Sunday, December 28, 2008

Belated Gifts

After several attempts, we managed to link up with Steffen this afternoon. He had persisted about calling Walker trying to make a date to go to a movie and exchange gifts. Walker was not feeling particularly generous this year and had only bought Steffen one of those musical cards. I added a gift card for movies and a little cash to it.

Steffen had bought Walker two movies from his limited income, but Walker was a bit less than gracious about them. They weren’t on his wish list. Of course this became a teaching opportunity on how to show appreciation on the way home.

As I drove them to the movie I asked Steffen about his family and found out that he had had no contact from his mother since about a week before Christmas, and that his sister “ran out of time and didn’t make it” to see him either. I believe he spent Christmas alone and didn’t get a gift from either. “It’s okay, ‘cause I have enough money to buy little things anyway,” he explained to me.

After the movie we talked a bit more about Christmas and he pointed out that a couple of years ago his mother had taught him to be grateful he had a roof over his head. He had remembered that comment this year when he was tempted to feel sorry for himself. One of his friends was having trouble finding a place to live because she’s schizophrenic and at least he had a roof over his head.

I wish I had gotten Steffan a real gift and made sure he had it on Christmas Day. It probably would have meant more to me than to him, and it wouldn’t have made his mother’s ignoring him hurt any less, but I would have felt less guilty when I heard his story. I’m glad I made the effort to take him to a movie and plan to do it more often this year.

I’m going to be glad I have a roof over my head next time I’m feeling sorry for myself too.


Friday, December 26, 2008

The Day After Gift

Christmas, like no other holiday sets up up for so much joy, or for so much room to be disappointed. There are almost always high points and low points, hopefully more of the former than the latter. This one was no exception.

Walker has generally been the easiest of my children to shop for. His list was ever expanding and negotiable, and with few exceptions, I could buy a huge pile of plastic stuff half price on Christmas Eve and he always seemed happy with whatever Santa brought. Except this year.

Walker's journey down memory lane into his childhood has had me searching on Ebay for toys that I probably threw away or sold for fifty cents in a garage sale many years ago. The only affordable “collectible” I could find in what seemed like mint condition for a toy from 1984 was a Ghostbusters Ghost Zapper. It is essentially like a flashlight with a disc that projects pictures of six ghosts on the wall of a darkened room.

When the Ghost Zapper arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at the good condition of the original box, essential to the quadruple value I had paid for the thing. The ad on Ebay had made no mention of any parts missing. You Ebay buyers and sellers out there probably know that the description of the item is a serious thing. You have to read every word, check the ratings of the seller, etc. Sellers generally describe every possible defect to avoid returns or the ever dreaded negative rating.

Walker opened his package on Christmas Eve, and was initially delighted. But a minute later, he said, “Didn’t it come with stickers?” As per the first item in the instructions, he was looking for the Ghostbusters logo decals to apply them. We looked through all the packaging materials, and indeed there were no stickers. “It’ll be okay,” he assured me. He hates to see his mama upset about anything as much as any kid I’ve ever seen. We moved on to other gifts, but the Ghostblaster was his main gift, and was ever so slightly tainted.

I wrote to the seller, who offered a small refund, which I refused and let him have a lesson on how to write a description. He offered a mild apology, but there was no way to make it right, or so I thought.

This morning, Walker proudly showed his new toy to his speech therapist, carefully enunciating “Ghostbusters” with his recently acquired “r” sound, and as I darkened the room, he demonstrated for us how it worked.

That was when I noticed that the toy now had stickers on the side and commented. A closer look revealed that they were scotch taped on. “Where did you get those,” I questioned, surprised and kind of pleased. At least I was until he told me had cut the box up to get the symbols. I guess it is okay. He’s happy, which was the whole point of the gift, and I’m not likely to auction his toy off anytime soon, but damn I wish I’d bought one without the box, but with the stickers for half the price.

I’m thankful for my inventive little guy who found a way to make his gift all that he dreamed it would be. I hope I always remember that happiness is what you make it.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seven Pounds of Giving

In spite of the fact that Sarah Jane had discouraged our doing so, Walker and I took a small group of close friends to see the movie Seven Pounds Friday night, mainly because she has one small but nicely done scene in it.

We all liked the movie just fine, although some of us found the story line a bit confusing and sometimes tedious, and all of us wished we had seen more of Sarah.

What I keep thinking about, though, is the Will Smith character, Ben, and the message he conveyed to the audience about organ donation.

My whole family is strongly in favor of increasing organ donation, especially after going through a living donation from my son-in-law, John, that saved our oldest grandson’s life. (For more about this go to my July and August posts.)

Having Will Smith make a movie about the good that can be done, especially among minority populations, by becoming an organ donor is like having a two hour public service announcement on the subject. The only difference is that we paid eight bucks for our seats instead of getting it for free on late night weekend television.

Some of the issues raised during his decision making process bothered me though. This movie had too much of one man playing God to suit me. Ben, who was obviously suicidal from the early scenes forward, carefully interviewed his prospective recipients and if they weren’t “good” people, he rejected them. Kind of like Santa, making his list and checking it twice crossing off all the naughty boys and girls.

Yes, there is a shortage of organ donors, especially for the big organs like hearts and lungs and livers that people tend to need to hang on to for their own use. It was really nice that the point was made that a living donor can donate a portion of his liver and live a healthy life.

It’s difficult for most of us to deal with the idea of a transplant list and who gets on it and when without really deciding whether they are truly going to appreciate the Gift of Life or perhaps waste it. I don’t think Ben was truly endowed with the kind of wisdom reserved only for God and the fancy computerized list that decides these things. No one man ever could be.
I hope you go see the movie and spot Sarah Jane Morris in a scene in a coffee shop with Woody Harrelson about halfway through the movie. (Don't blink or you'll miss it!) I hope you all sign your donor cards and let God do the deciding for you when the time comes.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Did You Know?

Do any of us?

I frequently check the blog of a friend who was my priest, co-worker, advisor and friend for many years. Jerry’s most recent post recalled a song that we often hear this time of year. “Mary Did You Know?” I’m not sure when it was written, but if you’d like a great rendition of it go to

No, I never knew I’d be recommending a gospel disco network, but I am. Surprise!

If you have time, stop right now and listen to it before you go any further.

I for one, know I never knew. I never knew that I’d sit in the audience with my heart thumping when the strains of the Overture to The Nutcaracker started waiting on my daughter to star as Clara. I never knew I’d be priviledged to witness my first grandchild’s birth and my daddy’s last breath in the same year. Both were miraculous experiences. I never imagined being the mother of three wonderful daughters and one very special son. I never knew the joy or the heartache that would be involved in each at one time or another.

For those of us who have endured God’s surprises in our lives, sometimes happily, sometimes with deep grief, we have discovered that we can really never know. We never know what’s coming next or in what order or time frame. I’ll admit, that’s a real frustration for those of us who really don’t like thrill rides or surprises, but it’s just the way things are.

I’ve known parents whose children were diagnosed with mental illness in their teens, parents of newborns with various disabilities, including some that were heart wrenchingly fatal. I’ve sat in the ICU with a mother whose boyfriend caused permanent brain damage to her toddler. I’ve commiserated with relatives about their typical children’s grades and social problems. I’ve also known parents of absolute super stars in one field or another, and they never knew what to expect next either. What they all eventually discovered was that somewhere within them was the strength to make it through whatever happens with the help of their friends and family and faith.

Some days I wish I didn’t know quite so much. I’m hoping that I’ll someday learn to like surprises and thrill rides more, because I know the next turn is just ahead and it can be exciting.


To read Jerry Harber’s blog go to

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Did You Know?

I frequently check the blog of Jerry Harber, a friend who was my pastor, co-worker, and advisor for many years. He has an ability to touch me spiritually, and that has been especially true of his Advent posts. If you’d like to read them go to I assure you you’ll find something to think about.

Jerry’s most recent post recalled a song that we often hear this time of year. “Mary Did You Know?” I’m not sure when it was written, but if you’d like a great rendition of it go to

No, I never knew I’d be recommending a gospel disco network, but I am. Surprise!

This song, and Jerry’s thoughts have taken me back to Sarah Palin, (remember her!) who did know, at least as much as any of us ever do, what she was to expect before her youngest son was born. She knew, and she knew in a very public forum, and she knew that she could be a good mother to him, and I’ll bet she is. Not getting to be Vice President may have come as a surprise to her, but to her credit, she handled that with the same grace she has shown through her adjustment to being a member of that fraternity that none of us wants to join, the parents of children with special needs.

