Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012, Start Your Engine


I'm going to beat the New Year's clock by a few days. Here are my... hopes for 2012:

Exercise in some way five days a week. I’d love for this to be at the gym with sweat involved. (When was the last time I exerted so much energy, sweat was involved? I don’t even know if my sweat glands work…) Realistically speaking, this will probably be a balancing act between gym visits, my bedroom treadmill or just parking far away from the door to the store and hoofing it.
Cook less. Less? Really? Yes. I’m a great cook. Ask anybody. But, my time (and waist) has focused on food for way too many years. Oh, I’ll still rustle up something healthy most nights, but I’m convicted to spend less hours at the counter and more with life. I want to eat whatever and have time to spend on people, outdoors, hobbies and most of all God.
Cut em some slack. Don’t we all wish for that? Age does have a few benefits and one that I’m so glad to acquire is grace. When I was younger, I judged people with lightening speed. “How in the world could she do that?” “What was he thinking? Is he just stupid?” Ouch. Maybe it’s because God has had to teach me this humility lesson several times by showing me my own failures that I’m more able to look beyond and see the person. Oh, I’m still tempted to think those judgemental things and sometimes people really are mind-boggling, but it’s a part of life. And life moves too quickly to pass up the chance to extend grace. Instead, I want to hear myself say, “They’re a work in progress just like I am.”
Make dates with God. I often lead Bible studies, so spending time with my Bible isn’t always a struggle. But, honestly, there are times when I’m after the answer to the question and don’t catch the bigger meaning for my heart. Ashamed to say it, but it’s more like a task on my list on those days, instead of a treat. So, I will take each session with a slower pace, and prayerfully ask Him to change my approach.
Shhhh. I need more stillness. Even though I don’t have kids at home any longer, it’s still way too noisy in my house. The washer beeps to change the load, my iPhone blings an instant message, the dog whines to go out - again, and of course, the television blares babble in the background. So, if it means turning off all electronics, bundling up and taking a walk alone or even driving to a lovely but lonely corner of the county and parking the quiet car, I’m going to add stillness to my soul. The writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery voiced this so well: "The great of the earth are those who leave silence and solitude around themselves, their work and their life, and let it ripen of its own accord."
Make room for fun. I have super fun adult kids who make me laugh. My friends are assorted sizes, ages and temperaments. I love the arts, good music, photography, hiking, a trip to the mountains or a sunset walk on a beach. And I would treasure a chance to travel to places I’ve never been. Good books feed my mind and sometimes my soul. Games challenge me and planting flowers brings me smiles. And writing… that’s the expression I’ve known since childhood. All of these things are fun in my world. In 2012, there will be 527,040 minutes. Most likely, I’ll spend 2908 of those asleep. That leaves me 524,132 to have fun. And instead of doing math problems like these, I’m heading out the door!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Early Christmas Morning

Two children sleeping soundly under mounds of covers. The kitchen clock ticks away while my mug of coffee steams beside the couch. I've listened to scripture on this day of Christ's birth and wondered at how God could send Jesus to be away from his side for 33 years. My heart aches for my kids when they're gone for a few days. I revel when they're here. Inside, my heart is singing.

Christmas morning. How I thoroughly enjoyed it when my kids were little. I would often beat them out of bed and ready the breakfast table. Santa would leave their stockings bulging by their plates. I'd quietly turn on the tree, light the candles and above all else, start the coffee! Then, I would hear soft padding of slippers coming down the hall and the joy would begin.


My children are grown now, unmarried and here for Christmas. Both of them sang at our Christmas Eve services being light to thousands in the sanctuary. As I watched them on stage, I uttered a mother's prayer over and over. One that I'm sure is common for most of us when we see our kids serving the King. Nothing fancy or eloquent, but straight from my heart - "Thank You, Jesus. Thank You."


The candles are lit, the stockings wait at the table and I'm on my second mug. In a few minutes, I'll have to wake them up. The joy will begin. But for just a few seconds, if I close my eyes, I can still hear slippered feet padding down the hall.




Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hanging On?


It was one of those moments this morning. I looked out my window at the tall sycamore. The brilliant December sun lit it up like a Christmas display and as I uttered a prayer of thanks, I noticed one leaf on a branch dangling in the breeze. There are a few stragglers left hanging, but I focused on this one at the end of it's branch. That's when I had a flash of "Oh, this is like that."

The last leaf to let go. Ever been there? Hanging on to something afraid to let go? Your knuckles aching but your fear driving you to keep that grip. Because, who knows what awaits if you surrender and release? Maybe all around you have moved on and you're the last. They might even be shouting from below, "Come on, let go. It's great here and we're all waiting for you." So, what's holding you back? Are you happy there dangling by yourself but determined?

Eventually, some winter wind or the burden of snow will take the leaf down. Sometimes, the cruel winds and burdens of life knock us down. Most of us can give examples of those times. But, are there times when God's waiting for you to let go so that he can move you to something better? Are you postponing a life changing experience?

Can you hear someone shouting to you? "Come on, let go. I'm waiting for you."

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

- Proverbs 3:5-6


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Born on Christmas Day




"Oh, your birthday is Christmas Day? Well, I'm sure you celebrate it on another day, right?"

Haven't you heard someone say this to a child? Maybe you've thought it. It seems unfair that on their birthday - a day that's traditionally made special just for them - they share it with packages wrapped in reindeer and tin soldiers. I mean, who wants that? Where's the icing rich cake and pals centered around you at the arcade room? Who can do a birthday sleep over on Christmas Eve? I bet some kids would go so far as to say a Christmas birthday stinks.

Yesterday, while listening to some of my favorite Christmas music, I sang along and then stopped after the line "Christ was born on Christmas Day." Wait. Rewind that. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Christmas Day was born when Christ was. Not great grammar, I agree, but truth. There was no Christmas when Jesus was born. No packages. No Eve service. No established day called Christmas Day. So, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Jesus wasn't born on Christmas Day.

We all know the story of the barn birth. I doubt there was snow or mistletoe or anything close to fruitcake. Some of our traditions come from what surrounded that night. Gifts from the magi, joyous music from the angels, lights to symbolize The Light of the World. But on that night, very few knew that their awaited Savior was tucked away in his mother's arms sleeping soundly. It was just another night for the majority of the world.

