Archive for April, 2007

In My Wildest Dreams
April 28, 2007

Psalm 144:15- Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall; happy are the people whose God is the Lord.

I am one who dreams vividly and often times tellingly. Some of my dreams are really weird and totally unexplainable, but there are others that I can interpret their meaning exactly. 

For instance, there was my famous triceratops dream. Years ago when I was in charge of a major fundraiser for our church’s youth choir, I was pretty anxious about all the details and the outcome. I dreamt I was racing down flights of stairs, and when I got the bottom of the stairwell, there was a triceratops that was blocking my exit. I had nothing with me, so all I could do to get past that beast was to roar at him to scare him away. I did this in my dream, but apparently I also did it out loud, because I woke Joel up when I ‘roared’! He then proceeded to wake me up and ask if I were all right, because he thought I was having a heart attack or something… 

I explained to him that I was roaring at a triceratops, and he thought I was very strange. But in my dream, the stairs were the days of the calendar flying by, the triceratops was the fundraiser, and I had to ROAR to get past it!  Which, of course, I eventually did, and happily, it was a success. 

This week I dreamt that I was in situation where all I could move were my eyelids. In it, I had to spell out words by blinking my way through the alphabet. After I awoke in horror, I gave it a try to see how it might work. Just to blink out the words, ‘I love you’ added up to 109 blinks! I couldn’t do it; my eyes grew tired by the effort.

Tired, but not sleepy. Needless to say, I was pretty shaken by the dream. Somehow things always seem bleaker in the dark hours of the morning as opposed to during the daylight. Thoughts raced through my head. Was it a premonition? Will I become incapacitated? Why did I dream that? 

The all knowing ‘they’ say that night fears such as these are a vestigial dread that stems from our ancestors who truly did live in terror of the darkness because of all the wild things that would come out at night. Whether or not that’s the case, it’s certainly true for me that the morning sun brings a blessed assurance that all my uncertainties can be overcome.  

In hindsight, I think I dreamt this because scientist Stephen Hawking was in town recently for a conference of ‘very smart people’ (that’s about the best way I can describe it). Of course, he is such an inspiration to many with his full life in spite of his long term ALS diagnosis, and truly, just about all he can move ARE his eyelids!

Would I be so determined and courageous in the face of such physical helplessness? Only God knows what my future holds, but I do know that no matter what it is, I aim to try my best to look for the good in his plan. In the meantime, though, I will celebrate breathing, smelling, seeing, hearing, touching, feeling, tasting, speaking, moving freely and never ever complain about the small inconveniences of life.

Maybe my dream was a reminder to celebrate my blessings? A broken fingernail? Horrors! What will people think? Late for a meeting? The end of the world! The trash man overlooked my house? What a mess!  

We are all SO blessed in this country that the vast majority of us have absolutely no cause for complaint. Good health, loving families, faithful friends, opportunities to worship in freedom, a means of employment and a safe community all add up to a paradise on earth.  

Take the time in your prayers to give thanks for the ordinary days of wellness, safe havens, and prosperity of a kind that the majority of the world would envy. Because as the recent events in Virginia have taught us, it just takes one moment of being in the wrong place at the wrong time to have it all snatched away.  

I think it also goes without saying that we should take the time to appreciate our brave young men and women who are in harm’s way as they serve in war zones miles away from our peaceful communities.

And never, ever forget to say, ‘I love you,’ to those who are dear to you, whether near or far. (Helpful hint: it works better when you say it out loud instead of blinking it with your eyelids!)

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Sunrise, Sunset
April 21, 2007

You are so precious to me, cute as can be, baby of mine!  – Mrs. Jumbo 

I am now a great aunt! Little Ernest Scott Boon was born on Wednesday afternoon, checking in at a bit over six pounds. He was early and very tiny, but he is healthy and oh, so sweet! It seems like only yesterday we were passing his mother (my very first niece) around on Easter Sunday, 1978, and admiring her fuzzy strawberry-blonde hair (which Ernest has, as well).  

And now, here we are passing her son from great grandmother to great aunt to first cousin once removed, etc. Time passes by so quickly that I have learned to never wish it away. Children have a way of growing up too soon! 

We have a Heart of the City comic strip stuck on our refrigerator that shows the young girl, Heart watching the movie Dumbo on television. Her mom passes by, stops, becomes engaged and ends up snuggling with Heart, who thinks out loud, “The Mommy scene in Dumbo gets her every time!”

When Shannon was going on 2 years old, we watched Dumbo so much that her birthday cake featured a picture of the flying elephant. She would sing the ‘Casey Junior’ song as she banged on her tiny piano; we watched that show A LOT. I think I memorized every word of it, and certainly, I knew the song that Mrs. Jumbo sang to Dumbo as she rocked him with her trunk. I would sing it to Shannon every night as I rocked HER to sleep. 

