Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Morning musings with Papa and praying Isaiah 61:1 . . . 

"You are enough.  In all things.  You are enough.

"More than enough.

"Abundantly, filled-to-overflowing enough.  Beyond measure enough.  More-than-I-can-begin-to-imagine enough.

"Lord, Father-God . . . rest Your Spirit on me; let it pour over me as anointing oil over my head.  Bring good news to the poor in spirit -- Good News!  Glad-tidings-of-joy, Joy-to-the-world News! -- through me.  Bind up the brokenhearted through me.  Bring light into darkened eyes, break chains, unlock prison doors through me . . . set the captives free . . . through me." 

If I'm honest, introvert that I am (or just lazy?), on many days (if not most days), I want to remain in my leopard print pajamas (yes, Beverly, I do own pajamas; I wear them to coffee dates with Papa), wrapped up in my fleecy red blanket (snuggled up in His arms) on my couch, safe from schedules, looming deadlines (grades due at 4PM; ugh), poor choices -- mine and others' -- and, oh yeah, their consequences (weenie that I am), AND people.  Safe from people, with their wants, their hurts, their messiness, their grasping and clinging and their rejecting and pushing away . . .  safe from my own words and theirs . . . 

But, alas, He has not called me to dwell on a mountaintop or in a cave . . . I'm neither Heidi nor the Fat Broad.  I'm Saint Pamela, sometimes called to Africa, but mostly called to Seabrook. 

"So empower me to serve from a place of abundance in You.  Fill me, overflow from me, surround me, go ahead of me, hem me in from above and behind, and don't leave my side.  

"Use me up, Papa . . . pour me out into the world You love so much because every drop of me is Yours to spill.  

"And don't stop reminding me that because You are enough, through your extravagant grace and mercy, You make me enough." 


Monday, December 6, 2010

A Cup of Love

Sometimes it's good to add some previously written words to my morning coffee . . .

12 November 2010

Good Morning, Papa!

Thank You for Your rich, abundant love for me . . . because of Who You are, You never give up on me . . . You are 1 Corinthians 13.  It's hard to wrap my head around how crazy You are about me . . . especially when I sit in the midst of so much "undone-ness."  

If something's undone, is it not done?  Like unfinishedRawNakedBroken apart?  Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.  All of the the above.  And more.  (Or less, depending on one's perspective.)  

But You love me now, not when . . . And you love me just as I am at this moment, not how I will be in some distant future.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I pray you are having some big 'ol love with your coffee right now.  Because our Papa is crazy about us, y'know.  Yeah, really.  True story!  It's what this whole season is about.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kicking up our heels!

Here are some pics from the Tapestry Dinner 
I mentioned in my last post . . . 

 Before we took our seats . . . (table toppers from Baby Daughter's wedding reception; they were made the week after Hurricane Ike stormed in through Houston's Bay Area -- no electricity, but a friend hooked my sewing machine up to a generator for me!  Unfortunately, the table toppers lasted longer than the marriage, but . . . well, that's another story.  We keep the good stuff, using what we can, and move forward, right?)  

The boots were graciously loaned to me by my sweet friend, Dawn, who couldn't make the dinner but who knew -- just knew! -- that her boots should attend!  (Those are mermaids painted on them thar boots!) 

The "Princess" magnets -- purchased for forty cents each at a Goodwill store in Medina, OH, this summer -- were originally pink, but I painted over them with some craft paint and a metallic Sharpie.)  

Clockwise from the upper right of the boots: 
Texas Preacher Woman, Debbie, Chris, Bonnie, Maureen, 
Jannie, Sonya (holding Baby Emery who, in honor of the occasion, was wearing the most FAH-BU-LOUS booties), and Jessica.
And a FUN time was had by all!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Burdened by Glitter!

Arghhhh!   My Sweet Blog Family!  I can't believe how long it's been since I've posted!  Too much going on, and -- GASP! -- The Holidays are right here upon us, too!  I promise, though, that I HAVE been blogging in my head . . . just have trouble getting it from there to my computer screen . . . this journal entry from last Thursday a.m. might give you an idea why (and if I know ya'll, it might sound like your life, too):

Nov 04, 200 -- whoops! -- 2010  [See, friends, I couldn't even remember what year it was, much less what all I was supposed to do that particular day!]

Oh, Papa!  I am so frustrated with me!  I'm sitting here surrounded by gold-glittered and sequined miniature high heels and shiny black "Princess" magnets . . . sheer skinny black ribbon with white polka dots -- laced through the loop on the back of the heels ornaments -- waits to tie it all together . . . ugh!  These are NOT the weights I choose to be encumbered with, and yet, I AM.  Weighed down, that is.  Burdened.  With glitter.  How utterly silly is this?  Yes, utterly!  

I must make better, wiser choices.

Okay, here's what was goin' on.  Every First-Thursday-of-November, our women's ministry at church hosts something wonderful that we call The Tapestry Dinner.  There are oodles of big round tables for eight set up throughout the fellowship hall and the emptied-out chapel, and each one is hosted and DECORATED by a different woman, and it is a feast for the eyes!  Each table has a unique personality (directly related to its hostess, of course) and theme, and, "Oh, my!" (as my little friend from Tennessee would say), the creativity!  (Women begin pouring in way before the appointed dinner hour just so they have time to take in all of the table schemes -- I'm telling you, IT IS FABULOUS!)  And, just in case you're wondering, yes, every woman brings her own dishes, flatware, glassware, etc., but the meal -- everything from the salad to the dessert -- is served up on clear plastic-ware that's then placed on the hostesses own tableware so that the diner gets the effect of the beautiful plates but the hostess doesn't end up dragging home a bunch of dirty dishes.  (Just our flatware and glasses, but that's no biggie.)

