Saturday, December 12, 2015

Get on Your Knees, As Ugly as They Are

I’ve been thinking about prayer lately and the different forms in which it manifests itself. It could be because I’ve been having talks with Little Bit about how to pray and it could be the season. It could be because my proverbial cup is (thankfully), blessedly, relatively empty right now when others around me seem to be having theirs overflowing.

It reminds me of something our pastor says from time to time:

“Folks, look around you. Right now, right here, there are three types of people and you all fit into one of these categories. You’ve either just emerged from a storm, you’re heading into a storm, or you’re smack dab in the middle of one right now.”

So true.

I’ve shared the ACTS model of prayer with my girl. It goes something like this:

A - Adoration (acknowledging God as the Creator of the Universe)
C - Confession (confessing our own sinfulness)
T - Thanksgiving (thanking God for His personal benefits to us:  forgiveness, family, material comforts)
S - Supplication (asking for what we need)

I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty good at that last one. I took John 15:16 and ran with it — “…whatever you ask in my name, the Father will give you.” Oh, the requests He must hear!

Please let it be good news.

I’ll never drink again.

Please don’t let my wife find out.

Please be with our country, our world, our leaders.

I know, through the years, some of mine have been doozies. I once prayed, as a child, for pretty knees. There, I said it. I’m vain AND crazy. The laugh that must have gotten in Heaven. “Hey, Peter, come here. Look at this one that just came in. ‘Pretty knees.’ Ha ha ha ha  Don’t they know that’s an oxymoron? He made those suckers ugly for a reason.”

I’ve sat on the side of a bathtub, just a handful of years apart, praying over this little idol with vastly differing prayers:

I’ve prayed, for the same person, to have healing and then just a peaceful departure.

Those of you who know my resume know I’ve prayed about keeping a job and about finding a new one.

And, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve of late sent up a prayer of thanks for all the ways I’m blessed and for my empty cup. It hasn’t always been empty and I know it will fill up again, but the promise we have is that He will be there with a towel when that happens. 

Now, friends, I beg of you. When you speak to a friend in need, for Goodness sake, please don’t quote me about God’s towel. That will be just as well received and helpful as telling them, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” or “If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger.” I don’t want to be mixed up in that business.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Story Time

If you know my Dad, you know he’s a story teller. If you’ve spent more than five minutes with my Daddy, you’ve heard a story. I’ve heard hundreds of his stories and some of them, I’ve heard a hundred times. But it’s OK, because I find them riveting and funny and touching. As he tells me these stories, he’s sharing a part of him. It’s not just living history, but it’s personal history. If I’m an extension of him, these stories are an extension of me. 

My favorites include:

  • There was the time he was in the Army and stationed in France in the early 1960s and he and some buddies decided to sneak into and hang out in an abandoned WWII French bunker, complete with rations, unexploded artillery, and some 20+ year-old smokes.

  • In our attic, among some of his belongings, is a beret belonging to a solider of the Armée de Terre (the French Army) in the early 1960s. He has explained that this was a souvenir from his time in France and has offered few details concerning a night of pub crawls, a drunken brawl between some American and French soldiers, a bridge, and some exchanged slurs. Politically correct? Nope. Badass? You betcha.

  • “The ‘Potato’ Story.” This story is infamous in our family. It involves a family we grew up with who had several children, all boys, all fairly close in age, and about as wild and mischievous as they come. The toilet was clogged and the Mom called the plumber, who proceeded to get to work on the pot with an audience of all of these boys. He says while working, “did you all flush something down here that you shouldn’t have?” One nodded and said something that made the plumber’s hair stand up on his neck. “Kitty.”  He went to the Mom and said, “m’am…do you…ahem…did you…have a cat?” Much to his relief, she replied, “no, we don’t have a cat.” Relieved, he returned to the job and finally retrieved the source of the clog. It was then that he uttered these now famous, if not off-color, words:  “it’s a G**-damned potato!”

  • The last one is about a neighbor I don’t remember and a dog I never knew and whose name Daddy doesn’t recall. For the sake of this retelling, we’re going to call the dog “Guvnah.” Across the street from the house in which I grew up lived a comely older divorcee named Cora. Now, we moved when I was nine years old and I only saw Cora a few times in those first nine years of my life, but when I think of her, I picture Anne Bancroft from The Graduate.  Cora apparently had a dog named Guvnah. Daddy came home from work one day and saw Guvnah lying in the road, struck dead. Doing the rational thing, he hid Guvnah in some bushes until Cora got home and he could break the news to her. Imagine his surprise when Cora answered his knock and there beside her stood Guvnah. Daddy then had to retrieve a dead dog from her bushes.

