Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swinging Moods

Last week was a busy one opening up our shared lake house for the summer, preparing food for a weekend with friends, and a few spurts of baby sitting sprinkled in. It was all worth it when the weekend turned out to be a glorious one in lots of ways.

Then Monday got here.

The recent rains had had Walker’s farming bogged down in knee deep Arkansas mud, and he bolted out the door early Monday morning, anxious to get his crops in the ground to assure having a good place to hunt doves in September and an ample supply of sweet corn for the summer.

I knew it was going to be a busy day, but it all seemed manageable until I got to the bank.

I had allotted almost an hour to deal with getting a cashier’s check between dropping little Walker off at work and picking little John up after kindergarten. I actually thought I’d have time to putz around some of the neighborhood shops or the Williams Sonoma Outlet in between.

When I got to the bank it looked promising.

I rarely go inside the bank anymore, doing most of my business online or at the drive through. When I looked a bit bewildered at where to go, deskside or the teller window, a matronly manager spotted me, introduced herself, and put me in a line with no other customers. Piece of cake…

The teller, Tamicka, was professional in appearance, but her manner was less than welcoming. Never a smile, flat tone of voice, just a series of questions that I strained to hear through the tiny crack. Did I know that it cost $7 for a cashier's check? No your account does not provide them free anymore. The total would be ______. Yes, that does include the $7. I could almost swear that I could hear her mutter under her breath, "idiot". I carefully wrote out a check for a number considerably larger than the ones I usually write, and I got it ALL right without having to start over and I slipped it through the slot to her. She eyed it suspiciously.

Then the real trouble began. Tamicka required assistance/approval of some sort from the manager, went to the vault, brought back a stack of blank cashier’s checks about an inch thick, recorded the beginning and end numbers, and put them in the copier. When she printed mine out something wasn’t right.

Thirty five minutes later, neither she nor the friendly bank manager had explained the problem to me. A line had formed behind me and extended almost out the door. The drive through teller was alternating between cars and the line. My back was killing me from standing at the window. I spotted a chair nearby, and feeling uncomfortably like a suspect in a robbery awaiting the cops to arrive, I sat and watchfully waited while they conferred.

I did hear the drive through lady apologize for the delay to the waiting customers, as had I.

Forty minutes after my arrival, I went back to the window and asked Tamicka what the problem was. She still offered not one word of apology, but held my check out and said there was a problem with the printer and that I might want to go to another branch. The manager was on the phone with the copy company. I told her I had a few minutes left, and would prefer not to have to drag a hungry five year old grandchild back to the bank, so I would wait. When I finally gave up after another ten minutes, just in time to pick John up, I still didn’t have a cashier’s check. After more discussion, I was given a phone number I could call to see if the check was ready on my way back home after carpool.

I called. It was not ready, so I asked the Ever Not-helpful Tamicka to just call me at home to let me know when it was ready.

After John and I downed McDonald’s, I realized that I’d actually save time and relieve my mind about making my appointment to close on our refinance if I did go to a branch nearer my home without back tracking to the branch closer to his school. So he and I loaded up and went to the bank.

Again, I got in line, and the Oh So Helpful LaShandra processed my cashier’s check in less than three minutes.

I hope I’ll be able to blank out the Tamickas in the world and find more LaShandras this week. I hope I’ll be thankful for the rain and the sunshine that brings the fruits of our labors in the fall. I hope I’ll remember that technologies like copiers actually save time most of the time.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Biggest YES!

Like many of you I have watched with amazement as a potsie little lady from Britain has charmed the world, providing inspiration for all of those that have their gifts bundled in modest packaging. Molly sent me this link and I have listened to it several times now, and it never ceases to bring tears to my eyes.

The most amazing thing was not what Susan Boyle herself did. I know of many older people who enjoy performing, some who didn’t get their start until their late forties or early fifties. (Including myself, who got roped into a small part in an independent film when I was sixtyish.) What was amazing to me were the comments made by Piers and Amanda. The obvious astonishment on the faces of the audience and the judges was a telling sign of what they had expected.

Who knows who will “win” this competition? Who cares? The inherent error of judging people by appearances has been heard by millions already. Seeing Susan’s modesty and uninhibited delight and grace overwhelm the natural tendency to say, “I told you so!” was a true inspiration to all.

I hope I’ll remember the message of Susan Boyle every time I walk into a group and discount those who don’t look very interesting on first glance. My mama used to say “pretty is as pretty does” and boy is Susan beautiful!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Flashback Friday Things That Begin With R

This post is written for Flashback Friday over at My Tiny Kingdom. Link on the right side of this page.

In our family we have a real understanding of the big R word--retarded. It was the hardest word for me to get comfortable with after Walker was born. There had been quite a step up from “Mongolian Idiot” to “Downs Syndrome”, but deep down, I knew that whatever they called it, it was difficult to get through life with it.

For more thoughts on the current terminology go to
http://onlycasualobservations.blogspot.com/2008/09/names.html .

