What A Wonderful World

The worship service took place in the shade, facing the lazy river and the multi-colored rock cliff behind it. The light breeze made the Texas evening heat bearable. So did the beautiful surroundings, both geographical and human.

We sat on the third of four rows. People we are very fond of but see only once a year filled the other seats. A group of them had just stood before us and delivered an energetic and moving reading of a portion of Genesis. They ranged from young children to the middle-aged to those long retired. We mix seamlessly here. It’s always magical.

To conclude the time together, the worship leader played a song to emphasize her message. As soon as the song began, the teens behind us began stirring.

“That’s from Shrek!” one said excitedly.

“No, it’s from Toy Story.”

“Madagascar.”

“No, I’m telling you – it’s Shrek.”

“Remember? It was playing while they floated in the boxes in the ocean.”

Their voices tumbled over each other, everyone talking at once but still hearing each other too. Jane and I looked at each other and smiled as the song continued on.

My husband turned his head to the side and stage whispered out of the corner of his mouth, “It’s from Louie Armstrong!” The kids all laughed and then settled down to listen. I closed my eyes to take it all in.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

The teens behind me were giggling. Just ever so softly. Not irreverently or disrespectfully, but they were obviously enjoying something. I opened my eyes to see what they were seeing. I didn’t see it right away but when the view collided with the words of the song, it didn’t matter. The images around me were so much better than those in my head.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you

And that’s when I saw him. One of the youngest members of the conference – a boy not quite school aged. A boy we had watched grow a little bigger over the last several years. He was running in giant, lazy, looping circles in the grassy space between us and the river. As he looped closer to the front row where his parents sat, he’d lift his arms out to his sides and dip toward them like a plane banking on a turn.

And then he’d be off again. Not in a hurry, not making a scene, just moving to the music. And it was beautiful.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

As the last notes faded away and the boy fell into his dad’s open arms, my husband summed up what had just happened.

“That was the most beautiful liturgical dance I’ve ever seen.”

And so it was.

The readers had practiced their lines several times and they did an outstanding job. But it was the carefree expression of the music delivered by a child that carried the day. Truly, you just need to leave room for the wonderful to happen and it will. The question is, will your eyes be open to see it?

Good Friend, Rough Ride

Sometimes life sucks.

Sometimes life sucks for a friend but you are there for them so they are able to keep their head just above the water.

But sometimes life starts sucking for you before they are able to swim on their own.

And then what?

I guess you tumble down the roaring rapids of life clinging to each other, each taking a turn rolling over to pull the other out of the water.

Each holding on to the other and hoping, hoping the water will calm soon and you can both climb out onto the shore. And stand there holding hands instead of clinging for dear life. And enjoy the sun and the view and look back at the raging river and know that you survived because you had each other.

Yes, sometimes I think it might happen like that. If you are blessed with a good friend.

Kids Ruin Everything

Kids ruin everything.

They ruin your mind. A wise woman advised me at my first baby shower to write down every cute thing they do because, “You think you will remember, but you won’t. Motherhood zaps your brain cells!”

She was right.

If you are a woman, they ruin your body. First they do it by distending your belly to such a degree that, especially if you have more than one or two, the skin simply gives up and sags. Then, if you breastfeed, they do it all over again to your breasts.

They also ruin your childhood memories or the things you love. You wouldn’t think they could, but they do. They do this either by just being present or by virtue of the increased “enlightenment” of the world in general since you were young.

When Jane was about two or three years old, one of my favorite songs came on the radio. One of those songs that I always sing along with at full volume if I’m in the car. Only there’s something about belting out “Hell is for children!” with my innocent, young sponge in the back seat that just struck me as wrong.

First I stopped singing. Then I turned down the volume. Then I changed the channel.

I knew Pat Benatar was singing about the evils of child abuse, but how could I explain that to my daughter if she asked? And would I want to? She ruined the song. For years, I’ve had to change the channel instead of sing along.

Movies fall victim too. I loved Real Genius when I was a kid. Loved it. I couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to see it. We finally sat down to watch it one evening and, at first, they loved it too.

