Friday, July 31, 2009

Katie's Gift

What a pleasant evening we had last night. Katie is home for two days between Summer Beach Project in Daytona and Resident Assistant training back at school. She wanted to make dinner for us and the Swifts. Two of the Canns were on their own for dinner, so they also joined us. Katie's first meal cooked by herself was a total success! It was a pork chop, apple and stuffing dish and we all loved it.
There were four youth who know each other well and five adults who know each other well. So relaxing and nice to be with people who don't need to impress each other, who have a history to talk about and future plans to share. Future plans that we genuinely care about.
These were people we could breath with. I'm not even sure what that means, but it feels right.
Sometimes you meet people and suddenly know they are people you can breath with and sometimes you're right. However, I've been wrong about that, too. Either way it takes time to discover and develop.
Breathing requires space, ability to relax, time and absence of judgment. A genuine belief that each person wants you to be well and happy.
On a rainy evening, in an inviting home we were all given a gift. It didn't cost a lot. Or come wrapped in expectation and need. It wasn't conditional or revocable or a test. It was a gift from a thankful and pure heart. And one of the best gifts I've ever received.
Thank you, Katie.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Amazed in the Laundry Aisle

In the laundry detergent aisle yesterday, I decided to get Lizzy a small thing of detergent and dryer sheets to take to school. I found the most amazing thing - they are Purex complete 3-in-1 Laundry sheets. Each sheet has detergent, softener, and anti-static in it. You just put it in the washer and then leave it with the clothes when they go into the dryer! How easy will that be - not to mention not having to carry around the bottle of detergent.
I showed them to another lady shopping in the aisle near me. I told the cashier about them and pointed them out to the lady bagging groceries. When Mike came home, I had them waiting right on the table so he could look at them. He studied them for a moment and then said, "But wonder how . . . nevermind. I guess someone smart figured it all out."
My dad's dad was a blacksmith in South Carolina. He died in 1942 when Daddy was seven. Grandma moved with their seven kids out of town and became share croppers. Daddy was in his teens before he lived in a house with a floor. Grandma taught in a one room school house, all twelve grades, when she wasn't out in the tobacco fields with the kids.
Daddy says he used to go way out of his way to stand outside the first house that had a TV antenna - just staring at the antenna - amazed.
I must not forget to be amazed at the laptop beneath my fingers, facebooking with a friend in Afghanistan, carrying a phone in my pocket - or finding 3-in-1 wash/dry sheets. To live amazed is a good way to live.
I love this quote from Emily Dickinson: "To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."
So come on world - Amaze me again!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just a Caretaker

When the kids were 10, 8 and 6, they boarded a plane with Mike to Philadelphia. Mike, for work, and the kids to spend a week with Nana and Grandad Shostak. I sat at the gate and watched the plane pull away (pre 9/11) and panic began to rise. They were all on that plane. What if something bad happened?
Then God stepped into the panic. What if they have reached the end of their planned time on earth? What if it's time for them to come back to me? What if on the day I gave them to you, I knew it would only be for a short time? Did you do your best? Can you hand them back to me knowing you took care of them as I wanted? That even though their time was short, you helped them become what I envisioned when I first created them?
That stopped the panic cold. Slowly I started breathing and thinking and my head nodded, yes. Yes, I had done my best. Then I gave God permission to be God. Even with my childrens' lives.
We know now that Lizzy's cat, Smokey, died at the end of last week when he was hit by a car. A neighbor called yesterday after seeing the signs we posted. On Monday, Lizzy and I were out running errands and she started talking about Smokey. She said, "I saw so many poor cats on the mission trip that no one was taking care of. Even if Smokey doesn't come back, I know he had a good life and he was loved."
We are only loaned our loved ones; they do not belong to us.
I'm just the caretaker God selected to help Robert, Ryan and Lizzy become all he envisioned when he created them. What an amazing, and humbling, honor.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Loud and Clear - or Not

