Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Daydreaming and Pretending

I have two questions for you. 1. If you could be anyone else, who would you be?  2. Aren’t you tired of that question?

I think about that question because I like to daydream and pretend, but not as much as Walter Mitty.

James Thurber’s dark short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, is considered a masterpiece, and the word Mittyseque has even entered the English Language. It means an ineffectual person who spends more time in heroic daydreams than paying attention to the real world, or more seriously, one who intentionally attempts to mislead or convince others that he is something that he is not. (Wikipedia)

The story’s protagonist, Walter Mitty, has five heroic daydreams while driving to town to buy groceries and take his wife to the beauty parlor.  In his mind, he’s powers a Navy hydroplane, performs surgery, appears in court as an alleged murderer, fights the Germans in World War II, and waits to be shot by a firing squad.

Although Mitty never tries to mislead his wife, whose roll is to bring him back to reality, his daydreams are vivid enough to convince himself that he’s someone else.

As I daydreamer, I’ll answer my first question just for fun.  If I could be anyone else, I’d like to be either a landscape architect designing patios, gardens, outdoor kitchens, and one of a kind, magnificent, award winning, magazine worthy gardens OR I’d like to be a published novelist, with my work being read by more than just a handful of obligated close friends and with at least eighty percent five star reviews on Amazon.

The landscape architect gig is out since the thought of geometry makes me sick and my gardening style is basically this looks like a good place for a new flower bed today. Next week, another portion of my yard will look like a good place, but first I’ll need to finish the bed I started last year.  My magazine will have to be Facebook and my award a hot bath with Epsom salts.

As for being a fiction novelist, I spent four years daydreaming about being published, with about sixty hours each year devoted to actually writing the novel.
Then, I decided to change that question from If I could BE anyone else, who would I be to If I could DO anything else, what would I do? Instead of daydreaming about being someone else, I decided to BE myself but DO something else. I stopped pretending and spent thirteen months and over six hundred hours on a first draft.

This is what I discovered. Daydreaming and pretending were easier and a lot less scary, but they  didn’t take me anywhere.  Doing did.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Clueless in Love

2002 Hope
Being a recycling nature lover, I was thrilled when my daughter, Hope, joined Planet Patrol in 6th grade. She took it seriously, too. She didn't want us to see Roper Mountain Lights in Greenville during the Christmas holidays.  We assured her their lights burned even if we stayed home.  "But it's too much gas to drive over there."  When we considered driving to a Disney park from our hotel on vacation, Hope absolutely refused.  "That's what the buses are for."  I was proud of her, but one morning driving to school, we had an interesting conversation.

"You know what's a great idea, Mom? School buses."                                                         
"Yes, they are."
"I mean, think of all the gasoline that's saved when people ride the bus. I'm glad people ride the school bus."
"I didn't know you felt that way. I rode the bus when I was your age. Maybe you can, too."
"Oh, no.  I wasn't talking about me.  I'm not a bus rider."
Clueless, what was good for others was not good for her.

Does "what's good for others is good for me" apply to love? Considering the love chapter, 1st Corinthians 13, What if I'm kind and patient to and not envious of the people I love or the people I like, especially when they're kind and patient with me.  What if I only behave rudely when others are rude to me. Is that love?

Imagine the crowd of clueless faces when Jesus spoke of love.
"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these."  Mark 12:31

And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way." Luke 6:31

Surely he must mean treat others as they treat me.  What's good for me is good for them.  If they're rude, I should at least let everyone know about it, right?  If they lie to me, surely I can lie to them.  If they control me, shouldn't I control them?  If she gossips about me, she deserves a few slanderous remarks. Others manipulate situations to suit themselves.  Shouldn't I do the same?  If they post something negative about my school, my work, my church, or my passion on Facebook, I'm instructed to do the same, right? 

Clueless in love is not for those of us who believe. 

