoiled with hot cocoa and our parents try to keep any hay from making a mess- impossible, since their four little blonde daughters have been rolling in it, stuffing it down each other’s shirts, and sitting on it for the hay ride.

The following day includes more fun with the cousins, a trip to see the giant trumpet swans, and possibly fishing. The evening includes another get-together at my Mom’s cousin’s house where we have snacks, a light dinner, and play Catch Phrase, Pictionary, and Charades. Usually there’s a dog inside that doesn’t mind cuddling and a cat or two on the porch willing to accept a scratch or two behind the ears. The stairwell wall is covered in stuffed birds and animal heads.

I will miss those many years of tradition. Both my Dad’s parents are gone and that house with the long hallway has been sold. My Mom’s mom is gone and the farm isn’t the same without my precious Granny. The horses have gotten wild because the cousins are in high school and college and don’t have the time to ride them. The little kids are now the men playing football or the young women sharing secrets with their cousins as they walk around the farm. My cousins are too grown up to play and often sneak away to nap or make phone calls or chase down their own children. The babies I held just a few years ago are now kids wrestling in the hay loft, swinging on the old bag swing or chasing the chickens. But most different of all is the tiny graveyard that now exists halfway down the main pasture and down a straight lane between tall trees. There, surrounded by quiet, minus the tiny brook babbling nearby and the wind through the leaves of the trees, rests the body of my Granny. Her headstone is a giant Arkansas rock covered in lichen and moss with a bronze placard. This is a special place where only she, my Grandad, and my Uncle Tommy and Aunt Mary (the owners of the farm) will be buried. My Uncle had the place legally designated as a cemetery plot after the bones of Native Americans were discovered there. She is the first of the four to go. It’s bittersweet.

So now that my Dad has asked what I want to do for Thanksgiving and how we should create our own family traditions I have no idea. Thanksgiving this year will be the single day off in the middle of one of my best friend’s wedding preparations. Perhaps as the years progress it will not matter so much.

I think most importantly it will be nice to still get to spend the day with people I love and reflect on the many things I have to be grateful for! So…

What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions? Do you go somewhere, play something special, always eat a certain dish? I need ideas…

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Sometimes I think I’ll reach a finish line in life. I’ll complete everything I need to and then sit back and relax and enjoy the ‘rest of my life.’
But the problem is: this IS the rest of my life! I’m in it RIGHT NOW! Any goals I have made or want to make- I should be pursuing them now, not putting them away for ‘later.’

I can become easily disappointed with myself when I make mistakes or miss my goals. It’s so tempting to wallow in despair when things don’t go as planned or I make a mistake twice. The self-deprecation is on overdrive when that happens. Thankfully, I am not defined by my goals and/or mistakes.
As I stood in front of the floor-length mirrors watching the lady pin my bridesmaid dress up in preparation for its alteration this afternoon, my brain kicked in. Life is full of alterations. As my Dad has said, “You can’t just set a ship in one direction and walk away from the wheel. You have to take into account the weather and currents (as well as objects that need to be avoided) and adjust the rudder constantly.”

This morning in church, my heart was touched by the testimony of our newest staff member. As that young man (how old am I to call someone a ‘young man’??) shared his story about how he had reached for everything life had to offer and realized that it did not bring the happiness he thought, he struck home. With a musical being published by a major theater and a dream job, he found himself depressed and empty. And it was in the midst of what should have been a joyful and proud moment that he realized- it’s all ashes. That emptiness that he was trying to fill could only be filled by God.
My heart echoed that story. How often am I thrown off course? How often do I get too busy to spend some time reading my Bible or memorizing God’s word? How often after I’ve missed one quiet time do I miss another- consumed with guilt and shame because I missed the first? Why do I neglect my relationship with God? All that time God is there waiting for me- willing to fill that empty-ness that comes upon me when I lose sight of my purpose here on Earth.

So I’m turning my rudder again. I’m allowing God to alter my course and strengthening my relationship with Him. Life is much more wonderful when I follow His plan! My pastor says, “The Gospel isn’t something you add to your life- when added it takes over your life. …This generation is cynical about Christianity and the church because they haven’t experienced an encounter with Christ.” I do not want to add to the cynicism. Paul says:
 1 Timothy 4:16 “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this, you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

I want to accurately handle His truth!
By God’s Grace and For His Glory,


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Emotionless Semester

I never thought I'd see a psychiatrist. I was strong. I was good at holding in my emotions and being the "tough one" for my sisters' sake- especially after my Dad's tumor (see Breaking Point).
I'm the kind of person that holds pain and anger inside. But I remember my last Spring semester of college when my world turned upside down.
My baby sister needed to have back surgery- doctors were surprised that she had the back problems she did.
My Granny B was dying of cancer.
I was "lightly emotionally abused sexually" by the associate of the professor I was working for- I quit after a week and didn't exlain to my prof what had happened and refused to take my paycheck telling him to mark my time as "volunteer work".
I got very sick.
A guy and I were mutually interested in each other, but he was confusing me.
Naturally this was all very distracting from my studies and they began to plummet.
I turned to exercise- running. I ran from all my problems. I pushed myself so hard that I collapsed one night out on the golf course, dizzy and exhausted. Weakly I made my way to a pavilion by the dorms and called a friend who lived in the nearest dorm, "Can you let me in so I can walk through your building instead of going around it? I'm not feeling well." That friend and another came to my rescue. They brought me fries and a milkshake (comfort food at its finest) and let me sit on the cement floor of the pavilion and shake. I couln't cry.
It wasn't until a few weeks later, when my Dad called about my Granny B's passing away, that I lost control. I couldn't take it anymore. My roomie, Kristin, held me as I sobbed. She and another friend, Elana, had been very worried about me the past week. They had threatened to force me to watch The Passion of the Christ, just to make me cry. After a stormy 30 minutes of sobs, I swallowed back the pain. Again, ashamed of the tears, too hurt to breathe or focus.
I skipped all of my classes for a week.
I didn't know too much about panic attacks or depression, but I gained firsthand experience that semester. I was part of a Bible study leadership team with The Navigators and during our meetings I rarely spoke. I listened to the others but I was doing the bare minimum so that I could show up and see their faces. I searched their faces subtlely at the meetings memorizing their smiles. I'd smile back, but it was half-hearted. I was so emotionally detached, I don't know if they knew. Finally, somehow I decided to go and see one of the free psychiatrists on campus. I needed to spill my entire story to someone unemotionally attached to me. I filled out the paperwork and wrote a synopsis of why I needed to see a psyciatrist.
She came and got me. A tall, willowy blonde woman and led me up to her office-a large space with a huge comfortable looking couch in a pattern that reminded me of Arizona or New Mexico. A tiny water fountain ran in the corner and the lighting was natural, but muted. "This doesn't seem so bad." I thought. "Now I just need to tell her my story and..." I didn't know what would happen after that.
"Well, Hannah, I read your paperwork- you have a LOT going on. How are you doing?" she asked me. And I lost it. All of my self-control. Weeks worth of tears came. I cried because I was hurting, I cried because I was confused. I cried because I was missing my Granny. I cried because I was afraid I'd fail all of my classes. I cried because I was exhausted. I cried because I was scared. I cried more than I've ever cried in one sitting and all that in front of a complete stranger. She stayed in her chair and handed me a tissue box.
Who knew crying could be so cathartic? I finally was able to talk. I told her what was going on and she walked me through my feelings- something that I was embarrassed about and didn't think was necessary. She wrote notes for my professors telling them that I had missed class due to emotional stress, had seen her about it, and would be making up the missed work. She offered me medicine but I turned that down. I didn't need medication to help me cope- I'd just needed an outsider to ask me some questions that would help wake up my brain and let me vent.
I wrote an apology note to my Navigator friends giving them a little bit of information about what had been going on that semester and why I had been so detached. I told them that I was going to try to do better. "You don't need to apologize" one of the guys told me and my tears (suddenly thinking they had the right to show up whenever they felt like it) sprang to my eyes. I looked down embarrassed and trying to hide them, muttered thanks and moved on.
I don't know why I'm sharing this. Perhaps because it's freeing to write it down and whenever I feel stressed I remember this time? I do know one thing. During that time in my life I found this Bible verse and I clung to it.
Isaiah 30:18 "Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him."
In all that time, I DID seek the Lord. I longed for Him more than I ever had because I could not handle my life at the point in time. I am so grateful for the friends He placed in my life who kept an eye on me and encouraged me through it all. I hope that in your times of stress or pain that you know the Lord and can call on Him to help you. I also hope that you have a church/friends that you can rely on to pray with and for you. God is always there. He never changes. Blessed be His name! No matter what: long for Him, my friends!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lost in New York

I file behind my small group, trying to fit into the subway. It's March. I'm in New York. It's freezing.

