preaching to the choir

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Sometimes I wonder how long the first humans existed before someone said, “This world’s gone crazy.” I am officially 30 and I’ve been hearing it ever since I can remember ever hearing anything. Sometimes I hear it in a line in a movie made decades before I was (made). So that’s something to think about.

I regret that I spent most of my childhood and teenage years feeling like the only sane adult in a world of lunatics. Lately, though, it’s becoming easier for me, for the first time ever, to sift through memories of my past and somehow extract the good memories from all the bad ones. I’m not sure how this could be considered anything other than a blessing. The only negative is, it’s all flooding back to me so quickly, I feel a bit overwhelmed upstairs. Maybe that’s why I’m writing so much more about true, real, personal things than I ever have.

When I was little I had this pastor at church. His last name was Monroe. He was tall and thin, in his 70’s, and for reasons which escape me now, he always reminded me of Ichabod Crane.

Brother Monroe. We didn’t call the pastor Pastor or Reverend. Just Brother and then their last name. Speaking of names, I remember when he first came to our church, I was really small and he was…different from the last pastor (as per usual when your beloved pastor of ages and ages passes away and is replaced). So there were some growing pains. My grandma, for one, didn’t like him. He was too direct, or in her opinion, bossy. She called him, in the privacy of her own car, on the way to the grocery store on Friday morning, a dictator. At my age, I didn’t yet know what a dictator was. As a matter of fact, for quite a while, I thought she was calling him a dick (like short for Richard) tater (like please pass the taters). That’s another story for another day, I’m sure. Eventually, my grandma learned to love Brother Monroe–not just a little but a lot, a whole lot. So did all of us, myself included.

I used to sit on the back bench, alone, back before we had any other children or young people close to my age. Sometimes, we didn’t have more than twenty people in attendance. So I think my point is, I got a lot of face time with the pastor, accidental or on purpose.

I’ve never been overly outspoken. I don’t dance. In public settings, I’m usually pretty quiet, especially with strangers or people I don’t know very well. Even as a kid, I used to just sit in church, follow along with the reading, silently pray when everyone else was praying, and read along with the songs while everyone else was singing.

Brother Monroe wasn’t a quiet man. He was loud–especially when he meant what he was saying or singing. He wasn’t the type to threaten or shake his finger. He was just joyful–happy, passionate. And he wanted to share what he knew. Now and then, when we were praying, I’d look up and catch him looking at me, big, happy smile on his face, tears in his eyes. I’d flinch and look away, probably because I was uncomfortable more than anything. He’d say something like, If you love the Lord, say amen. I just smiled. Most times he’d smile back at me. I’ll never forget one Sunday night service, this happened and he said something that stunned me because maybe it just felt a little too….hmm…real? He said something like, don’t be afraid to speak up. What he really did was scare the living daylights out of me because it was like someone took a pin to my comfort bubble. It’s almost impossible to sit uninvolved, removed from the rest of the humans like wallpaper or furniture if someone looks you directly in the face and speaks to you, isn’t it?!

My mind plays tricks on me sometimes. The years blew past so quickly, I’m not always sure how or where the lanky man with the silver hair and the big intimidating smile left me. I know, I’m not going to say this right, any of it, because I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ way to say what it is that needs to be said. Just…I wish I would have realized back then, what it would have meant to me, in hindsight–being looked in the face by someone so unwilling to (despite what I would have wished) look away (from me). It was huge. It was loving and kind…and a gentle push I didn’t know I dearly needed.

Presently, looking back, I wish I had found a moment back when it was possible, to look him in his face when he took my hand on the way out the door on Sunday mornings to thank me for coming, and thank him for what he did for me…or something.

I think for me, this memory serves as a reminder, stop focusing so much on the hurt and the sadness that you forget to remember that there’s so much more.

 

#nowplaying Wakey!Wakey! Light Outside

as the hourglass empties

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I’ve been walking around with this question in my head for years. When did it become so okay to say to another creature, I do not care about your pain? This is surely not a new development. It didn’t *just* happen. Did it?

Back when I used to teach Sunday school (the babies and very little ones), I was still pretty young myself. I had a book with the answers, folding table and chairs, crayons. 12×12 room. About a dozen kids, babies, ages 3 or 4 to 14. They showed up and I was the oldest of the youngest so I did what I could and we made it work.

