Archive for December, 2006

Class Ring
December 31, 2006

          Here let wisdom rise, Oh, here let wisdom rise!  

Being an adult at Christmas means that you are the one who creates the surprises. That’s really the fun part, and I do look forward to it when I have made arrangements for something very special and can’t wait to see the reactions of the gift recipients!  

However, the tables were turned on me this year, when Shannon and Joel surprised me with a most special and VERY unexpected gift… a new class ring.   

Thirty years ago I received my 1977 class ring in a traditional and funny ceremony at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (Lynchburg, VA). We were at the mercy of the undergraduates and had to go through a wacky scavenger hunt to ‘earn’ our rings (I have photos… don’t ask to see them!).   

How proud I was of that ring, and how handsome it was! It was a carved onyx signet ring set in gold, fitted to my fifth finger, and I loved it. I wore it every day, and have had a number of people recognize it over the years, which was really neat, because R-MWC is a very small school.   

Eleven years ago, our (previous) house was burglarized, and one of the things the thieves took was my ring. Of all the things they took, that was the one that hurt me the most. Although I knew I could replace it, I never did; other things seemed more important at the time.   

This past fall, the Board of Trustees at R-MWC elected to open admission to men in the fall of 2007. With this decision comes a change in the name of the school; it will now be simply Randolph College. My family knows how disappointed I am, because the education I received at this very special college was something that was so personal and memorable, I cannot begin to explain how much I loved that school. It will no longer be that which I knew and loved, and although they can’t take my memories away, I grieve for the current students who loved our special college, and I feel sorry for future prospective students who will never know the magic of being a student at R-MWC.   

So when I opened this small box on Christmas morning with four expectant eyes looking at me, I had no idea. When I saw what it was, I just about cried. I am not a teary type, in general, but given my emotions about the recent decision, to actually see the “R-MWC” engraved on that ring made me so. It is a perfect replica of what I lost, with the one exception that my initials within now include my married name.   

Of course, once the package was opened, I heard all about how it came to be: the plans, the schemes, the calls back and forth, the attempts at figuring out the size, etc. It made me feel so loved that my family would create this wonderful surprise for me.    

How I will cherish it! Words cannot even begin to say how much I love having that ring on my finger again. The Latin inscription on the seal means “The Life More Abundant”, and I like to think that my life reflects that motto. Certainly my precious family makes it so, and because of them, I can truly say that I know it is so.

A Time for Giving Back
December 23, 2006

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4   For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… 

Mom had another fall the other day, a few days after Dad had a seizure. Both of them need a little bit of extra attention and love in this time of their lives. I am grateful that they are nearby, so I can just pop in to check on things, and I am also grateful that they are in a wonderful place with very special people to help them out. And I really appreciate my siblings, who feel the same way I do and take the time to be with them, too.

In all honesty, I sometimes plan to go visit them, but then find myself too ‘busy’ to go. But what I thought was a complicated life doesn’t compare to what I’m reading about in the copies of the letters Mom wrote in the 1950’s. Talk about busy!  

It stands to reason that with six children, there was always a lot going on. Besides his work responsibilities, our Dad was taking additional courses, plus he was VERY active at church, led a Scout troop, did the yard work and actually added on a new room to our house in his ‘spare time’.

He also managed to build a triple bunk bed for us girls. It was a really cool custom piece; each level had something special about it that we all loved; to be fair, we rotated beds each year. Ask any of us about the bed making contests and that awful aqua alarm clock that we couldn’t shut off! (A seasonal aside: The top bunk was the best vantage point for listening for reindeer hooves on the roof. One could easily stretch up and put an ear to the ceiling… )

In a letter dated July 30, 1957, Mom wrote, “Big Ray goes so fast that some of us don’t see him for days at a time! He left yesterday morning at 6- got home at 10 last night- then he was off again this morning at 6:30. The only reason he saw Carol was that he took her to the bathroom at 4:30 this morning- and Dee had breakfast with us- Ray and Tetot haven’t seen him since Sunday night.”  