I’m not sure when the first time I heard perfectly normal kids call each other “retard”, but I think it was when Sarah was in Junior High School in the 80’s. One of my proudest moments as a mother was when she told me she had confronted her friends about using the word, explaining that it was hurtful. I think it made different people out of her friends, several of whom now work with “Special Populations”. I’m glad she had enough self confidence to be able to sound off without worrying about losing friends.

I hope things have improved with mainstreaming and the educational advances made for those with special needs. The comment made by Barack Obama, however unintentional, making light of the talents of those who participate in Special Olympics gave me pause though.

I hope that everyone who reads this will pass it on to a friend who might share it with their children. Words can hurt. Even if they don’t break your bones…they hurt.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Easter season is a barrage of ancient symbols: rabbits and eggs and bonnets and hams and lilies, most of which seem to me to have more to do with natural springtime events than Christianity. In the South we also have the legend of the dogwood blossom which definitely seems to connect springtime to the cross.

There’s another symbol of Jesus and Christianity I had never thought about much about until recent years—the butterfly. In fact I never considered it an Easter or Christian symbol at all until three years ago when I was in a discussion group that read Sue Monk Kidd’s “When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions” in which there is a great deal of butterfly imagery. ( Actually, way too much for me, but sometimes things come together and make sense later on.)

Soon after we discussed the book, a week or so before Easter, I had a day with grandson William, then two and a half. I made a copy of a page out of a lovely “adult” coloring book with magnificent butterflies and gave it to him to color. He scribbled a bit then held it up for me to see, “Look, Grammy, William color JESUS…Alleluia!”

Naturally, his Grammmy decided he was a spiritual prodigy, at least until I found out that he had recently begun attending a “Little Lambs” Sunday School class taught by his mother. Little Lambs get to color, something he immediately associated with Sunday School and Jesus and Alleluia. I still think it was advanced for his age.

Walker and I happened to be celebrating our fortieth anniversary on Maui that Easter. It was my first Easter ever to celebrate away from my home church, but I was thrilled to be somewhere warm and sunny. Things didn’t seem so great at my home church anyway because we were “in transition” after the loss of our priest. Since I don’t ever feel quite comfortable with the unfamiliar, I was a little anxious too. Would it be too weird?

We scouted out a church on the beach not too far from our hotel and showed up for Easter Services. It was a traditional building with a steeple and a Celtic cross. Their sign had the familiar red white and blue shield of the Episcopal Church. Okay so far. Along each side of the building, windows without any screens tilted out creating a completely open air environment. You could hear the waves crash and smell the salt, and an occasional sea bird screeched. Just outside the windows, but within sight and hearing distance of the sanctuary, there were extra chairs set up for the overflow crowd.

Then we walked into the sanctuary, and the first thing I saw was the banner. It was a large one, obviously hand made, and it shouted what all Christians shout on Easter morning, ALLELUIA! It was covered with butterflies.

We sang “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” and “Hail Thee Festival Day”. The cross, the altar, the priest, and the choir members were draped with orchid leis. Different, but in a wonderful way, and familiar at the same time.

Easter Sunday in a far away place reminded me once again that Easter is really about more than the symbols. It’s about resurrection. I hope we all find our faith resurrected once again on this Holy Day. Alleluia!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Walker talks a lot  about the Easter story. He can come close to reciting it verbatim from any of the four gospels.  As we rode along together to get Steffan for the new Hannah Montana movie today, Walker reminded me that it was Good Friday, when Jesus died on the cross.


I was feeling mildly guilty for not attending a service. I’ve had priests who have proclaimed that they didn’t want to see us celebrating on Sunday if we hadn’t mourned on Friday. As a kid I used to like being an Episcopalian because we, along with the Catholics, could skip school to go to the three hour noonday vigil.

“I told Julia about it. And tomorrow is Holy Saturday, when He was put in the tomb, and then comes….wait, don’t say it yet!........You know what Sunday is….. EASTER! When Jesus rose from the dead to save us from our sins. Just like we read on Palm Sunday. So we would fear no more.”

“Um..hmmm. Yeah, that really is what Easter is about. That's why we shouldn't be afraid of dying because that means we’ll have eternal life.”

“Oh no. Not me. I’m not dying. No way!”

“Well, everybody dies. It’s just like being born, it’s part of living.”

.....................“Yeah!....Only BACKWARDS!”

A little more questioning and I discovered that this enlightened idea came from the movie Casper the Friendly Ghost starring Christina Ricci, among others he cited. Her character was named Kat Harvey, you know, because it was published by Harvey comics for many years.

 I never know what my man-child will teach me.

I decided that I wouldn’t challenge this concept. Walker seemed comfortable with it. Whatever helps you deal, I guess. I think I want to watch Casper tonight while I stuff eggs. Might learn something.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Faith Symbols

When son-in-law John stopped by to pick up John and Becket Sunday morning, I was getting ready for church. I offhandedly commented that I like Palm Sunday then qualified my statement with, “Well,sort of...”