What I love maybe most about these stories is they give me insight and glimpses of the Dad I didn’t know. I’ve known him and am part, big or small, of the stories from the last 41 years of his life. It’s the stories from the first 32 years that he was here that interest me most. And I feel an obligation to protect these stories and pass them on.

You know, for hundreds and thousands of years, families’ and communities’ histories were passed down verbally. Your parents told stories that you then shared with your kids and those were living history lessons. Cavemen weren’t boring their kids with old home movies. “Look, kids, wanna see the trip your Mom and I took to the Tar Pits?” No, there was a long time back then when there were no physical mementos, no tangible souvenirs. We had only stories to remind us of where we’d been.

So, last week, Daddy told me this story, which I’d either forgotten or had never heard. As a bank branch manager, he was involved with the building of a new branch here in Nashville from the ground up. As the bulldozers were grading the lot, they ran into a grave. It held a simple, wooden coffin so old that it contained nothing. No creepy skeleton, no bones whatsoever, no clothes, nothing. This was not enough to derail construction and so it continued until they hit a second grave. It was then that the experts had to be called out. I’m sure there were representatives from historical societies, archaeologists, historians, forensic pathologists, and a whole host of people in hazmat suits with tiny brushes and magnifying glasses. After an intense examination of the property, they ruled that it was just the two graves, construction could continue, and that the bank merely needed to mark the two graves in some way. Since there was no way of knowing the deceased, a standard tombstone was not possible. Plus, that doesn’t really say, “come on in and open a checking account.” Instead, he explained that they put these two, small marble or granite markers in the ground to mark the spot of these two graves. Interest piqued and enthralled by this, he read my mind and said, “you want to go see them, don’t you.” Of course I did.  So we drove out there today.

As we pulled in, I asked, “does it look the same?” and he acknowledged that, despite the bank having a new name (probably one of countless in the last four decades) and the area around the bank having been over developed, the actual building and parking lot remained pretty much the same.

We got out of the car and he walked right to a small patch of grass in front of the building. And we looked. And we looked some more. And there were no little markers. We moved to another patch of grass. Nothing.

There was a bank employee out for a smoke break so he struck up a conversation with her, partly so they didn’t call the cops on us and partly to see if she happened to know about these two graves. He told her a short version of the story. She listened but offered no insight. And it occurred to me how fragile our history and our stories are. How many people are alive right now who know about these two graves. Four? Maybe five? And of these four or five, how many of them care, to be honest? I’ve found there are two types of people — the history buffs, such as myself. Those who thrive on the stories, the characters, the people, the lives. And then there’s the rest of the world. The “here and now” folks. The “are we really destined to repeat it if we don’t learn from it?” set.

And there you have it. My plea that you listen to stories when someone offers one. And that you share your own before they’re forgotten.

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11: Remembering Whitney

When I think about 9/11, I think of Whitney Houston. I’ll tell you why in a minute. No, I don’t have emotional incontinence or Pseudobulbar Affect (it’s a real thing…Danny Glover wouldn’t lie).  

What I have, thank God, is something 2,977 (at current count) were robbed of — I have my life. And I have a sense of humor. And I’m committed to live every day that I’m given - however many there are - doing my damnedest to be joyful and to get out there and live

And along the way, I want to sprinkle seeds of goodness. I want people who know me to know God’s love. I don’t feel the need to leave my mark here on Earth. If I leave my mark on a few people’s hearts and souls, then mission accomplished. If I’m given the chance, I will lighten the mood and I will make you smile. Because here’s the stark truth:  life is short. Whether you live to be 116 or you end 47 years here in a smoke-filled office building stairwell, you should be able to look back at whatever is behind you and feel like you did your best. You gave it your all. You worked hard, but you played hard, too. When someone reads your book, I hope it has all the elements:  romance, drama, action, comedy. My wish for you is that it is a real page-turner.

So, when someone like my sweet daughter, who was still three years from the beginning of her book, asks about my personal 9/11 experience, here’s what I share from that day 14 years ago.

It was a stunningly beautiful fall morning. Not a cloud in the breathtakingly blue sky. And for a short period of time, a small group of people thought we'd lost Whitney Houston.

