Family Folklore

Every family has folklore. These are the stories that inevitably are retold whenever families gather together, becoming a part of the fabric of the family along the way. Many times the events weren’t funny at the time, but thankfully the passage of time has softened the edges and illuminated the joy.   My family has a lot of folklore because my Grandmother was one of six children. That means my Mother is one of twenty-seven cousins! It is through this family folklore that we have truly come to love a special verse.

            Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2a (NIV).


One example of our folklore is the story of the first family reunion hosted by my Mother’s generation. This gathering resulted from their shock at my Grandfather’s sudden passing. They were all so young, starting families and their own lives. His passing startled them so that they wanted to reignite the closeness of their youth.

Spread across the field that adjoined my Grandparent’s house to the backyard of my childhood home, young families spent the warm summer nights sleeping in tents while the older folks got the cool air-conditioned comfort inside the houses. I was one of a herd of small children catching fireflies and playing in the dirt. Men tended the slow cooking barbeque; women cooked for the next set of meals and tended the washing machine that ran non-stop. (Imagine trying to keep up with just the towels from more than 50 people bathing each day and children playing in the garden hose to combat the hot summer temperature!) It was a glorious long weekend…until a sudden summer thunderstorm roared through sending everyone running for cover. The storm didn’t last long, but the tents were blown to the far edges of the fields. Linens, pillows, clothing, toys, everything that had been in the tents was soaked. The yard and field were now a muddy mess to be tracked inside the house. It was a catastrophe!

There was probably some anguish as everyone tried to use the dryer in time to put all the kids to bed. My Mother probably wanted to cry as they figured out how to squish everyone inside the house for supper. All the mothers probably wanted to scream as they tried to occupy all the children when it was too wet and muddy to send us outside. The perfect weekend took a turn, but as the years have passed it has become legendary. No one threw up their hands and headed home, they just took it in stride and had fun that weekend recalled with anything other than a smile and a hearty laugh. We don’t remember the damp sheets or muddy children, we remember the love.

As time has passed some of our dear ones have passed on. Their unique responses to the chaos and messes of life are remembered. Their humor, laughter, and personalities are remembered in our folklore. We honor their memory and the fun we shared with them. These loved ones who are no longer with us are shared with the younger generation in the retelling of these stories. These are the people who make up our family’s great cloud of witnesses. The folklore does more than bind us together with humor, it strengthens us. This is why these stories are so often told when we congregate for funerals, at weddings and the like (yes I realize we tend to gather in churches quite often these days). No matter what events we as a family may face, we can throw off the things that hinder us and persevere. We can take comfort and endure because we have been through difficulties in the past, we will endure still more grief and struggles in the future, yet we will still remain faithful and fix our eyes on the author of our faith.   We have our very own great cloud of witnesses surrounding us to make sure of it!

Trying to be quiet…

Quiet is not easy for me. No one who has ever met me would describe me as quiet. There is nothing about me that is quiet- nothing about my personality, my appearance, my demeanor. I am that loud library lady with the wild red hair.

In this season of Lent I have been trying to be quiet. The most wonderful message came to me in a [in]courage devotion written by Bonnie Gray the day before Lent began. You can read it here, and if you don’t subscribe to [in]courage I encourage you to sign up while you are there. (See what I did there? Love a good wordplay!)

In order to listen I need to be quiet. To hear what it is that God wants me to hear, I need to be quiet. To know what the next right step is, I need to be quiet.

Quiet is not easy for me. I want to complain loudly about circumstances of the day. I want to wonder aloud about the possibilities of the future. I want to wish, hope, dream, gripe, whine, commiserate with a friend, sing over the radio, say all the things. We are all busy. We are all hurrying all over the place, rushing all the time. We are all checking our planners and phone calendars wondering when we will fit it all in. I am hopelessly devoted to my planner but I am making it a goal to set it aside each day for just a few minutes in the morning so that I can just be quiet.  Being still, writing in my journal, listening to God.

It is because it is not easy that I am trying so hard. In the quiet I can listen to that still small voice that is leading me. I am not sure yet where I am being led, but I know that I am trying very hard to be quiet.

Do you find it difficult to be quiet and hear what God has to tell you?  How do you still your busy mind and be open to His messages meant just for you?

