Never a dull moment . . .

Firetruck

We’ve all heard “what goes round comes round.” “It’s easy to dish it out, but hard to take it.” The boomerang theory: What you send off will most likely come back … maybe to bite you. And we all know what they say about Karma. Today it happened to me.

Let me lay a little groundwork. A week or so ago, I suffered a sinus headache that should be in the Sinus Headache Hall of Fame. Just as I was recovering from two days of that, a muscle spasm hit in my hip and traveled clear to my toe.  (Google said this sort of thing often happens to people who sit too long. Of course I was sitting. I had a headache!)

Skip forward a couple of days. I tagged my youngest son, Phillip, on Facebook with a post showing the sort of drama Moms can imagine when their kids don’t answer their texts. I’m sure he was embarrassed at the tag. He replied with a cryptic, “Very funny.”

Now, today.

Just as I pulled into the parking lot, I got a call from a co-worker. We spoke a minute and then I stuck my phone in my jacket pocket. I guess I “pocket-dialed” Phillip (who lives in the Pacific time zone and was most likely asleep). He said later that what he heard coming over the thousand miles between us sounded like I was in great distress. Knowing about my headache/ vertigo/ hip/ leg issues of the past week, he dialed my land line. When I didn’t answer, he called the local police and asked them to go to my house and check on me.

They sent an ambulance and fire truck — thankfully without sirens. Another co-worker, dropping her child off at school, saw the emergency vehicles at my house and alerted everyone at the office where I work.

In the meantime, Phillip thought to call my office. When I answered, he just said, “Omigosh, Mom” several times. I could hear the panic in his voice, which scared me.

He told me what he had done and I said to call the police right back and tell them false alarm before they broke down my door.

All this happened just as I was trying to direct educators to three different workshops, find a Chromebook charger, and answer the phone, which kept being Phillip. Bless his heart.

I rang my 93-year-old neighbor to let her know the situation, in case she had seen the commotion in my driveway.

Later, the church secretary called to see if I was okay. Did someone in the congregation see the ambulance, at my house?

In fact, I spent most of the morning telling folks I was fine.  And I am.

Just a little Karma having its day.

How Sweet Are His Words

Sweeter than honey

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

In addition to preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child, the Advent season (or pre-Christmas) is also the time for getting together with friends. These gatherings always seem to include food. Pot luck dinners, or ‘bring your favorite party food’ or even Cookies with Santa, all challenge us in our quest to eat mostly healthy food.

For several years, one of my New Year’s resolutions was “lose ten pounds.”  Every January, I set the same goal. I never achieved it, more often than not I gained. To lose weight I needed to adjust my teen-age eating habits to my aging metabolism. Or, as the old joke goes, grow taller until my height/weight ratio was correct.

I readily confess that I don’t eat only when I’m hungry. I eat because I love the taste of food. And it has occurred to me that if I consumed God’s word with the same enthusiasm, I would be a Bible scholar.

What better time to start the habit/discipline of reading the Bible than during Advent, the time set aside for preparing for the coming of Jesus into the world.

Start at the beginning of Luke and read about His birth, flip over to Matthew to read Joseph’s point of view. Continue through the book of Luke to learn about Jesus’ life and ministry and then read Acts to see what happened next.

Join me in feasting on His Words: Sweeter than honey.

 

Say what you will

Wrigley Field

Call me a bandwagoner or whatever you like but I enjoyed watching the World Series. I’ve liked baseball all my life, playing games of work-up in the school yard, following the local farms clubs in various small towns in the Fifties, watching my kids in Little League and beyond, and, in the Eighties, reveling in the chance to drive to Dallas once a month to see the Texas Rangers. But, recent years have brought fewer opportunities to witness a live game, and I find TV coverage less than satisfactory.

Though the farm teams I cheered for back in the day belonged to the American League, I have always had a sentimental spot in my heart for the Chicago Cubs. Because . . . really . . . 1908? . . . I mean, bless their hearts! I have a fondness for the Cleveland Indians too for a similar reason.  Bless their hearts, too.  Also, Bob Hope owned a piece of the Indians and I had a fondness for Bob Hope.

My husband was a big Cubs fan. He had the hat and shirt and watched them play every chance he got, though he never had the opportunity to travel to Chicago to see a game.

For all the above reasons, I felt I should be allowed to root for the Cubbies in the 2016 World Series games. Or at the very least it’s my constitutional right.

So, I watched every game … on television in my living room. And I discovered once again why this manner of experiencing a game is less than satisfactory to me.

