Sunday, February 25, 2007

What's Your Name?

Well, what do you want it to be?

If I remember right, these are lines from the movie,Pretty Woman when the two main characters first meet. It's transformation, Cinderella-love story where a hooker, living hand-to-mouth, enters the life of a millionaire one evening when he was "lost." Not only does he change her life, she changes him. And she doesn't change him into something he's not--she brings back the "real" him--the man who wants to build things, create things. Up until this point, he's been spending his whole career tearing things down in revenge because his father never recognized him for who he was, and tore him down. And she, who had been living a life that made her constantly pretend to be who she wasn't, would morph into "whatever" the fantasy of the person using her desired. She was dying in this lifestyle, but so was he.

This week one of my sons has been exploring who he is, and what kind of life's work he's been called to doing. He started off in an area that seemed perfect for him, but after two years he explained to my husband and me that he wants "to help people and work with people," not being alone doing his own thing as the path of the major he was in was leading him to be. So, we arranged for him to be tested and he'll talk to a career counselor. This counselor will in turn offer suggestions based on an interview and his answers to the over 500 questions on how he thinks, how he feels about circumstances, his real choices and what makes him joyful. He has to think about lifestyles and environments of work and how he would like them to be in his own life.

As we went through some of the questions, I couldn't help thinking that I wish I could've had this kind of assistance when I was his age. And also, I got to know my son in a deeper way than I ever have known him before, despite the fact that there were some questions I knew the answer to before he even voiced it. I thought I knew him better than anyone, but there were still things to be learned about him.

But despite age, and being in circumstances you don't think you can change, as long as you have breath and mind, you can adjust your lifestyle into who you really are. Don't let people try to mold you into what their image of you is; be transformed, renew your mind into what you were called and meant to be, despite your past. I think that is the true message in the movie, Pretty Woman. In this movie he asks her at the end--"What happened when he saves her?" She answers, "She saves him right back." They help each other to become better people. Their lives change for the good.

You might think it is too late, but you have to move forward right now from where you are. Be brave. Make one change. It could be in your volunteer work or it could be a career change,a lifestyle change or it could be changing where you live. The one thing it shouldn't be--changing and leaving people devastated and hurt in your quest. But don't be miserable or contribute unhappiness to people in your life because you didn't get to play guitar as a kid, or you couldn't take art classes. Eliminate the "drains" in your life. And then, find one thing that feeds your soul so you can give back to the people in your life. Pretty Woman character Vivian does this--she talks to her roommate and fellow hooker and builds her up, gives her a "scholarship" in life to make positive changes.

I am a Christian. In the Bible there is a verse that is based in Jewish culture that says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it." (Proverbs 22:6) This proverb has been interpreted a lot of ways by my fellow Believers in raising children, and by the Jewish people, too, but I think it's not only about your spiritual life--but your entire lifestyle. People have a way of separating their job-life from their spiritual life. After all, where I live, you are not supposed to mix "church and state." I say this is fundamentally impossible to do, because eventually one or the other system will collapse. It is core to your value system. What you train up your child into is your value system. I'm not saying that you have to wear your spiritual life on your sleeve or subject people to it in an aggressive manner--I'm saying it's not like fashions you put on or take off according to the occasion--it is a part of who you are, your fabric of your life, your DNA, despite the window dressings, your culture.

So, my son was answering these questions and it tells a story about him. He is like this not because I raised him this way, because he has three brothers who are distinctly different from him, and we raised those boys the same way. But all four boys have the same value system. We also raised each one in the way they should go by offering them experiences in their strengths or preferences. He is a certain way, a certain temperament. He can "pretend" he is something else by participating in an activity because someone pressures him to do it. He can even live his life a way differently from who is he, but until he is doing things in the way of his temperament, he will either collapse, or he will become ill, or be very unhappy. Training him up in the way that he should go involves more than discovering his spiritual gifts and how he fits into the family of God, giving him his value system--it also involves what he should be doing in his life's work and how he should be spending his days, his life.