But then the woman that desperately wants to sleep with a genius came into the picture. She started trying to seduce Mitch, the young protagonist. Jane turned on one of my favorite childhood movies. Now, whenever the movie comes up, she says, “Oh, you mean that one where the woman wanted to rape a boy?”

When I protest, she reminds me that an adult having sex with a teenager is rape. When I remind her that the woman was not successful in her seduction, she points out that Mitch did have sex with his girlfriend, who was 18. He was not. Rape, says Jane.

The most recent experience wasn’t even with one of my own children. It isn’t enough that my own children sully the things I enjoy in life – no, my friends’ kids have to get in on it too.

I was driving my boys and my oldest son’s best friend when The Police’s classic, “Every Breath You Take” came on. Another song I love to sing with, and so I began.

To my surprise, our young guest began to sing along with me. Well, almost. His version went something like this:

Every breath you take and every move you make

Every bond you break, every step you take,

I’ll be stalking you

I glared at him and kept singing.

So did he.

Every single day and every word you say

Every game you play, every night you stay,

I’ll be stalking you

I tried to laugh it off, but now he had me thinking about the lyrics differently…

Oh, can’t you see you belong to me

How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make, every vow you break

Every smile you fake, every claim you stake,

I’ll be stalking you

I couldn’t ignore it anymore. That beautiful, beautiful love song from my youth was now creepy. Really creepy. He was right. The song wasn’t about dedication and forlorn love. It was about stalking.

Crap! I loved that song. And a kid ruined it.

They don’t stop when they become adults either. My sister-in-law ruined her mother’s love of watching football. She absorbed all the information about concussion and injury and declared the sport too violent. She harangued her mother for supporting it and cheering on. No, not only should no one play the sport, but no one should watch it either.

With a certain sad resignation, my mother-in-law stopped watching her Broncos. And now they are going to the Super Bowl!

I’m telling you, kids ruin everything.

The Muffin Fairy

There are delicious banana nut muffins that magically appear on a table near the front of my work area nearly every week. They are always the same. About a dozen, sometimes more, moist, fresh, scrumptious muffins in a gallon Ziploc bag. They are never burnt, never under-cooked, never overfilled such that there’s a crusty muffin top to contend with. They are always perfect.

Nobody knows who brings them. I’ve never known and when I’ve asked around, the people I ask don’t know either. It’s a mystery. I know it’s not my boss because he wasn’t at work the most recent day they appeared. And I know it’s not me. I think I can reasonably assume it’s not any of the people I’ve asked… unless they are lying to me.

Whoever it is should really consider quitting their job as an engineer and opening a bakery instead. Or maybe their spouse makes them? Maybe the spouse already owns a bakery. Maybe we are getting gourmet muffins. And they must make a lot of them if the family actually lets them leave the house and come to work. Or are they made especially for us?

One of my co-workers stopped by my office. He was eating a muffin. I asked if he knew who brought them. He shrugged.

“The Muffin Fairy,” he said.

The Muffin Fairy. That explains it. I’ve never seen a fairy. And I’ve never seen the deliverer of the muffins. I’m pretty sure that none of my co-workers have seen a fairy. And I’m fairly certain none of them have seen the muffins get placed on the table. Fairies don’t like to be seen.

I think I’ll quit asking around. Fairies can be persnickety beings. I’d hate for this one to decide we were no longer worthy of these muffins.

Toe Ring Pondering

I’ve never quite “gotten” toe rings. I’ve owned a few. Probably still have them somewhere. I tried to wear them but it always felt unnatural. Maybe it’s because I have short, stubby toes. I don’t know.

At any rate, I always thought I understood the point. Like most jewelry, it was to look good. You wore them while barefoot or while wearing sandals. People couldn’t possibly wear them because they liked the way they felt, right? They didn’t wear some family heirloom toe ring everyday, right?

Now I’m not so sure. Now I’m wondering if some people wear them 24-7. And if they do, why?

It all started when I went to weigh in for a contest at work. The goal is to not gain weight over the holidays and I knew there was no point in me weighing in. My name would not be put in the drawing for the prize. But I went anyway.

