Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Disappearing Series - Post #2

At the risk of being labeled something uncomplimentary, I venture into the second post of the Disappearing Series.

There used to be racks and racks of them in the lingerie department of May Co, Macy's and Sears:


white
black
cream

In a variety of styles:

half
full length
mini
knee high
mid length

                                                                                        with a myriad of trims and ribbons and fabrics

Lace hemmed
Ribboned
Bowed
embroidered
silky
satiny
polyestery
cottony

When I mentioned this missing-in-action item to my 30 year old daughter, I was surprised someone from her generation would reply, "I know mom, I went shopping for one the other day and could not find them anywhere!  She was a victim of 

The Disappearing Slip!!

Full ones that include a bodice (certainly out of underwear-style now) make great warm weather nighties.

AND they had a practical purpose. That's right, a sartorial function.

What to do when the underwear lines are showing through a clingy or sheer dress??? Put on a slip.

Yes, that's right, put on a silky piece of lingerie to smooth out the dimples and dumplings our less than perfect bodies develop when squeezed by elastic-edged undergarments.

Now a strange thing has developed in our freer-than-ever couture culture. Instead of putting ON another piece of underclothing to hide the lumps and bumps, we simply take what little underthings we are wearing.
OFF! 

And replace them with stringier, abbreviated versions, thereby leaving less between us and the view of the whole wide world.

I hate to say it but, we have a problem here. Because most of us could use a little fabric between our skin and the weather. Very few of us possess the body tone to carry this look off without attracting attention to the repeated movement of extra flesh.

For everyone's sake, girlfriends. 

Let's still the jiggle. 

If you are more inclined to take advice from an 80 year old than a 30 year old, here's this: On Christmas Eve, my mother in law recounted that while removing gifts from her trunk, a stiff breeze was blowing. Neighbors gathered across the street on the driveway. An unexpected gust blew the swishy part of her dress practically waist-high. Had it not been for the slip under her skirt, the neighbors would have had an eyeful. It was a close call, she giggled with a Santa-like twinkle in her eye. The wonders of the slip demonstrated!

Likewise, the  absence of this item can produce embarassing moments. (Presuming blushing still exists). Once a month families gather on stage at church for baby dedications. The singers, of which I am a part, and band remain on the platform during this important moment in a parent's life, to provide a little underscore of music.The young moms in clingy stretch cotton-T maxi dresses, front lit by the stage lights, leave nothing to the imagination, due to what's (not) underneath.

The band guys fidget awkwardly and try to figure out what to do with their eyes.

The 1960's full slip was featured in Mad Men's Maidenform episode. And had a brief come-back about 5 years ago when someone got the novel idea of turning the underslip into an outer dress. By adding glittery sequins, pearls and other embellishments, it was marketed as a cocktail dress....didn't hear or see anything about them afterwards...just an interesting article of a wannabe trend that never took off.

It's very likely I'm behind the times. That I'm going 20 in a 60 mile-an-hour fashion runway. Just as was Scarlett O'Hara when Rhett Butler chided her that pantaloons had long gone out of style. Even so, back then they had nine yards of fabric to maintain their modesty. Seems that's a fading fad, too.

Enough of my futile rant about limping lingerie in the 21st century.

Here's to a Merry Christmas and a stylish 2013.

May Santa slip a slip in your stocking.

Otherwise, I think you can find them online.




=

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Disappearing Christmas Card

What is it about this stage in life where one constantly looks back, rather than forward??
Immersed in photos and life stories of my ancestors rather than the current living, I obsess with remembering the good ole days instead of happy expectation for the days to come. Why not relish the beauty of the present, rather than lament the loss of the past.

It's not healthy. One should focus on today and looked forward to the future.
After all God is a God-of-the-Now and we should walk in that. Carpe Diem! Live in the present.

However, with the soon passing of 2012, allow me to indulge myself (It's-my-blog-I-can-cry-if-I-want- to) and launch a stream of posts called

The Disappearing Series 

Here I will remember and maybe mourn the loss of items, customs and events that  have gone out of fashion. Things that made life more polite, civilized, rich and genteel. (Now there's a word straight out of "Gone With The Wind")!!!

So, first: The Disappearing Christmas Card.




Sorry, but an email just doesn't cut it. Those animated cards from American Greetings.com are cute, I admit. But there's nothing like the surprise in the mailbox that is not a bill or advertisement. 

It's a human touch
written with 
 the energy of a loved one's hand, 
 thoughts of their mind 
living emotion of their heart

all encapsulated in the handwritten address.

There. 
Walk to your mailbox.
 Reach in the cool tin hollow. Feel the texture of linen paper. Hear the seal snap.  Anticipate the contents while you tear it open with dinner knife, letter opener or index finger. 
Let your heart be tickled.

Sadly at my house, laziness has won with printed names and photos.  The Costco picture cards are getting old, but they are so time efficient. My mother would pore over each card and add a personalized note. The envelopes trickled out as she completed a few each night. 

An annual message of care at Christmas goes a long way.  Traditionally the list begins with the wedding guest book and grows over the years.  



My list has shrunk.  There are names in my Christmas Card Record book, I don't even recognize anymore. Were they college friends in LA, young couples from our Newport beach days? Or folks from our child rearing era in Thousand Oaks, California. After 14 years in Florida even friends have changed. Hard to keep up.

Perhaps that's one of the things we'll do in heaven. A thousand years to rekindle relationships.

While on earth, Christmas Cards keep them going. 

A text message is better than nothing,  I guess. "Merry Christmas to all our Friends" sent out to all your contacts says something, for sure. Try to respond to the group text and you've launched mass confusion rather than stoked the love.

Social networking has captured our complete attention. So much faster than a card or letter. But has it made us more loving and caring and really fostered meaningful friendships? Has it really improved our social or family life? Maybe some say yes.

Did you read the article where the person with 400 friends tried to have a get-together and none of the 400 'friends' came? 

The Shaws hang our Christmas cards on two long ribbons on the front door. The space needed is less and less with each year.  Where once there were three ribbons, now there are only two. 

Four cards are hung to date with ten days left till Christmas.




Multiple trips to the photo counter, and arguments with husband over photos and wording made it truly a labor of love. But so worth it!




Oh, and in case you didn't get our card in the mailbox at then end of your driveway....

consider this post your Holiday Greeting.

Electronically!!

:):) 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

lost in the forest of seventeen


They say it happens at age fourteen for girls. Overnight some alien starts inhabiting their bodies, replacing the girl that was known and loved with an impossible, emotionally charged, otherworldly being. This lasts for about 3-5 years before the old girl returns and the family is once again right side up.



