Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mid-March Follies

Some weeks it just isn't easy to find time to write on the ol' blog.  Believe me, the calendar has been full.
But before March gets away, I should complete this post about some fun times earlier this month with the grandchildren.  Soon I will follow up this one with a post about a dream of a weekend.

Claire: "That's okay, Grandpa (she really just calls me 'Pa').  I'll take your chair and you can have have mine."

Bri doesn't mind sharing the swing with two of her favorite people.  Just so they ask permission.

Brianna:  "Claire, do you think we're supposed to tip Grandpa for pulling us around?"
Claire:  "I don't know, Bri.  He takes really long breaks."

You know what they say about good intentions.  Well, I re-inked a green stamp pad so I could stamp Bri with a shamrock for St. Patrick's Day.  Unfortunately, one rub of the hand and it looked like some outlandish eye makeup.  What's left of the shamrock is a green blur on her hand.  Maybe I shouldn't have cleaned off her nose before the picture, but it was an unnerving sight.

Bri is happy to display her cute little sun hat. 

Hunter:  "Well folks, I'm just coolin' my toes and nibbling on whatever I can find until I'm old enough for chocolate."

Bri likes to get in on some of her old toys while showing Hunter some of the ropes.  So to speak.  Her "Big Sister" instincts are uncanny.

It took the combined breath of four of us to blow out my birthday candles.
Just to show how old I am, my age equals that of the other three combined.  Honestly.

Claire and Bri are a couple of swingers.  They can do this for a long, long time without losing interest.  Hunter and Evan like it, too.

Bri has brought her little CD player along for her and Claire's outdoor snack.
Bri:  "Whaddya think, Cuz, Stayin' Alive or Honky Cat?"

I couldn't get Bri to look toward the camera for love or money.  Luckily a big, loud truck got her to turn her head.  Meanwhile, Claire waited patiently.

See what I mean?
Claire: "Bri, is Pa using us to make the flowers look prettier?"  (Answer: YES!)

These big girls are getting to be a heavy load, but I'll gladly tote them till my arms fall off.

No wagon for Hunter.  He's got his own personal carrier.  And Grandma isn't complaining.

Parting shots; your choice of captions:
Caption #1  Bri: "No, Grandpa, I haven't got on my makeup."
Caption #2  Claire: "Well, let's humor him."
Caption #3  Bri AND Claire:  "Bye bye."

Evan wasn't with us on this day, but we'll make up for his absence in the next blog.
As the girls said, "Bye bye."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Fantastic Four

As the grandchildren have gotten more mobile (the two girls, at least), it seems harder to catch 'em in a Kodak moment.  There are plenty of things I'd love to photograph-- I'm just not fast enough!  Nevertheless, I think I have some priceless shots to share.

When Hunter goes off to take a nap, Brianna decides to revisit some of these cool toys that were her favorites just a few months ago.  She's examining the Fisher-Price sunflower rattle that was Jennifer's more than 30 years ago.  While sitting in the Millenium Falcon.

Nursery rhymes are particularly big with Bri right now.  Especially the ones that can be sung.  And if you leave out a verse, boy are you in trouble!

Hunter:  "Ha!  Proof at last-- the moon is NOT made of cheese!"

Bri says Hunter needs a little kissy-kiss on the top of his head.

Then a little smooch on the ol' eyeball.

And top it off with the kind of lubby-dubby hug only a big sister can give.  Awwww.

Of course, as you must realize, Hunter doesn't really need us anymore.  He's his own man.  In search of a forward gear.

Bri says:  "I'm the queen of the WORLD!"

Now for some of the recent action with Claire and Evan.
Claire:  "Hey, Evan.  Wanna play soccer?"

When you're a busy big sister like Claire, you're constantly having to refill your gas tank.  With Juicy Juice!

Sometimes Claire is shy.

Other times, she's ready for a celebrity interview.

Evan:  "If my feet smell, why can't I smell these flowers?"

Claire:  "My Grandma knows how to get these Pringles thingies for free!  They are good, but they are SALTY!"

Evan: "And what did the Big Bad Wolf do then?"

Years ago, we had some ancient Chinaberry trees cut.  There's a sunken place in our yard where the roots gradually decayed.  That's a favorite spot for Claire, Brianna, and Kitty Cat.
Claire:  "I'm melting, I'm melting!"

Everybody loves Judy's prayer garden.  Now don't ask me how Evan rates the two-seater buggy.

Evan:  "This is the first part of the Hokey Pokey:  You stick your right foot out."

"And speaking of the Hokey Pokey, baby's have a big advantage over grownups: you can't stick both feet out and shake 'em all about when you're stnding up!"

Believe it or not, I've already got more pictures waiting for another blog post.
My guess is, you believe it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Serendipity or Divine Intervention?

People have a lot of terms for why things happen the way they do. Luck, fate, destiny, coincidence, serendipity. And many of us recognize it as divine intervention.

Webster’s dictionary defines luck as “the seemingly chance happening of events which affect one.” Note the word “seemingly.”

A coincidence is defined as “an accidental and remarkable occurrence of events, ideas, etc. at the same time, suggesting but lacking a causal relationship.”

18th century writer Horace Walpole capitalized on the phenomenon in his tale “The Three Princes of Serendip.” These princes had an apparent aptitude for making fortunate discoveries accidentally. The word “serendipity” that Walpole coined is still in popular usage and was even the title of a movie a few years ago.

For those with spiritual eyes, all of these terms can be melded together as “divine intervention.” To Christian believers you can remove the word “seemingly.” Likewise, drop the phrase “lacking a causal relationship.” As well as “apparent aptitude.” God’s timing is always perfect. No accidents. The “coincidences” are intentional and generally for our benefit.