I can't believe I got to go. It was a trip that came almost out of nowhere. I was preparing to go home for Spring Break and was approached about an opportunity to attend a conference- in New York! A city I'd always heard about, seen on the news and in movies- that's where all the superheros live, you know. And there are taxis! I mean, I've seen a few taxis in my lifetime, but not as many or as yellow as they are in New York.

The conference was fun. We sat and listened to people pray and sing and preach and teach. We were given a few hours to tour the city and my mentor, Sonia, and her husband were our tour guides. About a dozen of us filed out of the Soul Saving Station in Harlem, NY and headed for the subway. We passed the Apollo Theater on the way. I had no idea where we were, exactly, but I didn't worry about it since I was with a group. I should have. I'm always careful now.

The day was a blur- we didn't have time to do everything so we pretty much looked as we walked, rarely stopping. I saw the Statue of Liberty, the Bull from Wall Street (I think it's been sold and moved since then), Ground Zero, the Rockerfeller Center, Times Square, went inside the Trump building and the Apple Store, walked through a corner of Central Park while eating a hotdog, passed a couple of beautiful churches, and several other famous places that I would have to google the names of because I am no New York expert. It was while we were walking past Tiffany's that we heard the CRASH. We stopped on the sidewalk and stared at the intersection. A taxi cab had just slammed into the back of a VERY nice car. Car doors were thrown open, a couple of policemen came running and it was very loud. The New York accent is pretty strong when they're upset. One of the last places we browsed through was Chinatown- where I was forced to buy a purse.*

Finally, we were all exhausted from walking all afternoon and on a schedule to get back for the next session. However, we caught rush hour traffic. I had put my purse into my friend Serge's backpack since I was wearing my Mom's snow jacket. It's hard to carry a purse when you have a few extra inches (a foot!) of padding where your arm used to be... So there I was, waiting to get in when suddenly I knew- there was NO more room on the subway and all of my group was on board. Glancing down to my left I saw Serge and a few more from our group just stepping into the next car. Suddenly I had the speed and agility of Spiderman himself as I raced down to the next car. I could see there was going to be no room for me. The subway was about to leave and Serge was just putting his first leg into the car when I grabbed the handle of his backpack in terror.

We interrupt this moment to point out a few things you may not have noticed

a) I don't know where I am or where I'm going
b) My money and phone are in Serge's backpack
c) I have a very big fear of crowds and New York has LOTS of people
d) I am panicking
Ok, now that you have the facts, let's continue.

With my newfound strength I hauled Serge backwards off that subway. Thankfully, Serge is goodnatured. I didn't knock him down so he was fine, just a little disoriented. He too now realized that we were both not going to fit on the subway and then the doors closed. We waved at the friends in that car and then at the friends in the next car as they sped past us saying something and making motions I couldn't hear or understand. Serge had the good sense to remember where we came from and also had a map so he knew which subway we needed to catch. We took the very next one. It was almost empty. We both sat down and stared at the subway tiles flashing by and the occasional OLD wooden walls...I can definitely understand why so many people use New York as a setting for their books and movies...the subway felt like a roller coaster without the giant hills or loops.

Unfortunately, we were taking forever to get back and our subway kept stopping at EVERY station. See, we had not fit on the Express for a reason...everyone who's anyone knows that that is the one you want if you're going all the way across the city, which we were. A sketchy looking man was sitting across from us and watching us. I stared at my gloves, the floor, out the window...he was pretty intent. Then at the next stop, he moved over and sat next to me. I swallowed my panic and peeked at him. The man smiled a grin with a couple teeth missing and some gold ones flashing. Serge was busy looking at the map.

"Where are you going?" the man addressed us both. Serge told him and the man told us all about how we needed to catch the Express and there was another one that would be behind our subway. We just needed to get off at the next stop and wait a few minutes. So we did. We thanked the man with the interesting smile and caught the next Express.

As I sat indian-style on the hotel bed that night eating Chinese takeout with several of the girls I sincerely thanked God for His faithfulness and protection. It would have been very bad if I had not caught Serge, because I would have had no phone, no money, and no idea where my friends were going. Also, I enjoyed the adventure afterwards. :) My advice if you visit New York? Take the free map from the hotel.

*I still didn't have a souvenior and was considering one of the purses. I checked the price tag and decided that I really didn't want it. I walked out of the store only to hear someone behind me say: "You buy! For you ten dolla! Good deal!" There behind me was the lady from that store with the purse I had just looked at. "Oh, no thank you." I said with a smile assuming we were done. Half a block later she was still following me and trying to haggle the price. Mortified and not really good at confrontation, I gave in and bought the stupid purse. I never used the purse. My sisters didn't want the purse. It went to Goodwill. Moral of the story: avoid Chinatown unless you have a will of IRON.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

This Little Light of Mine

I am so excited about sharing the beginning of my testimony today that I don't know how to actually begin! To be honest, I've started typing this at least a dozen times in the last month or so.

To understand my testimony you need to know about my experiences with one of my favorite things on earth: the ocean (example of my love for the ocean :)). I could listen to, smell, look at, and swim in the ocean all day. Of course, I'm a little spoiled- I prefer the clear waters of the Pacific or the gulf around Florida where I can see what's around me. Swimming in the muddy brown water of Galveston these past 10 years has been a poor substitute.

On the day my parents brought me home from the hospital as a little baby girl, they made a detour. (My Dad wanted to show me off to his coworkers...:) So the first place I ever went in my life was on board a ship. Of course I don't remember it, but I like to think that that is one of the many reasons I LOVE the ocean. My Dad was in the Navy, so I've always lived within an hour of the beach (minus 3 years in Nebraska). I have probably spent a year of my life swimming, snorkeling, building sand castles, chasing crabs, catching fish, and hunting for sea shells.

When I was about 4, my grandparents were visiting us while we lived in Monterey, CA. We took them to the beach. :) I remember the brown sand and remember wading out to my waist. On my way back to the beach, I somehow tripped in the water. I could swim, so this wasn't a problem. However there was a brutal undertow. I was close enough to the shore and the water was shallow enough that I could dig my fingers into the sand and hold my head above water. Usually the undertow would stop after a few seconds and I knew I'd be able to stand up and go about my business. This time it wasn't letting up. When the sand started to get pulled away from my hands I knew something was wrong. But I didn't cry out for help- it all happened so fast. I still remember the feel of the sand disappearing from my hands and the pull of the ocean. My Grandad happened to be close and he leaned down and grabbed me moments before I was drawn out to sea. He saved my life.

After such a traumatic moment you'd think I'd be scarred for life and refuse to touch the ocean without some form of therapy, but no. I loved the ocean too much! I was right back in it that same day. This is how God opened the door of my heart and one of the main things He used to draw me to Him.

We moved to Guam a year after my near-drowning experience- a tiny bean-shaped island near Japan. The waters and coral reefs around Guam are gorgeous! I still remember the vibrant colors. (It's also a honeymoon spot for many Asians...I remember my sisters' and my blond hair getting a lot of attention and we were in a LOT of pictures with strangers. :) Our church in Guam was on a cliff overlooking the sea. I remember climbing the porch poles for a better view and humidity so thick you felt like you were wading through it. (Trust me, Houston is NOT as bad.) One day, a little girl about my age got baptized. The church tromped down to the ocean to celebrate her baptism, but we stayed in our church clothes. Being on the beach my natural instinct was to run to the water, but my parents stopped me. "But she's swimming!" I said, completely confused. My parents had to explain this to me. We went home and I had questions. What was 'baptism'? I'd heard of Jesus, I knew about His stories, I'd listened to my parents pray- we always prayed before every meal and before going to bed.