I want to comment on the plays. I need to make a suggestion to the umpire now and then. It’s just not the same when you’re alone.

I often mute the play-by-play announcer. I can see what’s going on, and if I miss it no problem, it will be instant-replayed several times. And now there is new technology that allows someone to second-guess the umpire? What is the world coming to?

By game 7, the trivia guy was on my last nerve. He sat in the booth with Google or something, pointing out to us how many ways this series was history-making.

“This is the first time a retiring catcher has hit a two-run homer in the 8th inning of the 7th game in World Series play in November with rain in the forecast.”

PLEASE!

All in all it was fun to watch history being made in the World of Sports. And I just have to say it:

How about them Cubs?

You are what you wear … I’m in trouble

Department Store

If  there is any activity more problematic for me than clothes shopping, well, I can’t think what it could be.

I have identified myself in this blog as a Middle Kid. Middle Kid Syndrome is a valid emotional condition, though not a clinical disorder. When the family contains three children, the second child — not the oldest (medical marvel) nor the youngest (sweet baby) often feels invisible and neglected. Usually for very good reason. Middle Kids tend to be easy going, go with the flow, play the peacemaker, be the ‘good’ one.

The middle children of my generation never had the pressure of choosing patterns or fabric for Easter outfits. Shopping for school clothes was never a problem. Clothing decisions were made by older siblings. Middle kids wore hand-me-downs. I never learned to shop for myself.

Another difficulty (for me) is that I have no natural sense of style and color — which has nothing to do with my birth order but, still. Some people can buy an accessory just knowing it will match that outfit hanging in the closet back home. I may coordinate an outfit in my bedroom only to find it clashes in the bright light of day. I think I originated the one-blue-sock-one-black-sock fashion statement.

I probably inherited this attribute from my father, since after my mother died he started wearing plaid pants and striped shirt with a paisley tie. But I digress.

Over the years I have learned to play it safe and wear mostly solid colors — a lot of black. I have five pairs of black pants and an obscene number of tees in various colors. Long sleeved turtlenecks for winter and short sleeved round neck for summer. No bling.

Occasionally, I think I would like to change my look. Maybe buy some brown pants. Maybe a shirt to wear over the tee. So, after receiving a gift certificate for a recent birthday, I took myself shopping. Okay, I went to one store.

First of all, no brown pants of any size anywhere in the store. What’s up with that?

Next, the choice of garments in my size was very slim. Which I’m not by the way. That particular store is a treasure trove for the skinnies out there. Or else women of my girth have already purchased anything I would consider appropriate.

I found a cute tunic — only to realize it was a dress! There was also a collection of skirts in my size. But have you noticed that most of the skirt material nowadays is see-through? And I don’t know if they even make half-slips any more. Not from what I observe. I am not going to wear a shear skirt without a slip. No one wants to see that.

Well, while “window shopping” inside the store was fun, it wasn’t very productive. However, I didn’t leave empty-handed.

I bought a black tee.

What We Do For Love

Dot HatfieldI’m in a play. I am Juror Nine in the Center on the Square (Searcy, Arkansas) production of Twelve Angry Women. I’m having a blast. I knew six cast members previously and have made five new friends during this time.

In 2014, the “Archie” committee awarded me a life time achievement award. I sat out the 2015 season, enjoying the theater from the front of the house. But with the call for “Women” I decided the fat lady had not yet sung.

Each cast member has many theater credits. One of the fun conversations we have had during down time centers around gaffs, dropped lines, and accommodations made while hopefully keeping the audience unaware of the hysteria onstage.

You’ve heard the expression “The show must go on,” a phrase linked to show business, meaning that regardless of what happens, the planned entertainment must be staged for the waiting audience. They bought their tickets in good faith, they must not be disappointed.

The phrase originated a couple of hundred years ago in the circus. If an animal got loose or a performer was injured it was the ringmaster’s job to keep the show going so the crowd wouldn’t panic. But I digress.

In my 25-or-so years in community theater, where there are seldom understudies, I have seen the SMGO attitude exhibited often.

Lifetime Achievement AwardAbout 20 years ago I was in the company of It’s a Grand Night for Singing, a revue of Rodgers and Hammerstein hits. The music is lovely, each song set in a little vignette of its own. But this particular production seemed as plagued as Shakespeare’s Scottish Play (bad luck to say out loud).