I remember saying to the church secretary on more than one occasion, I’m not fit to teach them, I’m still learning all this as I go along, I’m learning it while they do. She smiled and gave me a hug and told me I was doing a great job.

We’d sit around the rectangular table, workbooks and coloring pages, sleepy faces, fidgety limbs. They’d take turns reading, around the room. It was fun. We didn’t read set paragraphs or lines. The first person would read until he or she decided to stop–even mid-sentence, and the next person would pick up exactly where the previous one stopped. Occasionally, someone was caught not paying attention. We’d all quietly giggle and someone would lean over and show him or her where to pick up. It was fun–for everybody. At the end of the lesson, there was a memory verse. Everyone who wanted to participate in reading it aloud at the start of church after class, would pool together and decided how to either divide it up or read the whole thing in unison. There was a puzzle or game at the end of the lesson, things for the small ones to color. We’d quietly talk and do our activities with broken crayons and trusty No.2’s. Then we’d practice a special song to sing before choir, sometimes, just the children, all together, if they wanted to participate. Those who wanted to sing, would sing. Those who wanted to read the memory verse out loud for the adults would read the memory verse out loud to the adults. The rest of us? Sat behind them and clapped proudly when they were finished.

If someone in the church had a birthday or a sickness in their family, they always got a card, if at all possible. Random construction paper color, folded in half, crayon letters arranged to form short but thoughtful words. We love you. Thank you for…God bless you. Nobody instructed the children to do this. They just did. Always. Always as in, if there was a child at church that morning, from no matter which family, they knew to use the tools they were given to try and show they cared–we cared.

I haven’t truly been back there in years. Most of the children I taught are in high school now. The oldest one just had her second baby. Every now and then, though, I find a little folded up piece of construction paper with crayon words, in the back of an old Bible or in a box of scrapbook papers, and it reminds me of what it was like to sit around that stuffy room with those sweet little humans who really didn’t want to be awake at 10 AM and studying of all things, on a Sunday morning, and feel like (at least) we were all on the same side.

 

#nowplaying Joey &Rory, in the time that you gave me

Pearl

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Lately, midnight fades to morning so quietly I don’t even notice the light beaming in through the gaps in the drapes. What day is it again? What year?

My great-grandmother (momma’s mother’s mother), was named Lula Pearl. Pearl. Pearl is my favorite name. I remember how when I was small and I said it out loud or saw it on paper, it was just an old lady name–like Myrtle, Ruby, Ethel, Esther, a lot of other names that mean more to me now than they did then.

Granny. At 10, that’s what I called her. She was Granny, not Lula, not Lula Pearl. Looking back, now, it’s funny, I realize, she never was a Lula Pearl to me, ever. I never imagined her as a little girl, maybe I wasn’t capable, yet. She was just an old woman. No, she was much more than that. She was old fashioned bonnets, apron dresses, strawberry patch and apple trees in the backyard. She was soap operas on TV at midday and Bible on the table by the bed. Gimme some sugar before you go. One time, on the way back from the grocery store, some man jumped out in front of the car, on a back street. He yelled waved his arms at us. She flipped him the bird and called him a peckerwood. I don’t think I was supposed to tell that, but it was funny! 😉

Her hair was white and she wore dresses with pockets on the front. She sat on her front porch facing the rural road we all lived on. Every single time a car drove by, she threw up her hand and asked whoever was sitting next to her, Reckon who that was?! Or she’d say There goes (fill in the blank) home.

She had one of those off-white (off-white in the way that it used to be white but wasn’t anymore) cordless phones with the retractable antenna. When one of her cousins would call, she’d look over at me and sigh. I kept swinging. When she gets me on this phone I like to never get off.

When she started to become frail, my grandmother (momma’s mom) used to make her supper and send one of us kids across the street with it in the evenings. We’d argue over who got to take it. In the summer when school was out, we got to get her mail for her and take it over. Several times throughout the day, my grandmother walked us over (all the grandkids and neighborhood kids she kept during the work day). We’d play out front while she helped Granny get a bath and such. Then we’d all kiss and hug her and go back down the dirt and gravel driveway, then the blacktop, then up another dirt and gravel driveway, past the gardens, up the hill, under the oak tree to play.