Another lady came in right behind me. We took off our coats. And our sweaters. And our jewelry. And our badges. And anything else we could take off and still be decent. We were both wearing tall boots. We took those off too. And our socks – the scales required us to be barefoot.

I weighed first, cleaned the scales, and then began to redress. I glanced over at her feet. A lot of us don’t expect our feet to be seen much in the winter. This lady, however, had fabulously painted red toenails. And… to my surprise… a toe ring on the middle toe of her left foot. I looked again, thinking surely it was my imagination. But, nope. There it was.

Why is she wearing a toe ring inside her boot? I wondered. Do other people do this? Is this a thing? What’s the point?

I soon forgot about it when I got back to my desk. I didn’t think about it again until I got in the shower this morning. I looked down at my feet as the water washed over me and I thought of the woman’s toe ring.

Does she sleep with it on? Does she shower with it on? Is it like a wedding ring that never comes off? And why? How did she ever get used to wearing it?

Any ideas? (Besides that I’m neurotic and ponder totally useless things?)

When One Gets Too Proud…

Life has a way of humbling a person when they get a little too proud of themselves. Or, at least, it does me. Doesn’t seem to get through to the likes of Donald Trump, but that’s a different story.

I was feeling a bit smug – ok, a lot smug – when I pulled out of the local Wal-Mart parking lot at 6:21 Wednesday evening. I had just left my friends’ house a mere 14 minutes earlier. I had parked out in BFE because the entire town was at Wal-Mart. I had rushed in, navigated around the swarms of lollygagging shoppers, grabbed my jalapenos and evaporated milk, and bee-lined to the self-checkout, where only one person was waiting ahead of me. Score!

I thought about my imminent drive to family the next day and grabbed a box of Junior Mints so I wouldn’t have to stop anywhere. Then I remembered I was out of gum at work and quickly restocked. Then my eagle eye caught someone leaving a station that the less-attentive woman ahead of me had missed. I pointed it out to her and moved to the front of the line.

As soon as the next person left, I hurried to that station and displayed my check-out prowess, efficiently scanning each item and dropping it into the bag as I scanned the next. I grabbed that receipt and was probably out the door before the next person even noticed I was gone. Man, I was good!

Efficiency continued when I got home. I had three hours before bed and I was going to make the best of it. (My family was away from home so my time was all mine). I let the dog out of her crate, fed her, then hauled the laundry to the laundry room as she ate. Started the washer and then took the dog out to potty.

Back in the house, I started up Pandora and began making the super-easy but tasty Jalapeno Cheese Squares recipe I’d been given. I’d get it in the oven and then finish up some other tasks and pack.

That’s when I noticed that the 18-count carton of eggs only had one egg in it and I needed two. I was stunned. Defeated. All that efficiency!

I live outside the city limits. I don’t really know my neighbors. One couple won’t answer the door when I knock – I’ve tried too many times to try again. Plus, I’m pretty sure they think my dog attacked their dog and sent it to the emergency room. I’m not saying she wouldn’t try if given the opportunity; but that particular day, she hadn’t been out of the house.

The couple we did know moved out. The people who moved in, I don’t feel comfortable approaching. And the people at the end of the road have a sign that reads “We don’t call 911” and has guns on it. No way I’m going to their door after dark!

Guess it’s the convenience store around the corner. I loaded the dog up in the truck so she could have some fun and headed that way. Maybe I shouldn’t have already removed my bra for the day, now that I was going back into public. Oh, well. It’s just the convenience store.

Except they were out of eggs. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one with this problem.

Ten minutes later, I was standing in line at a grocery store even busier than Wal-Mart. I had picked a line that only had three people who each had only an item or two on the conveyor belt. Except the first person was in one of those motorized carts. The reason she only had a couple items on the conveyor belt was because she couldn’t easily reach the others.

An employee asked us all to back up and she then began filling the belt with all the items that I could now see in the basket and even riding alongside the woman’s feet. This was going to take awhile.

The next person in line had a runner. While we waited for the first woman in the scooter to check out, his runner kept returning with more items. They had a dozen by the time it was their turn. I grabbed another pack of gum.