My parents explained that baptism was a symbol. It was that little girl's way of publicly showing that she had asked Jesus to save her from her sins and that she was a Christian. There was further discussion- I don't remember much of it, only that it happened. I decided then and there that I didn't want to go to Hell. I knew that I was 'cause I'd definitely sinned- Mom didn't know about my pet baby gecko in the empty peanut butter jar that I was keeping under the living room chair...(the things you could hide when chairs and couches had cloth flaps or fringe that went down to the floor)...

I don't know if it was that same day or week, but I DO know that seeing a girl in the ocean was what God used to trigger my conversations with my parents that eventually led to me praying one night with them and asking God to forgive me of my sins (playing with fire, hiding creatures in the house, being selfish with my toys, hiding food in my napkin so I wouldn't have to eat it, etc.) and come into my life. I asked Him to take charge and make me the little girl that He wanted me to be. And I told Him that I knew because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross that I could be saved and live in Heaven someday.

I wasn't baptized in Guam. I don't know why. I would wait two years before being baptized at a small church in California.

And THAT is the beginning of my testimony. :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hunama Bay

Looking up at the steep edges of the island surrounding the bay I sighed in contentment. This was my fortress. My safe place. Nevermind the other 50 or so people on the beach. I grabbed my snorkel and goggles and headed towards the waves. I didn't really love my flippers- I preferred to swim barefoot, but I knew that without them the coral could cut my feet. Still, I left them by the towel this time. The morning sun combined with the scent of sunscreen and the gentle pounding of the waves was a melody I knew well.*
The water was cool and clear and I dug my toes in the sand to hide them from the hungry and curious fish swarming my legs. These gentle giants (they were about a foot in length) were the first to greet me. I searched the bay looking for the least populated spot. I began wading and shivered as the cool water closed over my shoulders. Dunking myself, I then fixed my goggles and snorkel and began my exploration. Fish of different colors and sizes, crabs, urchins...these were my treasures- this was my idea of a perfect day. I listened to the scraping of a parrot fish's beak against the coral as it searched for food- it's body bigger than mine. I startled myself when I rounded a wall of coral and came nose-to-nose with a bright yellow trumpet fish. He was about 5 feet long and he waited for me to move away before making a dash for another hiding spot from all the tourists. I followed schools of tangs and watched the sand gobys build their little homes on the bottom of the sea. I swam under coral arches and looked for seashells, often diving deeper to see what I could see. I hummed in my mind as I explored- never lonely. Occasionally I would have to surface and see if I was too far out- I didn't want to get too close to the walls of the bay because the tide and current made it dangerous. I also, while I didn't mind being alone, didn't want to be too far out- I had a healthy respectful fear of sharks and knew there were white-tips beyond the bay. (Not that they would probably have hurt me, still, I didn't want to find out!)
I did swim to the drop off- if you have ever watched Nemo you should know that drop offs exist and that is were some of the most beautiful corals are! I peered over the edge and could see the sand 40-50 feet below me. The coral was a gorgeous mix of reds, oranges, yellows and purples. I also saw a shark down there lazily swimming along the wall and decided that I'd seen plenty.
Once, while snorkeling with my Dad, we found a sea turtle! We had such fun swimming by her and around her- we didn't dare touch her, that's against the law. Another time, a family came to visit ours while we were living in Hawaii and we took them to our bay- I had to 'baby-sit' the older of the boys (he was about my age). I had moved about 10 feet away and noticed the some of the coral looked different. I sat there lazily floating face down, breathing through my snorkel and studying it when I realized that I could see two eyes...and a fin...and the line of the mouth...and...! It was a poisonous Devilfish. He had picked the perfect spot to catch prey and I was not about to get in his way. I backpaddled so fast until I was far enough away to wheel around and grabbing the arm of the boy, I swam as fast as a cartoon character until we reached the beach. He was a bit confused about this odd behavior until I managed, between gasps, to explain what I'd seen.
I dream about that bay. The many afternoons I spent there. The steep zig-zag road we had to climb up to get to our cars after all day in the sun and water. The beautiful crystal blues of the ocean. The mongoose and birds we'd see. Those were lovely, lazy, beach days. I miss the sea, so much. Especially the beautiful South Pacific.
If you ever visit Oahu, take some time and go snorkel at Hunama- most of the corals are brown because people used to walk on them, but there is still plenty of sea life and the edge of the bay is gorgeous.

*Fun fact: when I was born, on the way home from the hospital, my Dad left my Mom in the car and took me on board his air craft carrier to show me off. :)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remembrances & A Poem

Today is the one-year anniversary of my Grandad's suicide. It's a hard day for my family- especially for my Dad. The loss of a parent is something I do NOT look forward to experiencing.

November. My family does our level best to always make it to the farm in Heber Springs, Arkansas for Thanksgiving. In previous years, we would stay with my Dad's parents. We'd sleep in and watch some of the Macy's Day Parade before driving 10 minutes out to the farm for the annual family reunion with my Mom's side of the family. This year was different. My Dad's parents were gone. And while we had resigned ourselves, in recent years, to staying in a hotel- we had still always stopped by their house for a hug in the morning and knew we'd be coming back when darkness and the cold chased us from the farm. It was a terrible prospect to have no Grandparents left in that tiny little house.

The drive from our house to Heber was a long one. I was packed into the backseat next to the baby of the family. She had dozed off and I had lost myself in a book. Suddenly, she jerked awake. "You ok?" I asked. Sleepily she pushed her hair out of her face and blinked a few times. "Yeah" she answered. And then, "What day is it?" she asked me. "What do you mean?" "I mean, what day of the month is it?" she said. "Um," I thought for a minute, and then answered. "Oh" she sighed. "Bad dream?" I asked.

"Yes. I always have it about this time of the month." (within a week of the time Grandad had shot himself) She went on, "I'm running and I see Grandad and I'm trying to get to him and stop him, but I never make it!" She was on the verge of tears and my own eyes filled as I grabbed her hand and squeezed it. "It's ok." I said. And she leaned her head on my shoulder and I rested mine on top of hers and we rode in silence for a while. I remembered scenes a few months earlier from the funeral- staying with people from my Grandparents' church that I barely knew, all the pity and embarrassment in peoples' faces because this funeral was a suicide- so different from dying of 'natural causes' or an 'accident'.

My baby sister's dreams and her precious memories of our beloved Grandad, cut me deeply. It hurt to know that she was still hurting- but I knew how she felt. We all were having "what if's" and "why didn't I just's" floating through our minds.

I wanted to share a poem that my sister wrote that was published recently in her college magazine (of which she is an editor). I am so proud of her!

Tale Spinner
by Sally Beard

Tissue box parade
Dead flowers, some for me
Some for the grave.
Chairs that have rocked their last
Endless visitors, empty glasses
The funeral is done
But the march goes on.
Even without you
The procession never stops.
People I've never met walk past me
Some stop and shake my hand,
Say "He was full of life"
But most won't even look me in the eye.
Are they embarrassed for me?
I don't bite.
Or maybe they're afraid of catching germs
From the tear-stained tissue I so desperately clutch.
I miss you so much.

In the cemetery, I wait
Until the last visitor has left
Then I pause beside the grave
In which lies
One who would have acknowledged my presence.
Why do funerals often turn out this way?
And now that prying eyes have gone
The tears come.
A letter. A tarp. A gun.
A hospital too, but by then
You were gone.
Four days later, here I am
Standing over you, instead of beside you.
You always told me, "Don't you change,"
But this place has changed for me.
I remember how I'd climb your knee
And you would begin to weave stories.
Some were funny, and tickled
Like a fuzzy blanket.
Some were thoughtful and comforting
Like an afghan.
Some were stories
Hard to understand
And the thread of my concentration would snap.
After all, I was only a kid.
But the best were your hugs,
Far better than a blanket
Were the arms that wrapped around me
And the husky voice that said "I love you."

You were fraying long before I noticed
And took up a rifle.
Shot a hole in the tapestry
That you spent your whole life weaving.
Tattered blankets, shattered hearts,
My world is spinning, ripping apart.
This is one story that I hate to tell,
I wish it wasn't true.
Though I continue your pattern
I'll never be as talented as you.
The blanket now has a knot
That I cannot undo;
Your death is a mystery, a mistake
That I cannot unravel.
Yes, this place- for me- has changed a lot
But the thread runs true;
You're never fully dead
Until you're forgot,
And I'll always remember you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Babies and the Gun

I have found myself talking about guns this year. Especially in the last two weeks.

