Monday, December 30

New Year's Eve Eve

first of that gramatically correct? the night before New Year's Eve? Should it be Eve's Eve or Eve Eve's? No, that surely  isn't it. tonight...that is what I am saying. Tonight
l realized that I am very fortunate to have New Year's Eve off from work. Tomorrow I get to sleep in! And that is one of my favorite things to do!

For the last few years I have taken the day off so I can get ready for my annual gig bartending at the Renaissance Theatre's New Year's Eve Gala. Not that it really involves a lot of preparation... But I will need to slice lemons and stuff. And take a nap! That is a lot of smiling and being pleasant for me.

The show tomorrow night is "Elvis Has Left The Building" and I am sure it will be fantastic. I'm afraid I am not familiar with the show...but I know it will be funny! If you don't have plans for New Year's Eve _ I think there may be a few seats left! $40 gets you the show, snacks, soft drinks and champagne toast at midnight! And yours truly behind the cash bar. It is going to be a great night!

find out more here!

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit!


hamster, hamster, hamster!

Sunday, December 29

Reflections on my Uncle Joe

I always adored my Uncle Joe. He was the kind of guy that would laugh with you, teach you to hoe the weeds around a tomato plant, climb an apple tree in the orchard, tell you stories about his travels and then show you how to tell if there was a thunderstorm approaching. I thought he knew everything about everything. I'm still pretty sure that he did.

Other people will recall Joe Reid the architect - he was a very accomplished architect. I remember times during his whirlwind tours of Washington D.C. when he would pass a building and casually say, "that's a building I worked on." I was too young to really appreciate his skill in that area.

Sometimes we would go to visit Uncle Joe, the beautiful Aunt Maria (who is from Greece and I always was in awe of her exotic accent - and mastery in the kitchen), and their sons Avo, Charlie and Robert. They were the cousins that everyone had a crush on, because they were not only gorgeous - but so kind and patient with their goofy little cousin. While we were there Uncle Joe would take us into the city to tour the Smithsonian museums, the Treasury, the Library of Congress, the Capitol, the National Cathedral, the Metro, the Mall, the underground tunnels that nobody else knew about...and it seemed like we did all that in one day. Uncle Joe did NOT let any moss grow on him. Or anybody traveling with him!

I think that is one of the reasons I was always so drawn to him - this kindred wandering spirit. I love to travel, but I didn't inherit Uncle Joe's chutzpah. When he was a young man, he decided he wanted to travel - so he signed on to a merchant marine ship as a cook. The thing was...he didn't actually know how to cook. He said he did, and I guess he figured it out as he went along. That takes some real nerve.

His time in the merchant marine gave him the opportunity to visit a lot of places. I dug out some of my grandmother's photo albums and found a few pictures of Joe as an adventuring young man. I love seeing him standing in front of the Sphinx and sitting atop a camel (he's there in the middle). But I think I like the picture of him sitting on the side of the boat. That faraway look in his eye...looking to the horizon...looking for a new adventure.

That spirit never left him. One of my favorite memories is from January 16, 1991. I was headed to see a friend in a dance production in Baltimore. But I got lost going through D.C. (Mom told me to take 95N but missed the part about going around by 395 or 495...whatever). I was supposed to be staying with my Uncle Louie (Mom's brother) outside Baltimore but when I called him for the third time from Glebe Road, in tears - he said he would call Joe to come rescue me. I was so glad to see that station wagon pull into the gas station parking lot. Joe - ever the hospitable host - said I must be hungry, why didn't we stop for a bite? We went to the Sizzler. He had never been and treated it like a culinary escapade! He had already eaten and chose to just get the dessert bar. He was delighted to find that he could eat as many desserts as he wanted!

That night he had the unpleasant task of telling me that my paternal grandfather had passed away. He was so sweet and understanding. It was just his way. Family meant everything to Uncle Joe. He loved his sons, adored his sisters and brothers, worshiped his wife...and we were all a part of his warm embrace. A lot of what I recall about him comes in bits and pieces...

He named all his dogs Oscar. One of them liked to save the kids who were "drowning" in the pool at my Aunt Twizzie's house. The only problem was that we weren't drowning until Oscar tried to save us. I think I still have a few scars on my back from being saved.

The night that he saved me from Glebe Road was the night that the Gulf War began. Since I had been driving for about 7 hours (including 3 hours of being lost), I had listened to NPR's coverage and we talked about that at our great epicurean adventure at The Sizzler. He thought I might want to keep up with what was going on, so he moved a TV into the guest room for me. The guest room that I wasn't even supposed to be in - since I was supposed to be at Uncle Louie's!

He showed me where the two cherry trees were in Aunt Twizzie's orchard. We ate cherries until I was sick. He didn't tell anybody why I was sick.

There were two huge evergreen trees in front of my great grandmother's house - he showed me that if you climbed inside on a rainy day, it was dry and quiet - just like a tent!

We visited he and Aunt Maria when both our families were at the Outer Banks at the same time about 10 years ago. He said that we really needed to have some ice cream and so he just went out and got some! It didn't matter how many times my parents or his wife said, "oh, no, Joe...we don't need that..." He saw the look in my eye when he mentioned it - or maybe he just really wanted some himself!

I'm going to miss him.

I hope he knows how much I learned from him.

I hope that I can put some of it into practice.

Saturday, December 21

Don't shop, adopt

I may have decided what I want to be when I grow up. of several options. Food critic, wine taster, librarian...and my current desire? Animal rescue. Not throwing myself between clubs and baby seals (although I know that was a dream of mine when I was in 4th grade), I want to be like the people of the Lynchburg Humane Society and the Angels of Assisi in Roanoke.

