Sunday, February 22, 2015
Recently, she had gone out to eat with friends at a local eatery. They finished early and she called to ask if she could drive to her friend's home that was about a mile away. I agreed and off she went. The problem with this decision was that she did not know her friend wasn't home and her phone was about to die. Had she traveled to anyone else's home, those facts would not have mattered. Unfortunately, she drove to a house with a gated entry that allows one in, but doesn't let you out. The exit sensor had been broken for weeks and egress was dependent on someone in the house opening the gate to let you out.
Upon arrival, Allie realized that she was the only one at this house, tucked deep in a very dark wood. As she neared the gate to come home, she realized the seriousness of the situation at hand. She was trapped in the woods, alone, with a dead cell phone. She drove back to the house to look in the vehicles to see if there was a gate remote. None could be found. She knew the alarm code to enter the house, but knew there was no land line in this home. She had no way to call for help. After being trapped for over an hour, panic began to set in and she mapped out a plan to cross a field and make her way to the highway, placing her in a much more dangerous situation than she was in, currently. Luckily, the thought of coyotes in the woods caused her to abandon that plan and she began toying with the idea of climbing the gate. The woods were much too dark and thoughts of strangers lurking behind the trees kept her planted in her car. Her mind raced back to the open field behind the house, but the coyotes and strange shadows in the woods were much too real and, thankfully, kept her away from the highway.
An hour and a half into this situation, she prayed and told God that she could not sit there, alone in the woods, until midnight. With tears in her eyes, she looked down and saw the glowing apple light up on her cell phone as it mysteriously powered on. She had no charger. The phone had been dead for over an hour and she had not touched it. There was no backup battery and there is no other explanation than the fact that a child called out to God for help and He did. She immediately called me and I answered to find a frightened child crying for me to come and get her. My heart sank as I imagined the worst. As I raced for my car keys, I calmed her down and learned that she was safe. There was enough battery on her phone for me to keep her on the line until I could arrive and enter the code to allow the gate to open and free her from the other side.
She jumped out of her car, hugged me tight, and cried tears of relief. Lesson learned.... never, never travel without a charger, a back-up battery or a simple back-up plan. One should never have to run through the woods for help. Red Riding Hood knew this well and my daughter was wise enough to stay clear of the dangers that lurked at the edge of her path. She waited for help and placed her trust in the Lord who delivered her safely back into my arms. Thank you God.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
I came to know "Aunt Florence" when she was an old woman and I was just a child. The road to her home was dirt and gravel and wound through the woods of Vicksburg under a canopy of trees that seemed like tunnels. In a child's eyes, it was a great adventure to travel to the great white plantation that was Aunt Florence's home. In the heat of the summer, we would all sleep on the giant sleigh bed in the downstairs bedroom for it was the coolest place in the house. We kept the windows open, hoping for a breeze to come our way and break the still of the night. The heat was sweltering and there was no such thing as air conditioning unless you stood in front of the freezer door. The adults would sit on the screened porch while the kids stirred inside, jumping on the bed, hoping not to get caught.
My aunt was a firm believer that stirring was the key to life. One should be up early going about the tasks of the day, never sitting idle. Florence Joyce Mallet was the kind of woman who could work all day on the farm before coming home and changing into a proper dress, hat and gloves required of those attending the Vicksburg Garden Club. She lost her husband at a young age to pneumonia and later lost her only son who flew into the unknown somewhere over Italy in WWII. She had no choice but to be fiercely independent. She lived alone in the large plantation home where she kept the front porch light on for thirty seven years in hopes that her son might return one day. As a child, I did not understand this. Didn't she know he was gone? As a mother, I fully appreciate that she kept hope alive and never gave up on her child. I can still see the rose colored lamp that lit the entryway in the darkest of nights.
During one such night, torrential rains were swallowing up the land around Vicksburg and my widowed aunt stayed up all night, in the downpour, moving earth equipment around to save her levee, which in turn, would save her plantation. She was one of the few who did not lose her farm or her cattle because she was not afraid to face a storm, even alone.
