Wednesday, February 29

25 Random Things

I have been notified that if I do not post tonight one of my followers is coming to my house to be certain that I am still alive. Sorry I've been so busy - working two jobs, doing taxes, editing two newsletters and wasting a good bit of time sleeping! So in the interest of remaining on my follower's good side...I present to you "25 Random Things About Me." If this looks familiar to some of you - it was one of my first Facebook "notes". But since I think very few people go read those...I figured I could recycle.

The FB challenge was that if a friend tagged you in one of these notes, you would write 25 Random Things and then tag a bunch of other people and they were supposed to write one. I enjoyed writing it - so I hope you enjoy reading it (again...for some of you...)

1. I enjoy singing in the choir, can sort of read music...but have to sing the "Do Re Mi Fa..." song in my head to get the first note.

2. I have done some seriously stupid things in my life.

3. I regret very few of the experiences.

4. My favorite thing to do in the world is talk about wine. Second favorite is drinking it.

5. My time working at Kings Dominion was like college without classes. They were the best of times - they were the worst of times...

6. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

7. If I suddenly didn't have to work, I would volunteer full-time and still be stretched too thin. Well - just metaphorically...physically - it would take a bit of stretching to get me TOO thin :)

8. My cat is rude. Widely know - yet a totally random thing.

9. If you can choose the place you'd like to die (sorry, sounds morbid...I'm not planning anything!) - I hope I get to die in Canmore, Alberta.

10. The best Caesar salad I ever ate was at Sherwood House in Canmore in the shadows of the Canadian Rockies.

11. The hamster thing: it's not as interesting as you might think. I could make up something more creative...but the truth is, it was the nickname given to my car. An 89 VW Fox Wagon (rare, but not classic car). I drove it while I was doing plumbing supply merchandising and driving all over the great state of West Virginia. The guy I worked with would ride up behind me in his big fancy pickup (probably had a speedometer that worked, too!), call me on the cell phone and ask if I couldn't beat the hamsters to make it go faster. Thus hamsterbeater...see, I told you this wasn't interesting! But is random!

12. I once accidentally hung myself from a tree by the wrist. Seriously...the scar is impressive. I like to tell small children who ask me about it that I was attacked by a shark (or alligator, or whatever crosses my mind that day). Or "a dingo ate my arm!"

13. I flippin' love ethnic cuisines. But I'm not sure if it is politically correct to say "ethnic". Thai, Indian, Turkish, Peruvian, Chinese, Japanese...I will try almost anything. But that lunatic Bourdain can keep the grubs and live squid!

14. I am only two degrees separated from Kevin Bacon. His first acting teacher directed me in a production of Stop the World. This makes each and every one of you only 3 degrees from Kevin Bacon.

15. I was all the way to #20 when the power went out and I lost my random thoughts. I'm now wondering what the heck I was talking about then.

16. I am a fun aunt. I can sing 5 verses of "Fish Heads" and can sing it as a lullaby to my niece Taylor. Old MacDonald DID sometimes have an Elephant. My nephew Jacob thinks I'm HILARIOUS just when I'm breathing. Jack knows that part of my mission in life is keeping him from becoming "another teenage jerk". I also try to introduce him to a wide variety of foods, people and life experiences.

18. I can wield a tape gun with the best of them. I was part of a team that packed over 7000 relief kits at the United Methodist Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana in the space of 4 days. Check out my photo album to see more about that trip. I'm the one kissing the barbecue shrimp.

19. Over the years a dozen or more people have lived in our house for periods of time. I learned a great deal from each of them and miss them like lost brothers and sisters.

20. I think my brother is a genius. Even if he won't come over and fix my hot tub.

21. I have colored my hair since I roomed with Arthur Purslow the third year I worked at KD. I owe him SO much. Yes, I use a box. Yes, I do my own. No, it's not easy.

22. While we're on the subject of hair - I am growing my fourth or fifth ponytail for Locks of Love. It takes about 2 years to get enough length to give away 10 inches.

23. I never learned to play chess - but I can kick any of your butts at Backgammon. Yes, bring it on.

24. I cry every time I leave the beach (Outer Banks of NC). I get so depressed when I leave the Canadian Rockies that I should probably be medicated. But the mental pictures I can call up from either place can make me catch my breath.

25. I have sleep apnea. Technically I have Very Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea. In my sleep test I averaged a "breathing interruption" 91 times per hour. I was disappointed that I didn't break the unofficial record of 135.

26. I'm wondering how many people caught the fact that I skipped over #17.

We are the sum total of our experiences. Thanks to all my friends for helping me become the person that I am today. Part Lunatic, Part Genius, All Me.

Friday, February 24

Becoming Vital

Vitality as defined by vi-tal-i-ty [vahy-tal-i-tee] 1. exuberant physical strength or mental vigor (a person of great vitality) 2. capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence (the vitality of an institution) 3. power to live or grow (the vitality of a language) 4. vital force or principle.

