Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good. Better. Best.

So, I'm jumping on the "Best Of" bandwagon.  As all the talking heads, pundits, and social media royalty are making their lists of "best" movies, "best" moments in sports, "best" books, and "best" celebrity gaffes, I decided to craft my own little list.  I could post my two cents with regards to those previously-mentioned topics, adding to the noise; but, this is much more fun.

A (Partial) List of the Best Moments--2014 Edition

1.  Waking with a start, in the dawn's early light, realizing that I forgot to put out the trash for today's pick-up.  I race outside, hoping there's no neighbors in view, and put out the receptacle.  As I settle back into bed, I hear the roar of the garbage truck, coming down my street.  Sweet.

2.  Checking my mailbox (the real one--with the wooden post and flippy-flag that alerts your mail carrier to outgoing items) and receiving a hand-written, "just thinking of you" note, from a dear friend.

3. Hearing my favorite song on the radio.  It's fate.  It's destiny.  No iPod and Spotify playlist involved.

4.  The sound of the tea-kettle whistling.  

5.  Discovering fellow lovers of old musicals--"Singin' In The Rain", anyone?

6.  A spontaneous hug attack from "He-who-is-now-taller-than-I".  And, he's almost 13.

7.  Finding "Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas".  On DVD.  For $5.

8.  Having a chocolate chip cookie craving and finding all the ingredients I need in the pantry and fridge.  No trip to the grocery needed.  It's that destiny thing again.

9.  An impromptu lunch date with my favorite Philosopher and our boys.

10.  Leaves on the ground--and leaves in the dining room table.

11.  My Ninja's delight in unusual digital clock times.  For example, 11:11 or 12:34.  Really.

12.  Twilight Woods and Dark Kiss.

13.  Making the 798th trip down the by-pass, en route from Tae Kwon Do, and viewing a spectacular sunset over the plowed cotton fields. 

14.  A beloved hymn in the line-up on our Sunday morning worship bulletin.

To quote Half-Pint yet again (Little House fans unite!), “I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all”, says she.

Life-long learning.  Here's to a 2015 filled with those lessons.  That's higher education.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Just A Thought

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” 
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mary Had A Little Lamb

"Behold, the Lamb of God
Who takes away our sin,
Behold the Lamb of God
The life and light of men,
Behold the Lamb of God
Who died and rose again,
Behold the Lamb of God who comes
To take away our sin."
~Andrew Peterson,
Behold the Lamb of God 

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,and the life was the light of men. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
~John 1:1-5


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Astonishment--Christmas Eve

Let the Stable Still Astonish

Let the stable still astonish:

Straw-dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the child,
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.

Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said: "Yes,
Let the God of all the heavens and earth
be born here, in this place."

Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms of our hearts
and says, "Yes, let the God
of Heaven and Earth
be born here ----
in this place.
~Leslie Leyland Fields

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reality Check

Gingerbread Cookies: Southern Living Edition

I am a romantic.  Especially during this season, I have these idyllic notions of how our home should be decorated, how my baking should taste...and smell...and look, and how my home-made “simple gifts” for dear friends (and our beloved neighborhood State Trooper), expertly tied with raffia and a Christmas plaid bow should look.  Last year, I refused to join the fracas of getting out Christmas cards before Christmas--GASP!  And thus, the “Joyful January” card was born.  If you really want to get sticky about it, there are twelve days of Christmas that begin on December 25--historical rationalization is a beautiful thing.  The ever-popular ditty that includes those five golden rings also supports my case. 

Joseph Bottum’s recent post, Joyful Surrender: A Rhapsody in Red (and Green) brought a grin to my flour-smudged face--and a “Yup, that’s just what I needed to hear”.  Not everything will be like Martha (Stewart, that is) was here to help.  I adore our simple but festive decorations, and myriads of sweet-smelling candles go a long way.  And, hand-made cards from our precious college kiddos.  Don’t get me wrong--I sometimes pine (Christmas pun) for the Spode Christmas ware--or just one more poinsettia placemat set--with matching napkins.  I thoroughly enjoy taking fireplace shots--I grew up in South Florida; so, I’m forgiven for that obsession.

As one of my favorite Christmas songs reminds listeners, it was not a silent night.  It was loud, it was wild, it was chaotic--it was real.  And, that is the ideal setting for what Bottum so beautifully calls “the impossibly boisterous fact that God has intruded in this world.”  We should “break out into song, if you can. Break out into sentimentality, if you can stand it. Break out into extravagance...and Christmas doodads and the branches breaking under the weight of their ornaments. Break out into charity and goodwill. But however you do it, just break out.

