Friday, September 3, 2010

Who's your Faucet?

Do you ever ask yourself, "What am I supposed to do now? How am I going to fill my cup? Who is going to fill my cup?" I find myself asking it a lot.

I respond quickly to praise, but what if I'm not praised? What if no one notices what I've done? What if I'm too exhausted and tired to accomplish much? What if I don't blog for months? What if I don't have a house to tear down and rebuild after a flood? What if I don't have a trip to plan, a purchase to make, a home improvement project to organize, a company to run...What then? Am I good for nothing?

Our world tells us that in order to be successful, you need to be busy. You need to be on a track to a brilliant career; you need to write the next #1 song; you need to be the mom most involved in your kid's school; you need to be a mom and HAVE a career outside the home; you need to be a mom and NOT have a career outside the home; you need to...you need to...you need to. The list goes one and on. You fill in the blank. The world defines worth and success by what we do and how much of it we do...the more the better.

The Lord commands us in Deuteronomy 30:15 "to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you..." He also says,  "(I have shown) you, O man and woman, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

We have the instructions for living a full life of increase and goodness. We have been given simple, yet complex commands from our God about how we should live. The commands are simple because they are straightforward. They are complex because His commands do not align with what our society, culture, nation tells us we should be doing. God's commands go against the grain of "more, more, more" and, instead, say, "less, less, less." "Less is more" and is a hard concept to convince ourselves of. What if we stopped trying to convince ourselves, and, instead, just tried to obey God, act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God?

What if that is all we had to do today? Get up. Try hard not to sin. Treat others with kindness and mercy and walk with the Lord ALL DAY. If our day were filled with the simplicity of loving God, ourselves and others well, would there not be a change in the daily pressure to do more, have more, be more? What if we followed God's will for our lives and "always (tried) to be kind to each other and to everyone else. (Were) joyful always; pray(ed) continually; (and gave) thanks in all circumstances"? (I Thes. 15-18).

I'm not saying that we don't need to take care of our responsibilities at home, at work, to our friends and spouses. I'm saying, what if we took care of our responsibilities in a different way? What if we walked confidently in God's ability to provide and to use us for His great pleasure? Surely, He would direct us to get done what needs to be done, to take care of who or what needs to be taken care of.

What a huge relief that would be, right? We could let go of our anxiety? We could be kind no matter how others treated us? We could always be joyful? We would pray all of the time? We would give thanks even when our circumstances were less than awful? Could we be peaceful and content in God's love for us?

Of course, the answer to these questions is a resounding "YES!" Again, though, we won't do it. We push the thoughts of pleasing God aside and pour ourselves into pleasing others and expecting others to recognize what we do and convince us of our worth. Why do we do that, especially, when so many of us know...WE KNOW...that we aren't supposed to live a life based on what we think others think we should do or be?

I am guilty of, believing that you give me worth. If you are impressed with something that I can do...If you are amazed at how well I accomplish everything on my plate...If you praise me, then I will feel satisfied...except when you don't praise me. What then? That's when I crash. If I don't get some kind of positive reinforcement or praise, I am good for nothing, which is, of course, a BIG FAT lie! It's Satan's favorite lie, and he uses the sin of the world to convince us of its truth.

When the Liar plants the questions and encourages feelings of worthlessness through the seeds of self-doubt, is when the he has the opportunity to sabotage our thoughts. He has so many clever tools all around us, and there is no doubt he will use them. HE WILL USE THEM. He will hit us over the head with the lie of worthlessness.

We must flee the enemy, push aside these thoughts to the point that when they re-enter, and they will, we just laugh and say, "I know that trick, and I won't fall for it! I have a God who loves me with an everlasting love. His love never ends. His Spirit intercedes for me when I am weak and when I am strong. My God has called me by my very own name. I am His and He is mine. God's love for me gives me worth beyond measure, exceptional, brilliant worth. I am worthy only because of His mercy, and because of His mercy, I am worthy." God's love does not change like the shifting sands. It does not come and go based on my performance. God's love is permanent and unconditional.

Let's encourage one another to live a life confident in our worth to God. There is no other opinion that matters. There is no boss, no spouse, no friend, no parent, NO ONE who gets to fill our cups except Jesus. The good news is that He has filled our cups to overflowing. Like a cup held under a running faucet, He fills us to overflowing. He will fill us to the point that we will, as my friend and author, Nancy Guthrie says, "slosh out Jesus everywhere,"  The challenge before us is that we must stand under the Right Faucet...the faucet of Living Water, the Spring that gives Life everlasting and without measure. The question stands, "Who's your faucet?" The answer, though, is up to us.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

His Plan is Perfect

This Sunday, we were challenged by our pastor to read through the Flood narrative in Genesis 7 and study what elements of God's character are revealed in it. Our pastor gave us a few defining elements to being with: God hates sin. God always does what He says He will do. When God closes a door, only God can open it again. Other character defining elements were left for us to uncover ourselves. 

We've been going through Genesis for many months now. Ironically, perhaps providentially, we began studying Noah and the Flood narrative along about the time that Nashville experienced its own deluge of water: The Flood of 2010. I think because of my own experience with the flooding here, the impact of what Noah went through became evermore real to me. I'm sure others feel the same. The shear impact of what water can do to a place has forever left an indelible imprint in my mind.

So, it's from the perspective of my own walk through "our" flood, that I looked through the lens at Noah and gleaned my own thoughts about God and His character... on trait in particular.

What struck a chord with me most is "waiting" and its prevalence throughout Biblical faith. Waiting is especially poignant to me in relation to our flood and how to direct my mother-in-law. I do not believe there are many callings more difficult than the challenge of waiting because waiting involves blind faith and dependance and trust in God's ability to provide even in the midst of the unexplainable.