You may recall (or you can click here to catch up) that I fostered a cat for AoA. Since that time, I've been a fan of their Facebook page. Daily appearances in my news feed show a staff and volunteer force that wants one thing: furever homes for every unwanted cat and dog (and rabbit, guinea pig, etc.). In addition to hopelessly adorable kittens - I am treated to pictures of cats and dogs whose humans have turned their backs on them.

Yes, I know that sometimes it is because of very reasonable circumstances. Perhaps an elderly person who must move to a home or facility that doesn't allow pets. Or maybe a family that has lost an income and can no longer afford to properly take care of their fuzzy friend. But there are also the stories that are much less understandable - abused and abandoned pets. No matter what the reason, a lot of the pictures are of dogs and cats that look confused and lost. They don't understand why they are in this scary place with cages and strange smells and not enough hands to pet couch to snuggle on.

In the midst of this scene - which could be very depressing - is the spirit of the staff and volunteers. It is infectious. These rescuers have found a great use for social media - they share the stories of these animals with their "fans" and then those people share the stories with their friends. You see encouragement from other volunteers - and that all translates into hope for the next pet, and the next one, and the next one.

One of my favorite rescuers to read about it a foster named Willy. He has a goal of fostering 100 dogs. I know he's going to accomplish it. A foster takes in an animal so that the animal can #1-get a break from the stress of the shelter environment and #2-relearn trust in humans. One of his current fosters is a hound named Fallon. So scared in the shelter that he (she?) huddled in a back corner trembling. For a few days, the postings were of Fallon burrowing behind couch cushions where he felt safe. Last night's picture was Fallon sleeping as "liquid dog" - so relaxed he was sleeping in this awkward position. Content. Safe. Secure. Loved.

Willy has an assistant in his goal of getting dogs ready for their furever home - his buddy Olaf. Olaf is a goofy dog...and I believe is part pit bull. This "scary bully breed" dog is a marshmallow that not only allowed Fallon to use him as a pillow - but when he was awake and Fallon was still resting comfortably, he just stayed put so he didn't disturb his new friend. If that doesn't make you catch your breath with are a robot.

Some of the Angels fans keep telling Willy that he will "foster fail" with Olaf - that Olaf isn't going anywhere. I think Willy just rolls his eyes and smiles a little. He is dedicated to finding the perfect family for each of his fosters. He knows that the right situation is out there for Olaf and he'll keep letting people know about this wonderful dog until the match is made. Because he knows that will open up a new space for his next foster - which opens a new space at Angels - maybe that opens a space at the "pound" - that keeps another pet from euthanasia.

I'm impressed by all the dedicated staff and volunteers that I've "met" through Facebook. And even though my one rude cat is all I can handle right now - I will keep spreading the word about the great work that they do.

Are you looking for a furry family member? I beg you to consider this: Don't shop, adopt.

Looking for a volunteer opportunity? Consider training as a dog walker...or go fill Kongs with peanut butter...or do some laundry at a shelter. Or maybe even open your heart and your home as a foster.

Too much for right now? Then at least consider dropping off some food, litter, treats, toys or peanut butter at your local shelter.

Olaf would want you to.

An Observation

Friday night. This is the night that I'm usually up late because I LOVE sleeping in on Saturday mornings.

Such a gorgeous night sky out there tonight. Sometimes I wish a had a camera that could capture that sky... I've seen it done, breathtaking images. I see them in person and want all the people who are sleeping to get a chance to see them. (much in the same way that I enjoy pictures of breathtaking sunrises more than the experience of it in person) (but, from time to time, I enjoy those too.)

I realize that I get dragged into each season kicking and screaming...for a while I resist...
I refuse to wear a winter coat, ignore the existence of gloves, sometimes even drive with the window down.

It is my resistance to winter.

But then, on a night like tonight, I get to see the crisp beauty of the winter night sky. The dormant trees outlined in the silver of the moonlight.

And we make peace with each other.

I know winter must be endured to get to Spring. Which I will resist for a couple of weeks. Battle with the pollen and the bugs and want to hang on to winter for a few more days. And then I will see the wonder that is Spring...and make peace with the season.

The flowers help.

Winter solstice.

I'm feeling balanced.

My Christmas wish granted.

Saturday, December 14

The Card Shop Comes to Life!

Disclaimer: All of the images in this post have been blatantly ripped off from Andrew Musick - father of an outstanding singer and all around great guy. Sue me. 

Saturday, December 14, 4pm at Centenary United Methodist Church there will be a Christmas pageant with very awesome youth and children. And I freely admit that I am biased. Some people will doubt this statement...but I love all these kids. And this show is great fun - written, directed, produced by my talented sister Denise Bryson. Denise has been writing Christmas plays since I was about 7. The only difference is that now she has more than my brother Gordon, sister Susan and I to play the parts! (I think I was usually the angel in our family plays...yeah...I'm sure of it!)

The pageant this year will include a youth bell choir directed by Mari White Smallshaw. (Yes, THE Mari White Smallshaw. Of radio fame. I'm one degree from cool local personality, too.) I was very flattered when Mari invite me to step in as a youth. Okay, filling in for an absent youth. You can see me at  the right there - I'm the one trying to count to 4. Thanks Andrew. Great picture. Sigh. But the youth are great!! I love the sound of hand bells. (which reminds me...the Bells of the Blue Ridge are performing next week. Check out their website. And maybe I can get a post in about that too!).