Hello from the other side

it’s me.
I was wondering if after all these years
you’d like to meet,
to go over

Opening with Adele lyrics seems like a good way to get back in the swing of things simply because she makes me smile. She is so amazing that any chance to include her in daily life just makes the world brighter. Seriously, have you SEEN her with James Corden doing carpool karaoke? If you haven’t we can no longer be friends. Go watch it here and come back.

Now that you have seen Adele and love her even more, let’s discuss why I think it’s fitting to use her lyrics in my first blog post in over three years.   More than three years have gone by since I wrote something specifically to share in this space. A lot of water has gone under the bridge. For example:

  • My baby girl is no longer a baby but instead a busy first grader.
  • My handsome husband has been through a crazy health scare.
  • We lost my sweet 93 year old Granny a week before Christmas.
  • I have lost (and then found again) more pounds than I care to admit.
  • I tried and loved a Crossfit style gym, then had surgery to repair the hernia that resulted from loving the new Crossfit style gym.

That’s just a random sample. Basically a whole lot of “life happens” type things have happened in the last three years. Yet even though I feel like so much has happened and we are so much farther down the road than we were three years ago, when I read back through my old posts I had to laugh. The topics I posted about are STILL so relevant to our daily lives that it makes me laugh.   Such as:

  • Powerball EVERYWHERE. Seriously the last post I wrote in 2012 was about the Powerball frenzy. We as a nation have been locked in Powerball Mania for over a week because the record breaking prize just kept climbing because no one won! The conversations Mike and I had about Powerball were almost verbatim what I wrote three years ago, which cracks me up
  • My giant Christmas tree made another appearance this year and once again she was STUNNING. I have lovingly named her Big Bertha, and I really enjoy laying on the couch basking in the soft glow of her many twinkling lights. Little A’s doggy Layla enjoyed Big Bertha this year as well, being her first Christmas with a home and family. I could not keep the tree skirt straight because she kept going under the tree to lie down, which even Mike had to admit was pretty darn cute!layla 3
  • Discipline and dance. Two words that sum up our parenting experience quite well I think. We are still parenting, as opposed to letting our daughter become a feral animal with no manners. (Please know that is a joke!) As she gets older this is getting more complicated and yet easier at the same time, which sounds strange when I say it but that’s just how it is. They grow and mature and change and the discipline isn’t about the same things, it’s about whole new things you hadn’t even thought of yet. Dance is still Little A’s favorite thing to do. We now spend two evenings a week at the dance studio, which I think is nuts and she thinks is not nearly enough. She has changed to a studio that has a focus on musical theater which we adores (she has been in two plays after all) and we will probably be going to see her perform on Broadway someday!


I am sure there are other things but you get the point. Everything has changed but so much has stayed the same. Things have happened that made our whole world tilt on its axis, yet we are still standing upright. There have been times when I have wanted to throw my hands up in the air and freak out (I may have actually done that a time or twenty). Yet right there in the panic, right in the sadness, right in the “holy cow what in the world are we going to do now” moments, there are these magically SAME things. Familiar. Safe. Anchoring. Same, similar, and alike enough that I am forced to slow down and think. No matter how much has happened even three years down the road, there is so much comforting sameness that I am reminded that we are not in control. Everybody has a life verse, and mine is:

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 NASB

This verse is framed and hangs on our bedroom wall so that I can see it everyday. The sameness gives me comfort that there are plans for our future. Even in the next three years down the line I imagine that I will be still be looking to this verse for comfort and grounding. What a blessing that sameness is to me! Is there a verse that you have adopted as your life verse? I would love for you to share why you love it and how it comforts you, and I look forward to reading your comments.



Powerball ponderings

Tonight there will a drawing for a record setting Powerball prize.  Apparently there have been no winners in a certain amount of days, so the prize total has continued to climb.  The number of millions now up for grabs is now greater than the number of people alive today in the United States.  (According to the US Census population clock, which can be found at ) Statisticians and mathematicians have been ciphering and scratching their heads for days, and have finally announced that the likelihood of a winner being chosen tonight is great. (DUH!) The probability of multiple winners has increased as well.

Please understand that due to my lifelong math-phobia, all this talk about probabilities and statistics and millions post taxes has made my head hurt.  As always when numbers come into the conversation, the speaker suddenly turns into Charlie Brown’s teacher.  Handsome Husband came home explaining that the guys at work had it all figured out.  After taxes you would net BLAH million.  Dispersed in BLAH increments you would live on BLAH amount per week (which is BLAH per month) and would invest BLAH amount at BLAH percent to gain BLAH amount of interest…you get the picture.  I tried to keep my eyes from rolling back in my head during all that squawking, but I think he figured out he was talking over me.  He simplified it fairly easily after listening to my tale of woe regarding eBay (you can read that post here) by saying “If we won you could buy every purse on eBay and tell that lady to shove it”.  Love the way he knows how I think!