At Christmastime, the entire world would venture over, pack several dozen vehicles in the little yard, go in, say hello, hug and kiss, stand around telling stories and smiling, the itty bitty house at capacity four times over…

She died in a nursing home. We were not nursing home people, save for the fact that several family members worked in one. Family took care of family, even if it made them crazy and ran them ragged. You didn’t pay strangers to do what you could do–if you had a choice. But there wasn’t any choice. It was just that bad. Another very bad stroke, aftermath. She wasn’t her anymore. Her mind was gone. Her body? The same. I was at my aunt’s house when she got the call. I remember chocolate milk in my little cousins’ sippy cups, and Disney blankets, a little VHS TV in their bedroom, early morning sun, tall pine treetops on the horizon. I felt the Earth shake, like everyone else did, but it all came to an end after such a dark and sad struggle that maybe, even at my age, I knew it was just time.

I remember months after she passed, riding by her house on the way to town, seeing her rocking chair empty on the ground under the tree at the edge of the driveway. My sad little heart tried to imagine, like in the movies, if I stared hard enough, she’d appear, a little translucent like a Hollywood version of a spirit or an angel, throw up her arm and smile. Maybe I never actually saw her again sitting in the rocker under the tree, or on the front porch, picking strawberries in her backyard, or sitting in her chair sleeping in front of her soaps, but I can make out her face just perfectly most times, when I close my eyes, at night. I hear her voice…and it’s the sweetest sound.

As for this post, I can’t exactly explain why I’m writing it, right now.

I think about her (at least) once a day, going on twenty years later (it was 2001, so maybe the number of years should be closer to fifteen than twenty, but I’m terrible at math and am a notorious rounder-upper, and one final word in my defense? It’s felt like much, much longer). Maybe I haven’t seen her picture in too long. Maybe it’s the fact that I mostly only talk to my husband and he (sadly) never got to meet her. Whatever the reason, I felt, erm, feel, like I had, have, to do something actively, to keep her alive (eh, alive-er? More alive doesn’t seem to work). She was too fun, sweet, kind, loving, wonderful to forget about.

I think I’m going to start remembering her here, as often as possible, because here feels a little bit less whispery than doing so in my journal where no one will ever, under any circumstance, see (mostly because I don’t truly keep a journal) because it simply feels good to remember her–out loud (out loud ish?).

#nowplaying Ernest Tubb, Remember Me I’m the One Who Loves You

the sandwich

Postcard from my Desperate Housewives retrospective.

Lynette Scavo is one of my all-time favorite fictitious characters. She was the resident on Wisteria Lane with a mess of wild little boys who at any given point would have rather had been at work doing what she was very successful at than at home doing dishes and folding laundry. She was tough, passionate and compassionate, hilarious, and at times, insane. Felicity Huffman was so convincing in her role, whenever I see her, I don’t think of her as Felicity Huffman, I think of her as Lynette, always.

The scene above is from season 6, episode 11 called “if”. Lynette and Tom were preggers with their second set of twins. A big dramatic (as usual) event lead to Lynette being hospitalized and the doctor telling her that there was a strong chance that one of her babies would end up with some sort of disability. On the way to the operating room, she had a dream about how tough it might be raising a ‘disabled’ child.

This is one of my favorite scenes from the show, and I was a big fan. I think most people who have heard of the show but never watched it, got the impression it was just a trashy nighttime soap opera. Sure, there was a lot of drama and silliness, but there’s plenty of real moments like the one above, and that’s what I love about the show.

 

leave it there

Because it’s just been one of those days when I *need* it.

 

Read about Bradley Walker via Rory Feek’s Blog, This Life I Live here

Excerpt: 

It was her last request.

The last thing on the list Joey gave me, of what she wanted at her funeral service… when the time came.  And we both knew that time was coming soon.

“I’d like for someone to sing the hymn Leave It There at my graveside”, Joey said.  And then she stopped and added, “no… not someone”, and she looked at me and smiled, “I want Bradley Walker to sing it for me”.

There were other things that she’d requested too…“a simple service in our concert hall” so her hometown pastor could share the gospel… ‘a plain wooden box’ that our friend Thomas would build for her by hand, …‘lined with a quilt’ made by her seventy-five year old friend, Ms. Joan.  Just those few things… and a song.  Sung to her by one of the sweetest men, and voices she’d ever known.

