FUN, FAMILY and FAITH: The Trifecta

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I thought I was going to visit my sister and her family to celebrate my oldest nephew’s high school graduation and to be at his party.

God knew I needed a day off, a road trip with my family and to see the living proof of His active work on my sister’s behalf during a medical  journey that started several years ago.

I had planned to be a blessing, but instead I was blessed with fun, family and a faith-strengthening encounter with two women – Janet and Teresa.

But first, the preparations.

Getting a sub (I teach in middle school); making sure my children (young men – actually) weren’t missing any life-altering school requirements; and my husband. The four of us. Bliss. Together. I love togetherness, even if two of the group had earphones. We’re still together.

It’s a long hike to South Florida, where my sister and her family live. The roads are flatter than flat but eventually we arrived at Exit 107. My oldest son drove the entire distance (about 6 hours’ worth) and I did what all teachers do when they’re off work – sleep and grade papers. OK I am working on not grading as many papers when I’m “off work.”

Since my nephew’s school is small, his class had 11 seniors. They even had a wonderful class portrait made and in the foyer prior to entering the chapel that housed the graduation ceremony, each student had a beautifully decorated table with memorabilia (stuff that was meaningful to them). Daniel, my nephew, had been on the school’s inaugural football team. His jersey hung proudly on a stand behind the table, which was decorated with Starbucks coffee mugs from his world travels: Greece, Turkey, Rome, etc.

Heck, I haven’t even been out of the country yet (unless you count Mexico and the Bahamas on a cruise) and this guy’s been globetrotting, able to go on a Holy Land tour that revisited the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament of the Bible.

He had favorite photos displayed, a book passersby could sign and lots of Florida State Seminole items – an obvious hint to his collegiate path after that night.

My brother-in-law, Daniel’s dad, gave the commencement address. During it he named each student and wished them God’s blessings in their areas of interest – a prospective teacher, worship leader, a health care worker, Daniel, a soon-to-be filmmaker and media communicator and others.

After the obligatory family and graduate pictures afterward the night drew to a close. Saturday was outside time where the 14 of us (including my parents and other sister and her family) enjoying the pleasures of first-time pontoon boating and getting plenty of vitamin D – the main cause of sunburn.

And then Sunday afternoon, the graduate’s open house was on tap. I met many, many people that day but it is Janet and Teresa (their real names) who God planted in my presence for a purpose. Among others, these two women have been sisterly extensions of love and support to Daniel’s mom during the last several years.

Without going into much detail, just let me assure you that in case you wonder whether God can comfort, provide and encourage long distance, the answer is yes. Yes. YES.

While I sat six hours north during those days praying in my own way that God would do what He needed to to meet my sister’s needs, these two women were called into action in ways that amazed me. Here at home, I was surrounded with people who constantly asked for updates on my sister, who hugged me when I felt fragile and frail – knowing that I couldn’t do the “big sister thing” with so much distance between us.

Is so many meals in the freezer that people had to cease bringing them a sign? What about the woman who comes and cleans her house? The one who makes house calls and does her hair, which is now below-shoulder-length in radiant dark brown curls? The many I’ve never met and Janet and Teresa?

All I can say is that I underestimated God and instead of Him making me feel guilty for it, He used the gentle smiles and hugs of these two women to remind me that they are His extensions to my South Florida family – and not just during crises.

I can’t predict how God will meet the needs you choose to give Him access to.  But the reason I wrote this post today is so that you can know if you don’t already that God is who He says He is – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Just wondering: When has God turned the tables on you and blessed you when you were the one expecting to bless someone else?

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FUN: The Yummy Kind

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It was a typical Tuesday night with an atypical chill that made pizza sound like a winning mealtime option.

My then 12 year-old gladly searched through the coupon magazine we received that day in the mail. With authority he read to me the various “meal deals”. It was a litany of seemingly endless food options.

It’d be easy and a night off KP, so I listened and considered.