In fact, there is a recording on our lovely ladies event video from today* of my voice in the background commenting about guns. We were discussing shooting at a bee hive in a coworkers yard and I claimed it was a silly thing to do..."You should shoot at criminal's knee caps instead." Of course, my coworkers laughed loudly and I'm soft-spoken so hopefully you can't REALLY hear the comment...and normally they put video clips like that to music so I'm desperately hoping it won't be heard! Of course, I just told y'all about it...but so few people read this I think my reputation is safe...

Clarification: I do not own a gun...but I might get one someday. I would do my best NEVER to shoot at a person, but if you break into my house and I have someone to protect (i.e. a kid) plan on surgery for bullet removal in the near future. I'm all for people being allowed to own guns and carry them (after going through proper classes on handling, cleaning, etc.) Guns aren't the problem- it's the people who make the bad decisions. There- disagree me if you wish, but please don't flood this post with comments about how horrible you think I am for this belief.

I've had 3 experiences with guns. Two of them were spent skeet shooting, but this is a story about the only time I've come in close contact with a handgun. (Meaning- I almost used it.)

Once upon a time, my family moved to Texas. I was pleased to get an all-day baby-sitting job for two little 18-month-old girls. Let me describe this for you: giant Texas mansion with two sets of stairs to two separate parts of the house. The babies slept up either set of stairs. One was the granddaughter and the other was a friend's child. They obviously weren't thinking when they left a 16-yr-old in that kind of situation. A couple of my sisters were allowed to come and help out during the day (so they'd get some of the cash) and I was grateful...18-month-olds that can walk are quite a handful...

"Now, if anything happens," the man told me as they were leaving that morning, "my handgun's in the drawer by the bed." -He said this as if I would know what to do with it...and so seriously that I suddenly wondered if I needed to worry. Was there something they weren't telling me??

Well, night was falling. I created a pin out of furniture for baby number one and took the granddaughter up to her crib first. Settling her in (quickly...can't leave unsupervised babies...) I hurried back down the stairs, past the bedroom with the gun, past the front door, through the first living room, into the second living room where I had left baby number two. She was a bit distraught and I had to comfort her as I carried her up the second set of stairs to her crib. When she finally settled down I had to go back down the stairs, through the two living rooms, past the front door, past the room with the gun, and up the original set of stairs to check on baby number one- the granddaughter. She had settled down and content, I made my way past the room with the gun to living room number one where I settled into a huge sofa with a book.

The room had floor to ceiling windows that were about 20 feet tall (it was the reason the whole upstairs had to be split into two) and these windows did NOT have curtains. I was deep into my book when I suddenly heard a loud noise- as if someone had thrown a pebble at the glass window. It being perfectly dark outside, I couldn't see a thing. I froze and tried to act normal as I pretended to keep reading. The noise happened again- twice this time.

Ok. It was time to start thinking about my options.

A) No cell phone- would have to get to the kitchen for the home phone...where'd they put that paper with their number? Did one of the babies eat it??
B) I don't remember the new home phone so I can't call Dad.
C) Ok...which baby would I save first? The granddaughter, I guess. Plus she's closer to the room with the gun.
D) The gun! It can't be that hard to use a gun, right? Just point and shoot. But I don't want to shoot anybody!!
E) Was this why he sounded so serious...they left me to deal with the problem??**

(And here I was interrupted by more of the clanking noise against the window.)

Ok it was time for action. I acted as casual as a frightened teen can and slipped out of the living room to the front door (out of sight of the window). Peering through the peephole I saw nothing and no one. Creeping into the room with the gun I opened the drawer and looked at it. Praying I decided against the gun and shut the drawer again- physically shaking at this point. I couldn't find the phone.

And here I did something stupid. I opened the front door and stuck my head outside and found myself confronting a pair of yellow eyes.

The creature switched it's tail at me before pushing past me into the house. I felt my heart re-start and actually found myself grateful for the cat's company. Somehow it had gotten shut outside during the day. But it wasn't the cause of the noise against the window. Looking again I spotted the culprit. A large grasshopper, hypnotized by the landscaping light on the window was jumping into the glass window...over and over again.

So happy I could have cried, I laughed and shut and bolted the door turning to look at the cat. It's purr was the most welcome sound on earth.

I am not afraid of guns now, but I used to be. It was a shock to be told I had access to a gun and to use it if necessary. I've never come across that type of situation again. Anyone else have a similar experience?

*I had no idea my coworker was taking a video- we thought he was just taking pictures! I've been teasingly warned that it might make the next video for the seminary...I really hope not.

**Hey...sometimes my imagination can get carried away, ok?? This is why I DON'T watch scary movies...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It Started with One...

In March, shortly before we put Bonnie (my dog) down, I bought a turtle. A tiny Mississippi Map turtle. He had to be shipped from Florida & I anxiously watched the UPS tracker hoping that he would arrive alive!

The moment I looked into his tiny silver eyes, I melted. I dubbed him Parker. He was 3/4 of an inch big. I took him to work with me where I had a tank ready and waiting (with fish too). He looked so little and lost that I couldn't bear to leave him in the tank overnight so I took him back home with me and set up a bowl for the night. This went on for a few days...then I slowed down and only brought him home on weekends- because that tiny tummy couldn't go all weekend without eating, right?

Parker was absolutely charming. He'd stretch out his legs and sun on his little island. He'd yawn and rest his head on his foot- just like my dog used to do...didn't know turtles did that...etc. I was captivated.

A couple weeks later, I decided that Parker was lonely. How could he not be? So I went to the pet store in the mall and bought a generic Red Ear Slider (common green turtle). Problem solved! Or was it?
Watson was a pig. And a bully. He bit off part of Parker's tail and I saw him grab Parker by the tiny foot and drag him under the water- TWICE! Naturally, I renamed Watson "Jaws" and gave him to my sister as a class pet for her elementary kids. My sister's class had a difficult time naming him- he was almost "Mr. FuFu"...but thankfully the kids voted on "Jack" instead. Jack hates being a class pet, but I could care less...the little monster.

Three days later I was back on the internet and decided to order another turtle buddy for Parker. This time I thought I'd try a different breed: a Musk turtle. Within a few days I had Sebastian- the tiniest turtle I have ever seen- less than 1/2 inch big! He looked like a little beetle as he bumbled around in the tank. He had a huge appetite and was very curious about all the fish. He was like a little shadow to Parker. I loved him. When he didn't eat one day, I got very worried. Checking his paperwork I read that sometimes turtles lose their appetites for a few days so I relaxed. But by day 4 I was on the phone with the company talking to one of their experts. "Shrimp pellets!" the lady told me.

So the very next morning I went to the first pet store, but they were out of shrimp pellets. So I went to a second pet store and grabbed 4 different varieties of treats that promised they tempted turtles...
However, by the time I got to my office, Sebastian had died. I was in shock- I'd had him for a month with no problems! He'd been so cute.

Having loved Sebastian but worried that a Musk turtle might die on me again, I decided to look for something new. I consulted 3 different websites about turtles and their sizes, habitats, and personalities. Using my coupon, I got online with my Florida company again and ordered TWO new baby turtles- because everything is better in threes...(that's what I learned in floral design).

I waited two days in excitement for my Red Belly and Yellow Belly baby turtles! "This will be it," I told myself, "no more turtles after this! It'll be perfect!" However, imagine my shock when I opened the package to find two very large baby turtles- both of them over twice the size of Parker. The site had said 0.5 - 1 inch babies...but these were 2.5 and 3 inches! Dubiously, I put them in my lovely giant tank with Parker. They ignored food the first day so there were no problems, but I couldn't help being disappointed that they were so large.

A day later I watched in terror as the Red Belly almost bit Parker's head in his quest for the piece of food Parker already was eating. I stuck my hand in that tank and using a finger pushed him down and away from Parker so fast he didn't know what hit him. Then when the Yellow Belly did the same thing I reached in grabbed him and put him upside down in the little island in the tank. I had to do it twice before he learned his lesson.