For those of us who have endured God’s surprises in our lives, sometimes happily, sometimes with deep grief, we have discovered what we really never know. We never know what’s coming next or in what order. That’s a real frustration for those of us who really don’t like thrill rides or surprises.

I’ve known parents whose children were diagnosed with mental illness in their teens, parents of newborns with various disabilities, including some that were heart wrenchingly fatal, and parents of absolute super stars in one field or another. I’ve sat in the ICU with a mother whose boyfriend caused permanent brain damage to her toddler. I’ve commiserated with relatives about their children’s grades and social problems. What they all eventually discovered was that somewhere within them was the strength to make it through whatever it was with the help of their friends and relatives and their faith in some higher power.

Some days I wish I didn’t know quite so much or knew a bit more. I’m hoping that I’m learning to like surprises and thrill rides more, because I know the next turn is just ahead. What I do know, though, is that every time one of us reaches out to another, we really do kiss the face of God. That’s just the way it works.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Real Gift

Walker III usually puts my favorite Amy Grant Christmas CD in the car player right after Thanksgiving, but he hadn’t done it this year.

When I looked for it in the drawer with my limited collection of favorite CDs, it wasn’t there. So, I got out a John Denver instead. (He’s one of my favorites too, and I had the honor of singing in a Junior High School Choral production with him in 1958 or ‘59. He got a solo. I did not.)

When Walker came down ready for work, I asked him to load the John Denver, and whether he had seen the Amy Grant. He admitted that he had taken it to his room, but offered to go get it. We were running tight on time, so I told him it was fine, not to worry, and we rode along belting out Christmas songs with John. The next day when I cranked up my car, Amy was back in business, and I’ll probably play her until Christmas Day, mainly because I can sing along with her better than John.

I offered to let Walker have Amy back, but he told me that he saw a new collection of her greatest hits at Target, and plans to buy it if it’s not too expensive when he and Theresa go out on Friday. He is finally free to spend his money on himself again now that his Christmas gifts are bought and wrapped. (Okay, I confess…I let him shop in my gift closet for a few too.)

If the CD is too expensive, I’ll probably buy it for him anyway, in appreciation for him remembering to return mine without having to be reminded. That’s one of my favorite things about him right now, not having to be reminded, and it’s the real gift he gives me most every day. He even reminds me when necessary, which seems to become an ever more important gift every day.


Monday, December 15, 2008

My Magical Moon Gift

Thursday night I got the duty of picking Walker up after work. It had been kind of rainy and really frigid for several days, but the air was crisp and clean again.

Just as I pulled out of my driveway, I noticed a sight I’ve never seen before, a halo around the moon. The neighbor across the street had just turned on her Christmas lights, and there were no apparent stars in the sky, just this amazing moon with what looked like a rainbow around it and the lights from her tree and wreaths. It was one of the loveliest vignettes ever. A beautiful gift, free for the enjoying.

At first, I thought what I was seeing had something to do with the car windshield, but as I turned south, I looked out of the driver’s side window, and it was still there. There was no traffic, so I pulled over and rolled down my window to make sure what I saw was real. It definitely was. By the time we got back home, the halo had kind of faded, but when I pointed it out to Walker he definitely saw it too. “Angelic,” he commented. It was.

Walker jumped right into a conversation of how my mother and Daddy and Walker’s parents will celebrate their birthdays in heaven this month. It seems to be really important to him to know that things he loves will be in the afterlife. I wonder if his guardian angel on e-bay will be able to find the things he wants for a reasonable price. Will she have a Pay Pal account? Will it withdraw from my account? Oh well, they’ll work it out, I’ m sure.

I sent a quick note to some of my neighbors not to miss it, called my husband to see if the same effect was being seen in Alabama, but my delight in the sight was blunted by the fact that I didn’t really have anyone else to share my excitement. Then last night John and Becket came by with their parents, and phenomena reappeared. All are nature geeks to a greater or lesser degree. They at least pretended some excitement, but probably tuned out my lecture about how the ice crystals make the moon look that way. They lingered long enough to admire before we settled down to Chrismas cookies and a little wrapping on the side. I was delighted to have someone to share and appreciate and pass on the word.

My best friend Google led me to several sites with photos of a moon halo for further information. None of them did justice to the one I saw, which showed more prism like colors on the outer edges, but here’s a link to one that’s close. Check it out.
Maybe you’ll see an angelic moon someday. I hope so.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another Gift from Jane

Okay, just chalk me up as a nut case. Blame it on recent anesthesia, but this story is absolutely true, and I can’t bear not to share it.

After I wrote about Jane’s ornaments last night, and we put the last of the ornaments and finally my favorite baby's breath on the tree, I thought I was done. I had already decided to just do as much decorating as my energy allowed this year and not to worry about putting every single thing we own out on display...there's just too much. My practical side told me that I’d only have to put away all the stuff again in a couple of weeks, so it wasn’t worth it.

This morning, I got a bonus spurt of energy and began to unload another tub that I thought just had some Christmas pillows (easy enough to toss around and be done with it), but underneath the pillows, wrapped in crumpled tissue was a layer of ornaments in flimsy cardboard dividers. As I unloaded them and tried to find a spot on the already loaded tree for a few more favorites, I found another of Jane’s ornaments.

This one was painted in 1972, carefully signed and dated on the back. It’s a little red headed angel boy. I started to put it on the tree, then…I just couldn’t. I think, cross my fingers, that I managed to scan it so I can include it on my blog. (That picture is the actual ornament, not clip art!) Then I hung it from the cabinet knob above my desk.

I’m going to share it with you and ask each of you to stop and say a prayer for Geoffrey, another red headed angel, his parents and grandparents and all the others who loved him. I did and I will.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Gift of Giving

Is there any better feeling this time of year than driving up to your house on a cold dreary night and seeing your Christmas tree winking at you through the front windows? Maybe, but tonight I can’t think of one.

Walker and his dad got the tree up mostly without me. Even better, they did it on their own without complaining. Dad did the assembling and Walker provided the Christmas music which he always has cranked up beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving. I eventually did my share of the ornaments because I love them so. Some years we draft the rest of the family to help, mainly so I can re-tell the stories of the ornaments, but this year we just did them ourselves.

About ninety percent of my ornaments have some sort of story.

I remember one year when it seemed like my ornaments had an almost magical power over me. As I was hanging the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat that one of my sewing students had painted for me many years before, I felt absolutely compelled to call Jane to tell her how much I still loved them. When I asked her how she had been, she replied, “Well, I’m dying.”

A few days later, I did what every good friend should do for those she cares about, I baked a pound cake and took it to her. Jane answered the door looking like she stepped out of Talbot's catalog in cute red plaid slacks and a turtleneck and a Christmas sweater, but it was obvious that she was quite ill. “Is there anything at all that I can do for you or your family?” I asked hopefully.

“Well, there is one thing, if you wouldn’t mind.... You may know… Amy is pregnant. I’d like to mend some of her baby clothes you helped me make and get them ready for the baby. I don't have time or energy to make new ones. Will you help me?”

Jane gave me the opportunity to give to her. As I re-attached lace and covered a couple of pinholes with bullion roses, I knew I was giving her grandchild something that she could not. What a precious gift.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gifts and Presents

This year several days before my birthday I received a totally unexpected package from one of my nieces. I sent her a short e-mail letting her know that her present had arrived and that I would save it till my birthday to open. She replied with a comment that it wasn't a present, but a gift, causing me to seek more information on the difference. When I had no luck with my faithful pal Google, I wrote Rebecca again, this time asking for an explanation. I can't seem to find it right now, but it defined the difference very clearly.

A present is when someone gives you something you have asked for or put on a list. Perhaps the person is on your list from some long time connection or custom and you feel that you must come up with some sort of rememberance, whether it's the exact right thing or not. You buy it, then you "present" it.

On the other hand, a gift is usually something totally unexpected that the giver knows will please and delight you. There are no strings attached, and there is no expectation of anything in return--not even a thank you. You just give it.

Either a gift or a present is an act of love, but gifts are truly special. I think I'm going to give a lot of presents this year, but I want to also give a few gifts. I hope you do too.


Monday, December 1, 2008


I've struggled with words for the past few weeks, feeling like anything I had to say was simply inadequate. I have managed to send thank you notes to most of those who have been so kind to me, but I know in my heart they were crude expressions of much deeper feelings. I'm hoping this is a temporary condition, but who knows.