During the first weeks of blocking scenes and learning music, the choreographer’s mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. A week or so later, the soprano’s husband chose that time to end their marriage. An alto lost her job, a tenor lost his father, and when a long-time icon of local theater died suddenly, several in the cast lost a friend and mentor. Yet, for three weekends we sucked it up and gave the audience a show.

In It’s a Wonderful Life, the movie made into a play, main character George Bailey skips through scenes with minor characters, quickly telling the story familiar to most of us. On the first Sunday of our three-week run at the old COTS, we suddenly realized two actors were missing. This was a few years ago before just everyone had a cell phone. When the couple was finally located they were unaware that Sunday was a matinee! They were planning on a 6:30 p.m. call. There was no way they could be there in time for curtain. The director stepped into the tech booth and the sound and lights guy became Harry Bailey. (Suspend disbelief when the WWII hero is sporting a full beard.) One of the moms who had attended every single rehearsal turned into Violet. She would stand in the wings studying lines, then step out and say them. Repeat as needed.

As an actor, I know that being there for the audience is important, yes. But I’m also determined to be there for myself. I have attended hours of rehearsal, I have memorized lines and blocking, I have run lines every day to keep them fresh in my head. I have thought a lot about this character and why she does what she does. Do you think after all that someone else could step into my role? Over my dead body.

Twelve Angry Women has 3 more performances this upcoming weekend. It has been a great run with no major glitches. Come see us if you can. We’ll give you a good show. It’s what we do for love …

For tickets or more information:  www.centeronthesquare.org

 

Euphemisms and PC Talk

people_talking

I needed a word. My character thought someone was being mean. But that word seems a little harsh, not to mention judgmental.  I needed a softer word.

As I perused the 463 pages of Euphemisms and other Doubletalk, a book shared with me by my BFF (also a wordsmith), I pretty much struck out on how to call someone mean without insulting them.

But, I discovered there are many different phrases used to name intimate behavior, private body parts, or murder. One really has to be careful what one says. (Acronyms, so popular with text and facebook, are a whole nother blog post.)

We have all heard, and applied, the euphemisms most commonly used for death. It’s interesting how many ways we can come up with to say  (without saying) that someone died.

I heard medical personnel interviewed on TV at an accident scene say, “The patient uh, uh, deceased on the way to the hospital.” Thus coining a new verb.

And speaking of accidents … When news helicopters made it possible for the media to be on the scene before the first responders, a morning traffic reporter said, on her first day, “There’s a wreck on I-40 coming into the city.” Her anchor back at the station said, “We don’t say ‘wreck’, we say ‘accident.'” She paused a moment then said, “This one’s a wreck!”

One euphemism that came about after my child bearing years was when “labor pains” suddenly became “contractions.” And Mom didn’t “hurt”, she was “uncomfortable.”

Now who came up with that one? Probably hospital staff when they decided to let Daddy into the delivery room. He’s much less likely to faint at the sight of his beloved writhing in agony if it’s really only a matter of a little discomfort. Some hospitals use monitors attached to Mommy’s tummy to gauge just how strong the contraction is. Anything less than a 10 should be bearable, right?

I heard a story about a couple engaged in bringing new life into the world under these conditions. Daddy was fully focused on the monitor so he would know just how much support/ encouragement Mommy might need. As the needle moved up to 6-7 and slowly receded, he patted his wife’s hand and said, “Ah, that wasn’t too bad.”

I’m told she grabbed him by the front of his shirt and screamed, “That CONTRACTION was very UNCOMFORTABLE!”

Well, we all use them, and that’s okay. Euphemisms are not bad. In this day of saying the wrong thing and suffering censure from peers and strangers, the more we can soften our words, the better.

Blessing the Backpacks

Blessing of the Backpacks

Tomorrow is the first day of school. This morning was the blessing of the backpacks. This is not a United Methodist ritual, but has become a loved tradition at Beebe First UMC over the past several years.

The steps in the chancel area were covered with backpacks, lunch kits, teachers’ bags, briefcases, and even keys belonging to those in the congregation involved in education.

Our pastor prayed individually for each child, that s/he would be safe, would not be afraid, be ready to learn, and maybe be a friend to someone who needs one.

Why would he pray that we should return to school unafraid?

Active Shooter Training is a part of most school-staff inservices this year. In the classroom, children are taught what to do if they hear gunfire in the hall or the “lock down” words come over the intercom.

Larger schools may have scanners where visitors swipe their driver’s license to gain admittance. Registered offenders may not enter.

