Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Heart Wide Open

Through the miracle that is Facebook, I recently connected with my favorite friend from back in the day--Karen Wiley Slate. We've been having a great time together after our ah-hem-cough-cough...--ty year hiatus. There are many things I love about Karen, but this one tops the list: She lives with her heart wide open and comes right out and says things, beautiful things like . . .

You are a dear friend.
It is a blessing that God brought us together again.
You are such a good writer.
I wonder if God has something in store for us to do together.
I love you.

Gulp. Why can't I say things like that? First? And she does it as easily as breathing. Thirty years can do things to people. Hearts can close up. Not Karen's. Karen's free-wheeling heart is a work of art.

And she doesn't just say things. She does things too. She made this amazing brunch for me one Sunday morning, just to celebrate our getting back together. Beautiful, huh. And there was fresh thyme sprinkled on the cantaloupe.

John Mayer's, "Say" reminds me of Karen and the way she speaks her heart without fear.

Oddly enough, Anne Lamott's instructions for writing a first draft remind me of her too. In Bird by Bird, Lamott says it's important to write a "shitty first draft"--to spew out exactly what is in your heart, just say the words, not caring about eloquence or grammar or anything. Then you have something real and worthy to work with. Karen lives this way, but somehow manages to skip the shitty part, going straight to eloquent.

I'm sure it's a gift. I'm hoping some of it will rub off on me.

Long live Facebook!

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

While working with screenwriters on the film version of his autobiographical book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller observed that his life really wasn't very interesting. He began striving to give his life the elements inherent in all good stories: conflict, heroism, sacrifice, and ultimately--meaning.

It's a fascinating journey that Miller takes us on. He begins by making major changes in his life: improving relationships, facing long-held fears, exercising his ice cream- and TV-loving body, setting and accomplishing specific and challenging goals--like hiking the Inca trail, biking across the country, and meeting his father.

It's all done in Miller's self-deprecating, insightful, humorous, think-about-God-in-a-way-you-never-did-before style. The book is entertaining and encouraging, but mostly, it is challenging. To think about one's life on earth as a story--with a beginning, middle and end, exerts a certain pressure to get it right.

One of my favorite lessons from the book is when Miller explains the screenwriter's tool for developing dramatic, memorable scenes. Miller tells the story of a family who when guests pull away from the dock at their lake house, the whole family surprises and thrills the departing guests by waving goodbye and then jumping into the lake--fully clothed. Maybe I won't ever bike across the country, but hey, I could jump into a lake with my clothes on. I could make a scene or two.

I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

Saturday, September 19, 2009

MeeMaw for an Hour!

I got to be Hannah's MeeMaw on Friday and it was so much fun! Since neither Tommie nor Mike could make it this year, Hannah asked me to come to Grandparent's Day at her school. I got to tell a story about Hannah to her class.

I told about the time that Roxie asked Hannah and Beth to help her put her false teeth back in. Beth just gagged, but sweet little Hannah said, "I'll find someone who can help you!"

This girl is the sweetest!!!

She's pointing to her message to me, "I love you Aunt Carol, Love Hannah".

I love you too, Hannah!!

Thank you, Hannah, for a wonderful time at your school! It was an honor to stand in for your MeeMaw for a little while!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Elvis Impersonator Impersonates God

David Chaney recently performed his Elvis Tribute at the nursing home where I volunteer. He was so convincing as the King of Rock 'n' Roll that one astonished little lady leaned over to me and remarked, "I thought he was dead."

High praise for the impersonator and for Piedmont Crossing--supposing that they'd swing not only for Moon Pies and RC colas, but an afternoon concert with the real Elvis Presley to boot. Whether or not these precious folks from the greatest generation were aware of exactly who was performing, all of them had the best time I've ever witnessed them having.

They were young again. They flirted with Elvis. Flirted with one another. They chair-danced like I do in the car when no one's watching. Some could really put on the moves.

During Burning Love, Elvis pointed straight out at Ernie* and sang:

He's a hunka-hunka burnin' luh-uv,
Yeah, he's a hunka-hunka burnin' luh-uv.