A few years ago, my pastor gave us a few Occasional Important Reminders. Based on Titus 3:1-8, one of our reminders was to be Magnanimously Gracious People.  Magnus -great, Animus -soul & mind.  Another reminder was NOT TO use our words to heap abuse on people, revile people with our words, be caught up in society's drama, or be contentious.  Instead, we are to be peacemakers, be under control and not fearful, and be considerate of others. link to sermon Occasional Important Reminders/January 26,2014

Love is a tall order. Believer's Bible Commentary suggests that I think of how much I love myself and how much of my activity is centered around the care and comfort of myself, then try and imagine if I showered that same love on my neighbors, everyone I know.  If I think it's impossible for me, I'm absolutely right.  I'm clueless because that behavior isn't natural.  
This love is only possible if I ask God, who is all Love, to guide me.

Happy Valentine's Day, Neighbors,


Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Athletic abilities amaze me, so I love to watch football. I enjoy a long pass with a good reception, an interception, and a sack. However, I don’t enjoy time out. In a close game, the seconds seem like hours. But sometimes the big plays or turnovers come after the time outs. 

And half time? I want the second half to start immediately after the band plays to find out what’s going to happen next and who’s going to win.  Players need that rest, though, to hopefully return with renewed strength after adjustments are made.

2014 Hershey

I used to wish for a year without winter, to move from fall into spring. As a gardener, I didn’t want to wait another three months for my spring perennials to show up.

But, the older I get, I look forward to winter, to a still and colorless season. Although nature looks dead, it’s not. It’s dormant: inactive, asleep, suspended, making adjustments.  Nothing grows without rest. Nature is simply waiting.

My yard is brown. My perennials are mostly covered with pine needles.  But the suspended lilies, inactive iris, sleeping hosta and resting cherry trees will grow bigger, fuller, stronger, and maybe more colorful after their rest.

When spring comes, I’ll divide the perennials, giving myself more to enjoy.  Three months isn’t too long if the results are a fragrant spring, bright summer, and golden fall.

Since 2009, The Summer of My Poison Ivy, I’ve reserved walking in the woods for the winter. My late Labrador, Hershey, liked to wander through the woods. My new puppy, Maybelle, does, too. She takes her sweet time, sniffing and inspecting every leaf and fallen branch. Nothing is hidden, so we see details we've never seen before. The leaves are softening the soil, making it more valuable.  The trees are bare, making the sunsets more visible.

2017 Maybelle
Psalm 27: 14 Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord.

Waiting isn’t fun, but it’s necessary, and according to Dr. Seuss, everyone’s doing it.

Everyone is just waiting…mail to come….phone to ring…hair to grow…for Friday night… a pot to boil or a Better Break…or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting…… (from Oh the Places You’ll Go).

Not knowing what comes next can make us anxious and tired, but God strengthens our hearts while we wait. What was hidden becomes visible in the waiting.  Maybe we pray more.  Adjustments are made. Although it seems like a lifetime, we’re only dormant for a short time, and then we see something new, better, stronger, and brighter, maybe in ourselves or our situations.

Keep waiting. There may be a turnover soon,



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Campfire Television

My Grandmamma and Granddaddy Brown were avid campers who often took me and my sister, Susi, along.  I have fond memories and miss those times.

We started in a pop-up camper and gradually progressed to a small travel trailer with a table on one end, a tiny kitchen in the middle and a double bed on the other end. Above our snoring grandparents, Susi and I squeezed into a bunk bed where our heads hit the ceiling when we sat up. The close quarters got smaller in the morning when Granddaddy Brown woke early and boiled water for his Sanka.

This suffocating steam sent us outside to explore and play in the dirt and gravel with other camping kids.  We were never bored.  The only time I remember missing home was when Granddaddy kept a running tab in his little notebook of how much I owed him for meals while we traveled from one state park to another.  He knew I was gullible, and although he never kept a tab for Susi, I believed him and hoped my dad would pay him back for my $1.50 breakfast. 

My grandparents traveled with their camping club, The Puddle Ducks, and spent nights sitting in lawn chairs and talking either under an awning or around a campfire.  Occasionally, they'd send us kids snipe hunting.  If you don't know what that is, you've missed a great part of growing up.