How do we feel safe and unafraid? Well, that’s what the drills are for. When the fire bell rang, children knew to walk in a straight line to the designated place on the playground. That was the practice in the Forties (and still today perhaps).

During the Cold War years, when the A-Bomb alarm went off, children hid under their desks. Until someone figured out the desk was not really much protection against an Atomic Bomb.

Many southern states have tornado drills, safe rooms, definite plans for protection against storms.

All these drills urge us to think about “what would we do if . . .?” so we’re more able to make the best choice in an emergency.

School starts tomorrow.

Pray for the kids, teachers, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, nurses, and parapros, and anyone else I may have accidentally left out. Pray they will be patient, loving, and brave in the face of their tremendous responsibility and challenge to mold young lives.

Whodunnit

shoe300Assessing blame is given a lot of importance in the world today. Whether it is a natural disaster, an accident, or ‘user error,’ we instantly put a great deal of effort into finding out who is responsible.  All this reminds me of an incident that occurred several years ago.

Soon after I picked up my five year old from day care, I smelled a foul odor coming from somewhere inside the car.

I asked my little boy if he needed to use the bathroom and he denied having that need.

The aroma stayed with us throughout the ride home.

After supper I rushed him into his bath. I check his clothes thoroughly as I put them in the hamper. Nothing.

Even after I was assured my boy was squeaky clean, from time to time, I would get a whiff of  . . . or was it my imagination?

I didn’t discover the source of the stench until the next morning when I dressed for work and noticed a small amount of ‘it’ on the bottom of my shoe.

The moral is: Before we complain about a stink, we should each check our own shoes.

 

Offended or Offensive

Baby

Is it possible to write that one true sentence that doesn’t offend someone? It would seem not. We have all had that foot-in-mouth experience when we innocently say something … maybe not even an original thought, but something we’ve heard or read … only to find we have stepped on a toe, albeit unintentionally.

And what about when it’s our turn to be offended? We too can work ourselves into a rant over the smallest slight or thoughtless slip of the tongue.

We really shouldn’t do this. Many years ago, a wise man wrote, “When a fool is annoyed, he quickly lets it be known. Smart people will ignore an insult.”

Does that offend you? Don’t get mad at me! King Solomon said this in the Book of Proverbs (12:16). He wrote lots of other things we would do well to heed. “A friend loves at all times.” “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

Oh, yes, he also said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do and he will show you the right way.” *

Sounds like a Plan.

 

*Good News Bible, Proverbs 3:5-6

 

The Methodist Way

circuit_rider

Today was our pastor’s last Sunday at Beebe First United Methodist Church. Next week we will have a different spiritual leader and our “old” preacher will have a “new” church home.  That’s the Methodist way.

You can tell how long I’ve been a member, since I often refer to us as “Methodists” when we’ve been United Methodists since 1968. But I digress.

It’s called the itinerancy, continued from the earliest years in the United States when most denominations used Circuit Riders to bring the Gospel to their scattered flocks. In the United Methodist Church today, each summer elders are assigned (or re-assigned) to a church or charge. Every pastor has a church (sometimes more than one) and every church has a pastor (sometimes more than one). No Methodist preacher has to go out looking for a job.

This is a good deal for the minister and the congregation. The Bishop and his cabinet make the assignments. The pastor goes where he’s sent. There are sacrifices, after all, when one answers the call to full-time Christian service.

Brother Russell has served in Beebe six years. This is a long tenure, the average stay being three or four years. Both his children graduated from BHS. Couples he married brought their babies to be baptized. His first confirmation class of Beebe youth will enter college in the fall.

During the children’s story today, our pastor stopped, took a deep breath and paused. We have learned to recognized this as emotion, God touching his heart with the poignancy of the moment. As he continued, from the choir, I could see the child sitting next to him move her hand across his back as far as she could reach.

Softly she rubbed the palm of her hand across his shoulder blade to the middle of his back and to his shoulder again. I could imagine she had learned this comforting movement from a parent who had soothed her in that manner. It was such a compassionate act of love. I was touched.

She’ll always remember Brother Russell, even after she falls in love with Brother Matt.

Our children see their pastor as more than just the one who preaches and baptizes and serves communion. For them, he’s even more than just the good sport willing to wear a crazy costume for VBS. They see him, also, as vulnerable as the rest of us, as one whose heart also hurts when it’s time to say good-bye.

The comfort that one little girl could offer her pastor in this bittersweet moment is all the proof we need — if we should need it all — that no one is too young or too old to be a part of God’s Kingdom.

This is not just the Methodist way. It’s God’s way.