Our local news station was asking people this morning what they would do if they won the prize.  There were the expected responses about quitting jobs and moving to tropical islands.  This made me think about what I would actually do with that much money.  I have no plans like Hubby and his co-workers, I have not pondered the dividends and IRA options (those are real financial type things, right?) and I don’t have any clue what I might purchase or bankroll.  What I do know is this:  I would keep right on with my life, just with a LOT less bills.  I would still come to school everyday and encourage children to read.  I would still enjoy teaching students how to research.  I would still love standing in the stacks and being surrounded by the smell of books.   I would still take Little A to the same preschool, because I do believe we are right where we are supposed to be.  I would still live right on the middle of what is commonly referred to as “cop curve”, with a pre- civil war cemetery in the side yard because I love my house.  (Yes I would finally get rid of that awful carpet but that’s going to happen eventually anyway!)

My only big change would be that I wouldn’t be paying a lot of bills every month.  Student loans would be a thing of the past.  We would have Dave Ramsey’s envelope system down to a science, I swear!  I would do a lot of things that Hubby doesn’t even know about as well.  The tiny library in my hometown would get a major update for example.  The Tennessee Books from Birth program would never have to have fundraisers again.  Little A’s college fund would be set for anywhere she wanted to attend.  These are the things that are important to me.  All this talk of lotteries and Powerball and how people would spend their millions certainly made me think.  It even caused me to do something I have never done in my 36 years on this earth.  I bought a ticket.  Chances are slim, I know.  But that library really needs new books, ya’ll.   If you win, please send me a postcard or maybe even a plane ticket to come and visit your beautiful private island.  I’ll be tickled for you, I promise.  Hopefully if I win you will be as tickled with the book I donate in your honor.

You can’t win without a ticket, and for the first time ever I’m in.  I guess I was just waiting for the prize to get high enough to bother with.  I know we will be watching tonight. Wonder how many other people in the US will be doing the same?


Our GIANT Christmas tree

Last year after Christmas I bought my dream Christmas tree on sale. Handsome Hubby still hasn’t gotten over it. He thinks I have lost my mind. He certainly didn’t like going up and down the ladder to help me decorate all 12 feet of this mammoth evergreen (plastic) monster.  But Little A states up at it in awe, and I hope that somewhere in her little mind she is locking away a memory that when she was a little girl we had the biggest, most beautiful Christmas tree ever right in our living room. I am no Martha Stewart, and we only use cloth napkins to save money on paper products- but when I look at this tree I feel like I should be the subject of a feature article and centerfold in Southern Living magazine. I love the before picture, how tiny Little A seems next to the behemoth in the corner. She won’t always be so little but this memory will be with me always,  twelve feet tall and anchored in my mind by ten tiny painted toes.



Kicking your own behind: eBay sellers remorse

I am an avid eBay shopper.  I swear you can find anything you could ever want on eBay.  For example:  Handsome Husband and Grumpy Grandpa purchased a “project truck” (aka the blue hunk of sheet metal on wheels that now resides in my once pretty driveway) for $1,000 for the purpose of having something to haul trash and mulch in.  I won’t even go in to all the details on the $500 brake job or various expensive trips to Auto Zone this truck has inspired in the two months it has been a part of our family.  Imagine my surprise when HH declared he needed an owners manual for this money pit!  He knows I am a resourceful school librarian, but where would I begin to search for a manual for a 1985 Chevy S-10? Why, eBay of course!  The shipping cost more than the book for heaven’s sake.  Where else would one find such a specialty item?  Truly eBay is the place where you can find anything you need.  Want some diapers with poop already in them?  They probably have some of those.  With famous people poop, I’d bet!

I am a pro at shopping on eBay.  It’s so easy to use Paypal that sometimes I forget just how much I have purchased, and it’s a little shocking when all the packages begin to arrive.  The thrill of winning an auction is a heady one, as I am sure you know.  That being said, selling on eBay is an entirely different animal.  I have sold a few things, and all in all it has been pleasant.  But as with all things, sometimes there just has to be a fly in the ointment.  