The next day, our sweet cleaning lady came with her 4-yr-old daughter on her weekly cleaning day. Having discussed animals with her in detail and her daughter always loving to watch my fish and help feed them, I had a sudden thought. "Do you want a turtle?" I asked the mother. "Really?!" she asked excitedly. "Yes!" I said and without further ado, reached in and grabbed the 3 inch Red Belly and put him back into the packing box he'd arrived in. The little girl cradled him in her lap while her mama cleaned and they left with smiles.

That afternoon, I casually asked a co-worker, "Would you be interested in a turtle?" "Oh, actually yes! The kids would love it!" "Perfect!" I said- already planning my LAST turtle purchase as I left her office. The Yellow Belly has been named Colonel Brandon by the 11-yr-old girl who just discovered the movie "Sense & Sensibility"- he should be proud of his name...

"NOCCI" & ?
Deciding that really the only way to give Parker company without it being a danger to him or a bully was to get the exact same kind of turtle. So I opened my trusty old Florida site determined to put some comments on my order form about sizing issues and let that be it.

But when I opened the site, wouldn't you know? They were having a sale on the very kind of turtle I've been dreaming of since I was 12. Soft Shell turtles- what I like to call 'Pancake Turtles' are my favorite turtle of all time. I discovered them when we moved to Hawaii & the hotel had them in this huge outdoor exhibit with little blue penguins. Normally those turtles sell for $60 and I had felt that was price-y, but they had new hatchlings and were selling them all for $20- with my $10 off coupon, he'd be $10!! Thrilled I added one to my basket. Then I went ahead and added a Mississippi Map turtle so that I'd have my "perfect 3".

I practically danced for two days waiting for them to come and when they arrived yesterday I gasped! My little pancake turtle was the cutest thing I'd ever cute as Parker anyway. The other little turtle, Parker's sibling, is a tiny bit bigger than he is, but she doesn't bite him or steal his food or bully him. He is content. I am content. My turtles are spoiled.

I have named my pancake turtle: Pinocchio (Nocci for short) because of his long pointy nose. 

Anybody have suggestions for the little girl turtle?

Friday, April 20, 2012

True Satisfaction

Satisfaction. What is that? No, you don't need to go grab a dictionary...I mean, look it up online... Think about your own definition. What do you need to be satisfied? Or are you already??

I have to confess- I'm not always satisfied. And when I'm not, everything seems wrong. If I get focused on a certain desire and let it consume me, I forget about all of the blessings that God has given me: my job, my friends, my family, my health, a phone that texts, my college degree, etc. etc. etc.

There is only one thing we really NEED for satisfaction. Do you know what that is? It's found right here:

Philippians 3:7-9
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

THAT is where true satisfaction lies. Of course, we're human- we'll forget about this again and need another reminder. Thankfully, God is patient! And why is satisfaction with our Savior so important? Kelly Needham wrote saying that it is easy for that desire to have something in order to achieve satisfaction can become an idol. Once that happens, idols are roadblocks to our spiritual growth. Please read her entire article, but if you don't have time- read the 3 paragraphs below!

 The following is an excerpt from Kelly Needham's blog that gripped me and I felt the need to share! I hope that it impacts you as it has me.

"Can we be honest for a second? If we are waiting on anything other than God to have a full heart, then we have created an idol. God is no longer our God and no longer the one who fills our soul. He is no longer the One in whom we have placed our hope. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be married or wanting a season of life to be over, but as soon as we need that to happen to be completely fulfilled, it is an idol.

So where do we go from here? May I first suggest that we stop being satisfied with singing songs in church, quoting Scripture and then living like none of it is true. It doesn’t matter what we say we believe or what we sing; our actions will show the true beliefs of our heart. If you feel as if you could never be happy unless you are married, have children, etc, then be honest with yourself, God, and others. Admit that you’re setting your hope on something else and don’t actually believe that God alone is enough for you. Let’s start by being honest about what we actually believe because we can actually move forward from there. If you aren’t being honest, you are deceiving yourself and creating a roadblock for any spiritual growth. Any progress you try to make spiritually won’t last if you are building on a foundation that isn’t actually there.

So why do we have such a hard time being honest with ourselves in the first place? I think we desperately want to have it all together and be “the good Christian” with all the right answers. Maybe it’s because we care way too much about what others think of us or maybe it’s because we think that’s how we can please God. Either way, this causes us to lack a sense of raw honesty about where we are at and what we actually think about God and who we are as believers. There is something in most of us that hesitates to say, “I know the Bible says that everything is a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus, but I don’t actually believe that right now.” But if we want to see true growth and freedom from idols in our life, I believe it will start with that kind of honesty."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Trouble with Squirrels

I go back and forth between thinking that squirrels are either cute, or that they are evil rats with fluffy tails.*

I have a beautiful weeping dwarf almond tree. My Mom and I discovered it at a nursery last year. It was bare save for a single pink blossom & I begged her to let me bring it home! I'm pretty excited about it. But so are the squirrels. It hasn't given any nuts yet, but it's got some young shoots (which the squirrels like to eat). And since it is not even 5 feet tall, it would not take long for a single squirrel to nip the buds off my tree.

This week I spotted one of the furballs near the base of it and an argument began that went something like this:

I opened the back door and hollered:
"Hey! You!"
(very unladylike I know...but I've been hollering out of windows since I was a toddler and old habits die hard...)**

The cheeky squirrel stood up on his hind legs and looked at me.

"Yes, you...get away from my almond tree!"

The rodent gave a "Who me?" look before turning and hopping onto the trunk of my tree.

"Ahhh! No. Not for you. You will not touch it!" and by this time I was out the door and moving towards him.

Hanging upside down on the trunk of my little tree, he shook his tail.

"I mean it! Get off, Buster!"

Suddenly he hopped down and moved to the left towards a bigger tree.

"That's right. Mess with any of the other trees. The almond is mine!"

I turned my back and walked back towards the house. Reaching the porch I turned again and discovered the sneaky thing headed back towards my almond!

"No you don't. How dare you?! I..."

And while I was in the middle of remonstrating him the rodent did a flying leap and kicked my almond tree with his back feet before landing in the grass and facing me. His little beady eyes shone with triumph at this great insult he'd just inflicted. (I have this theory that squirrels know all about tone of voice.) He knew my outraged cries for what they were and celebrated. Practically yawning in my face, he trotted to the right and away from my tree. I slowed my scolding...

As I stopped, he suddenly whirled back around running towards my tree and leaping, kicked it mid-jump with his back feet! AGAIN!

"That does it! You hairball! Just you wait- Im going to get a pellet gun and then'll we'll see who's boss!" I charged him and sent him scampering halfway up one of the larger trees.

Of course...I don't think I could ever shoot anything besides a skeet, but I won't let him know that!

Squirrels are such brassy creatures and take huge risks. There are probably half a dozen stories I could share but I will only share one more. There is one squirrel I will never forget: Stumpy. He didn't have a name until after this incident.

Our nextdoor neighbors had a dachshund named Penny. She was incredibly verbal- when inside her fence- and thought of herself as intimidating. These neighbors had a birdfeeder in the corner of their yard- in perfect sight of our living room windows. Birds enjoyed it, all right, but the most frequent customer was a squirrel. This squirrel was very cocky.

Everyday he'd perch on the feeder and hang his tail over the side...just out of reach of little Penny's snapping jaws. And snap she did! She would bark up a storm while the fat squirrel sat and scoffed and chewed sunflower seeds. For months we'd hear her barking and know- the squirrel was there.

But one day, something happened! I'm not sure how it did, but we just happened to be watching!! Either the squirrel's tail had grown a bit longer or he'd never let it relax all the way before or Penny was suddenly able to jump an inch higher... Penny came tearing down the yard as usual sounding the alarm and the squirrel just smirked and chewed his seeds...but his smirk suddenly changed into squeaks of pain as he found his beautiful tail in the mouth of the insulted canine!!

My sisters and I gasped and yelled, "She got it!!" and watched in horror as she dragged him off the feeder. But she bit too hard and Stumpy was so terrified that he left 1/3 of his tail in her teeth!

Scampering up the chain-link fence and across the alley he climbed our fence and then fell. You see, squirrels can't walk along narrow high places without their tails- they depend upon them for balance! Poor Stumpy waddled and fell off the fence over and over again, eventually disappearing from sight. We never expected to see him again.

