Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dirty Santa: Can't we all just get along?

Dirty Santa can be so much fun! Coming into it with the right Christmas spirit, that is stealing from your closest friends or family and its all legal are the hallmarks of this tradition. However, in my 55 years, I have seen some real disasters!!

For those of you unfamiliar with this game, the tradition is to bring a wrapped gift, put all the gifts in a pile, draw numbers and then whoever has number 1, opens a gift. Whoever has number 2 can either take the gift from number 1 or open a new gift from the pile. Stealing is legal. Don't forget that it is supposed to be fun.

I'll never forget the year we went to our first neighborhood party. We didn't know very many people and wanted to put into practice, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." We brought our mandatory $10 ornament. Then came time to draw the numbers for the big game. Being new and naive, we didn't know there was a neighborhood bloc and I don't mean "block." Turns out there was a group that would look at the numbers as they drew them and made sure they got the higher numbers that would be picked at the end so they could build alliances and walk out with all the best stuff. There was lots of collusion among these folks that made "love thy neighbor" a REAL challenge.

The next year I was elected president of the neighborhood association. It had nothing to do with popularity. I wasn't even at the meeting where the "election" took place. But one of the perks of the position was getting to run the Dirty Santa at the next Christmas party. Ha! They didn't know who they were dealing with. I showed up with all the numbers. Sure enough, the old bloc was up to their old tricks and got all the high numbers. But they sadly underestimated the skills of their president. I showed up with a SECOND set of numbers from which to draw. In other words, we didn't go in numerical order, we DREW to see who went next. Double Ha!! because none of the alliances worked because everyone was off kilter that year. We walked out with a pretty good gift if memory serves me correctly. Even better, it was a little easier to show the love.

My sister-in-law has told me some real horror stories of going to her husband's Dirty Santas at his families houses. I think stitches and visits to the emergency clinic were involved because people got so angry and started accusing each other of stealing. Talk about dysFUNctional.

In my own family we play Dirty Santa. We seem to have trends. There was the year that the hot item was the casserole dish with handy dandy carrying case. The next year, there were three of them added to the mix. But that was so LAST YEAR and no one wanted the lowly casserole dishes anymore. Then there was the year that my grandmother picked batteries. When one of the grandsons tried to steal her batteries she gave the hairy eyeball look. Whoops. The grandson made a hasty retreat. And yes, you guessed it , there were loads of batteries brought the following year and my grandmother could have cared less. Another year was the roadside emergency kits. You could tell that there were a lot of parents of 16 year old drivers in the room who had visions of their children off in the ditch with no way to get help. The only problem is that the 16 year old drivers didn't have the same concerns and those roadside kits languished. Then because my brothers are all in construction there are loads of tools.

In another group I belong to we also play Dirty Santa. We have some crazy folks that will put on anything and I mean anything. Antlers. Red noses. Big Santa underpants. No, there wasn't any immodesty in the group. Picture the underpants pulled OVER the clothes because they were so big. Nothing distasteful, just funny. There also seemed to be a trend for a while of who could bring the best angel because angels were the item that got the most attention. We also have family blocs in this group who can gang up together. This family is usually mild mannered, but you get a whole passel of them in the room together and they go from Dr. Jekkyl to Mr. Hyde. All in all, this entire group has the most fun stealing and feelings never get hurt because we enjoy laughing and being silly.

I hope you and yours enjoyed playing Dirty Santa. And don't forget that stealing is supposed to be fun.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sears' Wish Book

Today I was looking at the newspaper. You know the one. The one that comes on Thanksgiving with all the "After Thanksgiving" sales. It was huge. Sunday paper huge. But one thing that was not huge was the Sears sale paper with the toys. Sadly, this seems to be the replacement for the coolest book of all: The Sears' Wish Book for Christmas. I know, I know, there is an on line version, but this will NEVER replace the real Wish Book. When I was little I can remember when it arrived at our house by mail. Seven kids would breathlessly wait for their opportunity to study every single page and dream, really dream about the coolest things that Santa might bring. By the end of the week, the Sears' Wish Book was dogeared, but cherished.

But the Christmas Wish Book was not the only wonderful thing about Sears. I can remember going to camp and seeing that all the girls except me had bras. Though I had nothing to train, I remember coming home and asking my mom for a "training bra" which in itself is a really curious term. She dug out the regular Sears catalog, went past all the cool clothes (I find it weird that I thought their clothes were cool at one point in my life) and found the "unmentionable" section and handed it to me. I sat for hours and tried to figure out which bra I "needed." Sigh.

Then came the fateful Friday night. Back in those days we went to Sears on Friday night as a regular family outing. We all piled in the station wagon, fought for the perfect seat, made our brothers sit in the back (we were a bunch of tough sisters!) and headed out to the best store in the world! Sally and Grant (our beloved adopted grandparents) also went on the trip. We knew we were getting close when we could smell bread at the Tip Top Bread Company located nearby.

Our first stop was always the candy counter where nuts and candy were sold in bulk. We would stop there and dream about what we might get if Sally and Grant offered to buy us some candy.

We spent hours in hardware, toys, you name it; there wasn't a "boring" section of the store; it was ALL fun.

But on the "bra shopping" night, I can remember that my mom and I slipped off from the rest of the family into the "unmentionable" area. Wow. There was even a bigger selection that I had seen in the catalog! Choosing the perfect bra was going to be tough! Not. They had one style of bra for a flat chested pre-teen, and one style only. It was white, had stretchy cups, not an inch of support and worst of all, no extra help in the cleavage area. My mom bought me two bras and I was dying with anticipation of my movement in the world of adulthood. I even went into the dressing room and put on one of the bras so the training could start immediately.

We rejoined my family and I flexed in my arms so that the outline of my bra would show through the back of my blouse. I started noticing just how immature my sisters were. They clearly didn't fit into my new image of the world of WOMANHOOD. That lasted all of 5 minutes because we again hit the candy counter when Sally and Grant announced that we could each get 1/2 pound of our favorite candy or nuts. True to our ritual we circled round and round and invariably got the same exact thing we had gotten last time.

Back in the car, perfunctory fight over places to sit and we dove into our paper bags of candy or nuts with a lot of bartering taking place. However, my sisters and brothers didn't know that now they were bartering with a woman instead of a little girl. Sigh. Two thoughts entered my head: When would they EVER grow up? And even more importantly, when was my chest ever going to grow OUT? I also believe, looking back that I thought the big chest came with the bra. Yep, all part of the Sears' Wish Book!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year--Not!!

Ooo! You look at the title of the entry and you might be thinking, "What is she talking about?" What I'm talking about, my friends, is that 25% of the population that fall into the area of preferring introversion. If you have ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, you may well have a sense of what it is that you prefer. In the discussion of Extraversion vs. Introversion (by the way, "Extraversion" is spelled correctly because the original spelling had an "a" instead of an "o") there are some preferences in what gives us energy and what leaves us like boneless chickens.