I believe that The Flood Narrative reveals, through waiting, that the character and nature of God purposefully follows His own Divine plan and no other. Noah not only had to wait, but he was also challenged to trust that God had a plan...a perfect one...better than anyone one else's. 

In every situation and circumstance, in regard to man and beast, God has a plan. It is His own plan, and His plan is always in our best interest. The challenge, then, is not only to wait, but to also trust in God's ability to steer us down a path of open doors and to steer us away from the path of those He has closed. 

As our pastor said, only God can open a door that He, Himself, has closed. How often do I find myself tugging at the handle of a closed door, choosing paths for myself based on my own intuition, and forging ahead in my own blind desire to have control?...once is more than enough. Unfortunately, I've repeated this behavior more times than I'd care to admit. 

However, my saving grace, our saving grace, is that God allows us, woos us even, back to His path, His plan for our lives. If God's character exhibits nothing short of perfection, then how much more perfect and absolute should His ability be to provide a perfect plan for us?

The days of Noah, his family and the animals were ordered by God. The amount of rain and the number of days it rained were perfectly calculated by God. The days that the ark rested on the mountain top were precise, according to God's plan... God did not allow the rains to persist longer than necessary to fulfill His plan to destroy the Earth with water. God did not allow Noah to leave the ark any sooner than the Earth itself was prepared by God to receive him...God does not miscalculate. Miscalculation is not a part of His character; however, perfection is who He is by nature and in character...His perfection applies to all that He is and to all that He does.

Lesson learned? Perhaps for today. What I know, though, is that I will try my own plan again while I'm waiting for His. I know this because I know of my human tendency toward fallibility, despite my soul's desire to follow God's plan. I also know, though, that God will direct my steps, and His direction always leads back to Him and to His plan for my life.

Throughout the history of the Bible, God reminds us that, "The LORD of hosts has sworn: 'As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand'..." (Isaiah 14:24) He has also promised that, He knows the plans He has for us, declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) 

His plan is perfect. His plans will never fail.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Going to Extremes...

Dear Casting,

I was forwarded Extreme Makeover Home Edition's recent press release requesting nominations of a Nashville family in need of a home makeover as a result of the recent devastating floods. There are so many in our city and state who are deserving, but because of my relationship to one of the victims, her need and the example of strength and character that she represents, I cannot go without submitting her name and story.

My mother-in-law, Dolores Donahue, is a 78 y/o widow who lives in the Bellevue suburb of Nashville, one of the hardest hit areas of the flood. Dee has been widowed for 9 years and for the several years, one of her daughters has lived in the upstairs of her River Plantation duplex, a primarily elderly and retired population.

In 1994, Dee and her husband, Don, moved from Missouri and purchased their retirement home in Nashville to be close to their four grandchildren. Big Don, as he was affectionately called, passed away in 2001 from complications with Diabetes. In 2008, Dee's sister and best friend, passed away in St. Louis. Over the years, Dee has had to deal with various illnesses, the inability to sleep well and many health issues including Meniere's Disease. Through all of this she maintains a positive attitude, never complains and keeps a close relationship with her three children who live in Nashville and her four adoring grandchildren who call her GrammaDee. 

Although officially retired, Dee works part time at Cracker Barrel and is the best salesperson in the gift shop. You can't possibly leave without purchasing something from her! In her spare time, Dee works diligently to create lasting memories by making beautiful scrapbooks for herself and for others. She turned her husband's bedroom into her scrapbook room after he passed away. She is always thinking of someone else and how she can bring him or her joy. She is a planner and never forgets a birthday, anniversary or any occasion for a gift. She remembers what everyone loves, and her gifts of love reflect just that.

Unfortunately, the Nashville Flood of  2010, has left a terrible mark on our city. Dee is without a home and has only water-logged and ruined scrapbooks and photo albums... remnants of albums filled with a lifetime of memories -- from her childhood in St. Louis, to the images of her children growing up in Columbia, MO and to her grandparent years in Nashville.  

Dee owned her home and its contents outright and has had no mortgage to worry about. When she and Big Don custom built and purchased their duplex, she was told that flood insurance was not needed. Unfortunately, those words have come back to haunt us (and so many). At 78, her life has been turned upside down...

Early Sunday morning, May 2, 2010, Elaine Donahue, woke Dee up to evacuate her River Plantation home. The flood waters had reached their front door, and they needed to get out right away. Elaine literally saved Dee's life, and they made it safely to her daughter and son-in-law's home. As the rains continued to pour on Sunday, we were unaware of just what was happening in Dee's neighborhood. Although the rains ended Sunday night, the water in Nashville continued to rise to exponential proportions. On Monday, May 3, we were still unable to return to Dee's home. Literally, there were jet skis seen motoring past the tops of the homes.

Sadly, we were unable to get back to Dee's home until Tuesday, May 4, 2010 after it had been under 6 feet of water for 48 hours. When we opened the door to her home that day, we gasped and no one could stop crying. Truly, the scene was horrible... everything ransacked by filthy flood waters, mud & silt marking the water line at about 6 feet, furniture tossed about the house like it was nothing... devastating. The first thing we looked for was Big Don's ashes. Although wet, we found them and the urn that held them.

After the initial shock and glad recovery of Big Don, we began working right away to remove all of the water-logged furniture and memories. Volunteers came to help us throughout the week. We took the children out of school to help. Friends took their children out of school to help, and in a week's time, we were able to gut her home of everything on the first floor. In Dee's neighborhood, because of its duplex design and row-like housing plat, the scene became familiar from one end of the row to the other... heartbreaking. Lives and memories piled 8 feet high along the roadway sorted into piles of metal, wood, and "household".

The scene in Bellevue mimics so many scenes across our state. Were it not for the willing hearts and helping hands of volunteers, I'm afraid that Dee's and so many other homes would still be filled with water. Dee lost most all of the contents of her home. We were able to recover some items, but most of the furniture was water logged and split. We had to use a sledgehammer on some of it just to get the drawers open. All of her electronics and appliances were ruined, and we were only able to salvage some of her clothing. Most of the water that came into these homes was sewage filled and bacteria laden -- not something you can just rinse off.