There are thoughts of thanks that didn’t even manage to turn themselves into words that made sense as we gathered on Thursday, the one day a year when we stop to give Thanks. As our family and inlaws and outlaws stood in a large circle in my den holding hands I almost spoke, but then we followed our usual custom of having the children sing.

“God our Father. God our Father. Once again, Once again. We will ask your blessing. We will ask your blessing. Ah Ah men. Ah Ah men”

My ever observant son in law, John, saw my tears before I wiped them and teased me…of course…That’s his job around here. Everyone else politely ignored them and went about serving The Best Thanksgiving Dinner Ever.

I hope my words return. I have so much to be thankful for.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Missing You!

After five days in the hospital, and a bit longer than that since I've been able to be at the computer for more than a minute, I just had to post a short update.

The new knee is in. I'm already glad I did it, because after 6 days, I'm walking better than I did the two weeks before the surgery. I plan to write more about it when my head is clearer, probably under a different blog name, so that those of you who are squeamish about blood and gore won't have to read it unless you want. I have a great desire to answer some of the questions I had that no one seemed to want to give an answer to. Each case is different, but I'll give some straight answers from my own perspective.

Walker has had some rough times. It's tough to fear for the important people in your life. He visited me in the hospital a couple of times, but I resembled his grandfather who recently died a bit too much there for a while. When I got home he was like a toddler, racing to hug me...gently please...and sitting by my side way more than usual. He told me he cried at work on Monday because he was worried about me. Then he went back to his normal routine, just after he asked me if I could find him the Ghostbuster's II soundtrack on Ebay. Life goes on.

My friends and family have been so wonderful through our long drawn out year of problems. They remind me again and again that God has no hands but our hands to do his work today. Each visit, each casserole, oatmeal cookie, poundcake, note, or plant or flower delivered to me helped me to see God in the people who love me. More about this when I'm not so tired.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hollering Uncle

For those of you who missed me, I’m back at the computer…kind of.

I have been dealing with ever increasing arthritis problems, and when my knees got my body so out of whack that I could no longer bear sitting at my computer, I gave up. I’ve scheduled knee surgery for next Wednesday. I’ll have at least one brand new knee for Christmas.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve tried every known means of avoiding this surgery, including multiple medications, arthroscopy, horrid injections of varying kinds, physical therapy and even massage therapy. It just ain’t gonna work this time.

I’m spending a lot of time flat on my back or standing up really, really straight until then. I’m still able to function in the kitchen, which by accident or design, works really well for someone who has limited mobility. I’m storing away duplicates of our meals enough to carry us for a while, and friends have been really generous in their support. Big Walker is catching up on the intricacies of getting a hot meal on the table all at the same time, and he is finally accepting the fact that the dish fairy really isn’t going to come. We’ve actually settled into a routine that pretty much works for us most of the time.

After getting over the initial shock of coming home from work to find Mom on crutches, Little Walker has accepted the new normal state of things with his usual equanimity. I’ve worked to convince him that medical equipment doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to die any time soon, and he’s going on about his business, just like he always does. It helps that he has great support people working with him.

I’ve talked to numerous people about their surgeries, and other than one friend saying that she still can’t get into her bathtub after a year and a half (a huge quality of life thing for me!), I’m convinced that in a few weeks, I won’t feel any worse than I do right now, and possibly will be much better. This time next year, I may even take up ice skating…Nah, couldn’t even do that when I had my original, good knees.

I’ll write when I feel like it, but it may be erratic in frequency and quality. If you’re in the habit of just checking to see if I’ve posted anything new, you might want to subscribe to this site and you’ll automatically be notified.

I’ve been so gratified by the interest in my musings…almost 5,000 viewers in just over 6 months…Wow! If I ever figure out a way to make money on this thing, I’ll be rich. Nah, I’m already rich in the things that count.

I hope you’ll keep reading. I hope I’ll have something useful to say. I am so thankful for the privilege of sharing my random thoughts about our life with those out there in the world.


Thursday, October 23, 2008


To those who have had to deal with reading my blog with no paragraph breaks, I apologize. I was off the computer for a while, and when I came back, that's the way it was. I think I've fixed it now, if the goblins don't get it again! Janie

At the Polls

Well, I finally fell off the fence and decided to go vote today. This was not an easy decision, but it was made easier by my friend Robbie telling me that McCain was going to carry Tennessee anyway, so I didn’t need to feel too guilty whatever my decision might be.

Tennesse has early voting, and it was a rainy afternoon. Walker and I thought it would be fine, in spite of hearing the noon news predicting record early turnout. They were right and we were wrong, but seeing the long line of people so anxious to cast their ballots that they just couldn't take a chance on waiting till the last minute was enough to warm my heart.

Overheard while there:

“Lady, with that crutch you can go right to the front of the line.”

“That’s okay, I have my husband in line for me, I’ll just sit here until he gets close.”

"I'll sell you my spot in line for $20."

"Wait, you said $10 a few minutes ago."

"Yeah, and when I get to the front it'll be $100."

“Kin I go to the front of the line…Ah’m in a wheelchair?”

“Sure you can, it’s your right!”

“I don’t think it’s a right. When I have worked the polls, we always let them wait in a chair, but we didn’t let them go to the front of the line.”

“Of course they can go to the front of the line…It’s says so in The Constitution!”

(An interested bystander to one of the election officials) “Excuse me, but are handicapped people allowed to go the front of the line?”

“It’s up to them. If they ask, we let them break the line, but it's up to them. Some ask, some don't.”

“How long from this point?”

“An hour and ten minutes.”

And it was worth every minute of it!

I’ll probably still be fixated on hearing what the pundits on TV predict for a while, and I’ll smile big time when they turn out to be wrong. The State of Tennessee will probably go for McCain and there may be an attack on our way of living in the months following the election, but I’ve done what I could to insure that voter apathy won’t be the deciding factor.

I hope all of you do too.


Friday, October 17, 2008


I don’t have anything much to say today, but just when I decided not to post anything rather than say something stupid, a good friend sent me this. It’s beautiful.

I hope each of us finds joy today.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I read an article yesterday that proposes that all that money that we “lost” in the recent decline of the stock market wasn’t really real anyway.

Like many older people, we thought our money was “working” for us in retirement. It looked, at least on paper, like we could live comfortably to a ripe old age in pretty much the same style. It is a comfortable, but not particularly lavish, style. We drive our cars for a long time and many of our clothes come from discount stores. My husband is the consummate do it yourself guru. We are careful about most things. The occasional splurge on a vacation or home improvement is carefully considered and purchased at the lowest possible price. We didn't ever seem to be out of control, just comfortable.

Last week as we watched talking heads, whose intentions appear to inevitably be biased, giving reassurance or preaching financial Armageddon, we were in that dazed state that often follows the receipt of tragic news.

Then we started to figure out what steps we needed to take personally, just to deal with the immediate effects. (Not much, as it turns out.)

Then came the conclusion, perhaps erroneous, that it really wasn’t going to be too bad after all. (In psycobabble, this is called denial.)

Then came the anger at whoever got us into this mess. Who knows who it was, but I’ll bet we’re all angry at someone about it.

Does all this sound familiar? To anyone who has survived any kind of life event resulting in loss, it should.

The stages of adjustment seem to always be pretty much the same. We’re shocked, angry, in denial, sometimes all of those things at one time, and then we go on, using a mixed bag of tricks to cope.

Eventually we become resigned to do what we have to do and do it. When we reach the final stage of adjustment, we step away from ourselves and begin to want to give a hand to others.

Am I there yet? I don’t know, because adjusting to any loss is never a straight path. It kind of wanders around, back tracking now and then, going up some steep spots and sliding down some inclines. I do know that we all seem to be programmed to keep on going, hoping that the next turn in the road will give us a glimpse of the finish line. Each loss lends us experience to anticipate the next one and cope with it better. The illusion of being in control is tempered by reality.

I hope I eventually get good enough at dealing with loss that I can laugh at it and skip some of the less productive stages. I'm thankful that I understand the process.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Book Group and The Shack

This week I gathered with a group of really intelligent women ranging in age from mid-thirties to mid-eighties to discuss our book of the month, “The Shack” by William Paul Young. Cheryl, who led the group, began by stating that she really didn’t like the book at all, even though it had been her suggestion. Most of us agreed. Then she shared some of her on-line research about it, and some of us liked it a little better.