Sistas, I do looooove to decorate!  But ya'll also know that my main work is over at the School House.  (Usually until 5:30 or 6:00 each evening.) So for the past couple of years that I've hosted a table, I've packed up my stuff into plastic bins, my sweet St. Michael has hauled them up to the Church House, and then my fellow sista-hostesses have set up my table for me, leaving only the fun, final decorating tweaks for me to do.  (Ya'll also know that I'm not much on work -- I just like the fun stuff -- so, of course, this has worked out perfectly for me.)

Well, I digress, but I just tell ya'll that, so's you'll understand where I was the other morning as I wrote those "I'm so frustrated with me" words.  I hadn't really planned to do a table, but my friend, the director of women's ministries, said she really needed me to (and you know that people in ministry never exaggerate or lie), and well, I'm a sucker for a pretty face (Lora is a doll), so, of course, I said I would . . . with not one idea or thought in the world as to what I would do for my particular table this year . . . and did I mention that I went out of town (to Canton's First Monday!) the weekend before the dinner?  (My sista, Beverly, and I kept telling each other that it was research for our tables.)

So Wednesday night I'm finally putting together my plan (yeah, and the dinner is Thursday, you did read that correctly), trying to find all my stuff, and runnin' off to Dollar Tree to find glittery high heel Christmas ornaments and then painting "Princess" magnets and then remembering, too, that -- CRAP! (Hey, I'm just being honest here) -- grades are due at the School House this coming Monday . . . and all the while wondering if this dinner table thing was even something I was supposed to be doing.  (Please read those last few words in a verrrrrrrry spiritual tone of voice.)  ARGHHHH!

[Okay, I feel better now.  Let's go on . . .  ]

It all sounds funny now, but, trust me, when I was trying to get up on Thursday morning and running back and forth between the School House and Casa St. Michael during my off period and lunch break and then loading up my stuff and hauling it up to the church house and sweatin' like a hog in my cute long-sleeved (what was I thinkin?) funky top while throwing plates and glasses and shoes (I'll explain in a minute) on my table, I was NOT laughing!

For the record, my table was freaking adorable!  I found and printed out a verse in Song of Solomon that says, "How beautiful are your feet in their shoes, O king's daughter!  The curves of your legs are like jewels, the work of the hand of a good workman" (7:1, Bible in Basic English), and I used all kinds of fabulous, funky stiletto heels (that belong to Baby Daughter) as the centerpiece.  (I know it sounds weird, but, trust me, it was  C - U - T - E - N- E - S - S  to the max!  Maybe I can post a picture later.)  But, y'see, that's part of the problem.  It all turned out okay, so I'm tempted to do this craziness again next year!

That's why it's sooooo hard to determine when to say "yes" and when to say "no" to things.  I'm old enough to have learned that sometimes we need to say "no" to even good things because that's just not where our focus needs to be at a particular time.  Or should I -- knowing that a good thing is coming up -- and that I'll probably want to do that good thing -- plan ahead and thus plan better?  (And, therefore, not let the glitter get so under my skin, so to speak, 'cause it feels so last minute?)

Heck, I don't know!  THIS is why it's so hard being a woman.  A woman who loves glitter and cuteness but loves the Lord more and just wants to shine where He wants me to shine but who, alas, sometimes lets herself get too busy to hear where, exactly, that is.

Girlfriends, I know you've been there too.  Maybe are there right now.  Well, sistas, I, for one, am determining to listen better.  After all -- GASP! -- did I mention that The Holidays are coming?  (And we don't wanna miss 'em 'cause we're so crazy-busy thinking that WE are the reason for the season, that WE have to make 'em happen!)

Listen.  Listen up.

I think I might hear a few dozen eleven-, twelve-, and thirteen-year olds who need me . . .

Be still for a minute.  Listen.  What are you hearing, my sweet sistas?

Trying to shine in all the right places,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sabbath . . . maybe not

(And yes, this is me.  Why do you ask?)

This may be too long and serious for many of you to read, but after reading Shaun Groves' post this morning on being discerning, I decided that I had to write this.  Yep.  I had to.  (And by the way, if you read Shaun's post, the comments are as interesting as the post . . . love this man!)

I don't remember how I found it, but I recently connected to another blog, The Bloom Book Club whose creators are two absolutely adorable young women, Jessica Turner (whose husband, Matthew, has his own thought-provoking blog, Jesus Needs New PR, that I find myself roaming around in from time to time) and Angie Smith (whose husband, Todd, makes gorgeous music with the group Selah.  Yeah, that group!).  The Bloom Club's beautiful, softly-soothing-girly-pink opening page greets readers with words I like to think I live by: "Bloom . . . read.  discuss.  grow." 

In fact, I could've sworn that it was Jessica and Angie who encouraged me to buy David Platt's Radical, a book I not only loved (though it stomped all over my heart) but immediately began buying copies of to give to others who, I hoped, would also devour it (and allow it to stomp around on their hearts!).  But now I don't see it listed among their recommended books list, so maybe it was another on-line book club, I don't know.  (Arghhhh, the joys of being at the tropical time of one's life . . . can't remember anything.)   At any rate, thinking it WAS they who had recommended the latest book-of-my-heart, when they recommended Wayne Muller's Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives, it was a no-brainer that I immediately clicked onto the Amazon link and ordered a copy.  (I mean, who of us couldn't use more rest, renewal, and delight in our often crazily busy lives?) 

