Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Country Time

Monday, on my way to a doctor’s appointment in Waco and in a hurry, I stopped off at the local jeweler to drop off three items to be repaired. As I entered the store, Mr. Haynes was speaking to a few local elderly gentlemen. One of them had just purchased a piece of jewelry for his wife. As they left, Mr. Haynes, with his magnifying jewelry goggles propped up on his forehead, greeted me.

Mr. Haynes is a gray-haired, twinkle-eyed man in his 70s, who went to school with my mother. With dirty-looking nails bit to the quick and a friendly demeanor, he listened to me describe the problem with my watch clasp. “It won’t stay closed”, I said and demonstrated how easily the watch clasp came undone. I pulled the other two jewelry pieces from my purse, but before I could tell him what was wrong with each of those, he replied with a smile, “Betcha thought you’d hafta buy a new watch, eh?” I exclaimed, “I’d better not! That watch was expensive!” I said. Next thing I know, Mr. Haynes disappeared with my watch into the backroom.

I looked at the clock. Oh dear, I thought to myself, I’m going to be cutting it close to make it to my appointment on time. But, just a few minutes later, Mr. Haynes returned to the front where I was waiting and said, “See if you can open that.” I took my watch from his hand and tugged at the clasp until it opened. “Perfect!” I said and slipped it on my wrist.

“Now,” I continued, “I have a necklace of my mother’s that has a link missing to hold the chain together.” However, before I could explain that I just wanted to leave it so I could get back on the road to Waco, Mr. Haynes disappeared again into the backroom. A few minutes passed before Mr. Haynes returned again with a big smile, setting the repaired necklace in front of me and said. “Okay, what’s next?” “Boy, you’re fast!” I commented, “This Omega watch needs fixing”, I replied.

Mr. Haynes put the Omega watch next to his ear and shook it. I could hear a faint rattle. “Sounds broke to me.” He smiled. “Sumthin’s loose in there”, he added. I laughed and said, “It’s the second hand. It keeps getting hung on the minute hand. My friend would just like it removed if it can’t be fixed.” I added, “The watch has already been fixed a few times and even sent to the Omega factory. He just wants the second hand removed.” Mr. Haynes repeated my instructions and then got out an envelope in which to place the watch.

“You’re gonna hafta leave this one with me. Can’t fix it right now”, Mr. Haynes said, “Unless you’ve got some time.” “No, no!” I exclaimed, “I’ve got to get to Waco by 11:00 A.M.” We both looked at the clock on the wall. It was 10:45 P.M. Saying what I was thinking, Mr. Haynes commented, “You’re not gonna make it.” He smiled a big toothy grin and turned back to the envelope. “Grayson Powell,” I said. “Hey,” Mr. Haynes said, “Are you any relation to the Powells in town?” “No,” I replied, “and I won’t be a Powell much longer, either.” Mr. Haynes went on to tell me a story of how he’s related to the Powells and I continued to watch the minutes tick away. But, his story was funny and he obviously enjoyed telling it. I asked Mr. Haynes how much I owed him for the two pieces he fixed. “Nothing,” he said. “Nothing?!” I said with surprise. “Well, thank you!”

He had a few more stories to tell me about some of my family members, and as much as I needed to leave, I realized that sometimes, the right thing to do is sit still and listen. I love to listen to people’s stories. Real life is so much funnier than fiction. I think my laughter is what compelled Mr. Haynes to continue talking. It was 10:55 A.M. I let the anxious thought of being late drift from my mind. And, then, as if God heard my thoughts, the telephone rang. Mr. Haynes picked up the phone and I waved as I walked out the door, laughing all the way.

Things move at a different pace here in this small Texas town. I find myself moving more at Life’s pace, rather than one I set for myself, and that’s the way it should be.