This isn’t just wishful thinking; it’s supported by scripture. In Romans 8:28 Paul reminds us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

It was the story of a woman of Shunem in II Kings 5 in the Bible that got me thinking in this direction. This Shunammite showed hospitality to Elisha, thus honoring God. The prophet had his servant Gehazi inquire as to what could be done for her in return. She was not lacking materially, but she had no son and her husband was old. Elisha told her she would hold a son in her arms the next year, and it came to pass. When the child was older he died suddenly, but the woman, in her faith, sought out Elisha. The man of God miraculously restored the boy to life.

In Chapter 8 we learn that Elisha had told the woman to go away with her family because of a seven year famine the Lord had decreed. Here’s what happened from the NIV:

“At the end of the seven years she came back from the land of the Philistines and went to the king to beg for her house and land. The king was talking to Gehazi the servant of the man of God, and had said, ‘Tell me about all the great things Elisha has done.’ Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to beg the king for her house and land.

Gehazi said, ‘This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.’ The king asked the woman about it, and she told him.

Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, ‘Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.’”

The world would have called it luck or coincidence, but the Shunammite woman knew better. And so do I. I’ve had so many experiences like that in my own life. And I have a ready explanation for the “remarkable occurrence of events that seemingly lack a causal relationship.” In the Old Testament, Job was able to say in the midst of his despair, “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God.”

Similarly, in Romans 8: 27 Paul states “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

So why were the anecdotes of the Shunammite woman even included in the book of Kings? She was a mere footnote among the tales of the rulers of Judah and Israel, of whom scripture says few were good, many were bad, and some were worse. But I believe God placed that simple woman with her simple faith as an example to us across time. A reminder that we are not too small to catch God’s eye. Far from it. In all our unworthiness, we are still His most beloved creation. Every last one of us.   At all times He is intimately involved in our lives, whether we realize it or not, both in the small ways and the momentous, eternal ones.

The proof of that is even more obvious. In the supreme act of divine intervention, God sent His only Son to die a cruel death as a ransom for sinful man. Every last one of us. A popular Christian song says “When He was on the Cross, I was on His Mind.” Believe it or not. I choose to believe.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

High Times in Hotlanta

The first week of March was a wonderful one for me, as I visited Daddy, brother Buddy, and sister Caryn and her family.  Daddy doesn't look a day over 96.  In fact, he won't be 97 until May 14.  When he turns 100 in 2014, I'll be on Social Security and Daddy's two great-granddaughters will be in kindergarten.

One thing that has become a tradition during my visits over the last year is the nightly singalongs and concerts I share with the residents.  It is great fun for me as well as the listeners.  We do anything from the 1890's to the 1970's.  Almost nothing more recent.  Rap, heavy metal, and hiphop are my weak areas.

My friends were delighted to meet Chipper, who was dressed in his Tar Heel basketball jersey for this week.  Very appropriate in light of the huge Carolina victory over Dook the day we returned to North Carolina.  Senior citizens love Chipper as much as my third graders once did.  They shake his hand, hug him, or start up a conversation.  And he loves it.

One resident's puppy also seemed to enjoy the program.  At least he didn't complain to me.

This lovely couple, John and Mary, are Daddy's best friends in this home.  They are wonderful encouragers and invaluable friends to all.  Mary still looks forward to the day she and Daddy will dance.  Daddy's doing so well, it seems a realistic goal.  Both John and Mary have fascinating life stories.

The music over our three evenings spanned the whole spectrum of eclectic music I love.  Turn-of-the-century singalong songs (1900), Roaring '20's, Big Band, show tunes, humorous ditties, fast stuff, slow stuff, sentimental pieces, and pops from every decade up through the 70's.  The old keyboard is holding up pretty well for all the miles it has on it.  A couple of sticking keys, but that's true of myself, too (and I've got a few miles on me, too).

Daddy and Caryn's family got front row seats and were celebrities on Friday night (Daddy was guest of honor every night).

It thrills me to look out on a room full of smiles as I play songs that touch these folks' golden memories.  And it touches me to see virtually every mouth moving when we sing songs of their youth.  Nothing wrong with their memories-- if you know which chords to strike.  Truly, music is a special language given to us by God, and it speaks most powerfully to the very young and the very old.  Because sometimes it's their only language.  But through it their deepest feelings can be expressed and joy awakened.

Daddy and I didn't spend all our time doing music.  We talked about family history, the Atlanta Braves, and the great-grandchildren.  The weather cooperated for us to visit the gardens which are just starting to emerge.  Daddy loves to check the goldfish pond on nice days. 

Surroundings like these are food for the soul and will lift everyone's spirits, residents and visitors alike.

In the past couple of months, a re-invigorated Daddy has been getting up for breakfast and participating in whatever recreational activities were on tap for the mornings.  He's a star at ball tossing.  Even though he's legally blind, he demonstrates textbook form on the overhead pass.  And the wheelchair was no impediment to him bowling a strike in this photo.

Recreation was interrupted by a nice lady with her pet cockatoo.  Do you think Daddy was pleased with this bird's attention?  This 23 year old bird had impeccable manners, perching on Daddy's shoulder and walking behind his head to the other shoulder.  No accidents.

Can't end this blog without some captions.
Pick your favorite or make up your own.
*  "Are you the guest we're having for dinner?  I hope so."
*  "Now, could you scratch just a little higher, please?"
*  "That's the first new joke I've heard since I've been living here.  Good one."
*  "A big white bird on my shoulder?  And you say I've been hallucinating?"
*  "Ken, you'd better take a picture of this or they'll never believe it."

And so I did.
Like I said, a wonderful visit.  Every minute of it is imprinted in my memory.