Eventually the lifestyle that comes with the job is going to cause a collapse if it is not "you." Either physically, mentally or spiritually something will collapse, if your temperament isn't jiving with the way you are spending your time.

So, what is your temperament? Where do you want to be this time next year?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Snow Day

I have a friend who lives where they don't see snow. She wistfully made the comment that she wished that she could have a day like I just had where she could be "snowed in." I was quick to point out all the hazards and worries I had about this kind of treacherous weather because our family is all too aware of the dangers, and have to get out in it to help. But.

She triggered memories of the days when I didn't worry about those things (like semi-trucks jackkniving on the interstate or freezing to death, or frost bite or electricity going out and not being able to get to the loved one.Yeah, my brain has been adultatized. Kill me.)

It started with her comment--then my husband and I went outside to assess the huge drifts of snow after the blizzard stopped. Our cars were blocked in, and we wanted to see if our new snow blower would do the job. And how it did! Before it was all over, we were fighting each other to blow out the driveway with that snow blower. If a huge snowblower on a tractor manned by a local farmer neighbor hadn't shown up coming down our rural one-lane county road, I'm not so sure we wouldn't have blown out all the snow on the road, too. It was...yeah, ok, fun! My husband joked that the snow blower was my Valentine's Day present, and frankly, it was the most fun I'd had in a while.

I found this photo above of my boys from several years ago when we had a similar blizzard with drifts over 6 feet high, and they thought it was the most fun thing that had ever happened to them. My memories flew back to when I was their age looking at this photo, fueled by my California friend's comment, and our snow blowing fun.

The small Christian school I attended from 1st to 5th grade only had two rooms for 8 grades. Our teachers were a couple--the man taught 5th-8th and the lady taught 1st-4th. We were like a big family. And when we were at school and the snow was piled to the rooftop, Mr. Clayburn said we should build a snowman at recess. But it wasn't just any snowman--it was the abominable snowman! He was over 8 feet tall when we got done and the newspaper sent a photographer to save it for all times and show everyone else. Except, I don't know what happened to that photograph. We were really proud and probably every one of us kept that memory. At least I hope so.

I remember snow forts and huge snowball fights with Phil and Rick and Susan and Karen and Mary Beth. It was a blast! But one time I threw a snowball at the retreating losers, Rick and Phil, as they ducked into the garage. They shut the door just as I let it fly. Smack! Yep. It went right through the glass. I sat there on the icy ground, behind the walls of our fort, and I was so upset, the walls began to melt. Or at least seemed to. I just knew I was grounded for all time. I tredged slowly to the house, went straight to my dad and told him what I'd done.

He got on his snow gear--boots, coat and that toboggan hat that made him look like a lumberjack, and carefully picked up pieces of glass from the ice. Then, he went to town, bought a new glass and installed it himself. I hung around there like I was at a funeral home. Didn't want to be there, but I stuck around anyway. I kept waiting for him to yell at me, saying,"What are you! Dumb? Didn't you know that a snowball would break the glass? Don't you know that costs money? Didn't you know it was a foolish thing to do?" (Well, my dad didn't exactly talk like this, but it was filtered through my own voice in my head, chewing me out...chewing me out in my own chastising way.)

He never did chew me out. He just grinned and fixed the window. He said, "All fixed." He never yelled. Never lectured me. He didn't even say, "Don't do that anymore." He didn't beat me, smack me, but also he didn't yell. Or even correct me.I mean, I was pretty much perfect, but even I needed someone to tell me I'd done wrong once in a while.

I never understood why he didn't get mad back then, and it wasn't until one day when I was older that I "got it." You know. That age that your mother predicted as, "Just wait until you are a mom!"? And at that time I remembered another story--my dad telling a really funny story to us about how when he was a little boy, and how crazy he was about Superman.