Yes, there were the news reports and then the endless media coverage and speculation and reporting. There were the images forever imprinted in the minds of those of us who are old enough to remember….the planes, the smoke, the people waving and then jumping from the buildings, crumbling skyscrapers, the brave rescue workers, the sense of “what in the world is happening?” and the stunned numbness that followed.

We were huddled in a conference room at my office, all crowded around a small TV someone had brought in, but none of us really watching any longer. It was the afternoon and the emotional and physical toll had set in from being on edge all day, from going through motions but being frozen at the same time. A woman ran in and yelled, “did y’all hear?!” Oh no, we thought, and someone asked aloud, Has there been another plane

“No,” she answered. “Whitney Houston just died.” And even though Whitney had faded from the headlines and her stardom was fading, people were just on edge enough to take this alleged passing really hard. Someone broke out in tears, openly sobbing. Someone else, a man I remember, said in a loud, melodramatic tone, “what else is going to happen to us?!” It was all very surreal. For a few minutes, a group of eight or 10 of us sat there with, literally, the world going up in flames around us, but we were mourning someone who was not actually dead. Later that afternoon, a retraction was provided for us in that conference room when the woman said she’d misunderstood a news report and that Whitney was, in fact, alive and well.

This is why, when I think of 9/11, I chuckle to myself. Certainly I will not forget. I won’t forget the senseless tragedy of that day. The terror. The evil. I also won’t forget the acts of selfless heroism, the patriotism, and the goodness and kindness that emerged that day and the days that followed.

Your book is not over until it goes off to the giant printing press in the sky. So, no lame cop outs about “I wish I had” or “If I was younger or thinner.” You grab that pen and start writing. Do it for yourself. Do it for those 2,977 souls and their survivors whose stories were forever altered that day. Just do it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Scarred But Smarter

Drivin' n' Cryin's song "Scarred but Smarter" has a good line in it: "I think how foolish I must have looked/To think I could be down for good." It's true. We're all down at some point. But does that mean we're out? 

We had parent open house at school last night. It was long and tedious and overwhelming and I can only imagine how the teachers and staff who had been at school yesterday for 12+ hours felt. But I love our head of school and, in his opening comments as he welcomed us, he shared this anecdote. He said one year when he was at another school, he was speaking with a parent and made the comment that he wished he could walk behind every, single student every day and ensure that they had a perfect day. 

Later, as he reflected last night, he realized that this wasn't exactly true. He wanted his students to fall so that they could learn to get back up. He acknowledged he wanted kids to experience small failures as its in these challenges where character is built and shaped. As he spoke, it occurred to me how broken bones can actually make you stronger. How scars can make you prettier. 

I know first-hand that the sweetest victories I've experienced are ones that didn't come easily. Now, this is easy for me to tell you, adult-to-adult, but when I think about my sweet daughter, you better believe I want to walk behind her. I want to ensconce her in bubble wrap and walk ahead of her, looking for cracks in the sidewalk, bullies, and bees. I want to and would protect her from any and all assaults, injustices, and injuries (physical, emotional, and otherwise). Except I don't. 

I want her to fall (a little). I want her to trip. I want her to work hard and realize the disappointment when it's ultimately not hard enough. I want her to be betrayed (just a smidge). I want her to totally flub something up. I want her to wish for something. Pray for something. To want something really badly and then it not happen. I want her to learn and know the value of unanswered prayers. I want her to learn not just to get back up but to leap up and yell, "I'm OK!" 

I remember going on a big pitch with my boss one time. We'd worked tirelessly on this PowerPoint presentation, getting it just right. The right slides, in the right order, and the right length. We practiced. We rehearsed. It was locked and loaded. We got to the clients' place, got set up in their conference room, exchanged pleasantries and then got ready to wow them with this presentation. It didn't work. Something wasn't working. The computer wasn't talking to the projector or the projector wasn't talking to the screen. I don't know what happened but there was failure to launch. Houston, we have a problem. I was silently, inwardly panicking and I'm not a panicker. As my boss fiddled with cords and restarted computers and checked connections, I watched as the clients grew increasingly restless. There was sighing and shifting and a general "what's going on?"ness. 

After a minute or two, my boss said, "the best laid plans, right? Well, let's do this old school." And then she talked. She closed the lid of her laptop, she leaned across the table on her elbows in a way that said "let's do this" and drew them in. I watched as they subconsciously leaned into her, physically drawn in by the conversation. By the end, the deal was sealed. Hands were shaken and a contract was signed. Done. I was astounded. 