The bottom line for me about a book is whether I think it’s important enough to pass it on to someone else. I often buy multiple copies of a book I really love to give away, but I never know whether people really read the books I give them unless we end up discussing it when they finish. There are a few books I’ve read in the last few years that I think can make a difference in people’s lives. (I'll work on a list and post it next time.)

Was “The Shack” on of those important books? I’m not sure. Most of us wondered how in the world it ended up on the Best Seller List. In most of the group’s opinion it is very clumsily written and poorly edited. It didn’t seem that many of our group had any real beef with the theological aspects of it, but then we were all Episcopalians, and we have kind of loosey goosey views about theology anyway.

The primary redeeming factor in the book for most of us was that it made us think and talk, a very important characteristic for a book group book. I decided that there were a few important revelations in the book. Young voiced some ideas that some of us might have thought about, but not been able to put into words.

"The Shack" is pretty heavy handed with his “Ah Ha!” moments, some of which sounded like they were written by fifth graders. I did think that Young's explanation of the uncontrollable emotions that people often experience in the process of personal tragedy were well done though.

When we face any kind of a loss that seems to be intolerable and unfair, we can be, and often are, really angry with God. That is something that people of faith may have more trouble with than others. It’s really not nice to be angry with God, but we ARE! Young depicts God an all- knowing, all- forgiving character. He (or actually She in this book) is not surprised at our anger and grief because of His omniscience, and He forgives us because He is everything that is good.

I hope that some of you read “The Shack”. I think it can be helpful in life. I hope someone writes a better version of that book that I can recommend to all.



Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Winner Is

Our cousin Margaret!

Although I didn't announce a contest, she sent a pic of these shoes, which are definitely uglier, although I wasn't able to confirm a price. They were voted a definite Style no-no by 62% in a poll. Maybe the whole world hasn't gone crazy, although I'd like to know what in the world the other 38% of people who voted were smoking!

I hope I get more smiles like this along the way. Thanks, Margaret

Monday, October 6, 2008

What's Valuable

As we sort through some of the things Grandaddy left behind and try to decide what to do with them, the economy around us has crashed. About the only thing we own that is intrinsically worth more today than it was last week is some silverware, and then only if it were melted down, something I would really hate to see happen. It’s hard to decide that things that belonged to your parents, perhaps even your parents and great-parents, or maybe even great, great, great, great-grandparents are no longer worth the effort it might take to sell them at a garage sale.

I knew things were crazy beginning about four years ago and decided that the time in my life for acquisitions was probably over. I replace the things that are essential, but my definition of essential is even in transition. Would I dare paying almost a thousand dollars for that really good looking jacket at my friend’s home-boutique? Nah. For a pair of really comfortable shoes or jeans? Well, I’d at least think about it.

Even Walker realizes that things are crazy when he sees how much of his paycheck it takes to buy things he’s become used to having. He’s reluctant to blow too much of his paycheck on a movie, so he almost never goes to see the same movie again as he once loved to do. He asked me last night to search on E-bay for something, but when he saw the prices, backed off.

Want to see how crazy things have gotten?

And those probably aren’t the most expensive ugly shoes out there.

Some of the things I treasure today are:
The smile on Owen’s face as I obeyed his orders to pull up the Barney songs on my computer
William’s poring over the Halloween costumes in the Sunday ads
Robert answering my silly e-mails
John rushing in to hug me
Becket enjoying our mini burgers and wanting more
Charlie sitting beside me in the sun wanting his ears scratched
My husband letting me know when he's running late
My friend Sally being back home

I hope we continue to have enough. I hope we can someday make sure that everyone has enough.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Another Year Older

And, thankfully, not too much deeper in debt if I get my car sold before too long.

I spent the morning with Owen, my youngest grandson, namesake, and one who shares today as his birthday. We listened to some Barney and Caillou and kicked his new soccer ball and sang Happy and You Know It and Wheels on the Bus. We worked on holding up two fingers and totally confused him by Walker and his mommy not needing a Happy Birthday too.

I received some precious gifts from my friends and family, the gift of their time and thoughts being the most precious. Tonight I'll have a dinner I didn't cook or have to clean up after at Molly's house and share a birthday cake with Owen.

In a few minutes, I'll change my age on my bio and maybe edit it a bit so that it doesn't imply that I'm married to a forty two year old.

What a Wonderful World.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cover Their Eyes and Ears

There has been some conversation in the news lately about Sarah Palin’s attempts to pull books from the library when she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

I actually like it that newsstands now put a paper cover over the naked women on the men’s magazines, at least in the airport newsstands where children are likely to pass by them. I have always found those covers somewhat offensive, even if most of the males I know do not. A lot of the books that I read, even the ones that are really serious literature, have a sexual element in them that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with children being exposed to and some of them are way too close to some pretty disgusting stuff for even my wizened eyes.

The summer before my ninth grade year my mama caught me with a rather racy novel. It was one of those heaving bosom, aching groin romantic things, but was couched in a respectable dark blue linen cover with the title stamped in gold.

The book in question was titled “Kitty”, coincidentally my own sister’s name, and had been left on the bookshelves of the house we had just moved into along with about a hundred others. I was forever hungry for something to read, and having access to a whole library of new books made me feel truly wealthy, even if the creaky old house did not. Those books filled long summer days with a kind of excitement I'd never been exposed to. The bookmobile that stopped at the Junior High had nothing like this on its shelves. I must have known it wasn’t appropriate, because I kind of sneaked around hiding it and reading it on the sly. I don’t remember exactly how Mama caught me, but I do remember that I wasn’t allowed to finish it. Now that’s censorship in action.

I wonder how I would have felt about my own teenagers reading “Kitty” in the eighties and nineties. By that time, we had become kind of numbed to sex in novels, beginning with “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” when my own girls were in middle school. Mama herself was known to read a few of those romance novels in her later years, but they were always disguised in a cute little fabric cover, designed to hide the titles and cover photos. That’s what happens with things, you get used to them a little at a time, and then it takes more and more to be titillating enough to satisfy.

It’s a new world out there today. It’s common now to talk about things that were only discussed by adults in hushed tones when I was a kid, if they were discussed at all. Things like divorce or breast cancer or incontinence or sexual orientation...actually most things involving bodily functions. I’m okay with most of this openness, but I really don’t want to have to explain to an eight year old what Cialis or Tampax are for either.

My daughters basically never have the television set on until their kids go to bed, and that’s sad to me. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of nights when homework was done and my family gathered around the television set to watch “I Love Lucy” and if we’d been really good “December Bride”. With my kids, it was “Little House on the Prarie” and “The Brady Bunch”. Today, there is some programming suitable for all ages, but precious little, and there are those ads to dodge even in prime time.

I hope that families find new ways to share a common experience in an entertaining way. I hope we’ll self censor ourselves enough that “they” don’t have to do it for us.


Saturday, September 27, 2008


As we enter the holiday season, I’ll have to go through the closet under the stairs and see what’s there, how long it’s been there, and what I can give away in the spirit of the season. There will be a few things that I bought that I decided weren’t quite right for the person I intended them for. There will be some that were given to me that would be much better used by someone else. There will be some that I bought and loved so much that I couldn’t quite give them up. They don’t deserve to be hanging around taking up space for much longer.

Today we celebrate the Liversary, the ultimate regifting occasion in our family.

Eight years ago, my hero son-in-law stepped forward and was chosen as a living donor to save my four year old grandson’s life. For more details, you can go back to my July posts and read all about it. (Give Life and Are You Saved) It was a precious gift.

I watched Robert, now twelve years old, tossing a football around with his two best friends last night on a patch of grass adjoining the soccer field where his four year old brother was playing soccer. (William was kind of playing soccer in between adjusting his socks and the green thingie they put on our team to differentiate them from the opposing team, also dressed in royal blue.) The contrast was astounding.

Robert has grown into a confident, handsome, and successful young man thanks to the regift his Uncle John made. It is a real pleasure to watch him just on the cusp of manhood. I know he will always treasure John’s gift to him. I suspect he will grow up and look for ways to reciprocate that gift. Of course, there’s no real way, but we all try.

I thank God for John and Robert and for the medical science that made them gifts in my life. I hope I find a way to pass on that gift today. I’ll begin by checking my organ donor card. I hope all of you do too.


P. S. If you'd like to leave a message for John and Robert, please click Comment at the bottom of the page. I'll pass them on.

Friday, September 26, 2008


The time on hold is not too long.

The used car actually is as good as it sounded.

Those weeds turn out to be perennials.

The third time you try potty training it works.

The smaller size actually fits.