After one of my own insanely hectic days earlier this week, I finally grabbed Sabbath, fresh from its wrapping, spine-as-yet-uncreased, and headed to the bedroom.  After shutting the door to the baseball playoffs being beamed into the den, sandblasting off that morning's makeup and replacing it with something that promised to overnight renew my aging epidermis, I fluffed my pillows just so, and finally climbed into bed with the book that promised me some insight on renewing everything else.  

From the first few lines, something about the writing style demanded more concentration that I had hoped to have to put forth at the end of the day, but it got easier as I pushed on through the paragraphs.  Page 1 . . . yes . . . page 2 . . . I so agreed . . . page 3 . . . yup . . . page 6 . . . really liked . . . And, in fact, I was really getting into a good flow with Muller until I hit a small bump at page 7.  In the second full paragraph there, Muller writes, "When we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating what the Buddhists would call right understanding, right action, and right effort."

Interesting reference, I thought, but not totally unheard of for a scholarly writer and ordained minister to use another faith's tenets to make a point.  I continued.

"In a complex world and unstable world, if we do not rest, if we do not surrender into some kind of Sabbath, how can we find our way, how can we hear the voices that tell us the right thing to do?"

Whoa.  Hold the horses.  Voices?  As in plural?  Aren't there medications for that?  

I slowed my roll and began stepping a little more cautiously through the following paragraphs.  

Must've been just a bump in the road.  After all, page 8 was fine . . . But then I skidded again on page 9:

"When Muslims are called to prayer five time each day, all work ceases, and all the ancient words, spoken aloud for centuries rise like fragrance to the skies."   

Okay.  I'm not the most educated or the best self-taught or even the smartest or most discerning reader, but I couldn't help but wonder if Muller's "like fragrance to the skies" description of Muslim prayers was meant as an allusion to much of what is said in the Old Testament about the "sweet fragrance" of offerings sacrificed before God.  Ezekiel even writes of God's referring to His people as "fragrant incense" (20:41).  Paul refers to Christ, Himself, as a "fragrant offering and sacrifice" made on our behalf (Ephesians 5:2).  He also refers to the gifts from the Philippians as a "fragrant offering and sacrifice pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18). In the Revelation, John writes of incense rising up with the "prayers of the saints" (5:8, 8:3). 

I could go on and on, and I'm sure there are those who would say that I'm reading too much into the phrase and that maybe Muller's "to the skies" doesn't even mean anything close to "God."  But I don't think so.  What else could "to the skies" mean when it's used with "prayers"?  And if that is the case, that Muller is inferring that connection, then Muller is essentially describing the ritualistic prayers of Muslims as something pleasing to God when scripture tells us something quite the opposite.  Repeatedly, thoughout the Old Testament, scripture says that the sacrifices and offerings of those who worship anyone or anything other than God, Himself, are not acceptable to Him.  He wants our hearts.  And since the Messiah came, we are told that there is but one way into relationship with the Father -- through Messiah, His Son, Jesus.  That is no where to be found in the religion of Islam. 

A couple of paragraphs further, Muller writes 

"In Buddhism, one takes refuge in the Buddha nature, and in the wisdom of the Buddha and in the family of the Buddha.  And so doing, we join the company of all those who have sought healing and liberation, we surrender into that place where Buddha-nature already lives within us, and we align our intention with our innate, natural perfection.  Thus when we sit in meditation, all the saints and ancestors send us loving-kindness, as they accompany our each and every breath" (italicized emphasis mine).

In the very next paragraph, he writes, "Jesus offered this same beautiful practice to his disciples."

Okay, that's it.  I'm off the horse.  Down from the wagon.  Out of the car. 

I go back to the Jessica and Angie's website.  I see that concerns similar to mine have been registered at the The Bloom Club's website, and Jessica and Angie have acknowledged those concerns and addressed them.  They stand by their choice, explaining that there is so much "amazing" stuff to learn from the book and that, besides, Muller is simply quoting (their italics) these other religions.  

If that were the case, I wouldn't have a problem with the book.  But I think you can see from even the few parts I've quoted directly from his book that Muller does not appear to be simply quoting other religions. Rather, as one who writes, "In the evening, turn it over to the care of God, the angels, and all the Buddhas, all the spirits of the earth and sky" (170), Muller appears to indeed be accepting and embracing all of those other beliefs as peers and equals to belief in Christ.  All of that is well and good if you are a Unitarian Universalist.  I am not. 

While I've already acknowledged that there are some paragraphs and full pages that I can appreciate, and possibly, who knows, perhaps even a few nuggets of gold in the remaining chapters, my time is just too limited to have to dig and sift through so much for so little.  (Ironically, Muller's Sabbath would cut into my Sabbath.)

Grinning and trying to be discerning,


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Prayer at 4:30

In my hurry for holiness, don't let me mistake feeling for filling . . .

Slow me down that I may not miss one drop of You. Open every crevice and the secret dark places that I may truly be filled to overflowing with Your Spirit. Pour Yourself into me, and may I pour myself right back into You . . .

Cup my face in Your hands and kiss good-morning life onto and into my sleepy features.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The gecko's back!

(This is my desk some time during last semester . . . Thank goodness for NEW school years! Even with the challenges they bring! And don't worry, my desk looks very different this semester. Well, kinda.)

