Monday, May 31, 2010

Music and Art

Oftentimes when I am asked or feel called to sew a piece of artwork, I pick a song to represent that particular project. My classic favorite artist is Robin Mark. Maybe it is his voice, maybe the music and lyrics, or maybe the connection I feel to him since my family has met him twice now. Michael had the opportunity to play drums in two of his concerts the last two summers. There's something about seeing your husband rocking out on stage and singing along to Jesus music - children, friends, and parents at your side - with an Irishman as your guide. The memory alone wells up and overflows in my heart. Music stirs my soul, and I am going to make the assumption that it has the ability to stir most anybody's. My children jump around the house to the slightest hint of a beat. It is innate in us; it is strong and powerful and inspirational; it is motivating. And for me, it weaves visions I need to make the art that I am asked to make.

Please stay awhile, read, and enjoy my playlist. It's varied - some spiritual, some fun, some memorable of stages in life!

Travel Bag for Simon of Cyrene

The bag itself holds rocks, and was originally set at the base of a cross. There's lots of meaning here. Simon had to set down his own priorities for the day to help Christ carry the cross. For us, when looking at a bag loaded with rocks, we would be crazy to go and take on that burden. We would be crazy to pick up Simon's bag and follow in his example...unless you look inside. Written on the rocks are verses from the bible. God's words, God's power are contained in that bag. Others have written blessings on rocks and added them to the bag. Accepting the bag is not a burden after all. The strap looped around the bag is actually three strands of white gauze fabric braided and tied into an Anglican rosary. The gauze is white for purity and braided to represent the three pieces of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The red knots represent fruits of the Spirit - love, peace, joy, kindness, self control, gentleness, patience, faithfulness, and goodness.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Insecurities - I have had a lot of those lately. My life is in transition. All around me events are whirring and I don't always know which way to turn, to look, to go. The bible study I have attended for two years ended. I was using it as a buffer so as not to get involved in other activities. While the study has been a deep blessing, I have also used it as an excuse not to try other things or make friends in other places, and now it is done. My older child is going through his own transitions and needs guidance, love, and stability. My husband is working through internal questions of his own. Friends that I cherish are moving, others have rejoined the workforce and aren't calling nearly so often, and other friendships are changing. None of these transitions are wrong or negative, yet when they all get thrown together they make me very nervous. Truth be told, the changes have the potential to be wonderful in many ways. I have a stable set of Godly women as a support system while I venture out to connect with new women. Friendships are maturing, and there are opportunities to serve old friends as they go through their own life changes. My husband can consider new directions in career and calling that would draw him closer to God and to his true self. Many wonderful blessings are born out of transition. Yet I start to question my footing and then my support system and then all the other insecurities I've developed over my lifetime start pushing to the front of my mind. They start interrupting my day.

And this is when I remind myself that the world does not revolve around me. Thank God. I mean it. Thank you Lord. This is the part where I remember I am not that great, but I am loved. And then I calm down, and I notice the beautiful four year old boy playing next to me. And all those insecurities scurry back into the darkness while my blessings shine forth. My day can once again resume. Grace can replace fear of rejection. Love can laugh in the face of judgment. Those insecurities will come back; they are still there. To reference C.S. Lewis, they are a few of the rats in my cellar. And the cleaning of a cellar takes time... But in the meantime, my four year old and I are singing....

Let your light shine!! Whoa, Whoa!! Let your light shine!! (VBS song)

and in the car, thanks to my friend, Melanie W.

Garbage in, Garbage out, What goes in is found out... (Christian cd)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Explaining Jesus

Have you heard of Jesus? If you have heard of him, have you ever met someone who genuinely has not? For those that may stumble across this blog, let me explain that I live in the south. The south eastern section of the United States is stereotyped as the "bible belt". I grew up around the buckle. Right now I am raising my family in one of the thickest sections where the tongue overlaps. So, as my priest pointed out in one of his sermons, you could tackle a thief carrying a gun and running from a jewelry heist, ask him if he knows about Jesus, and he could tell you who his pastor is on Sundays. "Church" is a way of life down south. Lots of southerners don't actually attend, but from our blue laws to our little league scheduling, church is most always considered. Which is why I have been taken off guard to meet more than one family lately that genuinely does not know anything about Jesus. I'm talking no preconceived ideas other than what one may take away from American movies. That's it.