From a conversation I had recently with a friend came great wisdom -mine, of course. And it was so great I decided last night I'd share it with you in this mornings blog. I spent the last half hour on it. The writing is fine. It makes sense and would probably be appreciated by those that read it. But it didn't feel right. It wasn't what I was supposed to write today.
Back in Illinois, I somehow got the gig of doing the children's sermon each week in the church service. You know, when the kids come up and the pastor does a little talk. Well, I did that for several years. I'd open myself up to God each week and through out the week my message would come and by Sunday morning I'd have it polished and ready to go. Sometimes the message took longer to get, requiring more concentration and prayer, more listening.
However, one week nothing came. Nothing. As we walked to church I threatened God with what he'd done. "You've given me nothing so I guess you're going to just let me get up there and sit down and tell those kids you didn't give me anything to say. You're just going to let that happen, aren't you?" God apparently didn't have a problem with that and shockingly he didn't get scared and send down a quickie message. I still had nothing as I entered the sanctuary.
Pastor Zimmerman rushed up to me. "Kay, we have some special things today so we need to cancel the children's sermon. Sorry I didn't call you earlier."
Wow, what a leap in my faith journey. The knowledge that God will supply what he wants me to say or write or do. Even in my darkest times of confusion I know the confusion comes from me - not him. He's probably speaking very loudly through the people around me, the books lying on my desk, the shows I watch on TV or his silence is the message. Whichever it is - the message is there if I'll wait - and listen.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Smokey hasn't come home. Smokey was Lizzy's 8th birthday present, a gray and white kitten. He adores her. Sleeps with her, waited on her school bus, and stands on the stairs telling her it's time for bed around 10 pm. He tolerated the rest of us because, apparently, Lizzy liked us.
Lizzy was at Mission Camp last week and it's not unusual for Smokey to not come in at night when she's been gone several days. He loves our backyard and usually takes his naps in the shade of the bird bath. However, as soon as Lizzy gets home and calls for him, he comes bounding up the stairs to her. He usually goes straight to their bedroom and begs her to take a nap with him.
Saturday afternoon she called for him - and he didn't come. Same Saturday night, Sunday morning, all day yesterday and last night she posted a vigil for him on the back deck. This morning - she's asleep on the living room couch. I guess bed was just too hard to face.
As Mike said this morning, "Why couldn't this happen in just a couple more weeks?" Then she'll be off to college and while still painful, the loss might've been more bearable.
I keep watching the back door thinking he'll show up all of a sudden.
Even though it's well known that I'm not much of an animal person, we've never been without animals. We had dogs and cats all the while I was growing up. Mike and I had our "baby" Chancey, (part huskey) before we had kids. We had Tipsy (terrier and beagle mix) and Shannon (german shepherd) when our kids were younger. I had the pre-requisite stashed kitten in my college dorm room - and I was the RA. Now we have Ginger, the most laid back calico cat in the world, and Smokey.
Poor Lizzy, emotions were already running high with her friends heading off in different directions and now this.
Worst of all - I can't do a darn thing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's Magic time

Fridays are magic to me. Being one that tends to look for magic, I imbued Fridays with specialness early on. I wore special, more better things in elementary school on the last day of the week. The air walking home always seemed sweeter and bubbling with possibilities. In high school, I lamented not having the Friday nights the teenage heroines I read about enjoyed, but still it was Friday and high school football with friends and racing home to watch "Dallas" wasn't bad. College met all my dreams for Friday nights, especially the night before a home game in Neyland Stadim in Knoxville.
Small kids and no money found me sad and grieving the end of Friday's magic. However, I tend to not let magic go easily. So, my housework week in those years revolved around having everything done by 1 pm, Friday when the kids took their nap. Those couple hours became my time - lit candles, a glass of wine and a book.
Today I had an appointment earlier so I left the house and turned on my classic rock station - I ONLY listen to classic rock on Fridays - no country, or Christian, or talk radio. (Magic doesn't just happen, you know.)
Leaving my appointment, the first song was perfection - "Sweet Home Alabama". Blue sky, summer time and Sweet Home Alabama. Told you God is crazy about me!
I rolled down the window, turned up the radio and sang out loud. A friend of my mom's told me one time that she saw me singing out loud in my car. She seemed to imply I should be embarrassed.
I'd like to say I don't care what people think, but it's really just the opposite. I think if the people on the highway see me singing - a 47 year old, overweight woman driving a 2001 mini-van maybe they'll think, "If she can be that happy - why shouldn't I?"
It's Friday! Can you feel the magic?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What's your Opinion?

Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinion at all. -- Georg Lichtenberg

Boy, do I have opinions. And I like to talk to other people that have opinions. I want to know what people are thinking and then I want to talk about it. Sometimes it's fun to be with people that share my opinions and then we can get all red-neck and rowdy.
But I also like to be with people that don't share my opinion so I can see if I really believe my opinions. Or do they fall to another's reasoning? Of course in those situations you have to be with people that will listen to you and who are testing their opinions also. I want to challenge and be challenged and then everyone laugh and move on - exhilarated and stretched.
I love to talk about those taboo subjects of politics and religion. You just never know when you just might learn something. I remember one time when a belief I held was challenged, stretched, pushed and over a period of time - changed. During that time I said to God, "Okay, enough. I don't want to be enlightened anymore." Other times my beliefs have come out stronger from the testing and the enlightenment was confirmation.
My time as editor for the weekly newspaper in Peotone, Illinois led to me publishing my opinion. Of course I got to call it an "editorial". When we moved to Marietta I used to sit in the stands at the baseball fields and get giddy saying under my breath, "No one here knows me. No one here knows my opinons!"
Gave me a new appreciation for politicians. They do not get to have private opinions. They are the folks that have opinions and state them, vote on them, make them into laws.
Based on my experience, I believe it takes a lot of guts to be a politician and I truly believe it is a noble calling with more responsibility than most of us can imagine.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Alone in the Theater

I love going to the movies alone. Especially in the summer. In the middle of the day.
Leaving the hot glare of stark white sun to enter the cool, quite theater is heaven. With no one to talk to, the surroundings capture my full attention.
The bored teens taking tickets, filling cokes, and pushing those garbage cans on wheels. The harried mom dragging sweaty kids to the finish line of the theater where six foot tall cartoon characters booming from the screen won't be enough to keep her eyelids from sliding closed. Smells which label our environment and heritage as Americans. Or do theaters all over the world smell like ours? Does everyone eat popcorn at the movies or is it just here? Hmmm, never thought about it before.
Being alone, there is no discussion about where to sit. Think about it. If you've never been to a movie alone you have always had some kind of a discussion about where to sit. Even if it was only a nod and a shrug.
There is no commenting on the previews. No rolling of eyes or "I gotta see that."
No one pulls you out of the magic of the movie to say, "I'm going to the bathroom" or "Do you want a refill?" or "Pass me the popcorn."
When the movie ends, no opinion must be given. No critique. No analysis. Everything on the screen belongs to you alone. That part feels especially delicious to me. Wonder why?
Probably because if there's another person there - I HAVE to share my thoughts. I know folks who can keep their mouths closed, but I can't. I have to share.
Hmmm. Apparently even I get tired of hearing me talk.
I'm going to see Harry Potter this afternoon by myself.
I can't wait.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Slipping through my Fingers

Yesterday I read a book I apparently had already read. It was a thriller by James Patterson and it seemed familiar, but I couldn't remember what happened in it - until I read it. As I finished reading an event, I'd think, "Oh, yeah. I knew that." And I thought at some point the ending would jump out of wherever it was buried, but that didn't happen - until I finished the book. I believe I may read too much and too fast.
Then last night I watched "Mamma Mia!". On the morning of her daughter's wedding Meryl Streep sings "Slipping through my fingers."
I bawled.
When Lizzy gets back from mission camp she'll have two weeks before we move her to college. I've tried to make sure everything gets done, no regrets, nothing missed. But where did the time go? Her birth was one of the most joyous moments of my life, when the doctor said we had a girl I remember my heart almost breaking through my chest. All the shopping and giggling and emotions and. . . and. . . and. . . All for me and my girl to share.
She goes to college in two weeks.
This summer has been like that book yesterday. Everything is just out of my grasp and then as soon as I get hold of it - it slips through my fingers. She slips through my fingers.
"Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time"

Monday, July 20, 2009

If it works. . .