For boys it happens around seventeen. They enter this forest preceding adulthood, leading the parents into the woods to find their lost son. Whatever moral compass or map they seemed to own in childhood is suddenly lost as they discover a world of new senses, experiences and manly power - a dangerous combination.

Attempting to rescue and prevent impending disaster, I follow blindly into the woods.

And soon we were both lost. Vision truncated to a few feet in front of me. Occasionally a trace of his whereabouts as I stumble in the dark and sunless green.

This forest of seventeen.

Gnarly roots protruding, I trip on clues. Like Visine-to-get-the-red-out, odd items hidden under hedges and behind pots, getting sick on the bedroom couch in the middle of the night....because you ate something bad last night??? Couch is put out for bulk trash. Stunned, my face hammers into a pillar of bark. Smack hard,
staggering, dazed,
wondering what just happened.

I wonder all the time.

Conversations are spoken as if through a smoky glass. Furtive glances replace eye contact. Garbled words for plain answers, lacking logic. Stories don't line up. Reality warped and stretched like carnival mirrors - shapes distorted and confusing.  The fog lays heavy, through the thickly growing arbors.

 I brush him sometimes and sense him near, but not really. The light has left his eyes.

Some mothers, less sensitive to privacy,  break through by scanning text messages and caller ID to confirm the bad friends and suspect girlfriend. I sum up the sketchy evidence and draw frightening conclusions that may or may not be true.

Knees are raw from praying, heart sore and eyes empty of tears.

I'm not sure when we will see light again.

Did you leave a trail of stones or bread? Anything to help us find our way out to

clear skies and

cleansing sun,

honesty, truth, innocence.

So far, not even a dot of light on the charcoal horizon...







(Note to concerned readers: We are not in crisis. After raising 4 boys, this is a collective, general reflection of a stage I've noticed some sons go through. We are fine, though never without need of God's grace and guidance.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

35 Years and (Grace) Holding

She said tell Timmy 'hello'. His old girl-friend, my college years friend, reacquainted on facebook.

What do you want me to tell her back? I asked my husband, half-asleep, his head on the pillow.

Grunt. Lights out.

When you've been married this long,  you learn not to take grunts personally. Nor does the grunt mean an answer isn't arriving in the morning.

What a great epicurean experience we had that evening! From Szechuan calamari appetizers to decadent ice cream sandwich squares, rolled in nuts and chocolate chips,  dipped in vanilla sauce, celebrating our 35th anniversary. This kind of 'heavy partying' after a long day at church was about all we could take before rolling over to sleep. 

The next day in the car the answer came.

 I don't know why these beautiful conversations take place in the uninspiring setting of an auto. I drive a plain minivan, for Pete's sake.

It would have been so much more romantic said the balmy night before, by the patio fire pit, under the sparkling Florida stars, at Fort Lauderdale's ultra-trendy restaurant: YOLO. That's the name, You Only Live Once.


Now that I think about it, my husband proposed to me in a station wagon!

Why he hadn't done it at the regally charming Queen Mary ship we had just eaten dinner at, I'll never know. But he asked for my hand as he dropped me off at home. On top of it all, I said yes!

And here we were again,
                               
                                                    sitting in the car before work,
                                                               
                                                                                           and he is waxing poetic about why he married me

And I am crying.

So what if his timing is off a bit!

"I'm not sure what to say back to the old girlfriend, (3000 miles away)", he said. It's a little awkward.

She was drop-dead beautiful with a tender heart. Smart and warm.

I was looking for a loyal woman, he continued,  and wasn't sure about her. Her mom had one of those open marriage arrangments. But her dad was the faithful husband to the end, kind of like Hosea in the Old Testament.

Tim said he was fearful she would favor her mom's ways...He never kissed her for that reason, never advanced the relationship, so they remained friends only.

"But you", my sweet husband said to me, "when I met you I could tell you were the loyal type. Just by the way you carried yourself; standing out among the flighty, party girls.

 I kissed you on our first date,  right away to stake my claim.
 You were marriage material."

Another smooch in the parking lot sent me on my way,  soggy-eyed and so loved
on this our anniversary.

I can't remember what he told me to reply to the girlfriend. And it doesn't matter anymore.

35 years later and (grace) still holding.




Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Queen of Half-baked Ideas

I am the "Queen of Half-baked Ideas" my perky friend declared, her enthusiasm unabated. "After all, if you don't have half-baked ones, there's no chance any will ever get fully done!"

True.



But I'm a little more depressed about this dilemma than she  is. 


Just a few extra lifetimes would do the trick. That would allow me to finish them all:
Compile a Children's CD, Worship CD, love song and piano instrumental  CD. Sell books on Amazon. Sell Real Estate. Be a music therapist. Administrate an Arts Organization. Get my masters. Work on an archaeological dig in Israel. Play at more weddings.

Obstacles abound and block my reach of these goals. They loom in front of me like green hairy monsters! Things like:

Organizing the garage.
Cleaning my drawers.
Changing out the paper in my kitchen cabinets.
Uncluttering my desk (my laptop desktop included, which is always crowded with documents and photos I need to file or send to facebook or email to relatives).

Speaking of pictures.

With 5 kids, I have boxes of them. Pretty boxes I might add, in every corner of the house, in every closet, patiently waiting to be put in scrapbooks that are chronically 10 years behind. There's a box for each of the 5 mostly grown children, husband, grandmothers/fathers (ancestors) and then a box for each of the 10 years I am behind in.

As I write I am buried under 30 years of saved birthday, anniversary and Valentine cards. I need more boxes. No zip lock bags. No, I need a course in clutter management!! (I did find a 'first year' anniversary card from my hubby that I'm going to show him in 2 days when we celebrate our 35th, that I was quick to use to validate my penchant for saving all things sentimental).

I argue myself down that my great ambitions can't be tackled until these nagging projects are completed.

And it feels
Like
I
Will
Never
Catch
Up
!

Then there's laundry and floors and toilets that come back every week screaming,

 "C L E A N ME "!!


So the aspirations remain immature, gangley-legged and peach fuzz-faced.

My mother used to worry incessantly about her disorganized desk. If the subject of the Rapture came up, she would go on about getting her life in order and straightening up her desk! She surmised that the mess of bills and letters would be a bad witness to those who were left behind, I guess.

I've joined my exuberant friend in her royal court of "Queen of Half-baked Ideas." Her brain-child is  a clever children's book and has asked me to write a song for the story.

We are planning to do this between 1:00 and 2:00 am in the morning when we both are free. Then our projects may at last come out of the oven,

fully baked, done in the middle, and golden brown outside.
 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Better Than a Piano Bar

It's that part of marriage that we women loathe: When our husbands say 'no' and we have to listen.

