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  • What’s In Your Pack?

    July 30, 2008

    One night last week, one of my dear friends from the olden days, Steve Cooper, stopped by for an impromptu visit as he was passing through my neck of the woods.  I love it when that happens — an old friend rings you up and drops in for a visit.  I think we need more impromptu visiting in our society and less scheduling.   So what if I have a giant tent made out of sheets and dining room chairs in my den?  Real friends don’t care.

    I haven’t seen Steve for a couple of years and it’s always a treat when our paths cross.  Steve does all kinds of interesting and unusual things and it’s always fascinating to catch up with him and listen to his stories.  For example, last year he walked from the heel in the boot of Italy all the way to Santiago, Spain over a period of six months.  Walked!  He didn’t have hotel reservations, he just let each day unfold, walking from town to town and stopping when he was tired.  Sometimes he stayed in hotels, sometimes he stayed in hostels and sometimes he camped out.   

    This trek was something that he had wanted to do for a number of years and last year, he decided that the time was right. He took a sabbatical from his college teaching position, sold his house and put anything he cared about in storage and put the rest in a backpack and got on a plane for Europe.  And oh the stories he has collected along the way and the people he met and the serendipity and the living in the moment!  It seems so much easier to live that kind of life when you are weighed down only by what you can carry.  You can read all about his adventures in his book Six Months Walking the Wilds.

    For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of his adventure is this idea of putting everything you own in a backpack.  I try to imagine sorting through my stuff and deciding what to take and what to leave beind.  This week, it’s a thought that I can’t seem to put away.  What would I put in my pack to sustain me for six months? What? A Bible? An itty bitty slim Apple laptop? Immodium? Paper and pencil? A change of undies? Chapstick? Photos? Nail file? iPod?  What?

    I’m curious, if you had to carry with you everything you needed, and carry it in a pack and carry it for six months, what would you take?  What?

    Clarification: Imagine that it’s just you, not your kid and all their crud, because that makes the game too complicated. I know that’s kind of hard to imagine, but just try.

    * * * * *

    Speaking of backpacks! The Lands End people have offered me one of their fabulous backpacks to give away, so stop by tomorrow for the details.

    Wherefore Art Thou Coppertone Girl?

    July 29, 2008

    One summer day, when I was about four-years-old, I sat in the front seat of the grocery cart as my mom did her shopping.  As she wheeled the cart around the corner, there on the end cap was a giant cardboard cutout of a little girl whose panties were being pulled away by a frisky little dog.  Her backside was exposed for all the world and the local grocery shoppers to see.  And I was mortified.


    I clapped one hand over my mouth in disbelief and pointed at the offending image in horror with the other.  I was aghast.  I remember my mom laughing, amused at my reaction.


    I think it is around this age that self-awareness and a sense of proprietary kicks in because I remember being embarrassed, for the little girl in the ad and for me. I remember feeling that I had seen something that shouldn’t be seen. 


    You probably already know that the ad to which I am referring is the sweet and innocent Coppertone ad from the 1960s.

     But oh the times, how they are a changin’.


    Last week, Sean and I were in Sam’s. He was not in a cart but walking along side me down the aisle with the books and magazines when all of a sudden we rounded an end cap and he was aghast.  He stopped dead in his tracks.  He clapped one hand over his mouth and pointed with the other at the cover of GQ magazine which was right at his eye level.


    On the cover of the magazine was not a sweet little toddler and a frisky dog, but Gisele Bundchen who is sitting on a bed, looking a little disheveled and wearing a top of some sort, but nothing else. While the cover was not especially graphic, it was not lost on my son that he was seeing something that shouldn’t be seen.


    “Mommy!” Sean whispered-shrieked, “Where are her underpants?”


    I just didn’t really know what to say, and when that happens, I just go with the truth.


    “I don’t know Sean, but she should put some on, don’t you think?”


    We kept moving along and luckily he was quickly distracted by the next thing that caught his eye, and we did not have to continue that conversation.  For now.


