Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Greatest Christmas Gift I've Ever Received...

There have been many a great gift over the years that I have loved, but there is one gift in particular that stands out in my mind, because of who gave it to me, and its intrinsic worth. My sister, who early in her marriage and during many a lean year, didn't have loads of money to spend on gifts.  We've all been there.  Not a fun thing, but those times bring out the very best in people.

We arrived during one such holiday, many years ago, at our mother's house on Christmas Eve.  We patiently took turns filing through the kitchen, filling our paper plates to overflowing with delicious food and then gathered in Mom's living room to let overzealous children trip over one another while passing out presents.  Isn't that the way it's done everywhere?

That one particular year I was presented with a rather large present that was unusually heavy for its size.  As I opened it I wondered, “Was it bricks?  I'd never been given a brick before.”  Not your everyday gift, but I'm sure it had a purpose.  Well, as it turns out, it wasn't bricks.  Nope, not a one.  Instead, I found inside a well-seasoned, cast iron frying pan.  Not just any frying pan, it was my sister's frying pan.  Anyone who owns cast iron knows its value.  It's the pan of choice for many a Southerner, heck, many a anybody who likes to cook.  Cast Iron often makes "heirloom" status because it's one of the sturdiest cooking utensils around.  How often have you seen a broken cast iron pan?

I stared at it, with its beautiful shiny, dark patina.  It really hit home what I was being given.  I think I tried giving it back, insisting I couldn't take her pan.  In the end, I did keep it.  I still have and use it, frequently.  It's just as shiny and seasoned as the day she gave it to me.  The only thing that has changed is that it means more and more to me as the years go by.  Thanks, Lisa, for giving to me something so precious.  I love you. ~Gail

THE greatest gift---ever.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Car Wash Nightmare

This actually happened last month.  I posted it on my Facebook wall, to much glee and laughter, so I thought I would paste it here for all the world to see.  Bear in mind that I'm leaving it written in the frustrated and disjointed language in which it was originally written.


I went to the car wash, took a bottle of 409 with me to "pre-treat the bad spots". Got out, sprayed 409, pulled up to automated washer and inserted my card, "declined", tried again, "declined", pulled out another card, "declined", tried several more times, still the same. 409 is drying. Stupid broken card-reader. I look, machine only accepts $10, $5 or $1 bills. I have a $20. I pull into self-wash bay (have $2 in quarters in dash), machine says it takes minimum of $1.75 in quarters...&^$! The thing takes all my quarters before it starts. I soap up car well. Still soaping when it starts beeping for more money. I have no more quarters. I rush to switch to rinse, takes forever to get soap out of nozzle and rinse water going. Machine cuts off with most of car still soapy. Really getting ticked. Go next door to gas station, will use their automated washer. Pull up, it tells me to remove my antennae, push in mirrors, I do that. Go to insert card, it doesn't even take one.  I pull out the $20, it doesn't take $20's. I go into store to get change (soap is drying on car), stand in a LINE!!..., get to register, ask for change for car wash. They tell me it only accepts $1's, even though it says otherwise.  After Dinosaur-Era lady finishes slowly counting change, I run out, pull car into wash and begin feeding in takes $7 for an express wash. WHAT? HIGHWAY ROBBERY! It starts spitting out my $1's. They aren't "new" enough. Grrr. Finally manage to get them all in. Pull in. It makes two passes of the car, dimly misting it as a "rinse" so the soap isn't really good and off, esp. since it was drying on there before I started. Pull back over to world's lamest car wash next door, into a bay with a 7-watt nightlight (it's dark now), run to the change machine, feed it two bucks for some change, get into the bay and rinse. Get back in van. Will go to the CashPoints machine to get money out to repay Kait for the $20 I found in her wallet in the van. Pull up, waiting my turn. Sitting under a tree. Notice the loud sound of birds, realize there are 10 million+ black birds sitting in tree I'm parked under. Start seeing poop fall everywhere on car, quickly move, wait to get $ out and then rush home where I grab the water hose to wash off the new bird poo. We've got a water balloon nozzle on the end of the hose, it will give enough pressure to clean off car (again). I spray it, and in finishing, I toss it aside. It starts spraying me. "I'll just walk through it", I think. But the &^%$@!#! thing seems to be following me and sprays me soaking wet before I can cut it off.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Overlooking the Obvious...a Lesson in Slowing Down

Sometimes we all do something that is embarrassingly foolish.  Yesterday it happened to me and I've debated admitting to it online for the past 24 hours.  It's not something I'm proud of, but in hindsight, it paints a rather funny picture.