That was then. This is now. I don’t know why Shannon wanted to watch Dumbo while she was home earlier this month, but we did. When that song came on, I reverted to Heart’s mom’s reaction, and we two snuggled on the sofa as I held back my tears. Or rather as I failed at holding them back. Perhaps I was mourning how quickly the years have passed?  

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a poem titled, ‘To Any Reader’. Poems are made to be read out loud, which is harder than you might think in some instances. This particular poem is a perfect example. Look for it in his collection of children’s poems titled, A Child’s Garden of Verses. 

It speaks of a mother who looks out of the window and sees her child playing around the garden trees. But her vision is only a shadow in her imagination. If you are a mother whose children are grown, I challenge you to find this poem and read it out loud without getting emotional, particularly the final lines, which say: 

For, long ago, the truth to say,

He has grown up and gone away,

And it is but a child of air

That lingers in the garden there, 

All too soon, the ordinariness of today will be a yesterday that you will someday look back upon fondly. The good old days are happening right before our eyes, so celebrate them and cherish each and every one for the gifts that they bring.

I truly LOVED rocking my own sweet baby all those years ago, but I’m also truly enjoying the delightful young lady she has become, and now I have a new memory of snuggling on the sofa with her while listening to Mrs. Jumbo’s song that will rank right up there with the best of them!

 Let your eyes sparkle and shine, baby of mine!

More Magic Words
April 14, 2007

Psalm 52:9  I will thank you forever, because of what you have done. In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

In a previous entry (January 6), I wrote about the magic of apologies. As you might guess from the above scripture, this week’s magic words are ‘thank you’! What prompted me to write about them was a recent opportunity to express my appreciation for a long ago favor. It felt so good to do it!

The occasion was a fun one, the annual ESCAPE Center Celebrity Chef Benefit at the Benihana Restaurant in Houston. We’ve been going to this event for years, as Joel is on the board of this wonderful organization. I can’t remember the very first one I attended, but I can recall a particular one when Shannon was in pre-school  (and now she’s in college). 

Several stick out in my memory, like the year I got to sit on the back of a fireman while he did pushups on a bet (all for a good cause, mind you!). And there was a year that our chef was a radio disc jockey whose morning show I enjoyed. He led our table like a cheerleader, and dedicated a special song to Shannon the next morning on the air for her ‘show and tell’ at school. (‘hear and tell’?) 

This year we had a television journalist and a Houston Dynamo professional soccer player, who both got into the spirit of the evening and gave our table of guests good food and a good time. They signed autographs and bantered; it was a lot of fun. The featured guest ‘star’ was Debbie Reynolds, who visited each table; she was the nicest lady… so gracious, lovely, generous and a real hoot! 

It was during the live auction later that I recalled the long ago event for which I was so grateful. The two auctioneers were television news personalities at a local station, and when I saw one of them, I remembered way back to the days when I was a Brownie Scout leader for Shannon’s troop at our church. 

A Brownie leader has to come up with and lead the weekly activities for each meeting. The handbook offered a wealth of ideas, but it was always much more fun when I could bring in a visitor to teach the girls to learn a new skill or craft. One of the activities was learning sign language, and because I have no experience or talent for this skill, I thought about this one particular man on the TV who, among his many duties, would do the sign language interpretation for the morning news show.  

Tom Koch is his name; I don’t think he’d mind my using it here. Over the years, he’s worked in various positions at the TV station, and he is one of the nicest people in the business. I just up and called him, as this was in the days before e-mail was the norm. The station is near to our church, and he agreed to come! 

On the surface, it was a small favor, but it was so impressive to me that he took the time out of his busy schedule to come teach a gaggle of little girls how to do some simple sign language. Of course the girls were excited to have a TV personality teaching them, and I’m betting that they paid WAY more attention to him than they ever did to me! There was no payment involved; he was just a generous person and came out of the goodness of his heart. Now that I think about it, I believe we gave him a box of Girl Scout cookies to thank him. 

So I approached Tom after the auction and reminded him of that long ago day. He remembered! He asked me if any of the girls could still do signing, and I admitted that they were all gone with the wind, off at college, so I would have no way of knowing. But I told him that most of all, I just wanted to let him know that what he did meant a great deal to me and that I hadn’t forgotten, nor would I ever.  

I could see for myself that it touched him to hear my words, and I am hopeful that he will, in turn, appreciate someone who may have done something nice for him. If we all took the time to thank those who did something nice for us, I do believe the world would be a better place with a contagious epidemic of smiles and good cheer! 