I got to sleep in this morning. Mike and Lizzy left for their week-long mission trip yesterday.
For 25 years, whether I was working full-time, part-time or staying at home, Mike and I have gotten up together. These days, I make his lunch and coffee while he shaves and dresses. Then we have coffee for a few minutes together. Sometimes nothing is said and we just sit and wake up.
It's what my Mama and Daddy always did and since they have the happiest marriage I've ever seen, why wouldn't we do it?
I remember Mama talking one time about a friend complaining that her husband went to bed too early. Mama told her friend, "If you'd get up as early as Ken does, you'd go to bed as early as he does."
When the kids were little, getting up with Mike meant I had a little bit of solitude after he left and before they got up. I know that made me a better mother. It also meant during those crazy years of baseball, basketball, and soccer that we had a few moments everyday when it was just the two of us.
Now that the kids are gone and Mike and I have lots of time together there are a couple reasons to still get up when he does. First, Mike says quite often that those early morning minutes are his favorite time of the day. Second, that whole getting up at the same time leads to going to bed at the same time.
Need I say anymore?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Failure is Only an Option

Someone forgot to tell Roswell, Ga there is a recession going on. Some friends and I went to After 5 Alive in historic downtown Roswell last night and it was packed. People spilled out into the streets, laughing, talking, and drinking. However, it was very controlled and laid-back. Not hectic at all. The shops were busy and restaurants full.
Maybe it's my business management degree, but I love seeing businesses doing things right.
Then again, maybe it's more my heritage. My mom can tell you when a business will succeed and she's never had a marketing class. We have often over the years walked into a store and Mama say, "Now what were they thinking to open this here." Or we'll pass an empty store front and she'll list the kinds of stores which could be successful there. Mama operated a successful business, "The Yarn Barn" behind our house when I was growing up. Her father Haskin Chancey, was a true entrepreneur in Copperhill, Tennessee. Of course, when you had 14 children and didn't live on a farm, you kinda had to be.
Success has a formula. Certain steps to follow until you get to the point where you become creative and step off onto your individual path.
I've said this to many youth through the years. Mimic what you want. You see the type family you want one day? Study them, talk to them. You see the career you want? Find someone and ask questions. You see a relationship that looks right? Watch. Listen. Learn.
Success is all around - we just forget to focus on it, especially when economic distress abounds.
I'm going to make a concerted effort to watch for thriving ideas, places, and people.
Thanks Roswell for reminding me - Failure is only an option.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just Following Directions

When I called the court house voice mail last night it said those of us not picked for a jury are released from jury duty. Tuesday night the call said to call after 11 am on Wednesday and that call said to call back after 6 pm. So my jury duty ended up being only two full days.
What a strange experience. Almost surreal.
To know nothing, just do as told. The directions were always clear and polite. Cobb County Superior court impressed me. But still, here we were - hundred and thirty-two adults following directions about everything.
Then in the courtroom for jury selection we were asked questions, which we swore to answer truthfully. Friends in rehab? Family in law enforcement? Been arrested? Do you watch legal dramas on TV - which ones and why?
Who knew which answer to which question made you favorable and which caused you to be "struck."
Just following directions. Surreal, but it so expanded the boundaries of my time. With no decisions to make, no questions, no planning - time expanded. Without the constant stream of minutiae that steals minutes from my hours, I felt freer.
Can I tame some of the minutiae in my life to allow that expansion of time to happen outside the courthouse? Can I stop some of the scheduling and constant filling of the calendar? Can I watch a mindless show and not dwell on the time I'm wasting?
I'm not sure. I know I use to be able to do this when I was a kid. Is this another of those things Jesus meant when he said we needed to become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven?
Can I not know everything long enough to relax?
Not sure.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You Smell.

