Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thoughts on New Year

If winter comes,
can spring be far behind?
-Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ah... winter. She's settled in at Freeman House, making my house creak and my nose and toes impossibly cold. I have the thermostats set on 61, and my new-ish heat pumps are working overtime to keep the indoor temperature there. I layer. Heavily. Even Mae is buried under covers to keep warm....

Did you have a wonderful Christmas? Hope so. Mine was peaceful and ... merry. It truly was merry. Friends so dear... family gathered near... all that. It was very Dickens-like. I'm thankful for a peaceful and uneventful holiday. (Those can be answers to prayers too, you know.)

But I'm relieved it's over. Christmas is already packed and stored away, replaced by new year's hats and confetti. Given the circumstances of my life this past year, I'm eagerly waiting for that midnight ball to drop. I've purchased bags and bags of multicolored confetti and noisemakers. What is it about a numbered square on a calendar that makes me feel as though I can start anew?

Someone stopped by Freeman House yesterday to ask if I had any new year's plans. I replied with a hearty "yes!". I've been hoarding movies, magazines, two new Amazon books, and a half gallon of Blue Bell. I plan to spend the entire day in my pink snowman pajamas watching Ingrid Bergman, tearing apart my spring seed catalogue and a biography of Jane Addams, and getting sick on Chocolate Brownieaholic... or some related flavor. (That way I have additional tonnage to low-carb off starting January 2nd. Happy sigh.)

Seriously, though. I'm thrilled to see 2006 go. It was a growing year, as growing years go. Good riddance! Now all we have left to do is bundle up, pray, and send this little winter on its way...

And you know what they say about winter, right? If it comes, can spring really be all that far behind?

Happy New Year! -b

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Merry Christmas!

Ah, the eve of Christmas Eve! The bustling has gradually slowed to a rhymic shuffle around Freeman House, and I'm pleased to report that all is ready for the holiday. Wish you could be here!

Today is actually a very relaxing day, in spite of the piles of sheetrock, scaffolding, and tools that have to be maneuvered around in the front half of the house. (In addition to the huge entryway tree... see right.) Men have been working on the ol' place all week, and the hallway and sitting room off my bedroom are nearly done! Yea! Anyway, this morning I brewed hot tea, took a long, leisurely bath in the clawfoot tub, and washed sheets and towels. Oh! Reminds me... they're still fluttering on the line underneath the magnolia tree! Better grab them before it gets too dark....

...Okay. Back. So, anyway, I opened and read all my Christmas cards on my outdoor patio while the Methodist church bells downtown played Christmas carols. Friends and their beautiful children all seem to be doing well. It's funny how Christmas cards - unlike anything else, it seems - record the evolution of a life... a family. One year my college friends are sending quick, stylish, girlie cards. Six years later, the cards are simple Kodak picture cards with grinning toddlers on the front, and there are typed newsletters enclosed, too. Times change, and I'm glad.

A last minute shopping run this afternoon produced some hand-quilted stockings, a stash of classic DVDs and an old, shabby chic flour tin. Score! I rushed home to stuff, wrap and distribute to the neighbors up and down the street. My walk, accompanied by Cornbread and Okra, my neighbor's dogs, took just over an hour. In and out. Fun.

Again, too bad you're not here. Tonight is homemade dinner followed by hot chocolate and carols at the organ. I love having friends and family around! Then the plan is to watch old holiday movies until bedtime. Yea! I hope the sheetrock allows for people to make it through the house without breaking their necks... or knocking over the tree.

Speaking of the tree, I was walking by it yesterday and noticed that an ornament was moving. Oh... wait... that's no ornament. There was a real, live BIRD sitting on my Christmas tree! I screamed and screamed. The bird flew into the library and the cat shot into the dining room. I slammed both doors to the library shut, but not before retrieving Maebelline (the cat) and putting her in there with the bird. After several minutes, I expected to open the door to find Maebelline standing over a still, silent bird. Ha! I cracked the door open just enough to poke my head in to see Mae lounging on the floor and the bird perched on the scaffolding. Shoot.

I finally realized that perhaps I could open one of the ancient library windows from the outside, (I could), so I pulled Mae out of the window as if the house was on fire, and ran screeching into the yard. The bird soon followed. Whew. Close call. I almost had an Alfred Hitchcock Christmas.

(By the way, one of my presents from the neighbors today was a wine cork/sealer kit. No wonder. I'm sure with all the weird-looking things I do -pulling my cat out of a library window and run screaming into the yard- the neighbors must think I drink. A lot. )

Ooooooh boy. Anyway, all is well here, and I say all this to say that our holidays -whether break-your-neck hectic, or lovely, leisurely, and peaceful - are too often taken for granted. We are blessed - truly blessed - beyond measure, whether we recognize it or not. Praise God for His goodness and His ultimate Gift! During this blessed, long Christmas weekend, I wish you all a special time full of peace, love, safe travels, sweet dreams, and much, much happiness and joy!