A week-and-a-half later, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in March, we all gathered together around the simple wooden box, lined with a quilt, and we said goodbye to my beautiful wife… with a song.  KEEP READING

trash to Toyland

I got really crazed with stress earlier and I needed to get out of the house, so I drove down the road to the Center of Hope thrift store and poked around in one man’s trash.

I like and collect records, especially old Disney ones. I found this one labeled with an oil pen 39 cents. I thought that was awesome. When I got to the counter, it was 25 cents. I thought that was even better.

The cover says A magnificent full-color illustrated book and long-playing record, Walt Disney’s Story and Songs From Babes in Toyland, copyright 1961. Music based on the Victor Herbert Operetta, adapted by George Bruns, with new lyrics by Mel Leven. And it does have a super-sweet storybook inside, with crazy-cute retro illustrations.

I haven’t played the whole thing through yet, but I’m going to in a little while so I have something fun and nostalgic to play while I try and polish up my manuscript. Can’t wait! 🙂 Then I might watch the 1986 version of the movie, because I haven’t seen it since I was very small, and this record reminded me of how fun it was.

Until next time.

 

ceiling bumps

I was in high school. Junior year? Probably earlier.

We had tornado drills. The same bell as the tardy bell or the ones to signal class changes, just rapid fire, repetitive. In the part of the world I live in, tornadoes are just something you deal with, more so in March and April, but throughout the year.

When the warning went off, we’d line up, leave the class room and follow the teacher out into the hall where everyone would line up against the lockers, push their knees up and drop their faces against their legs. Legs up, heads down. And wait. Between kindergarten and the final graduation in 12th grade, I’m sure I endured a few hundred of these drills. They weren’t bad, just scary for anyone who’d ever actually survived being in a building that was hit by a tornado (we had a few in my class who became hysterical each and every time, because they did, in fact, survive a terrible tornado that hit their church, like they ended up under pews in the rubble of what was left of the building, but this is another story, maybe).

The exact year eludes me. Is that the right word? Elude? I don’t know what year it was, is what I mean, but that’s not that important anyway.

I was sitting on the tile floor, hugging my legs, glad to be missing out on class, not feeling overly threatened by the weather at all. The kids were quiet, whispering, complaining that the floor was dirty or struggling not to nod off, the usual quiet clamor.

The classroom across from me opened up and out came a small cluster of students from a special needs class. They found seats with their teachers across from me. As always, I forced a smile when one of them caught me staring, then I looked away (I wasn’t a social butterfly which shouldn’t shock you because if you’ve met me…).

He was a kid from the trailer park down the road from where I lived. He had the wrong haircut and definitely the wrong shoes. Being a girl who most definitely always had the wrong haircut and the wrong shoes, I knew well enough how to identify these things. He pulled his legs up to his middle and between his hands and his cargo pants, he was hugging a big black book with Holy Bible written in gold uppercase lettering.

He smiled at his teacher, a little bit jittery and uneasy. And he said something along the lines of, I’m not scared, God will protect me.

Kind of off the wall but, I remember that instance so well, it’s remarkable.

I had been in church all my life. The sight of someone holding a bible was nothing if not normal to me. That being said, the sound of someone mentioning God’s name in my presence was so natural, I shouldn’t have thought twice about what the kid said. But I did.

I felt sorry for him. I immediately looked around to see who was laughing at him, because I expected it and for good reason. And then I wondered what was wrong with him–why did he say something that sounded so innocent it should have come from a child’s mouth instead of a teenager. I can say that now because I’ve thought about this so much over the years and I’ve made peace with the reality behind what I thought and how I felt, the confusion and quite frankly, disappointment I felt with myself in hindsight.

This kid sat down in front of me and proudly professed his faith, a faith I suppose I thought I shared. And my question was, what was wrong with him? Almost immediately after the question crossed my mind, I think a better one arose. What’s wrong with *me*?

I don’t think the issue here was that I didn’t agree with what the boy said. I mean, it is and always has been my understanding that just because you believe doesn’t mean you’ll always be kept from harm’s way. I remember going to my grandmother with that question whenever I saw a video about the Holocaust when I was younger. Does bad things happen to good people? Yes. Why? So he had faith that he’d be kept safe even though we’re not always guaranteed to be? Not the issue. What he said wasn’t the problem. My reaction to it was.