The CD your son-in-law gave you really gets you hooked.

Ladies’ luncheons are not too fattening.

You win a prize at the fair.

The lamp at the discount store really looks good in your house.

The healthy recipe is really tasty.

Your husband is right about the soul food restaurant, or the movie, or the need to change all the lightbulbs at once.

One of those spiritual forwards hits a soft spot in your heart or that of one of those you chanced sending it to.

You don’t feel too out of place at an art opening.

The other members of the committee actually show up on time for the meeting.

Comfy shoes are kind of stylish.

You check the gift closet before you make a bunch of impulse purchases at Tuesday Morning.

It’s worth getting up early on January 2 to hit the sales.

All the presents you bought your family make a hit.

The presents arrive on time.

The guy shows up closer to eight a.m. than five p.m.

The noise from the railroad track near the house you bought really isn’t an issue.

The things that didn’t seem to be worth the effort, actually were.

The meek actually inherit something.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ever Wonder Why?

Healthy cookies never look or taste like the picture on the package, but Oreo's do.

The really good recipes never really serve four, but the lousy ones actually serve twelve.

The sour milk jug is always ¾ full, but there’s never one more serving out of the good jug.

The juice never gets spilled on the ratty old placemats.

The jeans that fit nicely invariably get bleach spots where you don’t want them; the ugly ones are pristine when you finally outgrow them.

If you buy a sweater large enough to allow for dryer shrinkage, it never does. If you don’t, it ends up fitting the dog.

The skinny mirrors are always in the store, not your closet.

The investment that just couldn’t fail usually does, and the pennies in the jar aren’t worth much either.

The movie you’ve been dying to see is the one where all the good parts were in the previews.

Perfect hair color only lasts a month at most, but a bad haircut lasts at least a year.

The lipstick you really like always gets discontinued, but is never in the clearance bin. The one you hate is available forever and always on sale.

If you buy enough of anything to allow for breakage or spoilage, it never breaks or spoils.

The invasive perennials never get bugs or diseases and bloom for months. The good ones bloom while you’re on vacation.

Couples with infertility problems are invariably the ones who would be the best parents.

Your car is in perfect shape at the last check up before the warranty is up, but breaks down before the next one is due.

The side of the car that got keyed is never the one that ends up being sideswiped.

Your toddler is perfectly behaved at grandmother’s, but never at home. At her house, he wears whatever she puts on him, eats whatever she serves, and never has potty accidents, and sleeps all night…You know the rest.

The lamp that gets broken at Nana’s house is never the one from the discount store.

The day you finally bring the extra set of clothes home from playschool… forever… is followed by a potty accident the next.

Your husband never shows up with a “Surprise Bouquet” the day before you break down and order one for yourself.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Excuse me!

I got an e-mail from a reader yesterday saying that she never realized that other people felt guilty for resenting the constraints imposed by being a responsible member of society. This precious friend worries that she doesn’t do enough for others. Nevermind that she is a teacher and caregiver for her ninety year old father and one of the nicest people imaginable.

Heck yeah we all feel guilty...well maybe just most of us. Guilty for just not wanting to do that today, and feeling pretty terrible if we don’t. I suspect that may be part of what keeps us civilized.

When I was in junior high school, I established a kind of unspoken pact with Mama that I could play hooky from school a couple of times a year. In the beginning, she just didn’t question me too carefully if I said I didn’t feel well, and was kind of oblivious to my reading a hefty novel cover to cover while I was laid up. By my junior year, I stayed home one whole day to sew an antebellum ball gown to wear to school to celebrate the Bi-Centennial of the Civil War with her knowledge and consent. I felt like Scarlett herself on Fridays that year.

By the time I was in college, I played a little too loosely with giving myself a pass to skip my seven a.m. Chemistry class, and I damn near failed it. Same with Tap Dancing, only at four p.m. on Fridays for goodness sake!

During the years I was rearing four children with a part time husband, I worked just enough to pay for child care at least once a week so I could go volunteer taking care of other people's children. I don’t think I’ve ever been without some sort of hobby or interest that seemed to excuse my not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

I have now given myself a lifetime pass from strenuous exercise. I just read an article that said risk of death among older people is directly proportional to the degree of stressors during exercise. In that same article, a number of other stressors were also implicated. I plan to avoid them all. My children won’t be happy to read this, and I can’t seem to find it, but I assure you it was a well documented study.

Everybody needs a pass now and then. A pass to read a book or browse through a shop looking at thing you can’t afford. A pass to pick up fast food and park your kids in front of the television so you can visit with a friend. A pass to play Cube Crasher instead of doing the ironing. A pass to get the burger instead of the salad. A pass to just be.

I hope I understand when people just need a pass. I hope they’ll understand me.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Take A Deep Breath

I always enjoy those brief periods between events when I can do something I want to do without feeling guilty. I pat myself on the back when the bills are paid, Walker III’s medical exams and records are all in the proper hands, the dregs of the vegetable garden are all in, and there is nothing much on the calendar for a while.

This would be one of those weeks except for trying to work out the logistics of getting my new old car from Atlanta to Memphis, hoping to work out a couple of family visits in the process, and kind of being on call for the five grandchildren in Memphis. I’m hoping a new movie comes out that I can enjoy with Robert, that Becket and I will finally schedule a date to go out for lunch with my friend Sally and her granddaughter, and that there will be no crises in the meantime. I hope I can impose on friends and family once again to provide transportation for Walker, and that I won't be too anxious about them having to handle anything too difficult with him. With a special needs adult, you just never know.

For now, I’m going to try to make sense of the worldwide economic crisis, finish a book I had started, and maybe try to find some clothes. It all seems doable except for the political nonsense.

I hope I’ll remember days like this when I’m feeling overwhelmed. They are usually just around the bend, thank goodness.


Friday, September 19, 2008


Wow. This has been a week. Enjoying beautiful Fall weather, watching turbulence in the financial industry, celebrating forty two years as a mother, getting a massage, slogging through some kind of disgusting used car places, and finally buying what seems to be just the right car over the phone.

Al.l of the above were basically just living, but most of the less desirable ones were things that happen rarely enough that I can just hang on, even if I do get cranky and anxious. I did get that dinner delivered, and helped out another friend with some issues surrounding an unexpected surgery. It was nice to be on the giving end for a change. I’m much more comfortable there than when receiving for some reason. I guess most people probably are.

But I really liked getting some help on my car selection from one of my nephews who has been a bit of a car savant since he was a toddler, and I love it that my son in law takes care of our investments, easing my anxieties when necessary. I appreciated my daughter taking time to celebrate her birthday with us.

The truth of it all is that we are all interdependent at one time or another in our lives. It is rare for someone to survive in total isolation for very long. I’ve heard people joke about keeping their spouses around just so they’d have somebody to drive them to the hospital. Maybe they weren’t joking. After my children get past having toddlers with the throw ups, they may be helping us out at times. That's the way things seem to work.

I am thankful to have a community of mutual support in my life. I hope you do too. I hope I'll be equally gracious in giving and receiving in the future.


Sunday, September 14, 2008


Sorry I haven’t written for a while. I could blame lack of inspiration, too many doctor appointments, too many errands and meals to prepare…lots of things. The truth is, I simply decided to piddle around even more than usual and also did some pleasure reading and watched some of my favorite shows on Tivo. Prison Break is back!!!! I chatted on the phone about nothing special. Basically, I did nothing anyone would call special.

I began most of my letters to my parents, back in the day when we actually wrote letters, with a lame apology for not writing and/or visiting more often. I would then fill in for them the details of daily life that attempted to excuse my negligence. When I sorted through all my mother’s many bits of paper accumulated through the years and re-read some of these letters, I really felt the shame I should have felt back when I wrote them.

The truth is, we make room for the things in our lives that are important. We decide how to spend our time and energy and money, even when all are running low. I know in my heart that I should have made some different choices through the years, and I know that for the most part, I can’t do anything about them.

I want to make better choices today and whatever tomorrows I have left to me.

This week, I’ll actually book a day to take lunch to my brave friend Martha, who is such an inspiration to us all. I won’t just think about doing it. I’ll do it.

In spite of having MS for over twenty years, Martha regularly uses her time, energy, and money to bake goodies for Pastoral Care. She gets dressed every Sunday and comes to church, even on those Sundays when I’m home watching the politicos on TV in my bathrobe. It takes Martha a very long time to do anything, but she does it.