Today, we are trying to help Dee figure out how to rebuild. We have applied for government assistance and are working to make sure that her name is in every assistance program possible. FEMA sent Dee a check for about $15,000.00; however, this is less than a third of what it will cost to rebuild her home, not to mention furnish it and clothe her. FEMA declared her home "livable"... it's not livable until it's rebuilt. There are no walls, no electricity, no water, doors that won't close and broken windows.

At any rate, as her family, it is our desire to keep Dee from going into debt to rebuild what she once owned. These are supposed to be her Golden Years. She receives Social Security and has a small amount of retirement savings, but the last thing that we want is for her to be worried about losing her retirement and how she will afford to rebuild.  I have helped our children who call Dee, GrammaDee, build a website to raise $50,000 so that Dee can have a home again. It's a monumental task. (www.GivetoGrammaDee.com). We cannot do it without help.

Please seriously consider, Dee Donahue, as a candidate for Extreme Makeover Home Edition. She is so deserving of the help. She is a selfless gem of a woman. When you meet her, you will understand why we love her so. 

As you consider Dee, please also consider the elderly neighborhood of River Plantation where Dee lives. Your program could certainly rebuild a whole row of duplexes that were ruined by the flood. It would be a big task, but the houses are small; the people are in great need, and your program can garner resources like no program I've ever seen. (As a side note: Dee's attached neighbor's passed away a year ago. Their home has been on the market for almost as long. We also gutted it b/c it's condition had a huge impact on Dee's home. We don't know if it will be rebuilt.)

Below are some photos, and the link to our website is www.GivetoGrammaDee.com. The website is full of photos and includes a TV clip of Dee being interviewed after the flood.. Thank you for your consideration of her and the elderly community of River Plantation.

With Sincere Gratitude,

Laura Lyn Donahue


Help us with flood relief

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Where are You?

Dear President Obama and First Lady,

I am writing to you today on behalf of the greater Nashville/Franklin community and our recent flood disaster.

First, let me say thank you to President Obama for providing federal assistance through FEMA. This flood adversely affected so many thousands of people and so many were without flood insurance.

I don't know a family that was not touched in some way by the disaster either first hand, through a relative, a neighbor or a friend. The flood did not discriminate in its dissemination and destruction. People on all income levels, in all parts of our city have been left without homes and with their belongings and water-soaked remnants of their lives piled high along neighborhood streets.

My 78 y/o mother-in-law lost the whole first floor of her home. I, like so many others, have been working tirelessly to gut the homes of our loved ones. Strangers and friends alike have helped with these efforts, and it is no small task. Men, women and children working shoulder to shoulder helping to carry each other's burdens is a scene throughout thousands of homes across our great city and state.

While Nashville and some of our surrounding communities have had an influx of volunteers from neighboring states, help from the Red Cross and United Way as well as the presence of FEMA, I must say that there is a feeling of abandonment amongst our community by the federal government and the media.

We are living in a catastrophe. The scenes take my breath away. We have suffered a national disaster of magnificent proportions. You may have seen our flooded city on television, but you have not witnessed the mountains of our friend's shredded possessions, splintered furniture, muddied photographs, memories and lives piled high along our suburban streets. You have not witnessed the volunteer spirit reigning across our cities and towns from one end of the state to the other. You have not witnessed our suffering or our efforts to put our friends, family and strangers back on their feet.

No one can witness an event on television. It's impossible to witness destruction through an email or photos on a Face Book page. The newspaper can do no justice to the peril we have befallen. No letter to Anderson Cooper, no tweet to Oprah and no op ed in the New York Times can communicate the human experience. It is impossible.

True compassion comes through touching, seeing, hugging, holding and loving our fellow men, women and children. Compassion does not come through the pronouncement of our area as a national disaster. If anything, declaring 27 of our 95 counties a national disaster is warrant enough for a visit to see the hurting, to show the support of our government, to acknowledge that we are not alone in our suffering and in our efforts.

Whether or not your administration chooses to visit our great state is, obviously, not for me to decide, but I do feel it my duty to express to you that I, a native Nashvillian, feel let down. This is not a political plea. This is not a partisan ploy. Simply said: there is honor in seeing your president and first lady walk through your streets, shake the hands of the hurting... validating our state as important in the eyes of our federal government and in the eyes of our nation. It's not too much to ask. It's not too much to expect. In fact, it's not too late.

Neglecting a visit to the Volunteer State, forgoing a walk through our debris strewn suburban streets, and missing this moment in the history of our nation would be a shame. Come visit Tennessee. Witness our destruction; be moved by our ability to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps; affirm our children who have given as much of themselves as any adult. Attest to the strength, honor and valor of the next generation.

You are missing so much. Will Tennessee be okay if you don't come? Of course, our cities, towns and countryside will blossom again, the mud-ridden landscapes will wash clean, homes will be rebuilt, and lives will get back on track. We will bounce back and be stronger because of our sufferings. We will love better, prioritize differently, live life more fully and stand solid in community.

You, however, as President and First Lady will have missed out. There will be no Tennessee national disaster history in your term, only a record of disaster declaration. There is nothing personal in making an announcement. There is no personal story for your children or your grandchildren. There is only a 30 minute spot and a few media mentions on our 500 year flood. I doubt that will be enough for the history books.

Be that as it may, Tennessee will forge upward and onward, standing proud as The Volunteer State and carrying with it our own history as told by those who witnessed and experienced our national disaster and our private recovery. We are Nashville. We are Tennessee.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pain Begs for Change...


Pain begs for change, doesn't it? I came across this thought while reading Barbara Taylor Brown’s book, An Altar in the World. When we are in pain, we want it to go away, don’t we? We want our circumstances to change, our paths to straighten our hurts to dissipate.  Pain does indeed beg for a change.