What prompted my urge to say thanks to Tom is that it’s too late for me to thank my amazing high school English teacher, Mrs. Berndt, who passed away just last year. I regret that I never got to tell her how much I love to write, how I am using the skills she taught me, and how I belatedly appreciate her phenomenal teaching talent. She wasn’t my favorite teacher back then (she was very demanding!), but she is surely the one who taught me the best!     

So whether you appreciate a special teacher, a mentor, an encourager, a group leader (scouts, choirs, bands, and the like), a special family member, someone who had a positive influence on your life or just did a good deed for you, take the time TODAY to say thank you! You will see the magic words work right before your eyes…  

The Three R’s
April 9, 2007

Song of Solomon 2:12: The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Once a year I travel by myself for a little mini-sabbatical from my daily life. I call it ‘running away from home’. It’s a wonderful way to recharge my enthusiasm for all my responsibilities. Repetitive tasks (like grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, etc.) can sometimes get stale, and job responsibilities are sometimes done half-heartedly unless I get away from them for a few days. Even exercise can get boring when you see the same things all the time. All it takes is just a few days away!

Utopia, Texas is a place I’ve enjoyed escaping to over the years, but since Shannon is now up at Bard College in the beautiful Hudson River Valley of New York, that part of the world has been my destination these past three springs.

So what are the three R’s? Why, Reading, Running, and Resting! I thought that my parking spot at Hobby Airport was auspicious; it was section 3R! With that lucky omen, I headed off for my annual ‘time out’.

To set the stage for what comes next, let me describe Houston, TX in mid March. Two words: High Spring. Trees budding, flowers bursting, birds calling, sun shining (well, on the best days!). It’s a total visual, aural and olfactory feast of the senses that those in northern climates must wait for weeks to experience.

I knew this, but there was still something shocking about breaking through the clouds as we neared the Albany airport and seeing frozen ponds and snow on the ground! It was COLD out there. It’s a good thing I’d packed my heavy coat, and my cold weather running clothes!

Two feet of new snow had fallen earlier in the week prior to my visit; it was fresh and clean since all the old snow had melted, so to my eye, it was beautiful to see. I awoke on Friday morning to a crystal clear sky, bright sun and a brilliant scene of pure white snow on every lawn in town. It was almost blinding, but I delighted in it as I ran through the streets of Rhinebeck, NY. Rhinebeck is a small town with a crossroad of shops, diners, excellent restaurants and a wonderful old historic inn. Its back streets contain cozy neighborhoods with quaint old homes, parks, churches and cemeteries that date back to Revolutionary War days.

The phrase ‘running away from home’ is a double entendre. What it means is that I literally do my running away from home! It’s so much more interesting to run in a whole new setting, and what a joy it was to step back into winter after coming from the land of shorts and sweat!

The first thing I noticed was that it was so quiet… then it dawned on me that I didn’t hear any birds singing. But once I noticed that fact, I listened more closely, and lo and behold, I heard and spied a lone cardinal whose bright red feathers were easy to spot in the bare branches against the blue sky.

It may sound morbid, but one of my favorite things to do is to visit old cemeteries. On this particular day, I savored the sight of one that I had explored on a previous visit. The vision of those ancient stones with a dusting of snow on them made me wonder how many snows they had endured since those patriots had been interred so many years ago. In their time, they were beloved family members; in my eyes, they were beloved once more.

Of course I encountered a garbage truck. I ALWAYS DO; it’s a special talent that I have, no matter where I run. Garbage trucks are noisy and smelly, and I hate it when I run into one, but on the other hand, what would we do without them? I do try my best to appreciate them, in spite of their stinkiness (is that how you spell that word? Spell check does not agree.). What cracked me up about this particular garbage truck was its slogan, which was ‘Your Friendly Garbologist’! (I can just visualize someone at a function when asked what they ‘do’, saying, ‘Oh yes, I’m a garbologist!’)

I was charmed by a snowman attempt in one yard, which was the only one I saw in my three days of running in the wintry weather (although the calendar said spring). I guess those who live with constant snow just get tired of it after awhile! I know I would, although visiting it for a few days sure was nice… especially since my room had a fireplace to warm me up afterwards!

My final observation has to do with fire hydrants. I now understand why northern fire hydrants have little metal flags that stick up! When the snow plows clear the streets, they dump the snow onto the curbs, which sometimes covers the hydrants. The little flags mark their place! Live and learn… 

 I am now home with a fresh enthusiasm for all things ordinary. How blessed I am to have had the opportunity to step back into winter to better appreciate what spring means to those who really, really ache for it. In Houston, it’s almost always spring… or summer. But if you live with snow for months and months, when the flowers do finally appear, it truly IS a time for singing! Happy Easter to all!