This entry is all about Introverts who might be looking ahead at the calendar and thinking, "Oh, Heavens, here comes all this togetherness at the holidays!" Actually it would probably be like this, "...all this togetherness." (with no exclamation mark, just a period)

Who are introverts? They are not shy people, my friend. We do them a huge disservice by confusing shyness with introversion. Shyness refers to degree of self confidence and introversion is more about needing time alone. In fact, time alone is not a luxury; it is a NECESSITY. In fact if these folks are with people ALLLL day long and then immediately go home and are with people ALLLL night long, and there is not 45 minutes to an hour of alone time built in, they will be STRESSED out.

Example: We see someone who usually lunches alone. We think to ourselves, "We feel sorry for that person." And then we proceed with a well-intentioned, "Come on, have lunch with me." And the introvert responds with, "Oh, that's OK, I'll just sit here and _____ (insert: read, pray, contemplate my navel or whatever)

We respond with, "Come on!" Thinking: "Poor thing, doesn't have any friends!" Not realizing that the person actually WANTS to be alone and doesn't feel a bit pitiful.

The introvert puts a sign outside his or her cubicle: "Working on project, please don't interrupt." Extraverts barge on in, thinking it must apply to everybody else.

The introvert shows up to work early, just to have some time alone, and the Extravert thinks, "Oh, goodie, this person is here early, just for my convenience."

The introvert gets up earlier than everyone in the house or goes to bed later than everyone else, trying to get some precious time alone. Keep in mind, it must be WAKING time and not sleeping. Sleeping just doesn't do the trick. And now the poor introvert is sleep deprived, trying to get some time alone.

The introvert turns on the History channel where some war is being played on a continuous loop (at least that's what it looks like to me) but is not really watching the T.V.; it is just "white noise" to get some alone time.

How did I get so smart? Because I am married to an introvert! When I first married John and he would disappear for hours right after dinner, I thought that he didn't love me or was socially handicapped. I really thought that after a few years of being married to me, he would get over this "problem." When I finally learned about introversion, I realized how I had trampled over his time alone. The big moment came when he was listening to "Car Talk" and I asked him a question in the middle of the show. He said, "Honey, I don't ask for much, but can I have this hour uninterrupted?" Yikes!! He was right!!

How have I reformed?
  • I get his running clothes clean every single Sunday so he can run everyday at the Y
  • I do a lot of work with his company, but I never intrude on his lunch time
  • I make sure that if we have a lot of company on the weekend, that I leave the house for a few hours on Sunday night so he can have time alone
  • I do not rush him home at night because I realize that he is probably having to play "catch up" after being bombarded with extraverts all day
  • I have taught our daughter about introversion and now she is worried about how he is going to get time alone when we are all on vacation together
  • I realize that the introverted family members will get worn out from all this holiday time together and don't need me to make derisive comments that they are being antisocial if they need to pull back for little while
That's why we have been married for almost 29 years. That's why I will make sure that during all this family time, my sweetie can escape so he can really enjoy the holidays. And that will be the best gift of all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Want the Wish Bone

I absolutely love Thanksgiving. I know, I know. Part of the reason is that my birthday always occurs during that week (hint, hint :), but it is more than that. What's not to love? Food, family and fun.

And this is the time of year for the recycled stories. You know: the ones that family members recite to humiliate other family members.

I am going to tell these two stories for all the world so hopefully THIS Thanksgiving I can escape without having to relive them again. Let me lay down on the couch and tell all.

The first one occurred when John and I had received a smoker for a wedding gift. We were so excited! We decided to have my parents and John's parents over for a big turkey dinner. Sounds good so far, huh?

There is the matter of my housekeeping or lack thereof. Even though we only had a two bedroom apartment (probably all of 300 square feet) I was unsuccessful in keeping it clean. Nothing like the parents coming over to get me going to do the deep cleaning. I remember that I had asked John to take out the umbrella that the neighbor's cat had peed on. As I write this, I am beginning to notice the theme of cat pee in my entries. I digress.

John apparently forgot and I started crying because he didn't do the one thing I asked him to do. OK, probably the truth was that he had already done 500 other things to get the apartment cleaned up, but that would take away the drama. Great start for the family gathering.

So we have a turkey smoking out out on the grill and John has to go to the store. When left alone, I usually start talking to myself. One of the questions I asked, but didn't have an answer was, "How does one know when the turkey is done?" OK, it probably wasn't asked
exactly like that (who uses one anyway?) Anyway, I dug out the booklet that came with the smoker and found the handy-dandy chart. Ah, there it was: TURKEY Leg moves easily 180 degrees

John was gone, it was just me and Buster (yes, I had a habit of naming our turkeys) Soooo, I thought, hmmm, leg moves easily, 180 degrees. I had to lift the lid (even though that was against the smoker code of conduct) I had to move the leg. Yep, I was right--it DID move easily! And more than 180 degrees! I also tested the other leg just for good measure. The lid was quickly replaced. No harm done! Right?

So John returns and after checking the gauge, according to the smoker code of conduct, to see if it was OK. He lifted the lid, fully expecting to see the Butterball picture with Buster in the legs back position, all golden and pretty. Instead, what he found was a bird with gnarled leg joints, each leg jutting in different directions. John, knowing full well that I was the only one left at home with Buster, demanded to know what happened. I pulled out the chart and showed him just how smart I was to make sure Buster was ready for the parents. "See?" I asked. "TURKEY Leg moves easily 180 degrees" John, not to be outdone, pointed out to me that it also had a ham listed and that there was nothing to twirl on the ham to test whether it was done. He said, "Sharon, that is not the degree of movement, it is the internal temperature!" Yikes. Gone were the dreams of pulling out the turkey and showing it off to our parents. We had to act fast. John got out our electric knife (another wedding gift) and assumed the scrubbed surgeon position and cut ol' Buster up as fast as he could.

I quickly got the broth and whipped up the gravy. Whew. All in time before the parents arrived. We presented the turkey in all of its sliced glory. No one was the wiser. Except one thing: don't ever make gravy with smoked broth. It is seriously nasty. Busted by Buster.

Story number two: Just a small assignment. Bring the LeSeur peas. Not Del Monte. Not any other brand. LeSeur. Got it? 5 cans. Tough assignment, huh? Go to Costco, get the little case which costs about 4.89 for 8 cans. Purchase made. Peas in the bag on the counter.

We get to the family gathering. The whole family is looking forward to the peas. The LeSeaur Peas. Not Del Monte. In the bag on the counter. At our house. Not at the family gathering. Yikes. Did you know that NO grocery stores are open on Thanksgiving? What's with that? John had to drive around and he finally found a gas station with a convenience store attached. Yep. They had them. 1/2 the size of the regular cans. And four times the price. No kidding. John had to buy 10 cans to equal what we had at home at a whopping $2.63 PER can. Yikes. $26.30 for peas. Cans were dusty and even a little rusty on top. The gas station owner was probably really giving thanks for people who can't get their act together on Thanksgiving. Glad somebody was happy.

OK, now you know my dirty cooking secrets. No need to be retold. I'm hoping for a pass this Thanksgiving! Pass the Constance (this year's turkey's name). Yes. We are bringing the turkey this year. I can guarantee no whirlybird legs. Just say a prayer that we don't forget to bring it!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Help! My Grandmother is Using My Body!!

