Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'll Take the High Dive

Summer days at the public pool. For just one dollar, you too can jump off the high-dive, marvel at lifeguard tanning abilities, check out the latest mommy tattoos, and repeatedly give your kids a thumbs-up for doing water acrobatics - not to mention stare down the day camp bullies.

That was me yesterday, along with two of my sisters. We were all, "Oh no you dit-ten." Fierce like momma bears. Or momma piranhas, working as a team. Four boys against one? Wasn't going to happen on our watch.

We first noticed this "well-fed" boy with red hair and freckles attempting the high-dive. More like walking the plank to his doom. But he chickened-out last minute. Doesn't matter. Either way down, the bullies were waiting.

The boy quickly jumped in from the side. The bullies jumped in after him. He got out of the pool. The bullies followed. Splashing and taunting the boy, it appeared he didn't swim well - if at all. Not sure what they were saying, though - just knew it was mean.

At one point, the boy got out of the pool where my sisters and I were sitting with our kids. I thought, "This is my chance! I must give him a 'nugget.' What should I say?" So I leaned in and said, "Hey, I saw you on the high-dive. If you don't give up, you'll become the best high-dive jumper ever ever-er..." (Or something truly life-changing and profound like that.)

And in my mind, my nugget would go far - very far - all the way to the White House. I imagine his Inaugural Address would go a little like this:

"Nation, my trials have been great indeed. However, the turning point happened at the tender age of 11, for there was a woman at a public pool who believed in me. And today, I stand before you as a testament to her goodwill." And so on...

But enough of that, we had bullies to contend with. So I pointed two fingers at my eyes and then at them, as in, "I'm watching you." Then one of my sisters walked over - hand on hip - lowered her sunglasses and glared at them with a tough, now-I-mean-it, teachery look. You know what that is. Then the third sister waded over and told the bullies that she hopes her son grows up like him (pointing at the redhead boy) - and not like all of you. (The most intimidating of us three.)

Three sisters - what a team. We were a cord of three strands not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:13). And this kid wasn't even ours. Something just kicked in. An instinct to protect - perhaps hardwired within us by a God who is a shield around us and lifter of our heads (Psalm 3:3).

So the bully boys did end up getting the one-two from their camp counselors. Glad it wasn't overlooked, and I'm sure each boy involved has a back-story we're unaware of. But on this day, it appears my sisters and I took the high-dive, the bullies took the low-dive, and the redhead took the no-dive. (Which is okay - nerds rule the world anyway.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Piano Man

My daughter had the best year in high school choir. Sure her friends made it fun. Perhaps it was a cute boy in the back row. Or more like the cute, hipster, piano-playing college intern. (I'm so on to her.) But I think it boiled down to her fabulous, inspiring, demonstrative, "you can do it" choir instructor.

This guy - with his little strum-pick, Beatle-esque, guitar demos and great choir show song choices - is simply amazing. But what got me was the way he built-up the kids by encouraging the timid, helping the weak, being patient with everyone, and being joyful always... just like in 1 Thessalonians, chapter five.

So not only does he encourage his class as a whole, but he's singled out my daughter. One day while watching the most talented students perform, he whispered in her ear, "That's going to be you next year." And after her audition for treble choir, he said, "You're going to go far."

Gosh, what a far cry from me being nicknamed "Carrots" by a teacher in high school. Not because I looked like Anne of Green Gables, but because of that movie, Sixteen Candles. I guess Molly Ringwald's character was told that eating carrots will make her shape more "womanly." What was my teacher thinking?

By the way, Sixteen Candles? Not family-friendly. So as your kids become teenagers and you say, "Ah, come sit next to your old mom/dad and watch this 80's classic with me," think again. I did that very thing, and for the first 15 minutes, I was all, "Oh wait, I don't remember that part. Oh, and that part. Oops - that part, too."