When Florence reached her 80's, she left the plantation to be near her sister in another state. An opportunity for a summer job called to me and before I knew what I had agreed to, I was 600 miles away from home and the newly appointed caregiver for my aunt. At the age of sixteen, my one goal was to earn $300 to purchase a stereo that had a magnificent light display on the panel. My aunt's goal was to continue to live independently with a little help from her niece. Together we helped one another and two girls from opposite ends of the century lived together for a short period of time. She bought a white Nova and I learned to strap a wheelchair to the back and sail down Cherry Street while she learned of the great bands of the seventies and eighties who would one day be singing on my future stereo. When she fell and broke her arm, I learned that my job was to sit patiently in the waiting room because sometimes just being there is the best thing you can offer someone.
At the close of the summer, I returned home with cash in hand and she moved on to live with her sister. I earned more than stereo money that summer. I gained the knowledge that just because a body is frail, it does not mean that the mind is. That 80 year old woman was sharp as a tack and did not sugar coat life just to make things easy. She faced every trial head on with sound decisions and courage.
Aunt Florence is long gone now and I received a packet of all of the letters written between her and her son during the war. He wrote of the missions and the cold and assured her all was well. She sent her love and a scarf to keep him warm. The packet of letters contains such love between a mother and son. I like to think of her now sailing down the red dirt road of Vicksburg in her sporty little Nova darting in and out of view through the trees as she gets closer and closer to Heaven where her son waits with his helmet and scarf, simply stirring about until her arrival. With windows down in a summer heat, she'll have "Journey" playing "Open Arms" on her radio as she disappears into the clouds with the boy she waited a lifetime on.
Monday, January 26, 2015
You know you have too many cats when you fail to realize that the large, furry creature at your back door isn’t actually one of your cats. Stepping into the darkness on a cold, winter night, my daughter was dressed in a robe and boots as she planned to retrieve her backpack from her car. Her hopes were to dart quickly through the cold and be back inside within seconds. When she opened the door and stepped outside, you can imagine her surprise when she realized she was standing next to a full grown raccoon who did not answer to “Here, kitty, kitty.” She jumped back inside the house as we both stared through the glass door, eye to eye with a wild thing who simply didn’t seem that wild. As it has always been, all things injured find their way to our doorstep and at nine o’clock at night, I was not ready to play doctor in the cold to an injured raccoon, patiently waiting on the door mat that clearly said “Welcome.“
A quick assessment from the safe side of the door led us to believe that the animal had broken a back leg. A covey of cats was watching with great interest from the safety of the top of my car. My daughter gave instructions for me to quickly lift the animal and protect him from the predators of the night. As cuddly as he looked and as kind as his smile was, I knew down deep that I did not want a series of rabies shots, should he sink his teeth into my arm. I danced around the car, keeping my feet far away from the raccoon as I carefully relocated cats from my sunroof to my laundry room. With a large broom handle that was probably more frightening than it actually was, we pushed food into the corner for the raccoon to eat and prayed that he might return to his family in the woods. There was little we could do for him without jeopardizing our own safety. We removed the beasts of the night to lighten his load and offered a meal to get him on his way.
In the morning, our raccoon was nowhere to be found. I continued to dance around my car as I wasn’t 100% certain he wouldn’t reach out from the undercarriage of the car for one last bite before he left. I do hope that little guy makes it home and that Mother Nature will gently cradle a wild, injured thing that only she was ever meant to hold.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
As Christmas morning was only a few hours away, I asked my husband to move the vanity to the back door so we could easily bring it in after all were in bed. I learned, after the fact, that you should not tell a young girl, on the cusp of driving by herself, that she can't go outside on Christmas Eve. While I was trying to hide the likes of a dressing table, I never realized that my child would interpret this to mean that there may possibly be a new car out there. She contained her excitement, yet lay in bed all night dreaming of the shiny black jeep that certainly awaited her. Little did she know, it was only a shiny black dressing table.
The next morning arrived and she flew to the Christmas tree with great excitement. I should point out that giving someone a new key chain is a two part gift and it should never be given simply because it's a pretty key chain. Unless there is a car that goes with such a gift, a key chain is a really bad gift idea. I was completely unaware that my tiny beauty, sitting by the tree smiling at her new key holder, secretly clung to the idea that there was more we weren't telling her.
As the morning closed and we rested back against a backdrop of discarded wrapping paper and boxes, I never saw any sign of disappointment from my child. She basked in the joy of the tiny dressing table and the many sweaters, boots and scarves that she had received that morning.