So, I will “break out” the popsicle stick-framed nativity crafts of yesteryear (2004-2009), I will “break out” the tried-and-true Snickerdoodle recipe and put aside that multi-adjective chocolate decadence that I pinned last night, and I will “break in” the LEGO Santa and Christmas tree, meticulously designed by my Ninja.  I will embrace the reality that has been so Graciously given to me.  It is a gift.  Unmerited. Priceless. Inexpressible. 

Gingerbread Cookies:  Tabulations Edition


Sunday, December 21, 2014

With Love--The Fourth Light of Advent

"Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen."
 ~Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Book of Common Prayer

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight. 
Rejoice!  Rejoice! Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, oh Israel.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday--Band Aid

1984.  "Do They Know It's Christmas?".  Band Aid.  Bob Geldof.  Live Aid. Duran Duran.  Bono.  Big hair.  Eyeliner.  And that was just the guys. 

My very own copy.  On 45.  And some paraphernalia from my Duranie days. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


On this day, nineteen years ago, my favorite Philosopher and I said, "I do".  December 16 is also a literary milestone.  It marks the birthday of a favorite authoress of mine--Jane Austen.  I should add that this momentous occasion took place 220 years prior to our delightful recessional stroll to the "Prince of Denmark's March".  Thus, to commemorate both anniversaries, I offer a quote or two of Austenian origin that are ever-so-fitting.

"Perhaps it is our imperfections that make us so perfect for one another."

"I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.  My attachments are always excessively strong." 
~ Northanger Abbey

"I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation.  It was too long ago.  I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun..."  

~Pride & Prejudice

Monday, December 15, 2014

Beautiful Music

Martin Luther once said, "Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us. "  

Particularly during these days of Advent, the sounds and strains of lovely orchestrations envelop us.  Whether we're grocery shopping at our favorite Kroger, standing in line at Bath & Body Works for their "best sale of the year", taxiing some member(s) of our family to the final game of the season, or preparing the sixth batch of snickerdoodles in our kitchen, the music follows us.  Admittedly, I get weary of hearing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" sung by some of the most random singers out there--Nat King Cole is rolling over in his grave.  However, it is the tinkling of the bells, the regal tones of the pipe organ, or the melodious strings bringing us music that invigorates our hearts--or just simply makes us smile.  The rich language of age-old carols reminds us of the meaning of this season of Anticipation.   

After a recent Christmas cantata, masterfully presented at our local church, my Ninja described choral music to me in this way. 

"This music is like an onion.  It has many layers (parts), it's sweet (he likes Vidalia), and it makes your eyes water (having observed his mama get teary-eyed during several pieces)".

It is important to note here that he is a lover of onions.  Thus, the comparison is a very high compliment.  

Lest you think I am getting too big for my yoga pants, I must give a proper nod to the crooners--and the standards that made them famous.  I will openly confess that hearing Bing Crosby sing "Silver Bells" makes me happy.  Throw in some Harry, Frank, Julie, and Ella on that playlist, and life is sweet.   And, having recently learned of the story behind "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", one of my Nana's favorite Christmas songs comes all the more to life.  

I think Martin Luther was onto something.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

With Joy--The Third Light of Advent

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
 ~Psalm 103: 1-5

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hump-Day Horticultural Hilarity: Percy the Puny Poinsettia

Elmo and Patsy were not just one-hit wonders, my friends.  Here is their endearing follow-up to that beloved Christmas standard, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. 

"Percy, the puny poinsettia
Is hanging his bloom in dismay,
If they had just kept him wetta,
He'd be a houseplant today.
Folks liked the other plants betta
Now he's alone on the shelf.
Even a plant with no uncle or aunt
Shouldn't spend Christmas Day by himself."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

With Hope--The Second Light of Advent

“As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In The Manger

 O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. 
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things--Advent Edition

Advent.  Anticipation.  Traditions.  What are those things--be they memories, pictures, stories, or music--by which we mark this time of year?  Perhaps, it is a beloved recipe.  Or a cache of treasured ornaments.  Or a story that makes us smile, laugh or cry.  Maybe all at the same time.  It may not be girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes or snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes; but, here are a few of my favorite Advent things.  Just in case you wanted to know.

Every year, I re-read Jan Karon's Shepherds Abiding.  Even for those who may not know the Mitford story, this is a jewel.  The story centers around this seemingly down-trodden nativity set that arrives at the local Antique store.  Father Tim decides to take on the refurbishing of the set as a surprise gift for his lovely wife.  Tim’s labor of love sets in motion some of the best Mitford lore written yet.

Behold the Lamb of God, Andrew Peterson’s “true tall tale of the coming of Christ” is an amazing musical narrative of the prophetic arrival of the Messiah.  He takes us back to the Old Testament fathers and prophets, weaving a tale that brings us to the glory of the Savior incarnated.  Matthew’s Begats is a fun song--and great way to learn the genealogy of Christ.   My favorite song on the CD (and one of my favorite Christmas songs period) is Labor of Love

“It was not a silent night, there was blood on the ground.
You could hear a woman cry in the alleyway that night,
On the streets of David’s town...”