A friend of mine talked about how pain colored her world when she lived in a particular U.S. state that will remain nameless. Her pain was intense, unrelenting; however, her pain provoked her toward CHANGE -- a change in mindset, a change in her communication with God -- In her pain, she renewed and strengthened her relationship with God to a point that she may not have otherwise reached had it not been for her pain. Indeed, pain begs for change, and I would venture to say each of us has our own testimony of change through pain.

I recall seeing my children in pain. No parent wants to see a child hurt even if it’s from a simple scrape on the knee. As loving parents, we hope our children will be pain free; however, we know that unless they experience the pain and challenges of living, they cannot grow or change into thriving adults.

When Brennan was 18 months old, he was hospitalized for 5 days with a bone infection. We had noticed a decline in his activity. He wasn’t playing on the playground at school. He seemed sad, but we were unaware of his pain. We just pushed him to play and wondered why he was down.

One day, however, as he was walking out to the playground, I noticed the slightest limp in his left leg. He wasn’t talking much yet, but I asked him about his leg, and he managed to tell me that it was hurting. After x-rays with the doctor and an MRI, it was concluded that Brennan had an infection in his hipbone.

The infection prompted our hospital stay and 5 days of IV antibiotics. At the time, our children’s hospital was in need of updating. The beds for the children were like little cages. Truly, they were  cribs, but they were made of metal bars and seemed a bit archaic. Each night, I climbed into Brennan’s little cage and curled up next to him while he was hooked up to his IV. During the night, the nurses would come in and take him to a brightly lit room for vitals and blood work. This was excrutiating. For Brennan it was painful, for me it was torture to see him held down by the nurses, his little body tense from screaming.

After our 5th day, we were discharged and sent home with 3 month's worth of oral antibiotics. Brennan’s hip pain begged for change. Had we not sought out medical attention, the infection could have spread and been much worse than it was – it was bad enough.

So many of us are faced with challenges of our own, but when it comes to our children, we would easily take their pain upon ourselves. We would bare their burdens and carry their load. That’s how God feels about us, His children.

While He may allow us to suffer a little while on Earth, “…our light and momentary troubles are acheieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  

Pain begs for change. It is not our destiny to remain on this Earth. It is not our destiny to stay in pain. Our destiny is change from pain into glory.

Change leads us to breakthrough. There is no breakthrough without struggle, there is no breakthrough without change, there is no breakthrough without pain. Pain drives us to break through. God provokes us to come to Him in our pain. God always meets us in our pain no matter the source, no matter our condition. God is the God of all Comfort. There is none beside.

 "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and... not... adversity?" (Job 2:10). Even Christ, the Lamb of God, suffered pain. In His pain and through His pain, His comfort rested in His Father. Matthew said, "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered."  The Psalmist reminds us, "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life."  

In this week of Passover leading to Easter, remember the change that Christ has given us through His very pain and suffering on the cruel cross. His death and resurrection assures us that our pain here on Earth is temporary, light in comparison to what we could have suffered had there been no Savior. Graciously, Jesus bore our suffering and has given us the promise of life-eternal free from pain forever - the ultimate in change.

Hold fast to His promise.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Text Me If You Can...

We have no home phone any longer, at least not a land line. When three of the four children eventually had his or her own cell phones, paying for a land line seemed a waste of money. No one was using the home phone anyway. Eliza was always using my cell phone. So, we cancelled our home phone altogether.

We've been without a home phone for about a year and a half, I guess. It's been fine. No problems really, and we shaved about $30 off of our phone bill. In a time where every little bit saved, helps a whole lot, this was a good move for us. Until recently...

I am routinely home when Eliza gets off the bus from school at 4:00pm; however, on occasion, I may be running late from picking someone up from school. If that's the case, I have Baker stay at the house and wait for her. He stays home with Eliza until I get back.

This has worked well every time I've needed him... except for once recently when Eliza arrived home, I was not here and Baker had forgotten to come home from the neighbor's house across the street.

Eliza arrived home to no one other than the dogs. While on many days, the company of her dogs would suit her fine, this was not one of those days because I wasn't home either. Eliza pretty much freaked out. She went around the house calling for me, for Baker, for anyone. She looked in closets, in the pantry, under sinks... everywhere. She wandered around in tears not knowing what to do... and there was NO HOME PHONE for her to call me.

Literally, I arrived home within 3 minutes of her arrival; however, those 3 minutes were terrifying for her and heartbreaking for me when I realized how scared she was. Baker is great about helping me and has always been here to greet Eliza when I've needed him, but he's human, and he forgot. It could have happened to me. I wasn't mad at him, just disappointed.

It was at that point, though, that it became apparent that Eliza needed a way to get in touch with me, Don, anyone, in case of an emergency. So, I bit the bullet and got my 9 year old a cell phone. The other three were 12 before they got phones, but these circumstances warranted a lowering of the age restrictions we had adhered to for the other three.

So, I researched phones designed for younger kids. Our AT&T family plan had reached its max of 5 phones. So, I couldn't add another line. I don't understand that, but I can't get started on AT&T... that would cost you and me way too much time (and probably money). At any rate, I came across a phone called  Kajeet.

Kajeet had fairly good reviews, not really the best service across the board, but I wasn't looking for a phone that worked well in Bangladesh or even Boston, for that matter. I just needed Eliza to have a phone that worked at home and our surrounding areas.

What I liked about the Kajeet was the way the website was designed specifically for parents and kids with a "Parent's Wallet" and a "Kid's Wallet," parental controls, limits on when the phone could be used and who could call, etc. The other deal clencher was NO CONTRACT! Plus, for $14.95/mo, I could get unlimited texting for Eliza and 60 minutes/month of talk time.