“Two for Tuesdays” was the offer from one national chain. Unfortuantely, we remembered what we had forgotten – that our last encounter with “Two for Tuesdays” left us hungry and pizzaless because our order was lost for several hours.

“Order pizza online,” boasted another claim.

“Oh, why not get into the 21st century?” I thought. “As long as they don’t want too much information…”

So we connected to the anonymous electronic computerized community. We managed to enter my email address and “yum yum” for the password. We even got our city, state and ZIP code right but our sign in procedure was deemed “invalid” and the screen directed us to a tollfree number for help.

I didn’t want help! I wanted pizza!

Forget technology, I thought. Time was ticking, stomachs were growling and we decided to try a less complicated procedure – phoning in the order.

Our favorite pizza place is located just down the road – within five minutes from our house.

Beeep. Beeeep. For heaven’s sake – all that answered was a fax machine!

Moments mattered and our desire for dinner now required drastic, successful measure – a personal visit to place our order.

Within minutes the too-hot-to-handle cardboard carrier of cuisine landed with a loud smack onto the pizza place’s counter. As it let off its steam, it punctuated our presence with the perfume of pepperoni and all was right with the world.

Yum. Yum.

(Written 2004)

Just wondering: What experiences have you had where simpler won over technology?

ETC: 4 Minutes with a Teacher

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Between now and the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year I’m actively looking for 180 teachers (public, private and/or homeschool) who are willing to be featured in a project on which I’m working.

“4 Minutes with a Teacher” is designed to give you an idea of what a teacher can communicate in a short time frame.  I used the amount of time we have between classes at my middle school as the time limit. Why the 180 instructors? That’s how many days are in the public school calendar.

Some teachers may complete a paragraph. Some may have to stop in the middle of a sentence, but they all have 4 minutes in which to write on any appropriate topic for the blog.

Are you an educator or do you know one personally? Please ask them to contact me for more ideas.  In the meantime…I have to go….My 4 minutes is up!

FUN: Hairy Idea – Update 2: 15 Months to Go and Being Green

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Photo 2 - May, 2010

 

When last I wrote about my Rapuzel Quest – I explained its two-fold  purpose. One: to help by providing 8″ to 9 ” of hair for a charitable group. Two: to try and time the cutting near my 50th birthday. Kerri, my stylist, estimated a 12- to 18-month process.  

So here we are three months into the project and I have to admit it:  last week was hard. The growing-out process is psychological. I found myself purchasing small barrettes to help pull some hair back from  my face.  

All of a sudden I felt 6 years old again.  

But back to the story.  It had been 6 weeks since my last visit.  No wonder I was going crazy as I’m usually “in the chair” every 4 weeks or so.  

Now last weekend brought with it a change to my hair. Let me explain.  

As a reward trip for their hard work this year, my fellow creative writing teacher, another teaching friend and I (plus chaperones, of course) took 30 of our advanced writers to Savannah, Georgia for ghost tours, cemetery research and and plain ole’  fun, which still exists, by the way.  

Before placing tape on the outside of our students’ doors at the hotel (a precaution to deter sneaking out!) one room of girls invited the three of us to drop by. While there, one young lady straightened my hair. She works at her uncle’s shop on weekends. I could tell she knew what she was doing since she moved the flat iron confidently from my scalp to the ends. Secretly, I was really hoping for braids, but the straightening was wonderful. I was amazed at her patience and the end result. Of course everyone liked it and it was official when my husband gave it the thumbs up after I arrived home.  

Next another student offered to do my nails. I sat across from her on the other side of a glass inlaid coffee table as I surveyed the 20+ bottles of nail polish. I think the only one missing was a glow-in-the-dark variety!  

“What do you want me to do?” Margaret asked as her eyes smiled.  

Geez, I thought to myself. Don’t say something boring – definitely not just one color.  

Recently, I had seen myriad designs on the nails of middle school girls. I had never thought of my nails as 10 tiny art canvases, but they had!   