    I’m getting old, I know that, but I long for the days of Camelot when the raciest thing in the grocery store was the Coppertone girl.



    Pure of Heart

    July 27, 2008

    This morning, as I sat in church waiting for services to start, my eye was drawn to a chubby little gal wearing ill-fitting khaki pants and making her way down to the front.  I watched her as she bounced from person to person in the front row, wrapping each one in big squeeze-y hugs, the kind that rocks back and forth and doesn’t let go.


    When the music started, she stood and swayed to the beat, swimming and waving her hands through the air.  It appeared as though she was doing sign language, I couldn’t really tell, but it was glorious the way she seemed to be sewing with invisible needle and thread.  Everything about her radiated a joy that was unfiltered, unmetered, unaffected, unaware.  I thought of how pleasing her worship must be to God, to see her singing praises to Him with her hands.


    As apparent as was her joy, so too was her oddly shaped body, adult yet childlike, wide-set almond shaped eyes, hands too small and delicate for the body  —  all the tell tales signs of Downs Syndrome.    


    As I watched her, my mind wandered to the passage in Scripture where Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.”  Pure in heart.  I couldn’t help, at that moment, to think that He certainly must have meant the girl with the singing hands, and others like her, in whom there can be found no guile.


    * * * * *

    Here’s another observational piece on the sweetness of Downs children in the church entitled “The Purest Voice.”   It was written by my friend Soliloquy back in April who blogs at She Just Had To Say It.  A little insider tip, she’s also doing a Give Away today too, so stop by her home page too and check it out.  



    A Tale of Two Dogs or A Dog With Two Tales

    July 25, 2008

    Dog Tale #1

    By Antique Mommy


    Sunday we hurried home from church, looking forward to the meal that we knew Papa George would have waiting for us.  As we came to a stop at the intersection of a busy street, my mother-in-law Cleo, who was in the front seat, spotted a little Yorkie (little Yorkie is redundant, I know) wandering dangerously near the street.


    “Oh I’ll bet someone has turned her out!” cried Cleo. “Look how skinny she is!”


    “Should we stop and get her?” I asked from the backseat.


    But just as quickly as the little dog had appeared, she disappeared.  She had scampered off and out of sight.


    “She probably lives around here,” said Antique Daddy with absolutely no concern. “She’s probably headed home.”


    No one agreed with him, no one meaning Memaw, Sean or me. We were all certain the little Yorkie had been abandoned and was about to starve to death.


    Nonetheless, she was not to be seen, so we went home to eat our Sunday dinner.  As we were sitting around the table, the little starving Yorkie came to the door and peered in hopefully through the glass. 


    I jumped up from the table, not willing to dismiss this as a coincidence. Clearly God intended for me to look after that dog as twice He had put her in my path.  So I let the Yorkie in and she made herself right at home.  I picked her up and tried to get a look at her collar, which was kind of hard to do because my face kept getting in the way of her tongue. The only number on the tag was the vet’s number, which I called, but of course, the vet was at home eating Sunday dinner with his family, so he didn’t answer the phone at his office.


    Papa George’s Schipperke, Missy Ann, was not so keen on our uninvited guest, so I put Little Miss Yorkie outside on a chain, just outside the front door with some food and water.  Yorkie looked to be amused and bewildered at this act of charity. Or maybe that’s just how Yorkie’s look all the time, I don’t know. 


    Twenty minutes later, an older gentleman pulls up out front looking for his Yorkie. Yorkie recognizes her owner and wiggles and wags and bounces on her back legs and waves her front feet.  The older man pads up the front walk in his house shoes, breathing heavy.  He is quite obviously relieved to $ee his Yorkie.  The old man and the Yorkie exchange kisses and hugs.  He thanks me kindly but tells me that she runs off from time to time.  But always comes home.


    The old man tucks his Yorkie under his arm, heads down the walk and gets in his car.  I watch them drive away.  I sigh as I head back into the house.  I returned to the table and my now cold food knowing that I had left the world a just a little bit better than I found it before lunch.  And my heart swelled just a little.  On that Sunday I was not just a mother, wife and daughter — I was a humanitarian and rescuer of Yorkies not in need of rescue.