Life lesson learned: things don't always go as planned. You adapt. You keep your head about you. You have a "plan B" and you use it. 

So, the next time something doesn't go your way, look for the opportunity, the silver lining. And embrace it.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

I Love You Just the Way You Are (Kind of)

Billy Joel, 1977, "Just the Way You Are"

We're supposed to love our children unconditionally, right? But then, at the same time, we're supposed to mold them and make them the best possible versions of themselves. It's here where I am stuck.

I've exhausted myself and those around me by saying things to my sweet girl like, "try might like it." I might be talking about eating a green bean or climbing on monkey bars. For all of the wonderful qualities of my precious girl, "adventurer" is not one. She's a change-resistant creature of habit and she comes by it honest. If I find a dress I like, I buy one in every color and sometimes go back and buy a second of the same color for when the first one gets stained or worn out. I like to find restaurants who have something I enjoy and then I repeatedly go back to that same restaurant, order the exact same thing, and when the stars align, I get the same worker person who learns me and my order. That's the epicenter of my comfort zone.

This summer, I went on an adventure day with my Girl Scout Troop. We hiked and canoed and did archery and all kinds of fun, outdoor activities. The leader of the camp explained (to the girls, mostly) about the day's activities and how it was kind of up to each girl as to how far she went, how far she pushed herself, and she held her hands up to demonstrate comfort zones. Making a circle with her hands, fingers touching, she described this as your comfort zone. "Inside here," she explained, "are things you do all the time. You could do them with your eyes closed. You enjoy them or at least know how to do them." Then she pulled her fingers apart where the hands still formed a circle, but her fingers no longer touched. "Here," she went on, "is just outside of your comfort zone. This is a fun area. It's where you're a little scared but you're having fun learning something new. That's where we want to be today." Then she stretched her arms over her head and made a big circle and said, "now this is when you're really scared. This is when you're walking on a trail and you see a mountain lion." Oh crap. That's one of my slightly irrational fears -- death by large cat -- I wonder if I need to be worrying about that today? Wait, the woman's still talking. Focus.

If everyone else's comfort zone is the circle you make by making two half moons with your hands and connecting them, my girl's comfort zone is a ridge on a finger tip of just one of those fingers. She likes to explore and try new things, but it has to be under the exact right circumstances and on her own time.

I can remember when she was a toddler and we'd taken her to Chick-Fil-A or McDonalds.....some horrible petri dish filled with fried foods and germy play lands. The centerpiece of the play land was a giant, plastic climbing tower. She had the physical ability to crawl and climb - many tiny heart attacks at home involving a bookcase or wobbly stool attested to the fact - but we quickly found out her confidence wasn't as strong as her legs. As other kids whipped around her, some using her as a stepping stone, scrambling up the tower like spider monkeys, there our girl calmly sat on the first level, busying herself, content to climb and explore no further. "Good girl," we encouraged. "Now go to the next level. Can you do it?" "Can I do it?" Yes, probably. Will I? No. Not for another six months. Now, quit talking to me like a puppy.

Little did I know this was just a precursor. The most recent incident happened this weekend. Last week, we caught wind that, now that she's in middle school, she's eligible to run for student government. At first, there are just two positions -- president and something else. Later, they bring in the better known executive quartet comprised of president, VP, secretary and treasurer. To run, you have to fill out a form of intent, get a few teachers' blessings, have decent grades, get some of your friends to sign and declare their support of you, and give a speech in front of the entire school division.

Excited by this new school year and new opportunities, we asked her if she was going to run. It was met by a lukewarm response, at best. We've had lots of practice at this and have a whole arsenal of tactics. First up, the nonchalant approach. When that doesn't work, we try sharing an anecdote, a story from one of our own childhood experiences. Next, we appeal to common sense and reason. Then we get mad. We let our voice rise to a weird level and feel our faces get red. Finally, we're apologetic but pleading at the same time. I kept thinking, "if we give her time, she'll come around." Yeah, right. Exasperated, she finally said after my final attempt at coercion, "I just don't want to do it." 

And it was there that I was looking in a mirror. I saw a version of myself being pushed by my own parents, teachers and friends into a direction I didn't want to go. I felt my heels digging in. And I felt terrible. I felt terrible for pushing her. For not being supportive of her. For not only not protecting, but actually hurting her feelings. For making her feel small. For making her feel not good enough. For making her feel less. If God can accept us just the way we are, why can't I?