However, a few weeks later he was back- and with his shorter tail he was definitely untouchable and knew it! Obviously he'd only learned part of his lesson- and poor Penny, having tasted a bit of victory, never gave up. But she never caught him again! And we dubbed him: Stumpy. He became the fattest squirrel in the neighborhood- obviously people pitied him the loss of part of his beautiful tail...

*As much as an animal lover can think of creatures as 'evil' anyway...

**I was a friendly kid and just trying to be neighborly (instead of taking my nap). Mom had the windows open because it was a beautiful day and I could just see out them if I gripped the sill and stood on my toes. Spotting a neighbor I hollered "Hi, Mr. Man!"...and unknowingly gave away the fact that I was NOT napping...

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I looked up at the sound of thundering hoofbeats. Perhaps I should've been afraid. I stood still and watched the herd of horses racing towards me. I was 90% sure they weren't going to run into me. They turned about 5 feet in front of me and slowed as they passed, tossing their heads and whinnying. As they pranced around me and then dropped their heads to graze I let out my breath, suddenly realizing I'd been holding it. If my mother knew about this, she would've scolded me to no end- but she didn't know. I had told her I was visiting the horses at the end of the road...I didn't tell her that I was climbing INSIDE with them. There were about 15 horses and their leader was a nasty gray mare who tolerated me, but every once in awhile would charge at me to see if I'd run. I never did.

We were living in Mississippi. I was 10. Our neighborhood was part of a golf course, and there were only about 4 kids that my sisters and I knew. Being homeschooled, the limited access to peers made for a relatively lonely 3 years. We didn't have pets, so I adopted the horses- particularly one.

I would pick handfuls of grass and feed the horses before climbing into the field with them. Next I would search the ground near the gate for a nylon rope. The bales of hay given to the horses were usually tied in rope and after the horses had eaten, the ropes would collect near the gate. Finding one, I would spot the horse I was looking for: a tall, quiet bay. He had a halter on. I loved to take him on long walks around the field. Sidling up to him, I would talk soothingly and slip the rope through his halter. "Come on, Boy" I'd say and he'd willingly follow. Sometimes I'd jog and he'd trot along beside me. He'd stop to eat and I'd lean against him and stroke his mane. I never tried to ride him- I simply went to that field for company. I called him: Prince.

One time I proudly brought the one kid in the neighborhood who was my age to see the horses. "Here's mine!" I said as Prince trotted towards me, nickering a greeting. My friend was nervous. "Are you sure this is ok? What if they kick us??" "They won't" I said and patted Prince's neck, feeding him some fresh grass. Some of the other horses approached us, eager for grass. "OW!" my friend hollered startling them. "What?" I asked. "That horse stepped on my foot!" he said pointing at one of them. "Oh! I'm sorry! You do have to be careful you know." "Gross! There's horse poop everywhere!" "Don't step in it." I replied. I never bothered to bring the boy along again- he didn't understand why I found that field so enticing.

I'm not sure how I got my instincts where horses are concerned. Certainly, I wouldn't encourage little kids to go stand in fields of horses and let 'em play chicken like I did! I learned a lot about patience and respect from them. I miss those lazy Mississippi afternoons: basking in the sun, listening to the cicadas and walking through the grass with Prince. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Sunshine Blog Award

I've been feeling giddy about this. It's been a fun treat to dwell on for several weeks now. :)

I received a special surprise exactly a month ago! This lovely lady: Amy from Crazy Random Happenstances nominated me for the Sunshine Blog Award! She's kind of like a blog mentor to me...if I ever have questions about how to edit things, I know she'll have an answer- or find one. You should definitely check out her blog!

So with this nomination comes a little bit of work- a mini questionnaire:

1) Favorite Color: Green- and then every other color that exists!
2) Favorite Animal: Um, I am an animal person so I'd like to say ALL of them. If it breathes, it's my favorite. (This does not include mosquitoes, hornets or roaches.)
3) Favorite Number: I'm not sure I have one...
4) Favorite (non-adult) Drink: Chocolate Coke from Sonic!
5) Facebook or Twitter?: Both- though I probably definitely use Facebook more.
6) Passion: Is there a limit? 'Cause I have a whole list... Friends (not the show- actual people ;), Playing Sports, Gardening, Floral Design, Cooking, Reading, Bible study, My Job, etc.
8) Favorite Pattern: I have no idea. Sometimes I like stripes- almost always I love lace (is that a pattern?)
9) Favorite Day: The days I get to see friends. :) 
10) Favorite Flower: Peonies. :) Roses are a close second, followed by ranunculus, parrot tulips, anemones, hydrangeas, alstroemeria, bougainvillea, kangaroo paws, protea, wisteria, geraniums, clematis, lavender, camellias, magnolias, ginger, fuschias, salvia, wax-flower, rice-flower, lantana, azaleas, pansies, etc. etc. etc.

So there are my answers...finally. Thank you for the nomination, Amy! I'm sorry it took me so long to post this.

I'd like to pass the Sunshine Blog award on to some other bloggers that I enjoy: Crystal, Monica, Ben & MeganJamie, Hannah & Paul, Stacie Lynne, & two ladies I've never met but diligently follow: Megan & Michaela

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Letting Go

It was the last day with Bonnie on Friday. I had tried to take the day off, but I had a banquet for work that evening. I got all ready & then cried all my make-up off. I fixed it, but while my sister was helping me curl my hair I broke down again and ruined my make-up a second time. "If I didn't have to pick one of my coworkers up or deliver these flowers for the banquet, I'd stay home!" I said as I grabbed my make-up bag and determined to put it on later. I never got to- all pictures of me from that banquet should be destroyed...

After the banquet, I spent the evening with my dog, torn between wanting to stay away so saying good-bye would be easier or spending the night on the cement floor of the garage just to be near her. Saturday came too soon. I spent much of the morning with Bonnie & told my Dad that if we were going to take her to the vet, it needed to be in the morning or late afternoon...part of me wanted him to pick the afternoon.

"Ok, give me 20 minutes to eat some lunch and then we'll go" he said. Shocked I went outside and sat on a stepping stone with Bonnie leaning against me. She had no reason to think anything was abnormal, but as she's always done when I'm stressed, she patiently waited by my side with her head on my knee.

Dr. Hill & Robyn, the two ladies at the veterinary clinic eyed me & my Dad as we struggled with the thought of putting Bonnie down. We knew it was the right thing to do, but how horrible to have to make such a choice! Of course they had options that would cost hundreds of dollars and give Bonnie anywhere from 1 week to 3 months...but we didn't see the sense in prolonging her pain.

"We'll take her in the back to put a catheter in & go ahead and give her the sedation drugs so she'll be really sleepy when we bring her back in for you to say good-bye." they said as they spread a blanket on the floor. Gritting my teeth I nodded and gave Bonnie a final pat as they led her away.

My Dad wanted to remember good times & talk about funny memories we have of Bonnie while we waited, but I just wanted to sit still and keep from crying. We were shocked when they brought her back in the room and she was wide awake- secretly I was pleased. "She was such a sweetheart, we figured we'd do the sedation shots in here with y'all so you get a few extra minutes. Are you sure you don't want us to leave you with her for a little while?" "No." I answered quickly. "We've been saying good-bye for weeks." I couldn't go through with it if we didn't do it then.

The vet went through the explanation of the 3 different shots she had - a saline shot to make sure the catheter worked, the sedation drug, and lastly, the drug that would take Bonnie's life. A large pink tube which I hated with all my being.

After the first two shots, the vet became concerned because Bonnie wasn't going to sleep. She left to go and get some more of the second drug while Dad, Robyn-the vet tech, and I stayed there on the floor stroking Bonnie. After a few more minutes, Bonnie seemed to be sleeping and I told my Dad, "I can't stay. I don't want to see them give her the last shot. I just can't watch her die!" "Ok, Sweetie. We can leave when you're ready." I stood up & got my purse then knelt to place a final kiss on Bonnie's soft head. But she sensed my distress- as all good dogs do and fighting the sleeping drug she raised her head knowing something was wrong. I lost it. It was hard to see through the tears. Robyn handed me a tissue. I couldn't leave Bonnie while she was conscious. So we stayed another five minutes until she finally slept. The vet came back in and Robyn asked me if I wanted the collar. "Just the dog tags," I said.