After the two numbers from the youth bell choir - the children (young people? tots to tweens? no?) will perform two songs under the direction of Centenary's highly skilled director of music Danny Moore. Last year he wrote all of the songs in our musical extravaganza - this year he contributes two songs to the "main event" - the play (with music!) Centenary Card Shop: After Hours.

Between the choral performance and the play - we will have the extreme pleasure of hearing Mr. Kane Campbell perform Silver Bells. Accompanied by Johnson Scott (aka Professor F. Johnson Scott, III faculty at Lynchburg College. Yes, THE Johnson Scott. I am one degree from musically talented). Kane is part of the triple-threat Campbell Crew. The family has Kane, Cooper and Callen - they are cut straight out of a catalog. Gorgeous mom and dad with three sweet children. During the Card Shop Cooper sings a song as an elf figurine brought to life - he's so darn cute that his little sister couldn't stop hugging him while he was singing tonight. Nearly knocked him over - but Cooper kept on belting out his song. They are my favorite.

But I can't overlook the quartet of talents in the Smallshaw family. (once again parented by two of the most wonderful - and gorgeous - people that I know) Wes is the lead in the play - deftly keeping the Cards in the Shop in order. Rick not only performs with his violin - he also co-produced the show with Denise! At this very minute he is making last minute tweaks to the order of the show - just like Broadway! Charlie isn't just playing a card...he's also playing bells!! And looks a lot more confident doing it that me! And all I can say with spoiling the fun - Jimmy Smallshaw will steal the show. I love those kids. They are my favorite.

I can't show partiality to my niece Taylor and nephew Braeden - wouldn't be fair. But the little blonde chick and her twin brother will make your heart melt (like these kittens...) Have to love them. They take after me. They are my favorite.

And I have loved the Layne family since before Ella was even born. Betsy and Allen are the kind of folks that you want to sit around a campfire with and tell stories until the moon rises high in the sky. They are good people that come from good people. And they have raised the kindest young lady - Gabriella and the coolest young man - Turner. I think they will also be the kind of folks that you want to sit around a campfire with. They are cards. They are great. They are my favorite.

Wait...I can't forget the raven haired Jasmine and the impish Bree. They have voices like angels (which turns out to be very appropriate for one of them) and they are brave enough to get up there and sing solos! I am very inspired by both of them. They are always smiling. They are patient with little girls who adore them and want to be next to them all the time. I love them. They are my favorite.

Ah. Jennifer Coffer. I will resist digging out the picture of her singing when she was about 7. She is amazing. She has this superior voice. One of those people who has this mighty power behind her voice. I had to tell her tonight that she didn't need to crowd the microphone. Like, "could you stand about 5 feet back from it?" She is also goofy. She volunteers for JIFF. She comes from a fun family. They are my favorite.

A few of our performers couldn't be at practice tonight. But they are cool They'll be fine. They are old pros at this play-thing. And Denise has a way of putting everyone at ease. She reminded them tonight:
"Who is coming to this show?"
Kids: our families
"And the congregation...and people who love doesn't matter WHAT happens! They are going to love you anyway!"

And she is right. Our audience WILL love it! And I feel more Christmasy already! I hope you all come to the show. And if it isn't our show that you make it to... Make it to Christmas show some place. See the joy in a young face belting out a song (no matter what key) and watch the shiver of joy and the lit-up face when they hear their family and friends clap and cheer. It's my favorite.

Friday, December 13

The return of the hamster...

Last published on August 20. That is what my blogger dashboard just told me. I got to check that...brb...

Shocked...I am simply shocked.

oh...holy frijoles...that can't be real.

nothing in September, October or November.

I am. horrified.

I loved writing this blog. What happened? Well, I was in this excellent play (Dearly Beloved with the Bedford Little Town Players directed by the lovely and talented Karen Hopkins). I owe you guys a post about that experience. Remind me if I don't get to that in the next week. I loved it - and met some really cool people. And I miss those folks. But all the driving back and forth...and there was a trip to the beach. A great time, but I really need a real keyboard to blog.

And sometimes...I just didn't knowif I had anything pithy to say

The phone is difficult. The best I can do is text because I can't do much with graphics on the mobile interface. Probably just me - and I can't resist adding the pictures. My friend Chuck Taylor (yes, THE Chuck Taylor...he wrote for Billboard. Interviewed Celine Dion. THAT Chuck Taylor. I'm one degree from cool writer) told me that it adds something. Gives it some pop or something.

Squirrel. some point I realized all my
pictures for this post were going
to be cats. This one sealed it.
This post isn't supposed to be about me. Or the fact that...I know! I've slacked for way too long. If I don't make the time to do something that I really enjoyed - writing - I've lost balance. I'll do better. I like the Beaten Hamster.

And this one is just ridiculously cute!

So - I'm going to create a whole new post. That will be TWO. TWO posts in one day. That has to give me points. The cool and creative kids, youth and creative adults deserve a post just about them. Not my personal navel gazing...

brb...and set your calendar/alarm/notifications or whatever to make sure you are at Centenary UMC at 4pm tomorrow (today...Saturday...I'm writing as fast as I can!) - December 14th!

Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, August 20

Draft Day Approaching!

For many years (so many that I can't remember how many) I have enjoyed football season more because I have been the owner of a Fantasy Football team. I first heard about Fantasy Football when I was working at Kings Dominion (thank you Bill Fecke). The concept is easy: you and several of your friends sit around and "draft" NFL players for your teams (a player can only be owned by one team in a league). Then during each week's games you create a starting lineup from your roster. How the player performs in the NFL game determines the number of points that he scores for your team. So - if Peyton Manning throws a touchdown, you get 2 points for your fantasy team, if Emmitt Smith runs in a touchdown then you get 6 points for your team. (yeah, I know that Emmitt will have to run it in from the announcers' booth).

