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.