December 25th wasn't set as the official day to celebrate Christ's birth until sometime after 400A.D. That means for 433 years after that amazing night, there was no Christmas. Oh, believers remembered him. They may not have mailed cards or been in bathrobe plays at church, but they did more. They spread the gospel, grew the church and lived their lives awaiting his return. They didn't need a calendar to tell them when to celebrate.

Maybe I don't either...




Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Christmas Duck Box



"You just wrapped your own present."
     I was always duped. As were my brothers. A box would slide across the floor and we'd begin wrapping not even knowing the contents. My mom always bought so many Christmas presents, we'd spend several evenings in our large family room wrapping. Paper, ribbon, tape and scissors slid from one corner to the next as we each did our part to help. Ready made bows weren't around then, so we made our own winding circles of ribbon, cutting, tying and pulling loops this way and that. Mom's were pretty. Ours, comical. The fireplace would crackle while Andy Williams crooned on the console TV.
     When I was a teenager, I did a little better in the wrapping department. I remember one year, for my dad's birthday, I decided to wrap the box top so it could be reused. This, of course, was long before recycling was considered. I don't know why, but the paper I chose was a blue windowpane print with ducks on it. Probably what we had on hand.
     "How clever!" Mom said. "We can use this again." And we did. Every Christmas.
     Sometime after 1985, the Duck Box resurfaced. Of course, Mom put Christmas paper over it and sent it to my house. Not to be outsmarted, I returned it the following Christmas. That began the "Duck Box" tradition. You never knew when it would appear since it was a standard size - like a dress shirt box. Some years, it held unexciting things like under ware, but other years, it contained the big present. The one you never expected and loved the best.
     As the years progressed, the Duck Box took on personality. We couldn't be happy with plain old ducks. Mom got out markers and added festive Santa hats and holly. The next year, I put on sunglass stickers. Mom decided they needed polish on their web toes. One even laid a golden egg. And we didn't stop with the cover. Inside was tissue paper - with Christmas mail stickers, return address labels from our different houses, the original yellowed wrinkled tissue and a few styrofoam packing peanuts thrown in for good measure. At some point, on the back of the box, we began marking the years with our initials. Somehow, we always remembered who had The Duck Box. I loved it.
     The Duck Box is gone now. It made it's last trip over 3 years ago. It was my turn to send it to Mom. If I could have wrapped up a cure for cancer, it would have been the best gift ever hidden inside that tissue. Somehow, I knew I'd never see it again, so I carefully clicked pictures. I guess I knew that there would come a time when I'd tell a story about a silly old box full of love. Yep - I just wrapped my own present, Mom. Thanks for the memories.




Sunday, November 27, 2011

Scary Santa

     Chris has been around here since he was in high school. So much so, we became "Mom2 and Dad2." He and our son, Josh, are best friends and throughout the past ten years they've spent many days together whether here or at college.
     We usually have a Christmas party and the first year Chris came, he wore a smile all night. He loved the cookies, the people and the festive decorations... but later, I learned there was one decoration he wasn't so happy about. My Santa face. The one I grew up with in my childhood home. I always thought he looked so real. Just like the magical Santa of the story.
Not Chris. "He's scary! I hate looking at him."
     Just last week, Chris was on his honeymoon when I decorated the house. I couldn't help sending him a holiday text with a picture entitled, "He's baaaaack!" I hope Chris' wife finds the perfect place for this when I'm gone. Maybe above the bed?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Orphans

"I wish we had a big family."
That statement comes from one of our mouths every Thanksgiving. There are four of us in our family if you don't include the dog. Three of the grandparents are waiting for us in Heaven and the last to remain here is locked away in his own world of repeating memories that don't always include us. We have cousins in various places, but we never knew each other well. So, when holidays appear, we do our best to include our "other family."
I'm known as the cook, so it only made sense to invite holiday orphans to our house each year. We've hosted close friends who didn't travel, transplanted young families who couldn't go home for turkey and sometimes even set the table for just the four of us. On Thanksgiving afternoons, when it's just us, we' ve made a movie our tradition while others are playing games in rooms full of overstuffed stomachs.
Not this year. This year, we loaded the car and got on the road with all the other holiday travelers. I've heard the complaining about traffic, but I found myself grateful to be on the interstate with all those cars. It made us part of the gang. It meant we had some place to go and people to share with. Our son now lives in Nashville, an easy three hour drive. And, he works retail, so anyone familiar with "Black Friday" knows what that means for him. It was impossible for him to come home for the feast, so we volunteered to take it to him. I cooked all day Tuesday. Wednesday,we packed the cooler with goodies, picked up our daughter after a half-day of work and got on the road. Stopping at McDonald's for a break and a splurge on hot chocolate, I found myself humming Over the River and Through the Woods. I wasn't harried and impatient. I was smiling.
When Josh was hired by Apple to be part of their local sales team, he met some great new friends transplanted from various cities. It seems a few of their families were trekking to Music City for the day as well and at the last minute, the boys suggested we all do turkey together. We had enough food to feed 30 people and recipes from Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Ohio and Kentucky. We included others from the gang who couldn't make it to their hometowns but were part of the family they've established in this groovin' town. They're all young, hip, relaxed and full of laughter. People you'd want to spend time with.
The families meshed together easily. No awkward moments. We all had a common goal - to enjoy Thanksgiving with our kid. The other families had left gatherings of 20+ in order to support one loved adult child far from home. It worked seamlessly. We ate, we sighed, we took pictures outside and then, when the sleepiness settled in from all that turkey, we started the game.
Apples to Apples was the entertainment choice. (How ironic is the name considering their employer?) Any uncomfortable inhibitions were tossed aside and we became a family of sorts. We laughed and made new inside jokes for this thrown together group.
"It's 'TAKING a shower, not TALKING!'
"That baby cry was sooo real!"
"Was there a melody somewhere in that humming?"