I hope that this week, I’ll be like Martha.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Other Side of the Coin

Yesterday I got inspiration and enlightenment from a very off the wall source, a right wing conservative. Michael Gerson is a former speech writer for President George W. Bush and writes an op-ed column for The Washington Post. His column caused me to look at the flip side of some of my opinions. It’s really worthwhile reading.
I learned some things I didn’t know before and thought about some things in a new way thanks to Mr. Gerson. I hope you will too.


P. S. At the encouragement of my friend Anne Glamore of My Tiny Kingdom, I’ve added a feature that makes it easy for my regular readers to subscribe to my blog. Just click “Subscribe to:
Posts (Atom)” at the bottom of the page.

Blessed by Misfortune

I’m not sure how the Republicans got a hold on my heart this year, but they have certainly done so. Now, I’m hoping my brain will sort it all out for me and I'll finally make a decision by election day.

John McCain’s phrase “blessed by misfortune” simply leaped out at me in the midst of all the political jargon tossed around during the two conventions. His perspective as a former POW is one molded by courage. I think that may be why he gave a slight nod to Sarah Palin after his comment. I want to believe that it wasn't just politically expediency that brought him to acknowledge their bond of bravery.

Isn’t it amazing how many folks have a story of faith that is centered on something that seemed to be a tragedy, but turned out to be a wonderful crook in the road of life. Not that all horrible things turn out well, but it has been my experience that if you keep looking, you can find some tiny kernel of good in absolutely everything…yes, even in the ones that seemed most disastrous.

As I began writing stories about Walker, over fifteen years ago, I came up with the title “Mixed Up Blessings” for the book I proposed to write. I haven’t gotten the book written yet, but I had used the phrase “missed blessing” all my life. I'm sure it came from Mama as do most of my colloquialisms.

When I picked out birth announcements of Walker’s birth I used the same simple format I had used for the girls announcements, just had a blue border put on his instead of a pink. I enclosed a note, though, to the people that had not heard the news. I explained that we had at long last given birth to a son, but that ours was a mixed blessing as our precious baby boy had Down Syndrome. (I actually probably used a less PC term, but you get the idea.)

When I wrote those words, I’m not really sure I truly believed them yet. Today as I drove him to work, I told him how happy I am that he is my son. I wouldn’t trade him for any other son in the world. He gave me a small little grin and a nod. Today I know it was the truth.


Sunday, September 7, 2008


I received an epistle from a Down Syndrome Association a few days ago delineating how they would like for the press to refer to Sarah Palin’s son, Trig, who has Down Syndrome. I have a Masters Degree in Social Work, and reading all the rules they handed down made my head swim.

I had heard some of them already. When Walker was born, I was told he was Mongoloid. That word kind of made sense to me, although it has fallen into disfavor. The suffix –oid usually means “similar to”. People with Down Sydrome, regardless of their cultural origin, do appear to have facial features somewhat similar those of Asian, perhaps Mongol, descent. (I hope I’m using the right word there.)

Early on, I was told that the name of the genetic defect was Down’s Syndrome. It was named for Langdon Down, the physician who first identified a cluster of characteristics that children born with an extra copy of the twenty first chromosome seem to have in common. Somebody decided that since Down himself didn’t have the genetic defect that the ‘s should be dropped. Like most changes, I’m having trouble adjusting to it, but that one’s not too ridiculous.

The ones that bother me most are the ones that require using many words to say what one used to suffice for. Now, I'll admit that most everyone I know objects to the insulting name beginning with R that has become common in popular society. But, do I as a parent really care whether you refer to Walker as a Down’s Kid or a Kid with Down Syndrome, or a Person With Down Syndrome. Absolutely not. Does he? You gotta be joking. The same goes for Mentally Retarded versus a Person With Mental Disability. (Actually I can’t quite remember what the powers that be preferred for that one, and it’s not worth looking it up right now.)

Walker doesn’t like it that he has Down Syndrome because he knows it makes him look and act different from most of the people around him. I think he suspects that it may be the reason he hasn't had a girlfriend in years. He has seen two classmates die prematurely because they had Down Syndrome. He knows it’s a much bigger deal than what you call him. Just call him Walker. Call him friend. Call him beloved son, brother, uncle, nephew, grandchild, neighbor, co-worker.

What I really wish is that some of the time and money wasted on renaming stuff would be put into remediating the things that can be remediated for children with all disabilities. Give them all the kind of education that we were able to afford for Walker. Give them more time in school as long as they’re progressing, because they continue learning for a lifetime. Give them good dental and medical care and speech therapy and occupational therapy, because they can function in the greater society if they’re healthy and well educated and trained in grooming and hygiene.

I’m truly grateful for all the people who made Walker what he is today. A blessing.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Free To Be

I stayed up late enough last night to watch Sarah on Jimmy Kimmel Live. I had thought I’d just go on to bed and watch it on Tivo in the morning, but I was really too excited to sleep. If you missed it, it’s available at

When Walker came down for his nightly snack, well after midnight, he was startled to see me up, but sat with me while I watched the interview without much reaction. I think he has mixed feelings about seeing one of his beautiful sisters on television.

He really didn’t realize that Sarah was a big deal until one Sunday morning several years ago when he discovered her in a Target ad for the DVD of the first season of Brothers and Sisters. Up until that point he had been somewhat uncomfortable with her being in ads or on television “in her underwear”. (Actually she was just on the hang tags and posters at Target in a bikini, but I can see how his adolescent brain might perceive that as inappropriate for his sister.) He became a minor celebrity himself at Super Cuts when he pointed out to his barber that the girl in the big poster hanging from the ceiling was his sister.

As I watched Sarah’s interview again with her dad this morning, she looked beautiful and told some tales of her somewhat unconventional life in a charming and funny way. I kind of gulped a bit when she told about pilfering free cooking oil from restaurants in her neighborhood. We recently became aware that in her concern for the environment, she is actually breaking the law. The waste oil that she harvests to run the old automobile she had converted to run on what has been a free source of energy has become a commodity worth almost as much as gasoline. Could she be indicted on a felony because she is using someone’s waste grease?

You know what, I’d hate that for her, but know that the world won’t come to the end if she is. My job of guiding all of my children and teaching them right from wrong ended years ago—thank goodness! The greatest gift I have given any of them is the freedom to choose their life paths just as soon as they evidenced some capacity to make good choices. Along with that freedom, though, I made it clear that the responsibility of bearing the consequences if their choices was theirs too.

I know… I delivered a paper to school occasionally to keep them from losing 10 points on a test. We got the dents in the cars fixed when they inevitably had their first accidents. The price they paid for getting bailed out was sometimes a lecture, sometimes other punishments, but never involved me taking over the jobs I saw as theirs.

I hope I’ve done a good job. Today is one of those days when I’m pretty sure I did.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More Choices

I need to buy a car. Not that I care one whit about style or looks, but my choice of an SUV five or six years ago is proving to be a poor one. I love sitting up above the crowd, and the number of traffic accidents I’ve been involved in has been zero because I can basically see better from up there. That hasn’t kept me from a few dings along the way, but overall this has been a reliable and safe car. It’s just too hard for me to get in and out of now, and if and when I have my knees replaced, I suspect it will become impossible.

So we begin the painful process of choosing. About the only thing set in concrete is a general price range and wanting low miles. Getting some warranty and better gas mileage would be a real bonus.

Then the real choices begin. More bells and whistles in the sound system or leather seats with seat warmers? A newer model or an older one with less miles? The generic white one, or the cool greenish color? A little more for a tow package? Thank goodness, I really don’t care too much about those things.

There’s always a trade off, but mostly none of these choices are going to affect the rest of my life.

What I really hate is when I get into a situation where I don’t really like any of my choices and must make one. In social work having limited choices that are somehow dictated by someone else is defined as Oppression. Most of the unpleasant choices I’m faced with aren’t quite that radical, but I still don’t like them.

Sometimes those situation leave me immobilized, so I do nothing. Getting more information usually helps me eventually make up my mind. I thrive on facts and statistics. Sometimes talking the choices over with a friend or my daughters or my husband helps. If there’s a consensus after all that, I can move ahead.

It’s not quite so simple as the days when my brother and sister and I shared the same room, and our decisions were decided by what was usually a “two against one, we win you lose” vote. Somehow it’s in my nature to want everyone to win, or at least walk away feeling good about the outcome.

I hope I’ll make wise decisions in my life. I’m thankful that I’m fortunate enough to have some decisions to make.