As for Mom, she was heavily involved in PTA meetings and other school projects, church circle meetings, and Scout training meetings. She took piano lessons, French lessons, taught Sunday school, was the church librarian, painted the interior of the house, sewed all the curtains in addition to most of our clothes (and much of her own), and in her spare time, put in the landscaping around the house. As she said in a March 1958 letter, “I don’t know when I’ve had such a week- but Ray says it’s my own fault- I can’t stand for anything to be going on unless I’m right in the middle of it- which is about the truth.” 

Honestly, in spite of their busy-ness, I don’t remember their being absent in my life. They were my world, and they were always there for me. Dinners were sacred, and we all ate together. No elbows on the table allowed (maybe because there was no elbow room with all those kids?).

My Shannon is now off at college, and I work at home (with very flexible hours). So I really can’t complain about not having enough time to be with my parents, particularly when I read the above passage about Dad’s taking me to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Think about how tired he must have been, and yet he took the time to help me when I needed it.  

So now it’s my turn to take the time to focus my love back on them when they need me. For everything there is a season, and my season for giving back is now.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! 

That Most Wonderful Time of the Year
December 16, 2006

Luke 10:40-42Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”  

Recently, Joel referred to me as being a ‘Martha’. I knew he wasn’t talking about Martha Stewart, as I’ve been known to wrap a hot dog in a crescent roll and call it dinner. (funny, I always ask J if he had it for lunch, but he never has… I wonder why that is? )  

No, Joel was talking about the famous biblical Martha in Luke 10, whose life was too busy to take the time to honor Christ…  And yes, I’ve been there. Especially as Christmas time looms, I invariably have one full-blown, middle of the night anxiety attack about how on earth am I going to get it all done?  

Yet, somehow despite my anxieties, it always does… day by day, step by step. One thing I’m pretty good at is breaking down big tasks into manageable pieces; the trick is to have enough time. Three hundred Christmas cards (ordering, taking photo, addressing, sticking photo on, stuffing, sealing, stamping) is quite a marathon, but not if you do thirty a day. Maybe it takes thirty minutes to do that amount, and then after ten days, they’re outta here! 

Decorating? Inside and outside. At our house, who gets to do this job? Me, myself and I! Also, there’s gift purchasing, wrapping, delivering, and don’t forget the baking, dinner preparation, set up and clean up. It can be overwhelming if I let it. (note: I think boys have it easy at Christmas!) 

Martha’s mistake was that her work became more important than her Lord. Joel’s comment above made me step back and take notice of WHY I’m doing all this busy stuff. It’s to celebrate the birth of our Savior, and I am now trying my best to remember that as I go through the motions. It certainly has given me a new serenity, because a) I know it WILL all get done, and b) I am focusing on the ‘reason for the season’ as some put it.  

The best part is the sharing, the giving, the love of families reunited, the special worship opportunities and especially all the glorious sacred music that touches my spirit. It IS the most wonderful time of the year, and my hope is that all the love, joy and hope that came down on that wondrous night so many years ago will be with you this season!

Memaw’s China
December 10, 2006

 I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.

Oscar Wilde

It’s a chilly night down in Houston (really!), so I was inspired to make a beef burgundy to enjoy by the fire. When I thought about how to best serve it, I thought about Memaw’s china pattern, ‘Old Britain Castles’ by Johnson Brothers, the blue and white version. The soup bowls in this pattern are perfect for stew, so I brought them out, which made me nostalgic. 

Each piece of this pattern has a different castle pictured in the year 1792, for instance, the dinner plate features Blarney Castle, the small bowl has the ruins of Denbigh Castle, the gravy boat shows Dorchester Castles (plural), and the coffee cup says ‘Stratford on Avon in 1792’.  

‘Old Britain Castles’ is not my only Johnson Brothers pattern. Thanks to my grandmother-in-law and my first half-cousin once removed by marriage, I have two others, both well loved and much used. Not to mention the generic Lenox bone china pattern selected upon my marriage, or the 1920’s set of Noritake china given to me by my mother in law (from her husband’s cousin Thelma), or the Christmas china from that same special half-cousin, and then there’s the one with violets on it that my mother in law gave me when she moved to smaller quarters. English I think… it’s too high on the shelf to bring it down to look just now. 

So who needed any more china, and how did I come to inherit this special gift from my grandmother, being one of her eleven grandchildren?  