My second trip to the place you never want to go the night before Thanksgiving had been exactly what you expect it to be. I had been given a gift the first time. And I thought it was all me. Don’t tempt fate! Karma bites!

Silence, Please!

keep-calm-and-silence-your-cell-phone-2

I went to see Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 with some friends yesterday. We enjoyed the movie, but I’m honestly not sure if there was more drama on the screen or in the seats. There were a dozen of us in the theater – maybe 20. We heard the usual warnings about silencing your cell phones and all but one actually did. With the exception of some occasional laughter and sharp intakes of air, it was silent.

Until the baby started crying. It started off relatively ignorable. OK, not really. But it was quiet enough that if you really focused on the screen, you could still hear the actors. The crying didn’t stop though so I thought for sure the person caring for this child would remove them from the theater.

Nah. The kid ratcheted it up a notch. Then two. Which is to be expected when a kid’s needs aren’t being met. I soon realized as the kid started talking loudly that the kid was not a baby but a young toddler. At a loud and violent PG-13 movie. Great.

The mom started whispering to the child. The child quieted for a bit. Then the child cried again. And then the spanking started. Which any idiot could have predicted was going to make the child cry harder. So no surprise to the rest of the movie-goers when the screams got louder than the whispering in the quiet, intense scene on the screen.

I heard the mom whisper various threats. You better quiet down. You need to behave or I’m going to spank you. Stop that. You need to stop right now. Other people were starting to mutter to each other. It was getting very hard to focus on the movie. I’m not confrontational, but several times I thought of calling out for her to take her child out. But like all the other well-behaved citizens, I just gritted my teeth.

At one point, we could hear muffled crying and my friend commented, “I think they are suffocating that poor baby.”

After the second round of spanking and wailing, though, a woman on my row had had enough. She stood up, turned around to face the back row, and called out, “Will you please take that baby out of here? No one in here wants to listen to her – or him – cry like that! We can’t hear the movie. You are being selfish. You need to take her out.”

The mom became immediately defensive and called back, “If you don’t want there to be noise in here, then why don’t you sit down? You’re making a bigger commotion!”

“Look! I’m sure other people in here feel the same way. They just aren’t saying anything. Please! Stop hurting that baby,” the first woman responded. “Stop spanking her!”

“Spanking?” The incredulous mom responded. “It’s not  spanking – it’s called discipline.”

Hmm… So when she threatened to spank the kid… she… misspoke?

It was getting ridiculous. Now I couldn’t hear the movie or focus on it. The two exchanged some more loud and angry barbs until the confronter sat back down and  apologized to us for causing a scene. While we all agreed with her assessment of the situation, I really just wanted her to shut up so I could hear Katniss.

The mom was beside herself. She began whispering desperately to the person next to her. Soon she was sobbing. I then heard a theater employee, who had apparently walked in, call out, “Please put away your phone.” I have no idea if she was talking to the sobbing mom or someone else, but the confronter took the opportunity to go explain the situation to the employee.

By then mom was outright crying herself. She and her seatmates, and the poor toddler who had been setup to fail by being brought to an inappropriate movie, began filing out. The mom’s cries lasted all the way out the door. Eventually the theater was quiet again and we finished the movie.

I thought about the (obviously) young mom afterwards. She hadn’t been willing to miss some of the movie to take the child out. She expected the child to behave at an age beyond her ability inside the theater. She had no consideration for the fact that the rest of us had an expectation of watching the movie without distraction. She was indignant that she was called out for her behavior. Ironically, she likely left feeling wronged.

I’m not sure what the best reaction is in a situation like that. Do you just sit quietly and politely ignore the rude and inconsiderate behavior (as most of us were doing)? Or do you call the person out (as the one brave woman did)? Should we have clapped to show our support for the woman? Or would that have just heaped more embarrassment on the mom? Do we have an obligation to point out inappropriate conduct to fellow citizens? Who gets to decide what’s inappropriate? Do we do more harm when we call people out or when we say nothing?

I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t know if there was more drama on screen or off. I certainly know which was more enjoyable. At least Katniss was fighting over something worthwhile.