A little boy loses his way in a Carolina snowstorm and finds himself warming up in the cabin of a wise mountain woman.  Their conversation takes them from the Creation to the Resurrection.  One Wintry Night, written by Ruth Bell Graham, and beautifully illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson, always finds itself in my Christmas basket--or on my nightstand.

This year, we are reading through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s God Is In The Manger for our family Advent devotionals.  Each day's reading includes a scripture passage, meditation, and a relevant excerpt from the writings of Bonhoeffer. Thus far, the reflections from Bonhoeffer himself have come from his prison letters, written during his captivity in a Nazi concentration camp.  Powerful. 

And, of course, the perfect hot cocoa recipe is a must.  Several years ago, having run out of the good ole’ Swiss Miss hot cocoa packets, I found this yummy recipe online.  My Ninja and “He-who-is-now-older-than-I” request it as soon as the temperature dips below 5o degrees which happened rather quickly this year. The secret is the dash of vanilla in the bottom of the mug.  Oops, I guess it’s not a secret anymore!

 Psst:  I'd love to hear from you--just so you know...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

With Anticipation--The First Light of Advent

"...But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him." 
~ C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Giving Thanks--for the Hymns of Old...

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee:
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
As thou hast been thou for ever wilt be.

"Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!"
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed thy hand hath provided—
"Great is thy faithfulness," Lord unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

--Thomas Chisholm (1925)

"Join with all nature in manifold witness..."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What's In Your Shoebox?

It's a tradition--scenes from Union University's Packing Party

We started packing shoeboxes when “He-who-is-now-taller-than-I” could fit his chunky-monkey baby legs through the slots in the front seat of the grocery cart, likely with one of those hypoallergenic seat covers.  We would fill our box with necessities--toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, and such.  Maybe some nifty socks or a hat.  Of course, you had to have a coloring book, crayons, and some candy.  Oh, and those Little Debbie Swiss Cake rolls.  Oh, stink, they will melt in transit.  Hmm...

Eager participation in this far-reaching ministry was a no-brainer for me.  Precious kids in need. Sharing the Gospel.  Beautiful faces.  Full of joy.  No matter what.  Count me in.  My boys can attest to the fact that while I rail about the lack of anticipation (Hello, that’s what Advent means!) as we rush headlong into Christmas from Halloween, the only permissible mention of Christmas before December 1 is Operation Christmas Child.  Period.  

Operation Christmas Child (OCC), better known as “The Shoebox Ministry”, was birthed in Australia in 1990.  Adopted in 1993 by Samaritan’s Purse (an international relief organization headed by Franklin Graham), the original recipients of gift-filled shoeboxes were Bosnian children whose families had been separated or destroyed by war.  Twenty years later, over 113 million shoeboxes have been distributed to underprivileged children in more than 150 countries.  Countless stories have been told about how these boxes, packed with love, prayer, and washcloths, have crossed international boundaries that have been closed to traditional missionaries for years.  Pack-n-Pray.

How does this work?  You, the packer, gets to choose whether you want to pack a box for a boy or girl--and then, you choose the age range:  0-4, 5-9, or 10-14.  Given that I am overpowered by testosterone by a 3:1 ratio in my house and rarely come across anything purposefully pink, I always pack a box for a little girl.  The boxes are filled with school supplies, toiletries (bar soap, bath scrubbies, and the like) and accessories--a new t-shirt, a pair of sneakers, or a pair of flip-flops may await the recipient.  Small games, books, yo-yos, balls, or action figures (no war-based items, please) are other great ideas.  Coloring books and crayons are a thrill for all ages--I mean it!  And, because you feel all responsible and hygienic by providing a toothbrush and paste, hard candy is always welcome.  Hooray for Tootsie Pops, we say!

There is so much more that could be said and as you all know, I am rarely at a loss for words. But, this time, I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story.   While I wipe away the happy tears. And eat my Swiss Cake Roll.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Party With A Purpose


Please plan to join us for our Fourth Annual Stella & Dot Trunk Show to support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital--and Team Belle.  This event is especially meaningful to me--and I do hope you will share a bit of your evening with us!

As many of you know, five years ago, Belle Mitchell, the youngest daughter of my long-time college friend, Kelley, was diagnosed with Choroid Plexus Carcinoma--brain cancer.  She and her family have been battling this disease since she was 2 1/2.  Because of places like St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that provide world-class health care and progressive treatment programs in a hope-filled environment--at absolutely no cost to the families, the Mitchells have been well-equipped to fight. 
Please help us support Belle--and hundreds of other precious cancer warriors--with this win-win event!  Do some holiday shopping for some special ladies in your life (or even treat yourself with a S&D happy!) and know that 100% of the net proceeds from the show go directly to St. Jude.  It's the gift that truly keeps on giving~ 

For those who may be out of town or simply have other commitments on Friday evening, have no fear, you can easily shop online!