With the rate that kids text today, I was less concerned about the talk time and more concerned about her being able to text. After all, the phone was for EMERGENCY calling. Well, I ordered a refurb Kajeet phone through Amazon. I kept it for a few days before giving it to Eliza. I was still a little gun shy about giving my 9 year old a cell phone. Does that make me old fashion?!

Well, before I had a chance to give Eliza her phone, she discovered a piece of paper with her name and a phone number written on it. It didn't take her long to put two-and-two together before it dawned on her that there must be a cell phone related to her name and this phone number. Of course, she was right.

I went and got her the box with the phone and handed her her very own cell phone. She screamed. She gasped. She embraced the box like a long-lost friend and exclaimed, "I can't believe this is happening to me. Is this a dream?!" Wow. Who knew I would get such a reaction. She was breathless and speechless for 5 minutes walking around the house in a dreamlike state.

After she came back down to Earth, I gave Eliza a little tutorial and emphasized the fact that using her phone to make phone calls was strictly for emergencies like what had happened when she came home to find that she was alone. We talked about the fact that the phone would stay at home during the school day, and she was only allowed to take it with her if she was going home with a friend for a sleepover, going to a neighbor's house to play, or with Dad or me.

Baker, Brennan and Cara took the news well. I didn't know how they would feel about their little sister getting a cell phone 3 years before they were allowed to have one. They seemed to completely understand the circumstances of why we got it for her, and they each jumped right in to help Eliza set things up, import numbers; but most of all, they began to christen her into the world of texting.

Who knew we'd be faced with the necessary evil of texting? I love texting because it's easy. I hate texting because it's easy. I love texting to get a message across without having to make a call. I hate texting when too many one-worders go back and forth -- this is tweenager/teenager style... One word answers: Ya, Na, K, C, Huh. My kids can text one-worders repeatedly, which really gets on my nerves. I also hate the distraction that texting can be; however, it's not going away. So, I'm teaching the kids the importance of never texting while driving (leading by example).

At any rate, Eliza was immersed thoroughly into text etiquette, and she became a texting machine; albeit, a slow one, but a texter nonetheless. When she took her phone to her friend's house across the street and stayed in touch with me with what she was doing by texting me, I wondered to myself why I had waited so long. Cell phones are advanced walkie-talkies -- more expensive, but also more reliable.

Of course, every parent has his or her view on when, and even if, their child should have a cell phone. I totally respect that. For the Donahue Crew, it works. We have parental controls and limits, and we require each kid to keep their cell phone downstairs to charge over night.

I like the comfort of being able to find my foursome when I need to... and for this reason alone, I am glad that my kids have phones. With four going in so many different directions, I can still reach them when I need them (for the most part).

Eliza has had her phone for about a month now. She's done great with it, and I don't think she's even made one phone call. She has, however, enjoyed the texting, and, admittedly, so have I.

Just the other day, I was sitting in my room, and I heard the familiar "ding" of my cell phone alerting me to a new text. I picked up my phone to see the message, and this is how it read: "U always put love n peoples lives like u do to me" -Eliza...   Melt.

Out of the blue, my little 9 year old texter made my day with her sweet text. I called her in to see me, and I asked her, "Eliza, what made you send me that sweet text?" She replied, "I was just thinking about you and all of the things that you do for people, and I just wanted to  tell you. I just love you."

I know times have changed, and in any other era, this text would have been a handwritten note; but these are our times, and my love note from my baby came via text. I'll take that kind of text any day...

With all of our running around and busyness, you may not be able to catch me, but, by all means, text me if you can...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Get Ahead...

Our winter in Franklin, TN has been a bit unusual. The weather, despite global warming, has been colder, and the kids have had more snow days than I can ever remember them having. Like anything, too much of a good thing can tend to get old.

I would have to say that the snow days were getting old, at least for me. Eliza was feeling the same, though, one snow day in late February. She told me that she was bored and didn't have anything to do. "Hmm," I thought, like any mom would, "I can think of plenty of things for you to do!"

With that, she began to create her own list of things that she could do -- preferring her list to mine. One item on her list was reading. I thought that was a great way for her to spend her time. She really does love to read, and sometimes we are living so fast paced that we forget it's an option.

Eliza had recently purchased 3 new books from her school's Scholastic Book Fair. She had started all three but finished none. I turned to Eliza and said, "Eliza, why don't you read one of your new books and get ahead." Puzzled, Eliza looked at me and said, deadpan, "Mom. I already have a head!"

She did indeed already have a head. Silly me. What was I thinking?! I went on to explain that I meant she could get some reading done in advance so she could keep up with her reading schedule at home and school. This satisfied her enough to sit down and read for a while, head intact.

Ironically, we often find ourselves trying to "get ahead" when maybe we need to "get a head."  I believe that we spend too much time in the future and not enough time in the present. I'm not suggesting that getting extra school work done in advance is a bad thing. I want to apply this concept to our lives.

We live in such a fast-paced society that it takes a snow day (or 2, or 3) to force us to stay home and be still. Even then, many of us cannot even be still at home. Every room we step in needs something done to it. It needs sweeping. It needs picking up. It needs rearranging. It needs cleaning. I could go on, but you get the point.

How many of us can sit in our home and do absolutely NOTHING -- not one thing. Does the silence get to you? Does the need to move force you out of your chair? Does the need to unload the dishwasher, wash the clothes, sweep the floors, keep you from spending time in a chair alone with you, alone with the Lord?

Sadly, I think a lot of us would answer "yes" to these questions -- me included. For example, I'm home today. It's very quiet. I don't have too much to do until my carpooling begins and my taxi rushes to and from school, to and from play practice, to and from homework club, to and from track, etc.