So, I backed off. I still don't know if I did the right thing. And, to be honest, most days, I'm just keeping it between the ditches parenting-wise. I've always said I just want her to be happy and healthy. Anything else is just icing on this cake of life. But I need to remind myself (a lot) that it's her who gets to decorate her cake. Whether she dumps a jar of sprinkles on the top and calls it a day or decides to go to France to study under a master pâtissier, I've gotta remember that it's ultimately up to her and I just need to be supportive.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Happy 11th Birthday, Calleigh

My Sweet Calleigh Bird,

Tomorrow, you turn 11. I'm not sure how this happened. It wasn't that long ago we were bringing you home, learning how to be parents, and now, we've crossed the half-way mark. You'll live with us for about eight more years and then you'll be gone. And honestly, a few of those precious eight years you won't be with us, making us laugh, drawing pictures at the kitchen table, and sharing your hopes and dreams. You'll be off with friends and out and about. So I kind of want to grab you as you walk by and pull you onto my lap and never let go. But that's creepy and impractical so I will soak you up. I'll sniff your hair when you're close. I'll stop whatever I'm doing to play a game. I'll listen intently as you tell me a story. And I'll will time to stop in its tracks or at least slow down.

As much as I begrudge time for constantly moving forward, I do cherish the ways you've grown and developed. You have a deep and impossibly convincing belief in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and, really, all Fae folk. Either your friends and the world have hardened your heart and you're just the best actress in the world, or you've chosen to believe. Either way, I think you've made the right choice.

Christmas 2014

I love that you love the ocean. And I remind you every time we're there that the sea can remind you of your place and heal a lot of hurts. It puts life in perspective and is a great medicine. And it's fun.


You've accepted that you can be both a tomboy and a girly girl. I hope you never feel you have to choose just one. Neither the aisles at Target nor the world can label this girl.


You write me notes. Sometimes they make me laugh:

And I've gotten more than one like this (you come by your anger and temper issues honestly. You can thank your Irish heritage.):

Know this:  I keep every one.

You believe in angels. It started when you were very young, maybe two or three years old. You'd just started talking and were obsessed with Disney Princesses. We were reading Cinderella and got to the last page where she gets married. You pointed to her dress excitedly and said, "angel!" I said somewhat bewildered "you think she looks like an angel?" And you answered, "no, Mommy, that's what the angels look like. They come in my room at night." Got chill bumps yet? Welcome to our world. Nowadays, you don't talk as much about the angels that way. I hope they haven't stopped coming to tell you good night. But I love that you appreciate them and fully believe and know that they walk our paths with us, guiding and protecting.

Calleigh: "Do you know who this is?"
Mommy: "An angel?"
C: "No. It's Grandmama." Angel indeed.

Although I miss my mother so very much and think of her every, single day, I see so much of her in you. In your dimple and sweet smile, in your random acts of kindness, oh, and your temper. She would be so proud of you and the young woman you're becoming.

So, baby girl, while you're unwrapping presents and blowing out candles, I'll be watching you intently. At once, I'll see a baby who was more interested in the cards than the gifts at her first birthday party, and I'll see a teenager running out the door saying over her shoulder, "see ya later...I'm going to meet some friends" and feeling the stab of the mother who whispers after the door closes, "but it's your birthday. I thought we'd..." I know how slowly time seems to pass when you're waiting to be 12 or 15 or 18 or 21. But I also know how quickly time can pass when you love someone so desperately, so completely. Let me take "just one more picture" and let me hug you and maybe even sneak in a quick head sniff.

August 27, 2004

Birdie, you make every day special, just by being in it. I love you.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Report 2015

"How I Spent My Summer"
by Valerie Eagan Mangrum
35th Grade

I had a good summer. It went really fast. Here are some highlights.

"Newsies" at TPAC, May 2015. Our school put on a production of this play earlier in the month, so we thought we'd check out the real version at TPAC right after school was out for summer. Turns out, it's pretty annoying. It's always fun to go to the theatre, though.

We enjoyed the pool and had many friends and family over.
Our main TV broke and, while waiting the couple of weeks it took to get the repair done, we reenacted this scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yes, we have several TVs from which to choose, but we found ourselves in bed most nights, all snuggled up together. No gold wrappers but plenty of  laughs and "scoot over's."

The TV wasn't the only thing to betray us. We also found ourselves without a dishwasher for a couple of weeks. Mommy was heard to say, "it's OK...people lived for centuries without such a convenience" and also, "I'm going to stab the next person who uses a real glass. There are plastic cups on the counter for a reason!"