As if it were a formal funeral, the assistant unbuckled Bonnie's collar and handed me the collar and leash as they would hand a widow the American flag at her military husband's funeral...We were ushered out the back of the building so we wouldn't have face anyone.

I have had so many moments where I've thought of my dog this week. I'd think, "It's a perfect day to be outside with Bonnie..." and then remember she's not here. Or a sibling would say, "I can't finish this meat..." and I'd think- Bonnie will eat it! Even this morning when I grabbed a banana I thought, I'll give Bonnie a piece of this and check her water bowl...only to be slapped in the face with the reality that she's gone. We haven't gotten rid of her dog house yet, but my Dad kindly went through the yard and garage and collected all her toys and food bowls and put them in the trash to remove those visual reminders.

It is SO hard to let go. I loved that dog. It hurt when I lost my grandparents- very much, but I only saw them 2-3 times per year. I spent most of my life with my dog. Don't get me wrong- I miss ALL of them. I KNOW I'll see all three of my Grandparents in Heaven because of our belief in Christ Jesus as our Savior...but I don't know about Bonnie. What does God do with dogs? I'm not sure I believe in our pets going to Heaven- I'd like to, but I know that they don't have human souls...and if an exception is made for my dog, then what about the billions of other animals God created? I haven't read anything in the Bible that tells me about this & I'm not really trying to open a can of worms. Just musing a bit.

I'm sorry about all the bleak posts of late. I have a special surprise for my next post, but that will have to wait.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

16 please go away...

I remember being young and thinking: I can't wait til I'm 16!

But today, I got frustrated when I heard some men talking about me. I had to pick up flowers today because I'm making the centerpieces for our Alumni Dinner tomorrow night. As I was walking to my car, there were a pair of men sitting on a bench nearby.

"Haha...look at that little girl with her cart full of flowers. What's a 16-yr-old going to do with all of those?" they said. They continued and said other "forgettable" things but I was blocking out their irritating words and putting flowers in my car.

Hello? I can hear's so rude to talk about people like that. And I am NOT 16.

I know. You may think that I should be "grateful" that people think I'm younger than I am...and I won't mind losing 10 years when I'm 50-60 years old...but I am in my twenties and I want to look it! So I'm thinking of shaving off most of my hair...

Totally kidding- nothing that dramatic. But I am seriously considering what I could possibly do to make myself look older. Here are some things I came up with:

a) Jewelry. I always forget to put it on (and sometimes I feel overdone).
b) Belts. They finish an outfit and are not usually worn by teens (unless they've got major patterns or metalwork on them...(stereo-typing...I know, sorry.))
c) Heels. I just can't bring myself to wear them often- I feel tall enough.
d) Eyes. I like to look natural, but I'm thinking some more make-up to my eyes might make me look older than 16.
e) Hair. I've got to do something with it. It's long and I love it that way, but I need to learn how to put it up into some  "adult" styles because leaving it down makes me look younger.

Any other suggestions? Do any of you get told you look younger than you are?
I am tired of 16.

Other weird moment this year, I was at the pharmacy with my Mom:

Mom: Can my daughter pick up my meds when they're ready?

Pharmacist: Is she even 18? I would need to see i.d.

Me thinking: Really?!?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Making the Call

"If I'd come earlier, would everyone who died...could I have stopped that?"

"We can never know what would have happened, Lucy. But what will happen is another matter entirely."

This is from a conversation between Aslan & Lucy (Chronicles of Narnia- Prince Caspian). It echos the conversation I've had with God at least a dozen times since last May.

The day before my Grandad shot himself, I had a sudden urge to call him. I had never had urges like that before. It was confusing. But I was visiting with one of my dearest friends and thought: I'll call him tomorrow night when I get home. I haven't seen this girl in forever and today is our last full day...

If I'd only known there wouldn't be a tomorrow. If I'd only known that that was my last chance! Was that urge to call him from God? Did I ignore a prompting from the Holy Spirit and in doing so, allow my Grandad to kill himself?? Could I have stopped that?? If I had called my Grandad and told him how much I loved and missed him- would he have avoided killing himself? Would it just have been put off and still have happened? I will never know. I'm so tempted to wallow in guilt and blame myself for his death. How glad I am that I can't know- I would feel like a murderer if I knew I could've saved him if I'd just called. I miss him. What a horrible enemy Death is! A thief- robbing me of one of my greatest mentors and friends.

I have flashbacks to days of fishing. Getting up at 3am to go walking with him...and jogging the whole way because he was so tall and walked so fast. Watering tomatoes in the searing Ozark heat. Trying different meats like deer, squirrel & raccoon that he'd caught or a friendly neighbor gave us. (Coon was the best one, but the meat was gray...weird.)

I have memories of him quoting passages of scripture- especially Psalm 23 & the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew). Of riding in his pick-up down to Greers Ferry Lake where he'd lead a small Sunday service for the campers. Of singing. Of curling up in old knit blankets and piling family into that tiny living room for meals where we kids would sit on the floor around the coffee table for supper. Of the tire swing he, my Dad and my uncles built one afternoon- and the many hours my cousins and I spent playing on it. Of visiting him randomly when I was doing a Summer Training Program with the Navs in Branson to go fishing! Of his giant hands and his hugs that were so tight they hurt. Of the way he'd drawl: "You sure are special! I love you."

Now I have memories of looking at that peaceful face. Too scared to touch him, but too torn to walk away. Of red-rimmed eyes on my family members. Of humid Ozark heat as we walked to the grave-site. Of looking at the grave marker. Of his big empty chair. And I have a cane fishing pole- the one thing that I requested of his.

How deeply I echo Lucy's question. I swallow tears as I write this. Why didn't I just call him? I missed my last chance to talk to him!! It's something that I regret. Deeply.

As C.S. Lewis wrote: "We can never know what would have happened...But what will happen is another matter entirely."

I have to change my mindset. I have to persevere. I cannot think about what might have been- I must focus on right now. My Grandad is no longer here. I need to give my time to the people who are. Family, friends, co-workers and strangers. That is what I'm here for. I need to fill myself with God's Word and learn more about Him so that I am ready in season and out to share with those around me. God gives and He takes away- blessed be the Name of the Lord.

I want you to know that you are special. You are loved. You are sought after by the Author of Creation!!! "Christ feels strongly about His followers and possesses a holy craving toward us." - James: Mercy Triumphs,Moore p. 58 

What a miracle! Don't despair! Life is hard- Jesus said it would be- but He also said that His burden is light. So, instead of spending the rest of my life wondering if I could have saved my Grandad- I must choose to tune in to God's will for my life and start fresh each morning- searching for the opportunities He's going to give me. I'm not saying I won't fail. I'm not saying I won't cry again about not making that phone call. But I won't let it run my life. That's not who I am created to be. 

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." -James 1:2-4

Monday, February 27, 2012


It was late- all the lights in the house were out. I had a sudden urge to spend time with Bonnie. Quietly tip-toeing down the stairs, I grabbed a jacket from the closet. Feeling like a blue snow-woman in my Dad's big blue winter coat, I walked to the back door and stood still watching my dog. She was very alert, listening to something. I waited to see if a coon or possum would show itself- or a stranger from over the brick fence. After a few minutes her tensed form relaxed and she put her head on her paws. 

I knew the moment I turned the lock on the door she'd be on her feet wiggling her stub of a tail to greet me. It was chilly & humid- I don't know how Texas manages to do that. And to top it off, the mosquitoes were so happy I'd come! Swatting at them, I knelt down to pet Bonnie. She butted against me and looked up with her dog smile. Why did she have to do that- look like nothing was wrong? Maybe it was a gift- one more good night before the end.

Sitting on the edge of the doorstep, all I wanted to do was snuggle. But Bonnie, rarely a snuggler, grabbed the mangled stuffed doll lying on the porch. (The doll was a gift from one of Abby's students to their "techer" that she donated to Bonnie.) She began her prancing and pushed the toy against my legs and arms. If I tried to catch her to snuggle she'd whip away and playfully growl a challenge. So instead of snuggling last night, I played tug-of-war with my dog. She was happy. I provided a feast for the mosquitoes as our heavy breathing combined with my laughing announced fresh blood to the little vampires.