In a hurry to deliver cupcakes, of all things, I carefully loaded them into the van taking great care to place them in the floorboard.  I feared had I not, they would slide off the seat while driving and end up a confectionery mess.  At the same time, I was shooing Cullen into the car, telling him we needed to hurry because I also had to be at a school in another town to pick up his sister by a certain time.  He was jumping into the van as I was rushing around to get in.  Hopping into the driver’s seat, I started the car while simultaneously buckling up.  Throwing the van into reverse, I hit the gas---without looking.  That's when I heard a loud *CRASH* and the van jerked to a stop.

What the heck?  I hit the brakes.

That's when I remembered.  My older son had parked our truck behind the van.  I flung the car into park and glanced into my side view mirror fearing the worse.  It was bad enough I'd hit the truck.  Please don't roll.  Please, please don't roll.

It began moving.

We live on a hill.  I watched in horror as the truck began rolling down the driveway.  I jumped from the van and began chasing it down the drive.  I began to pray as I scanned the street both ways for people and vehicles.  Thank Heaven it was clear.  I look back now and wonder why I would chase it, because even if I could catch it, what would I do if I did?

It rolled as jauntily as any non-steered, out-of-control pickup truck would roll.  I imagined a cartoon face on the front of it smiling maniacally at me while yelling, "I'M FREE AT LAST!"  It narrowly missed taking out one of the dogwoods flanking the driveway and even more blessed, it avoided falling off the side of our drive and into our deep ditch.  By miracle of angels, it avoided hitting both our mailbox and the neighbor’s across the street.  It came to a roiling and bouncing halt across the street, in the neighbor’s front yard.  The front end of the truck rested at an awkward angle in their ditch with the tail pointing toward their house.

Arriving at the scene, I was desperate to get the truck out of the neighbors yard and parked somewhere other than behind the van.  Silently praying that no one had witnessed this debacle, I was opening the driver’s side door of the truck when a wide-eyed and shocked Cullen, who stood beside the van, a hundred or so feet away, yelled to me, "Permission to say 'SHIT'?" 

Disbelieving my ears I yelled, "What did you say?"

Cupping his hands he yelled even louder, "I said permission to say 'SHIT'?"

I stood there, dumbfounded and at a loss, trying to process it all, wondering how on earth this could have happened.  Lowering my shaking head I pondered, what the heck, just…just let it go.

"SURE, why not!"  I yelled back.

He did…very loudly and quite clearly.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What is a "Goldilocks Day?"

Goldilocks Day...A Gift from God

An Autumn Goldilocks Day!
What is a Goldilocks Day?  It's a perfect day, which I realize is subjective, but to me a Goldilocks day is one where the sun is shining, there isn't a cloud in the sky, and the sky is an intense blue that looks like a page from a travel magazine.  Oh, and we can't discount the temperature either, they're literally Goldilocks temps, "not too hot and not too cold, they're just right."  So, Goldilocks Days are literally a gift from God.  I have tried explaining to my children that in each lifetime, God gives us a finite number of Goldilocks Days, designed for being outside, playing and enjoying non-singular activities such as video games and watching television.  So, since today is a Goldilocks Day, I'm going to end this post now and head to the great outdoors.  Wouldn't it be the icing on the cake if I saw a family of bears out there!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Cat

Years ago when my husband and I were first married and before we had children, we lived in a beautiful 100 year-old farmhouse in Sanford, NC.  We rented the home from Rosemary and Randy McLeod.  Rosemary's parents, John and Margaret Dalrymple lived on the farm as well and they all became some of our greatest friends.  The farm was the homestead that had been in the family since the Dalrymples had arrived in Lee County.  The farmhouse stands sentinel on the 140-acre working tobacco farm, surrounded by a bower of pecan trees.

While we were living there someone dumped a cat out by the road.  I'm told folks will do that.  Choose to dump an animal near a farm because they know farmers are partial to Gods creatures and are more likely to give it a home.

The feline was female.  A very old, skinny tabby cat missing most of its teeth; David inadvertently petted it and said "Hey there, Tiger".  Big mistake, once you name it you have certain ownership rights.  The cat was sweet and obviously grateful to be given some attention.  It hung around the farm and we eventually ended up feeding it (this cemented the relationship).