Because of the way Ernie's eyes flashed back at Elvis, I could see it. Totally. Ernie, with his strong jaw, deep-set eyes, and mischievous grin was once somebody's major love machine. Now, I like to greet Ernie with, "Hey there, Mr. Hunka-Hunka Burnin' Love." Ernie just grins--denying nothing.

When the impersonator started singing Suspicious Minds, however, it wasn't David Chaney anymore. Wasn't Elvis the Pelvis either. It was God Himself and let me tell you, He was a-speakin' to me. I've heard God speak a few times before, but never so out of the blue like that, rarely that strong, and definitely not through Elvis lyrics.

I could feel a message coming for a second or two before it hit me, kind of like the electrical charge in the atmosphere before lighting strikes. God is so surprising, so creative, so weird sometimes. For real, who is like Him? Almost every line of the song pierced my doubting heart and reprimanded me--but not without hope. I also heard, "You can trust me, don't doubt my love, I've not gone anywhere."

Here are the lyrics; maybe they'll remind you, too, of something you need to hear.

We're caught in a trap

I can't walk out

Because I love you too much baby

Why can't you see

What you're doing to me

When you don't believe a word I say?

We can't go on together

With suspicious minds

And we can't build our dreams

On suspicious minds

Here you go again

Asking where I've been

You can't see these tears are real

I'm crying

Oh let our love survive

Dry the tears from your eyes

Don't let a good thing die

When honey, you know

I've never lied to you

Mmm yeah, yeah

is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
~Exodus 15:11~

* Name changed to protect privacy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Roots of Frugality

I'm not sure why I feel the need to use every last inch of yarn I get my hands on. I could understand it with luxury fibers, but I'm like this with wool unraveled from $3 thrift store sweaters and even acrylics. It's embarrassing to admit, but last night I caught myself staring at sample yarn cards--trying to imagine uses for two-inch pieces of mohair.

Maybe it started with Granny Norman. Before my chin cleared the kitchen counter, I watched her as she scraped butter off its wrapper, saying, "
A woman can throw more out the kitchen window with a spoon than a man can shovel in the front door." It took me decades to process that. I don't think I've ever scraped a butter wrapper, but I do the equivalent with yarn. I save the smallest scraps, hoping to find a use for them one day.

Maybe it's my seventh-grade teacher's fault. One Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Garrett invited a bunch of us girls to her big white house on Randolph Street (the one beside the old library) to make Christmas decorations. I can still see her thudding down the old home's narrow staircase into the living room and plopping a huge box in the middle of our work table. It didn't contain a single new craft
supply. Everything was a scrap she had saved from a previous project. It was full of yarn remnants, felt scraps, sequins, buttons, beads, and endless possibilities.

She taught us to choose the right combination to create things that turned out, well, beautiful if I do say so myself. I still display mine every Christmas. It's a narrow banner of white felt with the word NOEL in red letters. It has felt holly leaves and berries, each berry accented with a single red sequin. And the
pièce de résistance? . . . a red yarn tassel.

Maybe this waste-not, want-not mentality started with one of my favorite books as an adolescent,
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. There was something magical and empowering about Francie's frugality. When Francie's father lost his job (uh-gin) and was throwing money away at the local pub, she and her mother were wearing their coats indoors. Each hour they kept the furnace off, they'd put a nickle in a tin can hidden in the top of a closet. When Francie wanted a corsage for her high school graduation like the other girls, she got it--despite her alcoholic father. When she wanted to go to college, she made that happen, too.

Or maybe it was either Jesus or my Grandpa Campbell. When Jesus fed 5,000 people with a two-piece fish dinner, He made sure the disciples took care of the leftovers. "
Let nothing be wasted," He said. So, I figure nothing means nothing. Fish, loaves, yarn, talent, whatever. My grandpa must have believed this too, because one time, as the family story goes, he ate a whole bowl of cornflakes after accidentally pouring buttermilk on them.

I guess I got it honest.

Do you have an odd frugal streak? Admitting it can be the first step.

Anyway, here's what I scraped together from one $3 wool sweater that I unraveled. I still have about 10 yards left over. And yes, I'm saving it because you just never know.

An Irish Hiking hat for Beth.

A pair of Kool-Aid dyed socks for Pos.

A Honeycomb looped scarf for Allie.