But honey, I pleaded, it's not like I was planning to act like some floozy with a martini in one hand and a Marlboro in the other playing sultry songs on the grand piano, while half-crocked silver foxes (a nice name for old men) ogle and harrass me. I just want to play my three-song Carole King set for people in the community.

It's a swanky neighborhood tavern, not a low-brow bar.

Besides I had a chance to win good money. Play a song to win the talent prize at the end of the evening for $100 bucks, making you eligible for the $1000 grand prize at the end of the month. Generally I don't go for this kind of thing. Especially if the local social magazine picks up the story and prints your picture with all the shallow small-town glitterati, which they typically do.

But what's wrong with that?  Really? And we could be $1100 better off?

Domestic tiff continues.

Hopes high, I had been practicing what I knew best. Carole King.

Where you Lead
Natural Woman
You've Got a Friend

(Please don't spread the word, but I have the original 1971 Tapestry songbook, complete with my maiden name written in teenage handwriting.)

As it turned out, my aspirations of being $1100 richer continued to be squelched by my husband's less than enthusiastic reaction.

"I really don't like the idea of my wife playing in a bar!"

"It's not a bar. It's more like a pub for neighborhood folks. The place is nice, with rich paneling, formal furniture, a grand piano, and beautiful equestrian and polo themed artwork on the walls. Not your run-of-the-mill joint full of drunks and pick-ups," I persisted.

No, it's a bar, He said. I'm not crazy about you hanging out at a place like that.

I had recently visited there to see a friend play and we had a great time chatting with mutual friends. Everyone was clean cut, more intelligent type than say, those that frequented the country bar "Boonies" in Royal Palm Beach or even "Gypsy Horse" in old Wellington.

Still a no from my husband. I wanted this so badly. This submitting thing was no fun at all. How could he keep me from doing what I was dying to do?  He always hears me out. But If we disagree, ultimately one person has to make the decision.

After all, anything with two heads is a monster.

So the talent contest came...

                                                                             ...and...

                                                                                                                          ...went.

As did the potential winnings and fun of performing. I was bummed.

------------

A few weeks later on a Saturday, Elliot my 23 year old, casually said he was playing that night at a coffee house in North Palm with some musician friends. Somehow it came up that I might be included in the line-up. I was all practiced up for the illusive piano bar gig. With he on guitar and myself on keys, we worked out our songs and that night...


My son and I sang Carole King in a cozy coffee house.


Elliot on acoustic and Allison on background vocals from the front row!


The multi-generational audience sang along. Allison, our friend threw in unexpected harmonies from the floor and echoed 'done for me' in the bridge of Natural Woman. The impromptu audience interaction made it alive and ultra cool, and though my other 19 year old son, Jesse doesn't let me use the term, I might add little hipster too. The girls texted their moms wishing they were there to share the vintage tunes.

Instead of the piano bar gig, I got a much sweeter deal:  Making music with my son in a quirky coffee house in the arts-charmed North Palm Beach. Flanked by an art gallery, it held the perfect attraction for cool visual arts- musician clientele.

Now, that moment to me was far, far


Better than a piano bar!

What mother wouldn't consider sharing a humble coffee house stage with her son, superior to playing solo even at Carnegie Hall? It was a night to remember. A highlight as a musician and a cherished memory as a mom.

And I later found out the the so-called contest money I'd missed out on could only be used at the same watering hole. I did not want to spend that much time there.

I hate to admit it,

but my husband was right...


this time! :)


Sunday, October 28, 2012

First Hello - Part Three: Redemption


 Long before customer Rewards cards, there were S & H green stamps. Retailers wanting to build consumer loyalty would offer them with every purchase.

 I remember checking out groceries at the Alpha Beta store with my mother. Bea, our usual cashier  would smile her red lipsticky-smile, hair all in a 60's 'do', wish my mom some cliche farewell and hand her a receipt with a couple sheets of green or blue stamps.

My chore as a child was to lick and stick them in little 4x6 inch booklets. If there was an extra large stack of stamps,  I might get a wet washcloth in a saucer to save my tongue.

After collecting a good amount of filled booklets, then off to the local Redemption Center we would go. The cavernous store offered new merchandise in exchange for a bunch of green and blue sticky rectangular pieces of paper stuck in skinny books. We would walk out with a boatload of new merchandise like an electric mixer, badminton set, or everyday silverware.


That was my earliest experience with the concept of Redemption.

To Redeem:

To turn something of little worth into something of true worth. 
Offset the bad effect.
Exchange for something of value.
To free from the consequences of sin.
To repair, restore.

Most of the time the word sounded archaic and church-y to me. Other than with blue chip stamps, I had trouble relating to it.

                   But now I treasure the word.                  

I sensed it when I first gave my heart to Jesus, around the same time as my daughter's relinquishment. For the  difficult situation that a teen-age pregnancy presents, there seemed to be a lesser-evil-of-an answer than terminating. I wish I could say the thought never entered my mind. But Psalm 139 changed it and by adopting out I was able to provide a child-less couple with a baby and find myself a fresh start. All the things that had brought me to this place were left behind. And I thought that was it. A new life in exchange for the old.

I never expected God to continue the redemption of adoption well into midlife. He had given me so much already in a great husband and another beautiful and practically-perfect-in-every-way daughter named April, plus 4 great boys. That was enough blessing. Enough restoration.

But then, Surprise!! He knocked me out with a phone call on my 50th birthday that brought the daughter I had given up 32 years before, back into my life.

And 5 years later,  
The First Hello.

The chance to finally see her, face to face and take another step in that relationship, was more than I ever dreamed of; more than I deserved. Oh and she has 2 beautiful children. I met grandchildren I never knew I had.

Grace is like that.

Yeah, that's just like our Jesus. Surprising us with something spectacular 

just when we've settled

into the tattered couch of just ok.

God is even extending restoration to other parties in the story: the father of my daughter has since come to faith. And oh,  that my daughter will heal from the inner difficulty they say adopted children struggle with.

Deeper levels of healing are ever open to us, ever waiting for us to reach up and grasp.

And redemption knocks so quietly at first
Inviting us, igniting a deep thirst
To be whole again
Find our soul again



Me, Robin, Aaron, Daughter

Daughter and husband




He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair
 - Crystal Lewis

I'm trading my sorrows
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying them down
For the joy of the Lord
-Darrell Evans







When only Love could make a way
You gave Your life 
For a Beautiful Exchange
- Hillsong United


I'll be always taking those sticky stamps of mistakes and mis-steps to my Blessed Redeemer.

Yup, this girl has done made a trip to the Redemption Center ...
                                               
                                                                 ... and walked out with a truckload of joy!





