simplyjan

A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

Following the Path

I’ve become the keeper of the labyrinth, so to speak. I inherited it with my new job. It’s tucked away at the back of our property, close to the edge of the woods. I don’t know much about labyrinths. I’ve walked one a time or two at Montreat, but it still seems foreign to me. I’ve been at my new job for a little over three months now and I’ve only eyeballed our labyrinth from the parking lot. I figured it was about time to take the plunge.

labyrinth

A labyrinth is not a maze, although people often mistake it for one. You can get lost in a maze. There are wrong turns and dead ends. But not in a labyrinth. A labyrinth is a single path that leads you to the center. It is not, however, a direct path. Right when you think you’ve almost arrived, the path will double back, leading you off in the opposite direction. So close, and yet so far! But if you stick with the path, if you continue forward on your journey, you will without fail end up in the center.

By the time you reach the center you realize that while you thought the destination was the most important part, it was the journey that has benefit you the most. For as you followed that path with its switchbacks and unexpected turns, you began to shed the burdens that you carried at the start of the path. You became more aware of yourself, your breath, your movement. The closer you draw to the center, the more at peace you feel.

The labyrinth is a great metaphor for life. We are each on a path. We each have a destination in mind. Our paths often take us in unexpected directions. Right when we believe we’ve arrived, the path leads us in a new direction. But if we remain intent on completing our journey, on reaching our goal, we will eventually arrive. When we do, we will find ourselves lighter, freer, and more ready to accept the gift that awaits us.

Today is the first day of 2016. It’s a new year. A new path. A new opportunity to move closer to the center. Who knows where our path will lead us this year? Regardless of which unexpected turns we take, may we keep putting one foot in front of the other, enjoying every step along the way – and if not enjoying it, at least learning from it as we get closer and closer to our goal.

Happy New Year!

Advertisements

A Tiger’s Roar

Clemson ring

I’ve been a Clemson fan for as long as I can remember. My mother is a Clemson graduate. I am a Clemson graduate. The university had a hand in the shaping of our family, our careers, and how we have been equipped to give back to our community.

My grandfather would have been a graduate of Clemson as well. He completed one year there, but the death of an older brother and the failing health of his father meant he had to return to the family farm to keep it going. Those were the days before the term “hobby farming” had been invented. This was no hobby. This was the livelihood and survival of the family. His dream was never fulfilled, but I know he was proud of both my mom and me when we earned our Clemson diplomas.

I can’t help but roll my eyes when our rival fans make fun of Clemson students as being backwoods, ignorant, toothless rednecks because of our school’s agricultural roots. They probably make up their tacky jokes while eating hamburgers (that may well have been raised by farmers who learned to improve the quality of beef at Clemson) while tailgating by their nice vehicles (that may well have been made safer and more fuel efficient by automotive researchers from Clemson) near artfully constructed buildings (that may well have been designed by architects trained at Clemson).

I’ve always wondered why they choose to attack the people of Clemson even more than the football players or program. Surely they can find something to ridicule about a young team that rises to the top. Or about a coach who invests just as much into the development of his athletes as scholars and individuals as he does into developing them into winning players. I know – they could make fun of the fact that Dabo dances funny. Wait, even Clemson fans laugh about that, so that’s out. And who cares if our coach dances funny? We’re proud because we have a coach who loves the game and loves his players so much that he isn’t above demonstrating his unadulterated joy – even if he looks a little silly while doing it. But no, the best attack they can find on the team is the term “Clemsoning.” And look – we “Clemsoned” ourselves to an undefeated regular season, a #1 ranking that we’ve held long enough to prove it isn’t a fluke, and another year of state bragging rights. The term kinda loses its punch when you look at it like that.