We played summer ball. And got sports glasses. That we wore this one time. Take a good look as I doubt you'll ever see her wear them again.

We camped in Gatlinburg with friends. This picture was taken from the skylift tram on the way back down to Gatlinburg from Ober Gatlinburg. You can't see it so don't strain but, as we were passing over here, the conductor announced that there was a mama bear and some cubs just under us. That was neat, but I couldn't take my eyes off of this other spectacular sight.

Oh, Father's Day. For a good description of the difference between Mother's Day and Father's Day, watch one of The Middle's episodes on the topic: Never seen The Middle? Stop what you're doing right now and find it on Netflix. The gist:  Father's Day is a day when Dads get to rest, eat, get presents....kind of like Mother's Day without all of the screaming and cleaning.

Calleigh attended several summer camps, including the YMCA's Camp Widjiwagan. This was the last day of camp when parents are invited to come partake in some of the activities alongside their campers.
Calleigh and I were in a wreck on the interstate in downtown Nashville. It wasn't bad and there were no injuries. As if Nashville traffic isn't bad enough, there's always construction and lanes that narrow and merge with little or no warning. This picture was taken from the ending lane where an out-of-towner failed to merge and sideswiped us. I have educated my girl that, when in a wreck, regardless of who's at fault, the first words out of your mouth when you jump out of the car should be, "is everyone OK?" My first words when I got out? "Did you not see that you were supposed to merge back there?! Are you OK?" 
Calleigh and I spotted this in Walmart one day and it brought us joy and giggles throughout the summer.

We had playdates with friends, new and old. This one brought back so many memories of when they were young. Still ravenous. but young.

This is from a visit to Mammoth Cave. Want to make Calleigh laugh? Ask her, "what should you do when you kick someone?"

Mammoth Cave was just one trip. We went on many. Different places, but the same soundtrack:  "how much farther?" "Why do you have so many bags?" "What's that smell?"

This is from Fun Day with our Girl Scout Troop at one of the Girl Scout Camps here in Middle Tennessee. You wouldn't know it from the pretty shadows and dapples of sunshine in this pic, but a few hours later, we drove home in an EF-1 tornado. I learned what it means to "white knuckle it" and fully felt like this:

We practiced for our upcoming soccer season. Oh, not all summer. Just this once.

In preparation for 5th grade and entering Middle School, we attended the much-anticipated "Locker Decoration Day." Two words:  Pure chaos. And glitter.

On the rare occasion that my husband actually listens to me, he took my suggestion that he get a scooter to save on gas mileage to work and ran with it.

I kicked a homeless person out of my house. Not really. It was just my kid who went from one (extremely) regretful day when she asked, "can I sleep on the couch tonight?" and I said, "sure" to a week or so later when I said, "I don't care where you sleep tonight, but it's not in the living room. You have to go." 

There are these silly girls. Not only do dogs sleep in the same direction, but they also have a knack for plopping down right where you're walking, vaccuming, etc.
I went school uniform shopping with a bipolar person. "Get out of here!" "Where are you going? I need you to look at this?" "Don't look!"

A day at the paint your own pottery place + a Christmas orament + the question, "what do you think I should put on it?" My suggestion? "How about our names? Or, maybe a Bible verse?" The end product...the names of our Elf on the Shelf elves. So much for the reason for the season.

My sweet Daddy had cataract surgery. That makes him seem old, but he's not. It was a success by all accounts and measures and, for the first time in his life, at least the years he remembers, he's able to see without glasses. Hooray for the doctors and nurses who made this happen and the God who guided their hands.

Here's what he looks like now...give or take a few years.

We saw some movies. The good? Hmm, maybe Jurassic World? The bad and downright ugly? How long do you have? Tomorrowland, Inside Out, Paper Towns...

A visit to Huntsville to the Space Center was fun and educational. This was educational.

And this was fun. You know those "up/down" rides? They go up, then they fall, then they go up again. Well, this was the Granddaddy of them all. It was crazy high and you FLEW up as though you were strapped to the shuttle itself. Big fun.

One last electronic that failed me this summer was my trusty Macbook Pro. He bit the dust. A new one is on its way, but I've been without my own computer for most of the summer now. And you know what? Except for missing blogging and uploading pictures and occasionally catching up with you fools on Facebook, I didn't really miss it. I read. And spent time outside. And I even enjoyed my family from time to time.

All in all, it was a great summer break.