Way back in the day - our Commissioner Bill Fecke had to spend every Monday morning looking at the box scores in the newspaper to add up our scores. Now there are websites to take all the hard work out of being a commissioner. I remember the days of adding scores when I started a fantasy league in my family. Sometimes I even had to call the newspaper's sports desk to get an obscure player's stats. My sister Susan loved drafting very obscure players. One year she even drafted Boomer Esiason - the year he began as color commentator for ABC's Monday Night Football. If memory took her about 4 weeks to get around to dropping him from her roster. Maybe she was hoping for another comeback season!

This Sunday 10-12 of my family and friends will sit around a giant draft board in my back yard to choose our teams for the 2013-2014 NFL season. We will draw numbers to see who gets first pick. The first few rounds will go pretty quickly. There will be cries of "I was going to pick him next" and "oh, is he already gone?" Sometimes I take it all pretty seriously and actually prepare for the draft - sometimes I pick directly from the hundreds of cheat sheets available on the Internet. One year I drafted only players named Johnson and Jones (my kickers were Hanson and something similar...which I declared to be Swedish for Johnson). It took quite awhile before any of the other team owners caught on to what I was doing. My sister Karen (who is very attached to her cheat sheets) kept saying "I can't find that guy! What page is he on?" My current co-commisioner Melva (a former sportswriter for the Washington Post...I mean the Bedford Bulletin) was the first to figure it out.

Melva LIVES for draft day. I think that if she had to rank her favorite days of the year it would be Christmas, Birthday, Draft Day, Thanksgiving and the church family camping trip in the top slots. She is so prepared that she requires no cheat sheets. She rarely takes any of the 60 second time limit to make a pick. And many of us wait for her to say "Good Pick" after one of our angst-ridden choices. When Karen gets a "good pick" from Melva she just beams.

This year I have the pleasure (?) of passing on the trophy to last year's league winner. The blue football will reside with Mr. Carl Howell - owner of the Hogtown River Rats. My team, The Hamster Beaters were victorious in 2011-2012. And if I take some time away from Candy Crush for a little draft preparation, perhaps they will be victorious again!

Good luck to all of the teams in our league.

Even Melva's Froot Loops. For someone who prepares so much, and actually pays attention to her team - it is kind of sad that she's never won. Not even close.

So sad that I'm chuckling to myself a little bit.

Friday, August 16

Something Stupid

I am feeling a need to post - but feeling the need to make it a very silly post. I've just had a pretty heavy week and I want to be goofy. Or Goofy. Or Pluto. (Disney conundrum: Why did Goofy walk around on two legs and wear clothes while Pluto gamboled about on four legs stark nekkid?) Therefore I am going to wander around the random conversation starter until I find something I can be un-serious about.

1st question posed: Is it harder to exercise more or eat healthier? Nope...too serious. Spin again.

2nd topic posed: Describe your favorite type of pizza. Too depressing, my favorite pizza was called the He-Crab pizza at Bistro 151, and it is closed. But it had alfredo, crabmeat (real, not Sea Legs), mandarin oranges and some crispy spinach. I miss it. Spin again!

3rd try: What is the biggest thing you've ever won? My first response to that is "that's what she said" - I think I'm getting punchy. I remember winning a ceramic Christmas tree in high school. I gave it to my grandmother and she loved it. She said it was the perfect size (she lived alone and came to our house for Christmas so she had stopped having a live tree). I wonder what happened to it? Gonna try the random topic one more time:

4th random conversation starter: Where did you go on your last vacation? OBX. vacation before that? OBX. Before that? OBX. I love the Outer Banks. But this points out that I'm probably in a rut. Does going to New Jersey to see a friend for two days count as a vacation? Is a vacation to New Jersey better than being in a rut? Alright - if this try isn't silly then I'm going to fetch some comic strips to entertain you. Or a piano playing cat.

5th and final try: What is your favorite ice cream flavor? O M G - the silliest thing about that is that my favorite flavor could NOT be any less silly! It would be amusing to have my favorite be Tutti Frutti (does that still exist?) or Cotton Candy (eww...too sweet) or something boozy like Rum Raisin (which I like, but it doesn't have enough rum!). But my actual favorite flavor is vanilla. Dang. I am not amusing tonight.

Please enjoy a couple of entertaining comic strips. I will try to be humorous or pithy or deep later this weekend. To randomize the comics - I am going to pick comics from 11/11/11.

Darn it - I love Bloom County, but that one doesn't make sense unless you go read the whole series on GoComics. Here's one that is funnier:

Monday, August 12

Rushing isn't Reporting

Warning - rant ahead...

There is something wrong with a society that wants information and news so fast that they don't care about accuracy. It is bad enough that there are no statesmen left in America - it is horrible that journalists are a dying breed too.

Here in Central Virginia many of us have been praying for the safe return of a young woman named Alexis Murphy. She disappeared over a week ago. Yesterday there was an arrest made related to her case. Today one of our regional news bureaus posted on their official Facebook page that she had been found. Apparently one of their reporters misheard a statement during a press conference and posted the misinformation. To their credit - WSLS has taken responsibility for the error and apologized.

What they fail to recognize is that the error was NOT the posting of wrong information. The error was rushing to be first with the "news" and failing to check their facts. Many of the comments on their Facebook apology are followers of the site that say "mistakes happen...we're all human" - WRONG. Yes, WE are human. THEY are journalists. They have a responsibility to present accurate information on all of their news outlets - even their Facebook page.

