Monday, March 30, 2009

Color in heaven

I took my two middle grandsons to “Chickalay” for lunch today. The conversation went kind of like this.

William: Edward’s with his grandmother too…Look John.

John: Theres lots of grandparents here today. There’s one, two, and there and there…Lots of old people…

Grammy: Do you think I’m old too?

John: Yeah you’re old…. Do you know where Grandaddy is now?

William: In heaven!

John: Do you know what color he is now……BLUE!

William: Well I think he’s white in heaven… Don’t you think he’s white Grammy? Blue would be scary.

Grammy: Um…hmmm.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what color people are lately, and shortly before I picked up the kids for lunch I had done a little research on my daddy’s place in Alabama History. My interest had been piqued by an old newspaper from article from the 50’s that we had found lining a trunk brought home from Grandaddy’s house. One Google led to another and soon I was deep into the archives of the State of Alabama.

Names like George Wallace and Bull Connor were there alongside my daddy’s. Not a pretty trip through the past.

I don’t really care what color people are when they get to heaven, I just hope for all our sake that they are all the same. Even if they aren’t I hope you’ll be able to see what’s inside them instead of their color or the shape of their eyes or their figure. I’ll bet we’d all be nicer to one another if you could do that.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Round Tuit

I once saw a hand painted disc of wood about the size of a salad plate in a gift shop with “Tuit” written on it. It took me a minute, and an explanation from a clerk to get it…but it was exactly what I needed. Instead of calling myself a procrastinator with grandiose plans that seldom get completed, I call myself a wonderful prioritizer. I fight the brushfires that might cause great damage first, and then get around to the others when I have time…which sometimes is not at all.

The current economy, and my new knee giving me more mobility than I’ve had in years, has led me to do some long neglected tidying up and cleaning out and throwing away. I’ll never make the pages of the organization magazines, but at least I’m thinning out my stuff so that I know what I have and where it is so I won’t buy something that’s already on the shelf throwing good money after bad.

This burst of organization has led me to realize how wasteful I’ve been through the years. I’ve always loved beautiful things, and done a fair job of copying expensive clothing for my children, and now my grandchildren. Turning me loose in a fine fabric shop with a Visa was like bringing an alcoholic to a wine tasting. I just couldn’t resist. Consequently, I have yards and yards of beautiful, and mostly expensive, fabric sitting on a shelf. I also owned a fine used sewing machine which I bought on Ebay three years ago and had never even threaded. Last weekend, I got Walker to remove my worn out machine and help me figure out the new one. It took both our brains, we use opposite sides for every imaginable task, to get me going, but today, I began sewing an Easter dress for Becket on my new machine.

This dress will make her feel beautiful because she’s still thrilled to dress like an old fashioned doll, at least for another year or so. It will make me feel satisfied because I will have used something that was wasting away. My copy of a dress that sells for a couple of hundred dollars probably won’t be perfect, but it will be good enough. That dress is my round tuit. I hope there will be many more!


P. S. I just found a site in Great Britain that offers accessories for Round Tuit types. Cute idea.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wait a Minute

If you are a regular reader or a member of my family, you know that I am a news junkie. I had kind of weaned off MSNBC after the election, but the whole AIG scandal has got me hooked again. This situation totally stymies my ability to make sense of it. How could we have gotten ourselves into this mess? For one idea, see my previous blog on this subject

Lately, I've watched totally bewildered like the rest of the modern world as Trillions…Trillions!!! of dollars are being printed and scattered like dry leaves on the world economy apparently never to be seen again. Like the rest of you, I wonder when one of those trillion dollar bills might land in my driveway alongside the morning paper. It hasn't happened yet.

The current strategy seems to be to print more money, give it to lending institutions, and encourage everyone to go further into debt as our patriotic duty to spend in order to save various institutions and businesses from demise….maybe.

What??? We’ve all dug ourselves into a hole, and they want us to keep digging? Digging for what? I know.... maybe... China! Every kid knows that if you dig deep enough, you’ll eventually get there. Only when we do get there this time, we’re most likely to going to find out that we are expected to pay up for all the junk we already bought that we didn’t really want or need.