He had seen a movie in the theater and just was wild about Superman--pretending he was Superman all the time. He was jumping and "flying" off this and that, and one day he climbed up on the chicken coop. With cape flying he flew right off the roof. He landed on his back on a "stob"(which was some cut off small tree stump.) It knocked the wind out of him and he couldn't breathe.

His dad ran over, stood over him saying, "Are you all right? Can you breathe?" Dad said he gulped for air and finally said, "Yessir, I think I'm getting my 'breaf' back." (Dad was very Southern and this was more how he talked.) Dad had a way of telling the most horrific story with humor and a twinkle in his eye--like it was actually funny. Then, he went on with the "kicker:"

"As soon as I got to my feet, Daddy kicked my butt all over the yard."

His daddy was so upset about him nearly killing himself, that he beat him to emphasize not to ever do that again. Yeah.

My dad had his own major faults, but one thing he did magnificently--he broke the abuse cycle passed from father to kids. He corrected us without beating us half to death, or for that matter, at all. And he was able to fit the punishment with the crime. I'm not even sure how he did this--unless it was my mother's influence on him, or the fact that he never wanted to treat us like his dad treated him.

And before you go thinking how horrible my Granddaddy was--he, too, broke his bad habits as he aged, and I didn't know this part of him. I think my mother influenced him, too.

Snow day. I have a lot of stories about snow, snow play, and blizzards. I've told them to my kids, and my kids have their own stories, too. I warned them not to throw snowballs at windows, but I did it with a smile, and they have never known beatings like my dad endured--and neither have I.

1000 Gifts

480. snow blower!
481. electricity
482. snow plows getting us out so we can go to the store,etc.
483. my warm, plush navy blue slippers and gray robe
484. hot coffee
485. a husband who can "fix" things
486. kids who take the dog out in the cold so I don't have to
487. games to play
488. nice comments from readers because they are nice people
489. my green hoodie sweatshirt from Mackinac
490. friends and family who get together with us
491. modern medicine
492. Sears, which has "everything"
493. nearby Menard's
494. music to play or listen to
495. boys who aren't too old to hug mom
496. Lipton green tea
497. mail! (didn't have it for two days...)
498. books that come right in the mail and I don't have to go out to find something to read
499. newspapers! (didn't get one for two days...)
500. tv station reporters who get out in the worst weather and let you know what's going on with the weather and what to avoid

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I have a journal book that I've had for years called A Family Legacy for Your Children: Reflections from a Mother's Heart: Your Life Story in Your Own Words.I'm just now getting around to writing responses in it according to the prompts. I'm having a hard time.

James Thurber said in his book, My Life and Hard Times (my favorite book, by the way...):
"Benevenuto Cellini said that a man should be at least forty years old before he undertakes so fine an enterprise as that of setting down the story of his life. He said also that an autobiographer should have accomplished something of excellence. Nowadays nobody who has a typewriter pays any attention to the old master's quaint rules."
This makes me laugh. What would James Thurber think of blogdom? (I think he'd definitely be in the thick of the blog world. He died in 1961, though.)

Well, I have not accomplished much of "excellence" according to the world at large, but I do qualify according Cellini's age requirements. So, I have been inclined lately to write down some thoughts in that "legacy" journal for my boys. Did I say that I'm having a hard time? I really fit more into James Thurber's book and memories--and could probably find more prompts there to instigate my memories.

I was particularly struggling over this one: "Describe your mother in her best dress."

Yes, my mother had a lot of dresses at various points in her life, so no problem there. Before the fabulous late '60s/early '70s, that's probably all she wore were dresses--even at home. Every photo I have of her in black and white, she is wearing a dress. But I don't remember her dresses. I have a hard time even thinking of her in dress in my memories of life with her. She wore shorts, pedal pushers, slacks--she was always sporty and tall and thin. I couldn't remember. I stared at that page for a long time. It upset me that I couldn't remember her in dresses because I know she wore them for special occasions and church. And she was very conscious of her appearance, though she wore minimal make up and jewelry, she always looked "movie star"ish. She had an Audrey Hepburn flair, but looked more like Kim Novak. (Ok, you people are going to say, "Who?" ha)