Friday, October 19, 2012

First Hello - Part Two: The Dance

One of the lowest times in my early marriage was during a stint of dance lessons my husband reluctantly agreed to take with me at the local Park and Rec. The instructor also taught kindergarten. So we fit right in.

We made a great effort to learn the box, the Lindy, waltz and other basic steps.  With each weekly lesson,  it was becoming far less than the romantic experience I'd fantasized about.

"Your hand is too high on my back"
"Your hand is to low on my shoulder"
"You're not counting the beat"
"The right foot goes first!"
"No, it's the left!"

About the 4th lesson, these dribbling criticisms accelerated into a thunderous shouting match from the dance floor, all the way through the parking lot and out to the car.

"YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO LEAD!"
"YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO FOLLOW!"

Of course, the accusations were very telling; and in other areas besides dance steps. We had issues about roles that existed in much more significant places than our feet. And it has taken years and tears to figure it out. Still working on it.

That's the way my first visit felt with my estranged daughter. (Not the arguing part, but the dance lesson part) I found myself second-guessing each step, bereft of rhythm and clumsy. The roles were all fuzzy and undefined.

--------------

At the top of the brick steps, the two met me with smiles on their faces at the front screen door, my daughter and her husband. She gave me a quick shoulder squeeze. He turned my offer of a handshake into a welcoming hug.

That was a little better than expected.

Turning toward her adorable children, age 2 and 4, I was introduced as Angela. Not grandma, mom or Bella, which is what my other daughter April's boys call  me.

Thus the awkward dance began.

Here my identity crisis commenced and role confusion set-in. Like a bad dancer, I fumbled. Am I guest? Or separated-for-three-decades- birth-mother?           

Step-together-mis-step

I couldn't stop staring. She was so beautiful to me, more than in any pictures she had sent. I searched ferociously to find features in common while she was singing 'Rock-a-Bye Baby' to her son in the rocking chair. But finally surrendered to the fact that she favored her father, my high school boyfriend. Maybe there's a gesture, a look in the eye, her love for fabric, her rippling laugh. Something there had to reflect my gene pool. Yes, I think it was the eyes. His were more almond-shaped than mine and hers are oval. She has my eyes, I reached.

pivot-spin-rock on heel

Having just moved in the week before, she apologized for the boxes and clutter. "Your kidding me, I said, "You just moved! I'm just glad you let me come over during such a hectic time."

Then came the house tour, from bottom living room to the rooftop deck that overlooked the bay. She lead me up a ladder to a see a breathtaking 360 degree view of ocean before and mountain behind.

Her husband was on his way out to get the last truckload of items moved, but lingered. He seemed to  understand the significance of the moment for both of us. Or maybe he was there just to support his wife during a potentially emotional meeting. It was sweet and I was happy she had such a loving and sensitive man as he.

But it was not emotional.

 It was not, Lights, Camera, Oprah with sob ridden "I've-Been-Waiting-All- My-Life-To-See-You's." 
After all, this was real life, not some scripted talk-show.

Slide, turn, correct move.

Lunch was a bowl of fluffy rice, black beans and fresh spinach leaves. The dog came in, bounded up the stairs and the little ones ran to catch him. Up and down, up and down while I sat and ate like a good guest.

But suddenly, as if a switch flipped in my head, I went into mom-mode and I felt it my duty to help her corral the kids and dog, so I got up to tend to the kids at the bottom of the stairs.

"You can sit down" she firmly said over her shoulder to me.

 Pivot hard, back to the table.

Switched from mom role back to guest-role quick!    

Totally missed the moves for the line dance, here. Two left feet.

It was obvious that nap time was near as the children were exhibiting that last burst of energy, running around with the dog.

Trying to be useful, I suggested I help put them down with a story, unabashedly going for the grandma role. But my offer was met with a 

"They usually just want their mommy," she said. The words snapping me back into being guest.  

Wall flower.  
 -------------------

I so wanted to cradle her face in my hands and reassure her that my relinquishment many years before did not mean I didn't love her. But that moment never presented itself during this first visit. We were far from it.

As we said goodbye on the brick steps, the best I could do was casually slip in a "love you." And just as I turned my back to walk down the steps,  I heard her say

the same!!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

First Hello - Part One: The Drive

There I stood at the Enterprise car rental counter with the last words of my architect brother ringing in my ears as he dropped me off.
"Get the Mustang convertible," he had shouted after me, the black sporty thing we spied in the parking lot.

So how much is it, I asked?

$$$ a day, the handsome shirt and tied young man replied.

I had reserved the Chevy Aveo which was

$ a day.

I could rent that black beauty for 2 days...but... I'm a frugal girl. Besides, I'm not trying to impress anyone. The last thing I want to do is appear pretentious; especially as a first impression.

Anything in between $ and $$$ I asked? He offered a Volkswagon whatever, which looked just like the Chevy Aveo.

A picture of my hair blowing in the wind on this perfect October California day, temperature climbing toward 80, making my way up the 405 for a long anticipated personal reunion, dissolved as common-sense won over and I acquiesed to accept the Chevy at $ a day. 

Silence, as he punched the register keys.

Tell you what, he said, (it was 1/2 hour till closing at noon), I'll give you the Mustang convertible for

 $$ a day.

Ok, I said.  For 20 dollars extra, I thought, I'll treat myself to experience the full glory of the semi arid, bright sunshiny California climate that I grew up in, that my current semi-tropical Florida life had shoved to the back of my mind. I was eager to re-live those West coast days.



----------


I left my dear friend's church before the sermon ended the next summer-like morning, the pastor's last illustration was about the importance of a mother's unconditional love. Uncanny, a divine message? I thought, as I was about to drive to see my daughter I had adopted out 37 years ago, face to face, for the first time.

She must know, beyond a doubt,  that I love her. I need to make that clear to her. I hear that adopted people struggle with  feelings of abandonment- even into middle age. 

With that resolve, I said goodbye to my friend with a prayer on our lips, put the top down, twisted my hair into to tight bun and headed north on the 405.

405 Northbound through Huntington Beach

I could not wipe the smile off my face. I sang, I praised, I fairly exploded from happiness, tripping up the freeway. Passing familiar buildings through Newport Center made me feel at home.  Even the golden haze (smog) on the horizon further into OC was a comfortable sight.

Changing freeways, I entered the port area of Long Beach. There's the Queen Mary, where my husband and father of my current 5 children (7 years after this one) proposed to me after a date there over 35 yrs ago.  There are the docks, cranes, and stacked cartons that make-up the industrial port where overseas products end their voyage and begin their land trip into our markets.

Two tall bridges

Two tall bridges afforded fantastic views of it all. The sun high and hot beat down into the black interior of my car, my black jeans. Why hadn't I packed my cotton, gathered hippie skirt that would have been much cooler? The wind whipping my hair, strands stinging my face, brought me back to the reality of my near destination, my long awaited reunion, my first hello.