"Set your minds, then, on endorsing by your conduct the fact that God has called and chosen you"
(1 Peter 1:10a, Phillips).

Some mornings when I curl up on the couch to jot down a few thoughts in my prayer journal, I end up reading older entries instead. This was one of those mornings, and I couldn’t help but grin at how appropriate the words from seven years ago are for my here and now. I thought some of you might relate to them, too.

October 4, 2003

This is the kind of day that threatens to make me crazy -- from the moment my feet hit the floor, I’ve felt like there would not be enough hours between this brush fire and that one . . . so much to do today, and I feel I’m starting out behind! It’s the kind of day with a schedule that wants to yank at the leash -- straining to run beyond my control -- to bust lose and run wild. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, this ol’ gal is going to remember that she is a woman of abundance, and I’m going to stop grasping at the reins and turn them over to You [Sweet Papa-God]! I am going to forget about what I maybe shoulda, coulda, woulda done earlier this week, and realize that this is where I am right now, and it’s okay -- it’s A-okay and You and I will walk this day together, and we will get done what You deem needs to be done and not go crazy! I will sit here for a moment and listen to the swish and hummm of my Kenmore tell me that, today, Life is good! Oh, Papa! Thank You that Life is good! You are the most awesome Papa!

Yesterday morning, my immediate supervisor, one of our assistant principals, asked to see me, and, of course, being the Pamm that I am, I always think I'm in trouble . . . but when I got to her office, she said, "Nah, you're not in trouble, but you're not going to be happy . . . " and she proceeded to tell me that she needed to switch me over to seventh grade.

I said, "When?"

"Now." (Well, actually, at that time, "tomorrow.")

A full week and a half already into the school year!

It seems that some of the seventh grade classes are just too full, so they divided my itty bitty sixth-grade 6/7 period among the other sixth grade teachers (only one little boy left for the day in tears) and pulled some of the seventh graders from the fuller classes and moved them over to me to teach during 6/7 period.

I assured her that it was really okay but added that I needed to go scrounge up some seventh-grade materials from the book room, like immediately! She gave me her keys, and off I headed for the book room (since I had already given away all of my own seventh grade stuff when I got my teaching schedule for this year).

And what do you think I saw when I unlocked the book room door? A tiny gecko skittered across the book room floor right in front of me . . . and I think I heard his little voice say, "Hang on!" Lol!

How absolutely cool is that!

So instead of freaking out, I'm excited and positive that God is going to do something wonderful with my now seventh-grade 6/7 period! Because it is a fact that God has called and chosen me. And if I endorse and embrace that in my spirit, then my conduct will follow!

Where are you called? (Because you ARE chosen, y’know, and that means you are called.) I’d love to hear . . .

"Set your minds, then, on endorsing by your conduct the fact that God has called and chosen you"
(1 Peter 1:10a, Phillips).

PS Did you know that James Avery makes the cutest little gecko charm? I know because my sweet Oldest Daughter, after reading the "Being Green" post, sent me this one with the attached note: "Hang on!"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Speaking of school starting . . .

[Sorry for the blurry pic -- again, it's one taken with my cell phone. I'll try to get a better one later, but trust me -- it's adorable! Meanwhile, this is the "new" chandy hanging in my classroom. And you can't see it in this pic, but, yes, of course, I covered the chain with fabric to match the bulletin board you see in the background! Absolute cuteness!]

I'm playing hooky this morning . . . from regular church, that is.

But not to worry, I am having church here at Casa St. Michael. Just me and Papa. Coffee. Oatmeal with French vanilla creme. My laptop. A Phillip's translation of the New Testament. (I've been marinating in Titus. It's about to kill me. More on that another time.) And we are celebrating Sabbath. A day of rest.

I don't know when my body has ached like this. (My misspent youth is catching up with me, and my bones are feeling VERY old this morning!) Orientation for my masters program (yeah, I'm starting that next week, and, yes, I have probably lost my mind) and a two-day seminar on Multisensory Reading and Spelling in the early part of last week just about fried my brain, and then working in my classroom at school for the past three days has just about finished off the rest of me. That's 'cause I don't work in my classroom like a normal person might.

First of all, I've got too much stuff. (I AM working on getting rid of some of it. Those of you that know me, stop laughing.) But that's not the main problem. The main problem is that I like to make everything look cute (the fun stuff) before I tackle the yucky jobs like actually putting books and papers and files where they belong. (Not to mention all of those storage boxes where I shoved no-telling-what at the end of last year.) Backwards from most folks, I know. But, alas, that's the price of being a weirdo a creative spirit. (Once everything’s cute, then I can start working on the rest of it because anyone who’s raised three girls knows that “Cuteness is everything!” The theory is that being surround by said cuteness will inspire, energize, and enable me to then wade through everything else. Okay, I said it was a THEORY.)

Plus, I’m creating new cuteness this year. After six years of a Texas theme, I decided it was time to redecorate. So, I’ve recovered bulletin boards, file cabinets (yep, they get recovered, too), shelves (yup), painted huge classroom storage cabinets, hung a chandelier (the kids are going to LOVE it – It’s the tackiest but CUTEST thing you’ve ever seen!), made a tablecloth to match one of the bulletin boards, rearranged furniture, and hung up lots of Qs (for “Queen”) . . . You name it – in the spirit of cuteness, it’s been done. (Of course, the room still looks like a bomb went off ‘cause I have to now go through all of those aforementioned books, loose papers, and folders, and assorted storage boxes, but that’s this week’s project.)