Later, we said goodbyes with hugs and promises of meeting again. As I settled into the hotel bed, I was thankful. For a place to celebrate, a kitchen filled with abundance, hugging and laughing with my family and for a special group of Thanksgiving Orphans.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Latte Gospel



“I just adore everyone in here. You guys are so special to me.” The woman standing at the coffee counter spoke in a loud voice that filled the room. It echoed off wood floors and stark walls. Her frizzed dark hair sat limply on a zebra print coat. As she walked to the condiment bar, her high heeled boots clicked strongly.
“Every day, I wake up and think to myself, ‘Ok, it’s time to put what I want in the closet' Ya know? I mean, it’s not all up to me. I think God has a plan and all I can do is make the best of it.”
“I agree,” said the young tatooed girl tamping beans while soulful indie music sang over the speakers.
“Do you? I know some people think they can control their destiny. And, of course, we do to some extent. I’ve given this so much energy. I mean, thinking it through and everything. It’s so deep. But then, isn’t everything?”
The coffee maiden nodded eagerly and simply answered, “Yeah.”
“All I can do is do my best. I try everyday to make a good impression on the people I encounter. I mean, what else can I do? If I try and talk about God to people, they’re just going to turn me off like I’m one of those intolerant obnoxious conservatives on TV. Oh my gosh, no way! I have my own understanding of what God is all about and I’m not about to force it on anyone.” She picked up her to-go cup and moved to the cash register.
“But, you guys get it,” she said.
“Aww,” The maiden responded.
“That’s why I love you guys so much. Everyone who works here is fabulous. Really. You’re like family.”
She paid for her double soy latte and clicked her heels towards the door. The busy city street lay in wait while she raised her hand saying, “See you guys next time.”
And with that, she carried her witness out the door.
****************************************
A few moments spent in a new coffee shop. One placed smack-dab in the bohemian neighborhood of my city where mostly twenty-somethings and leftover hippies strive to live the politically correct, environmentally friendly and conscience awakening lifestyle. Where people are encouraged to be free, live without worrying about image and “find” yourself.
What I find instead is a pseudo community. Filled with people searching.They aspire to be deep and give approval to others in their quest, yet all seem to be empty and disconnected. Because they are still searching.
Searching people dwell in all communities, whether they are surrounded by head bangers or country club blue-bloods. Regardless of where I encounter them, I leave sad. I want so much more for them. And so did He.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hey, Watch This!

There haven't been too many times in my life when I get so thrilled that I just want to shout. I'm a pretty even-keeled kinda woman. But, this morning - I'm a wiggling giggling mess.

In case I haven't told ya - my two kids are phenomenal. No bias here. Really.

My youngest, Josh (23), is launching into the career of his dreams. We've been anxiously awaiting his first music video. We've heard all about each step as he's worked on "covers." I'm old-school, so I didn't know what that was at first. A cover is someone else's hit that you perform. The music business has changed over the years and in this age of technology and the internet, the way to begin a music career is to put some familiar "covers" on YouTube. Why? So, when people are searching for a popular song, your version might pop up in the search and they find you, like you, and pass it along to friends. The more views he has, the better his chances of others finding him. Once that all happens, you can launch your own stuff - and he has it waiting to roll!

Today, Josh put up the first of many covers on YouTube. He plans to add another by the end of the week and then more weekly. He's hoping that they get a lot of views (so... you know what's coming now, don't you?) Yep - Here's the video. If you would, watch, click like and even post on your Facebook page if you like it.

Hey - I've purchased many a candy bar from your kids....




Monday, October 10, 2011

Whatever


“Whatever.” It’s a phrase we hear so often in today’s culture. I’ve said it. Usually to dismiss something as unimportant. To say it doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things.
Deciding on where to go to dinner? Whatever.
The house is a mess and friends are coming. Whatever.
I didn’t get everything on my list done today. Whatever.
Maybe you’re guilty of the “Whatever Habit” too. It’s easy to fall into and it almost sounds like a good thing. It says you’re not uptight or worried about what people think. Or, that you don’t have a bunch of demands. You’re easy to get along with. Hey, whatever. I’m good with it, ya know?
But then, today I read something that made me reconsider. Elizabeth Elliot is one of my favorite authors. She wrote about little things and how she was taught to pay attention to them in all areas of life. She believes that our character is revealed in how we handle them. From putting the cap back on the toothpaste to sweeping under the bed where no one sees, our approach to little things says a lot. I used to tell my children “A job worth doing is worth doing well.” Groans often ensued. I understand. I’ve tried to keep that frame of mind, although I’ve been guilty of taking the easy way out far too many times. We all have. Haven’t we all said at some point, “Who cares? No one’s going to see it.”
Ah, but Mrs. Elliot pierced that thought with the following bit of wisdom: “Visible things are a sign of an invisible reality.”
After pondering that for a while, I realize my whatever attitude is just an excuse for not doing things well. Maybe it’s time to care more about those little things and show it.
Guess I’ll be reworking my vocabulary… again!

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coming Attraction

"Slip sliding away" is what Paul Simon sang and it's been true of my September. I'm pretty inconsistent with this blog thing, but I'll throw something on here so the five who follow it will feel like there's hope. I've joined a writing critique group that now has me focusing on my novel, so be warned that any time I have to write is dedicated to that. In the meantime, I'll jot a few random thoughts to close out September.


We're movie fans around here. Mike's all-time favorite is "Hunt for Red October" and although many guys love that movie, I think he wins the obsessed award. No lie - he's watched it probably 34 times. I don't understand how you could watch a movie that many times without knowing every line. I have several chick flick favorites and when "Hunt" isn't on the screen, they sneak in and he enjoys them as well.

We love the program on our Apple computers that shows us the trailers for upcoming movies. We click, watch and usually say, "That looks good." And, of course, in the theaters, we watch trailers and grade them as to whether we'll pay to see it. Some are thumbs down without question but other trailers cause us to lift our eyebrows, look at one another and go "Oooo... I can't wait!"