John immediately asked what I think Jesus would think about us picking the cross as the main symbol of Christianity.

“I’ll bet he wouldn’t have liked us symbolizing the worst day of his life. He liked fish and fishermen. I’ll bet He’d have liked the fish better.”

I assume that John had been thinking about this for a while. I had not.

I wonder how our Christianity might be different without the emphasis on the cross? Would our faith have survived 2009 plus years, give or take a few? Is the story of Jesus dying that we might have everlasting life the only way to get the point across that following his teachings is really, really hard, but necessary?

The message Jesus brought was not very different from the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament, and is even more simply stated. According to Matthew, Jesus was asked which is the greatest Commandment. He offered this Summary of the Law. “ 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (King James version)

Pretty simple, huh? But people are still killing each other over the details of how to carry out God’s will. Some of our neighbors in far away lands are still starving to death as we sit here. We still haven’t gotten it right.

The News is telling us that there are more people with doubts about their faith than in a very long time. The more I read about injustices sanctioned and sometimes carried out by officials of the church in God's name, the heavier the bag of doubts on my back begins to be. I'm apparently not alone.

I’m glad John asks me outrageous questions. I hope somebody knows the answers.
I’m thinking right now that maybe the world needs more loaves and fishes and fewer crosses.


Monday, April 6, 2009

A Holy Week

I decided to go back to church yesterday because I have a thing about C&E people, and I had become one of them—plus one, I guess. Big Walker was in Montgomery hunting, and Walker III really likes to go to church. It felt good to be there, although financial constraints and a balanced budget meant that Pedro the donkey wasn’t tethered outside awaiting a grand entry as we waved palms this year.

The Palm Sunday sermon challenged us to do something really difficult in our lives this week, and I’ve been mulling over how easy it is for me to dismiss the significance of sacrifice. I’m not quite as bad as my husband thinks I am. I do not consider staying in a Holiday Inn “roughing it”, but I do avoid pain and sacrifice a bit more than I'm comfortable with. I think I’m going to do one thing every day this week that is hard for me though.

After church Walker was unusuallly chatty about the significance of Palm Sunday and Easter Day. He went through the sequence of expected events of Holy Week, getting all the events correctly, and then related the Gospel reading to something he knows and loves—Godspell. His theology is a combination of Catholic schools, Episcopal Sunday Schools and Broadway, but what the heck, he gets it, maybe better than I do.

I’m glad I went to church with Walker.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Flashback Friday Sixth Grade Graduation

This post is part of Friday Flashbacks sponsored by my friend Anne Glamore over at My Tiny Kingdom. The link to her blog is http://www.mytinykingdom.com/

My grandson, Robert, is graduating from sixth grade this year. It’s a big deal to him and his buds because they will be scattering to go to different schools, different sports teams, and probably different social activities, ones that include girls.

A couple of years ago, I tackled the task of sorting through reams of memorabilia from my parents house, and uncovered a number of things that I hadn’t even remembered existing. This picture of my sixth grade class was among the debris. My mother saved everything, but preserved almost nothing, but this reminder of my prepubescent self survived.

Graduation from sixth grade didn’t involve a major change for my class; I don’t even think there was any kind of celebration. We would move into the newly opened Bellingrath High School, but it was simply an extension of the building where most of us had attended elementary school. There were lockers and we changed classes, something Robert’s class has probably been doing since kindergarten, but it was more of the same. We had always been schooled with both sexes, something that began to cause chaos about sixth grade.

Miss Hunnicutt was a stern taskmaster, and our interests and libidos were beginning to run rampant by Spring of sixth grade. That was the year we discovered….fireballs! One classmate’s father owned a drug store, and Seabie had a small enterprise bringing candy to school and selling it to the rest of the class. Miss Hunnicutt definitely did not approve.

I was not a frequent customer of Seabie’s, but fireballs were very cool, and if you had a stash, you had friends. One day I placed an order for fifty fireballs and gave Seabie my dollar in payment. The next morning Miss Hunnicutt was on a rampage. There would be no more candy of any kind allowed at school. Oops…I had just tucked the crumpled paper bag with my treasure under my desk. I had visions of friends gathering round me on the playground to share, and I wasn’t giving those visions up easily.

As we flowed out of the classroom for recess, Miss Hunnicutt caught me red handed with the fireballs. I probably gave a smart reply, and the double whammy earned me a great big U in conduct for the term. My mother was not pleased either with the U or my smart mouth or my social interests. Back then, we got in much more trouble at home than ever at school.

I know Robert is a much better student than I ever dreamed of being, because I actually never dreamed about being a good student and he does. He will receive some honors at graduation as he does every year because he’s truly a wonderful young man. I hope he doesn’t discover temptations out there more dangerous than fireballs, and if he does, I hope his parents will give him more trouble than the school does.