Sounds like a lot, huh. And it is. But, I do have a reputation to uphold. You see, I am the Queen. The Queen of the Land of Muz (the shortened form of my last name). And my children will come into Room 105 with certain expectations, and by God –literally – I plan to not to disappoint them. I want their experience in my classroom to be a wondrous thing. I want them to discover that even language arts (you’d be amazed at how many kids think they hate language arts!) can be a fabulously interesting subject. But most of all, I want them to feel special.

I want them to know that I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make the Land of Muz what it is – beautiful (okay, in a royally tacky kind of way), fun, safe (emotionally and physically)– because they are worth it. I tell them every year that, yes, I am their Queen, but they are my royal subjects, and as such, their well-being is my number one priority. And then I ask Papa-God to make it so. Because I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t do it on my own.

Oh, I can do cuteness all day long on my own, but loving my kids, truly loving them the way Jesus has called me to is way beyond my pay grade. He’s called me to step beyond the warm and fuzzies – most sanguines (of which I am; are you shocked?) can do the ooey-gooey, smiley, huggy stuff in our sleep – and to actually love them through the way that I teach the skills they will need to succeed academically. He’s called me to love them enough to teach them what it means to be responsible, respectful, compassionate students. He’s called me to love their parents and guardians (even the ones who question every lesson I teach or grade I record.)

And that I can only do as I empty myself of me and allow Him to fill with His Spirit the empty spaces left. I have to let go of my thoughts, words, and actions, and embrace and live out His in their place.

Good preachin’ and hard livin’.

And I fall so short on so many days.

Yet, I know that’s the ministry I’m called to these days. Being Him in skin in the public classroom. So I pray. A lot. And trust Him “to keep that which I’ve committed.”

Where has He called you to do the same? I’d love to hear how and where you are living out your calling these days.

Grins (with naproxen),


Friday, August 6, 2010

Muddying the Waters . . . It's not always a bad thing!

Because the phrase "muddying the waters" means to cloud an issue or to make something more difficult to understand or more complicated than necessary, it almost always carries a negative connotation. (Well, duh! Like any of us needs extra confusion in our lives.)

But not yesterday.

Yesterday, Bella and Boogie came over for some "Camp Pa-Ja" before Jaja heads back to the school house (and their mother, Middle Daughter, loses her mind . . . come on, moms of little ones -- you've been there. And then, of course, their mama will then pick them up just before Jaja loses hers! Lol!). And guess what . . . I let them muddy the waters. And they had a blast!

Last week, knowing Camp Pa-Ja was coming up, I scored a plastic kiddie pool off Freecycle, and I looked forward to filling it up and letting the grandbabies splash in it to their hearts' content. The only constriction was that Papa (the beloved co-director here at Camp Pa-Ja) said we couldn't put the pool on the grass. No problem. We have lots of dirt patches in the backyard here at Camp Pa-Ja.

Well, Boogie's no dummy. He saw that pool sitting in that big patch of for-the-moment dirt and knew it was the perfect place to park his big ol' dump truck. And did I mention he had a big ol' yellow plastic shovel? Dirt + shovel + pool + water + BOY . . . okay, you do the math. (Or would that mixing of the elements fall under chemistry?) Yup, before I knew it, we had just the right conditions for some genuine M-U-D .

No problem. As long as the mud stayed in the back of the dump truck. But just like his Jaja, Boogie is not one who embraces the "less is more" philosophy of life. I mean, if mud pie mix (" . . . for your birthday, JaJa!") looks delicious in the back of a little big ol' dump truck, imagine how much more deliciousness a big ol' blue plastic kiddie pool might hold!

Now, I can't usually even spell math (remember, I teach language arts), but this equation appeared right before my eyes (think Nebuchadnezzar and the writing on the wall): Globs of dirt in the business end of a yellow plastic shovel + nice clear water minding its own business in blue plastic kiddie pool = ARGHHHHHHHHH!

Just as my mouth opened to verbalize the end product of the aforementioned equation -- along with an added "STOP!" -- I thought Y, I mean Why? (Sorry, I had a flashback from college algebra there for a moment, but I think I'm okay now.) I mean, most of the time we steer kids away from mud puddles, dirt piles, and other assorted messes we might have to clean up after, and that usually makes sense seeing as how most of the time we'd be the ones doing the clean-up-after thing. But, it suddenly came to me that this wasn't one of those times. Heck, we were out in the backyard for Pete's sake -- I could just line those little mud-bugs up and hose them off before wrapping them up in their Lightening McQueen and Cinderella towels and hauling them back into the casa. No harm; no foul. There really wasn't any reason to screech NO! (yes, sorry to say, but I would've screeched) other than it's what most of us would've thought we were supposed to do in that kind of situation. No thought, just an automatic response.

So what's a Jaja to do? Well, I turned off the auto-Jaja-pilot switch, removed myself from the pool (despite what I hear the beautification benefits of mud at the local spa are), and let Boogie and Bella have at it! And they had a ball! And none of us were a bit worse for wear. In fact, I think all of those laughing-released endorphins had us all feeling pretty darn good. (Even Papa, who arrived home from his golf game right in the midst of all this fun.)

I couldn't help but wonder what we miss out on in life -- little things and big things -- when we react to so much around us from that automatic-pilot mode. How often do we say no without even thinking about what we're responding to? (Or yes for that matter.) And just because we've always done it this way or because that's the way Sista Susie does it or because we're more concerned about what others will say or think of us than we are about whether something is really right or wrong or if it is a choice that even matters one way or the other.