Interesting thought this morning:
If Jesus' visit to earth - you know, when he came as a babe and died as a Savior - if that visit were a "trailer", what would your reaction be? Would you give it a thumbs up or down? Of course, I know this depends on your faith or lack thereof. Think about it. Would you be interested in the "feature film"? Would you say "Oooo... I want to see that one!" Well, if you liked the trailer, you're going to love the whole film (so to speak). When that's released, it will be high-definition supreme and color beyond our imagination. Action, romance, music, and sets will be mind-boggling. The leading man will be THE only leading man. And the supporting cast? Well, if you get to see the whole picture, then you'll be part of that cast. And, perhaps the best part - no calories with our buttered popcorn and Milk Duds. Oooo...I can't wait!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Tool Box

This morning while showering, I reached for the razor and became annoyed that although new, it wasn't doing the job. In fact, it didn't seem to cut anything. That's when I looked at it closely and discovered the plastic guard was still on the blade.

I'm an avid scrapbooker and can remember tracing letters and cutting them out by hand. No matter how slowly I went, holding my breath trying to cut them precisely, they always looked a bit ragged. Then, my thoughtful family bought me an electronic cutting machine for Christmas. Presto - perfect letters in a few seconds! It's all in the the right tools.

I often hear people complain that they don't enjoy reading the Bible. "I know I should, but it's so confusing/boring/out-of-touch. I get more just listening to good sermons instead."I love a good sermon. Many times I'm convinced the speaker has had a hidden camera in my home. They can speak to me with conviction or encouragement. Our minister is excellent and I look forward to hearing him, but...

I'm convinced that reading the Bible is my main "tool" for hearing God. I bet I have 15 Bibles in my house with different translations and commentaries. Some have thought provoking questions tied to verses on the page. Others give me lots of background information about the writer, the places, history and the times when the passage was written. These can all aide me in gaining a different perspective or understanding those confusing stories. Bible scholar books, devotion books and maps. (My husband loves maps. Is this a guy thing?) We have maps of Israel, the Bible lands then and now, the Temple, etc. Since I'm addicted to leading studies, I have whole shelves filled with study books. At some point, I've used them all but in honesty, I have more material than I could possibly cover. And yet, the one that works the best is worn, torn and marked in and the first Bible I bought when I jumped off the fence and surrendered control to Christ.

Can I throw you a challenge? Find a version that reads easily for you and then just open it. That's it. Read. Then, keep reading. He'll meet you there. He promises. You'll hear him if you're heart is listening because... well, it's the only tool you'll need.

 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 
         Jerimiah 29:13

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fit and Feathers

"Sometimes, you just have to do what's good for you."
"Take the good with the bad. "
"A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down."
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Don't you just hate these sayings? I know they're supposed to inspire and motivate you, but honestly, who wants to hear this when you're getting ready to do something you'd love to avoid? They make me want to throw a smarmy smile at the encourager along with a bottle of Flintstone vitamins.

I've claimed this year to be my "Get Healthy" year. I've also been talking it up - so others will keep me accountable - and telling myself how great I'm going to feel. A little voice inside I call "The Whiner" tells me to sit down and give it up, but I'm trying to ignore it. I'm desperate to convince myself that this will be fun, great, an adventure and it will have a BIG payoff. I believe in the payoff, but fun? Not so much.

I joined a fitness center. It's really more of a health and wellness center. I can handle that over the spandex clad gyms full of toned and flexing abs. Where I go, walkers are not people on a track as much as metal stabilizers with wheels. There are trainers who smile and look great, but they work alongside people who are aged, recovering from surgeries or are overweight. I fit right in on several levels! I'm not intimidated and so, although this gym is a good drive away, I'll go. Today, I'm suited up in my old workout clothes and comfortable shoes to meet with my trainer.  That cute young thing will nudge me on the machines and cheer when I don't wheeze. I'll go because it's good for me. And I'm telling The Whiner to take a nap.

That's the part of today that fits into the Just Get It Over With section. Later this afternoon, I'll reward myself with a trip to my salon. Not for pampering or nail polish, but for an "out there, go for it, I'm not such an old lady" adventure. I'm meeting my 27 year old daughter and we're getting feathers! If you're thinking Big Bird, you are soooo uncool.  I'm talking about the new fad of putting a thin, discrete, colored feather tucked into your own hair. Right now, I'm going with blue (to match my exercise bruises.)  Hey - they're removable unlike tattoos (which I detest). It's the end of a long hot summer, it's something unexpected on a mom over 50, and it's harmless fun. Why not?  And who knows, when I look in the mirror, The Whiner might even smile!




Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Quick Stop


"Think I'll just run in to..."You fill in the blank. Having lived all of my life in the South, I'm not sure if this is a phrase we use only around these parts. Today, as I ran into a home improvement store to pick up a few hooks, I realized way too much of my time is spent running. I wish I could tell you my running is the healthy kind involving athletic shoes and clothes that have armour in their name. My running involves too many steps for the payoff.

Like half of the nation, the summer here has been less than refreshing. The month of July hasn't just entertained high temperatures, it offered them a package deal if they booked a month's stay. How amazing that we're thankful for a high of 90 degrees. And humidity here feels like melted molasses. We're all wearing the lightest cotton garments we can legally get away with, rushing into air-conditioning and trying to stay sweet like our tea instead of edgy. I did, however, post a comment on Facebook saying it's so hot my dog is begging to be potty trained.

This morning, I took the dog the groomer. That was all I had on my to-do list and I was content with that. After two days of running all over town, from morning until sunset, I was looking forward to a day at home. Slow-paced, quiet and most of all, cool. But then, that pesky phrase invaded my serenity. "Think I'll just run in to..."

"Running into" isn't a simple process. It involves, lowering the windows of the car just enough for air-flow, but not enough for a coat hanger to snake toward the lock. (Although who would spend that much effort in this heat?)  Next come the windshield shades. As I twist them open being sure to avoid maiming, I wrestle them under sun visors and behind the rear view mirror. Make sure I have my cell phone. Make sure I have my regular glasses to switch with my sun glasses once inside. And, most importantly, make sure I have the keys before hitting the lock button on the door and slamming it. This last step could be repeated like an obsessive maniac. No husband wants to come unlock the car in this weather. Of course, when returning from the store, all of these steps are reversed and repeated.

What ever happened to home delivery? The 1950's were full of delivery men and I remember a few entering our kitchen door. Dairy products were placed in the fridge after the milkman checked to see what we were out of. The dry cleaning was picked up and hung in the hall coat closet. The Fuller Brush Man showed us new and improved cleaning products. Big jugs of bottled water were delivered and replaced on a tilting stand. Department stores would freely deliver any purchases my mother made. Pharmacies brought drugs and tissues. Groceries would even deliver for a small charge. And, as kids, our favorite was the Charlie Chip man who exchanged large cans of greasy, salty chips to accompany PB&J lunches. Running errands was a option.