Camille Coates Dockery (aka ‘Memaw’) has been gone now for thirteen years. She would have been 100 years old on her birthday last September. The one constant in all our lives was her home, which was unchanged through the years, each beautiful item placed in a permanent spot. Her china was a part of those memories, always washed by hand, for you see, Memaw never had a dishwasher (that’s a whole ‘nother story). 

Poor Joel never had a choice in the china selection process upon our marriage. With his mother being an only child and having had no daughters, she gave us china (see above!). Then one day, as he was idly flipping through a mail order catalogue, he said to me, “If I had gotten to pick a china pattern, this is the one I’d want.” I took a look and said, “Oh! That’s Memaw’s pattern!” He couldn’t believe it! When I told Memaw about his comment, she said, “Well, then, I’m going to give it to him!” 

And bless her heart, every birthday and Christmas from then on, she’d wrap up a piece for him. One by one, he received this special gift from her with a smile. Then when she was suddenly taken from us in August 1993, my mother said to me, “Go. Take it. She wanted to give it to Joel.”  I went to her house, letting myself in with my key, savoring each room, knowing that this special place in my life would never be mine again. Packing up that china was a sad task, but I marveled at the graceful beauty of each piece.  

They don’t make china like this anymore… and when it was introduced to a dishwasher, it gleamed! Now it’s a treasured link to my past, and I always raise a silent prayer to Memaw whenever I use it.  

I already feel sorry for poor Shannon, who will someday inherit seven china patterns. It would be easy to let them go if they had no special familial connection, but at this point, they still do. As the generations roll on, I know that memories will fade. But for the time being… blessed be the china that binds!  

As Luck Would Have It
December 2, 2006

Being born on the 13th day of the month means that I’m not a superstitious person. I’ve even had two black cats over the years. But today when Joel’s foot went through the slats of my desk chair, it occurred to me that this was the third piece of bad luck we’ve had this week, and that it was going to be the last one! Either that, or I’ve got three more coming… 

First came the shower. It’s a vintage early 80’s model, and yeah, we knew that there was some moisture leaking out somewhere, because on the outside of the house you could see it. We figured ‘shower pan’ and major repairs, so we have just put up with it, thinking that when we remodel someday, we’ll fix the problem then. Out of sight, out of mind. Let’s get the daughter through college, and THEN we’ll have money for stuff like that (I can hear you laughing all the way over here). 

Lately, however, the water has been spewing from the faucet when turned on. Joel said I should call the plumber, but I kept saying, ‘oh, let’s wait til the end of the year when you get your bonus.’ (you know, college tuition and all…) Then I discovered water all over the floor and put two and two together. The water spewing from the faucet was now going through the walls and into the house. It’s one thing to have water leaking outside, but quite another to have it inside!  

So I called the plumber. I was prepared for Mike to say he had to rip the whole thing out (goodbye bonus), but my hero said that if the faucet were fixed, the problem would be fixed. Easy as that. Which he did, and $107 later, we were back in business. We’ll need to let everything dry out, and MAYBE have to get some sheetrock repaired, but considering what I was imagining, we dodged a big bullet. 

So I was in a good frame of mind this morning as I went into the kitchen… and saw our two cats sitting on the stovetop gazing with fascination at the vent above, from which a huge racket was emanating. Some silly squirrel had fallen down the exhaust pipe from the roof jack above and was trapped. It was pitiful to hear it struggling, and I thought, ‘what ELSE can happen?’ When Joel came in to assess the situation, he grabbed my desk chair to step on for a better look. Crunch. His foot went through the slats. And that is when I thought, ‘Ok. Bad luck comes in threes. This is it!’

I called the Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation people for a name of someone who extricated wildlife from homes, which they were happy to provide, but the lady cautioned me, ‘it will cost you.’ So we decided to give it a try ourselves, first through the roof jack (lowering a rope… no takers), and then by dismantling the unit. The end of the story is that Joel did rescue the squirrel, but now my exhaust fan is in pieces. He actually used a proper stepladder while taking care of this delicate task, and thankfully, no animals or humans were harmed in the process.  

Let’s add up: One shower, repaired + One of God’s creatures, rescued + One chair and fan, fixable = One very blessed family. I am indeed lucky today!

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.