“It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen. Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is on a stroll. This is how God does things.” –Donald Miller

“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stop, Listen and Laugh, Y’all!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Rocky Road of Life

The Road of Life is really not fair. One of the blessings of my pending divorce is that I returned to Texas to live with my parents. Humbling as that may've been, I have had the opportunity to resolve those little girl grievances I had with my father, Max. My understanding of him has increased these past 10 months, as well as the love I feel for him, while I listened to him share about his childhood and his relationships with his parents. And now, Max seems to have gone and lost his mind…literally. He must have misplaced it somewhere, because his short-term memory is evaporating at an alarming rate, and each day there are new examples of confusion and errors of judgment. Just when you think you’re in for an easy stretch of road, a patch of troublesome gravel and hairpin turns appear out of nowhere!

We have a doctor’s appointment scheduled this week for Max. The diagnosis could be anything from Alzheimer’s disease to a clogged carotid artery. My mother and I began noticing signs of confusion, irritability and forgetfulness in my father toward the end of the summer. While on vacation in Idaho, Dad suffered a terrible fall, landing on his face and breaking some of the facial bones. This may be the event that triggered the change in Max’s behavior.

I discussed the matter with a doctor, who advised me to have my father checked out for a blockage in the carotid artery. When I mentioned the suggestion to Dad, he listened, but made excuses for his behavior. Separately, my mother urged my father several times to go to the doctor, but to no avail. Whether it was pride or fear or just plain ornery stubbornness, my father refused to get a checkup.

The consequences of that decision have now manifested in more severe memory loss. My father forgot how to write out a check, how to set the cruise control in the car, can’t find his hearing aides, can’t figure out how to turn on the television, doesn’t remember where he keeps his pajamas, etc. I thought this would be incredibly frustrating for him, knowing how scary and frustrating it’s been for my mother. Although I’ve talked to him about it, Dad does not sense that anything is really wrong, or at least, he’s not letting on if he does.

Max has been my rock - my strong, dependable father. He’s always been the most predictable person I know - boring and predictable. Now, he’s anything but predictable. We have no idea what to expect next. Hopefully, his diagnosis will include a remedy that will reverse the symptoms he’s displaying. But, if this is something more permanent, such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s, then I think this will be a very long, difficult trial for all of us.

Even amidst this difficulty, I prayed a prayer of gratitude last night. I thanked my Creator for this time I have had with my father, this time of healing in our relationship and the increasing empathy and understanding I have about who Max is and what his childhood was like. I am grateful for my earthly father, who has been such a good provider, and who does love me.

So, anybody out there seen a Mind laying around lately? You may’ve noticed it, because it’s not yours. It belongs to my dad. He seems to have misplaced it. If you do find it, please let me know. Dad’s really not the same without it.

"Of all the things I've lost, my mind I miss the most." --Mark Twain

Watch Out For Curves Up Ahead, Y'all!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Changing of the Guard

In an historical event, Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America was sworn into office. Although I did not vote for President Obama, I enjoyed the tone of his speech.

President Obama does have a optimistic desire to unite people of the United States, as well as those in the rest of the world. While I praise him for that sentiment, I will believe it when I see it. It takes an unusual person to lead and inspire others to change the way they behave and think. Change, of course, was the focus of President Obama’s campaign and in time, we will see if President Obama can fulfill his desire.

People do not change overnight. So often, when people speak of change, they are expecting others to do all the changing. Yet, we are powerless over others. I only have the power to change my own thoughts, behaviors, attitudes and words.

I have spent the past fifteen years making a concerted, painstaking effort to evaluate myself as a person, as the woman God created me to be, making adjustments and changes. As a result of these repetitive exercises, I am comfortable in my skin and happy with the woman I am today. Yet, I am far from perfect. Self-improvement is a lifelong effort.

Part of that effort has been trying to accept people as they are. That can be very difficult, especially when I feel others have wronged me. However, it’s not my job to assess punishment. I am tasked with forgiving others and accepting who they are today – imperfect children of God, who are proceeding at their own pace on this journey called Life.

President Obama has his work cut out for him. He has set the expectations high, and the people of the United States have generally become a society of entitlement, rather than one of industry and hard work. It will be interesting to see whether the people will sit back and expect the blessings to come to them, or whether they will be willing to make changes in their own lives to benefit the good of the country and to help each other progress towards prosperity and freedom. Time will show whether President Obama is able to motivate this country to do what is needed to become strong and stable again.