When my daughter was a teenager, I willingly chaperoned her youth group, Concord Baptist, on a few rafting trips, and my favorite part of the trip was the quiet, relaxing campfire after an adventurous day in the hot sun. Without cell phones, ipods, video games or television, entertainment for three adults and eleven kids was a crackling fire, where we enjoyed each others' company and combed the woods for the perfect marshmallow toasting stick.

I remembered to buy marshmallows but forgot the graham crackers and chocolate bars; however, a toasted marshmallow between two chocolate chip cookies was a hit and became known as a "Concord" S’more. 

Several of us stayed outside for hours after the Concord S’mores were gone and watched the colorful flames grow then subside as logs burned and flames danced. We watched the logs change, fall, break, then turn to ash. More logs were added, heating our faces and providing us with more quiet entertainment as they slowly burned, diminished, and eventually crashed to the ground, throwing red sparks at our feet.  Real and unrehearsed, witnessing nature's superiority over anything manmade was far better than watching television.

My friends' fire pit
where they enjoy campfire television
This natural entertainment seems to be popular now, not just with autumn bon fires and winter fireplaces, but with cozy fire pits on our patios. It isn't easy, but hopefully we're moving our families away from technology as often as possible.  I don't intend to give up my favorite shows, but it won't hurt to watch a few hours of campfire television more often.

Turn it off and go outside,

2016 Concord Young Singles
enjoying natural entertanment

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ringing in the New

Working in retail taught me to fall in love with ringing in something new: calm, quiet January.

Imagine the living room and kitchen on Christmas afternoon. Multiply that mess by fifty, and that’s what the store usually looked like on January third.  Unlike home, though, we couldn’t toss everything in a hefty bag, a closet, or the attic. We threw away Starbuck's cups, chicken nuggets, candy wrappers, and gum, and the rest was gathered and sold to customers who threw out their old and made room for new.

We were anxious to get rid of the old: sweaters, coats, gloves, and flannel shirts, and looked forward to ringing up the new and to the calm quiet of January, but getting there took work.

1.       Search the store for more old to mark down and add to the clearance zone.  If we were lucky, we’d find them together and orderly on one rack while having a good battery for the scanner. That never happened. 

2.       Hunt for tags for old and new.  As savvy as retail associates are forced to be, they haven’t memorized prices for the entire stock.  When Siri becomes a retail associate, she’ll be employee of the year.  Until then, UPCs run the place, and the UPCs that disappear the fastest are the last shirt, pant, earring, purse, etc.
3.     Move lost old back home with the rest of the old. The more old we rang up, the more room we had for the new, so the trampled and tried on, and the folded in a box under the tree until thrown in a bag and returned on December 26 had to look appealing for the customers who always turned an old into next year's new.
4.     INVENTORY. If we didn't ring it up and see it leave the store, we counted it.  Saturday after closing, we were tired, but BEEP we were soon BEEP energized with the constant BEEPING of dozens of scanners all BEEP over the store until midnight. 

6:00AM Sunday morning BEEP we were sleepy but had to BEEP return to scan every sock 1,2,3 on every row BEEP, 62, 63 BEEP...80,81 then press escape (we wish), count every sock individually 1, 2, 3,..67, 68,...79.  Scanner says 81, recount socks 1,2,3,...77,78.  Repeat for scarves, wash cloths, purses, shoes, BEEP boxed jewelry, necklaces, dishes, etc., sometimes keying 13 digits manually, crawling across BEEP the floor counting panties, climbing on ladders counting towels and BEEP cupcake paraphernalia.  The reward was a fifteen-minute snack break, home for four hours, then returning after close and counting BEEP until midnight.

All of that work was to get rid of old and enjoy something new and a quiet calm.  In our homes and offices, we’ve worked and thrown away or stored all the old stuff and brought life back to order, to enjoy quiet calm and maybe something new.   But getting rid of old isn't just for stuff. It's also for old habits or ideas, things that aren't moving us forward. Worries that weigh us down. This work is much more difficult than getting rid of stuff, but it's necessary sometimes if we want to find the calm quiet of something new.