I once saw a plaque that read "If a mother's place is in the home, why am I always in the van?" Good question now that my kids are adults and on their own. I have to admit, the errands I often run are not essential but extra. I choose to run out for a few things that I certainly could live without and might be better off in the process. I find it takes a real effort for me to leave my purse on the chair and resist the urge to head to the store.  I don't know if it's advertising that has brainwashed me into being such a consumer or my need to feel like I have everything I need at hand, but I couldn't be the only one stuck in this rut. Running errands can become a full-time occupation. I'm thinking of quitting. Of spending three full days without turning on the car engine.  But, before I do, I think I'll just run in for...

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Favorite Chair


Do you have a favorite chair? The one your family knows is “yours”? There may not be a sign on it, but it’s understood. For many years, I sat in an old wing chair I inherited from my family. It’s been reupholstered in different fabric styles, but it always feels the same. When my family opens Christmas gifts, we all have to sit in the same spot.  That’s not my mandate, but my kid’s. There’s something about those seats…

A few years ago, I heard a worship song that brought chills to my arms and tears to my eyes. That isn’t always the case for me. I love to worship and for many years, I sang from the stage leading others with wonderful, spirit-led songs. During those years, my desire was to move into a place with God of repentance, praise and thanksgiving and to be used by Him to help others do the same. It was a wonderful time of ministry for me. I wonder if learning so many songs is part of the reason that I’m a hard nut to crack when it comes to moving me so powerfully. Whatever the reason, this song did it. It’s written by my all-time favorite worship leader and composer, Travis Cottrell. His love for Christ is in every word he sings and if anyone can lead me into worship, it’s him. Thank you God for those who use their gifts for you.
Travis wrote a song called “The Mercy Seat.” It’s amazing on it’s own, but he also coupled it with the chorus from a Michael W. Smith song, “Lord Have Mercy.” 
While listening to it again this morning, I closed my eyes and pictured this mercy seat. What exactly is it? Do you think of a judges bench? A chair for the Pope? The Mercy Seat was built according to directions from God to Moses.  And it was made just like he said. It’s the top, or lid, of the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark was a box which held the Ten Commandment tablets and was placed in the inner-most room of the temple. Only the High Priest could enter the room called the Most Holy Place and only on one day each year. Pretty special. On that day, the high priest would bring blood into the room and sprinkle it on the Mercy seat to atone for the sins of the people of Israel.  
So, what’s this all about? Sprinkling blood over a lid. How does that mean anything to us? Stay with me here. Sometimes, when you search the meaning behind the original Hebrew words, you understand a little more. The Hebrew word meaning Mercy Seat means to cover. Ok, I get that; it’s a cover on the Ark. But, this word means cover in two ways; as a noun, meaning a lid or top and it’s root word is a verb meaning...to pardon or atone for, as in to cover a debt. Ah, I think I’m getting warmer. Blood, sacrifice, cover a debt. Sounds like someone who saves.  But what about the seat? Is Jesus sitting on the Ark of the Covenant, the Mercy Seat?  
Covenant = promise. Jesus is the Covenant. The Promise. Everything we learn in the Old Testament points to him. All that blood, the killing of perfect animals, is symbolic of the perfect Jesus and his blood.  So, where is he seated now that his blood was given to cover us? He sits to the right of God who is always on his throne. He’s the ultimate High Priest in the Heavenly Temple and he’s interceding - going to God - on our behalf.


Today, I pictured him in this seat of honor with his arms stretched out. To me. To you.
So, come running. Come running to the Mercy Seat. 

You can listen to the song here:

Friday, July 08, 2011

Dress Rehearsal


I have a "girly girl." She's twenty-seven now, but would still love to buy sparkly shoes and skirts with petticoats if it were fashionable. Her favorite game when friends came to spend the afternoon was dress-up and I could always count on seeing girls giggling and twirling. I must admit that I've even seen a "twirl" now and then in the dressing room as we searched for prom dresses. Twirling must live deep within the hearts of girly girls everywhere.


Whether you consider yourself girly or cosmopolitan, the desire to be looked upon as breathtakingly beautiful is universal. We women do enjoy being the princess, no matter our age. I've often thought I should have a princess party at my home.  Not for four-year-olds with plastic scepters, but for grown girls with winsome hearts. A chance to let go of our grown up ways, to giggle and to twirl all the while, feeling very special.


If you were to ask my daughter which birthday was the best, she would tell you it was the magical night that my husband and I took her on a date. She had asked (with a pout) when she could accompany us on one of our monthly date nights and when her seventh birthday arrived, it provided the opportune time. Her nails were painted pink, her blonde curls caught up in a large bow and a new dress complete with a petticoat presented. The prettiest element of her outfit was the sparkle in her blue eyes. We took her to a revolving restaurant downtown where candles glowed and teenage girls in prom dresses bustled past our table. My princess found it all perfect. After dinner we strolled beside the warmly lit fountain and listened to the clip-clop of a carriage horse.  The evening ended, I tucked her into polka-dot sheets and prayed a mother's prayer.


Dressing up and feeling special.  Is it just for little girls?  Do we all crave this and why, do you think, it might be?  Today I was reminded of a possible reason.  I think God made us to long for this specialness. When we come before the throne, we will wear a new outfit.  A new dress, so to speak.  Our Holy God can't be near sin.  It just isn't possible.  As sinful people, we're drenched with it.  So, in order to have access into the throne room, to live with Jesus and the Father forever, we need a change of clothes. Jesus provides that for us. When we surrender to him as the one who saves us, we receive his clean and spotless clothes to cover us. We're told in 1 John 3:2-3 that "we shall be like Him." Now, isn't that something to look forward to? To stand spotless before him and feel special because "the King is enthralled by your beauty." (Ps. 45:11)


Join in! Feel special! It's what he died for.  Revelation 7:9 tells of a crowd of worshippers dressed in clean white robes.  Party attire.