I hope you will join me in saying a prayer nightly for our new President Obama, that he will lead our country righteously.

On another note, I welcome President Bush back home to Texas. Many people I come in contact with supported President Bush like I did. I have no doubt that he will rest well tonight, knowing that the heavy burden of the office of President of the United States of America is no longer on his shoulders. I wish President and Mrs. Bush well in the years to come.

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And, wisdom to know the difference.

God, Please Bless America!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hurts So Good

For the past two weeks, I’ve been subjected to physical therapy for injuries I received during my automobile accident that occurred December 26th. The majority of pain resided in my neck and back. During my first visit, the physical therapist, Ray, said that although I wasn’t experiencing severe pain at the time, I would eventually become aware of residual effects of the accident. Instead, he should’ve just said, “No pain? We can fix that.”

Ray is a funny, Italian New Yorker, who migrated south to Austin in the late 1970’s. Short, quick-witted, rather disheveled, with nails bitten down to the quick, I fully expect to see Ray on a late night Taxi sitcom re-run. He would fit right in as a quirky character.

His assistants, Dee and Veronica, are the Mistresses of Pain, doling out the exercises prescribed by Ray and watching with gleeful smirks as I contort my neck and shoulders into the most ridiculous positions. The top of my left shoulder did not hurt until after I began physical therapy. Now, every time I get into my Dodge Durango and buckle up, the shoulder strap of the seatbelt feels like it’s bruising my shoulder. Coincidence? I think not.

Little 4-foot, 10-inch Veronica, who looks like a high school freshman in her sweats, beams her perfectly white, young smile at me, assuring me I am doing a good job, as I complain after each exercise. I’m particularly suspect as she prefaces certain exercises by saying, “Now, you may think this exercise makes you look stupid, but it’s great for strengthening the neck muscles.” There’s certainly no room for vanity in the physical therapy room.

Today, Veronica showed me a new exercise - The Wall Angel. Even the name sounds stupid, doesn’t it? With my back flat against the wall, knees slightly bent and feet planted about a foot or less away from the wall, I’m supposed to bend my arms at 90-degree angles from my body. Then, keeping my back, shoulders, head, arms and backs of my hands against the wall, I raise both arms until my fingertips meet. The way Veronica did it, the exercise looked quite easy, if not silly. But, after 15 repetitions, I was huffing and puffing, certainly not thinking angelic thoughts. I think they should just rename the exercise, Wall Torture.

Today, Ray examined me after my PT workout with Veronica. He seemed pleased with the range of motion I had in my neck, as I looked over my right shoulder and then my left. But, when he told me to tilt my left ear towards my left shoulder, my head was noticeably restricted. “This side is much tighter.” I commented. Ray asked, “Why do you think that is?” Now, this seems like an incredibly stupid question to ask. I felt like saying, “Good grief! You assign me all these stupid-looking, painful exercises to do, and now you want me to tell you how to do your job, too?!” But, being a spectacularly beautiful day outside and feeling in particularly good spirits, I squelched the voice of my evil twin, and replied, “Gee, I guess this side [pointing to the right side of my neck] of my neck is tight.” Ray clicked his pen and wrote that down on my chart.

Dee, the third party of Pain Professionals, Inc., my pet name for the clinic, is really a sweetheart. I shouldn’t complain about her. Using essential oil-infused lotion, she massaged my neck and shoulders last week until I didn’t hurt so much from the exercise. She does a much better job than Ray, but I guess today she was tied up with another patient. Last week, I asked where Dee had learned her skills, and surprising to me, she answered that she had taken a course at Austin Community College.

Maybe I should be a physical therapist or a PT’s assistant! Out of work for 10 months, perhaps a career field change is in order. I am great at massage, and I have no doubt I can mete out painful exercises to patients with the best of them. What a dream job!

Whether I have my inspiration for a new career or not, I do hope to have a pain-free neck and back in the next 6 weeks. The anticipation of this goal keeps me motivated to continue doing the stupid-looking, tortuous exercises at Pain Professionals, Inc.