My grandmother was the type who got on to everyone. You had to watch out for Mrs. Jones. She was barely 4’ 11”, but she could be so tough. I can still remember her behind the wheel of her Dodge. There was absolutely no talking or playing the radio. She made it clear that when you got in the car with her we were to be perfectly quiet. She was also the one who would grab a girl in church if she did not have a prayer cap and take out a Kleenex and a bobby pin and pin the tissue to the poor girl’s head. Yikes! She was definitely the original church lady.When I look back on family pictures I cannot find one picture of her smiling. She has been gone for a long time, but there are times in which I feel like she is using my body to keep everyone in line.

True story that occurred many years ago when my daughter was in grammar school: There was a dad who was coaching my daughter and several others in volleyball. One of the moms was yelling at the coach about her daughter not getting played. I pulled her aside and said, "I didn't know you were going to coach next year..." She replied, "What do you mean? I don't want to coach." I said, "Wow. I find that hard to believe since you are yelling at Bob. He has made a commitment to play all the girls and is giving his time to make our girls better. Have you ever thought about how your comments are undermining him and his efforts?" She didn't say another word the rest of the season.

I hope my grandmother is resting in peace knowing that some days (ouch!) I am on the job. Amen.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Every year we have our one fight a year and it comes at the time of year when there is supposed to be peace on earth and good will to men: Christmas.

What does it center around??? Getting the stupid Christmas tree. “Whoa,” you might be saying to yourself; “what kind of attitude is that? Where’s your Christmas spirit?” Let me explain.

We have this family tradition (documented in photos and everything) where we go to the Boy Scout tree sale and get the perfect tree. Sounds good so far, huh? Helping out the little kids, what’s not to love?

What’s not to love is that when we get the perfect tree home, it turns into World War III, fought and lost. Getting the stupid tree in the house is always terrible because it scratches up the door frame. Then let’s don’t forget trying to get it straight in our stupid frame. It never is straight, the tree scratches, and don’t’ forget how it is to clean up all the stupid needles that get in the carpet. Let’s don’t forget (oh, no, I’ll tell this part forever) about how the cats peed on the tree while it was waiting on the deck for the right time to bring it into the house. No matter what we put on the tree, we could NOT get rid of the cat pee smell. Then there was the horrible job of getting this 10’ monster down with murky water at the base. That was it. The real tree had to go.

The next year I was at a Christmas tree shop and there it was: the perfect tree. Tall. Dark. And handsome. Well, not really dark because it was pre-lit to boot. And here’s the best part: Half price. I bought it. Literally.

I went home and broke the new to John. Being the great husband that he is, he went with me, trailor in tow, to get our new tree. I was happy. The U.N. Peacekeepers were not needed at the Lovoy house.

It took two men to load the two huge boxes in our trailer. John briefly considered tying it down, but knew there was no way that those babies were going anywhere.

We got on the interstate. John sensing my happy mood, approached me with the idea of at least getting a small tree for the living room. I felt amiable—why not?? I had what I wanted. Then a man got beside us on the interstate and started doing this weird sign language. We couldn’t comprehend what he was trying to say until he pointed to the back of our car. We looked backward. Box #1 accounted for—but where was the second box? Dang, it was out on the interstate. I quickly contacted the State Troupers and explained in frantic terms what was happening. They wished me good luck. Thanks a lot.

John turned the car and trailer down the median and got to the other side of the interstate. Casey and I were crying at the top of our lungs as John waved off cars on the interstate as he approached the box that was languishing in the center of the road. Cars were weaving and dodging trying to miss the box. Powered by adrenalin, he dragged the stupid box that had taken two men to load, clear across the interstate. He tossed it in the trailer as Casey and I continued our wailing. Now we had another stupid tree. This was not a good start to having a happy home.

We made our way to our Boy Scout destination only to find out they had already closed for the season. We found a second Boy Scout place where we discovered they were also closed but they had left a few trees. A few sad, very sad trees. We got our tree and put it on top of the fake tree.

We made it home without incident. We put the new fake tree up and it was gorgeous. But so was the little sad tree because it was working so hard to be beautiful despite not being perfect. Don’t tell John, but the new tree can’t quite measure up to one of God’s creations. Except that the fact that the cats have never once thought about peeing on it. Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A House Divided

The story of how we met is another subject for another page. But the fact is, we both married the enemy. What am I referring to? Rival football teams! In the state of Alabama, when you are asked to declare your allegiance, it’s not to your religion, but rather are you an Alabama fan or an Auburn fan. We have an agreement—we don’t watch the big game together. Except for the horrible birthday party that we couldn’t get out of—our relatives’ Mom was turning 65 and every other family member refused to come because the party was set at the time of the big game. So—sigh—we ended up at the party glued to the little TV (we had just purchased a huge TV for our lovely basement room that same year) and yet we found ourselves sitting next to each other watching the game on a bad TV in a room full of relatives from out of state who clearly just didn’t get it and insisted on carrying on with the party. Our thoughts? Couldn’t you have been born on another day? But I digress. How has this rivalry influenced our marriage? This story has two sides:

He says: I had a roommate at Alabama. My roommate and I married a pair of Auburn sisters.

She says: My sister and I were roommates. We married two roommates from Alabama.

He says: Alabama has the better football record over all.

She says: Quit living in the distant past. The really bad fans (not my precious husband) keep propping up Bear Bryant who died a long time ago. Auburn has won the last 5 games.

He says: Auburn fans have a “poor me” attitude that got old a long time ago. They pretend to be shocked when they win.

She says: Alabama fans expect to win. They ARE shocked when they win. And yes, I am surprised when Auburn wins. I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop!

He says: I do root for Auburn when they are not playing Alabama.

She says: I do root for Alabama when they are not playing for Auburn. My precious husband even said that when Auburn was close to a national championship that he didn’t mind if they beat Alabama. He is the kindest person I know.

He says: We do not watch the game together. It is just not fun. I do know that the year we went to Mt. Zion we couldn’t watch the game together. Sharon kept coming out of the restroom with a big grin on her face. Boy, they must have really good restrooms there.

She says: We do not watch the game together. It is just not fun. However, a few years ago we were at Mt. Zion so we couldn’t watch the game together. However, there wasn’t a rule that I couldn’t go into the restroom and text message our daughter who was in the stadium and find out the score. We won.

He says: My worst memory? 17-16. I was at Alabama working on my car. Auburn won in the last 30 seconds. Couldn’t believe it. Everyone our age knows exactly what game I am referring to just by mentioning that score.

She says: I keep hearing the voice of one of our rabid Alabama fans. He says AH LA BAHMA in this most irritating voice that John likes to imitate because he knows it makes my skin crawl…Oh, and did I mention that John’s relatives put on a game at the Thanksgiving family party and played the game over and over again? That was the year Auburn lost. Come to think of it, they haven’t done it for the last FIVE years.

He says: My best memory? It was fun while Bear Bryant was alive.