Within no time at all Tiger became a fixture around the farm.  Always friendly, a good mouser that earned her keep...she even hung out on occasion with some of the feral cats that lived in the grain barn across the road.  One cold day she crept from beneath Granny Margaret's garden shed followed by a small gray kitten.  We looked to see if she'd had more but apparently it was a small litter.  Who knew such an old cat could have kittens?  We did the right thing and found a home for the kitten, getting the assurance of the new owner that they would have it spayed when the time came.  We'd planned on getting Tiger spayed as well.  Since she was able to reproduce there was no sense letting her single-handily over-populate the region of the county where we lived.

Well, we missed the cutoff date.  Before we knew it Tiger appeared as swayback as an old horse.  She hung low as she dragged her swollen body around the farm.  Granny Margaret's dog named Splash, an Australian Shepherd, loved to chase Tiger and soon it became clear that Tiger needed somewhere safe to have her new litter.  That cat was super smart.  She used her paws, head and eventually even her swollen belly to open up a small hole on the top half of the old screen door on our back porch.  When the dog chased her she would run, jump and use her claws to climb the screen door and force her way inside where the dog couldn't reach her.  It always ticked the dog off and I've gotta admit Tiger looked a bit smug each time she got away.

One day as I passed through the hallway near the back door I heard a soft mewing noise.  Recognizing it as a potential "kitten" sound I opened the back door to find a newly born, still slightly bloody kitten lying on the back porch, just inside the screen door.  Looking to my left I saw a red trail leading away to a second very "newly born" kitten.  The remainder of the trail led me to the clothes hamper sitting in the corner...where Tiger had managed to climb in and was still in the middle of labor.  Eyes are truly a window to the soul, I'll never forget the way she looked at me when I placed the two kittens from the floor into the hamper with her.  Either she was good at showing gratitude or she was somehow psychic because I knew what she was thinking.  "Thank you...oh, thank you...I had no idea how I was gonna get out and get them in here with me".  She immediately began cleaning the two kittens and within a short time, she had a litter of 7 or 8 little ones.

As the days and weeks went by the kittens grew and eventually made it out of the clothes hamper.  As a side note, we discarded the clothes.

One day while I was walking through the back hall I looked out the glass of the back door and witnessed Tiger laying on the porch, nursing several of her now mobile kittens and being attacked and used as a launching pad by the others.  I watched as she stood up and began walking away all the while dragging half her still-suckling brood as she went.  She leaped onto the door and using her getaway hole she exited.  The kittens stood mewing and a few tried to follow but quickly fell off the door.

I was horror struck.  What a terrible mother!  I couldn't believe she could do such a thing.  To just up and leave like that was appalling to me.  The feelings I had were much more powerful than they should have been...but I recognized them and the heaviness of the moment stuck with me.

Years later I look back on that day and now I see it differently.  She knew she needed time away from those kittens, and she knew they wouldn't just sit back and offer to let her go.  To be a better mother she knew she needed time for herself.  By getting up and leaving, all the while knowing her kittens were fed and safely enclosed in the porch, she gave herself the freedom all mothers need.  As a human mother, I see where we need the same thing...and that advice, when asked for, is what I readily give to all new mothers.

Now I think back and can only smile.  That was the smartest cat I've ever seen.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Never Discount The Humble Prayer

This morning while standing at the bus stop with my youngest son, I asked him if he would like to say a good morning prayer-that's what we've always called our morning prayers...'Good Morning Prayers' because of the faith it takes to believe that it will be a good morning if God wills it and it is a good morning because God let us see it to begin with.  Anyhow, he began his prayer in true six year old fashion by saying the first thing that popped into his head.  This morning it was prayers that he and every other kid in our neighborhood-he even named them one by one-would get on the bus safely.  I peeked at him during this solemn exchange and noticed his eyes darting along the road, the sky, the horizon.  I thought about mentioning to him to keep his eyes closed but I noticed that he never faltered in his prayer.  Then I began thinking about suggesting things for him to pray about but chose against it.  To pray, in my humble wisdom, is to have a conversation with God.  It's an opportunity to thank him for a multitude of things, to ask for a few particulars-usually those things troubling me most and lastly it is to hope that in those words, whatever should happen-is HIS will.