So yes, I am proud to be a Clemson Tiger. I am proud to be a graduate of a university with roots in agriculture. I am proud of the graduates who join me in trying to sing that beautifully un-singable alma mater – all the teachers, architects, engineers, nurses, business leaders, politicians, community leaders, and yes, all the farmers. I am proud of those kids – and remember, they really are still kids – who somehow survive the unbelievable pressure that the world of college football places on their shoulders in order to play – and thoroughly enjoy playing – this crazy game. I’m proud of the coaching staff who holds their players to high standards both on and off the field. I’m proud of a head coach who keeps the joy of the game and the development of young men as his top priorities. I will always be a proud Clemson fan, whether the team’s record is 12-0 or 0-12, because it’s not really about the game at all. It’s about a place, a tradition, a set of values, and an education that reaches far beyond the classroom walls and the football field. Go Tigers!

Signs for the Road Ahead

The New Year has arrived. Though the road lies directly before us, not all ahead is clear to see.

Road ahead

There will be unexpected curves in the road as we travel.

IMG_0757

We will come to many crossroads. There will be decisions to be made. Which way should we go? To the left? To the right? Stay the current course?

crossroads

We need to stop, look, and listen before moving ahead.

Stop

Let’s shed any unnecessary burdens we are carrying from days gone by and travel light into tomorrow.

Load notice

And always, keep your eyes on the light that leads us forward.

light

Many blessings in 2015!

new year

A Little Crisis

We had a little roach crisis at our house tonight. I heard my son mutter, “Holy crap! Holy crap!” when he exited the upstairs bathroom after his shower. Since “crap” is on my children’s banned word list, I quickly reprimanded him from downstairs. “Sorry! But there’s a huge roach on the wall up here!”

You may not know this about me, but I hate roaches. In fact, I am quite afraid of them. Dress them up with a name like “Palmetto Bug” and they’re still the same nasty bugs that rustle when they walk and refuse to die. There are only four things that I hate about living in Charleston: being so far away from my family and the farm, the traffic, the unbearable month of August, and the prevalence of roaches (or “Palmetto bugs,” to speak proper Charlestonian English).

My little man hates bugs, too, but he’s been stepping up lately as the spider crusher so I thought he might be up to the task. “Take care of it!” I called. Because I knew he could. And because I needed to keep the new giant puppy away so he wouldn’t eat the roach when it hit the floor – because he really does eat everything. The last time he ate a bug, he spent the next 30 minutes throwing up. Yeah, those are the reasons I wanted my son to kill the roach. Not to mention that I was scared to do it myself.

I heard some shuffling and such. “Did you get it?” His reply was the last thing I wanted to hear. “No. I lost it.”

Dang. I forgot to remind him of the cardinal rule of roach killing: never take your eyes off of it – ever!

Did I mention that the roach was spotted in the hallway right between the three bedrooms? I shuddered to think that it might be hiding out in one of our rooms. Mia insisted that her brother search her room, which he did. He found nothing. With my luck, I figured it ended up in my room.

It was a school night and now it was their bedtime. I tucked them in, trying to assure them the roach is probably more scared of them than they are of it (Yeah, right!) and that they could go on to sleep with no worries. I was pretty sure I would be awake enough all night for the three of us, but I didn’t tell them that.

About 30 minutes later as I was finishing up a phone call with my mom, my son came flying down the stairs. “I hear something in my room!” Now I know I said something earlier about how roaches can rustle when they walk, but really I was exaggerating. Mostly. I figured the fear of the roach had taken up residence in his mind, as scary thoughts sometimes do at night.

“Go turn on your light and see if you see anything. I’ll be up in a minute.”

By this time, he was close to tears, but he went back up. About two minutes later he returned, truly frantic. “It’s in my book bag! I know it is!”

I somehow doubted that the roach had crawled into his book bag, but he was getting closer and closer to hysteria. “Take your book bag to the garage. I’ll check it there.”

“But I’m scared!”

I excused myself from my phone call and marched myself right upstairs and picked up his book bag. I started back down the steps and told him to go on back to bed. He was still too scared. We had a brief exchange on the staircase while I held the suspect bag. “It’s in here, remember? You are fine now.” I didn’t really believe it was in the bag. Apparently neither did he, and there was no convincing him.