--------

A little drive into town, older streets, lots of signals, a store parking lot stop to re-apply wind dried lipstick and turn my bun into a braid.

Right turn,

Left turn,

Right turn up a hill, (the whole city is a hill). I count house numbers, looking left. Not that one, closer, closer,

THERE!  The address I was looking for was a white 3 story house with multiple balconies.

I look to park. An empty spot on my right. I shimmy from drive to reverse, drive to reverse, direct the wheels to the curb because of the incline, put it in park, and pull the emergency brake. Key off.

Only to hear that bubbly lilting voice I've heard only on the phone, call out to me,

"Just so you know, you're parked in a red zone!" were her first words. I turn to see a curly dark haired slender, young woman leaning over her balcony, head tilted slightly. 'Nice Car!' she added.

AAAAUUGGG!!!!! I was certain the whole neighborhood heard my inner groan of embarrassment.

Exactly the impression I wanted to avoid! Add my stupidity of parking in a red zone and you've got a smashing good start to a first visit, part comic and tragic all at the same time.

"Oh, I couldn't see it over the sides of the car," I stammered on and  "Oh and the car's not me, really. I just got a good deal." No words of explanation could recover a moment-gone-wrong and dignity lost.  I swung the wheel to park around the corner by a curb that was not red.

Walking the brick steps to her front door, I consoled myself that the visit could only go uphill from there.......



Monday, October 8, 2012

'Fall' in a Cup

It's nutty, sweet, like pumpkin pie, with an aroma that says colored leaves, crackling fires and crisp cool air all in one 'short' 8 ounce cup.
                                    

That's Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte.




 Here in South Florida, we take our 'Fall' in a cup.

Because
it
certainly
is
NOT
IN
THE
AIR!!

Now if you are in the Carolinas, your October is a 'Tall' 12-ounce serving of the spicy delight, with clusters of auburn, gold and rust leaves dotting the gentle smoky mountains, a dusting of cinnamon color amonst the backdrop of musty green and leaveless nutmeg brown. Crisp morning air gives way to warmish days of part drizzle, part simmering sun.

Or you may get more autumn for your senses in a 16-ounce 'Grande' further north.

But, in Connecticut, Virgina and the Northeast, you order your Fall in a 'Venti' cup, and yes, you'll take it topped with whipped cream. 20 ounces of glorious burnt orange, showers of leaves and lavish sights of lemon yellow fluttering beeches, the foliage resembling a flock of Morning Glory butterflies, ruby red maples, and amethyst witch hazels. Perhaps you'll dress in sweaters and boots while you nurse your toasty drink.

My brother, Pete and his new wife Terry, will enjoy this beverage on their honeymoon next week.


Meanwhile, down here on the 30.24N latitude with our air conditioners still running at 78 to keep us from sweating, we turn to the green lady logo with exploding hair to get our only dose of 'fall'

in a cup.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Horse that said 'No'

One of the rare treats of living in Wellington is the weekly winter horse shows. The producers of the evening have made it surprisingly user-friendly by including an M.C. that warms up the crowd from the center of the arena, fire jugglers performing along the stands, and a live band that plays classic rock, just in case you're not that into the world of equus callubi.

We make a point of attending at least one equestrian event a year whether it be polo, jumping or dressage.  So, there in February before the West Palm Beach heat returned, we ventured to the Saturday night jumping competitions.

Usually there is a track of jumps, moats and rails that challenges each contender to be the fastest and knock down the fewest bars.

This time there were only 4 jumps. One was a wall that they heightened with each round. After two tries if the wall isn't cleared, horse and rider are out of the running.


One by one, eliminations occurred, the duos left the arena as the wall grew higher and higher. (It was made of Styrofoam blocks to resemble bricks).

At 6'4" the jump seemed impossible. But still 2 contestants were left in the competition.

Mid-air, then cleared it.

 The height of wall reached  7'2".

There went the horse. His rider urged him to the wall and the horse slammed his front legs ahead of him to a dead stop in front of the wall. His master visibly displeased, swung the animal around to make a second attempt.

Galloping fiercely toward the wall, the horse again dug his hoof heels firmly into the turf and to the crowd's great astonishment
distinctly
shook
his 
head 
from side-to-side as if to say

  "NO!

 I AM NOT GOING OVER THAT WALL!"

The horse then veered sharply to the right avoiding the 'brick' barricade, flinging the horseman off the saddle. As the rider dangled on the side of his mount, audible gasps from the stands expressed fright that he might lose grip, fall and be trampled. 

To our great relief (no doubt to his, too) the horseman recovered with no injury to his body. I can't say the same for his psyche from the dramatic and disappointing defeat. But, hey, he came in second,  and lived to tell it.

Nothing coming over the wall

 It was the most audacious thing I'd ever seen a thoroughbred do. This creature broke all the stereotypes that purport that horses have a small brain!

What a night at the Equestrian arena! We're definitely going next year!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Incredible Shrinking Me

"Narrow is the mansion of my heart."

So said St. Augustine.

"Enlarge Thou it..."

I read on in his surprisingly relevant, though ancient autobiography, The Confessions of Saint Augustine.

If this house of my heart were any smaller, it would hold no air to sustain me. Suffocating, I grasp and clutch and crave things, beauty, possessions, that make it a cluttered, selfish, little hovel.

This small space.

"Enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in," he writes on.

My own stunted heart teeters on arrest when the notion of generosity comes knocking. This strange guest at my door, uninvited.

I.
want.
so.
much.

Do I let this newcomer in? Do I allow altruism in to remove the piles of hoarded trash that make it hard to move around, to live, let alone give as I was intended to give?

Sweaty palms unlatch the lock and slowly let the breeze of benevolence move the stale air of a closed, windows-shut-tight, curtains drawn, dark abode.

Then something unusual happens. The pent up air stirs, flows, then escapes as if from a vacuum-packed can, this windowless solitary confinement prison cell.

 My arteries, clogged with discontent and greed, on the brink of failure, plagued with chronic arrythmia, might benefit from the defibrillation of giving.

Blinding light accompanies this uncommon guest. I rush to clean the newly revealed dust and move the messes into already bursting closets, no where to hide it all. Exposed. Ashamed. I shrink to the size of my surroundings until I am spent, small, and overcome by the utter despair of stuff.

The saving of my self-centered, withered soul is to give. Open handed, what I have, little as it may be. Not just tangible gifts, like change to the beggar or coffee to a friend. But forgiveness to a relative, and mercy to my teenager, the benefit of a doubt to my husband.