However, I think my favorite example of encouragement is found in that "Pass it On" commercial. (See "encouragement.") You know, the one where the little boy sneaks up on stage - right before the concert begins - and plays a simple rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano. As everyone rolls their eyes in annoyance, the real musician (the composer) walks out, says "don't stop, keep playing" to the boy, and then accompanies him. And together they make Twinkle Twinkle Little Star sound super fancy.

So let's say, just for fun, that the person who wrote Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was the composer. Who better then to accompany the little boy on the piano than him? And in turn, who better then to accompany me and my comings-and-goings than my composer... my writer... my God? For he's the ultimate piano man, turning my drab into fab!

And when God works his magic by sending encouragers my way OR directly whispering truth to me (that's if I have ears to hear it - saving that for another blog), I find that I become my most real and authentic self. And as long as my daughter doesn't get too side-tracked by cute college interns, her choir teacher's praise will bring out more of the lovely lady who God already sees her to be.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

With the Voice He Gave

True confessions:  I am... insecure. There, I said it. Or maybe not insecurity so much, but rather jealousy? Or a lack of gratitude? I just happen to like, for example, that guy's public speaking skills or her knowledge of United States history - or, my newest one, their ability to use power tools.

By "their" I mean, the Junk Gypsies sisters, Amie and Jolie. Probably haven't heard of them - fairly new to HGTV channel. They're just a couple of whimsical designer/decorator chicks who can hang an old, rusty clipper-ship-turned-chandelier in two seconds - while wearing this adorable jacket and "Yo" hat:

So let me dissect a little of what I read about them on HGTV's website:

"These sisters are raucous and rowdy treasure hunters... they have a rebellious and independent spirit."
(Not sticks-in-the-mud. Not ho-hum. Not moody. And not me.)

"Their clientele includes music stars and Hollywood actors... they have a large and passionate media fan base." (They're admired by thousands. Known by big-namers. And I only met Bruce Willis in the 11th grade.) 

"They find beauty and value in items that would otherwise end up in the trash." (Have keen insight into the "bigger picture" - probably take that perspective and apply it to people, too. And I can't seem to get past my cat-clawed leather sofa.)

So what's all the fuss? I don't know. It's just, well, in the last episode of Junk Gypsies, Amie and Jolie had this farmhouse relocated to a pretty little area out in the country, painted it pink, and decorated the insides. And it made me wish I was doing cool stuff like that, wearing funky clothes like them, leaning up against angel wings and a red barn door like this:

But a wise friend reminded me how difficult it is to do what God has for me - praising him with the voice he gave me - when I'm too busy envying another's tasks and abilities. So I may not be a Junk Gypsy, but I sure can teach a mean step class, bake amazing cinnamon rolls, and make a room really cozy with candles and throw pillows. I also have great taste in music and men and what's-funny, and I love helping old people find their cars. (But I'm not a very fast runner, though. Need to work on that.)

So I guess we all need both the Junk Gypsies and Mollies of this world. 1 Corinthians 12:17-18 humorously says, "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be."

And truth is, do I really want a pink house? No. Did I think the fish they hung on the living room wall was weird? Yes. See? I just said no and yes to those things because they aren't the real Molly, for they don't reflect the voice God personally, thoughtfully, excitedly, and purposefully gave to me. (But the jacket? So very me.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Dog Blog

That-them-there hound dawg. It's just Hudson, that's all. Our 90-pound, horse-ish Basset Hound. A blog about him? Thought you were more of a cat person, Molly? I am. But he's pretty funny.

Drove out to middle-of-nowhere Jasper, Alabama to get him five years ago. (When we lived near Birmingham.) He was in a red barn at the end of a dirt road and was one of two dozen ready for adoption. That means there were a bunch of baby Bassets not ready. Hound dogs everywhere. (I know, I know, he's not a "rescue" dog.)

And when we brought him home, we had this underground electric fence installed around our property. (Sigh, property.) And he wore this collar that beeped a warning if he got too close, and then would shock him if he got too too close. And being desperate to follow me on a walk or to steal a neighbor's Auburn or Alabama football garden gnome - or some such thing - he'd often charge right through it, howling. Dumb dog. (Too bad the fence didn't keep deer out. Once a deer ran up and "hoofed" him. As if Hudson were a threat.)