“Pain: an uncomfortable frame of mind that may have a physical basis in something that is being done to the body, or may be purely mental, caused by the good fortune of others.” –Ambrose Bierce

“I don't accept the maxim 'there's no gain without pain', physical or emotional. I believe it is possible to develop and grow with joy rather than grief. However, when the pain comes my way, I try to get the most growth out of it.” –Alexa McLaughlin

Grow With Joy, Y’all!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cone Appetít!

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to the Baskin-Robbins with my father and sister for a Saturday treat. The afternoon that so vividly stands out in my mind is the day my father let us order banana splits. Oh, what a decadent delight! I must have been five or six years old.

I watched with great anticipation as the ice cream attendant peeled the banana and sliced it in half. Selecting which types of ice cream to use on my split was quite difficult, but I chose chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Being a chocoholic, even at such a young age, I elected to have chocolate syrup, rather than caramel or strawberry syrups, drizzled over scoops of ice cream. Next came the shaken can of whipped cream, which, when the funny top was pushed just right, emitted puffy clouds of luscious, sweet, white cream. And, for the finale, a red maraschino cherry on top.

My banana split was a work of art, yet I was fully prepared to demolish such a creation for the sake of sating my culinary desires. My taste buds watered as I plucked the cherry from atop my mountainous treat and popped it into my mouth, savoring the sweet, juicy fruit. I dug my spoon into the heaps of whipping cream and shoveled up a spoonful of chocolate-covered chocolate ice cream. It was only after several bites that I realized I hadn’t tasted any banana.

After a bite of the banana, covered in melted ice cream and chocolate syrup, I concluded that a banana is a banana and is not overly enhanced by the addition of ice cream or any other substance. I left the banana alone, focusing on the various flavors of ice cream in my bowl until I could eat no more. It was the first and last time I remember eating a banana split, a memory I will always treasure.

Last Friday, I offered to treat my nieces to an ice cream cone at Baskin-Robbins after school. Cassie, the youngest of the two, ran around the house excitedly and then jumped into my arms. Her older sister, Corinne, explained that Cassie “freaks out” over ice cream. I can totally relate, and that made me think of the old rhyme: “I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream!”

Just like when I was a child, we looked at each and every ice cream in the case. As I announced the name of each ice cream, we made yummy sounds: “Rocky Road”….”Mmmm!”…..”Very Berry Strawberry”…..”Yummm!”….”Mint Chocolate Chip”….”Ooooo!”. And then, I hit the jackpot. “Rainbow Sherbet”….”Oh! I want that one!” “Me, too!” I couldn’t believe they both wanted Rainbow Sherbet. I mean, why not try something new and different? But, these girls knew exactly what they wanted and would not be swayed. Their father later reminded me that at this age, it’s all about the colors.

I quickly discovered that the choice of cone was equally as important as the choice of ice cream. Corinne asked, “Aunt Grayson, can I have that chocolate cone with the sprinkles?” I looked on top of the display cases, where about six different types of cones were stacked. “Of course, sweetie”, I replied. Cassie followed suit, and so they both had a chocolate-coated sugar cone with sprinkles, filled with Rainbow Sherbet. I, on the other hand, had a large scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge in a chocolate-covered cake cone.

In my day, there were only two types of cones – cake or sugar. My mother had always preferred the sugar cone, so that’s what I usually ordered, too. Several years ago, the waffle cone appeared on the ice cream scene, stealing the show. Later, it was chocolate-dipped waffle cones. Then, chocolate-dipped waffle cones with sprinkles or nuts. Now, all the cones have added bells and whistles. Making a cone decision can be quite difficult, whether you are 4 or 40.

The price has changed quite a bit since the old days, too. Eight bucks for 3 single cones. Whew! Talk about inflation! As I pulled the $10 bill out of my purse, I couldn’t help but think how many gallons of ice cream I could buy (on sale) for $8.00. Oh well, I told myself, going out for an ice cream cone is an experience, no matter the cost.

