Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It was a learning experience, Ralph

We called him the little general.

And there are just so...many...memories.

Ralph is gone to boss the angels around now.

Of course he is in a better a place. But it is a better place -- definitely a more organized place -- because Ralph is there.

ALS took Ralph this week. The death angel of ALS was painfully slow doing his work. More than a year passed with that death eater on Ralph's shoulder.  The death eater of Lou Gehrig and the many ice bucket challenge warriors.

Ralph was not perfect or saintly -- far from it. But he did a lot of good. Helped a lot of people. Answered requests with generosity. Offered a helping hand with a side of practical business advice.

"If you need to get something done, ask a busy person to do it," Ralph said.

He was a champion of home missions -- helping those at home, blooming where you're planted and all that, instead of going into the world to preach the gospel. But if you asked him to help pay for your mission trip, he would ante up.

He loved a good salad -- one with goat cheese and cheddar cheese and nuts and peppers and grapes and boiled eggs and ham and turkey. But that's just what he got at my lunch counter.

He got fed all over. He loved Vic's fried chicken and all the unhealthy stuff Miss Mary would dish up in the buffet line. Hot cornbread. Potatoes with gravy.

He loved the golden Eagles. He loved his mother.

He liked being a televangelist, delivering a Sunday morning lesson on local TV for years.  He got a new car on the regular -- but never tried a different model. He delivered molasses and hundred dollar bills at Christmas.

Every Wednesday, he sent dozens of prayer cards to the sick. Most of the sick people who got those cards couldn't read his handwriting, but they knew he cared.

He probably bought more raffle tickets and fundraiser candy bars than anybody in Jones County.

In the months before the end, I did not see him. My bad, my loss, my sin of omission. He would have surely come to see me.

Nevertheless, I write to say goodbye, Ralph.

Give St. Peter a salute for me. And try to keep things organized.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A long way … for sure

Every morning I wake up with a weird song running through my head.

Often it’s a praise song that persists for days.  That makes sense because -- as Joe Spell once said -- those are 7-11 songs – the same seven words sung 11 times. 

Of course that gets stuck to your brain.

Today, however, the song was the Virginia Slims jingle from the 70s. What the heck?

Fun fact: the Virginia Slims brand was introduced in 1968 and marketed to young professional women using the slogan "You've come a long way, baby."  Later campaigns have used the slogans, "It's a woman thing," in the 1990s, and "Find your voice."

I haven’t been smoking Virginia Slims. 

The theme of the song is totally off base.

Yet still it haunts me.

You’ve come a long way baby
To get where you got to today
You’ve got your own cigarette now baby
You’ve come a long, long way.

Lots of things indicate progress for women: birth control, female church deacons and pastors. Pants, for heaven’s sake.  But cigarettes? Not such a great picture of achievement.

What a smart marketing ploy, though. Who could resist that packaging with the lovely flower design tattooed around the cigarette?

The timed release of the Eve derivation of Virginia Slims was so perfect. I was growing into my feminist teen self – writing term papers on Title IX and debating topics like abortion and euthanasia in speech class.  All the while playing Juliet to my boyfriend’s Romeo in third period English.

But why, Virginia, why are you haunting me now?

I am wiser. Healthier.

Thanks to Jane Pauley and the Today Show, I know what lungs look like after you have injected your hazy, sexy smoke into them.

Jane quit after seeing this. For me, too, it was a revelation. It sort of blew the Virginia Slims ads away.

So get thee behind me Virginia.

I’ve come a long, long way.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

When you can't get it locally ...

It's been a really long week for Toby.

My good friend Susie and I drove to Ft. Worth last week with Toby in the middle of the ice storm. After we arrived, we found his girlfriend wasn't ready.  Whatever the weather, he waited. Of course he was patient.

Providing sperm in a strange place has got to be exhausting. Like the vet said: It's not like we can show him doggy porn to get this accomplished.

So Toby went to Texas for a girl. He was fine with that.

Girl dog? Not so fine with it. She bared her teeth. She growled. She snarled.

Toby, standing there with the love of God in his heart, just waited. Girl dog has to be ready, the vet said. So Toby had to stay until she was ready. Isn't that how it always is? Like the country music song says:
"Might as well go on and get used to it
She'll take her time 'cause you don't mind
Waitin' on a woman."