When Katie moved in with us for her senior year, she'd been living here a couple months when another teen in the youth group said, "Katie smells like a Shostak now."
"What?" I said.
"Y'all have this really good smell. Your house, your cars, and each of you smell, well, nice. Makes me feel good."
A friend from college gave me the most wonderful compliment after we moved back near her.
"Being in your house feels just like being at your mom and dad's."
Yesterday in jury picking we each had to stand and say our name, where we lived, and our occupation. Several young women said they were homemakers. That's how I always described myself and after two days away from my home, I'm more convinced than ever that is a correct classification for me. I missed my home. Things were left as they were when I ran out the door each morning. Robert, Lizzy, and Mike all came home from their jobs about the same time I did and that discombobulated me.
Now many of you do great jobs creating homes and working full-time. I know, I've been in your homes. But I don't think I'm that talented.
Mike and I made many choices through the years that allowed me to be here full-time and it truly is my calling. They say when you do what you're meant to do it energizes you.
Being here, making our home, energizes me.
I guess I'm kind of surprised to discover that. I often have felt guilty about being home all the time. Never from Mike. He supports whatever I want to do and is the most helpful husband ever around the house. But when others tell me they wish they could stay home, or when other women talk about their careers, or when folks go on great vacations or send their kids to out of state or private colleges. If I'd been working . . .
I guess I'll just take this jury duty experience and try to gain a new appreciation for what God has called me to be-
A Homemaker.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Who's the bell tolling for?

Every time I do something new I find it hard to believe it goes on everyday, like clockwork, without me ever being aware of it before.
I have jury duty for the first time this week. We filled the Jury Assembly room yesterday morning, just as it was filled last week and will be next week. And next week. And the next week, and the next, and the next. . .
I sat a few times with a friend going through chemotherapy a while back. The idea that in that room, all those white, reclining chairs with iv poles had people rotating in and out all day, every day truly stunned me. Or to go in for minor surgery and realize people are sitting in those little gowns behind all those curtains every day of every week waiting for operations.
Life altering, unforgettable dramas play out in the places we drive by without even a second look. Until it's our drama. Funeral homes, emergency wards, doctors offices, churches, surgical centers, court rooms, hospitals, police stations.
All this reminded me of the poem written in 1624, which I learned in Junior High, "No Man is an Island" by John Donne. It ends:
"Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee."
I think I get it now.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It's a Choice

I was talking to my mom today and she said, "In a marriage you're either growing closer or growing apart." Mama is wise, filled with common sense and been happily married for fifty one years. At first, her statement seemed rather simplistic, but really, it's simply true. Two people can't remain the same, day in and day out. So the movement has to be one way or the other. If you're not growing closer then you must be growing apart.
And, so, is this true also for other relationships, like with our children, our siblings, our friends? I know at times I've watched a friendship slip away. We no longer had things in common, we moved away, or one of us changed. At those times I noticed the separating drift and acknowledged it was what needed to be. Other times I've lifted my head, looked around and realized the gulf had widened considerably while I was busy.
There have been times when I stretched and stretched to grow closer to someone and we didn't grow closer. Only one of us was stretching. I've also increased the distance before when someone stretched out to me. Sometimes these were just ill-fated acquaintances and sometimes all that stretching and retreating happened in my closest relationships.
Mama's statement serves to remind me to be vigilant, aware of what's happening in the relationships I want to last.
Growing closer. Growing apart. Sounds like a choice.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mountain TOP

"It would've been nice to have hammered something before," was the comment from Melissa, a young teen, after her first mission trip. The week-long trip took the youth group to Mountain T.O.P (Tennessee Outreach Project) where they helped families in need by building wheel chair ramps, cleaning yards, painting, building porches and visiting.
My husband has led the youth mission trip for the past eight years and he decided Melissa was right. So tomorrow morning, as they have the past six years, a group of teens will be building collapsible saw horses in our garage and driveway. They nail, saw, drill and then get to paint their names on their creations. When they finish - it's pizza at the pool!
Mike went to Mt. TOP the first time when he was needed at the very last minute. It was our oldest son's first year. Mike has been every summer since and this will be our youngest child's last year. Ryan, our middle child, has worked at Mt. TOP for three summers during college and this year is a director.
My favorite part of Mt. TOP is that the work groups, teams of 6 or 7 teens and an adult, do not know each other. Each person is on equal footing. My kids have made some amazing friendships each year. The new connections, hard work, and visiting with the families in need all make for profound worship services.
When the door to Mt TOP opened suddenly for Mike eight years ago, he stepped through it. He had never been on any kind of mission trip before. There was a need and he answered the call.
I'm so proud to be his wife.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Keeping Summer in its Place