On Sunday afternoon the church family of Centenary United Methodist will join together to set goals for being (becoming?) a Vital Congregation. In deference to will be served.

Vital Congregations is a movement within the United Methodist Church that is intended to energize our entire denomination. Like so many mainline denominations we find ourselves generally in a state of stagnation or decline. People are drawn in so many different directions - work, school, activities, commitments - we must find new ways to connect. If doing things the way we have always done them was working...worship would be standing room only. And that isn't the case.

So - do the definitions above apply to church? Should they? Can they?

#1 - exuberant physical strength or mental vigor. It sure CAN apply to the church! There are a great number of people out there who are hurting and feel alone. We can stand up against injustice. We can help care for our neighbor. We can. Will we?

#2-capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence. I hope and pray this is true for our church. I have no doubt that the church as a whole will continue on - God is no wimp. If we don't step up, he will use others to keep his message of love going without us. Do we as a congregation have the capacity for survival? We should. Will we?

#3 - power to live or grow. Oh yes. I believe in this with my whole heart. Sometimes we go through winter - but then the spring comes... Allow me a tangent here: Last week our church lost a wonderful and faithful member, Mr. Tommy Wooldridge. In addition to being a bass in the choir and the Sunday School superintendent (among many other tasks through the years) - Tommy took great care of the church grounds. He turned every possible corner into beautiful gardens. And he spent many hours every week weeding, transplanting and mulching. On Thursday the JIFF boys groups spent time working in those gardens in honor of Mr. Tommy. I was working with a team that was taking the old growth off of some mums. At first glance all the boys could see was the dead wood...they figured we would just pull the whole thing up and be done with it. Then I pointed out the robust new growth at the base. One of the boys said "from that little patch of green a whole new plant will grow?" I assured him that it would. He carefully removed the old growth and is looking forward to seeing what comes next.

I'm not suggesting that we have to remove all of the old from our church...but maybe we have to get past the old way of get to the new growth underneath. Let the sun shine down on it and see what happens in the spring!

#4 - a vital force or principle. I believe there is no more vital principle than what the mission statement of the church conveys - to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." And I especially like the vision statement of the Virginia Conference: "We envision faith communities where all God's people are welcomed at table nurtured and transformed to be Christ to others in the world."

I'm excited to brainstorm about ways that we can be a Vital Congregation. I'm ready for spring.

And brunswick stew and cornbread will be good too!

Tuesday, February 21

Let the good times roll!

Ah...Fat Tuesday. One of my all-time favorite holidays!! Sure, I like Christmas and Easter and my birthday is a particular favorite... but Fat Tuesday ranks right up there. Today I indulged in a couple of favorite things - a couple of them for the last time until Easter.

One of my favorite foods will surprise those of you who know me as a foodie. You expect a certain amount of refinement in my taste buds. You come to me for good restaurant suggestions. Wine pairings. What cheese to get on your turkey burger... Please don't be too disappointed in me - a secret passion of mine is the McGriddle. Salty, sweet, warm goodness. I like mine with sausage and cheese (no egg) and refer to it as my McMotivation on mornings that I'm not excited to be heading to work. I'm giving them up for Lent again this year. I don't allow myself to have them more than about twice a month anyway...but over the next 40+ days I will want one.

I am not Catholic but my family has always held to a tradition of observing Lent by either giving something up - or adding something to our daily routine that would have a positive effect on our lives. I usually give something up that is not good for me. This year I'm going to try for the double-whammy of giving up McGriddles and Coke.

Ah Coke (a Cola...not cocaine!) - it is one of the best things on earth. Especially when it is cold and crisp and bubbly. My problem is that I don't always savor and appreciate them if I have them all the time. Same thing with McGriddles, I guess. And I don't allow myself to give up Coke and then drink Pepsi or Sprite or anything like that.

I apparently come from a long line of Lent cheaters...or Lent Loophole Lovers. My great grandmother on my mother's side gave up going to the movies every year. She had never been to a movie in her life. I believe one of my sisters gave up liver one year. I'm pretty certain that I had an uncle who gave up knitting. So I'll do my very best.

Speaking of loopholes...I heard from a good friend (in Sunday School that HAS to be a good source) that Sundays in Lent don't count. She recalled her mother spending every Sunday in Lent smoking like a chimney. I DO know that if you count the days on the calendar - that 40 days does not include the Sundays. I am uncertain what to do with that information. There is a part of me that wants to embrace that loophole.

For now - I will plan to abstain from McGriddles and Coke for Lent. One day at a time. And then I will really appreciate them when I have them back. A little deprivation is good for the soul sometimes.

And perhaps I'll try to do something positive every day. For this moment in time (9:27pm) - I'm off to finish that 2 liter so it won't tempt me in the days ahead!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!