She says: See what I mean? Living in the past. But if we are going to go back, 17-16 was so exciting. I had a bad date, but the game had a great score.

He says: Superstitions? Nah, don’t believe in them.

She says: One day when Auburn was winning, I was upstairs watching the game on the little TV in the kitchen. John came upstairs from watching the game on the big TV and said, “You’re doing laundry. I’m going to do laundry.” Everything got washed that day. Maybe I should do toilets during the next game…

He says: Sharon takes Auburn losses very personally and hates to see the Sunday paper the next day. It affects her mood for a day. Fortunately she has a bad memory for sports scores and gets over it quickly. What she does hold on to are all the little slights that happen over the years.

She says: John keeps the losses in perspective and realizes that he can’t control the games. He doesn’t get emotionally invested. I admire that…I should mentioned that he attended all the home games when Casey started at Auburn. It was hot as Hades but he endured the games to see Casey! I do remember that he refused to say “War Eagle.”

He says: They make great women at Auburn. Sharon graduated from there and Casey is still a student there.

She says: My sister and I agree: they make great men at Alabama. I got the coolest husband from there. And did I mention that he is precious?

When our daughter was trying to decide where to go to college, we truly didn’t mind which college she attended. Alabama is closer which would have been great for those times we go to campus to see her. I am down there a lot (I teach on five faculties for Alabama). But I am glad that she chose Auburn.

PS: The relatives who continued to play the game where Auburn lost all during the Thanksgiving family party have gotten their just reward. Their daughter fell in love with the grandson of Hare (Jordan-Hare is the name of the stadium at Auburn). Their daughter got married in Auburn (that was a pretty good day seeing all those Alabama fans on Auburn soil). The funniest moment was when the Alabama mascot, Big Al, showed up at the reception. Those rabid Alabama fans are now at Auburn all the time because their grandbabies are being born there! I love a happy ending!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You Must Be Present to Win

I have a niece named Kelsey. She graduated from Vassar and is blessed with intelligence and a caring heart. After she finished her college education, she wanted to give two years of her time to others. She narrowed it down to the Peace Corp or Teach America, an organization that rescues failing schools. She chose Teach America. Her first year was extremely challenging. She had no resources for her class [like enough desks (!), text books (!)] She stuck it out with help from people like Bill Rush and his fabulous wife Rhonda whose Key Club adopted Kelsey's cause. Some of my husband's coworkers didn't even hesitate to send checks. Mary Anne Parks Antonio and Sue Hengel pitched in as did other caring friends (sorry if I failed to mention anyone who lovingly contributed). Kelsey had to battle a grueling environment, parents who were uninvolved, and sometimes emotional challenges from constantly fighting an uphill battle.

She again came out with a request for help this year. Her story is so compelling:
I am just starting my second year with Teach for America. I'm teaching high school chemistry and physical science at a public charter school in what is arguably the most dangerous city in the U.S., St. Louis. The public school system in St. Louis had fallen into such horrible condition that it lost its accreditation at the end of last year and was taken over by the state. With the public schools in disarray, students are flocking to charter schools, even though these schools have their own set of problems. This is the third year that the charter school I work at has been open and its plagued with disorganization, debt, and lack of resources.

Nearly 90% of our students are on free or reduced lunch plans. Gang violence, poverty, teen pregnancy, disrupted family situations, pressure to be involved in crimes, and low expectations for achievement are realities that my students live with everyday.

I've had students who have been arrested, ended up pregnant, been left homeless, been shot, and been killed. Academically, the students come to me with math and reading levels well below grade average. Their previous schools have failed them.

Even the extremely bright students are at a considerable disadvantage when competing for college admission with students across the country who went to successful schools. Once they get to college, the students will be ill-prepared for the academic demands of higher education.

I have to try to pull them up to grade level and lead a science class that is on par with science classes in the best school districts in the country. However, my school doesn't have a science lab or budget for obtaining supplies to use in my classroom.

Anything that I need for my classroom comes out of my own pocket.

It's definitely worth the investment if it helps the kids learn but I would appreciate any help with obtaining the basic school supplies that my students can't afford and which help make my classroom a much more hands-on and engaging learning environment.

Thank you for your help!


Kelsey's Wish List:

Hi Sharon! Here's the list of school supplies I need if anyone you know is still willing to help me out this year.

Simple calculators
Index cards

Dry erase markers
Colored pencils


Elmer's glue



1-inch binders

Binder dividers
Notebook paper

Construction paper

omputer paper
Thanks for your help!
Love, Kelsey

Again, the Sue Hengel's and Mike Moss's of the world as well as the ever-giving Mary Anne, stepped up. And there are probably more who have been quietly stepping up to the plate. I am so lucky to be surrounded by friends who take on the needs of my family as their own. Thanks, guys. And thank you, Kelsey, for caring enough to put away a chance to earn big bucks in order to invest in our teenagers. You are the best.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Casey Lovoy: Joymaker

Today is my daughter's 21st birthday. This event brings me absolute joy and causes me to think about her self-described role in life. When she was 9 years old, my husband John, Casey and I were sitting at a restaurant on Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX. We were dining al fresco and it was a glorious night. Casey turned to me and asked me, "Mom, what is your role in our family?" I can remember thinking, "Where on earth did she learn that word?" and my second thought was, "What in the heck am I going to say?" I remembering giving a very lame answer, "Oh, I am the caregiver; I find ways to take care of you and your dad." Not a very good answer, but it was the best I could do for a fill-in-the-blank pop quiz. Casey then turned to her dad and asked the same question. John quickly got a "deer-in-headlights" look that must have mirrored my face a little earlier.

It is important to point out that John is part of that introvert crowd, and generally they don't do as well on oral pop quizzes when they haven't had a chance to ponder the question in advance. He choked out, "I am the protector; I find ways to keep you and your mom safe." Whew, dodged that bullet with an ok answer.

Casey looked at us with pity because she had clearly been considering her response. She said, "I know what my role is, I am the 'Joymaker;' it is my job to bring joy to both of you." And she wasn't finished. She continued by stating, "You are in such a hurry that you might miss all the beautiful things in life and it is my job to point them out." Yikes...out of the mouth of babes...

She has lived up to this title. Every moment, I think, "This is the best day/month/year," and I am always wrong, because the next one is always better. She is the first to point out the rainbows. She is quick to note that it is rude to be on the cell phone when we are together in the car. She gets us all out for family walks where we get a good cardio workout and even better face time with one another. She cherishes all of her friends. She worries about those who are in trouble. She has more emotional maturity in her little finger than most people have in their entire bodies. Happy birthday, Joymaker.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Hot Dog, What a Lady!!

As I have previously noted, I am one of seven children. When I calculate it out, that means that my mother was pregnant 63 months of her life! That figure astonishes me. But another figure that astonishes me is the wonderful black and white photo of my mom that I have where she is wearing her black Jansen swimsuit. She has long flowing black hair, she is casually leaning against the wall of the pier with a fishing rod.