Shop online for this "party with a purpose"
 here -

A Post-Script:  A heartfelt thanks to my dear friend, Kimberly Larsen (Stella & Dot--Star Stylist/Mentor/Trainer) for making this event possible!  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hoops: There It Is

"He-who-is-now-taller-than-I" is playing hoops for a local, homeschool-friendly private school--and is coached by my favorite Philosopher.  Both are in their second year--as player and coach (for this program), respectively.  Simply put, the first season was a "character-building" year.  This season is looking a bit different than the last--the Knights have already beat teams who bested them by at least 20 points last year.  And, they have done this in "enemy territory", so to speak.  Middle-grades basketball in the rhinestone on the buckle of the Bible Belt is an experience.

First of all, I am learning more about West Tennessee geography.  Small towns like Hornsby, Toone, and Sharon are now fixed points on MapQuest.  In some cases, these out-of-the-way locales don't even merit a bold dot on a traditional map.  But, they love their basketball.  Boy howdy, do they ever!

The school is found in the midst of a quiet neighborhood, right around the corner from a family-owned grocery store or a Sonic.  Or, it might be in the middle of Nowhere.   Yes, there is a middle of Nowhere--and I have been there.  The marquee advertises tonight's game--and many come out just to take a shot at the half-time activities.  More on that later.

You can tell where the gym is by the number of vehicles parked in front of a nondescript, cinder block building.   And when you exit your car, you smell the popcorn.  And the hot dogs. The gym's interior glows, providing a night-light, to help you find your way.  There is an admission fee which supports the Booster Club.  Yes, elementary schools have booster clubs.  And, those manning the table are welcoming--but not too much so.  We are the opponents, after all.  They seem happy to take our money.  It's worth the four dollars.  Coaches and players are free.

There are cheerleaders--in cute little uniforms, complete with pom-poms and white sneakers.  And, spirit hands, of course.  The home team players enter the court to music--and the cheers of their fans.  Van Halen's "Jump" is this team's anthem.  The boys warm-up, the buzzer sounds, and our roster is cordially announced.  The home team roster is another story.  I feel like I'm listening to Ray Clay introducing the Chicago Bulls 1997 Dream Team! Lest I forget--there is the removal of hats, the placing of hands on the hearts, and the singing of the National Anthem.  Whether live or recorded, home-town patriots honor their flag and their country.  And, then, the tip-off.

The enthusiasm when a three-pointer is drained or a gorgeous steal that results in a textbook lay-up is unrivaled in these gyms.  (And, yes, I am now wearing my basketball mom hat which means I speak Hoop-ish.  It sounds cool, doesn't it? Like I really know what I'm talking about).   Home-grown fans are decked out in school colors, mascot-wear, and the like. And, the whole town is there.  The whole town. They chant, they shout, they take issue with the refs--unless, of course, the refs are home-town gentlemen.  Ahem.

And, then comes half-time.  The cheer squad performs for their Home audience--usually with their backs to those of us seated in the Visitor section.  Some are more "rhythmically-inclined" than others, more athletic, or simply more confident.  But, they all have spirit hands.  I adore spirit hands.  As a retired cheerleader, (my own high-school cheering career was cut heartbreakingly short by a knee injury, warming up before a JV game.  I still remember the cheer...), I feel I have earned the right to tease about such hands.  

And, then comes this school's half-time tradition:  one may attempt to make a free throw shot, from the half-court line, for $1 per toss.  If you make the shot, you win half the pot.  The rest goes to the Booster Club.  I have yet to see anyone make it--but there have been some mighty close calls.  

Say what you will about swanky athletic complexes, booster-funded workout facilities, and Whole Foods concession stands.   They attract athletes, coaches, and more moolah.  I like the feel of these middle of Nowhere gymnasiums that come alive when Johnny hits a free throw--or Katie makes her first basket of the season.  It's a small-town Tuesday night.

...That our flag was still there.  Photo Credit:  EP

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hump-Day Hilarity--Courtesy of Taylor and the 80s

All I can say is...tubular.  Awesome.  As if.  Taylor Swift.  Aerobicise.  Gravity-defying hair.  Tights.  Oh my word, the tights.