How often have you felt like raising your hands in a praise service but didn't because you worried what those around you would think? (Or raised your hands because everyone else was even though you didn't feel like it?)

Ever stifled the urge to clap or laugh or sing or jump up and down for joy or pick chocolate instead of vanilla or paint red instead of off-white or wear denim instead of khaki or cotton instead of silk?

I'd be the first to tell you that, no, it's not always appropriate to make mud pies (I promise that if you're ever invited over for dinner at Casa St. Michael, I'll have Baby Daughter fix lasagna or spinich and mushroom-stuffed manicotti) but sometimes, just sometimes, there's nothing tastier, nothing that hits the spot any better, than good ol' mud pie. Yummmmm!

Tasting freedom . . . and grinnin'!

PS Sorry for the picture quality -- pics were taken with my cell phone!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Being Green

This little guy rode to church with me Sunday morning! (Okay, well, not exactly THIS specific little guy from the commercials, but one that was just as cute, to be sure.)

Okay, more like THIS little guy! (You have to look reeeeeeeally closely.)

For real!

In fact, he preached a whole sermon to me before I ever got into the building! Yup. For real. (And never once tried to sell me an insurance policy, though I'm pretty sure I'd a'bought one from him.)

Truth is I've had a hard time making it to the church house lately -- what with my having the D-word and all -- but I'd decided Saturday night that I really needed to make it there yesterday if I could at all manage it. (I'm a BIG woman, and I sit on the second pew from the front, so for that reason alone -- okay, and I'm kinda loud -- people notice when I'm not there for more than a couple of weekends.)

St. Michael had already left so that he could get to the church house early enough to get his ushering duties on, so imagine my surprise when I discovered on my way out of the neighborhood in the Queen Machine that I wasn't making the drive alone. No! The tiniest, cutest little Gecko Guy was riding on the hood of the Queen Machine with me! Not out in the front, like one of those bare-breasted wooden ladies would be on an old ship, but further back, closer to the windshield, and somewhat more centered on the hood, kinda like a . . . well, a surfer, I guess.

To be honest I felt kinda bad for him 'cause I kept thinking that any minute he'd . . . well, wipe out like a surfer, but there really wasn't any appropriate place for me to pull over, pluck him off the hood, and then set him free (at least not without one of us running the risk of getting squished by the other non-surfing-gecko vehicles breezing by us).

Good luck, and hang ten, little buddy!

Thirty miles an hour. Forty miles an hour. Then fifty on Space Center Boulevard. And still, this little guy hung on like a champ. Now, granted, he did start out a bright, dazzling chartreuse gecko-green, and by the aforementioned fifty-mile-an-hour mark, he was turning a sort of strange sickly brown color, but, still, despite appearances, he was there, holding on for all he was worth! (Fortunately, by the time I turned off Space Center onto Middlebrook Drive, traffic was lighter because by now I couldn't take my eyes off this little dude -- I was cheering him on, and the road markings were strictly peripheral.)

As I slowed and turned into the church parking lot, he actually appeared to breathe a sigh of relief, and for the first time since I'd noticed him, his head actually dropped down onto his little front hand-thingies (heck, I don't know what they're called, but you know what I mean). He seemed to have finally collapsed in exhaustion from the effort to get where we were. (And I know we both breathed a huge sigh of relief.) And yet, despite the odds, he was still there. Yes, a little worse for wear, but there, nonetheless.

Through no reason that he really understood, my little gecko guy's world had suddenly taken off and seemingly (to him, anyway) sped out of control -- certainly out of his control at least. And he had done the only thing he knew to do: He had held on. Held on until it all slowed back down.

He didn't try to stop the car. (Totally beyond his paygrade.)

He didn't try to jump off. (Not an option when jumping off meant unceremoniously going splat.)

He didn't even try to run and hide. (The space where the wiper blades rest was nearby, but the wrong move would've surely jeopardized his balance and sent him flying.)

Nope. He just planted himself right where he was and clung to the one thing he knew to be solid. Yup. He simply did the only thing he could: He hung on. And waited for the craziness to stop.

Love it.

He was gone when I came out of church. I kinda missed him, but I was sure he'd made his way through the rows of parked cars to the more gecko-friendly grassy areas of the surrounding neighborhood. And I bet he's looking like his old self again. A bright, dazzling chartreuse gecko-green.

I think I'm finally 'bout there myself.

Love it.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Esther Williams ain't got nothin' on this baby!

[Which reminds me . . . I would've joined my sister at the beach this week, but, alas, the cleaners lost my bikini. Can you believe it? Yup. Just my luck.]

Okay, now I'm off to rearrange all the pillows on the couch so I can sit and have coffee with Papa-God.

Grins and blessings!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The D-word

[And to those of you wondering, yes,
this is EXACTLY what I look like
when I'm taking care of myself.
Okay, well, maybe I'm a little blonder.]

"Use your words . . . " I've heard Middle Daughter say this to Bella or Boogie, particularly when they were frustrated or excited and having trouble focusing in on how to best express themselves.

"Use your words . . . "

Okay: I'm struggling. I'm not well.

There. I've used my words. Put it out there in black and white. For all of Blog Land to see. (Or, really, probably more just for me.) Words forcing me to be honest. Real. Transparent. Vulnerable. (Not sure which is scarier -- being understood or being misunderstood. Most times I suppose I don't really like either option . . . I'd rather just retreat into my own little world without giving any other live human beings the chance to do either -- know or just think they know but really don't.)