Then, I found this photo. I remember her agonizing over choosing this dress. Shopping with her sister for hours. It was the mother of the groom dress for my brother's first marriage. The marriage didn't last, but I remembered the dress--I have this dress in my special trunk where I keep my own wedding dress, my "going away" dress and various keepsakes of that sort. I have this dress. I couldn't part with it because I thought she never looked more beautiful to me as she did in this dress. Maybe I was emotionally sentimental at the time. There were lots of issues going on that time and I was very, very big with my pregnancy of our second son.

If anyone would pull this dress out of my trunk at my death, they wouldn't have a clue as to why I have it. So, maybe I'll put this blog with it.

However,the last dress I ever bought for my mother is the one I remember emotionally with great detail.

Mom died on a Saturday in her chair. She was on home oxygen, her heart had moved to the center and slightly to the other side of her chest because she didn't have a lung on that side anymore, so her health was deteriorating. She had already lived well past what doctors had predicted. She had ordered a navy blue and white dress because she had determined that she was going to go to church with me, my family and her husband--my father--the next day. It hung in a back spare bedroom on the door. She had a long, pleasant conversation on the phone with my uncle, her youngest brother, and then quietly slipped away into Jesus's arms, sitting in her chair. She never wore the navy and white dress. I can't remember what she was wearing in that chair. Some sort of nondescript house coat. It was her "Sabbath," as she always believed in worshipping God on Saturday.

I just couldn't bury her in that dress, because in my mind I had a certain look I wanted to accomplish for her final appearance in this earthly, broken body. So, I went shopping. My sister-in-law, Melba (my husband's sister who has gone with me on many of these kinds of journeys) went with me. She didn't say much, just mostly held my hand. The best kind of person to have in times like this.

I bought mom a pink dress with a beautiful brocade jacket with burgundies and pinks and gold and silver blue roses in it. It went beautifully with her white satin-lined casket with the pink roses embroidered in the lid. It was pink.

My aunt asked me what I had gotten mom to bury her in when I returned from dropping the items off at the funeral home. This is quite important in my family. When I told her, she said, "Oh, what'd you do that for? Her favorite color was blue!" and I nearly broke down into tears at her harsh, critical comment, but I'm one of those people who is stubborn and stoic. I just said, "Because she'll look beautiful in it."

I had no idea how she would look in it. When I had last seen my mother, she looked ill and pasty white and was sitting up in her chair, not there anymore. The warmth of her essence gone and my image of her into another etheral dimension. She was dead. I stroked her hands and her hair of her dead body. It just wasn't her. She had certainly changed from the tall, very good-looking and kind-hearted humorous mother I always knew. But she looked so peaceful. A final expression on her face that was her. So, my thought was she looked fabulous in pink, so I would bury her in pink.

Just so I do not leave you with a horrible last thought of my aunt (my dad's sister,) you have to understand that my aunt was grieving, and she had been friends with my mother longer than I had been on earth. She had her own memories of dresses and my mom's appearance. In the funeral home when just the family went into the casket room prior to opening up the viewing to the public, my aunt put her arm around me and leaned into me and said, "She looks beautiful. The pink was a good choice."

There is always a story to go along with simple exercises like these. Describe your mother in her best dress. If you have 10 siblings, I bet you'd get 10 different responses to this question because every person has their own memories, own image of someone dear to them in their mind. I can't even imagine what my boys would say about my appearance if they had to answer this question. (I'm a little worried, as a matter of fact, of what they would say!)

So, I am not sure what my response is to this prompt. Maybe just simply, "The dress was pink."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Questions to Answer for Future Generations

Both of my parents, my Granddaddy Warren, and grandparents Pierson are all dead. Now that I've reached that age that I thought my grandparents, or for that matter, my parents, were "old," I think a lot more about what I want to convey to my own boys. It's an awesome responsibility to reach the age of "what happened, what should've happened, and what will happen if you repeat past generations errors." Yeah.