Happy, Merry Christmas! -Brin

Monday, December 18, 2006

Identity Story #1

So, okay. I know I should be writing Christmas blogs. I realize this is - oddly - timed. But the other day I saw a preview for this new show airing on NBC entitled Identity. I was strangely captivated....

I was so taken, in fact, that I had a dream last night about this woman. It played out in my dream like a sort of identity game... like I was supposed to guess who she was. Really weird, huh? I wish I could have recorded my dream so you see it, too. It was incredible, as dreams go.

So here's the deal. I'm writing identity blogs, apparently. And I'll bet you'll guess who these people are before I did.

Happy reading! - Brin


Who am I? That's difficult to say. Perhaps I should start at the beginning. But where, exactly, does a beginning begin? My birth was not the commencement of my life. Not the life I now know. I suppose that for me – for my story – it begins here:

Same place. Different day.

Do I come here often? Yeah. I do. I come here every day for a drink. Not to sound melodramatic, but it’s called for – coming here and all. My life isn’t terrible, yet it isn’t especially remarkable. It’s life, or what I’ve made of it, anyway. So I’m here again. Same place. Different day.

I wait my turn. It’s not so busy today. I wish it were. There’s anonymity in numbers, and I find relief in the swallowing effect of a crowd. The regulars here can be shamelessly nosey, and I tire of their knowing glances – their tacky, judgmental stares. As if they are living perfect lives. I don’t think people grant allowances for the fact that life smiles on some, ignores most, and preys on a few.

And I’m among the few. Undoubtedly so. I’ve lived my share of failed marriages and messy relationships. Life doesn’t care. My heart seems to be in the right place, but ultimately, that never matters, does it? Men have their way and then go about them. Take this guy I’m living with now. He’s assuring but unsure. Solid but uncommittal. Present but neglectful. And me? I’m lonely. I’m lonely but I stay. Wouldn’t dare leave. Everyone knows how hard it is for a woman – even in this day and age - to make a good life for herself. No, I’m lonely, not stupid. I’ll stay.

Ah, my turn. Finally. It isn’t until I step up to retrieve my drink that I notice him. That man. Over there. See him? He’s not familiar. In fact, it occurs to me that he’s not from around here. He’s one of those type men who wouldn’t dare show himself at a place like this, you know? Wonder what he’s doing… hanging around.

I don’t wonder long. He approaches me slowly. Calmly. “Will you get me a drink?” he asks.

Oh, please. Figures. I don’t even look up. Not today. “From all appearances, you’re not from around here,” I say sarcastically. I can’t believe he’s hitting me up for a drink. Me, of all people.

He begins to talk… something about how I should know who he is and how I should be the one asking for a drink. Wow. Men. I reply as politely as I can and turn to leave.

Over my shoulder, I hear his voice. Apparently this man is determined to have a conversation. I refuse to look at him as he gestures toward my drink and persists with his barely coherent nonsense. Now he’s talking about how, if I asked him for a drink, he could give me something… some magical, living stuff, I suppose… that could take care of my thirst and make me live forever. Yeah. Hmm. If he's looking for money he picked the wrong girl. I close my eyes and wish there was somewhere else – anywhere else - to grab a drink in this town. I think I feel a headache coming on.

I hear myself say, “Okay, sir. Give me what you’ve got. Give me this… stuff… so I won’t have to keep coming here.”

The man doesn’t flinch. I feel him looking at me. I stare at my hands. “Go,” he says. “Get your husband and come back.”

Oh? Oh, really? Is this a joke? My cheeks burn. Someone around here got this stranger to pull one over on me. I’m done. I’m more embarrassed than angry when I shoot back, “I have no husband.”

“You’re right,” he says. “You have no husband. In fact, you’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re with now is not even your husband. You’re right.”

Time stops. His words hang in the air for what feels like an eternity. I feel myself exhale, and realize I must have been holding my breath. His words… this man’s words… it wasn’t what he said, but how he said it. It wasn’t accusatory. It wasn’t condemning. It was just… he just said it so… knowingly. So easily.

“Look,” I say slowly, evenly, still refusing to look his way. “It’s obvious you’re some kind of … prophet, or something….” My insides are screaming. How did he know? How could he? I'd gone to great lengths to ensure no one around here knew I was on future husband number six....