The problem was, I was, like maybe most kids are, so concerned with protecting myself from ridicule from my peers, I had actually allowed that fear to push me into living a double life, of sorts. I was too scared to be at school who I was at home and at church on Sundays. Not only that, but I was judging someone else for not being inhibited the way I was. Maybe.

Perhaps I’ve spent way too much time thinking about this whole ordeal, but I have to say something happened inside me that day that caused me to really take a look at myself and rethink what I was doing and how I was doing it, and as trivial as it might sound to other people, I think what happened during that tornado drill that morning actually changed me, for the better, maybe forever.

Random. Winding. Ranty. Rambly. Maybe even weird. But it feels good to put it all on paper after all this time. And it’s nice to remind myself to stay true to myself and how rotten it feels whenever you lose yourself, then what a blessing it is to see in someone else whatever it is you’ve been missing, yourself. 😉

 

mixed metaphors & musical matrimony

I’ve been hitting the playlist kind of heavy lately. You don’t have to guess what song that reminds me of. Suffice to say, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about just how much joy we as humans seem to get from sharing our favorite music with other humans. There’s a long list of reasons, but they all eventually lead back to one explanation. When our own words fail us (or when we fail them?) music speaks and we all know, no matter what you’re going through in life, somewhere somehow there’s a song for it–kind of like those greeting cards at the drug store in the 2 for $1 section.

As for my writing, I suffered through a couple of drought-style weeks of barely any writing at all. I was uninspired and thirsty as all get out, which is funny because the weather here was so rainy during that time that maybe talking floods and droughts is inappropriate. I’m already starting to feel dizzy. Hang in there, I’ll try and bring this one home before I crash and burn. 😉 Blah, blah, blah, when it rains it pours. This story is gushing out of me from all openings. I can’t get it down on paper quick enough. And by the way, lately, I feel like one of those witches on the vampire shows who has used all of her power up doing some crazy intense witchy-woo and when it’s all said and done and she’s saved the day, she falls over and curls up, sweaty and mentally drained of every last ounce of energy…Is this a thing that happens to other writers? Maybe I’m just weak in the head. I should do brain aerobics or something. That could be a post for another day.

#nowplaying Eric Church, Record Year

one more light

Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there

I think I have the brain flu, if that’s a thing.

Lately, whenever I sit down to watch television or read, I can’t shut my own words down long enough to take in someone elses. I hate that. Sometimes I want to hunker over a mirror and hold my breath until my eyes bug out and my face turns red and scream at the top of my lungs, would you shut up for five minutes, please? 

I swear, I’m not insane. At least you’ll never prove it with documents. 🙂

Yesterday afternoon, I woke up from a nap and read about Chester Bennington’s suicide. Ever since, I can’t stop thinking about art and artists…and how strange it is that someone so many people have always looked to for strength and inspiration could possibly lose his own battle with darkness. Or did he even ‘lose his battle’?! If a person is so aware and alert, sensitive to human suffering, everything going on around him that he channels his pain through his amazing art, essentially sparking conversation and affecting positive change throughout our culture, across the world even, how can what happened be considered a ‘loss’ on his part? Maybe it was just a decision he made? To take things into his own hands?! Perhaps even considering the thought, quiet as it is, that suicide can or could be just a decision (educated and inspired or not) someone makes or has made is just too much to say out loud. I guess that’s why I’m writing this here.

Every single time we lose someone to a possible mental illness, although I hate calling it that, this question bounces around off the walls of my head. Why? But that’s not really the question, is it? Because I can imagine a million and one answers to that question. Maybe it’s not even about answering a question anymore. Maybe it’s just about a feeling the sense of loss and defeat gives me. The only way I can explain what I feel, truly is–Owww.

It sucks. It hurts. It’s terrible that people feel so trapped by hurt that they end up, for whatever reason, deciding that it is or was just time to toss in the towel, especially when they’ve already given so much to those around them, you just know their potential was boundless, or it could have been, if only…

It’s difficult for me to put words to paper (digital or not) right now, because I have so many thoughts shooting off in so many directions, I can’t seem to string together a coherent sentence. So maybe for now, the thing to do is channel what I’m feeling into my art. Other than prayer and exercise, I don’t know what else to do, anyway.

From the land of the emo and perpetually torn, until next time.

One More Light, Linkin Park on Kimmel