Friday, December 26, 2008

The Pruitts are Coming!

Vann and I are headed over to help Ricky and Cindy Pruitt (our new youth minister and family) move into their home in the morning.

We're delighted that Ricky and Cindy and their family (Aubrey, 8 years; Laurel, 6 years and Cooper, 10 months old)
are coming. They will be such a wonderful addition to our church. Vann and Ricky worked together when Ricky was a college intern at our former church (some years ago). Ricky and Cindy have a love for teenagers that is so apparent.

Join us if you have some time. We're getting there about 9 a.m.

Oh, this brings back so many memories. It was four years ago yesterday that we made the looooong trek from Atlanta to Abilene. Yes, we did drive here to move on Christmas day. Our moving truck got here on the 27th...just like Ricky and Cindy. wow.

Is anyone else hearing the song from "The Way We Were" - - "Memories...Like the corners of my mind. Misty water-colored memories. Of the way we were." By the way, seeing that movie was my first date with Doug Mayhall. I was in the 10th grade. Doug was a junior. That was a short relationship. But I digress...

Say a prayer for Ricky, Cindy and their kiddos as they adjust to Abilene and west Texas. We're thankful they are coming our way!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

IHOP on Christmas Morn - It Sizzles!

Every one of us has a story to tell every day of our lives. However, on Christmas morning, it seems our stories sizzle. You can almost feel and sense the electricity in the air. The stories either sizzle with excitement; sizzle with mystery; or sizzle with a sadness.

As our family gets older, our Christmases take on a different hue. We no longer get up early and open presents. We sometimes do that later in the day as we will today. Also, presents have taken on much lesser importance in our home.

Our oldest daughter, Katie Lea, was puppy sitting for some friends so was at their apartment last night. Our youngest daughter, Caroline, went to keep her company and this was the first Christmas morning we thought we'd be waking up at home without them here.

After getting up Vann commented that both daughters cars were home. When we went into see them, they commented that their experience was like trying to care for the "cute little puppy" from hell. It didn't help that they were all in a one bedroom apartment.

Anyway, after getting on up, Katie Lea chose to sleep in a little before heading to work and Caroline chose to come with Vann and me to IHOP for breakfast.

We commented that we don't need any entertainment in a restaurant. We are all people watchers to the extreme. We have it down to a science. We can make up the stories about the people at the tables. Sometimes they are funny. Sometimes they are just downright hilarious. We like to wonder what others are thinking about us, too.

This morning we saw an elderly mom having breakfast with her elderly daughter. They were both bedazzled in their finest Christmas attire. I wonder if they were thinking this might be their last Christmas together.

We saw a very young dad eating with his young son. I wondered where the mom was and what their story was. We saw some larger family gatherings as well. They were loud and rambunctious and seemed to have so much fun together.

Then we saw an older man with a very unruly beard and an odor about him. He was eating with his head down. I noticed he had 13 pennies on the table. I wondered if that was to pay his bill or for the tip. I wish I had paid for his meal. I'm ashamed to say I didn't think about it until we were home.

Sometimes I wish I had one of those big, rambunctious, fun families like so many seem to have. Our families are both very small and far away. I just have my brother and my mom. Vann just has his sister and brother in law and a brother who is going through a divorce.

But then I'm reminded that I have many sister friends that are my family and I'm very thankful. Matthew 12:50 says "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

Today I'm thankful for abundant life on this beautiful Christmas day. The birds are singing, Yurtle our turtle made an appearance today, Katie Lea is on her way home with the cute little needy puppy, we'll soon be having shrimp and dressing and God is on his throne.

And...there is no better Christmas gift than Jesus. Thank you, Father.

Happy Birthday, Jesus,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thank you for your prayers

I so appreciate your prayers on behalf of my visit with my mom. She was in bed when I arrived and sleeping soundly. After trying repeatedly to wake her, I just chatted with her while she slept.

I was able to tell Mom the things I wanted to share with her. I believe she heard me. It was wonderful just spending a little time with my mom, rubbing lotion on her hands, reminiscing and having a one sided heart-to-heart conversation.

The peace of God was with me. Thank you for your prayers and supplication on my behalf.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Memories

One night at Bunco a few years ago several of us sat around and talked about favorite Christmas memories.

One of the gals declared that she really did hear the reindeer on her roof and even saw Santa. But, of course, she did! I can still hear the bell. Can you? (Have you read The Polar Express?)

The story goes, on Christmas Eve when I was a young 'un, our parents had some friends over. My brother, Bobby and I were already in bed but I couldn't go to sleep. I padded down the hall in my footie pajamas and crawled up in my Daddy's lap and told him I couldn't go to sleep. One of their friends, Mr. Hanbury, said, "Why Susan, you better hurry up and get back to bed! You know, I saw Santa Claus just down the street at the Miller's house just a couple of minutes ago!"

I raced back to bed and buried myself under the covers. Daddy told me he checked on me and I was crying because I couldn't sleep and I knew Santa wouldn't come if I wasn't asleep. Daddy rubbed my back until I went to sleep.

The debate these days seems to be "artificial or real" tree, of course. Ours when we were younger was always VERY artificial. We had a gold aluminum tree. You see the silver aluminum trees from time to time now. We even have one. (Of course we have a regular green artificial tree, too.) They are so magical with the color wheel shining on them. For all these years I thought I must have remembered the gold aluminum tree wrong. I haven't seen one in "lo these many years." However, my brother and I were reminiscing the other night and he mentioned the gold aluminum tree. Guess I wasn't crazy after all.

I was in a store in Foley, Alabama the other day and they had an upside down Christmas tree. Amazing! What do you think of that? I think it's kind of fun. Of course, I'm quirky.

I'd love to hear some of your favorite Christmas memories and your thoughts on an upside down Christmas tree.

Jingle jingle,

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's Time

This afternoon we are heading back to Birmingham to visit my mom and see my brother. Visits "home" haven't been as much fun for quite some time. I've written about my mom before. We stopped in Birmingham last week and I was able to see Mom for about five minutes.

