Sunday, September 07, 2014

When I'm Gone

From the Miami News-Record, Sunday, September 7, 2014

This past week I celebrated the life of Don Hall with his family and friends. I met Don when we attended church east of town and marveled at how many children he could fit in the cab of a pickup truck. (I became much more at ease when I heard he had bought a van – then I learned it only bought him that much more room for more kids.) I stood in that church parking lot and asked my Pops (and pastor), “Why does he bring all those kids to church?” Pops smiled and said, “Because he wants to.” And oh, how he wanted to. He felt a calling, a desire, a mission to introduce as many kids as he possibly could to Jesus and if that meant testing the limits of a vehicle to fit just one more in, he did it. About four years later my husband and I were wet-behind-the-ears youth leaders at a church south of town and had the privilege of seeing again just how many lives “Papa Don” touched when he rolled into the parking lot one night with an even bigger vehicle – a bus – in which to haul kids to church. When he stepped onto those streets of gold last week and had instant knowledge of how many lives he had touched, how many people he had led to salvation, I would imagine he just grinned his shy grin and ducked his head as he heard his Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I am not a fan of funerals. (I might also ask, “Who is?”) I will avoid a funeral just about any way I can simply because I think too many times we get caught up in mourning and forget to remember. And since I’m a cry-er in the presence of other crying folks, I just don’t subject myself to that if I don’t have to. So often we forget to focus on the good that person did and the way they lived their life and we instead shed our tears in earthly sadness. I guess you could say we get a bit selfish when it comes to someone dying. We will miss them and we can’t stand the thought of life here without them, then we cry. And if you’re me, you cry a lot. So just know this: if I show up to your funeral, I really thought you were pretty darn special.
As I sat in that pew last week waiting for Don’s funeral to begin, I thought ahead to my own passing. (An event I am not planning on having happen for a very long time.) I leaned over to my oldest daughter and said, “Listen to me, young lady. When I die, there had better not be a memorial service held in a church. I want a party.” She looked at me with the strangest look and said, “A party? Like, what on earth would we do at a ….. a party in honor of your…..DEATH??”
So given that she pinned me down right there, I pondered a bit before I said, “Well, you had better eat BBQ. And chocolate cake. Lots of chocolate cake. You guys take turns telling stories about my clumsiness, read some of the stuff I’ve written over the years. Talk about my awful hair. Laugh. Poke a little fun at me – heck, I’ll be gone, so go for it.” I went on to tell her that I’ll be writing my own obituary, so that’ll taken care of already. She seemed relieved at that. She was amused at my party plans and nodded a lot so I hope she intends to honor my wishes.

And while y’all are at my memorial party crying only because you’re laughing so hard you might wet your pants, I will have already hit the gates of Heaven, hopefully hearing the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and not, “Girl, you’ve got some explainin’ to do.”

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Nostalgia and School Supplies

From The Miami News-Record,  Sunday, August 31

When I was a kid, school supply lists consisted of: Pencils – fat in lower elementary, skinny in upper – two of them, no more. A Pink Pearl eraser – these weren’t used for erasing, just pegging your neighbor in the back of the skull. Elmer’s glue – one bottle. This was used to glue construction paper to manila paper (most kids called it “vanilla paper” – FYI: it didn’t smell like vanilla) and was also applied in thin layers to the backs of your hands then peeled off when dry in order to gross out your classmates with your “skin”. Crayons – a pack of 16 was all that was required, but there was always some kid who showed up with the fancy pack of 64 with the built-in sharpener and that was the kid you wanted to sit next to. Colors were Indian Red, Prussian Blue, Maize, Raw Umber, etc. “Burnt Sienna” was the weird brown that baffled everyone. What was a sienna and why was it burnt? Scissors – metal, blunt-end scissors that rusted by Christmas break. The purpose was to cut paper, but was usually just used to cut chunks out of your hair – or your Pink Pearl eraser. Colored pencils – these were only required in 5th and 6th grade because that was when they taught map skills (and we all know maps cannot be colored with crayons – just ask Christopher Columbus). Kleenex – two boxes. No one brought Puffs; they were too expensive. 

All of the above supplies were to be contained in your cardboard school box. The school box (and your metal lunch box) was a direct reflection of your interests at the time – Strawberry Shortcake, Dukes of Hazzard, Bugs Bunny, etc. School boxes started out with square corners and a lid that closed squarely as well. By year’s end most were covered in elementary-grade graffiti, the lids were held on by that really good tape the teachers kept in the locked drawer, the corners were torn, and the lid was kept from caving in by a pushpin (said pushpin stolen from the bulletin board). Throw a Big Chief tablet into the whole mix and your school supplies maybe cost a whole $10 - more if you were the kid with the 64 pack of crayons. These things were stored in your desk with the squeaky lift-up tops that slammed at deliciously loud decibels – and pinched countless fingers.

Now, all pencils are small because the big ones hinder small motor skills. Scissors must be kept out of the reach of the children until they are brought out and carefully monitored, saving many a head of hair I’m sure. Glue is in sticks and you must equip your child with roughly 4,823 at the beginning of the year. Crayon colors are politically correct and exciting – Wild Blue Wonder, Cerise, Fuzzy Wuzzy, Jazzberry Jam, Smokey Topaz, and others that to me sound more like stripper names than crayon colors. Manila paper has given way to iPad apps and antibacterial gel is liberally applied to the children throughout the day. Ziploc bags, paper towels, wet wipes, and acetaminophen/ibuprofen make the supply lists these days due to dwindling budgets. If we had a headache we got a wet brown paper towel from the bathroom for our foreheads. And the only thing we had for germ containment was the stuff the janitor sprinkled on puke when someone got sick after riding the merry-go-round. Today’s kids must stay home if they have fevers, but back in my day you were given a baby aspirin and told to tough it out. Skinned knees got “the spray” – a yellow aerosol that burned like the fire of a thousand suns. Pounding erasers was the biggest honor a kid could get and the white residue that covered you was a badge of honor. And probably caused asthma and dry eyes, too, but we survived. We survived it all.


Ahhh, nostalgia. I hope someday our kids develop an app for that. 

Liberating Plankton, part 1

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