Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Romance On Aisle Four?

Ok ya'll. This is just a random thing that happened to me on Sunday, and it cracked me up.

I was at HEB (what I affectionately refer to as The Heeb) doing a MAJOR grocery run. Dad and I had run out of everything at the house all at the same time (How does that always happen? Do the assorted meats, fruits, and vegetables conspire in the fridge? And do they get the toilet paper and the laundry detergent and the Pine-Sol involved as well?). Anyway, I knew I'd be at the store for quite a while, so I had carved out a good hour or so to ensure that every single item got crossed off of my considerably long list.

I was about one-fourth of the way through, and the next item on my list was peanut butter. As I entered the aisle, I noticed a couple standing arm in arm right in front of the peanut butter. They were actually sort of cuddling - one might even say snuggling - in front of the peanut butter, and were talking to one another quietly. They were blocking the whole peanut butter section, but since I assumed they'd be there just a few more seconds, I decided to wait. I stood there as quietly and unobtrusively as possible, not wanting to rush them. I didn't want to eavesdrop, but they were speaking loudly enough that I realized that they were having an in-depth discussion about what kind of peanut butter they should buy.

A little odd, but I thought, "Well, maybe they need a particular type of peanut butter for a dessert they're going to bake." So I continued to wait. This went on for another 60 seconds or so, and at this point I was starting to get a little baffled. I stood there thinking, "Ok, you've got smooth, crunchy, extra crunchy, organic, or non-organic. Let's wrap this up people." But they continued to mull over this decision with intense deliberation. "Maybe they're with the UN," I thought. But actually, nations have gone to war with less contemplation than this.

Now, you may be wondering why I didn't just move on and come back to the peanut butter later. Well, because, I was quite frankly intrigued at this point. How could such a decision possibly be taking this long? You also may be wondering why I didn't just edge my way in, grab me a jar of Jif, and be on my way. Well, you just gotta believe me when I say that there was simply no getting around them. Their souls had truly become one, right there in the peanut butter aisle. I could have crawled on my belly between their feet, or parachuted down from the ceiling, and I still would not have gotten access to the PB.

So I decided to use this time wisely and go over my list to see what I had left to buy, where I needed to head next, etc. Then all of the sudden, I heard the unmistakable sound...of kissing.

Nuh-uh. No. No they're not.

But sure enough, I raised my head from my list, and there they were, still planted squarely in front of the peanut butter, and making out like a couple of college freshman. "Mugging down", as we called it in my day. Ok, this is Saturday Night Live. Or maybe I'm on Candid Camera. No...that show was cancelled 20 years ago. Maybe I am getting Punk'd by Ashton Kutcher. No...he doesn't know me. This is for real.

I wasn't sure whether to feel irritated or jealous, but I did know that I was closerthanthis to telling them to go get a room. Finally, they broke their passionate embrace and walked away, completely oblivious to my presence.

I grabbed my Jif, and shook my head as if to say, "What just happened here?" I started to think that the only thing that would have perfected this moment would have been if "Lost In Love" by Air Supply had started playing overhead on the HEB elevator music radio. Or maybe "Open Arms" by Journey.

It certainly would have set the mood for romance on Aisle Four that day.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

An Evening of Grief, Then Comic Relief

As mentioned in my previous post, I just returned from vacation with my family. The main purpose of this trip was to fulfill our late mother's wish to have a portion of her ashes spread over South Padre Island. This was the only wish that Mom was ever specific about, so it has been exceedingly important to us to make sure that it was fulfilled.

On Friday, June 29th, right at dusk, we walked down to the beach to return our mother to a place that she loved so very, very much - a place that, for years, brought much peace, relaxation, and joy to her very hectic life. I'll say here that I and my entire family believe in eternal life, and believe that our mother now resides in Heaven. We know that only her physical remains are in those ashes. However, as we have discovered many times since her death, these types of rituals and ceremonies done in our mother's memory bring us much peace, and we feel certain that they are gestures that would make Mom really happy.

The night was mercifully cool and breezy. All 14 of us walked together along the beach to the Sunchase Condominiums, the resort at which we had always stayed as a family in the 80's and 90's. Every corner of that property holds a precious memory for all of us, so to have our ceremony on Sunchase's beach felt totally perfect. When we arrived, the sun had just set and the moon had risen above the ocean, its light illuminating the dark water. It was absolutely gorgeous.

We had decided to spread her ashes right on the shoreline. Mom liked to occasionally go out into the waves, but more than anything, she loved to just sit in the sunshine along the shoreline, letting the water gently lap up against her. From this vantage, she was able to keep watch over all of us as we ran around, built sand castles, and rode the waves. These times were pure bliss for her.

We first joined hands in a circle, and I led the family in prayer, thanking God for the gift of this extraordinary woman. I further prayed that God would give us the strength to continue to live out Mom's legacy of love, kindness, and selflessness. Following the prayer, my siblings and I took turns, each of us pouring a portion of the ashes into the wind, which gently carried them into the ocean. It was sad, but it was perfect. And best of all, it was exactly what Mom wanted. Following the ceremony, we stood around for a while, many of us crying or simply standing in silence.

And then it happened.