I finally sat down on the cement, grabbed my dog and just held her. She stopped squirming and looked up into my eyes. So trusting. I had to squeeze mine shut. How can I do this? Why can't she just die on her own? Why do we have to put her down? I hate having the power to choose the date and time she leaves this earth. Do dogs go to heaven? I haven't seen anything in the Bible really discussing it- but I know they don't really have souls like we do. I just can't imagine my sweet dog ceasing to exist. It feels unreal.

Good-bye is so hard. I hate death. It's an enemy that gained access to this world because of our sinful nature. But sometimes I love the fact that we get to experience hope and grace and mercy that we wouldn't have if we had been perfect. "It's a hard-knock life for us."- as Annie would say, I mean sing.

God has a perfect plan- even in the loss of one of my best friends. I haven't cried yet- she isn't gone yet- but she will be by the end of the week. I will miss my dog VERY much, but I'm so glad that she was at that pound the day my parents decided to get us a dog! There will never be another one like Bonnie. (And I'm sure thousands of people have felt that way about thousands of dogs.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Broken Vessels

Well, I can't sleep so I figured I write. It's late on Valentine's Day. My sister (the school "techer") brought home all kinds of goodies from her students today. I thought I'd help "dispose" of the dark chocolate, but forgot that it was after 6pm and that I wanted to go to bed before 10pm...
My head is pounding SO badly. Migraines are awful. I tried to make light of the pain and told my sister:
"I'm thinking of donating my brain to science."
"It won't do anyone any good..." ouch? I thought, but she continued "...I mean I haven't heard of a successful transplant." ohhh. miscommunication. :)
So, here I sit. Exhausted and dealing with a migraine. But my eyes can't shut and my brain is super awake. Why don't I remember that any form of caffiene is bad for me after 2pm?? I will never learn. I'm hoping the two Tylenol PM I just took will kick in soon...
In the meantime, I heard something on the radio today that really struck a chord. The radio announcer was talking about a funeral she'd been watching. The sister of the man who had died was sharing a memory from one of the last conversations she'd had with him. He'd known he was dying, and said: "Eternal life is God's gift to us; this life is our gift to God."
 That struck me. Stunned me, really. I've probably heard things similar to that several times, but not stated quite so simply. I forget that I can give God something- and as a "gift-giver" I loved hearing it put that way!
Of course, once I put aside the incorrect assumptions that my works are the things that bring me God's affection and acceptance, then I can move on to doing things because I WANT to. For Him. Because my relationship with God is forever. Forever. No human man will ever be able to match that amount of time or the depth of God's love for me. (For you too, of course- if you've trusted in Christ).
 I can't imagine who I would be without Christ. That person would be terrifying. Occasionally I see glimpses of what might have been when I act selfishly, and it makes me shudder. I want to be Christ-like. I wish I could be perfect. I have a theory- one I've thought about for several years and wrote about WAY back when I had a "Xanga"- bet that stirs up memories for some of you...or you just gave the screen a blank look. :)
Here's my theory:
God refers to Himself as the Potter and to us as His "clay". He mentions the different vessels that are formed from clay- from lighting a room (the cush job) to storing refuse (the horrible job)- but each is NECESSARY. Now, if we are all vessels and necessary- that puts us on equal terms. So just assume there are millions of clay jars- each representing a person. Specifically, Christians.

God also tells us to let our light shine before men. A perfect jar- if it had a candle inside it, would not show too much light. It would be beautiful, but not too useful. Similarly, if a person is assumed to be perfect, that person is intimidating. To many, they seem unapproachable.

On the other hand, a cracked jar would show more light. The candle would be more visible between the cracks. This would be the person who has made mistakes and cracked themself (or been broken by others). The light is more visible and therefore, the vessel is more useful.
This kind of person is approachable. When people admit they've made mistakes and have truly made changes in their lives for the better because of them- we not only learn from them, we open up to them. People are more willing to share with a broken vessel.
Perhaps, that is not put as clearly as it could be? To sum it up: broken vessels show more light. God can use our mistakes for His glory- if we let Him.
That is my theory. I am a broken vessel. When I share my mistakes with others, I've learned that they are more willing to open up and hear what I have to say about God. I will not be perfect on this earth- there are more mistakes in my future- I know it! But I praise God that He has found a use for me on this earth, and the fact that I'm still alive means my work is not completed.
"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil 1:6b

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Garage Doors: Endangered Species

Perhaps you've seen a garage door before? They seem fairly common these days, but don't be fooled! Garage doors have become an endangered species. Their mortal enemy? The teenage driver.

Teenagers seem to do their level best to kill at least one and earn the special dents and glory that come from such dangerous and often fatal* rendezvous. Who can blame them? There's a certain thrill to be gained when you smash into a garage door. When you observe the amazing level of havoc you've just created- doubtless a sense of something will prick you. Be it pride or shame.

I received a text message this week from my little sister along the lines of: "Just rammed into the garage door. It is no more." Naturally, I got home as quickly as I could because when you've just killed a garage door, you need moral support. I happen to know this for a fact...

You see, when I was 15 and still learning how to drive, I too killed a garage door. But my damage was much worse than my sister's. She only ruined the garage door...a simple, cheap aluminum model. My murder...well, it wasn't pretty.

It was a beautiful day in Nebraska...I couldn't tell you what season it was- I only know it wasn't winter. My Dad had me driving around the neighborhood- getting in those hours of practice. He was a very patient and thorough instructor. I had been forced into the whole "driving thing." I couldn't care less about it, but my parents wanted to have a 3rd driver available in case of emergencies. I probably would have delayed the process as long as possible, but I was told I couldn't go on the choir trip if I didn't pass my driver's permit test. So I got an A on the test. No way was I missing that choir trip after practicing for months! Now, several weeks-maybe even months- later I was feeling pretty good about this whole driving thing.Two pedals, one steering wheel, a seat belt- like driving a Go Kart.

I was comfortable with driving. It wasn't my favorite thing- but I could do it. It was still early in the evening and there were a couple more hours of daylight. Dad had finally agreed that the lesson was over and we could go home. Excited, I turned towards home. As we passed the neighbor's house I noticed one of the boys out playing basketball. I waved and again, focused on driving.**

As I pulled up into the driveway, my Dad thought that I was going a bit fast and the next word I heard was "STOP!" My brain responded immediately and I jammed on the brake pedal...only it wasn't the brake pedal...

We plowed into the side of the house, crushing the ugly squash-colored vinyl siding, splintering the white trim, and bending in the track of the garage door. The only thing that stopped us? The bumper of our family suburban which was parked in the garage...of course, we dented that and it moved forward a foot or so (leaving inches between it's front bumper and our dining room wall!)

Mortified, because I had just had my first accident and in major shock; I can't tell you how my Dad was feeling, thinking or acting. I only know that we suddenly had a tiny crowd of neighbors- and of course my family- who was curious about the loud banging that had occurred.

After several minutes- and once my Dad had finished a quick assessment of the damage- I was told it was ok. I could get out of the car. Shakily, I climbed out to be met with stares- mostly of sympathy.

"You know, Dear," my next door neighbor's grandmother told me, "I had my first accident when I was about your age..." and here I was introduced to a new topic of conversation. I had just earned my "badge" and right to speak about accidents with knowledge- and no human being had been injured. A few more neighbors shared their stories with me too over the course of the next month or so and I gradually began to feel as if I might drive again...someday.

We left the dent in the suburban. Used that suburban to pull the house back into place (apparently, I knocked it off the foundation an inch or so...). Replaced the truck's front bumper. Had to go to a special shop to find the weird pattern of vinyl from military housing to match the pieces I had crushed. Never were able to match the ugly squash color...which, combined with the dent in the suburban were solid reminders of the dangers of driving. And lastly, my Dad somehow bent that metal garage door track back into place- the door itself was solid particle would have cost a LOT to replace it. Thankfully, it had been open.

So you see, I know all about garage door murder.*** It happens. Especially when there are teens around.

*Fatal to the garage- not the teen- depending on the teen's parents...

** My Dad likes to say that I was paying special attention to this boy- ridiculous nonsense. His older brother was much more interesting- and neither was as interesting as another guy I had my eye on at the time. There was NO distraction from driving that can be credited to the neighbor boy, ok? Just so we're clear...boy=no distration.

***I suppose mine was more of a "house murder"...It was pretty awful. But I learned a lot about house repair...and how to replace a bumper on a truck, so if you have questions...:)