So renovate this dwelling place of my life-source. Add a room or two. Not to fill with more purses or sets of dishes,

But. To. Fill. With. You.    Great, Generous God.

And dazzle me with the heart-flipping joy that comes with seeing the smile of a homeless person. Let me sense the long overdue relief of a friendship restored.

Enlarge my heart, to make room for all You are and want to be in me.

And maybe someday my cardboard shack-of-a-heart might make it into an issue of heaven's House Beautiful magazine...


Friday, May 18, 2012

My Summer Memories


Hers was The real Voice.

Radio and recordings didn't do justice to its nuclear sound.

I discovered that the first time I heard Donna Summer sing  live; her vocal timbre as large as the Santa Monica mountain range with peaks and vales just as wide.Not only did her voluminous voice turn heads,

it stopped birds in flight.


At a rehearsal for a women's conference in late '80's, Donna told the story of how she was singing  in the courtyard of her Westlake Village home (named "Holywood Ranch"). A bird flying by stopped mid-air and jerked his head toward her at the sound her striking song. She wasn't boasting. She was matter-of-factly relaying an unusual experience. Her crazy-big vocals just happened to be the main point.

Most remember her belting out Bad Girls, Last Dance and On the Radio. I connected to some later songs: Dinner with Gershwin, Forgive Me and Everybody up to the Dance Floor.

She also had a lesser known gospel side. During  the women's conference performance, where I sang back-up, she joked how we four resembled an Oreo cookie--she and her African-American sister flanking me and my Caucasian friend.  We sang Gospel classics like Operator, Give me Jesus on the Line, I Anticipate A Miracle, and I Worship You Almighty God. Man, could she sing the last one! I remember accompanying her at Gateway Foursquare church in Agoura Hills where both our families attended.


But my gospel favorite was "His Eye is On the Sparrow".
Here's the chart I wrote to accompany her when she  performed at a black mega-church in L.A. Her personal assistant, Gina, had asked me to write it.

We musicians joked about how we'd like to have a 'Gina' - she cooked, drove the kids and kept Donna's schedule together.

I fought rush-hour traffic from Thousand Oaks to Crenshaw, got lost in the worst part of South Central LA off the10 freeway, (not far from where they had the Rodney King incident a few months later) and made the rehearsal an hour late. I repeated the drive the next morning to play at Fred Price's charismatic church service,  which was an experience in itself!

She invited my husband and me to the induction of her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The reception at a nearby hotel was delightful with its made-to-order pasta station and coffee bar complete with whipped cream and raspberries. I remember lots of beautiful people and Hollywood buzz in the room. Someone thought I was an actress. Ha, mother of two that I was. She was busy with several interviews and photo ops, but still made time to come by our table to say 'hello,' joke with my husband and make small talk. She had a great sense of humor and was so down to earth considering the super-star that she was.

Her husband Bruce Sudano was friendly, very grounded, and a musician/songwriter in his own right.
He would sometimes call Donna by her real name, "Adrian."

I was honored to have sung and played with her, but was so out of her league, in more ways than one.
What we did share were things dear to my heart: faith, music, and children of similar ages.

Most obvious was our artistic and economic disparity. Did I mention she was a painter? Forgive me if this next story is a little gauche. (Read my daughter's blog for a more tasteful and spiritual take on her memories of Donna: http://aprilmccullohs.com/donna-summer-how-i-knew-her#comment-250).

One afternoon while rehearsing at Donna's house, I complimented her very large embroidered rug (that incidentally covered only half of her enormous living room). She casually commented back,
"Thanks. I'm thinking of changing the rug out for the Spring. "Do you do that?" she asked me.

Before I had a chance to give an awkward answer, her husband, Bruce came to the rescue and deflected the conversation. I was spared from having to explain that I was lucky to have one nice living room rug for my 2-bedroom apartment, much less two to change out seasonally!

She possessed a kind of humble obliviousness to certain things; mostly how staggeringly great her own voice was.

Now she's made her debut appearance in Heaven. I wonder if it included a duet with Whitney Houston,  Ella Fitzgerald or other great singers gone before her!

I bet the sound of her epic voice is turning heads everywhere.

Even stopping angels in flight!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Art of Falling

Clumsy is what I am.

Spatially impaired.

All my life I  have physically slipped and tripped so many times I think I've nearly perfected the art of falling.

 My mother even sent me to Charm School!! What  I remember at age 11 or 12 was going to the department store sponsored classes (Was it The Broadway?), getting a lot of cool, free Bonnie Belle cosmetics, picking out outfits upstairs for the fashion show and yes, I remember being taught how to walk properly on the runway.

Little good that did!!

Stumbling, losing balance, reeling backwards and sideways, running into doorjambs, and hitting my head on low ceilings, etc, etc. I have practiced these so often that they have become a dance-step, a hip-hop move, a gymnast's tumble and cheerleader's flip.

Family reinforced my malady every time I broke an heirloom plate or crystal glass. :(

Yesterday, while working an event, walking too fast, my heel skidded sideways about 24 inches, then righted itself, leaving a nice black tire track on the Pergo floors. "Oh! You Ok? .....That was a graceful recovery,"  a kind bystander reacted.

And there was the time I fell backwards off a 3 ft high stage while playing a 5/4 time jazz version of 'O Come All Ye Faithful' at a Christmas Eve service. Groovin' to the music, my heel missed the platform and I plunged backward. To the great surprise of the pastor sitting behind, I landed on my feet. Went right back on the stage, took a flamboyant bow and joined the band to finish the song. The worst part was trying to recover as if nothing had happened. Attempting to mask my mortification, I smiled weakly and kept playing the keyboard, freaking out inside.

It is so tempting to blame high heels, sticky soles, slick floors, narrow doorways, and low soffatts. My knee-jerk reaction is to make excuses, to find fault in exterior circumstances or make others the scape goat - instead of taking responsibility for being careless and negligent.

And so it is with our walk with Christ.

It's all about learning to gracefully recover from our failures, flaws, and faux pas. To own the error, bungling ways, humanness, and personal penchant for selfcenteredness.

It's getting back on the jumper horse after catapulting headlong into the turf. (Which I have done). It's shaking off debilitating shame when we have fallen for a familiar temptation. (Which I have also done ). It's allowing the grace of God to get us up again...
                                                             
and again.....
                                                                                                                  
and again.

Do we fall on our faces and just stay there? Do we allow shame and hopelessness to keep us paralyzed in our spiritual journey? To keep us enslaved to sin?

What if ,when we fall, we fall at the foot of the Cross .....allowing mercy to raise us up again?

What if, while we are laying there injured from the crash, we get on our knees and confess, find healing and the will to stand?