We had noticed when we first came down to the beach that there were some mosquitos, but they were really nothing more than a minor nuisance at that point. But by the time we had finished our ceremony, the mosquitos began to attack us in full force. And ya'll, they were huge. I mean HUGE. They looked like tarantulas. And they were downright Hitchcockian in quantity. You would look down, and there would be ten of them on your arm and twelve of them on your leg. We had to make a run for it.

The mothers with little ones took off first, followed quickly by the rest of us. We were basically having to haul tail back to the hotel, sprinting in all different directions to escape the onslaught of these blood-sucking insects. My uber-athlete sister Julie even began running serpentine and screaming at the top of her lungs, "BOB AND WEAVE! BOB AND WEAVE!"

We couldn't help but crack up. I was absolutely HOWLING. What had happened to our peaceful evening? Mere moments ago we were having this beautiful and reverent ceremony in memory of one of the lovliest creatures who ever walked this earth! Now, suddenly, we were scattered about the beach like maniacs, trying to escape the most vile creatures we'd ever seen.

By the time we reached the hotel, we were exhausted and bewildered. On the one hand, we were a little frustrated that our time on the beach had been cut short. But then we thought, well, Mom would not have wanted us to stand out there crying all night. Indeed, the last thing she would have wanted was for things to get too maudlin. "Honestly, quit fussing over me," she would have said, "You've fulfilled my wishes, now go have fun together!"

And that we did. We returned to our hotel room, hung out together, laughed together, counted our mosquito bites, and of course, passed around the Campho-Phenique.

Never a dull moment.


"I'm So Excited I Can't Sleep"

I just returned from a weeklong vacation to South Padre Island with my entire family - my siblings, their three spouses and one fiance, and my three nieces and two nephews. In the days leading up to this trip, my sister Brooke and my brother Mark both shared with me - independent of one another - that their kids were so excited about the upcoming trip that they were actually having trouble sleeping.

Brooke's children Rachel (8) and Christopher (4) were fighting their bedtime every night, and in general were, in my sister's words, "pinging off the walls" because they were so excited to be going to the beach to see their cousins. The night before the trip, my brother Mark's son Camden (2) lay awake in his crib for a full hour after being put to bed, talking to himself about how excited he was about going to "the ocean."

The morning after our first night in Padre, I awoke early to find Rachel already wide awake in her bed. Knowing she had been up late the night before, I said, "Sweetie, you need to try to sleep a little longer." She looked right at me and said, "I'm so excited I can't sleep."

This all got me to thinking: When was the last time that I was so excited about something that I literally couldn't sleep? Or, more specifically, when was the last time that I allowed myself to feel such excitement?

Of course I understand that, as adults, we cannot think and feel the same way that we did as children. After all, our adult lives are fraught with all manner of pressures and responsibilities. Newsreels and headlines inform us 24 hours a day of the violence, poverty, war, famine and injustice that plagues our world. We no longer have the luxury of seeing the world through the lens of a 2-, 4-, or 8-year old. For every one reason there is to feel excited and hopeful, there seem to be one hundred reasons to feel discouraged.

And yet, I don't really believe that those odds tell the true story. I think that when I don't allow myself to feel true excitement, it is less about the stresses, difficulties, and realities of adult life, and more about my unwillingness to really acknowledge and really pay attention to the daily goodness that colors my life.

So, ever since Padre, I have been really praying about this, and trying to think about the blessings of my life that make me feel true excitement. And I want to hear about this from YOU! What fires you up, floats your boat, and blows your hair back? (Keep it clean, please. There are some yung'ns who read this Blog)! ;-) I'll give you my list first (albeit, a partial one; we don't want this turning into the Christmas Letter). And I'll look VERY forward to seeing yours! Maybe we'll all turn each other on to some excitement-worthy things that we've been missing out on!

And who knows? Maybe we'll get so excited that we just can't sleep...


1) Any and all time spent with my nieces and nephews.
2) My Dad's amazingly positive outlook, zest for living, and continued thirst for knowledge.
3) Laughing with my brothers and sisters.
4) Finding new meaning in a Scripture I've read hundreds of times before.
5) Sitting outside and listening to live music in Austin.
6) Bodysurfing at South Padre Island when the waves are really big.
7) Hearing or thinking of a song I love, and downloading it as soon as is humanly possible.
8) Buying shoes at Season Clearance for 75% off.
9) The life-sustaining and life-saving gifts of modern medicine.
10) Knowing that my God loves me Just As I Am - completely and unconditionally.
11) Knowing that there are people willing to die for our freedom and safety (military troops, policemen, firemen, etc).
12) Hearing a great sermon.
13) Flipping channels late at night and stumbling upon a movie that I love.
14) A rare cold day in Texas, one in which I have to wear a sweater, mittens, a coat, and a scarf.
15) Any comforting or funny memory of my Mom.
16) Getting personal mail or email.
17) Any wonder in the sky - a gorgeous sunset, a rainbow (we had a HUGE one in Austin yesterday), a beautiful sunrise (I won't lie - I don't see these often).
18) Anything Beth Moore says or writes.
19) Running into or making contact with an old friend.
20) Laughing so hard with girlfriends that it literally makes my stomach hurt.

Ok, your turn!