Mom has vascular dementia (looks like Alzheimer's Disease) and has been in a nursing center for four years. She was in an assisted living facility for almost a year before that. (The photo to the left was taken about 4 1/2 years ago.)

Because of our distance (I live in west Texas and my mom and brother live in Birmingham) Mom's decline is always very noticeable, as it was this time.

Mom was put on hospice a couple of months ago. My brother was reluctant to do so, but I encouraged him to check into it to see how it could benefit he and mom. He saw the benefits.

My brother, Bobby, and I discussed Mom's journey through this dreadful disease last week. Certain dates have escaped my memory. He reminded me that she hasn't known us since May 10, 2000. That's right. She knew us on May 9th. Eight and a half years.

This afternoon when I visit with Mom, I'll do all the talking as Mom can no longer speak. Mom cannot do anything for herself. Someone has to feed her pureed food. In fact, they have to wake her up for each bite Being in the retirement living industry we call patients like Mom, a feeder. Mom is a feeder. Crass sounding when it's your mom.

I may try to feed her, but my biggest goal this afternoon is to take her somewhere where we can be alone. That's a challenge in itself in a nursing center. I want to rub lotion on her hands and arms. I want to remind her of the many ways she has been a great mom. I want to remind her of the rich legacy she is leaving. I want to play the music box I'll have with me that plays "Que Sera, Sera". This is a song she sang to my brother and me when we were children. I want to thank her for being my mom. I want to tell her that our loved ones are in heaven waiting on her - - my daddy, her mom, her dad, her sister, her brother and many more. And, finally, I want to tell her that it is o.k. for her to leave us. It's just like Mom to stay here with us thinking she can do one more thing for us. I want to encourage her to go on ahead and get things ready for us.

Mom never wanted to live this way. I've asked God so many times why this happened. I don't think I'd understand his answer. It's o.k. I don't have to understand.

I'd appreciate your prayers as I have this one sided conversation with my mom. I believe she will hear me. As always, I'm


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Some Sights from Our Vacation

Gulf Shores, Alabama is just beautiful. As a child, our family would vacation in Panama City or Laguna Beach on occasion. The sugar beaches and blue waters are mystical. Enjoy some photos of Gulf Shores.

What a lovely sunset! The egret was posing for his photograph.

Pelicans are fascinating. This silly boy shows us how they become
bomber divers to get their meals.

Aren't they elegant in a big and awkward sort of way? Isn't the water lovely?

The pretty dunes, pier and sugar white sand.

Footprints in the sand and the vista.

We've enjoyed the Happy Shack, a Hippie Boutique. We had to try it out.
Hey, they promised Free Hugs. Who wouldn't like free hugs?
I was tempted to get a henna tattoo, but thus far have resisted.

But mostly, we've been "singing in the rain."
We've had a lot of rainy weather, but it hasn't dampened our spirits one bit.

Pure bliss,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sweetie Pies

I love visiting small towns and learning about the things that make them unique and special. Foley, Alabama (about 5 miles from Gulf Shores) is a quaint little town with a lot of southern charm.

Visit Sweetie Pies on the web and you'll see what I mean. Much more of Sweeties pies and I'll have to be on a diet of water for a while. Their chocolate cream meringue pie


What a beautiful southern, seaside town Fairhope, Alabama is. I went to college with a girl named Florence from Fairhope. I have known a girl named Fairanna. I wonder if Fairanna is from Fairhope.

The name is lovely. The town is quaint and serene. The pier mystical.

Mobile Bay Pier

Wind gently tousling my hair and eyelashes
Embracing my skin with it's caress
Flag pole cord whipping against the stand
announcing for all to hear - "I'm here, I'm here!"
The smell of healing salty air
nourishing my lungs
Seagulls speaking to one another in seagull ease
knowing their secrets are safe from me
Children playing without a care as
Water dutifully laps against rocks
Mansion on a hill studying the scene while
Sailboats fritter away the afternoon
Fisherman weathered by life
yet rejuvenated by routine
Niece and uncle reminiscing of old times on the pier
fishing poles lost, skinned knees
Seagulls in a row.
Uniform in size yet God knows each one.
Wordless wonder
Fairhope. Beautiful anticipation.

Living in hope,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Memory

I have always, always loved Christmas. This year I haven't exactly been a Scrooge, but I haven't gotten into as much as usual. Our family and friends have certainly had a tough year. I'm sure next year will be different.

I still love Christmas, though. One of my favorite Christmas traditions as a child was going to Money and Mac's house. Money and Mac were an older couple who lived in a beautiful old 3 story "mansion" in an older part of Birmingham. They invited our family over every Christmas eve.

Money and Mac were friends of my mom and dad. When my mom had first moved to Birmingham in the 1950's as a young, single woman, she leased a room in their home.

Their old house had such mystery and appeal for me. That's probably a big reason as to why I still love older homes. They had a basement that my brother and I really wanted to see. Mac told us we couldn't go down there because that is where the alligators were kept. We didn't believe him . . . really. Although, sometimes we wondered. Mom told me when I was an adult that maybe he wouldn't let us down there because he may have had a still down there. Well, now, that's a different take on it.

Their house had the tall ceilings, hardwood floors and a beautiful old staircase and a lovely veranda - - not a wrap around porch, but an actual veranda. :)

Money and Mac always had a spread of food on their dining room table. That dining room must have been 25 feet by 25 feet. My favorite unusual food Money and Mac had were the smoked oysters.

They had an old piano and I would play Silent Night a million times and add little flourishes here and there. When I wasn't playing the piano, Money would put music on the victrola. I remember her playing The Andrews Sisters. I would roll my eyes and wonder how anyone could listen to music like that. They weren't nearly as good as the Beatles, I thought.