It brought back the moronic error by KTVU in San Francisco when they read that the pilots in the Asisana Airlines crash were Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow. SERIOUSLY? You shouldn't be that damn stupid and be allowed to anchor the news. They were in such a rush to report something new in the story that they not only didn't fact check - they apparently never read them aloud before taking it on the air.

I think that John Chancellor, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite are spinning in their graves.

Let's get this straight. You are NOT bloggers. You are NOT just informing your friends. You are reporters. You get paid to report the news. And we would prefer facts that have been vetted (look it up if you don't know what it means) than speed. If you want to spend your time speculating on what might be true - or if you want to be an opinion writer - do us all a favor and get a job at Entertainment Tonight.

Reporting isn't a race. Stop treating it that way.

Friday, August 2

Stealing my nephews soul

As I understand it - there are tribes in the outback of Australia and in Africa (and probably other places) whose members believe that photographs steal a piece of the subject's soul. I got my information from the movie Crocodile Dundee, I think. But regardless, I believe that my nephew Jacob may be aboriginal. Because I've never met a young man who hates having his picture taken more than he does.

He recently returned to Montana after visiting Virginia for a month. I didn't know I would miss him as much as I do. He brings with him all the challenges of an 8 year old boy - an impish delight in driving the adults around him crazy, seemingly endless energy, a puzzling sense of humor. But he also has a charming smile, a love for adventure and one of the most infectious laughs I've ever encountered.

The month flew by.

Some of the things I'll remember most? Camping at Jellystone with the church family is high on the list. Even though I didn't get to see him very much - he spent as much time as possible enjoying the water slides, pool, jumping pillows and running amok with friends - both old and new. And even though he told me that he didn't sing during devotions...he did seem to listen! And when I asked for input, he was one of the few who spoke up (including the adults). The boy played hard and slept even harder.

One evening I decided to take him out to dinner - just the two of us. It is an activity that I did with my nephew Jack (now 18) when he was about that age. I was reminded of the fact that each of my nephews and niece are individuals. Jack always favored a restaurant with "waiters and real forks" - and we tried a lot of new and different foods together. When I asked where Jacob wanted to go to dinner, he decided on Chik-fil-a. Well, if that is what he wanted...who was I to argue? We enjoyed (?) dinner, he got chicken grease on my phone, spilled my drink and played in the playground. After that we went to Peaksview Park where I got to see another aspect of his individualism. Whereas Jack (at that age) always wanted to hang out close to me...Jacob departed the car, saw some boys playing, and took off to join in the fun. After they left we spent a few minutes playing tag, just the two of us...but headed to meet my sister for shaved ice pretty quickly (I was worn out!!!). It was pretty neat to see how played with the other boys - making sure that everyone was involved. One boy was a little shy, but Jacob made sure he was included.

But I think that the evening that I will remember most is our evening at Tiny Town golf. Mom, Dad, Denise (aka Aunt Moe), Jacob and his Dad (my brother Gordon) all met to play. Since we thought 6 people would be too many...we split into two teams. I was excited that Jacob picked me and Aunt Moe to be on his team. Although he could have picked more talented players, we lost miserably to the other team...I was happy to be able to spend an hour enjoying his company. I even got two hole-in-ones! And a whole lot of 5s...I am an inconsistent player.

We wrapped up the evening (and our month together) back at The Sweet Spot for ice cream and shaved ice. It was excellent. The next day when he and his Dad headed to catch his flight to Montana...I shed some tears that I hadn't expected to shed. He is far from me geographically, not far from my heart.

But I still don't know why farts are so funny...

Thursday, July 25


Insert blanket "I'm sorry I haven't posted" statement here...

I don't have a whole lot of phobias. I don't fear speaking in public - in fact, my friends and family know that if you give me a microphone, it is hard to get it out of my hand. I'm not afraid of spiders, although I can be startled by them sometimes. Heck, I can be startled by my lovely blonde niece sometimes! I do fear snakes but my friend Ray is trying to help me get past that. I have progressed to the point that I can sit in his living room and not run screaming when I see one of his pets move in their tank. Ray is a patient teacher.

I fear dentists. In fact the fear runs so deep that I actually cannot pick up the phone and call to make the appointment without bursting into tears. I never loved going to the dentist as a child, but the phobia developed after a rather bad experience when I was about 20. The experience was actually SO bad that I didn't return to the dentist for a very long time. More than 10 years. And when I went back and actually got comfortable with a new dentist - he suddenly had to retire for health reasons. Leaving me adrift and without care for my teeth for another period of time.

Eventually I really NEEDED to see a dentist because I had a toothache that I couldn't get past with Advil and Sudafed (and sleeping pills and Orajel and so on, and so on...). So I did what any logical dentaphobic would do...I faxed a letter to three local dental offices. The letter professed me to be a coward with bad dental issues and even worse mental issues. I begged for someone to be patient with me and not yell at me (the evil dentist scolded me and didn't believe in Novocain). My angel of a dentist responded right away: Dr. Anne Libbey. She assured me that I wasn't alone and that she would treat me with great care.

I don't think she knew what she was getting herself into.

After a tearful first visit - she let me know that it was all fixable and we came up with a plan. I told her between sobs and sniffles that I was certain that she was going to tell me it was hopeless and to prepare myself for dentures. She was very kind. And we worked our way through the restoration of my mouth. Fast forward to today...