I gave up and headed on out to the garage. Once there, I turned the bag upside down and gave it a shake. Out dropped the granddaddy of all roaches. I heard it hit the ground with a thud and then I heard it rustle as it made a hasty retreat. I was barefoot, so there was no stepping on it. Not that I could have stepped on it anyway. I cannot bring myself to do it. First, you have to get too close in order to step on it. Second, I cannot stomach the crunching sound. I’ve learned that drowning a roach with Windex kills it faster than even roach spray will, but I didn’t have any Windex on hand. Or any roach spray. So somewhere in my garage, a granddaddy roach is plotting his return. He lives for another day. Who am I kidding? He’ll probably live the rest of the century!

The house is now quiet. The kiddos are asleep, probably with visions of rustling roaches dancing in their heads. I’m ready for bed now myself. I must get ready for tomorrow’s two morning battles: will I be able to get Gus to use his book bag ever again, and are any of us brave enough to dash through the garage to get to the car, knowing that granddaddy roach is somewhere out there? Stay tuned…

You Blink and Time Flies

Where, oh where has my little blog gone? Where, oh where can it be…..?

music notes(Do you have an earworm now? You’re welcome!)

You know it’s been a long time since you’ve posted to your blog when you’ve forgotten the password to even sign in. I didn’t realize that it had been quite this long, however. Over 3 months!

What has been happening since that last July 24th post? First, there was the week in Minnesota at the Collegeville Writing Institute. (Ironic that I went silent after a writing retreat, huh?) Then there was Hands of Christ. Presbyterians in the Charleston area understand immediately the importance and impact of that. Then I moved my oldest back to college for her senior year. How is that even possible? I got my two youngest started back at school – 4th and 5th grades. Things kicked back into high gear at church, where in addition to regular church activities, we’ve had 3 deaths and numerous surgeries/accidents/illnesses. Some things are happening that really aren’t bloggable. They aren’t bad things. In fact, some of them are very good. This just isn’t the forum for sharing them.

My “open” time this fall, when there has been open time, has been spent in research and exploration. I’ve spent hours in the SC Room at the main branch of the library, in the Waring Historical Library, and in the MUSC Archives. I’ve written numerous emails and made several phone calls, many to complete strangers, looking for information. I’ve poked around the dusty corners of a 200+ year old building in disrepair trying to transport myself back in time.

And why am I doing these things? I’ve picked up where I left off almost 22 years ago – prior to Anna’s birth – in my search through my family history for stories and personalities and roots. I had forgotten how much fun this can be. Raising children took my mind off these things for many years. Now that my kids are getting older, my interest has been renewed.

My current research is centered around my great-grandmother’s life, specifically the period from 1898-1903 when she went through nursing school and midwife training. It’s a giant scavenger hunt – chasing down details, searching old records, asking for people to tell me stories, looking at old photographs from the period. It helps a lot to have a friend who is a gifted (and fast) researcher. My children shake their heads at the nerdiness of it all, but even they perk up when I share some of the stories.

Which is why I am back here on the blog. It is one of my best and longest running records of some of the stories of my own life. It might not be of great interest to my children right now. But maybe one day they, or my grandchildren or great-grandchildren, will be glad that at least some of the details were saved for their entertainment. If nothing else, maybe they’ll figure out where their own nerdiness gene came from!

Happy (Atypical) Father’s Day!

I want to begin this post by wishing my own father a Happy Father’s Day. I told him earlier today that I know that I am one of the lucky ones – my dad has always been a man of faith, kind, loving, patient, interested in me and my siblings (and now in our children), thoroughly loyal and invested in our family, and so very, very good to our mother. I am blessed to have been given the parents (both of them!) that I have.

Now, in addition to my traditional Father’s Day greeting to Dad, I would also like to give a less traditional one to a few oft-forgotten folks.

Happy Father’s Day:

~ To the one who brings home the bacon and fries it up in a pan, every week and every month, without the help of a man.

~ To the one who checks the doors and the windows at 3 a.m. with her son’s baseball bat in hand because something just went bump in the night and it falls on her shoulders to protect her family.

~ To the one who inherits the icky duties such as killing the bugs, squashing the spiders, catching the lizard that found its way inside, and cleaning up the really nasty mess left by a pet . . . or a kid.

~ To the one who tag teams with herself when the days get long and the kids get wild, because there is no one else to tag team with.