Guess what. So far I have been the one explaining Jesus to my friends. This is a unique position for me. Though I grew up in the south, I also grew up Episcopalian, and evangelizing was almost a sin. Which is why explaining Jesus is odd to me. It feels like I'm being evangelical. What I'm learning is that most people are interested in religion. Humans want to know about different spiritual beliefs. Another Sunday school teacher said that and it stuck. So when I meet families from other cultures that ask me about Jesus, it is okay for me to answer them. And what I mean by answer is a real response that isn't watered down with rationalizing and prefaces to statements - just simple, sweet, and honest. It's even okay to say, "I believe..." Most others won't laugh or poke fun; they are actually curious. I realize some people do this all the time. For me, it's a new thing. Not the beliefs parts - the talking out loud parts without all the prefaces. It's a bit intimidating putting yourself out there; but now that I have dipped my toes in the process, it's not so bad.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Wedding Dress Project - Update

Robinella and the CC Stringband played. We all took turns spinning to the music. Flowers stood literally ten feet in the air... and the view! Walls of windows overlooking the river. Huge three story ceilings with artwork strikingly hung just so along the walls. The cake - a basketweave, of course. It was in back then. And,seriously, did I mention the flowers? Not just ten feet tall, but exotic at that, all brightly colored and dramatic in their beauty. And me in my dress. And Michael in his tux. And all our family. Together for that one moment to celebrate the vows we had just taken. All there to enthusiastically send us on our way. It was memorable, and it was only the beginning...

Almost nine years ago Michael and I got married and started our life together. It has been one heck of a ride. I wouldn't wish a marriage on anyone unless they wanted it with all their heart, and I wouldn't trade mine for anything in the world.

That said, I am sharing all of this with you, because these past couple of months I have been feeling incredibly blessed. I have been helping collect these wedding dresses for The Wedding Dress Project, and I cannot tell you how much love I have felt poured out from people in the response we have gotten. Just to let y'all know, to date, we have received around 50 dresses. Cookie originally said she prayed we could get 20 wedding dresses. God more than doubled our goal, and through you, provided not just wedding dresses, but bridesmaid dresses as well. Bishop Sendagaya and his wife, Dorothy, are so pleased with the response that we are figuring out how to start collecting dresses to start other businesses in other dioceses of Rwanda. The child survivors of the genocide in the Kibungo Diocese, and possibly in other parts of Rwanda, will have wedding attire for their day, for the celebration of their marriage and their life together. I just can't wait to see the pictures! Can you?

Cookie leaves in 9 days!! I will keep all of you posted on any progress...

And just so you know, since we are now expanding this ministry, we will continue to accept dresses. We will send them over as people travel back and forth between our two countries. Thank you for all of your donations and for your thoughts and prayers!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Additional motherly tidbits

1. When I was a teenager, I got caught reeking of cigarettes. Of course my parents did not approve. Their responses, individually:

Mom: I am going to tell you what my mother told me (so from my grandmother) - You're a young woman over the age of eighteen in the south; You have the prerogative to make your own decisions. Notice that she didn't say she agreed with my decisions!

Dad: While we are all sitting in the den having family discussions on various topics, "You know I don't believe anyone who smokes deserves health insurance."

2. "Now, Patrish, I am not saying that you HAVE to do ________; just remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But it's up to you. "

3. After I would spend what I considered to be good quality time ironing, I would get dressed, walk to the kitchen, and my mother would almost always ask, "Do you want me to iron that? It's awfully wrinkled."

4. (A childhood favorite that I use on my own kids..) "I will be happy to take you to ________, I just have to make one stop on the way".....five stops later....

And one I actually did use once or twice, "You can always call us if you get in a situation (teenage party) and don't feel safe getting home." They honored that one, and I did not get yelled at; just tortured with chores and very noisy pots and pans. For that, I can only say thank you!

Our church had a Boar's Head Festival every year, and I danced in it. One year I didn't want to participate, so I declared I had decided to be agnostic. My parents agreed that I could be agnostic, but I was still dancing in the festival. Since it didn't benefit me to be agnostic, I decided to stay Christian instead.

"It's our duty to raise you to eighteen, and after that, pray we taught you to make good decsions."

Hope you enjoyed. These were just a few more little memories I thought some of you might have fun reading!

Strength in Parenting

When strangers look at my mom, I wonder if the words that come to them include strength. Possibly not. She walks slowly, anxiously, with a look of confusion often written on her face. A person could probably tell she is, at times, uncomfortable in her own skin. She does not fit a physical definition of strength. Yet I have to guess in God's eyes she is the shining example.