And I bet some of them are twirling.
Made in my domestic days for a princess.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wah, Wah, Wah!

I detest whining. It's so annoying and just gives people an excuse not to do something. Most whines begin with the word "But..." and are followed by lots of "I can't" declarations. When my children were young and into whining, I tried to quickly shut them down with "I don't hear you when you whine. Try again and this time talk to me." It usually worked.

Today, I realized I'm a whiner about something. Just typing that gives me the creeps. I hate to admit this, but as I read the scripture for my daily prayer time, it slapped me. I'm whining that I can't do something God has repeatedly told me to do. Not run for office, go into missions, or fast for months. No, it's something I love doing. He told me to write.

So, why the whining? Because I'm afraid.

You see, I'm afraid I'll fail at this. That I'm not "good enough." Who do I think I am to attempt this? Who in their right mind would spend time reading what I think? I'm limping along with it, trying to spend time writing and hoping to finish a project and slide in under the radar achieving moderate success. Success that would validate my effort, that would satisfy God. All the while, wondering if I really have what it takes.

Have you struggled with something you think God's told you to do? Are you supposed to use a talent, maybe one that you're not sure is all that stupendous? Are you running to Nineveh to catch a fish?

Today, I read 3 verses from Exodus. Sometimes, God only needs six words to convict me. Moses was whining to God. Knelt down, shoeless and stunned, he managed somehow to move into whining and uttered,


"O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”  (Exodus 4:10 NLT)


Did you catch them? "I'm not very good with words." I'm not very good. Do you ever think that? Do you say it to God when he asks you to do something? You know what? You're right. YOU aren't very good, nor am I. But, God is and he went on to tell Moses the same thing he'll tell us:


“Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”  (Exodus 4:11-12)

Well, that takes care of the whining about what to write, doesn't it? I think I'll post this verse over my desk. But, I'm still not full of confidence. I worry that if I gain great confidence, I'll become prideful or arrogant over something that doesn't warrant it.  Maybe a good piece of writing, but nothing on the Best-Seller list. Won't I look silly! 

I moved on to my next verse for the day:

"We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ.  It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God." (2 Corinthians 3:4-5 NASB)

I think my Parent is saying, "I don't hear you when you're whining." 
  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Rainy Day House

     I read a quote today that seems fitting as I sit in my office listening to thunder roll across the morning sky.  (My companion, Woody, seems undisturbed!)

"Walking through puddles is my favorite metaphor for life." (Jessi Lane Adams)

     It's been years since I stomped in puddles during a summer rain. When the thunder ended, Mom would send us out with instructions to jump in as many puddles as we could find. There was something about getting the nod from her to drench ourselves with abandon that made it more exciting! Maybe I should invite the 6 year-old neighbor to join me later.

     Now that the Kentucky Monsoon Spring has abated for several weeks and the record breaking heat early in June baked us to clay, I'm ready for a rainy day. What, you say? If you look back a few posts, you'll find me whining about gloom. But yes, being the fickle woman that I deny being, I am loving being inside my cozy office with the rumbles outside.

     I've always wondered if I was born on a rainy day. There's something secure about being inside, safe and dry with warm lamplight glowing and some Campbell's soup simmering for lunch that makes me feel... loved. Having a safe "harbor" in the storm and being cared for by people who love me - can there be anything better?

     Childhood rainy day memories are good ones. I remember neighborhood friends at the door with red rubber boots slipped over Keds and dripping umbrellas on hurriedly spread out newspapers on the floor. We'd open the legs to a wobbly card table and spread out the monopoly board and distribute paper money. (Who would get the the Scotty dog or top hat as their token?) Hours of board games moved into fort building with blankets topping the card table as well as footstools pushed into rows to form tunnels. The search for batteries ensued for flashlights, as we pretended to be pirates in caves. Imagination at work. Sadly, something that isn't given much notice today. Adventure would be interrupted with soup and hotdogs followed by a "rest time" with comic books. We'd read about Beetle Bailey, Little Lulu, Casper, and SuperMan until they inhabited our dreams. Ah, to be back in the rainy day house. Safe, secure and loved.

     Ah...but I am.  :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Honoring Heroes

Memorial Day usually finds me hauling out flags, grilling dinner and feeling very patriotic.  However, I am a child of a World War II Navy Veteran.  A gentle man, now 89 and trying to remember simple things while spending his twilight years in an assisted living home in Florida.  I recall how he tried to tell me about the war when I studied it in high school.  The terminology confused me and I'm sure I just wanted to be done listening and call my girlfriends.  It wasn't until years later, after Vietnam, after having children of my own to protect, that I sat with my husband Mike and truly gave Dad the audience he deserved.  It was then that I realized the bravery he and so many others showed.

If you've seen the movie "Saving Private Ryan" you'll remember the horrific scene at the beginning of the movie.  The beach scene at Normandy France.  It was there my father, then a Lt. jg, fresh out of an accelerated class at YALE and not even 22 years old saw death and mayhem.  A young man with barely a beard to shave and dreams of a future put on hold as he watched scenes he never forgot.  I learned of his ship, LST-133, and how they eventually hit a mine when returning for a second trip to the beach.  How they limped back to friendly port.  How they were awarded the Navy Citation Medal.

Like many from that war, my dad never talked about it.  Now, it's what he talks about most to any man he finds who served as well.  Several years ago, my mother told me about Dad receiving a phone call from an old ship mate telling him of a reunion being held.  They were too advanced in age to make that trip, but the amazing thing was, after hanging up, Dad sat down and started to cry.  After LST-133 hit the mine, Dad had held a severely injured man's head in his lap until the medics took him away.  There was no doubt in Dad's mind that he had not made it.  For almost 50 years, he lived with that  memory. "He's alive." he whispered. During the phone call, he learned that his shipmate was, indeed, alive and living out his old age.

I have a blue binder with pages of memories from my father's youth.  Many of those pages deal with the war. I have included segments of his description of D-Day on board his ship.  His words are in italics.  I tried to summarize others to shorten the post.  On this day of honoring heroes, please indulge me in giving tribute to my dad, who like so many others put themselves in front of death to defend all our American freedoms.