Fast forward to present-day life in California, and nothing much has changed. He's still escaping. At times, I feel like a cowgirl, "herding" him back into the house. That's when we know he got out. Otherwise we get a late-night knock on the door. "This your dog?" (Um, no?)

That Hudson. Eats entire loaves of bread in a single bound. His body elongates like Gumby to reach stuff on counters. And the backyard is like a dragon's lair, but instead of skeletal remains, you'll find pizza boxes, banana peels, and chewed-on cat food cans. Once I found an unwrapped, empty, half-pound box of See's Candies upstairs. Some of the brown paper "cups" were missing, too. A website said to feed him burnt toast to help move things along. He swallowed four pieces whole.

So not only does he love our food, but loves our couch. Even if every seat is occupied - doesn't matter. He'll stand there and stare down a two-inch section of open space, until someone catches on that he wants up. And then he gets all psyched-up for "the jump," which he doesn't always make. Same thing with getting down. We often find him in half-on-half-off limbo.

And when we take Hudson places, we become instant celebrities. So droopy and pathetic. People eat it up. And his massive front paws - standing at "first position" - get tons of attention. Folks are forever mimicking his stance with their own arms and hands.

And when Hudson meets a fellow canine at the park, it's always a little awkward. Dog owners get kind of weird and say things like, "My dog's name is Henry, what's your dog's name?" You can forget about meeting the fellow human attached to the dog. (Though, nice when I'm not much for social interaction.) Or sometimes they speak for their dog. "I'm Fifi. Wanna be my friend?" At this point I feel like I'm playing make-believe. What's next, we have them push each other on the swings?

So I could go on and on about Hudson's dream sequences and cranky-old-man noises. And the whole stick of butter I once found in his mouth and how he smells like corn chips. But I'll stop for now and think about which animal oddity God enjoyed creating most - my Cornish Rex cats (R.I.P. Willaby) or Hudson the hound dog?

Friday, June 15, 2012

17 Years of El Jefe

Next week, Jeff and I celebrate 17 years of marriage. I did the math, and that's 17 Christmas trees. (Weird how that works.) And I've also come up with, in no special order, 17 reasons why I'm glad I married my man.

Reason #1:  Insanely talented. Love showing him off - I get such a kick out of telling people what he does. You guys, he's a toy designer. Who does that? My husband.

Reason #2:  Knows how to rescue me from poisonous snakes and runaway trains, for he's had plenty of practice while sleepwalking.

Reason #3:  Way cute. In fact, I've been told he's "crazy cute." He's got that slow, smooth smile.

Reason #4:  Funny, witty, clever, quick, slightly irreverent, and wry.

Reason #5:  From-here-to-Alabama-and-backingly adventurous. Just like that, he made it all happen. Cross-country moves are a lot of work - mentally, emotionally, physically.

Reason #6:  What a dad! He is so good at it. And since I've decided I'd rather wash the dog than organize a science project (or anything requiring a tri-fold poster board), I'm so glad he takes charge. Oh, he makes great kids, too.

Reason #7:  Loves Mount Hermon as much as I do. Our forever vacation home.

Reason #8:  A God thing. If we weren't on the same page spiritually, I think I'd lose it. I simply cannot be everything my husband needs, and he cannot be everything I need. Jesus is our everything.

Reason #9:  Brought out the closet rocker within me. It began with huge, floor-standing speakers in our living room - as tall as me. Throw in 17 years of advancing technology and a few Stryper concerts, and boom! I now like electric guitar solos and the cowbell.

Reason #10:  A Do-It-Yourself-er. Dry wall, tile, and cabinet installer. Furniture, bike, and toy put-together-er. That's right, ladies.

Reason #11:  A man's man. He just knows things. Scruffy. Rough around the edges, yet enjoys a good Little House on the Prairie episode. Athletic and strong, yet snuggles with kittens. Likes to hike and likes to eat.

Reason #12:  Likes to eat.