It's the D-word.

No, not D-I-V-O-R-C-E. (Tell me I'm not the only one who can still hear poor Tammy's voice pitifully spelling out that word over the radio waves.)

Not even damn or dammit.

Depression. (Okay, sometimes, "Depression, dammit!")

Ugh. (Now, I'm really using my words.)

D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-O-N. Or to be more specific, chronic clinical depression.

Yup. I got it.

Now, before anyone in traveling distance of this blog origin jumps in the car to come check on me or "hold my hand" or -- and I really hate this one -- ask what's wrong?, let me explain.

Nothing's wrong. In fact, that's one of the most misunderstood aspects of this illness. My life is incredible. Truly. I am married to one of the cutest bald-headed, goatee-d men to ever walk the planet, and he is crazy about me and spoils me rotten. I have brilliant, beautiful healthy children who are not perfect but who, I trust Papa-God, will eventually get there, and adorable grandchildren who ARE perfect. (Okay, you know what I mean, given the right time of day and all.) I have a vocation I love that is also a ministry for which I am annointed and gifted to do. I have incredible brotha- and sista-friends who are truly among the finest people on earth. I have a cute, cute little cottage close enough to the bay to enjoy seeing the water when I head out to run errands and yet not close enough to have flooded during the last hurricane. I'm telling you, life is good!

So what's the problem? Some folks experience what I call situational depression when they experience a legitimate stresser in their lives -- the loss of a job, relationship difficulties, death of a loved one -- and that's a normal reaction to some of life's inevitable struggles. Most people understand that kind of depression and make "allowances" for that in the lives of those who are in the midst of trying circumstances.

Then there are the rest of us D-people.

For those of us who deal with clinical depression, there are no obvious stressers to point to, no convenient hooks to hang reasons for our behavior on. In fact, our day-to-day, looking-through-the-window lives may be wonderful (like mine is). And that's because our depression is not situational, it is physical. We suffer from a physical illness that manifests its symptoms in our mental and emotional well-being (or, more accurately, lack of). Our physical chemistry is askew, and it's not because we decided we would let it run amok, any more than a diabetic decides to have his pancreas malfunction.

For most of us living with chronic clinical depression, drug therapy (and often counseling) is a part of our everyday lives and will be as long as we are this side of Glory. (And you've heard me say it before folks, when I get my new body, I'm expecting it in a size 8 to carry around my new perfect mind.) It doesn't mean we are any less spiritual than the diabetic who needs insulin to regulate his/her blood sugar. We both have a physical illness that requires a physical treatment, and if we are wise, we are grateful for the medical intervention, and we allow this "weakness" to move us that much closer to our Father's strength. (Which is pretty much how He intended for all of us to live, wouldn't you agree.)

Having said that, yes, there are things we as D-people can do to "help" ourselves. Often a lack of physical care can aggravate our condition, just as it would a diabetic's. We need to be diligent in getting adequate rest, taking our medications, eating well and working physical activity into our lives. (I'm sorry, I couldn't bring myself to type in exercise . . . ) More often than not, when we neglect these things, we pay the price, much more so than the average bear. Our illness is more likely to show itself.

Unfortunately, there are also times when we can be doing all the "right stuff," only to have our illness decide to show up, much like the uninvited guest at a special event.

If an uninvited guest shows up to a large party, usually we can make adjustments without too much difficulty. We're aware he's there, but we can shrug and smile, knowing there's probably enough extra food and drink to "cover" the uninvited guest with a minimum of fuss or inconvenience.

And then sometimes the uninvited guest shows up to a small, intimate dinner party. We anticipated the arrival of the perfect mix of people, prepared a menu of everyone's favorite dishes, set out just the right amount of place settings and chairs at the table, so the presence of the uninvited guest is much more painfully obvious to all. All plans as we knew them, go out the window -- everything is thrown off kilter -- and all through no fault of our own. Hey, life happens like that sometimes. It's not comfortable, it's awkward at best, but still, we get through it.

Right now, I'm in interrupted-dinner-party mode. Though, okay, truth be known (and I do seem to be letting it all hang out here, so -- what the heck -- let's go for broke), it's a dinner party I didn't plan well for (so I'm aggravated at myself). I've been out of my routine -- school's out, I've been on vacation, and I'm home now, but St. Michael's gone this week, all of which can lead to not eating right, not keeping regular sleeping hours, forgetting to take meds or taking them at "off times," not pacing myself on projects . . . oh, shoot! Who am I kidding! It's ALL led to ALL of the above!

Now, again, to those of you who are in reach-out-and-touch distance of Casa St. Michael, there's no need to rush all the way over to downtown El Lago to check on me. (Generally, we D-people hate that. We feel awkward and self-conscious already, and, well, it just takes entirely too much energy to talk about ourselves -- or sometimes to talk at all. We need our energy just to be "normal" acting -- okay, kind of normal-acting -- and "gracious" in the midst of our interrupted dinner party.) Just cut me some slack if I need to hibernate for a little bit. I guess, now that I think about it, you can treat me kind of like I have a summer cold -- understand that I'm a little under-the-weather, and so I'm not really good company right now; I'll have an energy burst one minute and be out-and-about for a couple of hours and then feel like crashing -- desperately needing to take a good, long nap.