Once again, I had been absent from dental care for awhile. Not because of Dr. Annie or her wonderful staff - but because I lost my job and dental insurance almost 2 years ago. And since that situation also damaged my psyche for awhile...the phobia returned. Sometimes I would think about calling to set up an appointment, but when my hand reached for the phone...I couldn't do it. Finally, this week I sent an email to the Libbey office. Once again, I proclaimed myself a huge coward with a damaged mind. And again, they responded with the most tender and patient care. Within 30 minutes I had a phone call from the sweet Kerri who got me an appointment for today.

This is a crack head, NOT
my new hygienist!!!
A new hygienist got stuck with me. I asked her if they had warned her about me, she said no - but that she could handle it. And she was just like everyone I've ever worked with at Libbey Family Dentistry. She was gentle and kind and understanding. And Dr. Annie didn't waste time scolding me for being absent - we just came up with a plan and assured me that I would not end up looking like a crack addict.

I'm not sure if dental school includes psychology classes - but every member of the staff would get a passing grade in counseling from me! Thank you for all the tissues...

Sunday, June 23

My First Sermon

I delivered my first message on  Sunday, June 23. And though I veered away from the text that I had written (several times) and you are missing the incredible reenactment of the contest on Mt. Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal... The following is at least representative of the message I delivered to a gracious audience. Since I was also running about 10 minutes long - even if you were there, you missed about a page of material near the end. Sorry everybody got out of church late! Hope you still made it to lunch before the restaurants all ran out of food!!

Shock And Awe 

(that was the sermon title in the bulletin, I ran through at least a dozen different titles during the writing of it)

A man appeared before St. Peter at the pearly gates. St. Peter asked the man if he had done anything of merit in his life. The man said that once when he was traveling in the Black Hills of South Dakota he found a group of bikers threatening a young woman. He told them to leave her alone, but they wouldn't listen. So he grabbed the biggest biker, punched him, kicked over his bike, ripped his nose ring out and threw it on the ground. Then he said, “back off or you'll answer to me!” St. Peter was impressed and asked the man when that had happened. The man said “about 5 minutes ago.”

That has to be a little like what Elijah felt – here he has this huge confrontation with 450 prophets of Baal...and he WINS...but now he is running for his life.

Ahab and Elijah have encountered each other before. They first meet when Elijah comes to tell Ahab that a drought is going to come over the land that will last for a long time. In the third year of the drought the Lord send him back to Ahab and Elijah tells him he needs to straighten up and decide whether he is going to worship the one true God or continue to worship false gods. Ahab is not a good king – in fact 1 Kings 16:33 says that he was a new champion of evil. He has made the God of Israel angrier than all the previous kings of Israel put together! And his wife, the Phoenician princess Jezebel doesn't help the situation. She actually supported the prophets of Baal from the royal treasury!

So when Ahab tells Jezebel what Elijah has done, she is shocked and greatly angered. Her response is: So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow : Jezebel heard about all that Elijah had done, encompassing the great confrontation at Mount Carmel. Yet her response was not to say, "The silence of Baal and the fire from Yahweh proves that I am wrong and Yahweh is God." Instead, she responded with a vow to kill within 24 hours the man who exposed the lie of Baal worship and displayed the glory of Yahweh.

If Elijah thought that the miracle at Mount Carmel would have been the beginning of the conversion of the whole court and of the country, he was mistaken. And now he is greatly discouraged.

Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beersheba. We cannot say for certain if this was led of God or not. It is clear that God wanted to protect Elijah, but we cannot say if God wanted to protect him at Jezreel or protect him by getting him out of Jezreel. Nevertheless, Elijah went about 80 miles south to Beersheba. Maybe Elijah played into Jezebel's hand. After all, had she really wanted Elijah dead, she surely would have seized him without warning and slain him. What she desired was that Elijah and his God be discredited before the new converts what had aided Elijah by executing the prophets of Baal.

Regardless, he does flee and after leaving his servant in Beersheba, he goes another day into the wilderness finally coming to rest under a solitary broom tree. Further into seclusion. There – this mighty prayer warrior of God, the one only recently prayed fire from the skies to prove the power of Yaweh...prays that he might die.

It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors. Elijah is in a serious state of depression. He has had enough. He is saying “I can't do this any more Lord.” The work was stressful, exhausting, and it seemed to have accomplished nothing. The great miracle at Mount Carmel did not result in a lasting national revival or return to the Lord. Elijah probably hoped that the events on Mount Carmel would turn around Ahab and Jezebel and the leadership of Israel. But Elijah forgot that people reject God despite the evidence, not because of the evidence.

He says he is no better than his ancestors. When he looks at the apparent failure of his ministry he instinctively blames his own unworthiness.

I think we can all relate to Elijah's despair. At some point in our lives we've all gotten to the point where we say, “what's the point? I can't go on. I don't want to go on.” If you haven't, then praise the Lord! Because the rest of us have gotten to the end of our rope at some point in our lives. Maybe we were overwhelmed by a family issue or something at work or even felt burned out in our faith or church ministry. Perhaps you or someone you know has even lay under the broom tree and wanted to give up completely. Prayed for death.

God didn't grant Elijah's prayer for death. He gave him something else.

In the midst of this great despair, God sent an angel. Not with a pep talk...he took care of Elijah's physical needs first. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”

God first ministered to Elijah's physical needs. This is not always His order, but physical needs are important. Sometimes the most spiritual thing a person can do is get enough rest and replenishment. And he received that repeatedly – one quick nap and one quick meal wasn't enough. Food and rest were the first elements needed to help this poor depressed servant of God.

It was very gracious of God to deal with Elijah in this way. Some of us might have expected a rebuke – but God didn't tell him to “walk it off” or “suck it up” - instead he allowed him respite, rest and renewal. Exactly what he needed before his long journey. And a long journey it was!