Of course, we should never take the grace of God for granted and premeditate rebelling knowing He forgives. Although He restores and rehabilitates, consequences remain. A hard fall always leaves a mark;  a scar we wear all our lives.

That, I believe is perfecting the art of falling; a necessary discipline in walking with Jesus.


Took the slippery slope
Displaced trust and hope
Empty promises abound

Still in spite of it all
Mercy caught my fall
Before I ever hit the ground

When I fall
I'm falling at Your cross
Perfecting the art of falling
I'm falling on my knees
Perfecting the art of falling
Fall at the feet
of Jesus




Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tents and Tabernacles

I've been here before. Standing in a high pitched tent with the people of God. 



 As the music starts, I sense Him near. Feeling His indescribably sweet presence. Heavy like the arbor of tree branches. Warm like the hearth of a fire. We bask in the anticipation that something epic is about to happen. Standing on the cusp of a new spiritual work.



38 years ago it was a grey big top. The shelter and temporary church where the 'Jesus People' transitioned from the Little Chapel to the new 4000 seat Calvary Chapel sanctuary.  We were caught in the tidal wave of God's move then. Swept away by a force we had no control of. Grateful and honored to have been included. Some of us sang, played instruments, preached, hosted radio shows, lead Bible studies, street witnessed in Hollywood and Huntington, or just picked up cigarette butts around the church grounds. 
All the while we fed on the Word. We worshiped arm in arm with brothers and sisters, overwhelmed with joy and blessing.  

 (My parents outside the tent  Easter 1972 or '73, Costa Mesa, California)


Today it was a white open sided 5-peaked tent. We took our weekly church staff meeting offsite to celebrate the newly acquired 132 acres in Martin county. It was an unusually cold late April morning; in the lower 50's as we gathered for breakfast, worship and prayer to dedicate the place. Asking God to do mighty things with the land.



There's something powerful that occurs when God's people purpose to build a house for his Name. (I Kings 5:5). Solomon did it and the crowd could not stay standing at the dedication ceremony because of His glory in that place.

When Moses went to the 'tent of Meeting' to meet God the cloud of His presence was visible to all of Israel as they watched from their own tents. The invitation for his Face to shine upon them was for each and every one,  not just Moses (Numbers 6:25). God wanted to meet them all in his earthly abode.....and so we did today.

And here's amazing side thought: This earthly tent, our physical being, is meant to be His dwelling place. Our bodies, the temple of God!!! And together, we are living stones built up to be his Church!

God has shown up in tents and tabernacles all through HisStory. I witnessed a great work in the 70's with the Jesus Movement.

And I'm just gonna stand back and watch it all happen again...


Friday, February 24, 2012

Half-time & Humidity, Heaven & Hell

Half-time.

Not the show between football's 2nd & 3rd quarter where Madonna, Nicki Minaj and Cee Lo break it down. But,
that age bracket between being younger and older.
Mid-life, middle age, hot flashes. When the latter exists with the dense humidity of Florida weather it is

Not a good combination.

It's this panicky sense of suffocating when brick-oven heat of the body, waves of warmth emanating from flushed skin, is met with the torrid dampness of breathless air. You are trapped! Confined to a locked sauna, simmering in a lidded pan of steamed tomatoes, capped tightly in a bottle of hot sauce.

Hot flashes + humidity = personal hell.

Funny that the Bermuda triangle isn't far from this southernmost part of the continent, the purported portal into the devious place. We live in precarious proximity to Hades.The conjectured doorway of that burning abode is way too close for comfort. It's so hot here, I wouldn't be surprised if some canal connected us to it, some underground steamy river lead to its hungry gate.

Florida was not made for women in mid-life.

Not sure if it was made for any human form. Maybe for armadillos, anhingas and alligators. But not for Homo Sapiens.

The masses only migrated when the miracle of air conditioners became widespread in the 60's. Northerners came to escape their eternal winters. Only then did the climate become tolerable except for during the short winter months.

God knows how the native Americans and the early twentieth century settlers survived it!! Perhaps because they stayed coastal. But even an Atlantic beach residence is belying. No climate relief there. Just more sultry air with a generous pinch of salt. Not like the California coast where the Arctic current tempers the arid land, and turns desert days into refreshing evenings.

The A/C runs 24/7 except for the sweet month of February when the hot wet air leaves for a few weeks. One can open their windows , enjoy gardening and outdoor activities without becoming a ball of sweat or having to resist the indecent urge to lift your blouse to air your belly or the temptation to toss the top off entirely.

So 10 months out of the year the ceiling fan saves my sleep and the thermostat on 75 saves my days. I will survive the hormonal havoc somehow. My Massachusetts/California bred mother
said that living in FL was like living in a warm, wet sponge. She could only stand it for two years, then fled back to San Diego.

Maybe someday I'll hop a plane home to California. You'll find me in Balboa, Laguna or Huntington. Just try to pry me off the beach. I'll stroll the shore and when the internal heat wave assaults, I'll be cool and comfortable thanks to that heavenly Pacific breeze.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Self-Medicator's 23rd Psalm

Were we not saddened to tears at the report? Dumbfounded in disbelief? At the loss of our sweet Whitney and her powerful "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" voice?

My mind refuses to picture the sight of her sad end. How did she come to this? How do we get to that?

Years ago, after my breast surgery when my 5 children spanned age 2 - 14, I was prescribed Tylenol with Codeine for pain.

Man, that little pill not only relieved my soreness, it totally took the edge off of mothering!!! I could handle the kids' constant noise and needs. It smoothed out the irritations and stress of the day. I could see how someone could get used to that, get addicted to those things. How easy to become the subject in Mick Jagger's old song:

"She goes runnin' to the shelter of her mother's little helper
And it helps her on her way
Gets her through her busy day"

Even my daughter in L.A said most her friends take something to help them tolerate their toddlers.

There go we all, but by the grace of God!

No judgement to Whitney or anyone else for self-medicating to level their physical imbalances. But we who are a part of this Prozac-Nation, would be fools to observe this tragedy and not to search ourselves. Not ask a few questions.

Why do we all feel so bad that we crave a moment's feel-good no matter the cost? Are prescription drugs really less harmful than illegal substances? How did our mothers and grandmothers cope? And for those like Whitney who were brought up to know Jesus,
is He really enough?
Is Jesus really enough?
Those of us reared in similar Baptist churches and who probably memorized the 23rd Psalm might ask ourselves,

Is He really the Shepherd who gives us relief and rest and peace?