Quick, I pressed my thought. Make a reasonably “hip” choice  – and fast. It was hard. It was 11 p.m. I’m usually asleep by then.  

So while Margaret waited anticipating her next art project, I blurted:  “I’d like pink with purple polka dots on my left hand and purple with pink polka dots on my right hand.”  

I about fainted. What did I just say?  

At any rate, the results were beyond cute and many of my colleagues complimented me at school this past week.  

But back to Kerri and my hair. Once my husband mentioned that he liked the straightened look I suggested she teach me what I needed to do to maintain it. Step by patient step she showed me what to do.  

“Wow, your hair is really growing!” she commented with pleasure.  

It was amazing to me. I actually feel my hair now and it moves. And it’s straight. And I’m well on my way to making my goal – even though I wonder how the hair on my head continues to win when I see so much on the bathroom floor!   

As for my nails, not so much. I hated to make my polka dots disappear, but the chipped polka dot look is the ultimate in unbecomingliness. I think I just made up that word!  

So, while my tresses aren’t nearly long enough to toss over the railing for Prince Charming, they’re making progress and I’m having fun. Want to join me?  

 By the way, what hair was trimmed off today is being accumulated by the salon and shipped off to help with restoration efforts in the oil spill clean up.  

Just wondering: What goals drive you crazy?  

If you want more information about the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, to which I’ll be donating my hair, click the link here: http://www.pantene.com/en-US/beautiful-lengths-cause/Pages/hair-donation-requirements.aspx 

Fun and FAITH: It’s OK to say AIN’T

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 NOTE: I wish I could take credit for writing this but I cannot. Unfortunately the author is unknown. — CBL

AIN”T
   
 He was just a little boy, 
 On a week’s first day.. 
 Wandering home from Bible school, 
 And dawdling on the way. 
   
 He scuffed his shoes into the grass; 
 He even found a caterpillar. 
 He found a fluffy milkweed pod, 
 And blew out all the ‘filler.’ 
   
 A bird’s nest in a tree overhead, 
 So wisely placed up so high 
 Was just another wonder, 
 That caught his eager eye. 
   
 A neighbor watched his zig zag course, 
 And hailed him from the lawn; 
 Asked him where he’d been that day 
 And what was going on. 
   
 ‘I’ve been to  Bible   School  ,’ 
 He said and turned a piece of sod. 
 He picked up a wiggly worm replying, 
 ‘I’ve learned a lot about God.’ 
   
 ‘M’m very fine way,’ the neighbor said, 
 ‘for a boy to spend his time.’ 
 ‘If you’ll tell me where God is, 
 I’ll give you a brand new dime.’ 
   
 Quick as a flash the answer came! 
 Nor were his accents faint. 
 ‘I’ll give you a dollar, Mister,
 If you can tell me where God ain’t.’

FAMILY and FUN: Of Suitcases and Smiles

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No this isn't my child but you get the idea!

 

Today when you mention suitcases, it probably accompanies a rise in blood pressure. 

Is it small enough to fit on board a plane? In your trunk? Can you pack inside everything you need? If you’re flying, is there’s a charge to check it instead of carrying it on? Is it locked? Do the wheels help instead of hinder? 

You get the idea. 

When I think of suitcases, it’s because of a memory someone ELSE had about my children – when they were much younger and we lived across the street from Mr. Buddy and Mrs. Kay. (See Of Stickers, Raisins and Graduations.) You see, Mr. Buddy’s sister from Virginia came for periodic visits and as such was automatically transplanted into the neighborhood grandparent-type role Mr. Buddy and Mrs. Kay voluntarily assumed. 

Seems Mr. Buddy’s sister reminded him of a time my eldest – who is now almost 19 – walked across the street to announce that he was going on a trip and had his suitcase packed. Then my son summoned Mr. Buddy and his sister to come and see what he had packed. The suitcase was even lying flat in our driveway if I recall correctly. 