Cullen finished his recitation of the names of the kids in our neighborhood-he even referenced "...and that boy that lives across the street from Elizabeth and Ashley."  He signed off his prayer with a "in Jesus name we pray, Amen."  When he did this I knew he was praying just fine for a six year old.  As far as I can see it, he's got the mechanics of praying down just fine.  He knows WHO he's praying to, he knows WHAT he's praying for and he SIGNS OFF his prayer demonstrating his faith-" Jesus name".

Just after finishing his good morning prayer a gust of wind blew by.  He looked up at me, demonstrating with his hands as he spoke, "you know...that wind is gonna take my note up to God...".  I nodded my head in unspoken agreement as he continued, " takes good morning prayers and nighttime prayers to God in notes."  I thought about this and silently conceded to myself that it was a mighty fine way of thinking about the whole thing.  It also made me realize that the gust of wind this morning was fairly strong, so it must be carrying quite a few heavy notes to God.

Cullen's humble little note will reach God-I'm certain of it.  Along with a multitude of more elaborate and poetically crafted prayers.  But God, I'm sure when he opens it, will see the humbleness of his prayer and he'll see that the words in it came directly from his heart and his faith.  I hope it makes God smile-I know it did me.  I also know that I'll never stand in the wind or feel a gentle breeze and think of it as simply being just wind, ever again.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

When Things Aren't Quite Right...

Some days seem to go by with me hitting a bump in the road now and again...nothing too much out of the ordinary, but other days aren't so good.  Those leave me with an icky feeling.  Instead of hitting the bumps in the road I'm more or less wading through the ditch along side it.  The ditch is full of dark brackish water and mud, trash from passing motorists, brambles, rotting leaves and probably creepy things like snakes.  In that ditch is everything that you can see from your car window, but usually overlook when your gaze travels on to seek prettier scenery.  But when you're in that ditch you can't exactly look over all that stuff...or try and pretend it doesn't make you feel the way it does.  Because when you get mired down in all of life's difficult times, you feel like you're gonna be sinking in that ditch forever and you're just waiting on something to bite you.

When I'm standing in the ditch it gives me a strange foreign feeling in the pit of my stomach.  It's a worrying ache that gnaws at me.  The gnawing makes me feel as though I don't fit so well in my own skin.  I also experience jitters-like the kind you get when you get jacked up on too much caffeine and sugar and you can't stop shaking.  Then, for some darn reason I end up getting all reflective and self-absorbed.  I question everything that has ever happened in my life and everything that might happen in the rest of it.  In some ways I guess I get all hypochondriatic (is that even a word?).  I wonder and worry about every pain or passing feeling and I try to read into each one much more.  What if something is really wrong?  What should I do?  Oh crap-this feeling really stinks.  When is that snake gonna strike?

I remember feeling this way when I was younger and trying to explain it to my Mom.  I think this is probably the same thing that happens when my own daughter comes to me and says, "Mom, I feel weird".   As a parent I feel sort of helpless as I try to reassure her that it's perfectly normal to feel weird now and again.  Feeling weird is yet one more part of life.  But I can secretly admit that the feeling is hard to ignore.

When I was younger I would do my best to take on the weight of the world.  I remember my Mom trying to reassure me that everything was going to be alright.  I would work myself up into quite a frenzy and before I knew it, the frenzy would win.  Can you say 'Panic Attack'?  Not a good feeling.  But Mom was there to remind me that even when things are feeling weird and we feel out of sorts, we need to remind ourselves that we aren't really the ones in charge.  She reminded me that what's going to happen, is going to happen.  That we should trust in God and that he knows what is right for us-even if we're clueless.  Mom suggested I recite bible verses and so that's what I did.  John 3:16 and other ones that we were taught at Sunday school.  And each night when I fought back a panic attack, I'd arm myself with one of those verses and use it as a shield.  I took comfort in those verses then and now.  I let the feelings brought on by those verses permeate me.  Flood me and fill me with a peace like none other.  True, those verses don't really get to the root of the problem, but they empower me with courage-both then and now.

So the next time you find yourself standing in that ditch, trembling, alone, afraid and close to tears, just remember that there can be no courage without fear.  And that someone much greater than us is gonna handle it all anyway.  Look around you, find a loved one and get a hug.  Hold someones hand, sing a little hymn and let that peaceful feeling fill you.  Pretty soon you'll be back in the car and you won't see the stuff in the ditch so much.  And that's when you can look at all that pretty scenery and enjoy your life again.