Sunday, February 12

A Great Loss

Today was a good day despite two is quite silly, the other is not.

Today was the annual Chili Cookoff youth fundraiser at Centenary UMC. I lost again. Out of ten chilies. But that is a silly disappointment - I talk a lot smack but I don't really care whether I win or not. I just enjoy the challenge and the fact of the matter is - I pleased a lot of people. One of my friends loved my chili so much she was able to overlook the beans therein! "and I loathe beans." Loathe...but she loved mine!

I decided that a better way to rank my success or failure was NOT the people's choice vote (which clearly was rigged...) but by the number of people who came back to get a whole bowl of my chili after tasting all of the offerings. At least 6 people came back for mine...maybe more! The winning chili said he thought that he gave about 2 bowls... So you see - I won!

No, the real disappointment for me today was the disappearance of The Bruised Banana. The old yellow canoe has been with our family for about 30 years. It has taken a beating and kept on going. I remember the day that Gordon and Dad picked it up - second hand, of course - and brought it home. It is a 16 foot fiberglass canoe - so it isn't light. And it is yellow. And when we acquired it, it already had a patch or two.

The bruised banana is in the foreground.
This flood took the dock on the left,
the flagpole, the paddleboat and
the tree they were chained to.
Through the years it got so many patches that it started to take on the appearance of a bruised banana. One of its hardest encounters was with Gordon and Patrick in Higgenbotham Falls. That is a pretty intense set of riffles below Galts Mill, about 10 miles downriver of Lynchburg. They were following the batteau festival one year and each claims the other was responsible for the fact that they ended up sideways against a big rock. Patrick's leg also ended up caught in there during the struggle.

After that beating - Dad had to put new bracing in (I believe he constructed that from old lawn chairs...) and put a big patch on the side.

The most recent patches came from an unusual accident. A tree. Not floating into a tree...a tree fell on the poor canoe while it was resting quietly on the dock. After that event - my sister Susan declared it a goner. She may have been right...except that Dad saw how hard I took the loss and decided that it might recover from the large and splintered hole. It took him a while (to get around to it) but the bruised banana did sail again. And I will hang on to that memory of a late afternoon paddle with Carl. Yes, it still seeped a little water...and by the time we made it back to the dock, my feet were mostly underwater...but I loved that dang boat.

When I shared the news on Facebook of its disappearance: "just found out the bruised banana (aka old yellow canoe) was stolen. Not cool, universe. Not cool."...I got comments of "way not cool", "bummer", "shame on them, sadness" and an entire tangent of it being the Tiki Canoe now and would bring bad luck to the possessor like on the Brady Bunch Hawaiian Vacation. But I think my favorite quote would be this: "That's acquaintance with the bruised banana was brief, but I could tell is was a noble canoe. I hope it finds its way back home."

It was a noble canoe. I shall miss it greatly. It wasn't pretty. Was heavy. Looked darn silly strapped to the top of a Le Car. But it will always be my favorite. Goodbye friend - till we meet again.

Sunday, February 5

Four Years Ago Yesterday

Four years ago yesterday I was in New York City. But that isn't what the story is about.

The reason I was in New York was a memorial service for my good friend Carlton Candler who passed suddenly. He was an extraordinary man and so my sister and I traveled together to pay our respects. It was a lovely service and we also went to the elementary school where he was a teacher to see a program that his kids had put together. I wonder if they still think about Carlton as often as I do?

The day after the service Denise and I were in Penn Station waiting for Amtrak when we got a call from Lynchburg. Or perhaps Dad was already in Roanoke... Anyway - my sister Susan had gone into labor two months early and the twins had just arrived! Taylor and Braeden couldn't wait to see they came early! Mom was in Puerto Rico getting ready to embark on her very first cruise - so we called to tell her the good news. (since I pay for she and Dad's cell phones....let's see...I was roaming in NYC and making an international call to my cell phone roaming in Puerto Rico. I believe the 4 minute conversation cost $40).

The next day I went to meet them in person...and got my first taste of the NICU. Susan and Patrick lived there for about a month! I couldn't believe how tiny they were. And I loved them immediately. Rumor has it that I went from incubator to incubator and told them each that they were my favorite. Sounds like me. All I remember is tears rolling down my cheeks.

They celebrated their 4th birthdays yesterday. (Mom was out of town again - with Dad in Florida) It is hard to believe what a difference 4 years makes. Those two scrawny little babies whose pacifiers covered half their faces have turned into real laughing, talking, smiling people.

I never had much use for blondes before...but I am still totally in love with those two. And as you know - I'd love to show you pictures, except creepy people would get to see them. Just picture a little girl angel and little boy angel - each with a bit of imp inside.

And yes, I have two more nephews...Jack (who is 16 and you hear about all the time) and Jacob (river fish) - on their next birthdays I'll tell you what I was doing when THEY were born. Because they are my favorite too.