That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

How about we play Actions Have Consequences instead? You know how to play that don’t you? The basic rule is that once you make a choice you’re more or less stuck with it until it’s your turn to make a new choice. There are a few wild cards in the game, but not many. Some good wild cards are having your Pop give you a few dollars if you make the honor roll or finding a five in the pocket of your jeans that you haven’t worn all summer. A bad wild card might be if Auntie Jane gets Alzheimers and mails you a check for ten cents instead of ten dollars. That kind of sucks.

In Actions Have Consequences, if you decide to turn right at the corner to stop at the playground, but your brother sneaks around through the bushes, he will probably beat you home and get to eat the left over brownie on the counter. If you spend your whole Christmas Check on a Wii, you can’t also get the new tennis racquet you wanted or be able to buy Hannah Montana tickets at scalper prices.

If you want more stuff than you can afford, you have several options. You might have to wait till your next birthday or sell some cans and bottles for scrap, or maybe do a few chores for a neighbor. If that Hannah Montana concert is a few days before your birthday, maybe someone else would get the tickets for you and let you pay them back when Auntie Jane’s check comes, but you can’t get more junk until you do pay for those tickets. You also have the option of trading some of the stuff you already have to someone who might really, really want it for some cash, but sometimes no one wants what you’ve got, so that plan won’t work and you have to come up with a different one.

What if none of those options work? You talk to the other players and hope they have enough kindness in their heart to let you keep the things you really need. They can give you food or a blanket or a ride to work, but only for a while. Eventually you are going to have to do with less stuff or find work.

The truth is that anyone reading this probably has enough stuff to survive comfortably until they can find some sort of work that will make it possible to get by. I hope we'll all wake up soon and realize that we've been on a crazy drunken spending binge and know that once we sober up, life can be better than ever.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Luck of the Irish

This morning I ran across a copy of my maternal grandfather's application for the draft completed in 1917. On it he accurately describes his stature as “short and stout”. That tendency, along with a little bit of a dour outlook on life, seems to be what I got from him. But I also got his love and adoration until I was eight years old when he died of a sudden heart attack at sixty-four, a loss I still feel to this day.

Popo ended up getting a deferment from the draft because he listed himself as the sole support of his wife, although Mamo never gave any indication whatsoever that she couldn’t support herself perfectly well, thank you.

I knew Popo was home from work by the smell of his cigar and the small bag of chocolate covered peanuts always stopped at Kresses to buy. He usually left them where I could find them, beside the crystal candy dish on the living room table which was usually filled with some sort of awful crème filled chocolates. I would follow the smell of his cigar to give him a hug, often finding it smoldering in the ashtray on the mantle. A whiff of a cigar can transport me instantly back to his lap, which was ample, as is mine at sixty-four.

Popo was the kind of grandfather who mowed down their entire crop of oxalis when I came in crying after stepping on a bumblebee minding his own business. He was the kindest man I ever knew.

Yesterday when Walker got in the car after work, the kind security guard chucked him on the shoulder and reminded him to wear green tomorrow. He and I pondered what in the world he might own that was green. I suggested checking for a green ball cap, but before I went to bed, I put a bit of green ribbon and a safety pin at his spot where he eats his breakfast.

This morning Walker came down decked out in green socks, green gingham shorts, and his usual work shirt over a green camo tee. That boy doesn’t really need his mom worrying about silly things like wearing green for St. Paddy’s Day. Maybe he got Momo’s sense of being perfectly capable of taking care of himself. I hope so.

I think I'll buy a pot of oxalis today, just a small one, not large enough to tempt the bumblebees.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Friday Flashback Cheap Chick

I’ve never really been fashionable. My short stature and curvy body made most clothes off the rack look ridiculous on me, and for most of my life I made do with whatever I could find or make that made me sort of fit in. Mama and I made the ballgown in the picture; I think I felt pretty.

My mother and grandmother lived through the last depression. Although my grandfather had a steady job, Mamo was an entrepreneur before that name was even coined. She ran a beauty shop, a boarding house, and sold her fabulous cakes from her back door. She always seemed to have plenty of money, but she shopped wholesale in Birmingham.

My mother, on the other hand, lived on a small allowance from my daddy, and it was point of pride for her not to have to ask him for extra money. I didn’t realize until I was grown that Santa Claus and Easter Bunny and all our clothing had to be paid for out of Mama's meager funds. So she sewed and shopped discount...really discount.