As other guests would arrive, my parents would start making gestures that it was time to leave. My brother, Bobby, and I were always ready to leave as we didn't want to be out too late. We didn't want to be passed over by Santa if we weren't home.

The ride home was always eventful..usually at least one or two sightings by my daddy of Santa and Rudolph leading the way.

Christmas Eve was one night my parents didn't have to fuss with us about going to bed. We were always ready to hit the hay but not as able to sleep.

I'm so thankful for these good memories. I see today how some of those early childhood memories have shaped me...except of course the part about the still.

Merry, Merry,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Over the Ocean About Now

Serge is flying home to Rwanda right now. He is getting to see family for the first time in 3 1/2 years. He was like a little child in his excitement about returning.

I was so encouraged to see him before he left. He was obviously very thrilled to be seeing his family again, but he is going with a much bigger purpose this time. He is going to check out ministry opportunities for the future. He's a young man with a purpose...and a vision.

Serge's greatest desire is to help the children of Rwanda. In helping them, he realizes he can be a part of positive change for his country.

Father, please be with Serge, his family and prepare them for the change that has occurred in their son, brother, cousin, and friend. May the people he sees be able to see the change in him and be drawn to you and your goodness and love, Father. Be with him every step of the way and keep him safe.

Thank you,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oh My!

Don't you wonder how this ever seemed like a good idea?


Friday, December 12, 2008

Life is Full of Surprises

It's all what you do with them. It's interesting. The cat is the only one who looks a little happy. Don't you know the child under the cat was a little surprised when the cat landed on their head? tee hee!

When I was in my 30's I looked up to several Godly women. The problem was, the women I looked up to had been through some really tough times. I wanted to be like them. I just didn't want to have to go through bad things to be as wonderful as they were.

Can you relate? I think I want to be like our son, Serge, "when I grow up" but do I want to go through a genocide and struggle for my life? No. I don't think so.

I asked one of these ladies one day how she had gotten through some of her tough situations. Her husband had been in prison for raping a woman. She contended he was innocent. She looked me in the eye and paused and said, "Susan, what choice did I have but to just get through it?"

Exactly. One foot in front of the other.

Helen Keller said, "Life is either a daring adventure...or nothing." I really like that as long as the adventure is something fun and something I have the illusion of controlling.

Giving up control...again,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

When I Grow Up

I had an interesting occurrence at my work. I serve the most gracious senior residents - - really. They are a classy group. But, this particular day, I got to know one of our residents in a new light. Not so classy.

This woman, I'll call her Bess, almost got the best of me. Dr. C's office called and spoke with me and told me that Bess had called their office. She reported to the doctor's office that her husband had fallen the night before and had hit his head. Bess had claimed to them that no one had responded and that she had pushed the emergency button all night long and had called 911 all night and no one came. The doctor's office wanted Bess' husband to go to the ER since she claimed he had hit her head

I went to Bess' apartment with a co-worker (important in these situations to not go alone). I saw Bess' husband sitting in a chair and unharmed. He said he had fallen but was fine. When Bess finally came into the living room she totally ignored us. Like we were literally invisible. Wow!

I began talking and sharing what the nurse at their doctor's office told me. Bess started speaking very disrespectfully to me. She was really getting in my face. My co-worker and I ascertained that the emergency system did indeed work. I have to say, it was very tempting to get back in her face, but wisdom knew that would only intensify the situation and wouldn't help. Sometimes I'd like wisdom to be quiet, but I'm thankful it's not.

My co-worker and I later met with Bess' daughter. Bless this poor woman's heart. She didn't know what to do. She said her mom gets this way when she gets overly tired. Seemed more like mental illness to me. This daughter has endured a lifetime of this.

I've been in the retirement industry since 1981. During that time I've learned what I want to be "when I grow up" and what I don't want to be. Bess was a good reminder to me . . .

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How'd you like to be the girl in the middle?

Don't you feel this way sometimes? Sometimes the fat man is "the job" and the woman on the back of the bike stands for too many commitments with family.

Sometimes the shirtless fellow could symbolize anxiety or depression and the gal on the back of the bike might be our negative thoughts of our own limitations.

I want to whisper or shout to the little girl squished in the middle. "Push your way out, sweetie! Life doesn't have to be about being squished! Step out. Be heard. Listen to yourself! Find your security in the refuge of our Father. Don't be buried between a lot of things you think you have no control over."

We do have control. We do, you say? Absolutely. The control is to give up control... and turn it over to our father.

Not squished (today, anyway),

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fa La La-ing?

In the midst of my Christmas-ing this evening, our oldest steps in and nonchalantly tells me that her friend has invited her to go home with her...over Christmas!

What?! You have a home to go to on Christmas, I remind her. Yes, but all of my friends will be gone. This town doesn't feel like home. Two of her three best friends are moving after just a few days

She asks if we could do Christmas earlier. I struggle and want to dig my heels in and tell her "of course not!" as it wouldn't be the same.

As we sit in silence, she gets up to leave and I tell her that she should do what she needs to do. She IS almost 24 years old, I remind myself.

Our oldest has always been close to friends. In my head, it makes sense. In my heart, it hurts.

She's just come down again and tells me she probably won't go. I assure her it's fine. (But...secretly, I am a little relieved.)

As I think about all this Christmas-ing stuff, I think about all those hurting now. This hasn't really been a big "fa la la Christmas season" for me this year.

In a few days we'll spend some time with Vann's sister and her husband (whose house burned to the ground a couple of months ago.) There at that same gathering we'll see his aunt and uncle. (His aunt had breast cancer this year) and their daughter who lost her husband of three years three months ago. 2008 has been rough.

I'm so thankful God walks us through the rough stuff. Living life isn't for sissies, that's for sure.

This year at Christmas my focus has been more outward. Not on the stuff I want or want to give. We'll be pretty light on that this year. But I want to give extravagant love. I found this picture of this woman and it touched me.

