Monday, March 29, 2010

The Deer Hunter Is Having A Girl

Received a telephone call today ... my son, Aaron and his wife, Annie ... are having a girl.

I'm thrilled!

Everything looks great! Her grandparents are in hog heaven today, as well as her Aunts and Uncles. Baby Girl's not even here yet, and I feel as though we know her already. The ability to tell the sex of a child before it's born makes the whole process much more real and closer to us somehow.

My son, who served his country as a U.S. Marine and sports arms the size of Montana, those tree-trunk arms are ready to hold his baby girl. The thing is, although Aaron has a neck as big and round as a tractor tire, works on jets, drives a pickup truck, and hunts deer in his spare time with bow, muzzle loader, and a Remington ... having a girl is perfect.

Yes, perfect. For Bub's heart, as I've seen and experienced on many occasions, is soft. I think a girl will soften it even more. His wife, Dr. Annie, a college professor, is as precious is the day is long. She's smart and funny, and thank you Annie, you did good!

Their little girl will be the best thing that ever happened to both of them. I'm quite sure. Get some rest, Annie and Aaron ... I love you both.

Aaron's comment to me on the phone this morning made me laugh -- "Well ... Mom," he said, "It's all good. Except with a boy you only have to worry about one penis. With a girl, I'm going to have to worry about a hundred of 'em."

It'll be fine. His Remington shotgun may come in handy for something after all, besides deer.

Blessings to you, my little grand baby girl.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Supernatural Animal Connection

The story goes that my cousin's dog came up missing early one morning. My cousin, Margie, is blind. Her seeing-eye dog, a Labrador retriever, served as her eyes and lifelong protector. Her dog had been her best friend and partner for over 13 years.

Margie's brothers, my cousins David and TJ, set out on a hunt for her dog. They searched everywhere thinking that when Margie got out of bed, she would worry about her dog. Finally, after a three-hour search, they found him--near a creek a couple miles down the road. He had laid down and died.

When they arrived home, concerned about how to tell Margie about her beloved dog, they found that Margie had passed away in her bed some time during the night. Stranger than fiction, isn't it? A sad, sad story, but wondrous in another way. For it seems to me there is a world unknown to us. The world of animal connection.

Of all the animals in the world, I believe our pets hold a special connection to the human world we cannot see or hear. For centuries, our domesticated animals have been loved, nurtured, adored, and unfortunately abused, by humans. We've taught birds how to talk, dogs how to sniff out drugs and cancer, and I've heard of more than one cat that has saved their owner from a house fire.

I was told in church many years ago, that animals do not have souls. As God made man a little lower than the angels, he also made animals a little lower than man. That when a dog dies, that's it. No life after death for animals. I think that's a load of crap. (The ministry I grew up in dished out a lot of crap, as if every member were mentally challenged with no mind of their own. Things have changed.)

Obviously, I no longer believe that. I believe the bond between humans and their animals is often stronger than to other humans. For example, my dear friends, Tim and Tina. Their German Shepard passed away last year from a tumor. They're still grieving. The death of their dog, Casey, altered the course of their life. I don't believe they'll ever get over it. They'll get used to being without him, but never over it. My dear friend, Dena, does not have children, but don't tell her that. Her Lucy and Olivia kitties are her babies.

The unconditional love we receive from animals is a God-given virtue. It's why so many fight for animal rights. They've experienced that love somewhere along the way.

When I hear about someone who has abused an animal, I find it's always a demented and tormented individual. Somebody who needs either locked up, sedated on heavy doses of drugs, or wrapped in a straight jacket. Someone who should neither own an animal nor bear a child. And when you find a ferocious dog, it's usually because a human has mistreated it.

There are things in this life we cannot see or hear as humans. Dogs and cats, it seems to me, were created for our pleasure and enjoyment. We cannot hug a lion, but we can purr along with our kitty-cats. We cannot romp and play with a grizzly, but God has blessed us with the companionship of our pooch. We cannot hop on a rhinoceros, but we can trot all the way to the next county on top of our palomino. Only in Heaven will the lion lay down with a lamb.