I can recall that as little kids we were playing on the beach. My mom was walking by herself, several feet away, wearing that black Jansen swimsuit. There were several young men, probably of college age, passing by, who caught a look at this brunette beauty. I distinctly remember one of them saying, "Hot Dog, what a lady!" Word quickly spread among the kids and we ran up and told her, thinking that was really a funny comment. I can remember the guys' faces fell when they realized that she had a whole tribe of children.

We laughed for years and would repeat that comment to my mother who always giggled. When I found the photo a few months ago, I looked at her again through new eyes. I now see what they saw: not a mother of 7 children with all the chores and challenges that go with the hardest job in the world, but a woman blessed with long, flowing hair, grace and beauty. Hot dog, what a lady!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Take Your Daughter to Work Day, Uh...Year

My father has always been ahead of the times. Long before the "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" was initiated in 1993, my dad discovered the value of having your daughters present on the job site. Keep in mind this was in the 1950's and 1960's. It was not done in the spirit of feminism, but because we were cheap labor. Let me explain.

My parents have seven children. I can remember how tight money was. I can still picture my mom sitting over the grocery list and calculating the cost of every single item. She would add them up and if the amount was too much, something had to go. Feeding a family of seven, particularly with boys who could eat an entire box of cereal in one sitting using mixing bowls was tough. By the way, that was ONE box of cereal per boy. That was also in the days of home milk delivery. The milkman got quite a workout bringing our order.

My dad worked three jobs to make ends meet. Sometimes the ends wouldn't quite come together and he needed help on the job. Another factor was that my mom, who is an introvert, would be at her wits end by the time Saturday rolled around from coping with seven, rambunctious children. My dad taking us to work represented a few hours relief for my mom from the chaos. So hi ho, hi ho, it was off to work we go.

It was so much fun. We were little enough to crawl down holes and thread wires. We spackled holes in baseboards, played with all the tools, learned the difference between flat head and Phillips head screwdrivers and played with mercury (that was before it was known that it was dangerous). We rode bush hogs, road scrapers, and dump trucks. OSHA inspectors would have had a field day with all the safety violations, but we never got hurt. I was never in the dark about what my dad did at work. We knew that he had to do hard physical labor. All of my brothers could wire a house by the time they were 12. I felt totally comfortable operating a hammer and to this day, I still get a thrill when the box says, "Some assembly required." I know that I am up to the task. The smell of sawdust is better than any fine perfume. Any ol' day I would choose a trip to Home Depot or Lowe's rather than a department store.

When I got married, my wish list actually included tools and I still harbor a dream of getting the Sears tool box (the one that is shiny red and has the waffled silver border).

The benefit of going to work with my dad is that not one of my siblings has ever used the terms, "girl chores" or "boy chores" because we knew that we all had to pitch in. The work ethic of each kid is remarkable and we had tremendous role models who showed us that whether you worked inside the home or outside the home, it all counts. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful

I remembered the first time I heard these words on a commercial and frankly, it annoyed me. For some reason today, these same words occurred to me today during Yoga with a whole new meaning. I originally started taking Yoga because my dear cousin, Anne, who was dying from breast cancer, asked me to go. I couldn’t imagine what you could do for an hour without loud music with an instructor shouting directions akin to that of a drill sergeant at the top of her lungs. What would I do for an hour without lots of action, punishing movements and throbbing, heart pounding music? I found an oasis of quiet, poses movements that taught me to be flexible and a wholesome outlook when considering the other women in the class.

As I was thinking today during class, I was taken back to my younger years when Nan Pizitz took me under her wing at the YMCA. I wanted to be an aerobics instructor and thought I was graceful. Nan, however, saw in reality, an awkward young woman whose graceful movements were a figment of her own imagination. She must have felt a good measure of pity for me because she invited me into her basement studio and spent hours teaching me how to hold my hands, move in true rhythm and make that inner grace an outer reality. I will always be thankful for her investment in me.

From there I went on to teach at the Y and a local hospital and reveled in instructing dancing aerobics and later step aerobics. I dropped out when my travel schedule became impossible but also because this field became about breast augmentations, thong leotards, and comments that were full of comparisons and chalking up body failures.

I eventually came back as a participant but consistently avoided anything that had quiet connected to it. Then came Anne’s request and I grudgingly showed up for a class that was conducted in a dark room enveloped in slow music and included a whole new language involving downward dogs, cobra, and sun salutations. I was determined that I was going to give it one shot and then report back to Anne that I tried, but it just didn’t fit my personality. But I was so wrong. I found a group of people who were encouraging, cognizant that we are built so differently, and that I could settle down. I found that I could pray, contemplate all kinds of things (like this entry), and that the quiet was wonderful. I looked around the room today and saw Dot and Joyce who are in their 70’s and literally going strong. Joyce has gotten back the 3” in height that she lost due to osteoporosis. They are beautiful. Then there is Dana and Peg who are both built like graceful ballerinas but are graced with inner beauty that is so much more powerful. They are beautiful. LeAnn has this tiny, powerful body. She has a passion for Yoga and is challenging instructors to be better in their practices. She is joined by Marsha who works hard to make sure that each class experience is a treasure for that day. They are beautiful. There is Bettina a new mom and Deidre who just lost her mom. They are women of color, however very different. They are beautiful. There are the best friends in the back of the class who are in their 50’s, look like twins, and have fun carving out time for their friendship. They are beautiful.

All these wonderful women have reminded me that I am a treasured child of God. Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Namaste....

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Love Thy Neighbor

We are very lucky to have two sets of neighbors who are also our close friends. The three families have spent many a warm day around the pool, which fortunately is not at our house. The neighbor who owns the pool will probably rethink asking either family to watch their house while they are on vacation.

Let me explain. It all started with a "quick" trip by the house to check on the dog. The dog was fine but so was the giant ant population that had gathered in the basement. They had discovered a Cherry Coke left by one of the vacationing daughters. Coke may not realize that they have an untapped customer demographic. We, however, realized that this was a bad case of PESTILENCE. We looked around for some kind of bug spray. We couldn't find the Raid®, but we did find some hair spray. Being creative, we found that this stuff works!! The ants died, but they looked good. This might work on head lice! But I digress. One problem solved.

Then we noticed that the basement had one inch of water! Now we realized that we had a FLOOD. We figured out the problem (OK, John figured it out) was the condensate pump. John volunteered that we had an extra one at our house (OK, this really random--who stocks extra condensate pumps for heaven's sake?) The womenfolk set out to find the fuse box while the men were drying out the basement. We never did find the fuse box which was cleverly disguised behind a picture. Our brave husbands fixed the pump anyway. We later found out that the pump was the wrong size. But I digress.

Then Tim, the neighbor in charge of the pool, noticed that the pool had turned a horrible shade of green. It seems that the vacationing couple's married daughter had stopped by to take a dip and she wore a swimsuit that she had used in a lake. The pool was now infested with algae that would make any biologist proud. The pool doc had to make a house call and recommended a protocol that was very labor intensive. We nursed the pool back to health.