Special Thanks to:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hump-Day Hilarity

How do you put an elephant in the refrigerator?
You open the door, put the elephant in, and shut the door.
How do you put an alligator in the refrigerator?
You open the door, take out the elephant, put the alligator in, and shut the door.
The King of the Beasts, the Lion, called a meeting and he realized that someone wasn't there.  Who was it?
The alligator--he was still in the refrigerator.
There are 500 bricks on an airplane.  One falls out--how many are left?
A lady wants to swim across a swamp--why does she not get eaten?
Because the alligator is still in the refrigerator.
When the lady reaches the swamp bank, she gets out, only to be knocked out by something.  What is it?
The brick that fell from the plane.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Day The Knickers Died

October 25, 1999.  A lear jet goes down over South Dakota. In subsequent months, we would learn that the plane should not have been flying at all.  There were documented mechanical problems.  What was unusual about this particular plane crash is that Payne Stewart--father, husband, friend, and world-class professional golfer--and some of his closest friends were on board.  A routine flight to start a conversation about building a home golf-course for his alma mater, Southern Methodist University.   It was just another ordinary day.  I wept as though I knew him.   My heart simply broke for his wife, Tracey, and their two precious children.  And, for the others who would not return home.

Why did this matter so much to me?  I am so glad you asked. 

It was 1982--and I was eleven years old.  I was attending the Honda Golf Classic at Inverrary in Lauderhill, Florida.  Glasses, braces, and pre-teen gawkiness were the theme of the hour.  My friend, Challis, and I were walking the course.  Truth be told, we were on the look-out for cute golfers!  Our dads were involved in the communications side of the tournament; hence, the reason two tween-age girls were spending their day at a golf event.

We started following this young player who fit our criteria--and he was wearing these super-cool plus fours with a matching jaunty cap.  He was a throwback to the Bobby Jones era.  And, he made it look good.  He seemed to be doing fairly well, as we followed him from hole-to-hole.  Then, on the crossover between the ninth and tenth holes, I summoned up all the courage I had and asked him for an autograph.

Before Payne could answer, an exceedingly gruff judge intervened and said,
“Mr. Stewart will NOT sign autographs right now!”  I was mortified--could I possibly crawl under the green?

Payne looked at the judge, looked back at me, and replied, ever-so-kindly, “I would be happy to sign an autograph for you!“ And, proceeded to engage in a brief conversation with me.

“What’s your name?" inquired Payne.
“Tracie,” replied the star-struck Me.
“That’s my wife’s name.  It’s a favorite of mine,” stated the charming Payne.
I just smiled--that’s all I could do as I was in the process of melting.
“Tracie, you’re going to keep up with me, right?  Bring me good luck?” asked Payne.
“Of course,” said I, having finally found my voice.
He thanked me and pointedly stares at the prickly judge.
“Sir, I will decide when, where and for whom I will sign autographs,“ declared Payne, firmly but quietly, getting his point across.

Needless to say, he had a fan for life. 

On the very next hole, as he set up his shot, he looked over at me, smiled and winked.  And hit a pretty strong drive off the tee.  Did I mention I became a fan for life?

The simple fact that he took the time, between holes, to respond to a shy, young girl, treat her with kindness and a smile, spoke volumes about Payne.  Years later, I learned that this particular Honda Classic was the first tournament in which he played after qualifying for his PGA Tour card.  Big stuff. 

The rest, of course, is golf history.  Payne went on to win a PGA Championship, represent the United States on the Ryder Cup Team for multiple years, and win his first U.S. Open in 1991.  Perhaps his best-known victory came just four months before his untimely death--the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.  He holed a beautiful 15-foot putt which would lead to his one-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson. 

But what I remember most from that 1999 victory were the words he said to Phil.  Phil’s wife, Amy, was due to deliver their first daughter at any moment.  In fact, Phil wore a beeper throughout the tournament, saying that if it went off, he was out of there!  As Payne and Phil embraced after Payne’s victory, Payne told Phil, “I’m so excited for you and Amy.  I was there for the birth of both of my kids and those were the best moments of my life!”  Christ-follower, husband, father, friend, golfer.  In that order.  

Payne in his trademark tam and Phil Mickelson.

You never know how far a simple act of kindness can go.  More than 250 yards with your favorite driver, I suspect. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Karate Kid

June 2012.  Our Ninja began lobbying his parental units to take Tae Kwon Do.  His short-term goal of being the next Spiderman, coupled with his Ninjago fascination, fueled the fire of interest in this martial art which literally means “way of the hand and foot”.  I made an appointment for a free, introductory lesson with Mrs. Ann and from the moment he set foot in the studio, he was hooked.  He was so serious, so intense (I know, you’re shocked!)--it was the perfect fit.  

It all started with a white belt.

His persistence, tenacity, and fearlessness are ideal for this color-belted world.  What our Ninja lacks in height, he makes up for in bravado.  But, he backs it up with knowledge and skill.  And an impish grin.  Frankly, I am amazed at the focus and concentration martial arts require.  As each student progresses up the color belt ranks, they must memorize forms--a specific system of moves that emphasize hand, foot, and body coordination--and, on average, contain 20-30 different moves.  Yes, you read that right. And, the number and degree of difficulty of the moves increase at each belt level.  Did I mention they do this with weapons, too? 