~ To the one who throws chicken in the crock pot (again) before heading out to chop down the tall grass and weeds (that grow as fast as the kids), because both jobs must get done today.

~ To the one who is responsible for the cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, and bill paying . . . on top of the 40+ hours a week to earn a paycheck . . . on top of the important work and play of being a good parent to precious kids – and who beats herself up because she can’t do all of those things perfectly (or even well) every single day.

~ To the one who watches her kids watching other kids with their dads with a lump in her throat, wishing she could fill that hole in their hearts and knowing that no matter how hard she tries a part of that hole will remain. But she tries anyway.

~ To the one who holds her head high, even when the media stereotypes her and badmouths her and her “broken home” – because she knows better.

~ To the one who carpools kids to extracurricular activities, or who coaches/leads her kids’ activities, or who carries a tremendous burden of guilt because her work schedule and/or budget won’t allow for such activities.

~ To the one who goes to work when she is sick so she can stay home when her kids are sick.

~ To the one who gives up luxuries (and often necessities) so that her kids can have what they want and need.

~ To the one who strives to keep her own dreams alive even as she works to help her children move closer to theirs.

Yes, Happy Father’s Day . . . to all the single moms out there. You are giving it your very best and you are doing a heck of a lot better than you think. Give yourself some credit and keep on keeping on. Oh, and don’t stay up too late, because it all starts up again in the morning!

Love,

Another Single Mother

fathersday

When Mockingbirds Sing

I interrupt this low-volume blogging season with the following public service announcement:

When Mockingbirds Sing, by Billy Coffey, was released today! You want to buy and read it. Really, you do! (Get it here or here or at your favorite local bookstore.)

mockingbirdsing 

I first ran across Billy’s writing through the wonders of social media where someone (I can’t remember who) posted a link to his blog, What I Learned Today. Over the past year or so, I’ve shared a number of his posts with the group that gathers for lunch and prayer at our church every Wednesday. Billy has an observant eye, an honest voice, and a knack for finding truth in everyday happenings. He’s also just a really nice guy. I was honored when he invited me to be a part of the launch team for his newest novel.

When Mockingbirds Sing is about a group of outcasts: a young girl with a bad stutter named Leah, her parents who aren’t accepted in the small mountain town where they just moved, an old man named Barney whose life has taken some hard turns, and Barney’s wife, Maybel, whose stroke has left her unable to verbalize anything besides “I love you.”

Then there is Allie, an astute little girl with a wisdom beyond her years, who befriends Leah. Folks, I have to tell you, I love little Allie! I could “listen” to her talk in the pages of the novel forever. Her observations and her innocence reminded me so much of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. If you know me at all, then you know that I’m singing high praises of Allie, for few characters in all of literature have captured my heart like Scout. And now there is Allie.

There are other characters as well: a well-meaning but overly self-important pastor, a legalistic deacon, Allie’s parents, a good-hearted sheriff, and other townspeople of Mattingly. They all felt like people I knew in Landrum, or Tryon, or Columbus, or Iva, Polkton, or any of the other small towns that have graced my life.

The story gets interesting with the introduction of the most mysterious character of all –The Rainbow Man. The Rainbow Man is seen by Leah alone. Is The Rainbow Man Leah’s imaginary friend, or is he real? The Rainbow Man instructs Leah to paint pictures that astound everyone. When the scenes depicted in the paintings begin to come true, things get intense. Mattingly is in danger. Is Leah the cause, or the solution?

I was fascinated by the story of the origin of The Rainbow Man. I believe it will enhance your reading of the novel as well. Billy tells us all about it in this video clip.

There are a number of excellent reviews, interviews, and video clips out there about Billy and this wonderful new novel. I encourage you to get to know him and his writing. You won’t regret it!

billycoffey

P.S. I have it from an excellent source that we will be hearing more about the town of Mattingly next spring. Read When Mockingbirds Sing now and then join me in the countdown to the follow-up novel!

One More P.S. Click on over to Billy’s blog and you can get 30% off your purchase!