So as affirming adults who gave children a “good listen,” both Mr. Buddy and his sister obliged my son as he accompanied both of them back across the street and motioned to the suitcase. The gist of the story is that my eldest – who was probably no more than 7 – unzipped the suitcase it to reveal – his little brother – who was probably no more than 5!  And the little brother was in on the gag. 

I’d like to say there’s some deep brotherly bonding meaning in that my eldest would always want my youngest close at hand or that they would always travel through life supporting one another, but it was just one of those simple moments that makes you smile. 

Sometimes I think life comes and goes with such speed that even a mother has periodic memory blackouts that others come by and illuminate. This was such a case. 

I’m glad Mr. Buddy’s sister remembers the brother-in-suitcase story. It made my day. 

Just wondering: When has someone remembered an event in your life that you had forgotten? How did it make you feel? Post your story if you wish!

FAMILY and FUN: Maw Maw’s Message

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Surrounded by love: Maw Maw on left, me in the middle, Paw Paw on the right.

Aside from the fact that I loved my grandmother’s nicknames for me (Sugar and Angel), she was one of the most insightful and fascinating people I’ve ever known. 

At an early age, I realized that this woman – Frances Virginia Marlowe Huffaker – was an excellent communicator. I have letters from her to prove it. Before I started typing, when handwriting was all we had, I told her the details of being a the oldest of three girls, a crazy in love teen, a college student realizing her dream to study journalism and then a young married woman with endless possibilities ahead. The mailman faithfully carried our correspondence back and forth between Virginia and Alabama, Georgia and Alabama and finally Florida and Alabama.

Maw Maw had an innate ability to listen without interrupting, a skill I consistently work on when my sons and husband talk to me.  And Maw Maw? She was just as comfortable talking to a 7-month-old, a 7 year old or a 70 year old.

That Frances Virginia Marlowe Huffaker.

Her simple life was flooded with one main ingredient: love. It could be evident in her cooking and her saving  snippets of ribbon to wear in my hair, remnants from the loom she worked at a ribbon mill in Alabama.

She hid $20 bills in her Bible, “just in case” and cared for an aging chihuahua named Pepi (who wasn’t very). I remember the click-clacking of Pepi’s uncut nails as he’d try to stop on the linoleum flooring in the vicinity of his food dish. Usually, though, he slid passed it, had to reposition himself and then step toward the bowl to be successful.

My grandmother never complained (that I remember) and she always looked toward the future, brightening up when listening to my life goals and talking out the pros and cons of pending decisions. She was a confidant, a cheerleader and someone who really didn’t say much. But when she did, it mattered.

That Frances Virginia Marlowe Huffaker.

She’s been on my mind a lot lately and in Heaven for a long time. She passed away before I got  to tell her I was pregnant with her first great, grandchild, the one who will be graduating from high school in a month. She would have nicknamed him, too. And my second son. They would have blushed like I did, but would secretly have loved her special names for them. She would have listened to them as well and communicated with them in meaningful ways though I’m sure she’d still prefer personal communication to texting.

The other day I stood before my class of beginning creative writers – most of whom are in 6th grade. In my introduction to poetry, I told them of a four-line verse I’ve carried with me my entire life. I wanted to know what kind of interpretation these 21st century children would have on this rhyme my grandmother had told me. I usually heard it on occasion after occasion when my attitude needed refining when I was their age.

“If you ever mean to do a thing,
And mean to do it – really,
Don’t ever let it be by halves,
But do it fully, freely.”

My students’ comment were thoughtful and I could tell that they’d found layers of meaning within the verse’s words. I was impressed.

My grandmother would have been, too. She probably would have smiled and nodded at each suggestion.

That Frances Virginia Marlowe Huffaker.

Just wondering: Is there a woman in your life – even someone not related to you – whose impact has lasted for years? Honor them by telling your story in the comments section.