For example, I can see a lot of my dad and my Granddaddy Warren in one of my sons(he even looks like my dad at the same age)--and frankly, that is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. On one hand, I might get to witness what my dad would've been like if he'd just made a few better choices or had better opportunities and circumstances like my son has. On the other hand, I'm worried my son will repeat and walk the same paths as my dad, going the hard way.

So, I've been trying to tell my boys stories. We are big storytellers on both sides of my family. On my mom's side are stories of humor, heartbreak, genius and fortitude/perseverence, faith. On my dad's side--well, there might be a bit of blarney in those genes, but it's also filled with mysteries and cover ups, fiction treachery, faith, overcoming obstacles, as well as enduring tragedies. It's the mysteries that intrigue me the most. I want to ask a lot of questions. Sometimes I wonder if it is best to just let those mysteries fade away--but of course, being terminally curious, I want to know. And I think it is time my boys know these stories, too.

I have a platter that belonged to my great grandmother. It belonged to my dad's grandmother. It's discolored and cracked, but you can tell it has blue trim and was probably cream-colored. They gave it to my dad because she used to serve chicken and dumplings on that platter and that was my dad's favorite meal. But then, he was so poor growing up in the Depression, any kind of meal with meat was great. He said one time that he thought at one point during his childhood that he never wanted to see another bean or tater his entire life.

But of course, when he grew up, he loved beans and taters and a skillet of cornbread and I think it was a bit nostalgic for him--especially since he could afford steak when he grew up. Someone looking at that platter might think it was trash, but I honor it in my china cabinet. It tells a story, and really, more of a story of my dad, than anything else.

I have tons of stories to tell my kids about my own growing up. I hope they will pass these stories on their kids. There are some questions you should ask now, if you still have your parents. Here're some examples:

When do you first remember making your faith in God your own? How did it come about?

Tell me about your grandparents. What is your best memory of them? Did you see them a lot or never? What did they do? What did they enjoy?

What are your special memories of your siblings?

Did you pray before you went to sleep? What kind of prayer did you pray?

What did you dream of being/doing when you grew up?

If you could do anything differently, what would it be?

I'm sure you can think of your own questions. And then, don't forget to answer some of these questions yourself to pass along to your own kids or your own family or even to share with readers. These are the kinds of things I'd like to share with you, too.

One of the things I wish I had known to ask my parents would be about their temperament preferences. I can guess on some things because I thought I knew them well, but what if they had hidden some things well? What if they took to their graves things about themselves that I would never know?

And these are the kind of questions that make for a good brainstorm session for developing a fictional story.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tony Dungy: Family First

"Family First"

We're riding high here in Indiana with our Indianapolis Colts winning the Super Bowl. And we're proud of the team members in more than just that they finally won--we're proud of them as just people. At the heart of the team is a man who on his web site has this right at the top of his page: "Family First." It speaks volumes about Tony Dungy as a person.

I hope that Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy and the whole Indianapolis team are enjoying their win and taking a small break from the pressure-cooker NFL atmosphere. I watch ESPN everyday (when I was growing up, I wanted to be a sports writer--no kidding. ha! and was the sports editor of my high school newspaper) so I know analysis about this year, as well as predictions about next year, are ongoing.

Check out Tony's site, even if you don't follow football. It's a story of a winner, but also someone of deep faith, abiding triumph over sorrows and quiet dignity.

* * * ************

1000 Gifts

Back in November I joined with other Christian Women Online to list my 1000 Gifts. Thinking about our daily gifts is good, but something about writing them down makes you appreciate them even more.

447. Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl!
448. The people on the team and their role model lives
449. a warm house despite the frigid cold outside
450. the car my son drives didn't wreck when he had a blow out (his alert skills to bring it safely to the side of the road, and to change the tire safely)
451. antibiotics
452. Bryce is getting better
453. a freezer full of food
454. Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams by Heather Sellers
455. Supportive husband
456. a "honey" for Valentine's Day next week
457. Buddy Jewell's music
458. down comforter
459. Harley Davidson boots
460. indoor bathrooms and running water
461. sunshine--yesterday--and a hope that it will return
462. snow plows and salt for the road
463. crockpots for when I'm busy
464. Max thinking seriously about choosing a profession (he's 16)
465. Jordan with a firm eye on his future
466. a tough family through the generations
467. a wonderful email yesterday
468. good friends who are like family
469. cough medicine that works
470. clips for my wild hair
471. Midnite Mauve Mary Kay Lipstick! (I almost look alive)
472. Lee Warren's thoughts on sympathy and mourning
473. the hope of spring
474. my "Lamb's Ears" I didn't cut down last fall which are sticking up through the snow in soft green
475. fat squirrels that come out to taunt my dog, Lizzie (keeps her heart healthy...)
476. bananas and yogurt
477. limes for my ice water
478. coffee--hot and full of caffeine
479. tinkling sound of wind chimes

Friday, February 02, 2007

OK, I admit it.

I live in Indiana. You may have heard about our football team. The one spending a few days in Florida with our neighbors, these growly Bear creatures gearing up for Sunday night. Our house is a bit divided on the outcome issue, however. Some are true navy blue and orange fans--and some would like to see Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy and those baby horses in true blue and white bring home the trophy. I'm not telling you who I think I'd like to see in the winners' circle, because, well, I love all the guys. No favoritism shown.

I've played sports (if you go by the photo, all of my life!) I've coached teams, played on teams, taught the fundamentals of sports and coached a team which won a championship. Fun times. If I compete any now, it's laid back and I don't really care anymore if I win or lose.

One of my "team members" in trapshooting is in a major competition coming up in a few days. He is undergoing a surgery to harvest his stem cells and then will have them replaced by some they got from him many years ago in case he got to this place--the place where cancer is trying to win. This place is the competition for survival. I'm praying hard. I don't know the outcome of this game, but I do have an idea of what is on the other side if he loses. There was no one who was found that matches him, or they'd be transplanting from a friend or family member.

He is a veteran and can make the most beautiful carved wood pieces. He is brilliant, reads prolifically, masters crosswords easily, funny, talented in shooting and making guns, knows everything about black powder shooting and the lifestyle of pioneers, and he brought many a person through surgery as a nurse anesthetist. He is huge--a giant guy who raised two smart kids and has two grandkids, as well as a wife we call the "Saint." He's the son of a former U.S. Marshall. If you think about it, pray for Ken on Feb. 6.

* * *

I told you in the previous post that I love the movie, Groundhog Day. Well, today IS Groundhog Day and The Groundhog didn't see his shadow, which means according the experts that spring is sooner rather than later. I hope so! If he had come out here, he would've seen his shadow, which means 6 more weeks of winter. I saw a fat squirrel sitting on a branch outside my porch window eating a nut. I figure maybe soon isn't that far-fetched.

In my dad's family nicknaming people is rampant. My dad's nickname was "Groundhog." Maybe that's why when I see a groundhog I think of him and all the family fun and foolery that happens when there is laughter, a bit of teasing and good times. I remember my dad's family being warm and welcoming, loving you for who you were. It didn't stay that way, but back when it was, it was heavenly.

I didn't get a nickname from family. I'm not sure why. Well, they did shorten my name because they didn't really care for my real name. They still call me this, even though I married a guy with the same name, so he always called me by my given name, but they won't.

Names and nicknames are intriguing to me. Some of my girlfriends in high school gave each other nicknames. Mine was "Beanpole" and "Crissy Woman" and I'm still not sure how that happened. When I see those girls, I still get called by my nicknames and I can't help but call them by theirs.

On Groundhog Day I'm allowed to meander in topics and thinking. Give me a break. I've got a lot on my mind. How about you?