I sure have a lot of random thoughts tonight. My head is everywhere. That's o.k. God will bring peace.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Blue Heaven

My new blog header reminds me of "My Blue Heaven." What is My Blue Heaven? It's my space. It's my cozy haven that I escape to to read, rest, sew, decoupage, journal...dream.

My Blue Heaven is at the tippy top of my house on the 3rd floor. It's in an attic room that has been converted to a room. I have all of my favorite things in there. I have religious art (kind of got on that kick when we visited Italy), shabby chic, leopard and all of my favorite things.

Right now, My Blue Heaven is a mess. That's where I am quilting Caroline's quilt. It's got fur, fabric and strings everywhere! Sometimes I catch Vann and our cat, Rosey up in My Blue Heaven. At first, I was like, "Uh, excuse me, but this is MY Blue Heaven. But, God gave me this space, so I'll happily share if there are no comments about how messy it is. And, there aren't.

My Blue Heaven has a window with a lace curtain over it that lets the south light shine in just so. I love the wide plank pine floors that have a little paint on them and I love the turquoise color of the walls and the white trim.

I have original art up in there by Caroline, Katie Lea, a resident from Christian Towers, and other unknowns and me. My Blue Heaven is just a "few of my favorite things." I'm thankful for beautiful places that nourish my soul.

Do you have a special spot that is just yours? It can be a special chair, a luscious throw a desk or anywhere. It can be outside. I'd love to hear where you just allow yourself to be and to dream.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Shandi and Snow

I've blogged about Shandi before, but I'm telling you, this gal has a God given talent. I wish I could write the way she does. Her latest post is very vulnerable and poignant. Friends, Shandi is only 18 years old. If you have any ideas for how to get her writing out to more people, please let one of us know. I feel a conviction about this young lady. One day I will be glad to say "I knew her when..." Check her out.

When I worked at Christian Towers, the retirement community in Atlanta, we had a lady there named Snow. During our annual Christmas party I noticed Snow going through the buffet and loading up her plate. When I looked at her plate again, I did a double take. She had put a whole cheese ball on her plate!!!!

I non-chalantly followed Snow over to where she was sitting and talking with a group of friends. As she dipped off of the cheese ball and scooped one spoonful after another into her mouth I heard her exclaim through cheese ball loaded cheeks, "My doctor tells me my cholesterol is too high and I just don't understand it. I do everything he tells me to do!"

By the way, the photo is of Shandi, but is not of Snow.

Truth can be stranger than fiction,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Want to be a Christian...if it's convenient

I've been kind of absent in bloggy world for the past almost week. I really enjoyed time with my family over the break. Quilting Caroline's blanket (shhh, don't tell her) has taken up a lot of my evening time. Work this week has been so busy!!

Cheryl shared something with me this morning that was (I'm searching for a word) ...unbelievable, astounding, mouth drop wide open astonishing. You get the idea.

Cheryl said she had run into Tina (made up name to protect the guilty). Tina is known for knowing (and spreading) all the town gossip. Cheryl lives in a smaller town. Tina asked Cheryl how things were this year with a personal venture and hoped they were better than last year. Cheryl commented that she didn't know they were bad last year. Tina assured her they were bad because Jim and Staci (more made up names to protect the maybe-guilty) had told Tina things were bad. Tina then went on to invite Cheryl to lunch to... GET notes about Jim and Staci in a "Christian sort of way."

Well. Basta ma gida!

Cheryl assured her she didn't have time for lunch and didn't get caught up in the drama of their small town. (Good for her!)

No wonder we don't get Christ's message. We're so busy trying to water it down and make it into something that is pleasing to us. OK, maybe you're not, but I'm guilty sometimes.

None of that picking up your cross and lugging it around stuff. Of course, none of that dying to yourself nonsense either. And lying, gossip and slandering. Why that doesn't matter if you do it in a "Christian sort of way."

My, my,

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving eve I have so much to be thankful for. I know you do, too. I wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving but more than that, that each day will be filled with thanksgiving. Joy automatically follows after a thankful heart.

Blessings, blessings and more blessings to you, my friends!

Singing the joy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Make Me a Servant, Lord?

I was thinking about something that happened when I was a teenager the other day. I had the most glorious time in high school. Most of the kids I hung out with were "Christian" and were really trying in our inept, incomplete way to live like Jesus...much like I'm doing today.

We were a part of Campus Life Youth for Christ and met weekly at a friend's house. I remember one night in particular. I was feeling particularly "Godly" (can I say that?!). I felt I had things just about figured out - - like only a 17 year old can.

We were talking about being slaves to the Lord. I remember discussing this at length with some friends later. Slaves for the Lord? Certainly, the leader didn't mean Slaves. Surely he meant, Servant. Servant sounds much better than a slave.

How many times in my life have I excused something because of a technicality? It wasn't a big sin, God. Hmm.

No, here I am sitting at 50 years old and I think the Campus Life leader had it right. We are slaves. S L A V E S. But, the difference I didn't get at 17 years old is that my master is loving. He's got my back. May I love him enough to willingly be his slave. May I love him enough to wash his feet and others feet. May I love him enough to treat the unlovable and "entitled" with the heart of a slave. Thank you, Lord, for your example.