My joy was found in the new TV I received that would replace the outdated analog unit in our bedroom. It had all the bells and whistles and could do everything short of launching spacecraft. Sadly, I learned that it could not pick up cable TV channels. You would think this would be something they would plaster on the front of the box in large print. I've got Pandora and Netflix and can even send messages through Facebook on my TV, but I can't get the news or the weather. My disappointment matched my daughter's, yet neither of us knew, as there were too many other things to be happy about.
She spent much of the next day reorganizing her room to accommodate the new vanity and I tried in vain to pull channels out of the air. We both learned to adjust our expectations and found we actually liked the gifts we had. When the new vanity arrives, I will probably send it back as the sleek black unit works quite nicely. Next Christmas, I will learn to read what's in boxes and be better prepared. Nothing will be hidden outside unless it has four wheels and requires a key to operate. While this Christmas was not the right time for a new car, the little vanity will go a long way in bringing happiness.
Friday, December 5, 2014
Now that I've reached the age of fifty, I find that eating is more about nutrition than it is about counting calories in an attempt to fit into skinny jeans again. While I would like to don those pants and breathe at the same time, my focus is on food that is good for my body. The problem, I've found, is that while I'm surfing the Internet searching for whole foods that clean arteries and decrease sugar levels, I find myself snacking on a handful of buttery cookies or a bag of chips. I realize this is counterintuitive, as I should be gnawing on a bag of carrots or other root vegetables. I printed out lists of foods that I should eat and those that I should avoid. Interestingly enough, it's much like a game of Othello where one move counters another, changing good choices into bad ones. By the time you've crossed off all the bad foods, there is little left to eat.
While one diet encourages meats and vegetables, another warns to stay clear of red meats, beans and potatoes. I placed chicken on my approved list of foods but felt guilty that it wasn't grain fed and cage free. When I saw the price of free range chicken, my guilt disappeared.
Thinking that oatmeal would be good for removing cholesterol, I sought out some steel cut oats, uncertain exactly how this differed from my five minute Quaker oatmeal. After twenty minutes of waiting for oats to boil, I ate the rest of my daughter's Pop-Tart and washed it down with a cold Coke. I later learned that oats were on the "bad" list, so I obviously made the right choice going for the left over pastry.
With salt off the table, sugar a gift from the devil, butter filling up my vascular system with false promises of goodness, I find there are few choices left. Cold water fish are filled with omega 3 fatty acids but then there is the concern of iodine. The Paleo diet says to eat eggs, so my husband bought chickens and we now have extremely fresh eggs every day. They are high in cholesterol, though, and that can't be good either. There is also the concern of reaching down to gather eggs and grabbing a snake. This will lead to a heart attack faster than my cholesterol filled arteries will.
I learned that dairy, grains and animal oils are on the "Do Not Eat" list, thus leaving me with nothing to house my sandwich but a leaf of lettuce which works better in theory than it does on my plate. Turning to seafood for answers, I discovered that shellfish are scavengers and nobody should dine on the scraps devoured by a bottom feeder. I can't argue with that line of thinking. I reached out to The Maker's Diet for guidance on "clean" and "unclean" foods as prescribed by the dietary laws of Leviticus and additional foods were scratched of the list of acceptable choices. I was now down to lean meats, limited fruits, and dark green vegetables only.
I found a high priced blender that claims to "extract nutrition" from raw foods by pulverizing them at 10,000 revolutions per minute and comes with a promise of health and wellness. Perhaps, I'm missing something, but isn't that what our teeth are for? I really don't need a blender for six easy payments of $19.99 that will basically chew my food for me. However, I don't particularly want to dine on a plate of raw spinach, kale, pineapple and flax seeds, so if I can blend it all up into a cup of joy juice that I can slug down and be on my way, I'm all for it.
Beverages are another issue and I've concluded that if it is not water or pulverized fruit and veggies, it's not good. With a carton of Cokes staring at me and whispering sweet nothings to my nutritional wellness, I turned to tea as an acceptable alternative. Then, as expected, I read about the perils of the many different teas in my pantry. Hibiscus tea claims to be healthy, but will require me driving 50 miles to procure a box, so I'm back to water or a mystery mug of pureed Superfoods.