Lost Your Password?

sign in 

As I noted in my last post, I took a month-long hiatus from my blog. It felt good to write again last night. I use Windows Live Writer to compose my blog posts. (Why, I’m not exactly sure. Habit?) After scheduling the post to go live this morning, my obsessive compulsive self felt the need to check my WordPress dashboard to make sure everything was properly set up.

Remember, it had been over a month since I last signed in to WordPress. I went to the sign in page, typed in my Username, tabbed down to the spot for Password . . . and went blank. Totally blank! Nothing worked. I tried everything I could think of, with no luck.

No sweat, right? If you click the help link and enter minimal correct information, they can email you a link to reset your password. There was just one little catch. I set up a separate email account for use with this blog alone. And . . . I forgot the password for that as well.

panic

Back in my Blackberry days, I was faithful about storing passwords in a special app on the phone. When I changed to the Droid, I never got around to transferring the passwords over to the new app. My only hope was that the now dead-as-a-doornail battery on my old Blackberry could be revived enough in the morning to see if my passwords were safely stored there.

I have to tell you, I had a hard time going to sleep last night. What if the Blackberry couldn’t be revived? What if the passwords weren’t on it? What if I was locked out of my own blog for good? I literally dreamed about passwords all night long.

All’s well that ends well. The Blackberry finally charged enough to boot. The passwords for both the blog and the email were there. They are now both written in ink and safely stored in my security app.

I think life was easier back in the days of the old-fashioned diary. At least back then, scissors were an option if the key went missing!

diary

Windblown

It is a blustery day out there. Wind gusts of almost 50 mph have been recorded, and they say the worst is yet to come. My friends and family in the Upstate are hunkering down (I hope) as severe storms bear down on them. I’ve been working away in my study at church, breaking every now and then to chase down papers blown about by the wind through the crack in the window. The wind also blew in the memory of a post I wrote almost exactly a year ago. I hope you enjoy it – again.

I curled up in a ball on my side and drew the covers up to my chin. The cold air wasn’t here yet, but I could sense its imminent arrival on the coattails of the wind that whistled through the screens and rattled the siding of my house. So much for the unseasonably warm weather we’d been having. 

My 8-year-old daughter opened my bedroom door and tiptoed to my side. “I’m scared of the storm,” she whispered. 

“It’s ok, sweetie. It’s no storm – just wind. See?” I tapped the WeatherBug app on the phone at my bedside and summoned the radar screen. My children are the grandchildren of farmers. They know how to read a weather map. Satisfied that a storm wasn’t coming and armed with the advice to turn her radio on low to combat the noise of the wind, she returned to her bed. 

A cold front was coming, no doubt. I felt the coolness through the cracked window. A person always needs a little fresh air when they sleep, regardless of the season. I learned that from my farming grandfather. The wind outside howled, and now even the dog showed signs of nervousness at the sound. He shifted restlessly at the foot of the bed, snuggling closer to my legs for warmth or reassurance – or both. Little did he know that I needed it too. 

A short time later, somewhere in that no-man’s land between sleep and wakefulness, my mind conjured up memories that were spurred by sound of the wind. 

I remembered all the times that I fled the mobile home I shared many years ago with my husband and newborn baby girl. I hated that house. Seeking protection from elements like tornadoes and high winds (that in the South have the locations of such homes programmed into their internal Garmins) felt like carrying a clover leaf for an umbrella. It just wasn’t up to the task. My he-man husband always refused to leave the house for trifles such as tornado warnings, meaning that I was forced out into the storm alone, carrying a diaper bag and a crying baby through the wind and rain.

I later ended up fleeing that house for good, not because of tornado warnings, but because of a stormy marriage that threatened me even more than an F5 tornado. My daughter and I landed in a tiny duplex apartment in a nearby town. The neighbors on the other side of the duplex were a married couple whom I found friendly in the light of day, but who drank heavily and argued loudly at night. I used to lie in bed at night, praying that if one of them pulled a gun, it wouldn’t be fired through my bedroom wall. Strange things happened in that house. Sometimes, particularly on stormy nights, I would feel the mattress of my bed move, as though someone was leaning or sitting on it. I would roll over, expecting to see my preschool daughter ready to tell me about a bad dream or that she needed a drink of water. No one was ever there. One night filled with heavy rain and gusty winds, I walked out of my bedroom to go to the bathroom, only to discover that the front door of my house was standing wide open. I never knew what would blow in on the wind around that little duplex.