Monday, September 1, 2008


Wow! I had already written several drafts of a post centered on how confused I was during this year’s presidential campaigns when I arrived home and clicked on the TV to check on Hurricane Gustav. I was met with news creating much more chaos than that created by the somewhat milder than expected hurricane.

Sarah Palin’s seventeen year old daughter is five months pregnant and plans to marry the father of the baby…sometime. Apparently John McCain knew this when he selected her as his running mate. I can’t even begin to process what this news means to their candidacy, so I won’t try. I’m just sad that by not using birth control her daughter has committed the cardinal sin of political offspring…ruining her reputation. Maybe it won’t have any effect on the race, but I’m afraid that it will.

I am as close to a political independent as anyone I know. My choices are swayed by some ideals assimilated through the years, tempered by my classes in graduate school, and a healthy dose of self interest. I really hadn’t made up my mind who to vote for, but was beginning to lean toward Obama, mainly because of his selection of Joe Biden as a running mate.

Then on Friday, I found myself strangely excited as I watched the coverage of Governor Palin’s selection to be McCain’s running mate. Walker happened to be sitting in the den with me, and he was unexpectedly delighted, or at least as delighted as he ever seems, by the news that that lady on the podium had a baby with Down Syndrome.

“Dad! That baby has Down Syndrome…Just like me!”

As I pondered the choice that faced Sarah Palin when she was told that the baby she was expecting was going to have Down Syndrome, I couldn’t help but think back to my pregnancy with Sarah. Amniocentesis was relatively new at the time, and I imagine it was a much riskier prospect than it is today. I just knew I couldn’t spend nine long months wondering about the health of this baby, so I decided to have the procedure.

In my case the news was all good. I wasn’t ever absolutely positive, though, what I would have decided if there had been a problem. Maybe a year and a half of living with Walker would have convinced me that rearing a baby with Down Syndrome wasn’t too bad, but I don’t think I had gotten to the point where I wouldn’t have been devastated at the prospect of rearing two children with significant disabilities. I just didn’t know.

I’m glad I didn’t have to make that choice…really, really glad. I’m also glad that there wouldn’t have been federal laws in place making my choice for me…either way. Sarah Palin's anti-abortion stand was definitely in the negative column for me.

I hope we all eventually learn about personal responsibility and the right to make the right choices for our family at any given time and allow others to do the same.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Making Dreams Come True

Walker's birthday party is today, part of a series of celebrations with unexpected gifts and his requested Taco Bell dinner on his real birthday.

My children place great emphasis on birthdays, although as they've gotten older, I've trended away from trying to find the perfect gift and focused more on getting exactly what they asked for. This has met with mixed results. For one child, having more stuff she doesn't need or want is a burden. Another wants me to keep on trying to find something that delights and/or surprises her. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't quite manage it. It seems a shame in this economy to buy more stuff that may or may not be appreciated. Often I end up giving cash equivalents. Sometimes my gifts are late...sometimes very late. That's mostly when they can't decide what they want though. I'm thinking that one of the girls never did get her Christmas present last year. I need to fix that before it's time to do it all again.

Walker has outgrown pitching a fit if he gets clothes for gifts after getting in serious trouble for announcing to his sister that her gift of a sweat shirt, or maybe it was a sweater, just wouldn't do. His mind has opened to exploring the gifts he gets. He, like his sisters, usually presents most of us with a very specific request. For Walker it's usually some obscure collectible that is difficult to locate even on E-Bay. My sister sent a real goodie box yesterday and we all had fun unpacking all the Coca Cola gear she had put together for Walker. There was even a Coca Cola Olympics pin, a true collectible, and a nice check to boot. That was the perfect combination of thoughtful and pragmatic for Walker.

Tonight's party will be a simple one. Swimming, if it isn't raining, music on the porch if it is, Pizza, and a Scooby-Doo birthday cake with those little cups of ice cream. He will be glad to see old friends and celebrate in style. Perhaps he'll bring his new keyboard down and entertain.

Walker spotted a billboard for the Hollywood Casino, in Tunica, just before his twenty second birthday. His enamourment with the film industry was already well established. "I want to go there," he commented as we drove to work. "Well, you're over twenty-one now. You can go if you want to."

"That would make all my dreams come true!"

And so it did. Family and a couple of friends met us at the casino, giving Walker rolls of coins instead of gifts. The first time he hit a small winning, his face lit up like the Chinese fireworks. "Aw RIGHT!"

I wonder what it would take to make my dreams come true. I hope I recognize it when it happens. For today, it would be knees that ache a little less, and a nice dinner that I didn't have to prepare for or clean up after. Oh, yes, and World Peace!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Ferris Wheel

It's just about fair time in the Mid-South.

When I was a kid, the coming of the Fair was about as exciting as the opening of school to me. (Okay, I'm wierd. I loved school best of all.) There was excitement among my classmates about who was going with who to the fair. My grandmother always sent me a little cash for my birthday which was close to fair time, so I didn't have to worry about not saving enough from my allowance. When I was twelve, ten dollars could buy a lot of happiness. The fair was full of good food and gaudy fun.

Mostly, I wasn't brave enough for the scariest rides, although once my girlfriends did convince me to go on the Coney Island roller coaster when I was in New York on a choir trip and I survived. The bumper cars were too rough and aggressive for me, and even though I looked much younger than my actual age because I was small, I didn't have the guts to ride the less frightening kiddie rides once I got past third grade.

Ah, but the Ferris Wheel. It was a tolerable level of fear and excitement that led me back to that one from year to year. The thrill of looking out over the fair, especially if it was a clear, cool night was enough to quell my fears.

The Ferris Wheel was by and large predictable. There would be the tummy dropping moment as we came over the top, especially in the middle of the ride when it went a bit faster. The rocking of the car was usually gentle, unless you happened to end up with a rowdy boy in your car who thought it was funny to rock fast and make the girls scream. If you were lucky, there would be a bit of a delay when you were at the very top. If that happened, my anxieties would quiet as I enjoyed the view of the small city below. This cycle was repeated several times, depending on how long the lines were awaiting a ride, then slowly, sometimes with some jerking, you would descend and disembark. The Ferris Wheel would begin it's journey again with new passengers.

Sometimes my friends and I would jump right in line and ride again. I liked those times, but many of my friends thought it was too boring and headed for the Tunnel of Love or Tilt A Whirl or The Bullet. Since I lack the thrill seeking gene, I would content myself with pitching baseballs at cats or tricking the guy who could guess your age until they were through.

Once in a while there is a day in my life so good that I just want to shout, "Stop!" and enjoy the view from the top of the Ferris Wheel a bit longer. During those rare days, there is harmony in my universe. There is enough of everything...time, energy, money. None of the kids or people we love are in an immediate crisis. There might be a happy event to celebrate, but not one that requires exhausting preparation. Perhaps an engagement or new pregnancy is announced. The garden is looking good, and not requiring too much care. My arthritis is at least tolerable. Our little family is healthy and busy and happy. Those pauses never last long enough to suit me, though. The wheel keeps turning.

I hope the future holds more of those pinnacle days. In the meantime, I'll just hang on and enjoy the ride.


Monday, August 25, 2008


Soon after we arrived at Grandaddy’s house for the bountiful lunch provided by the church ladies yesterday, the children learned from Elsie, his wife of 19 years or so, that there were newborn kittens somewhere around.

Walker and Becket and John immediately set out on a search, and eventually found them in the bed of Grandaddy’s old pick up truck, which thankfully hadn’t been moved during the past couple of weeks. Soon Becket had given five of the six kittens a name, and then she let John name one. He named his “Gray Ham and Cheese” for his friend, Graham. Becket has laid claim to one named “Cookie”. I don’t know whether her daddy will allow a house cat, but he told me this morning that he was afraid Becket would hop a bus to go back to Cherokee to claim it even without his agreement. I suspect Cookie, and maybe Gray Ham and Cheese will find a home in Memphis in a few weeks.

Today John the Dad, who never misses anything, also tipped me off to a touching moment that I missed yesterday.

Ever since Walker was a Boy Scout, many years ago, he has had an undying patriotic streak. This was fueled by all the patriotic fervor surrounding September 11. He loves Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” and wore a button saying the same for many years until it broke. You’ll notice that he is often seen with a salute in pictures, which is somehow less annoying than the bunny ears he did when he was younger. The Fourth of July is by far his favorite holiday.

Yesterday, when the guys folded up the flag draped on Grandaddy’s coffin, we all teared up a bit when they handed it to my husband. Walker gave it his most serious salute.