We have found ourselves saying things like, “No nunchucks in the foyer”, and “Please do not use your brother as a sparring partner--even if he offers!”.  However, special dispensation has been granted for occasional bow-staff practice in the living room--as long as the glasses are cleared from the coffee table.  And, I have learned how to say, and yes, even to spell the proper Korean name for those nunchucks--Ssahng Jeol Bahngs (sahn-jo-bons).  Every sport has its lingo, glossary, and complimentary pronunciation guide.

Two years later, our Ninja-who-is-now-nine, has the coveted black belt.  And, a few tournaments under that belt.  He has been given the opportunity to instruct those younger than he and to train with a multi-time World Champion.  He has learned that commitment, practice, and focus will bear fruit.  He has learned to shake hands with his competitors and offer a high-five after a job well done.  And while even the Eternal Grand Master of Tae Kwon Do will not permit himself to achieve the perfection of the 10th Degree Black Belt, you always keep striving for it.

Buddy passes are available.  I carry a few in my wallet.   

Monday, October 6, 2014

“Honey, If You Love Me, Smile...”

Admit it.  That one sentence may have transported you back to a large multi-purpose room, with “Early American Garage Sale” furnishings, a well-used Ping-Pong table, and funky colors on the walls.  Or, perhaps those walls were decorated by signed Petra or DC Talk pin-ups--or ginormous wall posters of past mission trips and lock-ins.  I’m right there with you.  Sedated in the 80s, baby.

The premise of the "Honey" game, if you can call it that, was for a player to entice (oops, not a very “Youth Group” word) another person of the opposite sex to laugh, giggle, and/or smile, using nearly any means to do so.  Yeah, that’s the perfect game for a room-full of walking hormones, ages 14-18, who come through the doors to “fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ”.  If you were “crushing” on someone, it was the ideal way to get their attention.  Or, to watch the drama unfold if Sally couldn’t get Harry (her significant other of three weeks) to smile.  Fireworks.

Thankfully, youth group games have evolved a bit since that glorious age.  “He-who-is-now-taller-than-I” is a full-fledged member of a local youth group--which means that he comes home with his friends’ names, written in Sharpie, on his flip-flop clad feet.  Or with tales of a food relay--a must in all good Youth Groups--with partners acting as wheelbarrows, with stations of Starburst, Skittles, and the pièce de résistance--a towering platter of Vienna Sausages.  Would you believe an exceedingly brave young lady bested the boys on that particular game?  Truly, her value is far more precious than rubies.


Hey, where’s my deck of cards?  I’m totally up for a game of “Killer”.  Wink-wink.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Week-Ending: Be Still My Soul

"Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine."

~Hymn Text by
Katharina A. von Schelgel (1752), translated by Jane L. Borthwick (1855)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hump-Day Hilarity

What is a plumber's favorite card game?
Because he always draws a flush.

What well-known composer was always sick?

What doctor is known for fixing bumps on your head?
A Dent-ist.

**Today's HDH brought to you by the Ninja who just turned nine.**

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's Hip to Be Square

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit! (That's southern for "I'll be a monkey's uncle!").  Steve Jobs and I had something in common.  According to a recent New York Times article, Mr. Jobs was a low-tech parent.  Contrary to public opinion and vivid imaginations, Steve's home was not high-tech heaven--with touch screens on every wall and an iPad on every nightstand. In fact, he emphatically noted that he and his wife set boundaries on the amounts of technology used by their kids at home.  What?

The piece goes on to say that many technology CEOs and venture capitalists report that "they strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends."  They are quick to point out that with age does come increased accessibility--coupled with accountability and responsibility.  Their kids complain loudly; but, these techno-savvy parents are aware of "the dangers" of saturation--content issues, cyber-bullying, and the potential for addiction to the device and/or the media are on their forefront of concern.  The device-dependency is what engenders the greatest pause among the parental units.  "I've seen it {addiction} in myself", says Chris Anderson, former editor of Wired and now one of those Techno-CEOs.  Wow.

As you might recall, I own a Motorola Razr Flip for which I can re-coup a whopping $.12 on a trade-in allowance.  It makes and takes phone calls.  My Philosopher has a tablet, useful for reading heady articles (Him), playing Words with Friends (Me), and watching Seinfeld re-runs (Us).  There are no televisions or any other screened items, other than windows, in our bedrooms.  And, we can thank our local Cub Scout pack (and their popcorn sales) for rewarding "He-who-is-now-taller-than-I" with a small apple-emblazoned device! 

We don't have cable television.  It's not a weird home-schooler thing--it's David (Me, again!) doing battle with Goliath (a major cable provider that is teamed up with AT&T--ahem) and "winning" after a rather interesting dispute and gobs of misinformation.  But, seriously, between NetFlix, Crackle, and the rest, we manage to survive.  I know, I know.  The dinosaurs are playing in the backyard--next to the outhouse.  