With the list of approved foods continuing to diminish, I'm perplexed on what to eat. My pantry has been purged of "bad foods" and I'm left with the hibiscus plant that is dying in my green house and a lean chicken who happens to be running around my back yard. The ease and availability of the Taco Bell dollar menu calls to me and I imagine I will find myself in the drive thru line before the day is through. One cannot live on a bag of nuts, a withered plant from the edge of my pool, and a well exercised chicken. Then again.... maybe they can!
Saturday, November 22, 2014
|Photo - http://www.beautifulnow.is|
Joy can be found in the most unlikely places.
For years, my children have recorded voice notes on my cell phone. I never realized the magic that was in my hand until the night I discovered five years worth of sound clips of my children laughing and singing. The first note was recorded in 2009. I froze when I heard the sweet, delicate sound of my daughter's voice at the age of ten. My son, also five years younger, no longer had the deep tones in his voice of the young man that he is today. We know these voices, but they slowly slip away without notice as life simply carries these children forward.
Suddenly, the cracked screen of my apparently five year old phone was no longer important. This broken device was a time machine that could carry me back to the days when my son would record his attempts at playing Pachelbel's Canon in D Major on an untuned piano. It holds the sound of my daughter singing impromptu rap songs and then falling to the floor giggling. In one of the longer notes, I heard my own voice reading to my children and laughing as my son tried in vain to distract us from this activity by narrating a completely different story than that which we were actually reading.
There are dozens upon dozens of songs, sounds, and memories that were left there only to be enjoyed years later. In one night, I heard my children's sweet voices change to that of the young man and young lady that they are today.
The sound of their laughter across a five year span was just the right thing to usher in this holiday season as family return home. I know they don't realize as they pull up in their own vehicles from far away places that I still see the younger version of each of them. Their laughter is what fills the spaces in time when they are gone. Whether it is a good memory, an unexpected phone call or a voice note left on a broken phone, it fills me with joy!
Saturday, November 8, 2014
"Whether you are a devoted follower of Jesus, a skeptic giving this whole church thing a shot or somewhere in between - you are welcome here. We will never assume that you have your life together, and humbly ask you not make that assumption about us. We are a group of imperfect people, loved by a perfect God." These were the words I found as my family followed my son to his new church near the school he attends. The facility, the Cannery Ballroom and Mercy Lounge, was a bar by night and a place of Christian fellowship by day. I liked the contrast in the two and it made me smile because I believe that God shines brightest in the most unsuspecting places.
We were not dressed for church and came in blue jeans and tennis shoes. My daughter wasn't feeling well and I gave her some cold medicine to help her get through the day. Apparently, she cannot take such meds. As we stood, at the end of the bar, singing words of praise, I turned to tell my child that it was hot in this place. She shook her head to tell me it was just me and my waves of menopause, because it was certainly not hot. A few minutes later, still standing, she whispers to me that it is hot in here. I returned a similar gaze offered by her earlier. It was only a moment later that she turned ghostly white and shot out of the congregation, ill from the meds pulsing through her system.
She was sick now and had the shakes. I went to the lobby where they offered complimentary coffee, tea and water to their guests. I retrieved a cup of water and found a box of peanut butter crackers and health bars. I knew the crackers would help calm her system and spent the next thirty minutes walking about the lobby with my water and crackers trying to help my child feel better. We couldn't leave because my keys were on the other side of the building. We sat in a large window sill, the cold from the glass comforting her, sipping water and eating crackers while we watched the rest of the service.
It was just before Communion began that my family met us in the lobby with my purse and keys. My mother pointed out the box of crackers on the table with the large sign I apparently missed. It read, "If you don't know where your next meal is coming from, please help yourself." My heart sank as I stood there with my contraband crackers in hand. I had taken food from the homeless and was openly dining on it with my shaky child. How did I miss this important instruction! I left $20 and headed for the door. It was my son who pointed out that my escape to a shiny red Cadillac didn't help my situation any.
I had to laugh and take comfort in the very words that met me at the door.... "We are a group of imperfect people." Had Jesus, himself, been standing in the lobby that day, I know He would have handed my child a cracker or two. Mercy was not just the lounge next door, it was the kindness of a group of people who thought enough to leave food out for those who may need it, no matter what the situation. Thank you Ethos Church.