If you really want the story, all I can say is, the union was not consummated. Therefore -- we have something called artificial insemination. We don't care how the sperm reaches the eggs, we just want a Toby puppy.

Monday and Tuesday, Toby dutifully provided sperm. Today, he got a ride home.

Susie, who participated in the entire escapade, says Toby needs a hot bath and his teeth brushed. No kidding.

So when Toby and I took a walk this evening, this sign at a church in my neighborhood just spoke volumes. I hope you, like Toby, will do the same.

Had to add this picture of sweet Baby Mama Greenlee….Cross your fingers for some lovely puppies!

Greenlee the lady who inspired the message: Gone to Texas

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Yes, it really is more

This day every year -- lucky Dec. 13 -- I ask my friends to say thank you with me.

Thank you God.

No really…..

Thank you.

Long story short. (As my sister says, and then it's still long.)

It was a snowy day in Minneapolis. Rachel got her dad's kidney. It took about 8 hours to fit it inside her teeny tiny abdominal cavity.

Nineteen years later, that kidney is still working like a charm.

I have to give lots of people credit. Doug Fitzwater, her truly invested pediatric nephrologist in Mississippi. Dr. Tom Nevins, our longtime friend and care-giver in Minneapolis. Dr. Jon Najarian, the surgeon who skillfully inserted hundreds, maybe thousands, of kidneys into the abdomens of tots who came to his world-renown hospital at the University of Minnesota.

But God gave them all their gifts. And for that we are more than grateful.

Not long ago Jeff Clark said miracles happen every day -- not usually in a magical, fairytale way, but when people step in and meet a need they see that needs meeting. 

My friends did that in countless ways -- prayer chief among them.

The doctors. Her donor dad. The hand-holders. Oh the hand-holders …..

Lori, who I didn't even know at the time, gave me a picture of angels. Tracy Traylor, herself a miracle, fashioned an angel crib ornament. 

There were countless blood-givers and note-writers. There were tree decorators and pound cake-makers. There was Mark McIntosh, who brought me a single serving supper in the hospital room. And Forrest, who called and came by and marveled that anybody could stay in a hospital room with a baby that long. 

There was Elmo. And Cookie Monster.

All helped with the miracle.

Thank you.

Friday, August 29, 2014

What a wonderful world

Some people have showy talents. They sing. Or they dance like Andy Perry.

Andy teaching the band his pistol dance

Some people can give a great speech or preach the best sermon, a la Jeff Clark at Venture Church. Some, like my brother-in-law, Gene Hortman, have a knack for remembering details from old movies.

Others make the best cookies in the world. Clay Taylor's mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies… Man…. Let me just say, it's been too long, Clay. 

Among the guests at my dining table yesterday were two hospice nurse friends. Those ladies, Meg Paul and Elizabeth Guice, have helped many a grieving family say goodbye. A talent for compassion and comforting the dying -- now that's a gift that makes an impact on a pain-filled world.

The others joining for lunch were no less accomplished. My friend Nan Wilson teaches braille to vision-impaired elementary students. And Melanie Brown collects best friends like I collect used tennis balls -- daily.

That was the lunch bunch. And I was the only slacker in the crowd. My talents are not so world-changing. Two things I know I am good at: making up rhymes and cutting out block words freehand. 

Those are weird gifts, I know. I can't quite figure how they fit into a career path. But they do bring a smile.

Here's an excerpt from yesterday's poem about the birthday girl:

I find it somewhat refreshing
That Tito’s is help for her stressing.
She often wears black, and color she lacks,
When choosing her wardrobe and dressing.

Everyone wants to befriend her.
This lady, the cell phone text sender.
She gives to the needy, but never looks seedy
Instead, oh so stylish and slender.

With ipad ready she stands
And exceeds all her husband’s demands
A true super mama, who faces girl drama,
And on her feet, always she lands.

So here’s to my fellow caffeinist
Who’s a help when you deal with the meanest.
I like her a lot
Cause perfect -- she’s not
And my house is not always the cleanest.

It won't get me a good score on the LSAT or help me sell pianos. But then again, neither would calculus. And poems are a lot more fun.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Double Nickles

Yesterday was a great day. The sun was shining, the wind was whipping, the tennis ball was dancing all over the place and I felt the love of so many friends.

First thing in the morning, I went down the hill behind the Seidenburg/Terry/Pulliam cabin in north Alabama to the Little River.