Scream for Ice Cream, Y’all!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Defensive Driving

Yesterday, on my way back to the Double M Ranch in my 2000 Dodge Durango, I was on a country highway, driving 70 mph, when a small, black, unidentified creature caught my eye in the upper left corner of my windshield. Rather than keeping my attention on the road, I felt obsessed to find the interloper. Realizing that I wasn’t paying attention to my driving, but before I could pull off to the side of the road, the little, black intruder dropped down right in front of my eyes. My brain screamed out, “SPIDER!!!!!!!” I hit the steering wheel with my hand, not at all certain I had smashed the retched thing, and in a frenzy, pulled my car off the road.

I carefully eyed the steering wheel and column, and reluctantly looked down at my seat, praying the spider had not dropped down on me. There was no shoulder on the road, and I didn’t want to get out of the car. Yet, the thought of a spider anywhere on my person is enough to make me quake with the heebie jeebies for days. I didn’t see the varmint anywhere on me, so I opened my car door and leaned over to look under the steering column. No sign of him there, either. I looked down at the floorboard, concerned that he might be trying to crawl up my leg, but there was nothing.

At long last, I decided I either scared the spider into hiding or I smashed him into nano-sized smithereens, and shut my door. I started up the Durango and looked out the windshield. A blue extended cab Ford pick-up with three young men in it was pulling off across the road from me in the opposite direction. Ironic, I thought, that someone else would also need to pull off the road right out here in the middle of nowhere.

I pulled back onto the highway, and in my rear-view mirror, I noticed the blue truck making a U-turn back onto the road. It suddenly dawned on me that they had stopped to help me. That’s what people do out here. They stop and ask if you’re okay, if you need help. How embarrassing it would’ve been to explain that I was searching for a spider in my car!

I have a God List, which is a list of questions I’d like Heavenly Father to answer when I get to see Him. At the top of my list is why He needed to make spiders so ugly and scary and creepy! And, on another note, but also on the list, whose idea was the nasty red baboon bottom? Terrible idea….really!

"Our ego tells us we're the only ones that have any kind of feelings. We're the only ones with a relationship. We're the only ones with family. You know, I think that if you kill a spider, there is a relationship that you're ruining. There's a conversation going on outside with the other spiders, 'Did you hear about Chris?...Killed yeah...Sneaker. And now Stephanie has nine hundred babies to raise all alone. Well, she's got her legs full I'll tell you that right now. Chris was so kind, wouldn't hurt a fly. It's just been tough for them lately. They just lost their web last week. Those humans think they're so smart. Let them try shooting silk out of their butt and see what they can make.'"--Ellen DeGeneres

Watch Where You’re Goin’, Y’all!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Texas Tradition

Apparently, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day originated in the Southern United States and the sentiment of that tradition is captured by the saying, "Eat poor on New Year's Day, eat fat the rest of the year." A traditional Southern New Year's meal includes ham, corn bread, black-eyed peas and collard greens.

Both black-eyed peas and collard greens are considered especially lucky additions to the dinner table. Black-eyed peas are thought to bring wealth because they look like little coins, in addition to the fact that they swell when cooked -- a sure sign of prosperity. Collard greens are considered lucky because they are green, like money.

While I could eat my weight in collard greens, I don’t care for black-eyed peas at all. The bland, chalky pea was regularly served in my home growing up, and while I will eat these peas to be polite, I’d rather scratch the belly of a porcupine than make black-eyed peas my own personal New Year’s tradition.

However, I have discovered a new tradition I want to incorporate into my New Year’s Day celebration – Texas Belgian Waffles! A friend of mine recently bought a Texas-shaped waffle iron and made me a Texas Belgian Waffle to celebrate New Year’s Day. Now that’s a tradition I can stomach!

Another tradition many people participate in is making a New Year’s resolution. As a young woman, I tried making New Year’s resolutions, but I don’t recall ever achieving one of them. I live better one day at a time than planning out a list of major goals I want to accomplish in the course of a year. Besides, with my terrible memory, I quickly forget the resolutions I make. As for my New Year’s resolution, I think I’ll just try every day to be a good person.

Happy New Year’s Day, Y’all!