Fear of the wind haunted me even after I moved on. I woke one night in my sturdy 1950′s-built brick manse in Landrum with my heart pounding. I felt threatened. Was someone in the house? I became aware of my ornery calico cat sleeping peacefully beside me. No, no one was in the house. She was the first to slink off to a hiding place when a strange person (anyone except me or my daughter) stepped into the house. I lay there with a pounding heart when I heard again the sound that had wakened me: a strong gust of wind and the rumble of distant thunder. A storm was coming. Years of living in that flimsy mobile home followed by two years in a wind-haunted duplex conditioned me to fear storms.

And now on this night, the wind continued its loud symphony of sounds outside my window. I rolled over and the barrage of wind memories continued. This time it was the memory of a dream. In the dream I was living again in that horrible mobile home. (It seems that many of my bad dreams put me back in that house.) A terrible windstorm blew in so fast and so furious that I didn’t have time to flee to safety. There was no inner room or safe place to hide in that single-wide tin can, so I huddled on the couch with my baby girl in my lap and prayed and cried as the winds rocked the house. Finally it stopped. A few moments later, my mother and my sister-in-law knocked on my front door. I was a wreck, a fact they couldn’t help but notice yet failed to understand. “Didn’t you hear that storm?” I responded to their questioning looks. “Didn’t you feel those wind gusts? I thought the house would blow over! Can’t you see all the limbs down in the yard? Look – the old oak tree was literally split in two!” They were happily oblivious to any storm that had passed through. I could not understand how they had missed such a horrible storm or how they failed to see the debris it left behind.

As always, dreams are truth-tellers. Wind has always been a symbol of upheaval and vulnerability for me. I was afraid of being harmed in that flimsy mobile home and the man I had believed would protect me and my child failed me. The two years in the tiny wind-haunted duplex were years of personal storms: a stormy job, stormy divorce proceedings, the stormy end to a relationship I cherished, stormy communications with my parents. I felt so alone during those storms. Even years later when the storms were behind me, just the sound of wind and thunder could wake me in fear or brew a truth-telling wind dream. 

Then there was the wind on this night. It blew in memories that had been secured in storage for years. But that’s not all it blew in. There were also snippets of an old song – words that sounded to my ears so secular, yet so holy. I realized later that it was probably the voice of Garth Brooks crooning on my daughter’s radio, but my mind felt like the words were sent to me from the One who loves me most:

The storms are raging on a rolling sea,
Down the highway of regret.
The winds of change are blowing wild and free,
But you ain’t seen nothing like me yet.


There ain’t nothing that I wouldn’t do;
Go to the ends of the earth for you.
Make you happy, make your dreams come true,
To make you feel my love.

And with those words echoing in my mind I finally slept in peace, even as outside my window the wind blew on.

Just Do It

I will do X when Y happens. Ever thought or said that?

I will put up the Christmas tree and decorate when I (a) I have an uninterrupted block of time, and/or (b) all the kids are here, and/or (c) the den is sufficiently uncluttered and cleaned. The Christmas tree hasn’t been put up yet.

I will write a few Christmas cards when (a) I get around to buying them and (b) I have all the addresses organized. I haven’t written any Christmas cards yet.

I will read that novel once I finish planning the details for all my seasonal special services. I haven’t read a word of that novel yet.

I will run in the morning when I get a good night’s sleep and wake up, well, actually awake. I haven’t run in almost a month.

I will cook supper at home every night when I get my meals planned and the groceries bought. Okay, so I’ve done a little better at the cooking at home lately, although I can’t say it’s been well planned in advance or that groceries for more than a meal or two have been purchased. Oh, and we are going out to grab a sandwich tonight.

I will write a blog post when I have a wonderfully inspiring idea that I know my handful of readers will love and will want to share with the world. . .

Ah, shoot. Surely something is better than nothing. Just do it!

just do it

Post Navigation