Looking through the clear water at the tufts of water plants growing on perfectly placed boulders, I thought. Yes. There is a God.

If anyone doubted, here is even more evidence.

one second on the Little River Falls

You learn a lot in 55 years, and this could be the most important truth. Everything didn't just happen.

Here are a few other things I have learned -- not all earth-shaking, but my personal favorites

1. Condescension and disapproval and judgmentalism never get you anywhere. Unconditional love beats that. Hands down.

2. Consider the lilies. They don't worry.

3. Teenagers and babies, even misbehaving ones, are still more in touch with God than cynical adults.

Teens must be God's favorites.

4. Art is our feeble attempt to copy God. Feeble though it is, it's still beautiful.

5. Generosity trumps greed.

6. You need to be around unpleasant people sometimes to teach yourself how NOT to act.

7. God loves everybody. Sometimes it must be hard.

8. Complaining is unattractive.

9. Selfishness is like a weed that keeps popping up in weird places. Even after you have poisoned it thoroughly. Keep using the selfishness Roundup.

10. The road to a friend's house is never too long.

Even if it's 4.5 hours!

11. Change is a good thing. Embracing it cheers you up. Fighting it frustrates the hell out of everybody. And it's pointless.

12. Honesty and vulnerability are two of my favorite things to see in a person.

13. Laughter is the only thing that will keep you sane. Thanks, Drew and Ellie Holcomb, for that song lyric.

14. Music opens the doors of a heart.

15. Sharing in a friend's deep sorrow paradoxically brings you joy.

16. Prayer can seem pointless when God knows everything and we don't even know what to ask for. But it's not.

17. Always keep in mind the body of a friendship before being hurt by a small sneeze of misplaced words.

18. Pride rears its ugly head all the time. Get out the sword.

19. Never put an apostrophe in the wrong place. Please.

20. Try not to be late to tennis.

True champions

21. Remember tennis is a game. It's fun to win. But it's really not the only thing.

22. Pear preserves are awesome. So is sauvignon blanc. But you must use self control.

23. Stay in the middle. #susiewisdom

24. Everybody worships God in different ways. Yours is not the only or even the best way. But please do worship.

25. Listening is a very good skill. Work at it.

26. Use your talents to make the world a better place. Even if your talent is writing silly poems.

Art by Rick Hurst

27. Be wise. Exercise. Move around. Have some fun.

28. The wise man built his house upon the rock.

29. A dog is definitely man's best friend.

30. Oxford is still God's country.

31. Never live in the past. Never live through your children.

32. Make sure to keep your friends watered and fed.

33. Apologizing is hard.

34. Children are one of God's best gifts.

35. You feel better when your hair is clean and your nails are done. But don't let that keep you from getting dirty.

36. Keeping your mouth shut is sometimes the hardest thing. And sometimes impossible. Can I get a guardrail for that?

37. Screen doors are awesome.

38. Take people in. 

39. Step out of your box. As often as possible.

40. It's hard to be brave when you are only a very small animal. Like Piglet. Be brave anyway.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A little blood, sweat and tears

This family has been seriously accident-prone these past couple of weeks. And I'm not talking about the usual driveway fender benders or even the occasional encounter with the gates of a gated neighborhood.

It's really not something to joke about, but you have to laugh to keep from crying.

Warning: If you are squeamish, walk away from the computer.

First, bruiser Bob had a collision with the fencepost of the sportsplex tennis courts. He is the least accident-prone of the bunch. He closes open cabinet doors and removes random house shoes from the hallways to avoid breaking a hip. Still, he couldn't stop chasing the tennis ball and the winning point. He left skin from his knees, shoulder and scalp on the court. That's balling.

Then Mary Katherine managed to slam a sliding glass door on her thumb. She promises this hurt worse than the time she dropped an entire metal locker onto the back of her achilles heel. And I can believe it. Photographs don't lie.

Then Reagan, one of our favorite cousins, topped off the week with a TERRIBLE head-on collision in Oxford. It is still so fresh and so close and so scary that there are hardly words to describe how grateful we are that he is safe and whole.

If Nanny were here, she would have been worried sick. But surely she knew, as Ralph Waldo Emerson so eloquently said:
"As soon as there is life, there is danger."

Or ...  here's a less eloquent way to look at it, taken from one of my favorite refrigerator magnets:

"You can either be a positive example or a horrible warning."

Here's to making the best things from the worst ones, fam. Be careful out there!