I can still remember the stench, and not fondly, of the old Belk-Hudson store in Montgomery where my mother dragged me to a fire sale hoping to find something to suit a miniature and very surly teenager. We did not. I began sewing for myself and by ninth grade shopped for fabrics and patterns and created passable imitations of the clothes my friends wore.

My wedding dress was one of the first and last store bought and full price items I'd ever owned, and we bought the first one I tried on while being treated like a princess at a high end shop. Mama beamed and even paid extra for alterations.

Wouldn’t Mama be tickled to know that thrift is finally in style again, certified by no less than the New York Times!

I hope I'll remember how lucky I am to want for very little in this life, and I hope that someday someone decides to make somthing I can afford at full price that makes me feel pretty again. In the meantime, I'm going shopping in my closet.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Summer Reading

A while back I promised to share a book list of some of my favorite reads. This is a mixed bag of some important books and some less important ones; it includes some of the most memorable books I’ve read in the past few years.

If you’re a reader and would like to share your favorites, click comments below, and I’ll be happy to explore some new books over the summer.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by John Krakauer
The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Meridon Series by Philipa Gregory
Running with Scissors:A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam Karen Armstrong
Afghanistan by James Michener (I love Michener…all titles)
How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Saits and Villains by Denise Giardina
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Run by Ann Patchett
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

My Last Days as Roy Rogers by Pat Cunningham Devoto
The Summer We Got Saved by Pat Cunningham Devoto
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Who Knows?

A couple of weeks ago our church hosted a Bart Erhman, a noted biblical scholar and speaker. To hear his talk go to

The reviews have been mixed, to say the least. One friend just can’t stop talking about how wonderful he was and has read two of his books since his talk. Others had a real problem with our church, Christian, but Episcopal, hosting someone who is an open agnostic and honestly states that he can’t reconcile the idea of a loving, powerful God with all the suffering that goes on in the world.

I personally gave up that struggle a long time ago, so his statements were not nearly so shocking to me as to some. Because I have read a good bit about other faiths in recent years in an attempt to understand the world we live in better, I have come to realize that there’s just no way to really know the things we profess to believe. The tangible records that have gone into making our Bible the beloved book that it is are old, damaged, sometimes mistranslated or miscopied, and in my mind at least, kind of unreliable.

Strangely, coming to that conclusion did nothing to destroy my faith, just kind of made me view it from a different perspective.

I can remember a long, long time ago when a priest asked our Sunday School group whether God had ever spoken to them. To my astonishment, I was the only person in the group who raised their hand. I still kind of marvel at that.

No, God hasn’t spoken to me in a wonderful Charleton Heston type voice and told me what to do, but He has helped me to hear Him through others, and even through the power of Him that lives within me. Because He has spoken to me in some way, I am prepared and not afraid of what lies ahead anymore…at least most of the time.

My most significant sense of God speaking to me was in the days following Walker’s birth. For a full account you can go back to early posts on Down Syndrome.

What I still cling to is what I do know, and that is that I have not been alone…someone or something has been with me throughout my life. Is it God? Probably not in the sense of a guy with flowing robes and a long white beard sitting on a throne, but that doesn’t bother me.

The Free Dictionary provides the following information about Agnosticism:
Word History: An agnostic does not deny the existence of God and heaven but holds that one cannot know for certain whether or not they exist. The term agnostic was fittingly coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning "without, not," as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic. Gnostic is related to the Greek word gn sis, "knowledge," which was used by early Christian writers to mean "higher, esoteric knowledge of spiritual things"; hence, Gnostic referred to those with such knowledge. In coining the term agnostic, Huxley was considering as "Gnostics" a group of his fellow intellectuals "ists," as he called them who had eagerly embraced various doctrines or theories that explained the world to their satisfaction. Because he was a "man without a rag of a label to cover himself with," Huxley coined the term agnostic for himself, its first published use being in 1870.

When I started writing about not knowing, I initially thought I could probably be classified as an Agnostic myself, but the more I think about it I do know that God is with me, even if I don’t know from one moment to the next what he looks like or sounds like. Ergo, as they say in logic, if he's with me, he must exist.