But, guess what? We do just fine.  We read books.  We play games.  We play outside--or rather, I lay in the hammock, reading books, while they play outside.  And, we do set limits on their daily computer usage.  I will openly confess that I need to be better about not checking my e-mail every 15.2 minutes.

Of course, when we go out to eat, and there's a flat-screen tuned in to ESPN in the restaurant, we lose the boys for awhile.  Their blissed-out gazes just scream, "I'm techno-deprived" and meanwhile, we can talk about their Christmas presents and they have no clue. And, thanks to the kindness of some dear friends who (1) enjoy a good football game and; (2) enjoy themed food menus, we have yet to miss out on a major football event.  

It always makes me sad to see a couple--or a family, for that matter--seated around the table at some local eatery, together, but not really.  Each one has their own device--from the preschooler with the iPad, the 'tween texting their BFF--to the adults chatting on their own phones (with different people, of course).  Then, they all pause for the perfunctory picture--which is posted, texted, Tweeted, and Instagrammed for all the world to see.  Proof that they are out having fun.  Together.  Yeah.  

Do I occasionally pine for the convenience of a "smarter" phone?  Yes, I would love to have instant access to my 40% off Hobby Lobby coupon or be able to add a book to my "Want to Read" list on Goodreads while browsing in my favorite bookstore.  But, I know myself and I could easily get lost in all of the other "life management" tools available.  I'm an extrovert, for goodness sake, how could I not answer this life-altering text about lipstick colors?  Many folks tell me that once my guys are teenagers, I'll be singing a different tune. And, they may be right.  I may be crazy.

But, for now, I'll just stick with Huey Lewis.  It's hip to be square.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"She's A Bad Mama Jama"

"Shake It, Senora".  "Feel the Moment".  "Pegate"--with a side of "Royals".   That is the soundtrack of Zumba, my friends.  While my Philosopher loves to tease me and say that Zumba is "just Jazzercise with cooler music" (picture Judi Shepard Missett in hot pink leg warmers), it's more than just sweating to the oldies.  Zumba combines funky dance moves with a cardio workout.  Sometimes, the ever-familiar "grapevine" finds its way into a routine.  But, it's usually accompanied by a little sass.  Perhaps, more than a little.

By dictionary definition, Zumba is "an aerobic fitness program featuring movements inspired by various styles of Latin American dance and performed primarily to Latin American dance music."  Thus, this 80s-loving, crooner-happy chica finds herself grooving to tunes actually made in this millennium.  Now, that is an accomplishment within itself.  And while Pitbull isn't necessarily the most creative lyricist to come along, he does know how to get a party started.  This is world-wide.

I started out about four years ago, thanks to an invite from a sweet friend.  By nature, I am not inclined to subject myself to exercise that I don't enjoy.  Nor am I inclined to long periods of solitary workouts; thus, my past training for the St. Jude 1/2 was truly a labor of love.  However, if you put me in a class with fun folks and some decent music, I can get happy about exercising!  My first Zumba experience in the Bowld at Union University had me hooked.  The peeps were fun, the music was booming, and our instructor was full of energy, sass, and mischief--the perfect combination.  Of course, she was nearly half my age, as were a good number of the participants; but, I could do it.  And, there were a few of us who had actually birthed a child and had lived in the decade of which their prom themes were made!   If I could keep up with the co-eds (or even outlast them!), I was good.  Motivation comes in all shapes and sizes.

Inevitably, our Zumba-licious days in the Bowld (yes, you even develop a new vocabulary) came to an end--and there was no joy in Mudville.  Thankfully, another friend, knowing of my deprivation (and likely tired of hearing about it) recommended another class, just up the road.   I must confess, I went with a bit of trepidation. You see, we Zumba-holics, are quite loyal to our instructors--and with good reason.  But, I quickly learned that there is life after Zumba Lindsay!  Shocking, I know.  And, let's just say that the age demographic swings a bit more in my favor.  Yahoo--and let it be known that there are some ladies in my class who are slightly more "chronologically-gifted" than I who could out-groove the best of 'em.  Inspiration and aspiration.  And, a little bit of perspiration.  

And, there are no mirrors.  That is a beautiful thing.  Let's be honest, we are prone to comparison and competition, it's in our DNA.  Without a mirror to make you self-conscious or fearful, you simply let go and "have a real good time"!  Don't let those faux stained-glass windows of the church fellowship hall fool you--it's ZUMBA Time!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hump-Day Hilarity: Courtesy of Mitford

In honor of Jan Karon's newest Mitford release--which is a lovely surprise given that Ms. Karon declared a decade ago that she would leave the "rest of the Mitford story" to the imagination of her beloved readers--here is one of my favorite Uncle Billy jokes, as told by the dear man himself.   Uncle Billy, a Mitford fixture, is an octogenarian who hails from the Appalachian mountains--blessed with a perpetual grin and delightful spirit.  He is slowed down a bit by "Arthur, don't ya know"; however, his wit is quite up to speed.