But your animals are your extended family members. They deserve love. They know us, often, better than we know ourselves. They talk to us in ways we don't think about. They save us from cancer, fires, floods--from death.

I believe, with my whole heart, God gives us the desires of our hearts. He did not give you the love of your dog or cat to never see it again after its passing. I believe Margie and her dog are together in Heaven, except now, Margie can see her dog. Your precious pet that is loved by you is awarded a piece of your soul. You'll see it again.

I'm sure of it.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This 'n That (or rather) Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

Don't you just want to kill somebody when you receive an interesting email, telling you they're going to give you some great information, teach you something you've been wondering about, and then they lead you off into cyber-space, making you SEARCH FOR IT? I received an email yesterday from a well-respected local editor who promised a tutorial on when to use the word which and when to use that. Although I'm relatively sure I know how to use these words, I thought I'd take a look and see what Ms. Editor had to say. Not.

I like to click and go directly to what I want to read. I WILL NOT spend my time clicking and searching and clicking and searching. Nobody's information is worth that.
In comparing the area I just moved from to the area I just moved to: in a word - LITER. I don't understand it. I recently lived in a beautiful area, consisting mostly of people from the North (transplants) educated folks, professionals living in high-dollar homes. So then, in order to downsize, save money, return to full-time writing, I now live in the real South. For the most part, this town bulges with blue-collar folks who have lived in NC all their lives. Sprinkle in a few red necks, lower-priced homes and what do you got? Liter. The town I'm living in is covered in it. The previous place was liter-free. Go figure.
For me the negative to living in a neighborhood - clueless neighbors who keep dogs on chains, in backyards, fenced up and barking their poor heads off. All day. All night. And don't give a damn about their neighbors. Time to call Animal Control.
But we did have a successful garage sale in Blue-Collar Town. Sold a ton of junk, people got great deals, and we made some extra cash. But I think the best part of hosting a garage sale is the socializing. People get to talking and don't want to go home ... the most memorable conversation was with the lady who talked to me for twenty minutes about her love-affair with her cast-iron skillet. "If somebody would tell me my house is burning down and I can only take two things, I'd grab my kitty-cat and my iron skillet. Don't nobody in my house mess with my skillet. You reckon I love my skillet more 'n my husband?"

Now that's a priceless line for a writer.
It's Sunday Night, time to veg out in front of the TV, find a movie, clear my head for the week ahead. Y'all have a good week ... I'll do the same.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Gifts Of Old Age

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize what I see. Where did the angry young woman go? Who is this person gazing back at me with crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes, sagging chin, and thin lines on the edge of her smile? Then I take a second look and realize that time has taken her away, replaced her with what's staring back at me. A different woman is beginning to reemerge from years of distrust and suspicion that was chiseled away by grace and mercy.

A mellow tongue, a quiet disposition, and peace in my heart. Age does give women a few gifts. But we have to learn to accept them. Some women refuse the precious gifts of aging. Instead, she's holding on to the demons of her youth.

Some hold on to their short-tempers and manipulative ways. They enjoy shutting down people who get in their way and avoiding those who put a mirror in front of their face. It drives some women nuts if anyone interferes with their plans. They don't like anyone to think of them as poor or needy. If you catch some women when they're in the mood to socialize, you’ll love them. Shower them with compliments and they’ll deliver the sun and the moon. But controlling women hate being told what to do. Deception is her middle name. These ladies (if you can call them ladies) honestly believes the world owes them a buck. Their sense of entitlement is unparalleled. I've seen them chew up girlfriends and spit them out, repeatedly.

When you attempt to uncover a woman like this, she flies into a full-blown war defensive. You can’t out talk her. You won’t win. There’s no such thing as an intervention. Borderline Personality Disorder, I believe it's called.