After this adventurous evening we called the neighbors. They asked about their house. We lied. "Things are fine," we croaked (none of us are good at this sort of thing but we knew they shouldn't cut their vacation short over ants, a flooded basement, a broken condensate pump and a green pool) They wondered why we were all gathered at their house. We told them, "You know how a pool brings people together." They replied that they were happy that we were enjoying it while they were gone. Yeah, right. That's our story and we're sticking to it.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Confession Is Good for the Soul

What words can put fear into that of a fellow woman? I can think of two: Recipe Exchange. I must confess that when I get an email from one of my friends asking me to participate, I go through a buffet of reactions:
  • Do I even have 5 people to forward this on to? (Oh, and I should mention that the latest request asked me to send it on to 20 friends?!)
  • Will I let down the person who sent it to me? Will she think I am a bad friend if I don't send it on? I really care about her and hate to let her down.
  • Will the person who was supposed to be #1 on the outgoing email be upset if no one replies?
  • What if the #1 person doesn't have many friends and this is a way for her to make connections with other caring women?
  • Will my friends get frustrated with me for sending on to them? Aren't they already too busy?
  • Who has 20 friends that are available for this kind of thing?
  • Why can't I just say "No??!!??"
  • What if I just don't do anything? Will anybody really know?
  • If I am ever in doubt that I am a "Feeler" vs. a "Thinker" I need to reread this whole entry.
  • These directions are so complicated! Send a recipe to the number 1 person and then move the number 2 person to the top and then put my name on the email and then forward...
  • Are people really still cooking?
  • With the internet and great magazines, do people really want recipes?
  • Can't we just ban together and pledge not to do this to each other?
  • Will this land me on people's spam lists?
  • Will people send out recipes using spam? (ugh!)
You get the idea! All this angst! Several of my friends had the where-with-all to say, "I am so sorry, I just don't have the time to participate! [good response!] I thanked them for being honest! I also realized I should have crafted a similar response!

Then I got an email from the lucky recipient who was supposed to get all the recipes. She was so excited. Then I started getting recipes, all of which sounded sooooo good!

I have decided to go ahead and put out a recipe for succa (Italian for spaghetti sauce). It is a treasured recipe. From now on, every request labeled, "Recipe Exchange" will get this as a reply and none of my friends will be bothered again. They have already done their duty!

Confession really is good for the soul. I feel better (and hungry) already.

Italian Succa

Tomato sauce, large, 4 cans I use Wal-mart’s generic brand

Red wine, ½ can (I use it to “swish” out all the cans of tomato sauce)

Basil, fresh, ½ package

Lawry’s Garlic salt, 2 tsp.

Nature’s seasoning, 2 tsp

Fresh ground pepper, 2 tsp.

Sargento Romano cheese, ½ triangle grated

Combine the above and simmer for four hours

Pasta: Cook, but DO NOT let get mushy!!

Romano cheese: Put on pasta FIRST, then put on the succa!!

I Contact

"Don't stare!" I can remember being admonished with this warning anytime that I saw someone who had a physical or mental challenge. I can vividly recall quickly averting my eyes in case I might cause embarrassment to someone if my eyes lingered too long.

I realized one day that I had totally forgotten to program my daughter with this same information. The man who was putting the flooring in our house did not have his right arm and had a hook in its place. With the curiosity of a six old, Casey asked, "Well, Mr. Harden, what happened to your arm?" I imploded internally with the realization that I had failed in one of the chief duties given to Moms: Teach your children not to stare.

Ken Harden explained to Casey that he had a disease in his right hand when he was in high school and that the doctors cut off his arm to save his life. He went on further to demonstrate how his hook worked. Casey was fascinated, and I had to admit, so was I.

I later told Ken that this story had worked its way into my training classes and that he has achieved a degree of fame. He told me that children were never put off by his hook, but adults were rarely comfortable talking about it. He said that they acted like he must wake up every day with the discovery, "Oh, my gosh, my arm is gone!"

I use this story in a class where we talk about how the "don't stare" message was programmed into most of us. One class stands out as one in which I was taught a great lesson by one of the participants. A nurse who was in my class said that she worked with burn patients whose faces had been disfigured. She said that the thing they commented that they missed the most was that people refused to make eye contact with them. She said they said they felt as if they disappeared.

When reflecting on this this, I came to realize that with "Eye Contact" you grant humanity and value to others. The "Don't Stare" message seems kind on the surface but in reality, hurts. I then came to understand that "Eye Contact" leads to "I Contact" i.e., "I make Contact with you because you matter, you are a child of God, and you have value." Amen.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Happy Trails to You...

Dale Evans has always had a warm spot in my heart. I had a cowgirl outfit when I was a kid that was my first imitation of a movie star. No bare belly like some current stars. I had a cowgirl hat and cool Western clothing! She was the perfect mate for Roy Rogers and an even better role model as a strong woman.

Several nights ago we watched a very suspenseful movie. It was full of intrigue, had two top stars, clever plot twists, but I felt tense by the end of the film. My husband trolled the channels and came upon one of those stations that plays really old films. Dale Evans to the rescue! The narrator was talking about Roy Roger’s stardom. The movie started and the credits rolled. First there was Roy, then there was TRIGGER, then Gabby Hayes and finally DALE EVANS! She was 4th on the list and AFTER the horse!! She wore some really awful clothes (hats bigger than sombreros that could have housed a small family) but she had an adorable personality. At this time Roy and Dale were not married. After the movie, the narrator revealed that Roy was married to Arlene and that after his wife died, he and Dale got married and remained married for over 50 years.

The movie and the surrounding real life story warmed my heart and changed my mood before going to bed with the exception of one nagging thought: I hope that she eventually got billing above Trigger.

Another Bedtime Story

When Casey was five years old, she told me that I didn’t play enough with her at night. At first I started to get defensive because I knew that not only did I play games with her, but gave her lots of attention. Then my conscience kicked in: "Perhaps you ought to try that listening stuff you teach in your training classes!" (It is tough having a strong conscience!)

For once I held back my response and instead said, “You sound frustrated, tell me more.” She went on to say that Daddy and I were the two biggest people in the family and we slept downstairs together. She said that because she was an only child and her bedroom was upstairs, she hated going to bed alone. I took all of this in, and tried to figure how to solve this situation. She then went on further to tell me that she didn’t expect me to start sleeping with her instead of Daddy, but she wanted me to know why she put off going to bed at night. John and I talked about it and we decided to change our family routine. We decided to:

· Turn off the 10:00 news (who wants to hear all that stuff before going to bed anyway?)

· All go upstairs together to “tuck Casey in”

· Watch while John feeds the fish

· Talk about the best thing that happened to us that day so everyone can enjoy it

· Sometimes sing silly songs and even do dance routines together (we’re certain that Broadway is looking for us)

· Throw fluorescent stars across the room after making wishes

· Sometimes hide to scare each other

· Always pray for other people

· Join hands in a family blessing

· Enjoy closing Casey’s eyes and lips and kissing her goodnight

We always do this ritual even if one of us is out of town (or even in college!) by using cell phones!