Chained to you, Lord,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just for Fun

1.Where is your cell phone? in my work bag
2. Where is your significant other? taking a shower
3. Your hair? adorable new cut. :)
4. Your mother? nursing home - b'ham, alabama
5. Your father? heaven
6. Your favorite thing? my home
7. Your dream last night? ??
8. Your favorite drink? Diet Coke with vanilla
9.. Your dream/goal? to support Serge when he lives in Rwanda
10. The room you're in? my office
11. Your fear? snakes
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? wherever God wants me to be
13. Where were you last night? Bunco at the Hanner's
14. What you're not? scientific
15. Muffins? chocolate
16. One of your wish list items? new digital camera
17. Where did you grow up? Birmingham, Alabama
18. The last thing you did? walk around McMurry's track
19. What are you wearing? jogging suit
20. Your TV? yep. got two.
21. Your pet? needy
22. Your computer? lifeline
23. Your life? beautiful
24. Your mood? content
25. Missing someone? my friend, Keithie
26. Your car? Ford Explorer
27. Something you're not wearing? earrings
28. Favorite Store? TJ Maxx
29. Your summer? HOT
30. Favorite Color? turquoise
31. Describe you? quirky
32. Last time you cried? Wednesday
33. Who will/would re-post this? No idea
34. Four places I go over and over? work, Sharky's, Journey's Inn, Red Robin
35. Two people who e-mail me (regularly)? Rita and Holly
36. Four of my favorite foods? chocolate, cheese, raspberries, salsa with cilantro
37. Four places I would rather be right now? paris, rwanda, china, english countryside

What about you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Characters of Influence - ALINA ZUNIGA

I love remembering people who have helped shape me. Ninth grade had been my favorite year in school up to that point. It was a year of self-realization, learning more about God and having my best friend, Alina Zuniga.

Alina and her family were from Cuba. They left when Alina was just a baby to get away from Castro's rule. Her father was a dentist and her mother taught Spanish at a local high school. I always loved going to Alina's house because they spoke Spanish to each other (duh) and her mother made wonderful fried plaintains (like large bananas) and her brother Manny was soooo cute.

There was an infinitely more important reason I loved going to Alina's house. It was a time that we would have intense conversations about God. We'd listen to "Bread", get all mellow and talk about all the higher issues of God the Father, Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit. It was out of those conversations that we started a group in our junior high called J.O.Y. We thought we were being so revolutionary. Of course, you know it stands for Jesus first, Others second and yourself last.

Our little met a few times. I don't really remember doing anything much that made too much of a difference, but I did realize that God's power through me . . . when I'm HIS tool, is a powerful thing.

The next year we went to high school. Alina went to Berry High School where her mom taught and I went to Shades Valley. We didn't see each other much after that, but I'll forever be grateful for Alina and her willingness to share her faith with me. Such beautiful boldness she showed through our friendship. Thank you, Alina.


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Vacuum Cleaner Saleslady Called

Another funny thing happened at Decatur Christian Towers one day. We had had an unusually busy week as our receptionist was out sick. We needed larger blocks of time to get our work done. We really needed someone to fill in for our receptionist!

Right when we were about at the end of our rope, one of our residents, Ana, came forward to assist us. We greeted her with open arms (literally) and lots of hugs. Her service was to be invaluable.

Ana hails from Cuba. Though she is fluent in both English and Spanish, words sometimes get mixed up.

Our joy was complete one fine day when we caught the gist of one of Ana's phone messages. Rita had a call that stated that a lady name Joan, a lady selling vacuum cleaners, would call her back.

The next day Rita received a call from her friend, Joan. When Joan asked if Rita had received the message that she had called, it dawned on her what had happened. You see, her friend's name is Joan "Hoover."

Ah, communication,

Update on Stacy

I spoke with Stacy (the young woman who lost her baby to Shaken Baby Syndrome) and told her that some friends and I would like to help her with Christmas this year for her little 2 1/2 year old boy, Jaden. She got great big ole tears in her eyes and was so appreciative. I told her that we also wanted to do something for her. That's when the tears started spilling over.

She said she never bought anything for herself any longer. When I asked her where she liked to shop (keep in mind she is only 24 years old), she didn't even know. She said, "Penney's? Dillard's? I really don't know."

I think in order to give Stacy the opportunity to buy Santa for Jaden, I think I'll just give her a gift card. If you want to donate, please either see me at church or you can mail it to me at work at:

Susan Conwell
Wesley Court office
2617 Antilley Road
Abilene, TX 79606

Thank you so much.

Working to spread the joy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Characters of Influence

I've been considering lately all the people in my life who have helped shape me. It's amazing to think of all the people who come to mind. Of course, at the top of the list would be family and friends. But then there are the "unlikelies" who have been a part in shaping me as well.

It is my goal through this series to bring honor where honor is due. There are so many who have strengthened me by their love or their integrity. Of course, some others have shaped me by being such a bad example that I don't want to be like them! If I choose to write about them, I'll change their names, for sure. Even those people have hidden hurt and disillusionment that begs to be explored.
Today, I'll explore with you Carlene. She has been on my mind so much lately. Carlene was our African American housekeeper when I was a child. Of course, when we were children, we said "colored", not "African American" and "maid" not "housekeeper".

I loved Carlene with all my heart. Our family was not wealthy by any means but my mom worked part time and Carlene would help our family with washing, ironing and my favorite part . . . making grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for my brother and me for lunch. She either added milk or cream to the soup to make it extra smooth.

Carlene worked at our house a couple of days a week. I felt such unconditional love from Carlene. She was a large woman and always had an apron on. I felt so secure being in her presence.

One time she was in my parents' bedroom ironing. I can close my eyes and still smell the hot iron and the starch she's put on my dad's shirts. She'd let me iron my daddy's handkerchiefs.

One day a big storm blew up and it was thundering and lightning very badly. As I hid behind Carlene's apron I asked her about the scary lightening and thunder. She told me that God was mad. I said, "Mad at me?" She stooped down and said, "Oh, no, sweetheart. God isn't mad at you. You are precious to him."

Carlene told me of the goodness of God repeatedly. When the day was done, my mother would gather up some clothing and sundry items to give to Carlene and her family. Then she would slip her some money and off we'd go in the car to take Carlene home.

Carlene lived on the other side of the tracks in a green (but mostly just bare wood) house that was up on blocks. She didn't have any grass in her yard and there were always a lot of children running around and playing. My brother, Bobby, and I would beg for Mom to let us out so that we could play with Carlene's children. We knew we loved Carlene so we knew we'd love her kids. You can guess that in Birmingham, Alabama in 1964 that never happened. My parents weren't prejudiced but the society in which we lived . . . oh, yeah.