Our house in Illinois didn't have air conditioning. It was an 100 year old farmhouse on a couple acres. Not having air conditioning forced a bending to nature that appealed to me. Sometimes.
We opened windows at night and then closed them mid-morning to keep the cool air in. I did chores early in the morning, because by noon the house would be getting pretty warm. The afternoons were spent sitting in front of a fan or out in the yard under a shade tree. The oven stayed off.
We didn't combat high temperatures. We conceded to them and adapted.
Now, I don't want to try and adapt to Georgia summers. I LOVE my air conditioning. However, sometimes I get so used to controlling my environment, that I miss out. The heat pushes me indoors. In the car, I never consider turning off the air and rolling down the windows. Lights inside make outside look so very dark and going out into the darkness never enters my mind.
Summer can be a time of loosing control. The heat, the bugs - especially the loudness of the bugs at night, profusion of green, intensity of smells, abundance from gardens, glare of the sun, shedding of clothes. And yet I forget to let summer tug on my strings of control. No, I don't just forget - I actively resist that tugging.
So many things must get done today. There's all those dvr'd shows backing up to watch. It's so much more comfortable inside. My computer is lonely.
I want some of that adapting back in my summer. Now, to figure out how to do it---
without turning off my air conditioner.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


At the dinner table last night, we had an interesting discussion about leadership. What does it take to be a leader?
A leader needs to have knowledge - be smart, able to think on their feet, able to grasp new ideas and listen. But then I think the most important ingredient is wisdom. That inherent ability to see right from wrong and then take a stand. Taking a stand means choosing a side and choosing a side means you will alienate someone, and possibly even cause harm.
For a while I was the editor of the Peotone Vedette - a weekly newspaper in the town of Peotone about an hour south of Chicago. Covering the school board was my main duty.
One night as we were leaving the ball park (where we lived during baseball and softball season), Mike said to me, "___________ was really nice to you." The blank represents the name of a school board member.
I responded, "Yeah, he liked what I wrote in the paper this week. Give it time, he won't be speaking to me soon, I'm sure."
A superintendent resigned because of a confrontation I had with him over ethics. He yelled at me and was very upset - however a teacher told me they had put up a copy of my editorial about the superintendent in the teachers lounge at the high school.
And then when I reported the school board was correct in not laying out details of the firing of a teacher - the teachers didn't talk to me for weeks.
Being a leader is hard. You stand up and take the shots and everybody never likes you at the same time.
A leader has to be above being liked. I think I'll say a prayer for all the leaders in my life today and be ready the next time I'm called to lead.
After all, that wisdom thing? I think it comes from God.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Did you know discombobulated is really a word? I just looked it up at And it is spelled exactly as it sounds. For some reason I really like that.
This morning I feel discombobulated and I'm not sure why.
Is it Michael Jackson overload?
Worries about the economy?
Let down after the July 4th party?
Braves loosing - again?
Uncertainty over youngest' college preparations?
Frustration about where the country is headed?
Starting the new book?
Summer schedule?
Lack of schedule?
Missed prayer time?
Questions about life in an empty nest?
Dirty dishes?
Grieving for past things?
Accepting new things?
Thinking about jury duty next week?
Yes. All of it, I think.
I'm not very good at worrying. Some folks are champions, but I've never cared to practice it enough to be able to do it well. Lack of initiative, I guess. So on days like today when I feel the need to put on a real good worry - I'm just not prepared. So easily I'm distracted - by the sunshine breaking through the clouds like it just did, or the birds, or a funny e-mail, or a call from a friend, or just my lack of concentration on the obviously distressing things around me.
I promise to work harder on worrying, but right now I need to go enjoy that sunshine and finish my cup of coffee.
I'm sure some of you will do enough worrying for both of us. Although, you know, I feel better already. Have a great day!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Memories don't just happen

A drizzly Monday morning after a long, full weekend sure makes it hard to get going. So many good things now stored in my memory:
Lots of pool volleyball - Water, laughing, sunshine, all ages, wet hair and sunglasses.
Good food shared - Pot luck food always tastes better. And the smell of hamburgers on the grill when you're climbing out of the pool, can't be beat.
Friends - Old and new. So amazing how friends from the past mix with new friends. How we all have things in common and yet bring something new to the gathering.
Young people - Kids home from college and the world, turned into adults before our eyes. Seeing that look when they take a beer from the cooler to have a drink with their old chaperones. Sitting with them and talking late into the night, because as they've gotten older, we've gotten wiser.
Fireworks - Exploding on every side, because that's just what we do when we're happy.
Church - Singing "America" and crying, because that's just what I do when I'm happy.
Monday morning - Thinking about the weekend and enjoying it all over again.
Good memories don't just happen, someone has to buy the hotdogs.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Freedom to Fail?