If he can read my thoughts, he doesn’t let on. If he’s a prophet, he doesn’t say. Instead, he tells me the things I know – the ways people around here do things - will change. I stand up straighter when he mentions God. I listen as he says that someday people will worship God in “spirit and truth”.

Oh. Okay. I get it now. For the first time, I turn to make eye contact. “Hey, I've heard this. I know that when this Messiah comes He will explain everything….”. I stop suddenly as our eyes lock.

“I am He,” He says.

I can’t look away. That look. Those eyes. Even as His words reach me, I know. It’s Him. He’s the One. The One for me. That look in His eyes… it’s as if He’s known me all along and loved me forever….

A tingle plays on the back of my neck before rushing to my toes. I can’t look away. I choke on a sob. This Man before me is no man. No man at all. Tears drip from my chin to the dirt between us as I realize I’m face to face with the Lover of my soul. And I want to tell Him. I want to tell Him that I’ve looked so hard… so long… for Him. I open my mouth to speak but have forgotten words. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. Those eyes. He knows. He knows, and yet He found me. He found me here. The Christ… the Messiah… He found me....

Same place, very different day.

It wasn’t until that night that I realized I left my water jar behind. It wasn’t until the next week, as I continued retelling my story, that I began to shake – physically shake - at the remembrance of His promises. And it likely won’t be until eternity – if even then - that I’ll grasp the magnitude of the power and majesty of the Man I encountered that day.

I still come here. Every day. Some mornings I run, hoping He’ll be here, asking for a drink. Sometimes I wait here, hoping He’ll show up with that same knowing look in His eyes. Until then, you can find me here, telling my story.

And really, now that I tell you all this, I guess it’s not all that difficult to pinpoint where my beginning began. My birth was not the commencement of my life. My story begins with that day at the well. The day I met the One who told me everything I ever did. The day I met Jesus.

Who am I? My name’s not that important. But the day I met Jesus is. I suppose that’s why I’m the woman generations of Christians will simply come to know as “the woman at the well”.

Read my story in John 4.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The List

See, I have this list. It's entitled: Ten People To Meet Before I Croak. Maybe you have one, too, (albeit with a different title). These ten individuals are people I must meet before I die. Anything less is unacceptable.

It's strange, I think, how universal our fascination is with other people. Crushes, celebrities, authors, athletes... people can be absolutely engaging. Inspiring. Cute.

Enter #8 on my list: Rachael Ray.

I awoke yesterday with the dreadful realization that Wednesday was a Dallas doctor day. I had a colposcopy and an ECC scheduled for the afternoon. Yuck. I bribed myself to get out of bed with the promise of a patio lunch with my aunt at Terilli's. It worked. Before I knew it, the aunt and I were headed to Dallas.

Once in Big D, we ate and then hurried to Central Market, where we met a tweed-covered butter salesman from New Zealand. While I stocked up on jelly beans and knobs of ginger, my aunt bought some of his butter, although I'm pretty sure the purchase had far more to do with the salesman's accent than the quality of his grass-fed cow butter. No matter.

Upon leaving, my aunt hangs up her cell phone and announces we should check out my Aunt Lu's reported Rachael Ray book signing. It was later in the evening. I could barely breathe. "You know," I said as casually as I could, "Rachael Ray is one of my Ten People To Meet Before I Croak." My aunt wasn't surprised. I'm weird like that.

Time for the doctor. Suffice to say, it involved what looked like a terrorist/death row holding cell, complete with assorted sterilized torture devices. And when I saw what looked like one-foot long cuticle scissors, I squished my eyes together and prayed, "Please Lord. Please let me live. Please let me live long enough to meet Rachael Ray tonight." As the torture began, my mind became a sound stage for repeating the name "Rachael Ray" over and over. It must have been a reaction to the pain. Finally, I hobbled out a thoroughly examined woman, having conquered the worst of an Endocervical Curettage (ECC), and doubly determined to meet Rachael Ray.

An hour later, a book signing revealed a line of hundreds of culinary-genius fans, and walking past their chatter sounded like a multi-national replay of my mental exam room mantra. "Rachael Ray!" people yelled. "Rach!"

But not me. Or my aunt. We didn't have tickets. Apparently 300 golden tickets were distributed prior to the event, and we didn't have one. This would be harder than I thought.

Inside the book store, I "lucked" upon a misplaced Rachael Ray cookbook, and hurriedly bought it. Bypassing the hundreds waiting for signed copies, I walked up to the rope to behold #8 on my list, and was shocked at how cute and personable she was. I shamelessly took a picture - right as she lunged for her coffee cup. Guess that would be as close to Rachael Ray as I'd get.