God sent Elijah on a 200 mile, 40 day trip to Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. God didn't demand an immediate recovery – he allowed his prophet time to recover from his spiritual depression. Although the trip could have been accomplished in about 2 weeks, Elijah spends 40 days traveling to Mount Horeb and upon arrival he spends the night in a cave. Literally, the Hebrew word is definite in describing “the cave.” The cave may well have been the specific “cleft of the rock” where God appeared to Moses rather than the cave-region in general. We do know that this was a sacred mount – perhaps no spot on Earth is more associated with the manifested presence of God.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  How often have we heard that? Sometimes when we think things are starting to smooth out – God says, “What are you doing here?” God knew the answer, but he allowed Elijah to speak freely and unburden his heart:

Elijah answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away. He sounds like the despair he felt back in the wilderness near Beersheba isn't completely healed! He protests to God, “I have faithfully served You and now look at the danger I'm in!” To Elijah – and many servants of God since – it seemed unfair that a faithful servant of God should be made to suffer. And strangely, the reasons that Elijah provided for wanting to give up, are actually the critical reasons he should stay alive! If he really was the last prophet or believer alive, should he not seek to live as long as possible? If the enemies of God like Jezebel wanted him dead, shouldn't he seek to defeat her wicked ways? But this is what fear and unbelief will cause in us!

Elijah was not really alone, but that is how he felt. Near the end of chapter 19 (verse 18), God states that there are seven thousand in Israel who have not bowed to Baal. But discouraging times make God's servants feel more isolated and alone than they are.
We all have times like these, don't we? Feeling like we're carrying the whole burden of a task alone? Why don't more people help out with teaching Sunday school? Where are all the volunteers for JIFF? Why doesn't everyone care about what I care about as much as I care about it?

Friends, we're going to have to face it – not everyone wants to work with children, not everyone wants to sing in the choir, not everyone has the skills to paint sets for the Christmas play. But when we look around, we see we're not really alone. Each person has to find their place. And we must learn to respect that.

Make no mistake though – we all have a responsibility as Christians. We are all under the same directive – to go forth and make disciples of Jesus Christ. I'm just saying that we won't all be moved to do that by volunteering in the nursery.

So, what did God do after he let Elijah vent? After Elijah said, “I've served you faithfully but now I'm running for my life and the children of Israel have broken their covenant, torn down your altars and killed your prophets and I'm all that's left...” “I'm really, really good and they're really, really bad. Life isn't fair. Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I'll eat a worm....”

God says, Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Oh man. Get ready. Daddy's home and now you're gonna get it. The last time God manifested himself on this mountain Moses' face glowed so much that people were frightened of him.

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

Note that the Lord was NOT in the wind, He was NOT in the earthquake and He was NOT in the fire. That seems to be the place that people expect to see God. In the big shows. In the shock and awe. People expect God to show himself in the big displays of power and might. And truly his power and might can be witnessed in those displays. But those dramatic manifestations are not the same as personal encounters with God. We often forget the lesson, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.”

after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Elijah knew. He sensed the presence. He wrapped his face in his mantle and stood at the entrance of the cave. He knew that God was present in the still small voice, the gentle whisper – in a way that He was not in the more dramatic phenomenon. Because of that special presence of God, Elijah humbled himself by covering his face. He was subdued. He was awe-stricken. Full of reverence. Oh, what a wondrous thing. To be humble enough to admit that we are human. Sinners. In need of grace.

And then the voice of God asked again, What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I'm not sure that after a wind that was breaking rocks or an earthquake or fire...that I would have had the guts to give the same answer as before...but Elijah says again, perhaps more humbly? I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

There is nothing wrong with his answer. It is an honest answer. “I've been working for you faithfully, I feel all alone and I fear for my life.” I think we all agree that we have felt this way – maybe we don't have the death threat over our heads from Jezebel. Maybe we fear something else for our lives. Maybe we are afraid that our friends won't understand if we are a prophet for the Lord. Maybe we are afraid that our lives will change if we become zealous about our faith. Maybe there is something that we don't want to give up in our lives.

Perhaps we are feeling all alone in our walk. Perhaps we think nobody cares enough about the ministry of the church that we are most passionate about. Maybe we are still laying under the broom tree hoping for an angel to come and give us hope and encouragement.

God's answer to Elijah was not what I expected. If I were Elijah I would have been hoping for a “well done my good and faithful servant, here's your cushy arm chair and an unlimited supply of snacks.” I might have settled for “you poor thing. Why don't you take a vacation and go contemplate the stars and the vastness of the universe?” I sure wouldn't have wanted God's answer to Elijah.

Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram”...and so on, and so on...

A work assignment? Really?

But that is exactly what Elijah needed. Something to do. He needed a task to focus on so he could avoid excessive introspection. He needed to stop looking at himself and his own (admittedly difficult) circumstances. He needed to get on with what God wanted him to do. He sent him off about his Master's business again. I will bet you that when he went back over that road, it was with a different step than what brought him down to Beersheba. He came along terrified and depressed; now he goes back having witnessed majesty. He's not going to be afraid of Jezebel now!

Elijah is like all of us – we can be overwhelmed and burned out. We can feel lost and alone. God provided exactly what Elijah needed. Rest and rejuvenation, time for reflection, a glimpse of his majesty and power – and then the last piece: a kick in the pants.

Get back to work! You're not done yet! He also send him to recruit Elisha, giving him a friend and successor. He informed him that there were 7000 faithful – that Elijah was not alone. That the worship of the true God was still being retained, though Elijah did not know that there was even one beside himself. That the still small voice was still doing for Israel what Elijah could not do alone.