Reason #13:  Dependable. On-time and efficient. When he says 2.3 minutes, he really means 1.8 minutes.

Reason #14:  Jumbo-size, post-labor, "feminine protection" pads neither scare nor embarrass him. He takes care of me in every circumstance.

Reason #15:  Gives me wings so I can soar to tops of mountains with the eagles that fly around the pretty trees and the bears... or something like that. In other words, he lets me do my thang.

Reason #16:  A great companion. Perhaps my favorite part of being married. What would Masterpiece Theater, blue cheese salad wedges, and a good thunderstorm be like without him? (Sigh, it never rains in Southern California. Almost never.)

AND... Reason #17:  His thighs are bigger than mine.
Anyway, I like being married. So thankful God thought me a good candidate for it. My life - the good and the bad - will not go unnoticed because Jeff is there to notice it. And that goes both ways.

(Happy 17th Anniversary to the best companion to lil ol' me, Molly P! I love you!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Whether the Weather

I love weather. It's right up there with a good read, glazed donuts, and step choreography (see"Gym Life"). And I know stuff about weather. I know that when a storm's squall line gets that "archer's bow" shape, tornadoes are possible. And cirrus clouds - those thin, wispy clouds - often float by before a change in weather pattern. And what else? The summer solstice is coming up on June 21st - the official end of spring. (But don't tell my kids. They think summer starts Friday.)

And speaking of tornadoes - those things are crazy, dropping debris from the sky as they skip to-and-fro across the land. The big one that sadly hit Tuscaloosa a couple years back jumped right over where we lived in Alabama. My neighbor and dear friend, Ashley, took a picture of what fell into her yard. No pennies from heaven or pie from the sky, but rather old receipts, pay stubs, prescriptions - and junk:

So when my brother in Colorado talked about experiencing severe hailstorms last week, I was all ears. And when my baby sister in Taiwan told me she's melting under 105 degree heat, I ate some ice cream. And when I found out that friends and family in Pensacola, Florida got dumped over the weekend with 13+ inches of rain in a 24-hour period, I just sat there and thought, "Man, we Southern Californians sure do have great 75 degree weather day after day after day (falling asleep) after day after day..."

I know, it's beautiful, right? So they say on The Weather Channel. (What a great channel.) But the way I see it, beauty lies in weather that changes, for it points to something bigger than me. It's easier to believe in God when I feel him at work, whipping trees around on a windy day or dusting the ground with powdered-sugar snow. When it's not a Hollywood set making the rain or a fog machine making things spooky, but when it's God. So cool.

Yes, of course, I can't depend solely on changing weather to fuel my faith. But isn't it always nice when God shows off a bit? Flexing his muscles in a thunderstorm? If anything convinces me that I'm not the center of the universe, it's intense thunder and lightning. Romans 1:20 explains that the existence of God is clearly seen through the earth and sky. So true. And having experienced a couple storms on a back porch in Alabama, you don't have to tell me.

So maybe I'm an east-coaster trapped in a SoCal body. But here in the O.C., we do get some weather. Our local mountains get super white with snow, and it hailed several times this year. But, ah, when that that marine layer moves in - so very California. It rolls in and makes my morning coffee a cozy cup. And as Little Bear puts it, "Whether the weather be cold, whether the weather be hot. We'll weather the weather no matter the weather, whether we like it or not."

Thanks, Jan, for the photo of our "wintered" foothills.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Molly a Go-Go

"Leaving in four minutes. Put shoes on in the car." That's me.

"Move, people! Go-go-go. The light's green!" That's me again.

"Hold onto your butts - I'm making this turn." Once again, me.

(15 minutes later...)

"Ah, now isn't this nice? Disneyland is always so nice." Same ol' me.

It happens time and time again. I rush to have fun. By hook or by crook, Molly makes family fun happen. More like "forced family fun," according to Brick on The Middle. (See previous post, "One 'Heck' of a Show")

And by forced I mean, "Wheee! Look at us on Thunder Mountain Railroad - having a blast!" (Wind in our hair. Screams. Fun is happening all around us.) And then my 15-year-old yells at my 8-year-old, "Put your arms down. It's embarrassing!" And of course, I yell back (while protecting my back from sharp turns), "Stop mothering her! She is having FUN! We are on a roller coaster! This. Is. Disneyland!"