"Wellsir, this old feller an' is wife was settin' on th' porch, an' she said, 'Guess what I'd like t'have?'".
He said, 'What's that?'
She said, 'A great big bowl of vaniller ice cream with choc'late sauce and nuts on top!'
He says, 'Boys howdy, that'd be good. I'll go down to th'store and git us some.'
She said, 'Now that's vaniller ice cream with choc'late sauce and nuts. Better write it down.'
He said, 'Don't need t'write it down, I can remember.'

Little while later, he come back.  Had two ham san'wiches.  Give one t'her.  She looked at that san'wich, lifted the top off and said...

'You mulehead, I told you t'write it down, I wanted mustard on mine.'"

P.S.:  In case you're wondering who Arthur is, it's arthritis, don't ya know!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

"There Are No Ordinary People..."

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may, one day, be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare...

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal."

~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hump-Day Hilarity

"It was more like a full-body dry heave set to music..."
I laughed and I laughed.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"It's Her First Game..."

My affection for my Palm Beach Atlantic undergraduate experience is deep--as you know from my recent "Of Sailfish and Bulldogs" post.  However, it did lack a little something--a football team.  My leather-head roots go deep, back to days of sitting on my Daddy's lap, watching 'Phins games, wearing my size 3T aqua and orange #12 jersey (Bob Griese's number, if you must know). I was a fan of the Blackwood Brothers (Lyle and Glenn) and of course, the Marks Brothers--Duper & Clayton.  And, in my book, the number 13 will always be lucky.

Fast forward to Fall 1996.  Yes, we did choose FSU (The Florida State University) because of their quality graduate programs in our respective fields--and the lovely stipends that were attached to said programs.  However, there was another tangible benefit about which we learned upon arrival in Tallahassee--free football tickets for all students.  Free tickets.  NCAA football.  The Seminoles. Garnet & Gold. Bobby Bowden.  I started practicing my chop--tout de suite.  September 7 couldn't arrive quickly enough for me.

Dressed in the first of many 'Noles game-day shirts I would eventually acquire, I was psyched.  As we approached Doak Campbell Stadium (affectionately known as the Bobby Bowden Chapel), you could smell the barbecue and feel the excitement.  The parking lots, now tailgate havens, were awash in all things garnet and gold.  And, of course, as you entered the hallowed place, FSU Spirit Girls were there, face-paint tubes in hand, to complete your 'Nole ensemble with a perfectly-placed arrowhead--or whatever you chose.   Of course, I was a willing participant.  Honestly, I can't recall if my favorite Philosopher indulged in the "make-up".  Likely, he didn't--he's rather understated like that.  We balance each other out, you know.

To me, it seemed like thousands of folks were making their way up the spiral inclines that would take us to Saturday "church"--football is religion in the South, y'all.   And, there would be thousands--82,300 to be exact.  And, then, I heard it.  The sound of the world-famous Marching Chiefs making their way into the stadium.  It started with the drum line.  Then, the brass made their presence known. If you've heard the Chiefs play, you know exactly what I mean.  Goosebumps.  Seriously.  Yes, I love college football.

Now, most adults would simply look in the general direction of the music, nod approvingly, and make their way to their seats.  Not this girl.  Instead, I threw my program into the unsuspecting hands of my dear Philosopher, ran to the guardrails, squatted down, peered through the metal, like a kid at a candy counter.  I couldn't quite see it all; so, I just laid down (yes, I laid down!) on the ramp, gazed delightedly at the 400-member marching band striding through the stadium innards, with an enormous grin on my face.  People were walking past me, giggling a bit, and looking quizzically at my ever-patient Philosopher.  "It's her first game," said he.  And, that explains it all.

Several years later, I would have an office in that very complex, a view of the baseball stadium across Woodward Avenue, and share a parking lot with the now-retired Coach Bowden.  My buddies and I would sometimes find ourselves lunching in the stadium, bringing our brown-bags or food court yummies to the bleachers, and watching the crew paint the end zone for that week's game.  Once a fan, always a fan. 

Many years have passed since those days--and since my first NCAA football game at Doak.   My allegiances have changed a bit.  For the most part, I am an SEC girl.  I will make no apologies for the quasi-acrobatics and "Go, Baby, Go!" that accompanied Chris Davis' 109-yard game-winning touchdown return after a botched field goal by Alabama, in the last seconds of the Iron Bowl to give Auburn the win.   And, yes, it's a family affair.

Praise the Lord and pass the dip!  I'm ready for some football.