Freedom is big around July 4th. But one freedom gets far less play than it deserves.
Freedom to Fail.
Failure has always been a bad word, but seems like it's grown bigger and meaner. There's an underlying belief that if we just do all the right things, failure can be kept at bay.
Anti-bacterial hand soap, air bags, insurance, sunscreen, organic food, see-through book bags, metal detectors, on and on and on. Of course we need to manage risk, but when we manage risk to the point that it becomes our purpose?
Throughout the Bible we're told, Fear Not. I don't think God was telling us it was possible to get to a point where fear is wiped out. No, I think he knows our propensity to fear. Our innate ability to focus so much on our fear, that we miss the miracle happening right in front of us.
There is a saying, "What would you do if there was no chance of failure?"
That's the freedom I'm talking about. Freedom to move forward, make changes, live life and put fear in proper perspective.
Pastor Mike Long at Roswell UMC showed a picture of Daniel in the Lions Den during his sermon a few weeks ago. He pointed out that hungry lions circle Daniel, yet his eyes are focused up. He then asked, "What are the lions in your life? And are you watching them instead of looking up?"
Freedom from fear. Freedom to fail.
I'm celebrating Freedom this weekend - all kinds.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Just Wondering

A hummingbird just buzzed me out on the deck. Coffee in hand, watching the sun come up through the trees, I was marveling at the birds already. And then my tiny visitor flew up. He took a drink or two at my geraniums, considered the flowers on my robe and then darted away. Dozens of birds were playing in the pines, a committee of crows flew overhead, the hawk next door kept sentinel from atop an oak tree, and finches flitted between the feeders for a breakfast buffet.
I've always thought God must've had fun creating all the different birds. And what about flowers? On my deck alone are geraniums, begonias, petunias - all as different as can be.
So God created all these different things and then was done creating? Was it a one shot deal for him? That doesn't sound or feel right. But there aren't new species of birds hatching every so often. Or flowers, which never existed in any form popping up.
Did he put it all in motion and then sit back to enjoy -not in a passive way, but in a proud Papa way? But wouldn't he itch to create again? Is he creating in Heaven? Could that be his studio? Is he enhancing what we have here but we just don't see it because he's not in any hurry? Could that be part of how and why species evolve?
Just sitting, drinking coffee, and wondering.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Welcome to My World

I'm working on my second book in Chancey, Ga - a made up town. I'm writing in first person, which means everything is seen through my protagonist's, Carolina's, eyes. We go through spells when first person books are popular and then times when they are not. They are on the upsurge right now - good for me! In a totally first person book, the reader can not know anything the main character doesn't know.
So yesterday afternoon, floating around in the pool, I was thinking on where the new book is going. It's beginning the week of Thanksgiving and everyone is getting ready for a community Thanksgiving event on Wednesday night. However, Carolina and her family have only lived in Chancey since July, so they don't know any details about this event. And that is exactly how it is when you move into a small town - everyone has lived there forever and knows what's going on, so details are not provided.
Back to floating, I'm trying to think up what the event will entail when it occurs to me the reason I don't know is because I'm in Carolina's head and SHE doesn't know. So what I have to do is get her to ask the right people the right questions. So then I switched to thinking about the questions she needs to ask and how to put her with the right people.
Now you might be thinking, wait- aren't ALL these characters in your head and don't you know what they know already? You'd think so, wouldn't you?
Nope, that's not how it works with me. These folks show up on the page saying and doing things that constantly surprise me. Their answers to questions come out fully developed when I put fingers to the keyboard. Where and when they developed is a mystery to me.
Just a little insight into writing fiction. Got to go. Me and Carolina need to find out what in the world this Thanksgiving event is!