    (Cue epic music theme from Gone With The Wind.  Fade to black.) 


    Tale #2

    by Antique Daddy


    We saw a skinny dog on the way home from church, probably headed home.

    He came to the door while we were eating. His owner drove around looking for him and saw him tied up out front and came and got him.  The end.



    Moo-chas Gracias Graco

    July 24, 2008

    Last month, I wrote a post about our run away MaGoo car and Jon DeHart, a daddy blogger over at Graco liked it and gave me the Graco Monthly Nod, which was not only a great honor but according to the email, also included a “small” prize.  The small prize turned out to be, indeed, small.  Small and adorable, yes? 

    I just got these in the mail today!  These are itty bitty 1×3 business cards from a company called Moo over in England.  They have tons of fun stock images to choose from or you can upload your own as I did.  Unfortunately, my camera distorted the color so you can’t see that it exactly matches the background to my blog.  I love’em, I do and can’t wait to give one to somebody.

    Thanks Jon for the nod and Graco for the Moo cards!

    Rainbow Days

    July 23, 2008

    Every afternoon, at precisely the same time, a rainbow appears on the door to my laundry room for just a few fleeting minutes.

    Sean was the first one to notice it.  We stood and admired the rainbow as it dipped and danced its way across the door with some invisible partner.  But as quickly as it appeared it began to fade.   Within a few seconds it had dissolved completely and was gone.

    The next afternoon, the rainbow arrived again just as quickly and as quietly as it had the day before.  We played in it, dipping and waving our hands in the shimmering waterfall of color.  But before I could get the camera, it had slipped away again.

    The next day, we were expecting it and quickly traced its route back through the breakfast room into the living room where the sunlight was slipping through the pine trees in just the right way, through the windows and past a crack in the shades in just the right way and then through a prism of glass on the coffee table. In just the right way. And all of that because the sun was positioned over the earth in just the right way. 

    It seems to me that that is the way it is with remarkable and beautiful things in life — rainbows, flowers, children — the rare and impossible come together in just the right way at just the right time, golden for just a bright and shining moment, and then gone.

    In a few months, the earth will tilt imperceptibly, but in just the right way so that the leaves will begin to turn brown and flutter to the ground and the sliver of sun that peeks through my living room windows and past a crack in the shades will look elsewhere, through different windows.  And this season of afternoon rainbows will be over.

    And another remarkable and beautiful season of life will be on its way.

    Blue Berries

    July 22, 2008

    Saturday morning, after breakfast, I scooped Sean out of the barstool he was sitting in at the breakfast bar and spirited him off to the kitchen counter to wipe blueberry goo from his face and hands and legs before he ran off to spread blueberry goo throughout the kingdom. 

    As I carried him around the breakfast bar, he clasped his sticky blue hands behind my neck and wrapped his long legs around my waist and tried to plant  bluberry kisses on my nose which I pretended to rebuff. 

    I looked into his blueberry blue eyes and thought about how I used to sit him on the counter in a blue feeding chair and sing silly made-up songs to him to get him to eat.  He would laugh a toothless laugh and then open his mouth wide like a hungry baby bird.  My spirit would float up to the ceiling as light as a feather to think that I had made him laugh.

    Now he feeds himself and my made-up silly songs annoy him more than amuse him. 

    At that moment I was hit by that invisible chest crushing blow that I sometimes get when I realize that I am no longer a new mom and he is no longer a new boy.  That season of our lives is over.

    I plopped him down on the counter and began rubbing blue residue off his hands and face and legs with a wet washcloth.

    “Oh Sean,” I sighed, “I’d like to put you back in my tummy and do it all over again.  Only this time I’d do it better,” I said.  “I know what I’m doing now.”  I allowed myself to retreat to a quiet place in my mind as I scrubbed and imagine the joy of doing it all again and the mistakes I wouldn’t make.

    Just then the air was pierced with a jarring yelp.