Or would it?

Our picture place near the rope "happened" us upon none other than Kirk, Rachael Ray's driver. And although he was no butter salesman, my aunt struck up a conversation. After asking the poor guy as many questions as we could about Rachael, the driver had pity on us (I guess), and suddenly we were in line as the next group to meet Rachael Ray. So, we did. A fellow crazed fan snapped my picture with Rachael, with promises to email them. So far, no luck.

But I met Rachael! I shook her hand. I even told her that she was on my list. (I didn't mention that she was #8, though.) "Rock on," Rachael said. "Awesome. You can knock me off the list now!" Indeed I could....

After staring at her illegible signature with a smiley-face "YUM-O!" scrawled in my new cookbook, I began thinking of all the cool things I could have said to her. Or asked her. I could have asked her how to store ginger. Or if she ever uses New Zealand butter. Or how she can have published 140 burger recipes and still be smaller than a sixth grader. Or...

... but I didn't. I mutated into a star-stricken dork with nothing better to offer Rachael than the fact that she was on my list. Gosh. Idiot.

It's funny... the people we admire. It's curious, the things we find enamoring in people. It's sad, the priority we place glimpsing/meeting/impressing ... people. I hope I can apply that same enthusiasm to someday meeting - face to face - my Creator. Rachael Ray's Creator.

I can't wait. Truly, I can't! Until that day, I've decided that I'll try to think now of cool questions to ask Him. Like... what Jesus did between the ages of 12 and 33. And where the Ark of the Covenant was all this time. Heaven forbid - literally - that I, along with hundreds and hundreds of God fans, get my chance to shake His hand someday and the best I can come up with is:

"I love you. You're on my list."

Saturday, December 9, 2006

My 10-Year-Old Self

If you spent the day with your 10-year old self, what would she (he) think of you?

That question, posed to me so innocently awhile back, hit me in the stomach. My 27-year old self paused. Hmmmm. What would I think of me? How would my 10-year old self perceive the grown-up me? Would I think I was kind? Rude? Fun? Stuffy? Smart? Idiotic?

Would I like myself?

I woke up thinking about it again today. Surely, I think, she would like my closet. I noted with satisfaction my gigantic mountain of Container Store boxes, all filled with beautiful shoes, and thought that she would be enamored with my shoe collection. Cool.

In the living room, I noted my DVD stash. Certainly there was plenty there to keep my 10-year old self spellbound. Beauty and the Beast... Charlie Brown... Little Women... Polar Express... Clue... Uptown Girls. Movies? Check!

Oh... and books. I have dozens of fun and educational children books... many from when I was ten. I know she'd love those.

In the kitchen, maybe my 10-year old self would help me make cookies. Big, beautiful snowflake cookies with sparkly sugar tops. Of course, no cookie would be complete without a mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. So... okay. My 10-year old self would be thrilled with the kitchen.

But all that... it's just stuff. Just things I own. It's not really me. And the question was would she like me, not my accumulation of junk.

Huh. Okay.

I was still thinking about it when I pulled into the overcrowded, chaotic mega-mart to grab some Christmas things. Inside, I passed a swarm of kids with dried snaught on their faces. A few of us made eye contact and I wondered: Do I looked perturbed? Do I look tired? Can children tell the difference? A little girl glanced up at me. I smiled. She, after all, might have been friends with my 10-year old self.

Rounding the milk/yogurt/sour cream/juice, etc. aisle, I nearly crashed into the back of my own basket. There, in front of me, atop a throne of bright red Coca-Cola, was Santa Claus. His beard was crooked and he was impossibly young, but his cheeks were rosy and his boots were shiny, so he was Santa alright. I hesitated, then began to wheel briskly by him.

"HO, HO, HO, Merry Christmas," Santa bellowed as I walked by. I stopped.

"Merry Christmas, Santa," I said, looking Santa square in the beard.

"And what would you like for Christmas this year?" Santa asked.

"ME?" I questioned, looking around. Surely impossibly young Santa wasn't talking to me.

But he was.

I almost snickered and wheeled away. Or I could have given him a don't-you-dare-hit-on-me-Santa look, and then wheeled away. But I didn't. Instead I left my cart by the yogurt and walked up to his Coca-Cola throne.

"What do I want for Christmas?" I asked.

Santa nodded.

I almost said I wanted a wireless internet router. Or a garden cart. Or a dishwasher.

But I didn't. Instead, I heard myself whisper:

"I want to be the kind of woman my 10-year old self would be proud of."

That's the real trouble with the world,
Too many people grow up.
They forget.
They don't remember what it's like
To be ten years old.
-Walt Disney