At any rate, it's quiet here now. I can hear the refrigerator rumbling. Toby, our Boxer, is sound asleep and taking deep breaths in and out, in and out. Sadie, our Maltipoo, is curled up in a chair. Every now and then I hear a little rumble from her. It's a very grey day, and I'm tired of grey (even though it seems to be the "it" color for Spring -- I don't think grey and spring go together, but nobody asked me.). It's so grey that it makes me tired and sleepy. It's so grey that I don't want to get out of the house. So, I'm resting in the grey, but I'm also typing in the grey.

My mind tricks me into believing that I'm useless if I'm not doing something. It's not true, but still, the thought comes. I am, however, also reflecting in the grey. I'm reflecting on my morning and how it relates to Eliza's and my conversation about getting ahead or a head, if you will.

Today I arrived for a meeting a whole week early! That's how "ahead" I am. I made arrangements for Eliza to get to school. I got dressed early. Cleaned up the house for Bible study and got to Grassland Middle for our 8:00am appointment with the enrollment counselor for Baker's freshman year in high school.

This was a BIG deal. I had to have a lot ready ahead of time, and I had to make a lot of preparations which included getting copies of our most recent utility bills as proof of residency, getting paperwork filled out and being knowledgeable enough to know what we were going to be talking about.

At any rate, obviously, I was "ahead" of schedule, but in this case, had I taken time to use my head, I would have seen the date clearly on the appointment card. It's in bright red at the bottom of the welcome letter. I totally read it as March 3, 2010. Never once did I see March 10, 2010. I don't know how many times I read it. I even showed it to Don (but he can't read well without his reading glasses.). Was I too busy to even see the writing on the paper, to stop and thoroughly read what was in my hand? I guess I was.

Don was joining us for the meeting, and even he had made special arrangements and cut a coffee meeting short for this morning. I came on home with an hour and a half before my Bible study group was to arrive. I didn't have "anything" to do to prepare because I had done it all ahead :) of time.

So, I went and sat down in my favorite chair in the living room. I picked up my book, Daily Light for the Daily Path and read today's scripture. The opening scripture is: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Prov. 3:5-6) When I read that, I wrote in the margin "and He shall direct your paths" even when you make silly mistakes like showing up for an appointment a week early.

God sent me home this morning to spend some quiet time with Him. Perhaps, as my friend RoseAnne suggested, He wanted someone to get a smile from me when I made this morning's trip in error. Anything is possible... what is probable and likely is that God wanted me to turn to Him, to sit down with Him and to hear His word for me today.

Scripture is soul food. When we read the Word, we become infused with the very breath of God. His words are life giving. His promises are eternal. His covenant with us is binding. His longing for us to be still with Him is real.

God said to me, "No need to get ahead today. Just keep your head on straight and go where I lead you." In Psalm 62:8, David says, "Trust in Him at all times... pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us."

The Lord wants us to seek solace in Him, to be still and know that He is God. He wants us to come home to Him and to ourselves. We have to listen if we want to hear. We have to be quiet in order to know where to go. God says in Isaiah, "Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left."

God will direct our path and make straight our ways even when we lose our head while trying to get ahead. Rest in Him (even in the grey).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Come on Everybody Let's Do the Conga

Well, I suppose my recount of my Grammy trip would be incomplete without including the actual "day of" the show. I'll have to say, these last three posts are so out of my character... too much about me! However, I am writing them per request, and I'm glad to at least have the experience in writing. I forgive you if you're about to hurl from reading all about ME! :)

Funny... being in L.A., you're on Pacific time, but L.A. keeps all of its events (for the most part) on Eastern time -- meaning L.A. moves all star-studded events to earlier times so that they can coincide with "Prime Time" on the East Coast.

So, because we were involved in the pre-telecast, which started at 12:30 (3:30 EST), we had a lobby call at 11:30am. Something about getting ready for an evening out at 9:30 in the morning is just WRONG.

Normally, if I have something exciting to get ready for, I love the hours of prep and relaxation leading up to the departure. I like taking my time, having enough time to get my hair right, taking a bath to relax, sipping a glass of wine, etc.

Not on this day... On January 30, 2010, I woke at 9am and had 2.5 hours to be ready to go. Don even mentioned that he would not be able to wait. He enforced that I REALLY NEEDED to be READY when the limos arrived. Ok. No pressure.

As Don got his shower, pants pressed, shirt touched up, etc. (guys have it so easy, but us girls sure do have fun with our complications!), I was trying to relax and hurry all at the same time. This isn't really possible or reasonable for that matter, not when the event you're going to is pretty much a "once in a lifetime."

At any rate, I got my shower, dried my hair and began the curling of the hair and the application of the makeup. I was nervous about the makeup. I had several new products in my lineup, and today was the day that I had to "do the smokey eye" all by myself!--No Karee :(

I'm not much of a makeup person. Don't get me wrong, I like the basics: foundation, blush, lipstick and mascara. It's the extras that I don't do (or at least not very often). Today included the extras: eyeliner, eye shadow, highlighter, concealer, waterproof mascara, etc. I managed to get it all on in all the right places. My hair cooperated and did it's thing, and with the help of a good dose of hairspray, some spritzes of my favorite fragrance and a reasonable amount of Hollywood Fashion Tape, I was ready to go by 11:35am.

Our day was so much fun. We climbed in our limos and headed to the Staples Center with our first stop being the Convention Center for the pre-show. Bill Miller, the artist that Don was there representing, was up for Native American Indian Album of the Year.

The pre-show was much more electric than I thought it would be. There were bukoos of round tables adorned with white table cloths scattered around the lobby. Each table was filled with food, and on either end were open bars (hmmm, it's NOON). This perk came with your ticket. We grabbed some water (no alcohol yet), a bite to eat and headed in to find a general admission seat.

Bill's award was about halfway, maybe less, through the show. He WON! We were all ecstatic for him. After his acceptance speech, we headed with Don and Bill's publicist, Lesley, for media interviews (interpret: RED CARPET).