My mom lost her memory almost seven years ago. It happened the day before my oldest son's first birthday, and my good ole parental units were visiting their precious youngest (me) and their newest grandchild (Key) on his very special day. My mom had been experiencing anxiety for a few weeks and had even gone to the emergency room fearing a heart attack. It had, in fact, been a panic attack. After they arrived, she went to go take a nap. When she woke up, she didn't know where she was. My dad found her, terrified, in the bedroom. We went to the emergency room, we scheduled tests, we canceled Key's party. I called my sister, who then called my brothers. Key, my parents, and I met my sis, Carol, in TN. And so was the beginning of the last seven years. In this time, my mom has suffered the initial significant memory loss, two hospitalizations for dehydration caused by ulcerative colitis, a heart attack, numerous ugly bruises from falls, anxiety, treatment for depression, and continued loss of memory. Other than the physical symptoms for the medical conditions mentioned, the doctors cannot find the ultimate cause of her progressing dementia. They can't call it Alzheimer's , because they gave her an IQ test in the midst of all this, and the woman scored a 140. Yes, a 140 - in the middle of bouts of dementia. That's the quick history of her recent past. Now, let's think about the reality of all this. What does dehydration do? It makes you confused. She was already confused before the dehydration, so she was extremely confused when all of it was combined. And ulcerative colitis is just yucky; it is not very easy to feel dignified with that disease. But my mom is a survivor. She survived it twice. She then survived a heart attack and she's still going. She still gets up every day and goes to bed every night. She goes to ride in the car and to church on Sundays. She wants to crawl into bed and not get out. Who can blame her? Yet she chooses each morning to trust my Dad. And he trusts God. It can't be easy, but together they do it. Day in. Day out. It's truly inside out beautiful. Their love is one people envy even when just looking in from a distance. I know because I see it and I hear about it from others every time I go home. It's an example in how to love a spouse. In how to trust in God. In how to get up even when you don't want to. My mom - she's one strong lady. Together my parents are one darn strong example in how to embrace life. It may not have been what they planned, but they don't give up. Her journey, their journey, has been a gorgeous and tangible example to their children in how to grow up. In how to live in faith and trust. Even when all of us children have moved away, when we have all embarked on our own marriages and our own spiritual journeys, my parents continue to parent by the example they set for each of us. Day in. Day out. It's their lifetime of days. And it is powerful and strong and real. One day at a time.

So to my mom, and to both of my parents, I love you.

Happy Mother's Day. May, 2010.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cox's Bazaar

My mom owned a gift shop for 25 years called Cox's Bazaar. It sold lots of cards, gifts, collectibles, and it was THE place for invitations in town. Big party, graduation, wedding, birth, baptism? Everyone in town went through Cox's Bazaar for something. It was also in a large way my childhood playground. I was born quite a bit later than my siblings. I like to call myself my parents' special surprise. I was late enough in their lives that my mom had switched her mode of thinking from how can I raise my children to what comes next? What came next for her was a business AND another child to raise. Rather than give up her opportunity to do something outside the home, she brought me up alongside her. I spent many afternoons terrorizing the ladies of the Hallmark shop by running up and down the aisles, reading all the cards in the funny section and scavenging for snacks from the store room. And the store room - it was one big dusty jungle gym. Boxes were stacked into rows and my mom literally had to climb over rows to get to her desk in the back of the room. I would sit on boxes while I ate my snacks, or I would sit at a table in the back of the actual store and look at wedding invitations. That was one of my favorite activities. Wedding invitations were displayed in GIANT books with big thick pages. I would pick out my favorites, and I would decide how I would word it just right. My mom was also a prime source in town for manners and etiquette. She had books on all the ways of appropriateness as well. As I grew older, my best friend, her younger sister(also my friend), and I worked at Cox's. My sister put in hours there as well. I have to say the McClanahan girls were much more appreciative and responsible employees than I was.