How many of us need to rededicate ourselves to the work of the one true God? Are we feeling Elijah-ish? Maybe we burned out and got stuck in the rest and rejuvenation phase? Still wandering around on the path to Mount Horeb? Or are we sitting in our cave waiting for a big show of God's power? Or have we witnessed God's power and feel unworthy and unsure of what our work assignment is?

Today, start being in prayer about your role in God's church. Be encouraged. God is with us every step of the way. W. Macintosh Mackay wrote in Words of this Life: There are three kinds of Christian workers - canal barges, sailing ships, and Atlantic liners. The canal barges need to be dragged to the work. Often they do wonderfully well, but on the whole one volunteer is better than three pressed into service. The sailing ships make fine going as long as wind and tide are with them, but when things get hard, when 'the winds are contrary,' when the work is discouraging, they turn tail and sail away. But give me the Atlantic-liner type of worker, the person who can fight through wind and tempest, because within there burns the mighty furnace of the love of Christ.

Burn mighty. Fight through the wind and tempest. Spread the love of Jesus Christ.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Tuesday, June 11

Planning Ahead

Earlier this week a friend posted some plans on her Facebook timeline:

After attending roughly one funeral per month for the past 15 months, I've decided to share what I want as a send-off. I don't plan on going gentle into any good night, and hopefully not any time soon, but just for the record, here are my wishes:

I would like a Viking funeral. Any body of water will do but I think the lake at Sweet Briar would be poetic. The program for the service should be letterpressed onto an elegant, yet heavy, pearl or ivory stock. Use Mrs Eaves for the font.

Crying is encouraged. Extra points will be awarded to those who flail about and collapse to the ground under the weight of their grief. Door prizes should be awarded for farthest travel, best mascara face, cutest shoes, etc. Instead of a band, I would like the entertainment to be Jeff Sigler performing the Cask of Amontillado. It is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen, and since I'll be watching, I'd like to see it again.

I love flowers, so none of this "donations in lieu of" business. The bigger the arrangement, the more you loved me, I say. Ideally, large boxwood topiaries would be carved into things I would find lovely and/or amusing.

Since I'm not a beer drinker, pouring out some of your 40 in my memory doesn't really fit. I'd like to suggest squeezing out the filling of Krispy Kreme raspberry doughnuts as an alternative.

Speaking of food, someone should make sure the refreshments include Chik-fil-a nuggets, orange tic tacs and my grandmother's cheesecake, as they represent things I loved in live and never once turned down.

Other than that, I'm not picky.

I loved it. Loved all of it. In fact, I love her even a little bit more because now I know I'm not alone in trying to instruct the people left behind how I would like for them to behave. I think it is only proper to leave specific directions. There are a few comments I would make on her choices.

The Viking funeral does not surprise me, nor does the idea that you have chosen a font for your service program...I personally plan to be cremated. In fact, everyone in my family has indicated a preference for cremation. Except my brother who "wants the box" and Dad who wants to donate his body to science. We are not sure what we'll have to pay UVA to take that old thing off our hands - but we'll do our best. We are also considering sticking him in a canoe and pointing him down the James River toward Richmond. It is not certain if we will wait until he expires or if that will be the cause of death. And yes, as my sister Susan pointed out to my friend (and her friends), I do wish to have my ashes put in snack size baggies and distributed at the funeral so that people can sprinkle me wherever they feel closest to me. Maybe that is creepy - I obviously think it is a delightful idea. Even if Susan flushes me.

"Crying is encouraged." Absolutely! And I promised Ms. A that I will win the prize for flailing about on the sanctuary floor until I have to be restrained and/or sedated. I shall weep and gasp for breath and create the most incredible scene. I will quote scripture and sing gospel songs. I will not be wearing cute shoes. Sorry.

Who the heck is Jeff Sigler and what, pray tell, is the Cask of Amontillado? I shall go forth and Google it: OH! Poe!! I do love a good Edgar Allen Poe tale. I should have some recollection of that...but I admit I do not. It is more likely at my funeral that there will be a DVD of Jeff Dunham and clips of Achmed the Dead Terrorist. Clearly not as highbrow as Ms. A...but still amusing. And still a guy named Jeff.

That brings us to flowers. I'm with her, I like flowers. Well, most flowers. When I first wrote down my "to be opened upon the event of my death" directions I actually instructed my Dad to remove any of those fluffy mums and any lillies. Both of which creep me the hell out. I'm also okay if people make donations in lieu of flowers - make it something good though!! Or creative! So...something between a donation to the Red Cross or a small non-profit that helps people removed neck tattoos of dragons.

Who pours beer out? That doesn't honor me! My family knows that my biggest wish is for one kick ass wake. I want even the preacher to call for a cab home. You should weep and drink and eat and mourn and drink and laugh. Read passages of The Beaten Hamster like they were poems of Lord Byron. Perform the dream about lime green alligators as though Shakespeare wrote it. Party like it's 1999. And if you're going to squeeze any doughnuts - I prefer lemon.

Respect for the CFA Hate Nuggets (I do visit Chickfila sometimes, but then I make a donation to the Human Rights Campaign) and the orange TicTacs. Had a dream once that I was at K-mart trying to return a box of orange TicTacs. Not a very helpful help desk in that dream.

Like Ms. A - I'm not planning on departing any time soon. But I also don't shy away from letting people know what I want after I'm gone. #1 - give every useful part to someone who can use it. Skin, corneas, heart, liver, whatever. Organ donors rock. I fully believe that in heaven it will be like the DisneyWorld Fastpass...Organ Donors get to go everywhere first. Don't forget to tell your family!!