Wednesday, July 27, 2011


When my children were little, time was not my friend. The clock was always ticking in my head, sometimes a whisper but other times a bomb, and I was aware of its control over my days. The early morning alarms for school and work, interrupting LaurenChristiCarlisleMichelleCharlotte deep in slumber to eatbreakfastgetdressedbrushteethgetbackpackcatchbus, or the tick-tock whiplash of rushing to doctordentist or even Bible study. I remember once admonishing my friends for being late to Protestant Women of the Chapel. Who in the hell did I think I was?

Time was a control freak and a thief. Time whipped me about, fraying my nerves and eating my peace. One of the things I loved about breastfeeding was the way we rose in the middle of the night, oblivious to time because I was so tired, but grateful for the stolen moments given to us when the rest of the house slept. It was our time to get to know each other, and I treasured it.

Even birthday parties were driven by time--Christi running to the door to greet her friends hit her head on the door frame and suffered a concussion. Only 4 years old, but I was teaching her to hurry. Time beat me up when I was a young mother. Time was relentless and unstoppable, consuming daysweeksmonthsyears and I was at a loss to figure out where it went.

I remember the painful agonizing passage of time, waiting for teenagers to come in the door, meeting or not meeting curfew, and the welcome or angry arms that greeted them. Time represented benchmarks-- kindergarten, middle school, high school, college.

Time screamed at me when Bo died, the past and the future wailing.

But today time has a different place. It is a gift, a treasure. I have this moment I am in right now, the moments in front of me. What will I do with this moment? How will it count? Will I waste time or squander it? Will I notice it? Will I make it matter- this moment? This gift?

I have choices...time is mine and I am His.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Christi and Ryan planned a trip to Vegas so she could attend her Uppercase Living convention, so I volunteered to watch the kids. Pretty nice of me, huh? Here's the thing...right when we think we're being the nice guy, we find out that the tables are completely turned on their heads. I arrived Monday afternoon, and Christi gave me the schedule for the week. I've raised 5 children, I kind of know how to do this. But homemaking as a grandma is quite different from homemaking as a momma, because you have to do things the way momma does them. That's what makes kids feel secure when their little world changes. I'm proud of Christi as a momma, and it was such a blessing to experience the great parenting she and Ryan have done for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 10 years.

I prayed for safety first and foremost, because I sure didn't want anything to happen to these children on my watch (or any other watch). God was so merciful...He protected us in all ways.

Then I prayed that Christi and Ryan could relax, trusting that all was well at home so they could truly have some rest in spite of their busy Vegas schedule. I wanted them to have a little respite from parenthood. And I think God answered that prayer in spades.

I prayed for peace and joy and patience and kindness, and He multiplied all of these things through the course of the week. I took the girls to VBS each day, and Jackson and I had our own kind of fun. I had forgotten a little about the rituals of parenting, how you do the same things over and over every day in order to create stability and security. If I deviated from the routine, the kids were sure to tell me. On the other hand, we were partners in crime a few times, doing things "momma doesn't allow." Jigsaw puzzles, baby dolls, guitar recitals, puppet shows, arts and crafts, library visits, ice cream cones, scooters, bicycles, hula hoops, kitchen chores, laundry, bandaids, car seats, play dates, matinees...our week was full.

Michelle was with me each evening when she got off work at 9 or 10, and helped me get everyone dressed in fashionable outfits each morning before she left for school. Although Michelle doesn't have children of her own, she is completely invested in the happiness and well-being of her nieces and nephews, and that's no small commitment. My week was full, and God blessed me by giving me this awesome opportunity to "grandma" my grandkids throughout the week.

I get to see Carlisle's family in just a few days, so I will get to "grandma" the twins some more as well! It's so hard to live so far away from Shayleigh and Carlisle. But, I won't lie, it was a relief to see Christi and Ryan come home, so I could hand off all the responsibility.

I think I remember it was Charles Dickens who said, "Children are a heritage of the Lord, and it is not a slight thing when those who are so fresh from God love us." I got to experience that love all week long, and I am so grateful for the opportunity...wouldn't have missed it for the world.