The Red Carpet itself was highly secure with poker-faced (yes, I know) guards sporting the little in-ear walkie talkie things. They were stationed every few feet or so to keep the riff-raff (me included) off the main drag of the carpet. For those of us, like me, who did not have security clearance, we were only allowed to walk down the edges of the carpet behind lovely fenced barriers.

Don, Lesley, Bill and his sweet wife Renee, all hit the piece-de-resistance in stride and headed for multiple interviews along the way: People Magazine, Jimmy Kimmell Live (which we, and me, were on--thank you Beth and Robert!), FOX, E!, etc. My group and I strolled along gawking at all of the hullabaloo and having a great time.

Somewhere along the way, however, my group headed on out. There were guards continually "shooing" us along---"don't loiter," they would say. "Keep moving. Keep moving, folks." Well, I managed to be overlooked for a while (I kept moving, only I would walk a little ways down the carpet and then a little ways up the carpet. No one knew if I was coming or going.) Someone eventually spotted me and my antics and told me that I needed to move on.

"Moving on" was not an option for me at the time. Staying on or near the Red Carpet was my plan. So, I headed over to a tall, handsome, African-American security guard who had kindly "overlooked" me loitering. Indulge me here for a minute b/c I really did pour on the "poor me"...

As I approached Mr. Handsome, I widened my eyes and looked up at him with that lost puppy dog kind of look; then I told him that I needed to get with my escort who was currently ON the red carpet. I said, "Can you please help me get back with my husband. I am all alone without an escort, and I really don't know where to go or what to do. I would really appreciate it if you would walk me down the carpet to (the safety) of my husband (grin and bat lashes)." At first the handsome young man said no. I pleaded again, "Please. I'm all alone."

In this case, second time's the charm. He held his arm out. I took it, and he walked me down the carpet (AAAHHHH!!). "I made it, Hollywood. I made it!" (JK).

As we were walking the carpet, he asked me, "Now, you're not gonna go all crazy on me and try to attack one of these stars (there weren't really that many stars worth attacking at the moment, anyway)?" I assured him that I would remain calm, cool and collected, and he had nothing to worry about. So, he delivered me right up to Don, and I spent the next 20 minutes or so "cruising the carpet." From there, we spent the next couple of hours escorting Bill to many more press opps and pictures...lots of fun.

I'm pretty certain that I just missed out on seeing some of the big stars on the carpet, but I was having so much fun going backstage at the Staples Center, watching the media and pretending to be "someone", that I really didn't care who I was missing.

From our Bill's media interviews, we went to a rooftop party hosted by AEG. At this party was everybody who was anybody behind everybody who is somebody. Make sense? Basically, this fashion bath was full of all the people who helped the stars get where they are today. There was wonderful food all around, waiters offering up platters of champagne and an open bar sponsored by Patron (all the events seemed to be sponsored by one liquor company or another).

Interestingly, while we were at this party, we ran into some friends from the music biz at home. Don also introduced me to Jay Cooper. Jay is about 82 years old, and is still a practicing attorney at the L.A. branch of Greenberg Traurig. Jay represents Seinfeld, among many others.

I loved chatting with Jay. He was quite sharp for 42, much less 82. Jay told me about a framed letter that hangs on his office wall. Ironically, this letter is NBC's denunciation of Seinfeld as a viable sitcom. Basically, the letter pronounces the characters as pathetic and states that Seinfeld will never make it on TV... I love stories like that.

At any rate, the outdoor party was tented with massive tents each boasting beautiful crystal chandeliers hanging from their centers. There were lovely tufted velvet benches for sitting and all kinds of nooks and crannies to slip into for a little dining privacy. The balcony of the event overlooked the front of the Staples Center with a wonderful view of fellow Grammy attendees all dolled up.

After the party, we headed to our seats. To give you an idea of our seats, we held "gold" level seating. There were silver, gold, and platinum, I believe. The gold level seating was basically the first section of risers as you go around the venue. From the stage, we were about 1/4 or more around... not on the floor, not that close but an unobstructed, good view. The major PERK that came with these seats, though, was that my seat, next to the railing looked directly into a hall where ALL of the stars came in and out, in and out, in and out.

Suddenly, I was a star struck (it was fun watching everyone and trying to figure out who they were.). From my vantage point, I could easily call out to any one of the stars walking by, and one or another would look and wave. Fortunately, for me, there was a young married couple behind us who was able to recognize a LOT MORE stars than I could. All evening long, I looked back and forth at that hallway and the stage.

I got waves from Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman (not big news for my Franklin friends b/c there are many sightings of these two in and around town; plus, Mom does yoga with Nikki), Taylor Swift, Jeff Bridges, PINK, Quintin Terantino, Beyonce, Jay-Z, and others. I waved to Lady Ga Ga (strange, strange), the Jo Bros., Justin Bebor (?), and many others that were probably someone, but I didn't recognize.

The show was fantastic. It was four hours, but it just flew by. We got stuck in the hallway when we went for a break during commercial. So, we basically missed the Taylor Swift/Stevie Nicks duet and the Michael Jackson tribute. Apparently, Taylor didn't sound so hot on TV; however, ya gotta give the girl a break. She was singing with STEVIE NICKS. Surely they keyed Taylor down a few notches which made it very difficult for either of them to harmonize with the other...

My favorite act all night, though, was PINK. Pink's performance live was absolutely stunning... so beautiful. I was captivated with her and her amazing ability to sing on key hanging from the ceiling, upside down, spinning and soaking wet! Come on. That's talent.

Aside from the fact that the performance was genius, she pulled it off without a hitch. However, some might have been a little miffed with her for getting them wet. Those haute couture dresses come with hefty price tags.

When Pink spun above the expertly dressed, water sprayed all over them. You could visibly see and hear the whole "stage left" section of the audience swell up in their chairs and gasp. That was kinda cool.