I listed my old purse for sale on eBay. (Not the purse of Wal-Mart alarm fame mind you, I listed its predecessor.) It never even got a bid, because someone snapped it up at the Buy It Now price.  I was overjoyed!  I carted it off to the post office, packed it up in a priority mail box, waited fifteen minutes in line and paid the man $12 and went on my way. Little did I know that I had just signed off on a nightmare.  Four days later the buyer sent me a message that she had gotten the package.  She left me positive feedback, so being a nice southern girl I did the same in return.  I happily went along with my larger Paypal balance and didn’t think another thing of it, until… four more days pass and the buyer sends me another message.  This time she says she DID NOT get the package and she wanted the tracking information.  I managed to dig around in the floorboard of my Mommy-mobile (what appears to the naked eye to be a simple Chevy Equinox but is actually a breeding ground of Little A’s tiny McDonald’s toys- I swear those things are like rabbits!) and find my receipt from the USPS.  That’s when I got a big old knot in my stomach.  I made an error.  I screwed up.  In my rush at the post office I didn’t make it clear that I wanted tracking and delivery confirmation.  The priority mail medium flat rate box shipped, but there is no way to know where it ended up. 

I have now been to two branches of the USPS here in town, which is slightly akin to standing just inside the gates of hell at this time of year.  I have opened a case to search for the missing box.  I have called two separate offices of the USPS Consumer Affairs, and all assure me that they will find it.  It has to be somewhere, right?  Each postal employee has listened kindly to my story and gently reminded me that buyers are known to scam people.  I am well aware that this person may well be fishing for a refund, and then she will have my purse and my money!

Fast forward to today, and the buyer has opened a case against me with eBay.  I could have cried!  Yes I am a good girl, everyone is supposed to like me and be happy with me and be dazzled by my lovely manners all the time. (See Mom, I listened!) I reread all the messages between this woman and myself.  And then I got mad.  I decided to call eBay and tell them I am being scammed.  Do you know how hard it is to find a phone number for eBay?!?!?!  I succeeded though, and I spoke to a genuine eBay customer service rep name Habib.  He listened to my story and apparently could read all the messages on my eBay messaging (scary thought!).  When he saw her message saying she got the package he told me to respond to her dispute and defend myself.  He said that the customer service team would not only look at those messages but at both parties’ eBay histories.  He assured me that the matter would be handled and all I had to do was state my case.

I have spent an hour drafting my message to the eBay gods in dispute resolution, and finally submitted it.  I really believe this lady got my package, saw that I didn’t put tracking on it and saw a big blinking sign that said “SUCKER” on it.  I’m crossing my fingers, toes, eyes and everything else crossable that this can be resolved.  If they find in her favor I will gladly refund her money, and I hope that it will not affect my feedback rating or eBay status.  Those little stars are serious business, people!  I still haven’t heard back from the USPS, by the way.  I’m still holding out hope that they will pull through for me in the end.

I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.  For now I am sitting here crossed like a black cat just went across my path, kicking my own behind for not being more careful.  This might be a very expensive mistake.  Maybe I’ll go browse on eBay to take my mind off of it…

Why I will never shop at Wal Mart again

So I made this my facebook status last week.  This was all that I could manage between sobs and screams.  
“Yes- that was me that set off the sensor as I pushed my buggy out the front door of WalMart today. Yes- that was me that had my bags & receipt checked. Yes- that was me that emptied my purse & pockets when asked, even took off my cardigan so the camera could see I was in possession of NOTHING I had not paid for-all while standing there in the doorway being gawked at. Yes- when I asked for a manager they brought over a lady (NOT the manager) who inspected it all and asked if I got my (recently purchased) purse there, and NO- it’s a Coach so it isn’t from WM. She finally decided after this whole embarrassing 10 minute ordeal that it must be my purse, and YES- she walked away without even so much as an apology. So to my students, neighbors, and church friends who walked by and saw the whole thing…the moral of the story is- YES you should shop at Target!!!!!
Long story made very short, I have sworn off the evil conglomerate that is Wal-Mart.  I am horrified, embarrassed, chagrined.  Fortunately the manager of our store’s wife works with me so he was quickly made aware of this event, and I have been assured that this was NOT how this should have happened.  I am still awaiting my corporate apology, though.
Sad thing is, they will never notice that my family will not longer be patrons of their stores.  They are so large that my little family doesn’t make a ripple in the water.
If you need me, I will be at Target or Publix.   With my trouble causing Coach bag.