As Carlene would get out of the car, she'd always say, "Thank you, Mrs. Harris. Bye, Bye, Susan and Bobby. I love you." We'd always say, "Bye, Carlene. We love you, too."

Carlene was a victim of the times and the place we lived. But, Carlene taught me about hard work, integrity, unconditional love and that God loves us so much. I wish I knew where she and/or her kids were today. I'd love to thank them.

I want to live my life looking at the hearts of others, not their life situation. Father, continue to mold this desire in me into your likeness. Thank you.

Fondly remembering Carlene,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Laughter Lifts You Higher

I don't think there is a thing in the world more healing than laughter. This week has been such a sad week with our friends, the Allen's, losing Ben. On Wednesday night when some of the "girls" were with Judy, it was good to see that she was able to laugh. A healing laugh.

The funeral today for Ben wasn't called a funeral, but a "fun" eral. Many stories were told and there was laughter and tears . . . just as Ben would have wanted it. The playing of Ben's playlist at the end was great. Not churchy at all.

I'm reminded of a time when we had the Allen's over for dinner and games. We were playing some silly game where everyone was supposed to write down their answer to a question and then the "guesser" had to guess who said what. The question was to name some fashion statement that girls/ladies do that you just don't get. Ben wrote down "glamour lips." We asked him about it and he cocked his head back and pooched out his lips like a model, pointed to his lips and said, "Glamour lips." We still cackle about that.

I also remember another time after we moved here I was feeling "home sick" for Atlanta. I had a group over for Bunco and was trying to be a decent hostess, all the while feeling blue. While sitting in the living room, Judy Allen, Donna Ware, Lori Wallace and Denise Waldrop all burst into our house wearing orange and green wigs. I don't know how they knew that I needed sisters that night, but I forgot all about being homesick and realized I was home . . . with all the other crazies, just like me. :) I laughed so hard I almost . . . well, you know.

More embarrassing and funny moments to come. I got a million of 'em.

Laughing amid the hurt,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Just Being

Today I took a day off to "just be." Sometimes I think we need those days to let our spirits catch up with what is happening in the world around us and our own little world.

This week our little world has been aching with a deep and permeating hurt. Some of our "dearest dears" are hurting ...causing us to hurt and ache, too.

Father, please minister to the Allen's this day, tomorrow and forward as they walk a treacherous path filled with stumbling blocks to keep their eyes off of you. Comfort them in their grief, gather them in your loving lap and assure them of your love for them. Give their family and friends an extra measure of insight to know how to best serve and love on them while they are on this long and winding road. Thank you that you walk beside us and hold our hands during the darkest days. We love you.

Your daughter,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Our Hearts are Breaking

We got the call last night about 11:30 that our friends, Tom and Judy's son, Ben, had died. It was all so sudden. Ben was in Optometry school in Houston, 24 years old and this shouldn't have happened. That was all that kept playing in my head.

Tom and Judy and their daughter, Lori (Ben's sister) had chartered a flight to Houston when they learned that Ben had gone to the ER and were going to be with him. His death was beyond a shock. Ben died before they landed.

Please join me in praying for this broken, shattered and hurting precious family. If only we could all share in some of their hurt and carry it for them for a while . . .


Monday, November 10, 2008

Serge is Going Home!

It's official! Serge is going to get to go to Rwanda for Christmas! I'm so happy for him. It will be great for him to see his family and friends. It's been 3 1/2 years since he's been home. But this time, he returns as a man with a mission. He's going to explore ministry opportunities for himself when he graduates . . . hopefully from grad school.

Serge desires so much to serve the children of Rwanda. He believes that education is so important in teaching the people of his country how to live in unity. I'm so thankful he has this mission in mind, but am fearful of him returning there for good. His country has a long history of turmoil. (Turmoil is such an understatement.)

I'm showing my new blog header in honor of Serge's upcoming homecoming. No worries. Lots more blog headers to come. :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pay It Forward - Stacy's Story

I was involved in some staff training last week for Customer Service. We talked about the importance of Paying it Forward and showed a little clip from the movie, Pay it Forward. I gave four employees $10.00 each to find a way to pay it forward this next month and to report back to us at our next inservice. How does this relate to Customer Service? When you are focused on others, you are more attentive to their needs and not so focused on oneself.

While I was explaining the game "rules" I heard a quiet voice in the back of the room utter, "You don't have to have money to pay it forward." I agreed and went on with the "rules."

After the inservice ended, Stacy came up to me. She is new to us and I didn't know much about her. She told me that she was the one who said you didn't need money to "pay it forward". I affirmed her comment.

Stacy went on to tell me that her baby had died in April of this year from Shaken Baby Syndrome and she wants to pay it forward by going into the high schools or any other platform she can find to tell about Shaken Baby Syndrome, the signs and what can be done to stop an abuser. Stacy's little girl was 2 1/2 months old when she died and her husband has been charged. Stacy is left alone to raise her little boy. She lost her husband and her daughter in the same day.

As she told me her story, tears filled her eyes and said she can't give money to anyone but she can tell her story. I also told her that if she wanted a platform to talk about it in our pay it forward update next month she can use the inservice for that.

Stacy is 24 years old. Please join me in praying for Stacy and her little boy. I'm thinking I'd like to help out Stacy and her son this Christmas. If any of you would like to join me in this endeavor, please let me know. Thanks.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Great word

See Sarah's post yesterday and today for a really great word. Mugwumping. I used it today in some staff training. I think it's getting traction.

Any of you ever see the movie Mean Girls? Remember the name of the word that Gretchen was trying to catch on? The word was Fetch. She was told it was NOT going to happen.

I don't know. Mugwumping has a definite chance.

I'm thinking about having some buttons made up for work like the one to the left. (Unless Sarah has copyrighted the word. :)

Not Mugwumping,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm Not as Nice as I Seem. : }

This busts me up every time! Vann, I wouldn't do that to you...unless. :)

Just jokin'!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's All About the Crown - - - NOT!