Ring in something new,


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The River's Tale

     Last year, I decided to write about nature more, and one of the first subjects was to be rivers. I’m a big fan of trees and rocks, so I prefer rivers over oceans. Every inch of a river’s bank is unique, and I love spending time sitting or standing next to one. 

    Instead of  writing about rivers, though, I’ve been working on a project that has taken much longer than expected. Even if I had gotten around to it, I'm sure I couldn't have written anything like The River's Tale.

      My uncle, Jim Brown, passed away on January 12, 2016. He wrote this  about six months before he died, and I'm happy to share it with you today. 

The River’s Tale
I have always liked water. For water is God’s gift of life to
 all creatures.  Of the bodies of water on this earth, I prefer
 the rivers and creeks.

Lakes and ponds are for the most part man made and have
 nothing really to say to us. Instead, they lie still and speak
 to us rarely and lull us into a somber numbness.

Oceans have much to say, being so old and ancient, but they
roar and shout and attempt to inspire us with their pure grand
spectacle. More often than not, they terrify us with their
sheer power and we wander not far into
their inviting blue depths.

But rivers and creeks, they speak of days gone by, in strange
 tongues and languages spoken by long forgotten people,
who stood on the very spot where you stand, and gazed like
you on the bubbling water as it rushes past the stones and
 boulders that vainly try to impede its flow.

Those voices are long forgotten by us now. But the rivers
 remember and they continue to remember as long as they
 tumble down from their airy home in the mountain tops,
 towards their mother oceans from which they sprang,
only to be uptaken by the winds and breezes and then
dropped again on the mountain tops to begin the journey
back home again. To hear their stories, we only have to
 sit quietly by their stream beds, and listen to our
minds ear, for speak they will.

Jim Brown

In memory of James Troy Brown, Jr. (my dad's brother)
April 3, 1951- January 12, 2016


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Satan's Spork

I've had enough.  For three years, I've eaten my Bojangles' Bo-Berry biscuits with a spork, but that ended Saturday when I took matters into my own hands, literally, with an actual fork, my own fork I brought from home.  If they can't decide which is best, the spoon or the fork, for their biscuits, rice, beans, or anything else, I'll decide for them.  I know, Bojangles', the combination of spoon and fork is easier, less expensive, but that's not the point, pun intended.  The point? There are times you need a spoon.  There are times you need a fork.

Many like the spork. It's a spoon and a fork, so when they make a mess of the biscuit with the tiny brittle tongs, the spoon scoops up all the broken pieces.  I don't care. To me, it's neither a spoon nor a fork.  Some think it's no big deal.  Some, like my friends Patricia and Alice, are probably tired of me complaining about the spork every Saturday.  They're probably thinking, "just eat your Bo-Berry biscuits and hush."  Call me crazy, and many do, but I simply don't like the struggle, the "which way do I turn this thing?" the "this biscuit is hard, why do I have a spoon?" and the "I need longer, stronger, more definite tongs for this."  

Maybe because I'm left-handed, I blame everything on that, but I'm ususally indecisive, so I should like the spork.  In fact, I often wonder if the spork was invented by some indecisive left-hander like me thinking she was creative.   

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16

This verse bothered me and had my name written on it for decades.  Like the waters in Laodicea, smelly and distasteful, I was lukewarm, religious but not spiritual, knowledgeable of but not faithful to Christ.  

This kind of life is a struggle, full of uncertainty.  Satan loves this kind of life.  When we need to be stronger and more definite, he offers "this will do, no need to look for strength." When we need to know which way to turn, he presents an "either way" option.  When life is hard, which is always, he offers "just be indecisive, that's half useful."

God, on the other hand, wants us to be with Him. Because life is hard, He wants to be our strength. When we don't know which way to turn, His Word is definite, and we either believe Him or not.  When our life is a mess, when we're vulnerable, God is a great comfort and knows how to hold every piece of our brokenness. 

It's a decision we make.  Is our zeal for Christ apparent?  When others see us struggling, because we all do, where do they see us go for strength? Are we indefinite? A spork? Or, Are we clearly followers?