When they wrapped their little arms around me as we kissed good night, it reminded me all over again of my own children, and how I loved that time of day. The sweet, clean smell of their bathtub-fresh skin, the tenderness of their bedtime whispers, the stubborn refusal to call it quits for the day, the time-tested bed time stories, the gentle surrender to sleep. Memories of my children and my grandchildren blend together, and I am happy, truly happy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Black Man

It's kind of a funny story. I told my girls a couple of years ago that I really missed having a warm body in bed next to me (now that the dog was gone) and I wished they would invent a pillow that had a kind of man shape. And wouldn't it be nice if they went ahead and had it look like Robert Redford or Tom Cruise? Well, little did I know Lauren stored that idea in her memory banks, and I got quite a surprise on Christmas morning. When it was my turn to open a gift, out comes a large, life-sized "man-shaped" pillow. He was quite a handsome fellow, but Lauren explained that Wal-Mart was out of flesh-colored felt, so he was actually a dark brown man, dressed in snazzy navy blue moose pajamas. He had some extra flashy features, like a thick bush of chest hair she'd sewn on using fabric from the fur department, and he actually had quite a piece of equipment down below if you know what I mean. She explained the meaning of the words "happy trail" and showed me how she'd gone to the trouble to provide this endowment. Well, needless to say I was quite shocked. I don't know if it was the anatomical correctness of the man or his sheer size, but I was a bit afraid of him, to tell you the truth. So, I had a little trip to take to Florida to visit Carlisle and his family, and I left from Christi's house instead of going back to my house with all my Christmas gifts. I decided to park "the Dude" as we affectionately called him, on Christi's elliptical bike in her bedroom, until I returned. I guess he kind of freaked Christi out on that bike, so she told me in no uncertain terms that I was to pick up the dude on my way back from Florida and take him to my house. In the meantime, she stuffed him under Avery's bed. Well, I guess I came back from Florida, life got busy, and I forgot to pick up the dude. Christi called me a few weeks later, explaining a scary scenario. Avery had a little friend spend the night, and during the slumber party, somehow the dude under the bed got jostled, and Avery's friend called her momma, screaming that there was a black man under Avery's bed and she wanted her mom to pick her up in the middle of the night. Christi was able to reassure the mom that there was no black man under the bed, only a large pillow of a black man, and then called me screaming that I better pick up the dude or he was going to the dumpster. Well, I've been raised with pretty good manners, I knew I couldn't throw my Christmas gift in the dumpster, so I told her I would pick him up. The next time I was in Houston, Christi stuffed the dude in the back of my truck. I have a cover on the truck bed, so he would remain unseen in the back, although I did offer to loan him to Ryan so he could commute in the HOV lane with his passenger. Ryan declined my kind offer. So, the dude rode back home to Fort Hood with me, hidden away in the back of the truck. Life got busy again, and because he was out of sight, he was out of mind. Forgot all about the dude in the back of the truck. Until I was driving through College Station a few weeks later and had a blow-out on the highway. I was sitting on the side of the the road, waiting for USAA to send a roadside assistance driver to help me change the tire. A nice driver came to rescue me, and we prepared to get the front tire changed. It was on the driver's side, and there was a lot of traffic, so I was not going to attempt to do it myself. As we got the jack, etc, set up, a nice Highway Patrol officer pulls up on the frontage road, and walks across the grass to see if we need any help. He was a nice looking African American, tall and brawny, and had that cool Stetson. He told the roadside assistance man that he would get the damaged tire stored out of the way, so he began to roll the bad tire to the back of the truck. Omg. I forgot about the dude back there. Right as he opened the tailgate, I began to try to explain. Officer, please understand, I got this Christmas gift from my daughter, etc, etc....and it just went downhill from there as he looked at the dude, looked at me, and then stored the tire in the bed of the truck. If looks could kill. Then he said, "Uh, ma'am, can I see your driver's license?" Now who needs a driver's license for a flat tire? Omg.omg. He takes my license, goes back across the ditch to his vehicle, and gets onto his computer. Luckily I had no outstanding warrants, parking tickets, etc, so he returns to my vehicle, gives me my license without a word, and ignored my repeated thank you's for his roadside assistance. I drove under 50 mph back to Killeen, praying the spare would not fail me. Well, lucky for me the tire place man did not seem to notice the dude when he pulled my blown tire out of the bed of the truck and replaced it with a new tire, and I got home safely. I had an early morning meeting the next day with a bunch of my librarian friends, and told them my story. Like most librarians, they are all about research, so they really wanted to see the dude to appreciate whether or not he was truly anatomically correct. So there we were in the front parking lot of Peebles Elementary, a bunch of librarians, checking out the dude's happy trail. They were quite impressed, but we all had to run inside before we peed in our pants from the laughter. So, the dude remained in the bed of the truck, and I pondered how to tell Lauren that I'd decided I had to get rid of the dude. Well, I was driving to work a couple of weeks later, and I work at Fort Hood, where we have to drive through a security gate and checkpoint to enter the post. Each day, a nice security guard checks your identification card, gives you a friendly greeting, and you go your merry way. But every once in a while, they do random security inspections of your vehicle, just to keep the post safe and sound from terrorists, thugs, etc. Well, the gate guard surprised me one day by telling me I'd been selected for a random security screening. I was running a little late, and thought, darn, I'm going to be late, but I pulled over into the little overhang to get checked when I realized I still had the dude in the back of my truck. Now what? He was going to scare them to death, and I really respect the job those gate guards do every day. So, I got ready to get out of my truck to explain it to them. They said I was to open the hood of my truck, the back gate, all doors and the glove compartment. When I got to the back of the truck, I said, "Guys, you're not going to believe this..." and it went downhill from there. They gave my vehicle a thorough search, laid the dude on the ground and did a full body search, then held him up in the air for the world to see before they stuffed him back where he came from. I was so humiliated. Got to work late, explained my tardiness to my coworkers, and naturally they all needed to see the dude to appreciate the seriousness of my situation. I decided the dude had to go. That night when I got home, under cover of darkness, I took the dude out of the back of my truck and stuffed him in the garage. There he sits, in between the boxes of old books and pots and pans, standing guard over the house and all its' contents. If ever a burglar ventures in, I'm pretty sure the dude will scare them to death. He's large and menacing in his moose pajamas, and he makes a really good watch dude. Lauren doesn't understand why on earth I don't sleep with him, but I've told her I sleep like a baby knowing he's out there. Someday I'll part with him for good, but in the meantime, he gives me a good chuckle, and you never know when you might need a tall black man to come to your aid. Happy trails!