Walter "Bud" Witherbee




"The 'word' came down to us that finally we were to set sail from Portland on June 6, 1944.  I was not yet 22 years old.  We had been briefed beforehand on the situation with the Germans on the beach- where the strongpoints were, etc.  An immense fleet of ships had been gathered along the southern coast of England and now was proceeding on its appointed task in the invasion. Our appointed landing beach was designated Easy Red, the toughest place of all. Paratroopers were supposed to drop behind enemy lines on the beach and knock out German coastal artillery before we got there but they got confused and dropped into wrong positions with accompanying loss of life.  Likewise the gliders, who were supposed to land behind enemy lines.  They landed hither and yon with resultant loss of life and equipment.  This was to be done pre-dawn and in the darkness, which it was."

Dad goes on to recount how LST-133 received orders to beach at once - best possible speed.  When you beach at "flank speed" you don't come off again.  As they tore through the anchored ships toward the beach they saw they were the only ones moving.  A suicide mission.  My dad was the gunnery officer and broke open the small arms locker so the men would have some protection when they had to abandon ship.

The Captain (a regular Navy Chief Signalman before Pearl Harbor) was on the superconn, an elevated platform with ladder mounted above the regular conn where I was stationed.  We proceeded and got closer to the beach, I could see the effects of the earlier beachings.  Solid wreckage of smaller vessels.  There was no way to beach except to run over one or two of them.  We came closer and closer and then, suddenly to port, a blinker light going madly.  I read the blinker.  It said, "LST 133 STOP! DO NOT BEACH!"  No action from the captain.  Surely as an ex-Chief Signalman he can read it.  Still no action.  Finally in desperation, I hollered, "Captain, that LCI says 'stop, do not beach!"


"Very Well", he replied looking through his binoculars surveying the wreckage on the beach.  


The LCI continued to madly blink the same message.  I continued to wait for action from the Captain and got none.  Once again I hollered to him relaying the message.  Muttering "Very well" again, he finally got the message and at the last possible second ordered "Hard right rudder!"  We almost broached on the sand but made it successfully.  We anchored, the closest ship to the beach, just south of the largest German gun emplacement on the beach.


The following day, or as the Navy man put it, D-Day plus one found them with orders to beach at a different spot at high tide. They followed orders and once again upon nearing the beach, they were met with another blinking light saying "STOP! DO NOT BEACH!" It was too late, they beached.  The tides at Normandy were so immense that they had to wait 3 hours for them to recede and another 3 hours to come back in so that they could come off the beach.  As the tides receded, the men on board saw the reason for the frantic message.

There were iron poles braced on either side by two short iron poles.  Where they came together at the top was an explosive device.  Our port side lay against one of the bracing poles and our starboard side was against the other.  About 10 yards from our bow doors was a third similar device rigged so that when the explosive at the bow went off, it triggered the others.  Bear in mind, that my main storage area for ammunition was forward.  There was nothing to do but wait. 


Seeing that they had landed safely, the Admiral then ordered the other LSTs to go ahead and beach.  Luckily, none hit any mined poles.  Later, after the tide came in and Dad's ship retreated from the beach, they received another blinker message.  This time it was the flagship saying "LST- 133 WELL DONE!"

Well done, indeed.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Remember?

I love a good story. And a storyteller who can paint with words. My mother could capture my imagination and weave it through the stories of an era past. Whether sitting on the steps leading into our kitchen or lying with my head in her lap as she stroked my long hair, she would remember pages of her story. I can still hear her voice in my memory.  Soothing, amused, and sometimes pained. I focused on every word and tried to store it in my memory along with nursery rhymes and Winnie The Pooh adventures. I knew then that someday these would be worth retelling.

This August, I'll remember her passing for the second anniversary. She was such an amazing, gorgeous, funny, intelligent survivor of a life that could easily become a novel. What thrills me the most is that she was always a Jesus-truster and in the latter years, finally knew the personal surrendered relationship that makes all things new. I have no doubt she is singing love songs to him in heaven with her restored voice and I look forward to joining in with her someday. What a treat to harmonize together!

Mom was always my sweetest encourager and my efforts at writing were met with cheers. When I sorted through her folders, I was touched to find one filled with every piece I had sent her. From dramas written for church production to devotional thoughts on raising children, they were three-hole-punched and clicked into that folder. Knowing her, she reread them often.

Six months before she died, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend a 3 day writing workshop with a dear friend and mentor. I had submitted light devotional material thinking that was where I needed to pick up after putting my writing on hold for twenty years. When my friend, Cec, met with me on the first day, he gave me some compliments and critiques but then sat back and said, "This is good and it's fine, but I can't help but feel there's something better just waiting to be written by you. I don't know what that is, but I know it's there." At that moment, I knew what it was. I returned to my laptop sitting among the other writers at the table and opened a new page. Memories flooded my mind and I could envision the stories as if I were watching a movie. A little girl in an orphanage during the depression. A life with strict foster parents who showed no love. A teenager with a promising voice singing at nightclubs followed by late night homework. Big band travels. Marriage and divorce. Marriage again and a house full of children and friends needing shelter. Alcohol. Murder. And always hope. My fingers flew and the scenes unfurled. When I told Mom I was writing her story, she cooed over the phone that it filled her with happiness.

It's a disappointment to me that in the two years since then, I've only written six chapters of her story. A blip on the screen. I repeatedly vow to carve out time to write. I head to the library to become a sequestered novelist. Too many times, my plans are set aside for other things on the to-do list. But, when I succeed and sit before the screen, it happens. Suddenly, I'm lying on the couch and if I concentrate, I can feel fingers lightly stroking my hair and hear a beautiful voice telling a tale.





Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm One of His Peeps



I was out the door this morning by 8:30 (a rarity for this non-working woman) and headed to 3 stores before the impending storms dumped copious amounts of rain.  I wanted to scoop up all the needed supplies for dinner.  Today is my turn to pamper a friend who just had a knee replaced by taking dinner to  her family of five.  Nothing fancy, but comfort food: pot roast and brown gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, fresh fruit salad and brownies.  She'll feel satisfied if not healed by the last course! Chocolate has definite healing properties.