I often wonder what would have happened if I had argued with Casey when she was trying to tell me why she was so upset. I know what would have happened. “They” (our family) wouldn’t have lived happily ever after and we would have missed 16 years of what is always the best time of our day and night…Good night, Casey.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace...

Everyone has a mental image of what they think heaven looks like. I sometimes see beautiful angels all sitting on a bed … the Heavenly® Bed, from the Westin, in Atlanta. The Westin hotel chain started the Goldilocks rage (this bed’s just right!) that forced other hotels to spend money on their main purpose … a place to sleep! Not only does their bed have a great mattress but they have the most incredible linens known to man and woman kind. For once in my life, I slept past 5:30 a.m. and had to pry myself out of that luxurious bed. I just know that this must be what it feels like to sleep on a cumulus cloud.

When I got home, I couldn't get this bed out of my head. I wasted hours daydreaming about my night of floating on ten layers of pure heaven. I finally set out to recreate the glorious experience.

However, this was a time, long ago and far away, when there were no web sites where you could order this stuff with the click of a magic mouse. So I devised my game plan. The next time I traveled to a city that had a Westin, I would steal into a room in the dead of night, under the cover of darkness, in my best “spy woman” black outfit and surreptitiously make a list of everything used to create the Heavenly® Bed and maybe even (gasp!) take a mattress tag. Sadly, I didn’t get to use my game plan. They had a model room available so anyone that wanted to could order all the parts of this 10 layer confection. It begins with a feather topper for the mattress, and then sheets, blankets, pillows and comforters are added to make this lovely lasagna of luxury.

I had to have it! However, it is against my nature to pay retail for anything without first trying to secure a bargain. So, armed with Bed Bath and Beyond coupons that NEVER expire, I became acquainted with thread counts and feather quality (poor ducks)!

I was richly rewarded for my efforts. We have a bed that is an utter joy. When we make it up (well at least once a week, whether company is coming or not), we plump everything. The best part is when we hold hands and take a running leap onto the bed, fall into its marshmallow softness and make angels on the comforter. It may not be quite as good as the real thing but I rest easy sleeping in imitation heavenly peace. Amen!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Life's Way Too Short

I saw a great piece in the paper today on this very topic. It is not a new subject; I teach this same concept in my time management classes. I did, however, glean the idea of making a list that follows this concept. Feel free to add to this list; I learn from every person with whom I have contact. Life's too short to:
  • Wear shoes that hurt. As much as I would like to find someone who could pre-wear my shoes (and even shop for them, because life is too short for shoe shopping). I give away shoes that hurt.
  • Wear underwear that hurts. Thongs are for the feet (OK, I'm showing my age!) See the Beloit College list on aging. I believe in this analogy.
  • Be around toxic people. These people are known as "organizational arsonists" in the workplace. I have been a part of this network before by listening to gossip and not putting a stop to it. I don't even like some of the toxic thoughts that roll around in my head and I work on dumping them immediately.
  • Spend time reading message boards. A friend alerted me to a drama that was unfolding on a scrap booking message board. I study conflict for a living so I had a clinical interest in this topic. Was I observed sickened me. The comments became very personal: a person's family was dragged in, a husband's business location was attacked, cursing and slurs were used in some of the messages, apologies were dissected, motives were guessed at and then treated as reality, venting turned into gossiping, cannibalistic behavior ensued as the writers turned on one another--you get the picture. Wow. I remembered why I don't care for message boards. See be around toxic people. This can include the virtual world.
  • Use my tongue to hurt. This can so easily turn into a weapon of judgment. Yikes.
  • Spend too many hours playing free cell or anything else that can be a hole.
  • Do busy vs. productive work. Busy = flurry of activity, nothing to show for efforts. Productive = something to show for efforts.
  • Use that hammock on the deck. Rocking back and forth in a hammock is the best comfort zone of all.
  • Fail to write or verbalize appreciation. Consider: How many thank you notes does your minister get? Is there an older person who is easily forgotten? Are there kindnesses that are taken for granted?
  • Not to have candles at dinner every night. My precious husband takes care of this each evening.
I need to go--I need to tell my great husband how much I appreciate him and then spend some time with him on the hammock...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Case for the Mattress Tag Police

I know who's picture would be on "American's Most Wanted" if there was such a show for unsolved cases of the Mattress Tag Police.

I could count on one hand the number of really good night's sleep that I had gotten on our mattress. Could it be because the mattress was 25 years old? I know my husband likes to get his money's worth out of anything before he lets it go, but this was too much! This mattress was so old that our bodies sank into valleys and we had to "climb the mountain" if we ever wanted to snuggle. You would think this would be enough to talk my husband into getting another mattress. But noooo. I guess he likes a good challenge.

Then came the lucky day I did a workshop for a very small group. I did a lot of preparation and there were only 7 people in the association, but they were so nice, I couldn't complain. One of the participants told me she worked for a mattress company. True to my extraverted personality, I told the story about my pitiful mattress. She was horrified! She said that every single year she got a new mattress. I must have changed colors (probably mint or guacamole) because it was tough to keep the envy out of my face. She took pity on me and said that she had run out of people to put on her list. "What list?" I inquired. THE LIST in which she got to name friends and family to receive new mattresses. She asked me if I wanted to be on her friend list. I am known for my speed in making friends, but this had to be a new record. She said that we would have to pay for each piece and that it would amount to about $100.00 she mentioned with some embarrassment. "That's all??" I practically shouted and almost volunteered to clean her house for a year (fortunately I stopped myself--I am a poor housekeeper). She explained further that we would have to show up within 24 hours to claim our mattress when we got THE CALL that it was in. She encouraged us to go for top of the line. She didn't have to say much because I was worried that I wouldn't get to do this for another 25 years.

Then came THE DAY. The funniest part is that I was out of town and my husband had to hook up the trailer and drive up to the mattress factory. My new (and now most favorite) friend came out and greeted him. She then took him inside and announced to the ENTIRE factory that my husband slept on a mattress that was 25 years old. Boy, nothing like public humiliation. He was mildly ridiculed and ribbed about his inability to throw anything away. He sheepishly strapped in the mattress, paid the measly $106.00 (OK, there was sales tax), and returned home.

I was so excited when I got home! There were cute pictures of sheep on the mattress and I had to restrain myself from jumping on the bed. My husband kept saying he missed the old mattress. It was out on the porch. I told him he could sleep out there because I was tired of mountain climbing. He opted for the new mattress. Smart man. Case closed.

Cool Woman, Hot Day

Today I had the privilege of attending a funeral for a friend of mine who died this week. She is the same person whom I visited last week in Atlanta. I am so thankful that I went last Saturday to see her in her final hours. Her husband told me later that the prayers we offered up were heard. It just reminds me again that God is indeed listening.