By the time they're in their 50s, they're already old, bitter, ugly, and on their way to becoming alone and miserable old hags.

It makes me thankful that when age handed me my gifts, I took them and never looked back.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Courage Versus Fear

Someone recently asked me - "As a writer, what is your definition of courage and fear?"

This was my response:

In terms of writing, courage is not confidence, nor the opposite of meekness. It’s feeling a measure of confidence, and then acting on those feelings. It’s a quality of spirit that enables you to face the moment, whatever comes, and keep on going.

Courage allows you to see, hear, smell, and taste things as they really are. Courage makes you face facts, unfiltered by rosy daydreams. Courage frees you to be creative. It pushes you to prepare for the unknown without obsessing over it. To be open to what may come.

A writer can’t be open to new ideas if dazed and confused by fear. Courage enables you to be prepared and wide awake in every situation.

There were times in my youth I didn’t write because I was afraid of failing. I didn’t prepare for success because I was afraid it might happen. I didn’t look, really look, into my past because I was afraid of what I might find. As I grow older, I don't give myself those options. Not anymore.

Fear is passive-aggressive. It’s the lazy writer’s excuse for not moving forward. It’s a great immobilizer, an avoidance technique.

Fear puts the focus on what we might encounter, distracts us from what’s actually there. Courage empowers a writer to pay attention.

In the end, a writer can do without a lot of things. Remembering your journey is not one of them. Courage is the other.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Politically Incorrect?

I try very hard to keep my political opinions to myself. I really do. I know I'm a bit "preachy" at times, probably more than a writer should be. But those who know me, know that I'm a little different "Christian." I'm certainly not a Christian in the traditional sense. Although I believe in the basic fundamentals of scripture, I also believe God takes each of us in a different direction. We're not all the same in our goals, our ideals, and yes ... even in our politics. I don't think God wants us to all be the same, think the same, act the same.

My parents, for example, tend to "parrot" their favorite TV preacher. They also parrot the news, believing if they heard it on Fox News, it must be true. Well, I excuse them most of the time because they're getting up there in age. I'm not sure my mother has ever thought for herself. Bless her heart.

I've been embarrassed by the actions, words, and deeds of so many Christians, famous and otherwise, I hesitate to call myself one. I've said this before, but a personal relationship with Christ, is just that. Personal. I realize God does not contradict himself, but I don't feel for a minute that He tells us all to walk the same path. Otherwise, we would not have been blessed with different talents!

So what am I getting at?

I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican, I really don't. I think good, bad, and ugly exists in both parties. In every city and state. In all walks of life. In all races. In every church, school, boardroom, and university. I've seen the ugly side of those who call themselves Democrats and those who call themselves Republicans. Living in a free society, I have voted for candidates on both sides. Do I ever take a stand on anything political? Sure I do. But I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs of every reform bill before Congress. I'm not going to parrot another person's opinion.

But what I do know is that in just one of our major cities, there are 90,000 homeless people. 90,000! When I brought this fact up to someone recently, they said (and I quote) "Yeah, and those people crowd our emergency rooms, costing us millions of dollars because they can't pay!"

I was speechless.

And ... so ... what do you propose they do? Stand outside and die?

I certainly can't solve this healthcare problem, I wouldn't know where to start. But it's statements like that make me want to cry. I can't imagine turning my back on a person in need. I know church groups go into missions and soup kitchens, volunteering their time to feed the poor. These good folks stand for hours to dish out food to the hungry. But I wonder what you think when you spoon food onto a ragged man's plate? Would you be willing to touch his life by taking the time to talk with him one-on-one? Go to where he lives or sleeps, and minister to him on his turf? Be his friend? It's an admirable thing, volunteering your time. I don't discount that. But what is your real motive? Just to say you've done it? Or because your heart cries out to help?