As I checked out at the first grocery, the woman bagging asked the question of the day, "So, are you fixing a big Easter dinner this weekend?"  I'm sure she'll hear most women reply with menus of ham and potato salad or maybe something made with jello and pretzels.  She looked disappointed when I answered, "No, not really.  You see, my family's involved at church all weekend.  We always have been, really, and after 3 days and 5 services, they just want to veg."  She nodded muttering a polite "Oh."  I felt like I was suddenly un-American or un-Christian or something very "un". I tried to smile at her and assure her that we loved our church. The one right down the street. It's great. She kept nodding and dismissed me with "Well, have a good one, Hon." I felt I had somehow failed at Invite-Someone-To Church 101.

Driving home, I wondered when Easter became all about ham. I like ham. A lot, actually, but seriously, how did it become an Easter staple? We can't escape the bunny hiding eggs. (Not carrots or anything associated with rabbits. How do you explain bunnies with eggs?)  For way too many, Easter means meals spread on pastel tablecloths along with candy, chicks, daffodils, and children snatching dyed eggs before others can grab them.  It's tradition.  Don't mess with tradition if you want to get along with Great Uncle Albert or better yet, your mother-in-law who prepared all this food.  Still, I wonder, how can we shine the spotlight on, as Linus from Peanuts might say, "...what it's all about, Charlie Brown."

For me, Easter is tied in the top spot with Christmas.  I adore waking on Easter Sunday picturing the joy that Mary, Martha and all the Christ followers must have felt when they found out Jesus was alive.  As one of His, my insides sing with excitement on Easter.  I imagine what it would have felt like to be in their company. The wide-eyed disbelief followed by hugs and shouts of promise and laughter. Oh, to feel that excitement about my savior every morning!  I don't have to be one of those believers in the garden staring at an empty tomb.  I'm seeing my own empty tomb that was once filled with a self-centered life that only gave me frustration, jealousy, worry and despair. A grim hole with no sign of light. That was before I gave in.  I turned everything over to Jesus and said, "I trust you. You lead and I'll follow." Now, there's a light shining - it never goes out.  Now, I look to heaven knowing where my savior waits for me.  He's with the Father.  He's with my loved ones.  He's waiting to show me the room he has ready for me in a place I can't even imagine. Because he won.  He defeated death.  I'll live with Him forever. All because I surrendered to the the One who loves me most.  You can have my candy and ham - I'll take the Risen Christ.

Monday, April 18, 2011

For the Birds

I don't Tweet, but I'm into birds right now.  I've always enjoyed watching them outside my office window. Yellow finches hang on my feeder, woodpeckers drop by for suet, and vibrant cardinals add a splash of red.  An amazing show as long as I keep the feeders filled.

As much as I like the real deal, I'm being drawn to the 2D bird.  Cute little graphics.  Those pudgy little guys are everywhere and I'm all about them.  As a scrapbook fan, I find they're everywhere in the craft world.  As any good scrapper knows, you move from actually doing the pages filled with photos to simply enlarging your collection of supplies.  I've been in that mode for quite some time and could scrap for about a year only buying adhesive.  But, these birds!  So cute.  And, the best part is they don't fertilize!


I made this little guy this morning with my Cricut and a software program that is amazing.  It's called Sure Cuts A Lot and has revolutionized my scrap world.  Can't wait to explore all the possibilities, but until then - I'll be filling the feeders.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Potted



I love to fill planters with color. My annual search for flora begins in April with a trip to local garden centers overflowing with pinks, vibrant reds, white, purple, blue and sunshine yellow. I walk around the tables imagining my deck and patio garden as if they were in a Jane Austin landscape. I dream of hanging baskets cascading with wispy blooms. My goal is to create an oasis of color and tranquility where guests can sit and savor. Spring plantings promise so much. Drought delivers something different.

Every year, I remind myself that around July, the baking sun and rising temperatures will win the battle. I know that this usually prevails, but those gentle petals beguile me into thinking we'll spend the summer together.  I picture myself sipping lemonade beneath shade trees (that grow on a slope in my yard quite unable to sustain peaceful benches). In this idyllic scene, I sense the breeze as it flirts with gentle blossoms and smell the mossy fragrance of rich potting soil.

Now, cut to reality. In August on my deck, the potted plants that remain have cracked soil, withered leafless stems and fading flowers begging for mercy.  Even if I remember to water them daily, there are times when even the sturdiest of geraniums would be best served in the compost pile. If I had one.  And, seriously, who wants to sit outside and muse when sweat runs down your temples and even the dog is whining to go inside? I'm an A/C girl and not ashamed to admit it.

This April will find me full-throttle and elbow-deep in planting.  I've surrendered to the fact that I'm a floral optimist.  You'll find me filling planters and humming some Disney soundtrack hoping this year will be different.  And, if by some chance it is, stop by for lemonade.





Friday, March 04, 2011

Marching Orders


Yesterday I was domestic.  Rare around here anymore.  I used to be a pretty good housekeeper.  Now, I'm a really good dirt hider. Cleaning can be physically exhausting and a bore.  Just saying.  But, can I just "air out" a few things?

Winter 2011 has been full of, well, germs.  Friends have all been bombarded with two illnesses.  One is the Type A flu that wasn't included in the Flu shot we were all supposed to get.  It's taken body builders down.  Most have been lifeless resembling Olive Oil and sometimes whining with fevers for five days.  Not to mention the cold symptoms.  The other is the Norovirus which is a vicious stomach/intestine thing that has docked cruise ships.  It, too, lasts for almost a week.  Highly contagious. Some lucky souls have had it twice. Within the last two weeks, both of my adult kids have joined the ranks. All this makes me want become a high-class hermit. Forget the cabin hidden in the hills.  I'll take a disinfected suite on a sunny island with plenty of fruity umbrella drinks.

So, with everyone finally out of the house and temps close to 60, I opened windows, scoured bathrooms from top to bottom, changed sheets and sanitized everything but the dog.  If I knew how to do that, he'd be even whiter. (Wonder why he's been in his crate all day?) My hands look like I've been on safari without any moisturizers.  I may need Crisco by this point.

As I type, the aroma of Lysol permeates my tranquil moment.  If we can make it until Spring,  I may not have to clean again for at least 6 months!  We'll all be out on the deck anyway, sipping our umbrella drinks.