So, what's with the new blog header? Oh, come on. I can hear you thinking it. Tee hee! Well, I think you deserve an explanation and I have one for you.

Ever since I was a little girl, I've been enamored with being a princess. (I'll bet many of you have as well.) When I was a wee one, my favorite special television night (even more so than when the Wizard of Oz showed) was when Leslie Ann Warren was on Cinderella. She was the most beautiful princess e-ver! I loved her rags to riches story and how the prince on the shining horse chose her. She was the fairest one in the kingdom.

When our girls were young teens that version of Cinderella (with Leslie Ann Warren) was coming on the television. I built it up and told them we were having a very special "girls' night." We got our blankets, our pillows, dimmed the lights, lit candles. fixed popcorn, got sodas and prepared to watch the Cinderella show that I had told them about their whole lives! When it finally aired, we began watching with great anticipation. Katie Lea and Caroline kept looking at me ...saying with their eyes, "Is this what you've been talking about so long?" I reiterated that it was going to get better. We kept waiting. It didn't get better. We were all disappointed. Leslie Ann Warren was pretty, but not nearly as pretty as I remembered. The prince was hokey looking and the acting was just plain bad.

I think that's the way it is. So often I (we?) dream of something that is going to be so glorious, fantasy filled and "happily ever after" and then it happens and BAM! It's not anything like we imagined. Oh, no. It's so much worse!

Vann and I married two months before Princess Di and Charles married. The media buzz that was created about their union was phenomenal. We all know how that "happily ever after" story ended.

Princess Grace of Monocco was first a movie star and then had the beautiful fairy tale wedding. I read her biography and her life was so much "smoke." She lived her life trying to please her earthly father, all the while living a pretty immoral lifestyle and then thought her father would finally approve if she married a prince. Then, that wasn't happily ever after either.

As I've matured I've come to realize that I really am a princess. I'm a daughter of the king. Thank you, Father. I don't have a castle (yet :) but will one day. I think it will be a mansion that looks like a castle.

My father came and rescued me...not on a white horse, but by sending his son to die for me. That requires so much more sacrifice than just riding up on a white horse. Thank you.

I don't have to "be" anything other than what my father created me to be. Princess Di was so burdened with the way she was supposed to "be" to be a suitable princess. My father's yoke is easy and his burden is light.

I'm so thankful my father is a king and I'm a princess. Not the kind with the crown but a princess, loved by her heavenly father all the same. He gave everything for me. I'm living my "happily ever after" because of my dad. I hope you are, too. If not, he so wants to love on you, scoop you up in his arms and let you know you are his daughter (or son), too.

That is my prayer for you,
Princess Lila

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I'm Baaa-aaack!

I enjoyed the blogging sabbatical, but missed all of you. I confess, I checked in just a wee bit from time to time.

My husband will testify, that whatever I undertake, I do so with all my heart. (Translation: Whatever I enjoy doing, I'll do so much that I'll neglect anything and everything else.)

Take quilting. Cheryl and I took a quilting class. Operative word here --"A". Well, I loved it. no time, I'd made not one quilt, "oh, no, my fine friends," but FOUR quilts! Everywhere I went I was looking for fabric - - clothing fabric, tablecloth fabric, vintage fabric, you get the idea.

Another time when our girls were small my obsession was cross-stitching. Every night I cross-stitched and cross-stitched...and cross-stitched some more. Well, you guessed it, I'm done with that!

Yep. That's me. All or none. I guess that's why I didn't just start one blog. Oh, no, Nellie! I started THREE blogs. All good ideas...(for three people, maybe.) The "When I'm 64" blog is gone for now...until further notice. The "Escape the Ordinary" Blog will have something on it when there is something worth posting. Maybe a lot, maybe not.

Why am I like this? Oh, I could take the easy way out and be like Forrest Gump and say, "Momma always said, "If you can't do it perfectly (i.e. all the way to excellence squared--or at least that was my internal translation), it's not worth doing at all."

Or, I could come clean to you and tell you the truth. I can have addictive behaviors that I need to constantly submit to God. Too much of anything is just... too much. It's simply not God honoring.

So, I re-enter the blogosphere submitting my desire to read, write, Flickr (and make new blog headers) to God.

I had a friend once who when asked what she knew about balance quipped, "Oh sure! I know a lot about balance. I recognize it every time I swing past it."

I don't want to be like that. I want to be open to be the balanced, creative spirit and God honoring soul God created me to be.

At Praise team practice the other night we sang a song called "I'm Yours Lord". It goes like this.

I'm yours, Lord
Everything I've got
Everything I Am
Everything I'm not

I'm yours, Lord
Try me now and see
Cause I want to be
Completely yours.

That's my prayer,

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blogging Sabbatical

This morning I awakened with a strong conviction that I needed a blogging sabbatical. I want to spend some time getting my spiritual and physical house in order.

I'm aiming to be back on November 1st. I'll either be back then or will have an update. I'm praying for you, my blogosphere sisters, and thank you for keeping me in your prayers.

Putting the laptop in the carrier,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Beautifully Written Blog

Meet my blog friend, Shandi. She lives in Canada. My goodness, this girl has talent! Check her out at A Fragmented Opinion.

Enjoying talent,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cute Video - Lucky, the Goldfish

This was precious and cracked me up! Enjoy. And...may we all remember Lucky.

Loving life,

Friday, October 17, 2008

18 Interruptions, Mind You!

I came home from work a little early today. I'm the Manager on Duty at our work this weekend. Since I didn't sleep well last night, I thought it would be a delicious idea to take a wee nap. Only an hour and 15 minutes, I thought.

Let's just say...I'll be very grateful for a good night's sleep tonight, if it comes. I had 18, not 17, but 18 interruptions to my nap. Hence, no nap, really. The interruptions are listed below. Sing with me to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas...