    “Ow!” he screamed. “Stop rubbin’ Mom! That’s not blueberries!  That’s my boo boo!”

    I had rubbed a little scab off his ankle and it was bleeding.

    Huh. Whadya know. Looked like blueberry goo to me.

    Or then again, maybe I still don’t know what I’m doing.

    We’ve Got A Lot In Common

    July 20, 2008

    In June, while I was at the She Speaks conference in North Carolina, I saw a video on the work that Compassion is doing on behalf of impoverished children throughout the world. If you keep up with Sophie and Shannon and Melanie, as I do, you probably already know about it.

    Now, in case y’all do not know, I am not a cryer. You could cut my arm off and I would not cry. It is very hard to jerk a tear up out of my crusty old cynical heart. I learned not to cry when I was left alone in a hospital when I was three-years-old and since then, it is almost impossible to make me cry, even when it is appropriate for me to do so. I am damaged that way.


    Two minutes into this video I was weeping big ugly snotty mascara-runnin’ snorting sobs. Ugly. Another good reason for me to avoid crying.

    When they turned up the lights, I walked directly to the Compassion table and handed them my credit card. The sweet gal manning the table, asked me to pick a child. I closed my eyes and shook my head. “No,” I told her, “I could never pick. You pick for me.” And so she did.

    Aside: Normally I am very suspicious of these kinds of organizations, but their overhead is as slim as the side of a ruler. Impressive. My money goes to my sponsored kiddo and her family. I like that.

    The child chosen for me (aren’t all children chosen for us, really?) is just a month older than Sean. Her name is Monserrat (cómo hermosas!) and she lives in Bolivia. I keep her picture on my desk and send up tiny prayers for her when I glance at her little face off and on throughout the day.

    When I got home from She Speaks I showed Sean her picture and tried to explain to him that we were going to sponsor her and pray for her and generally just try to keep up with her for as long as she needs us. Then I pulled out the globe and showed him where Bolivia was and then I had him find Texas.

    As he drove his finger from Boliva to Texas he exclaimed, “Oh hey! BoWivia is pink and Texas is pink! We’ve got a lot in common!”

    Indeed, we humans have a lot in common.


    July 19, 2008

    Sean has been to several VBS’s this summer.  For those of you like me, who until several years ago did not know what VBS stood for, it’s Vacation Bible School. 

    Well into my 30s, I had never heard the term VBS.  I was raised Catholic and we did not have VBS.  We never really had B or V.  We did get a lot of BS. But that’s another story. Or a whole lot of stories actually.  (Yet I embrace my inner-Catholic school girl, I do. She is me.) 

    About ten years ago, at my previous chuch, someone threw out the term VBS and I asked “What’s VBS?” and everyone looked at me like I was the dumbest Martian from Mars.  That made me feel great!   Clearly, I wasn’t in “the club” and didn’t know the lingo.  Coulda used some of that Grace! Grace! Grace! (flick fingers three times here) that my friend Lysa talks about.

    So suffice it to say, my knowledge of VBS could be put into a thimble. But I’m learning. I’ve even helped out at one. 

    Maybe because we live in a metropolitan area where resources are plentiful, the VBS’s we have been to thus far have been extravaganza’s. The amount of effort and energy expended to put on these broadway style plays and interactive classes is — well, astonishing.  Sean has loved going to them and I think it’s fantastic that so many adults are willing to give their time and money to make that happen for so many kids.


    Something in me pines for small.  And intimate.  Something in me longs for a VBS experience that is just a group of ladies, cardboard and paperclips. 

    Bigger might be better.  But small is nice too.

    I Never Met A Spotlight I Didn’t Like

    July 16, 2008

    That’s not entirely true, there have been a few spotlights I didn’t care for.  Like the time in first or second grade when Sister Edwina made me stand up in front of the entire class and read a note I was trying to slip to Natalie that detailed how cute I thought Brain Murphy was. (He was cute). His name is actually Brian, but the note said Brain.

    Anyway!  I’m in the 5 Minutes For Mom Spotlight today. If you have nothing else to do, you can go over there and read it.