Saturday, July 2, 2011


We are sitting in Lauren's backyard about midnight, looking out over about 100 acres, the sky navy blue and studded with stars. And we are talking about life, but it strikes me that we are really talking about whittling. A woodcarver starts with a chunk of wood and a vision. There have been lots of events in her life and in mine that have pared us down, made us sharper and brought focus and uniqueness to bear in making us who we are. A lot of that has involved hard work, and some of it has even been painful. But the journey's in the process, not the finished product. And I think that's where God calls to us, in his age-old whisper...He calls us to recognize the path. The twists and turns are His way of honing us and creating us in His image. I was wondering if God has anything to say about woodcarving, and He does! In Exodus 35:30, he tells us that His spirit brings us wisdom, understanding, and ability in every kind of craft, to include carving wood. Wisdom has been a study I've worked on for some time, and Lauren shared with me some insights from her childhood that gave her wisdom beyond her years. Perhaps more than any other gift she's shown me since we celebrated her birth 32 years ago has been her uncanny understanding that exceeds her age. At birth, she understood my need for her and her need for me...when she entered school, she understood the need to succeed...when she welcomed each younger sibling into the family, she understood the added responsibility of being the oldest. Today she understands how to let go of the past and live in the present. She's teaching me how to do that as well. She has the woodcarver's vision; she's able to see beneath the rustic exterior of a chunk of wood what it is capable of becoming...she can see the wood's future...and it's something I love about who she is. What a gift it is to give someone understanding, and what a present it is to be understood. We sit in the silence of the time just past midnight, and listen to the far-off cries of coyotes and their pups. In the distance, you can hear the lazy yawns of cattle as they settle into the grass, hay ready to be cut. There is a light breeze, and it scoots a few leaves around our feet. We laugh at her lab, crunching on beetles and pecans he's discovered in the yard. A star shoots across the sky and I whisper my simple wish for my firstborn...happy birthday.