On a lighter note, I made several observations as I reveled in the final celebration of my friend's life:
  • All the women had cruel shoes. When we arrived at her house for the pre-funeral gathering (or "to pay our respects" as it is called in the South), every woman had her shoes off and were putting off as long as possible the moment when the toe crushers were donned in the name of fashion.
  • There were hats. One of the things I admire is that some African American women wear really great hats.
  • There was great food in the kitchen. Homemade. None of that fast food or pre-made cakes from the grocery store. People took time to make some home cooked goodies.
  • We got to ride in a real funeral procession, complete with a policeman, headlights, and bright orange hang tags to put on our rear view mirrors with the word "FUNERAL" in bold letters. People actually pulled off to the side to let us by. Old time reverence.
  • There was a little bit of the "I was really closer to her than you were" game that is often played at funerals as people jockeyed for positions on the status of their bloodline to my friend.
  • The music was rocking! People hollered out the refrains, swayed in time, and unabashedly sang with gusto. It made me think just for a few minutes about changing churches.
  • Because the church was so hot due to the overwhelming number of folks that showed up, the fans were pulled out. No, not the electric kind, but the old timey hand-powered church fans with advertisements on the back. Way cool.
  • The program was unlike any other I had ever seen! There were pictures of my friend, her husband and her children throughout her life. Cute pictures of changing hairstyles, getting married, being pregnant. Hugs and smiles all around. This one is a keeper.
  • The highlight was when a woman got up and talked about her husband dying last year. My friend, despite her declining health was there to help her grieve. She said she got a letter from my friend which said, "My husband and I will be there to help you with anything. PS: Stay away from my husband." We could all picture my friend saying that with a twinkle in her eye. It was really funny and showed my friend's sense of humor that will surely be missed.
  • The eulogies, and there were a lot of them, were wonderful and everybody added different pieces that showed us all that we are joined by our love for our dear, departed sister/friend/wife/mother/daughter/all around great human being.
It was worth showing up on a hot day for a cool woman.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Mother--My Pusher

When you look at a picture of my mom, what do you see? One of the kindest, most thoughtful women in the world? Don’t let her innocent look fool you. She has a dark side. She’s my pusher. No, I’m not talking about drugs or anything illegal although John may want to change that law)! We’re talking scrapbook coupons!

Each week, my most favorite piece of mail arrives, containing the Hobby Lobby or Michael’s coupon for 40% off or, on a really good week—50%!! She understands that I have a perpetual list of things I need to continue my beloved hobby. Ever since I was a kid, I was always thrilled to see her neat penmanship. She is left-handed, so learning how to write was tough. But in the age of “hurry up” she takes the time to write each letter precisely; no F’s in penmanship for her! She’s the reason I took such pride in my penmanship in grammar school, and won the award for “Best Penmanship.”

But, even though I love my coupons, what I love the most is seeing my mother’s handwriting, with

Sharon Lovoy

and my address written on the envelope. My mother doesn’t use computer labels; she takes the time to handwrite my name. Every time I open the mailbox and see that envelope, I picture Mom sitting at the table, cutting out coupons, just for me.

It makes me feel very special.

Thanks, Mom!!

A Human Being Not a Human Doing

Remember the days when we weren't so busy rushing around...the days of sitting on the front porch, in a rocker or swing, drinking lemonade or sweet tea, talking, laughing, telling stories...or just sitting watching the world go by?

One such place was my Granny Hood’s porch. When I think of her, that porch and all those wonderful, innocent days, are what I imagine.

She had a real porch swing, hung from the ceiling by giant springs that made creaky sounds as it swung back and forth with thin, green cushions Granny made. The porch also had an old, high backed rocker and a smaller metal chair that also rocked. Her porch was screened to keep out the bugs but allowed those wonderful summer breezes. The finishing touch was a wooden floor, painted battleship gray. When I was little, we went out on that porch to play, winter or summer, blazing heat or freezing cold.

A kid could be a kid. There was nothing there to break or stain or tear.

Long ago she knew that we needed a place where one could be a human being, not a human doing...and she gave us her porch and its enchanted swing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

For Cryin' Out Loud!

As we all know the three keys to human behavior are Awareness, Accountability and Action and that it comes down to Choices. In other words, making us AWARE of things we should be doing and things we should not be doing; holding us ACCOUNTABLE and making us responsible for the ACTIONS we take and the CHOICE we make. This, by the way is the Swiss Army Knife of Parenting, Time Management, Life Management, etc.

My sister and brother-in-law's children get this. They understand the rule that if you wake up and start crying in the morning, you have to go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Continue to cry after you have been warned and you will get another 30 minutes. Continue and you could even come home from school, go straight to bed, get to eat dinner for 15 minutes but you are in bed for the entire afternoon after school and then the night.

I spend a lot of time at my sister's house because I have a wonderful client in her city. I have watched her calmly exercise this penalty. She never raises her voice and cryin' gets you nowhere, except to bed. Therefore mornings are happy and fun at their house. It is a pleasing bustle of Andy Griffith (no cable for them!) or Christian rock music, coloring, reading, breakfasts made to order, lunches being made to order, getting dressed in the laundry room because clothes are organized there (another topic, another day), kisses and hugs all around (I even get this fringe benefit) and everyone is off to school.

This morning I would be in the category of having to go to bed early. After promising ourselves that we were going to hit the bed early, we went to bed after midnight. OK, I'm not crying, but I am complaining (the adult version of crying in the morning). I am going to self impose a penalty of going to bed 1 1/2 hours earlier tonight. Thanks, Sis!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Out of Body Experience

I love Sundays. One of the reasons is that it is the one day of the week that I actually read most of the paper on the day it arrives. My husband John teases me that I read "USA Yesterday" instead of "USA TODAY." He is right everyday except Sunday. The first thing I do is retrieve the paper from the yard (dressed in who knows what and usually wearing John's shoes because mine are down in the basement near the car). The next step is to pare that monstrous paper down to size. Out with the classifieds, the job market stuff, and all the ads for the stores that we never visit. Our routine is that John gets the funnies and I get the rest. This is sort of the same measurement used for parceling out closet space. It's not that I don't share the paper; he just likes to look at it throughout the day. I fix my decaf Cafe Mocha (using a Starbucks recipe) and peruse everything.

Next we go to church. One of the reasons I love going to church because I love my choir. We stick with each other through thick and thin. It's like having extra brothers and sisters who can tease each other, have some minor tussles, but will defend each other.

Then starts my battle to stay in church. No, I'm not preparing to flee the building; I'm talking about keeping my attention right there in the building. Paying attention to the lush liturgy, enjoying the sermon that Fr. Ray has put together, and loving the lyrics to each piece of music. I have to fight the short attention span that is part of my personality. To combat this I take notes on the sermon and write a prayer list. I don't want any "out of body experiences" where my body is present but my mind has left and gone somewhere else.

Today my prayer list included a dear friend who has a brain tumor. John and I had the joy of spending yesterday with her. She kept thanking us for driving over to see her. But honestly we were the lucky ones. She knows that she doesn't have long, and we were privileged to get a long visit with her and her husband. I told her time and again how much she meant to me and we repeatedly said how much we loved each other. Her husband has been a real saint. He has obviously honored his vows of "in sickness and in health." Great couple, great day, bittersweet day. I guess I wasn't successful in staying in church after all because my mind kept drifting back to my dear friend. I think God would understand. Going to Atlanta was worth it. You have to be present to win. Amen.