Homogenized Christians worship every Sunday in the comfort of their big, clean, churches. They shout hallelujah with the rest of the families around them who are all pretty much of the same class, the same educations, the same race. (What did I hear recently, that 90% of our churches are still segregated?) These good church-goers hand out their testimony like candy to those who resemble themselves. They boldly testify to their fellow church-goers who nod their head and agree with them. You can say what you want about the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons but at least they are out there pounding the pavement for their beliefs.

Are you? (I'll bet hundreds of reasons why you can't just flew through your brain. Yeah, me too.)

Again, what's my point?

Until we are willing to go out into the highways and the hedges, and really put our money where our mouth is ... we have no right to tell others what needs to be done or how to do it.

I don't know how President Obama is going to solve, or even attempt to solve all of our problems. But I can tell you one thing - I'm going to pray for him. Instead of stepping on top of my soapbox - I'm going to pray for him. I wonder how many Christians in this country actually pray for him and mean it?

Instead of wagging my tongue, parroting what I hear on the news - I'm going to pray for him. I do believe it is our obligation to pray for every President ... whether we agree with him or not. I believe that is one thing God would have us all do, every day - without fail. Pray for our President. You may not like him, you may not have voted for him, but sometimes I just want to scream ... JUST SHUT UP AND PRAY FOR HIM! If anybody in this country needs it, deserves it - HE DOES!

Do I pray for him? Yes. And I prayed for George Bush, too. When it comes to praying for our President, we have to put the politics aside.

Don't parrot another person's opinion just because it sounds good. Don't stand in judgment over your fellow man because they're not like you. Don't think God belongs just to people like you. Lift somebody's heart today. Show love when it's not expected. And pray for your President.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Rock On, Church Lady!

So I'm driving down the street this morning, on my way to Walmart instead of my local Baptist church (shame on me) and I stop at a red light. To my right sits a large white church, steeple bells ringing, bringing in the sheaves and everything. The parking lot is jam-packed with shiny cars that probably took a Saturday evening bath just to show off in the Sunday morning sunshine. It's the first breath of spring here in my neck of the woods, and it brings out the church-goers in droves.

I live in the South. The so-called "Bible Belt." Winter is hard on church-goers. Any news of the least bit of snow, ice, or even a wet road will cancel church. Most folks down here depend on their weekly fix of church gossip like Fox News depends on evangelicals for their ratings. Once the weather turns warm, every Sunday is Easter in the South, I swear.

As a writer, I'm constantly aware of my surroundings. So when I see a large woman to my left, big pink hat on her head like a flamingo's nest--feathers and all, I'm engrossed. This church lady is about to lay into her grandchildren. Lagging behind, the three young boys, ages (my guess was 12, 9, and 7) had already pulled their shirts out of their pants and one had taken off his tie and was about to wrap it around his brother's (my guess) neck.

Well, this pink church lady (her billowy dress matched her hat) wasn't about to stand for this behavior. She had her large black Bible firmly in her right hand and took to swatting the backsides of these little fellas. Hollering and cussing, she put a whole new spin on Bible thumping. Overflowing in her shoes, this hot-pink church lady didn't care who heard her. I had to crack my window ... If you think I would miss this golden opportunity, you're crazy!

"Get in there! Get in that church! You're late! Quit tormenting ... go on, now! I mean it, Gerald!"

Finally, somebody honked behind me. I'd almost sat through a green light. But I didn't care. I was about to turn around and go in for church, hoping to hear more from the pink church lady. I applaud her diligence. She was bound and determined to get those three boys into that church.

Then I thought, that wild woman could have been yelling at me. I mean, it's been a while since I've sat through a real, live church service. Mike and prefer to worship at home, for many honest reasons. (A blog for another day.)

I drove away thinking about the book, The Shack. Maybe God really is a big, African-American woman, swatting our backsides in the right direction. Hmmm.

Something to think about.

Rock on, church lady.

Blessings to you and yours.