6 loud bankphming sounds from the dryer

4 calls on my cell phone

3 visits by my meowing cat, Max (see post from October 11th)

2 visits by my oldest daughter just to let me know she loved me

2 entries into the room by my sweet husband who was doing the laundry

1 doorbell ringing

and a partridge in a pear tree.

It's generally not the big things that get me off track, it's the little things. I'm thankful I have a cell phone (most of the time). I'm thankful that I have two cats who are really sweet. I'm definitely thankful to have Vann and Katie Lea in my life. I'm most definitely thankful that Vann does the laundry in our family and has done so for 27 years.

But, about the bankphming sound from the dryer. We'll have to do something about that!

Thankful, in spite of it all,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What'd You Say, Dearie?

I've been thinking about some happenings in the senior high rise where I used to work. It was at Decatur Christian Towers that I learned what I wanted to be when I grew up. Also learned what I didn't want to be when I grew up. (smile)

A resident, Mrs. Thompson, was extremely hard of hearing. After calculating what her rent would be for the next year, I called her to come to my office to discuss the change.

She met me at the receptionist's desk. I invited her back to my office - - the inner sanctum. :) She declined saying that she was in a hurry. Mrs. Thompson asked what her rent would be and I again motioned for us to go into my office for a bit of privacy. The lobby was filled with other residents chatting and getting their mail. Mrs. Thompson once again declined telling me there was no time.

Knowing it would be improper to blab a resident's rent amount for anyone to hear, I wrote it down for her. As I handed the slip of paper to her, she couldn't read the small writing. (I know, you're probably thinking, why didn't she just step in my office already. She could have found out and been gone by now! Exactly!) I wrote it larger and was still unsuccessful with communication. Finally, Mrs. Cooper told me to just tell her what it would be.

Going against everything I believed about propriety and decorum, I cupped my hands around her ear and whispered her rent to her loudly. A quizzical look came over her face and I tried again, to no avail. Finally in desperation, Mrs. Thompson looked at me anxiously weighing her need to leave with her curiosity to know her new rent. She finally said to me, "Oh, for goodness sake, just tell me!" With that, I told her what her rent would be so that she could hear. She frantically glanced all around the lobby and told me in no uncertain terms to SHHH! as others could hear!


Head scratching,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why Is It?

Why is it that when someone tells you there are over a billion stars in the universe you believe them, but it they tell you there is wet paint somewhere, you have to touch it to make sure?

Mulling it over,

Monday, October 13, 2008

Elly Mae Clampett

Elly Mae Clampett (Donna Douglas) that you may remember from the television show, Beverly Hillbilies, came to Wesley Court today. She is staying in our guest apartment tonight in order to speak at our Winter Wellness program at the Civic Center tomorrow.

You may remember her from the actual television show (like I do) or re-runs. She played the ultimate hillbilly southern belle who had the softest place for "critters." She didn't bring any critters with her but she did bring an amazing amount of charm and grace.

When she arrived, several of us walked over to her to welcome her with a hug. She looked at each one of us and said with all sincerity, "God Bless You." She is now 75 years old and has aged with dignity and grace.

Donna did a few guest spots throughout the 1970s and even attempted a career as a gospel-country singer. But her claim to fame rested in reruns and reunions of "the Beverly Hillbillies"

Donna resides in Los Angeles working in real estate and as a spokeswoman for animal rights.

I look forward to hearing what she has to say to the group tomorrow.


I Just Realized!

I just realized another thing I always wanted that God gave me. I used to say when asked if I wanted more children (when the girls were small) that I'd like to have a grown son.

And, I have a grown son! Thank you, Father, for Serge. All good things come from the Father.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Who Says Cats Aren't Social?

This reminds me so much of our cat boys! It's as if the artist watched Vann and our cat, Rosey with a hidden camera and then captured it on this animation.


White Picket Fence

It seems I spent a lot of time as a little girl imagining living in a cute house with a white picket fence. I think most girls daydream about such. What is it about a white picket fence that we like? Maybe it's the order of the pickets. Maybe it's the clean lines. Maybe it's that they are white, clean, pure.

I like my life to be like a white picket fence. Orderly, clean, pure. I don't like any messes or anything that takes away from the orderliness of it. I don't like unexpected events that will change my world. Sir Isaac Newton said, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Yep. I like routine. I like everyone I love to be doing well all the time.

When I think about order and balance I think of God. He is a God of order and balance. Look at the perfect creation. It's amazing. He worked 6 days and on the 7th day he rested. Balance.

But our lives aren't like that, are they? A friend or loved one gets sick, a loved one moves away, a divorce, a child having trouble in school, Bulimia, someone with a drug addiction, death, car accident, law suit. Messy. Hurtful. Paralyzing.

I remember a particularly difficult time in my life. I felt paralyzed with the inability to change a bad situation. Through tear stained eyes I cried out that I couldn't do anything about the situation. Hopeless. Powerless.

Then...I realized what a position of power I was in because

"He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I'm so thankful that the Holy Spirit comforts us in our weakness, powerlessness, paralysis and general messes. Our father is so loving to provide the peace that passes all understanding.

So, when I look at my life through the windows of my soul and see abandoned old wreck of a house

I can rest...and boast about the greatness of God and become this.
Thank you, Father.

Living in sunshine,

Friday, October 10, 2008

6:30 A.M.!

I'm so excited! Tomorrow morning I'm getting up at 6 a.m. Excited, you say? It's a Saturday! Right. Saturday is time to garage sale! Caroline is joining me tomorrow so it will be magical in every way. We'll leave at 6:30 a.m. on our adventure.

I want nothing. I need nothing (squared). But, you just never know what's out there or what interesting person you'll get to know or a neighbor you've never met. Excitement is building!

Who knows? I might find that twin maple bed that a friend is looking for

or an unusual little turtle trinket.


Like I said, don't want or need anything, but the adventure looms. Hope I can sleep tonight. Tee hee!

Eager beaver,