So typical, letting my kids have it while having fun. So very Molly, too - getting all excited for something, but then getting cranky. You know, that day-after-Christmas feeling. And I've noticed a pattern of "always looking to the next thing" in my life:

--While eating breakfast, "Mmm, wonder what I'll eat for breakfast tomorrow?"

--While planning Fathers' Day with my sisters, "And I was thinking, for Fourth of July, we should set up a slip-n-slide in Mom's front yard."

--While enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, "Next year I'm going to use sweet potatoes in this casserole instead of yams."

And it's rubbing off. My littlest girl recently said, "I still don't know what I'm going to be for Halloween." She said this on June 3rd, people! And we're not even big on Halloween. I just think Fall and pumpkins and candy are amazing. So what's happening - am I creating a monster? A mini me?

Is this really what I want? One-roller-coaster-to-the-next, fast-paced excitement, only to pop-out at parties that make me un-poop-ular? (A little Lucy for fun.) Or... Or could it be that I was made for more?

C.S. Lewis wrote, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

Truly my favorite quote, earthlings. Because of course I love looking forward to fun stuff. That's a no-brainer! And sure I want that fun stuff to go down perfectly. I was created to want that, to long for that. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

So as heaven awaits, a few changes are in order. No more dashes in my "dash." (Again, refer to "One 'Heck' of a Show.") And by the grace of God, I'd like to stop and smell the roses. (That's if I don't trample them as I rush to have fun.)

Sunday, June 3, 2012


My parents used to say "paycheck" when one of us five us kids did something cool. And I totally get it. My kids' first smiles and "momma-dadda" were always fun. And catching them being nice to someone always pays off. But I'm a sucker for a sense of humor. Love watching that develop.

Last week I went to my 6th grade son's Open House and got myself a paycheck. Was it his well-displayed science project that did it? Or his aluminum-foiled sculpt of King Tut? Nope. I got "paid" when Mr. Martin said, "Your son is really funny. We often talk about him at our dinner table." (Dinner table. Ah, people still do that.)

Do future goals for my children only include humor? Not at all. World-famous brain surgeons can be funny. Pretty sure Chuck Norris is hilarious. And according to my son, a person can be both funny and an outside linebacker for the Greenbay Packers.

However, a quick wit isn't all it takes for me to say "cha-ching!" Watching them sleep does the trick. Or walking across the room - I can watch that all day. I'm even amazed when they just stand there. And the more awkward and tween-ish looking, the better.

And paychecks also quickly roll in when my kids obey. But I remember a fellow mom once lectured me on how it shouldn't have to take "to the count of three" for my kids to stop touching the mannequins in Kohl's. "When properly trained," she had said, "they should listen and obey on the count of one."

Pshaw, I say! Where's my chili? (See previous post, "Crazy Lady, Cranky Man.")

But I do like it when my children obey "on the count of one." And what about when they're old enough to start doing chores - especially the kind of chores that actually contribute? Payday! (No offense to toddler chores.)

However, I admit the best paychecks come when my teenager, for example, has a tough day at school and saves-the-drama-for-her-momma until she gets home. She views home as a safe place to de-frazzle and be accepted. So before she empties the dishwasher, I've already gotten a paycheck by knowing my daughter finds peace in the presence of her mom and dad.

And in Matthew 3:17, before Jesus did anything, God the Father said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." As author Alicia Britt Chole puts it, "Before Jesus preached one sermon or enlightened one mind, before Jesus healed one body or saved one soul, God sounded his affirmation from above over Jesus' life."

Okay, got it. That parent/child relationship thing is key. So before I make the bed or make dinner, I'm affirmed by God. Before I make the news or make it famous, I'm affirmed by God. Through Jesus, I can rest in knowing I am his "paycheck" - just as I am.