So many of life's little and yet incredibly important lessons were taught to me by my mother and by the women who worked there. Together they all helped to raise me and instill in me values I hold dear today. I had a group of women doting and loving and correcting me when I got stubborn or bossy or just plain out of line. I could have spent a lot more time in daycare or the women could have just treated me as the boss's kid, but neither of those things happened. And for this little girl, the love my mom showed me by including me in her busy life and the life of Cox's Bazaar meant the world.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Afternoon snacks

My mom has a sweet tooth. A big one. And I am her fifth child. Which meant that by the time I came along, she got to have fun with me rather than fret over my every move. She was a more relaxed mom than the ones my friends had. Therefore, I got stuff other kids didn't. While other kids went home to carrot sticks and fresh fruit, we went to the mini mart. My mom allowed each of us (her and me) to pick out one drink and one candy bar every afternoon after school. She would get a Diet Coke and a Mr. Goodbar. I would get a Sprite and Reese's cups or a Mr. Goodbar or a Payday. I had a list of favorites. My dad must have thought this was a delicious idea, because he got a Snickers out of the vending machine at work every afternoon. He told us so. Eventually my dad's candy bar habit caught up to him when his doctor told him his cholesterol and blood pressure were less than ideal. He started eating more salad and skipping the candy bars. My MOM, though, was born with good genetics when it comes to cholesterol, so our daily ritual remained safe for years to come. On weekends, I could ride my bike down the this same mini mart for hot dog lunches, as long as I brought back enough for the family. Nowadays, there aren't many mini marts with a grill directly behind the cash register, and nutritionists deeply frown upon candy bar snacks every afternoon. But the truth is, it was a special little thing just between Mom and me. And I still smile while thinking of her every time I see a Mr. Goodbar.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Armpit of South Carolina

Lovely title for my entry, I realize. I figure I have earned a certain right to call Columbia names since I have been here awhile. I also profess to love this town, so it is with love that I call it an armpit. But really, this week is about my mom, so let me get on with it.

When I was growing up, each summer my family rented an old clapboard beach house with sandy floors and ceiling fans in every room. The house changed each year, but it was usually on the beach with nice breezes, it never had air conditioning, and it was almost always at North Myrtle Beach. There were no hotels at the time - just old houses. In order to get to North Myrtle Beach from Maryville, TN we had to drive over the river and through the woods to SC, eventually going through Columbia and then on to the beach. Our family car was a big green Buick with bench seats and premium vinyl upholstery. The other siblings and I drew imaginary lines down the back seat and I asked "How much longer?" the whole way there. My favorite spot in the family car was in front between my parents, and if I got tired, I would lie down with my head in my dad's lap and my feet in my mom's. Great stuff. Except when we were driving through one of the hottest, humid, energy zapping areas in the whole world. Air came to Columbia and got so tired of blowing it just stopped and took a nap. It still does this every July through September. It was and is stifling in Columbia in the summer. And this is where our family car overheated one year. The fix - turn on the heater at full blast to pull heat away from the engine. The entire family was sweaty, sticky, and literally stuck to the vinyl in the big green Buick. The temperature outside was well over 100 degrees. It was memorable, that's for sure. We all remember that trip. That memory is why when I heard Columbia referred to as the armpit of SC, it stuck with me. What I don't remember is my mom ever complaining. Me, oh definitely. But my mom is a trooper - she always has been. It's one of many qualities in her that I admire.

To Mom and Dad - Thank you for all those vacations. They are still treasured; even the hot parts!

Saturday, May 1, 2010


To start off all the things that I have to be thankful to my momma for, I will share a family recipe. We've all eaten these cookies (school cafeterias make sheets of this stuff, but my mom's is better), and all women in my family have it memorized. These cookies make me think of my childhood, my mom in the kitchen, and me getting to scrape the bowl. Yumm!!! I also distinctly remember my brother and me shoving as many in our mouths at one time to make sure we got more than the other. He's twelve years older - he always won. EXCEPT when I screamed, "MOM, John's eating all the cookies and not sharing!!! Come quick!!!"

Okay, so I did win sometimes, after all.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Drops

Bring to a boil:

1 stick butter (there is no substituting; cookies will not harden with a substitute)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk

Remove from heat. Stir in:

3 tablespoons cocoa
2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter (needs the crunchy)
2 1/4 cups quick one minute oatmeal

Drop by teaspoonful on waxed paper.

They take about 30 minutes to harden. Lift sections of wax paper off the counter and peel them off the paper one at a time. A very humid environment can mess this up and they may take a little longer to harden. I grew up in TN, which I thought was humid, until I moved to the armpit of SC, which I discovered is way more humid! If you accidentally use margarine in TN, you MIGHT be okay. If you accidentally use margarine in SC, the cookies take more than a day to harden. (And by the way, I truly love living in Columbia, but I have other family memories to explain my nickname for the place.)

Or just forget about dropping them and letting them harden and eat the whole pot of ooey gooey deliciousness. Just make sure you share with your kids. It's tradition that the kids get to scrape the pot - it makes memories!

To be continued...