When the server of a good meal out asks, "Is there anything else you need?", St. Michael often says, "Just a little time and understanding . . . "

Makes me smile 'cause that's a pretty good thing for whatever ails most of us, don'cha think?

Drinking lots of fluids, getting plenty of rest, and planning future parties,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up . . . "

Well, since anybody left out there who's checkin' on this pitiful (as of late) blog has been seeing Boogie's picture for the past more-than-a-month, I figured I needed to give Bella equal time . . . here she is at the peditrician's office for her 2-year check-up. She's grown three and a half inches since January! Just think, sistas, if we could all do that, I, for one, would have less weight to lose!

(And remember how I said that if I was as cute as Boogie with his "mohawk," I'd get my hair done the same way? Well, I guess logic follows that if I looked this good topless, I'd be sittin' around half-naked, eatin' Fruit Loops all day, too . . . I can't believe I just said that. Oh, heck, yeah, I can.)

Lots happening since school's been out, but either I haven't had the time to write about it, or I haven't had the oomph to do so . . . I guess June just plumb wore me out, and now that we're into July, I just can't seem to get goin' again. However, since my theme for this year is "Grow Up!", I figure I'd better get a grip and commence to doin' somethin'!

Maybe I will accomplish somethin' today, even, and then write some meaningful words tomorrow . . . or maybe just some words . . . (at this point, ANY kind of words would be progress, huh!)

Until tomorrow . . .

Grinnin' and thinkin' about doin' somethin',

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Must be summer!

. . . and Boogie Bear's ready!

(If I were this cute, I'd wear my hair like this, too!)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gimme a break!

St. Bill and Middle Daughter


Boogie Bear

I took some days off from the school house earlier this week to stay with my grandbabies while Middle Daughter and St. Bill went to Las Vegas. (St. Bill had work there. Middle Daughter had fun there.) I had to come back to work to recover. Don't get me wrong, my grandbabies are ADORABLE (I mean, just look at those little faces!), and I'm crazy about them, but cliche or not, I totally get why YOUNG people have babies! I am whooped! And I'm even more impressed with the kind of mama Middle Daughter is -- she does an awesome job with her babies. (I have to say, though, that, tired or not, spending that time with Boogie and Bella was exactly what I dreamed being "Jaja" would be like. They grinned and giggled and I melted. And I never got tired of hearing, "I love you, Jaja!")

Still, I'm glad to be back at Casa St. Michael with the saint, and I've even been glad to be back at work with my big "babies" for a couple of days before the holiday weekend starts. Nonetheless, as much as I love those "babies," too, if I can get everything done that's calling out for my attention, I'll be excited for the start of the summer break at the end of next week! (Lots of miles to travel, people to see, and projects to complete during my "vacation" months.) Thinking about the break in our schedules that we as teachers are so blessed to get reminded me of something I wrote a few years ago after an exchange on the subject with a student . . .

[NOTE: Name has been changed to protect the clueless.]

My first thought was, “I can’t believe he’s saying that! That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”

My second thought was, “Well, duh, it’s Austin talking – why am I surprised?”

My third thought? “I was wrong. It’s not exactly the dumbest thing I've ever heard – I’m sure Austin’s said things just as dumb before (in fact, I know he has). I just didn’t expect him to get back in the groove so fast.”

And what did this little cherub say? you ask. Well, this little angel had the nerve to say, in front of God and everybody, that teachers do not deserve vacations. Can you believe it? Well, if it were anyone but Austin, I would have to say, no, I can’t believe anyone would say such a thing. I guess I have to chalk it up to ignorance, and since it is my job to educate, perhaps I should explain to him – and to any other morons out there harboring such thoughts – exactly why we need our Summer Break (and any other breaks we might get).

Middle school teachers get paid to be on campus from 8:15 AM to 4:15 PM. The last few weeks before the summer hiatus, I am usually on campus on most days from 7:30 to 5:30. (I was up here for eleven hours over last weekend.) There have been many other days when I stayed until six or seven or eight, and many teachers here at school put in much longer hours than I do. (And, of course, this doesn’t include the time we all spend working on school projects at home.)

Actually, the more I think about it, there are probably no words to explain the toll good teaching takes on those who do it. How do you explain to someone who doesn’t want to understand what trying to do our jobs costs us personally – what it’s like to care intensely about kids you know are struggling through tough times at home; kids who have difficulty learning in a regular classroom setting but have no other alternatives; kids who suffer from hyperactivity and yet are not on adequate meds and who, therefore, disrupt everyone else’s learning and threaten your own sanity; kids who, for whatever reason just plain don’t care enough about themselves to care about anything else, least of all learning. And last, but definitely not least, what it takes out of a teacher to deal daily with one like Austin.

“No, that’s not a verb, Austin.”

“Why not?”

“Well, it doesn’t show action or state of being.”

“Why not? I don’t get it! This is stupid.”

Then there are the adults we deal with. Parents, administrators, sometimes even other teachers (all of which I definitely don’t have time to discuss here). And the paperwork? Lord help me – let’s not even go there.

If for no other reason, though, we need a break so that we can come back to school and realize that regardless of the lack of respect we get, regardless of the long hours we work, regardless of the general crap we deal with, we really do love our kids. (We even miss them when we’re away from them, though we might not realize it until we see them again in the hallway.)

Yep, we DO love our kids – even the clueless ones like Austin – and we want to be the very best for them, and that’s precisely why we need a break. (Just like parents of small children who need a getaway every once in a while!)

Grinnin' . . . and packin' up for the break!