I’m sure the girls will want to claim some things from Grandaddy’s house. There are the Bill Ding Clowns and an old orange truck that several generations have pulled out of the cupboard at every visit, and a few antiques. What Walker wants, though, is that flag. I think Grandaddy might want him to have it.

I hope we all find some spot of joy in all the sadness. There will always be baby kittens and treasured possessions and, best of all, our friends and family to ease the pain.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Give Us a Break!!!

My mama used to say, “When it rains, it pours!” Sometimes this referred to a not quite housebroken puppy, but mostly it referred to what seemed like an endless stream of troublesome events.

This has been one of those weeks, both literally and figuratively. It began with Geoffrey’s worsening condition and then death, and then yesterday as we were heading to Birmingham for his funeral, Big Walker’s dad died.

This death was expected. Grandaddy had a variety of illnesses and was eighty nine years old, but it’s never easy.

There are other not quite so serious things going on with close family and relatives, and I’m ready for a break in all this.

Grief is a bit like the weather when you view it over a period of time. The rain, and tears, always stop, at least for a while. In most places in the world the rains are seasonal, and you always have in the back of your mind that they won’t last forever.

Isn’t it wonderful to realize that grief, at least the gut wrenching, heart breaking, super out of control, intense kind, isn’t sustainable for very long at one time.

My first experience with this phenomena was when one of Katie’s friends lost her little brother to cancer, and I ended up with Rachel for a couple of days while her parents made funeral arrangements. She was about ten years old, and there would be periodic bouts of horrible sobbing, but in between those we went shopping at the sticker store and she and Katie happily swapped stickers and arranged their sticker books. (That was big in 1980.)

Walker is finishing up his speech therapy and has already checked the Playbook to see what new movies he and his attendant might check out. He is going to find out how much the new keyboard he wants for his birthday costs. The old one is fine, but the one he wants plays "Oh, Danny Boy" and he has discovered that singing, however badly, makes him feel better. I know he will sob again from time to time at losing his grandfather, as will all of us, but for now he is occupied, somewhat happily.

I hope I remember that the sunshine isn’t too far away on this dreary day. I am thankful that human nature is programmed to return to a state of equilibrium and that we can’t sustain sorrow forever. I’m going to do something equivalent to arranging my sticker book today and tomorrow before we go to Grandaddy’s funeral on Sunday.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You Like Me!!!

Even if I’m all grown up and know I should trust my opinion of myself rather than those of the people around me, I’m still somewhat like a child getting a gold star when someone praises something I do. I’m also very discerning about the sincerity of those compliments, and treasure the ones I believe are truly sincere. The friends and relatives that I know read my blog regularly are truly paying me a high compliment by taking time to peek into my life. I really, really appreciate it.

Today, I picked Sarah up at the airport, and on our journey home during a rather dreary rainstorm, with an unscheduled stop for gas in a very iffy neighborhood, Sarah volunteered to me that she thought my blog had been really good lately. I was kind of floored, because I have kept writing even though I felt like the tone and quality of my thoughts were kind of off.

I feel like Sally Field when someone I respect offers me praise, especially when it’s unsolicited. (Not that Oscar nominations are exactly unsolicited, but the competition is so stiff that I’m sure that winning must usually be a surprise.) “You like me…you really like me!” My heart shouts.

Her compliment eased away the anxiety that had building all morning as I juggled getting Walker to work, picking Sarah up without leaving her cooling her heels for too long at the airport after a dreadfully long flight from LA in the middle of the night, and trying to get my other tasks into some sort of order. I still feel my heart smiling.

I hope that I won’t be too dependent on the praise of others and that I’ll remember to cut myself some slack more often. I am proud that I did manage to send myself a message in the midst of the chaos that I’m doing the best I can…at least most of the time. And when I don’t…it usually doesn’t matter all that much. I hope I remember to tell others often what it is that I appreciate about them.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life Definitely Goes On

One of the surreal things about growing older is that the next generation reaches adulthood so fast and seems so incredibly wise for their years. Another young relative sent the following words of hope and comfort yesterday.

"Please don't be disheartened by such a tragedy. Good things happen in this world every day, and while we all feel the pain of a lost loved one, we must live on each day knowing that we can live each moment to its fullest and enjoy every little valuable experience and memory and moment with which God graces us."

Walker's words weren't quite so eloquent, but the message was the same. There are good times and bad, but we will move on. He's getting pretty good at that. When I was driving him to work yesterday, I told him he would need to ask to be off on Thursday to go to his cousin's funeral. His reaction was a mix of alarm, over having a short paycheck, and fear of dealing with death, and finally resignation once I gave him the lecture about family events being important, even if they're sad.

The most recent funeral Walker attended was of our housekeeper of many years. Amelia was laid out in splendor in an open casket. This is not customary in our church, so we just sat down and soon we were kind of trapped in the middle of the pew and I didn't want to disturb anyone in order to get out. After a few minutes Walker quietly asked me if it was okay to go forward. With my permission, he climbed over the two ladies next to him and went up to the coffin alone. We were strangers at the small African American church, probably the only unfamiliar faces in the crowd. Although Amelia's relatives knew us well, others must have wondered who this young boy who loved Amelia might be. When he came back to his seat, I was sobbing for my friend Amelia, and for joy in the brave young man she helped me rear.

We never talked about that incident, but Walker's alarm yesterday was apparently over the possibility of having to face another open casket and more tears. Once I assured him that there would not be a casket and that tears are not a bad thing, he hopped out of the car, thanked me for the ride, and went to work. On his break a few hours later, he called home to tell me that he had picked out his birthday cake at the bakery...fears forgotten, and happiness ahead and that includes a swimming party and Scooby Doo cake.

I'll talk some more with Walker about it being okay to be sad, even sob and cry, when tragedy occurs, but today I'll order that cake.

I'm thankful that none of us can sustain the worst throes of grief without some relief, and that we can and will move on to the happier events in our lives whether we want to or not. That's just the way God made us.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Really Good News

Only a few minutes after my discussion with Walker about the Company of Saints that Geoffrey would be joining, I received a note from a young relative.

"I believe Geoffrey is in wonderful company though. Not only in the presence of God but oh, Little Ed, Nana, Papa...the list just goes on. A brave little boy that has obviously left his mark on this world. Please know that I am thinking of you with all my being, God has his reasons...I wonder what they are sometimes and why but who am I to ask?"

"Tell Little Walker I am sure the Mansions in heaven are loaded with everything...Nintendo, all you can drink Coke, sunshine and most importantly no suffering."

I couldn't say it better myself. It is a priviledge to receive such words of comfort and wisdom so wisely stated.

I am thankful today that our faith keeps us strong from generation to generation. I hope that our family will always hold and support each other, celebrating the good times and bad, because they are all part of the world God has given us.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mansions in Heaven

Our little cousin, Geoffrey, died this morning in his parents’ arms. In this age of medical miracles, it is difficult to believe, totally surreal to believe, that one didn’t save this little boy who was so dearly loved.

When little Walker saw how sad I was as I told him the news, he told me to remember that I had also been sad when Nana and Papa died and I would make it through this too. A few minutes later, he reminded me of all those he knows who have gone before, and commented with utter conviction that they would take care of Geoffrey. This led to a discussion of who knows who in heaven and what kind of mansions we could expect. Walker’s faith bolstered mine today.


Friday, August 15, 2008

You Don't Call, You Don't Write...

Yesterday I got a call from a good friend who is one of my faithful readers :)! Ann was concerned that something was wrong because I hadn't posted anything lately. It thrilled me to know that someone missed my casual observations, but I’m still not feeling much like writing.

It's unusual for me to just take off for a while and not let anyone in on what’s going on. It’s even more unusual for me not to have something that I just can’t wait to share and have a burning need to get it down on paper…make it real.

The past week has been different. I had a lot of catching up to do from the two plus weeks I lost with that nasty cold, so I kind of took care of business first. Then I had family in and out of the house for several days. It was rainy for a couple of days, and Big Walker was stuck in the house, making it difficult for me to find the space both physically and mentally to write. It was more than that, though. It was like my soul wasn’t really processing any coherent thoughts worth sharing.

The news on Geoffery is not good today. For those of you who would be interested, you can go to the Caring Bridge website to read the posts. Hit Control plus the link to do so. Please keep him, and all those who love him, in your prayers.

I hope I'll remember to just shut up when I don't know what to say. I wish everyone else would do the same...especially the political pundits who are beginning to get on my nerves as much as they do my husband's.

Blessings, Janie