The Self-Medicator's 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my Xanax.
I shall not panic.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
He restores my soul

He leads me to do the right thing
Walk the right road
Say the right things
For His name's sake

Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of depression
I will take no Prozac,
For Thou art with me
Your rod and Your staff
Your boundaries and disciplines
They comfort me
Secure and ground me
Keep me safe

I will not seek any other place of comfort or relief
Run to any other Shelter
Drink from any other cauldron of deceit
Salacious substitutes of the true Comforter
Dubious shadows of the genuine Helper
Shackling, chaining, sometimes to untimely ends

Thou preparest a banquet before me
In the presence of those who'd do me harm
When danger is all around, I feast on Your utter goodness

You anoint my head with oil,
I can't contain my happiness
Percolating joy
True fountains of gladness
From deep well springs
I'm alive with joy!

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
All the days of my life
And I will really live
Dwell, thrive in His heaven on earth and Beyond
in the House of the Lord
His Presence with me
Forever, Celexa-free!!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pray, Pray, Pray

Every New year it's the same resolution. And it's about February when 2012 resolves fall by the wayside, drop off the radar, are lorded over by laziness. For 2012 I had promised myself
To PRAY more.

Not to R E A D more books about prayer by spiritual greats like Charles Spurgeon (12 Sermons on Prayer), Jack Hayford (Prayer is Invading the Impossible), Andrew Murray (Intercessory Prayer), Stormie Omartian (The Power of the Praying Parent/Wife/Woman/etc.), A.W.Tozer (The Pursuit of God), Beth Moore (Praying God's Word) to name a few...as good as they are...

B u t, to P R A Y more often

Just T A L K to G O D,
All day long,
Everyday.

"Pray without ceasing, Pray at all times. Paul the Apostle said. "Be constant in Prayer". Jesus said, "...they ought always to pray, and not lose heart." And He repeatedly invites us to persist, to trouble Him, ask, seek, knock.

In short, the parables describe a praying person as a perfect nuisance.

It may not be okay with your husband or housemate, but it's okay with God to be a nag!!! I'm allowed! :) :)

Daily concerns can assault like rapid-fire weapons. Preying on my tendency to indulge my emotions to settle in on knee-jerk reactions of
anger
fear
worry
blame
anxiety
coveting
resentment
manipulating
conniving, (Geez, I'm messed up!)

Resisting the onslaught by appealing my Maker sends the fretting flying, freeing me to enjoy peace
tranquility
contentment
kindness
gentleness
a deep-seated joy.

God's presence comes and quiets, calms, and clears my cluttered brain. And a hushed heart can hear prayer's answer, the next step, the clarion solution.

Quite often answers don't come.....and then there's the deep well of waiting.. '.Wait on the Lord.'
(Romans 12:12) This is where He sculpts, shapes, and performs surgery on the sick parts of my soul until I am situated to see some new glistening facet of His heart and magnificent perspective on His ways. And a fresh revelation of who He is is what it's all about. That is life!!!

Persisting in prayer is not ordering Deity around. It should never be 'spiritual lust' as Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest. "Spiritual lust makes me demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God who gives the answer." (pg 38)

Remember in The Help when Aibileen is thinking about adding the 'separate bathrooms for blacks' issue to her prayer list: She says, "Cause that's the way prayer do. It's like electricity, it keeps things going". (pg 23)

We are mistaken to expect the answers to be revealed as lightening or thunder. They can appear so subtly, so interwoven in the normal conversations and occurrences of our day, we miss them and risk joining the ranks of the ungrateful.

Eat.Pray.Love.
is a fine worldview.

But Pray. Pray. Pray is better.
I have no problem eating ....and loving is as necessary as breathing.

Tragic events and personal crises get us praying easily. Weren't we surprised to hear LL Cool J open the Grammy Awards with prayer in response to Whitney Houston's untimely death? Pray on LL Cool J!! Along with the rest of us!

But most times, my self-sufficient, prideful, I'll-do-it-myself-my-way, autonomous, independent person bristles violently at the selflessness and submission required for prayer. Even though it is more vital than any other earthly activity.

So I will keep trying to make praying the first and foremost habit to form and maintain for February,
this year, 2012...
and the next...

and the next.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Old 2011- New 2012; Old Friends - New Friends

Enjoyed a sedate, yet sparkly New Year's Eve with

Old friends:
Holly Johns and family whom we met the first day of our kids' school in 1998...and...
New Friends:
Barry and Donna Stephan who moved in last year two doors down.

My last minute decision to have a New Year's Eve party had a hidden sequence I hadn't realized till typing just now, paralleling the night perfectly:

A night where we look past on the old year
and
forward to the New:
old friends - new friends.

At this point some may want to skip the dry personal anecdotes and move down to a slightly more interactive Beatles parody. If you went to the party, keep reading.

Breaking the rule of never practicing new recipes on guests, I served three new dishes: spanakopita, caprese salad and Creme Brulee. After a small adjustment of adding more feta to the second batch of spanakopita, it improved. Thanks to Holly, we had corn chips, homemade chili and wonderful chocolate dipped cookies to round out the New Year's buffet.

A rousing game of white board Pictionary tied up when Shelby Johns and I on opposing teams yelled simultaneously

"SMOG!"
to Donna's skillful sketch of lines in the sky, smoke from a chimney pushed up against a mountain. (My California roots with visions of a rusty San Fernando valley sky should have brought it faster to mind to win). Rather than do a tie-breaker, we amicably ended at a 15 /15 score.

Cody Johns rattled out "Hit the Road, Jack" on piano while we sang along.  Marcus Johns accompanied Shelby's beautiful Mariah Carey-like vocals while others constructed a fire out of 2010's Christmas tree in the patio fire pit. Pyromaniacs that we are, a heart-stopping "FUMP' made us jump as it ignited (couple drops of gasoline does the trick) and scared the daylights out of the new friends.

I justified forcing my Beatles parody of "Yesterday" on my captive guests prefacing that it was appropriate for New Year's and to which some middle-age contemporaries in the room might relate.

You remember the tune...:

Yesterday
All my wrinkles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday

Suddenly,
I'm not freezing like a used to be
Global warming has come over me
Yes, climate change comes suddenly!

Why I have to grow, I don't know
I couldn't say
Pounds keep piling on
Now I long for yesterday -a -a- ay

Yesterday
Looks were such an easy game to play
Now I pay big bucks to hide my grey
Oh, I believe in Yesterday
Hmm..hm, hm ,hm ,hm ,HM, HMM.

Martinelli's in champagne flutes. Tim switched OFF Lady Gaga singing in her spider-web, black cage-like-hour-glass costume. (NOT how we want to ring in the New Year, thank you.) Then switched back to watch the ball drop and kissed each other at midnight!! Two am bedtime.

On to tomorrow and year 2012 full of newborn, fresh experiences.

Happy New Year my friends!!!

Old and new.

Tell me about your New Year's celebration......

Leave your email address here to receive automatic blog updates.