Following the show, we headed to the after-party sponsored by NARAS. We were among a select 1000 or two that went to this exclusive party! It was HUGE. If there were any big names there (I'm sure there weren't), we never saw them. Nonetheless, it was a blast.

The ballroom where the pre-telecast had been held was turned into a literal circus. Everywhere there were clowns, acrobats, "tall" men (stilts). There were tents with performers, fire, juggling. It went on and on and on. Food was everywhere you turned around and drinks were flowing. By the way, the alcohol sponsor of this party was Ultimat Vodka. Ultimat also had free picture taking available. You could get a photo (or two or three) taken with your date, friends, etc., and they would print out a 4x6 black and white on the spot (pretty cool).

There was also a live band at the party, and the volume was cranked up. At this point, I had been in my lovely platform (4.75") heels for 9.5 hours. My feet were hurting... mostly b/c of the shoes I had worn the day before. Anyway, I had a couple of blisters but was "hangin' in."

Down the hall from the Big Tent party was the Red Jazz room. This party room was a 1/4 the size of the other room but with the same food and drinks and a live jazz band playing. The room was lit with red bulbs, hence the name. We joined our group here for a little while.

While in the Red room, Don got a call from Lesley, the publicist (and our sweet friend). Lesley had gotten us on the list for another party. Don and I were up to the challenge as were Bill and Renee. So, the 4 of us headed out of the convention center. However, on our way out, we got our gift bags... very cool Moroccan Oil beach bags filled with Moroccan Oil hair products. Okay, I know it's not a Grammy nominee gift bag, but, hey, it's the best darn gift bag I've ever gotten :)

Gift bags in tow, we headed to The Conga Room! "Come on everybody, let's do the Conga!" Remember Sheila E?! Well, even if you don't, maybe you've heard of Jaime Foxx?

The Conga Room was just a block away, still in the L.A. Live complex. Jamie Foxx and Sheila E. own this club together, and there they were jammin' on stage when we walked in! Talk about a Par-tay... The stage was packed with singers vying for a turn with the mic. Brothers and sisters were dancing like only brothers and sisters can dance -- GREAT! Everybody was havin' fun at this party. We may have stuck out a little... me with my blonde hair and white dress and Bill in his Native American garb... nobody seemed to mind.

We stayed long enough for me to forget that I didn't own any groove of my own... We hit the dance floor (or I did anyway) and danced til Jamie and his entourage left the stage... and then we danced (or I did) a little more.

Exhausted from the day, the fun and the over-indulging, (not to mention the fact that it was 3am! 5am CST!) we headed to the hotel and crashed for a short night's sleep.

All in all, the trip was amazing. As fun as it was; as unique as it was; as "once-in-a-lifetime" it was, nothing compared to the welcome home from our Fabulous Four, our gifts of a lifetime!

Gifts come in all kinds of packages... big, small, sometimes unrecognizable or overlooked, but no trip to the Grammys, Hawaii, the Oscars (wouldn't that be fun?!) or even the Moon can compare to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the perfect love of the Father.

It is with this love that we are given the opportunity to love in return, to rejoice in all things, to give thanks in all circumstances (even when we're not at the Grammys) and to pray without ceasing.

May you go in peace to love and serve the Lord, and "come on, baby, let's do the Conga" along the way... there's always room for rejoicing!

Out of the Woods

I just found this unpublished blog post of mine... it made me laugh today... maybe it will do the same for you!

Last night, I gathered the children around to tell them about Mrs. E who had fallen and broken her leg (femur). My friend RoseAnne was with her at the hospital and through her surgery... pretty much staying by her bedside for the last 48 hours+.

Anyway, I told the children that 95 year old, Mrs. Elizabeth Crunk had fallen and broken her leg. She had to have surgery and had only recently been brought into recovery. The kids asked me, "How is she?" I responded, in accordance to what RoseAnne had told me, "Well, she's not out of the woods yet. We need to pray."

The kids stared at me like they'd seen a ghost -- expressionless (this is all happening w/in seconds). I'm actually confused by the looks on their faces. It's almost like horror. Then Baker spoke up and said, "Is she still in the woods?!" Then Eliza, "Did she break her leg in the woods?" "Mom, why was she in the woods? How did she break her leg in the woods?" The questions were coming so fast that I had to burst out and say, "She's not really in the woods!" "Well, where is she," the kids said. "She's in the hospital!" Well, this raised even more confusion, and the kids were "demanding" an explanation for "she's not out of the woods yet."

I was flustered and laughing, and it was hard to explain "not out of the woods" to them. I finally was able to compare it to "she's not completely well yet." They were pretty confused, but came to understand what I meant. It was funny and sweet, and prayers were given from the mouths of babes for Mrs. E who was not literally in the woods. :>)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Heavy...

Mom dropped me off curbside at Southwest baggage check. After we hoisted my brand-new, chock-full suitcase out of the back, we hugged and kissed each other goodbye. My suitcase was rather heavy to say the least. I had decided that I would pack as much in it as I could in order to avoid carrying stuff on the plane.

I had neatly trimmed down my carry-on items to one little Juicy sling purse and my train case filled with my jewelry, book, magazine and non-liquid makeup. I packed my large purse in my suitcase along with my liquid toiletries so I wouldn't have to move them into a baggie in the "bare it all" security line. I felt very put together, organized, prepared and ready to glide on down to the gate.

NOT SO FAST... I rolled my lovely blue Delsey suitcase over to the "self-check" inside. I approached the checkin screen and began entering my information. I had already printed my boarding pass at home to save time. Next, I attempted to lift my suitcase onto the scale. THE SCALE! OMG! I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THE SCALE!!

The SWA checkin agent looked at me and said, "I'm sorry, but you're overweight. The weight limit is 50 lbs. Your suitcase weighs 61 lbs. Would you like to pay the extra $50 overweight baggage fee?" "No, I don't want to pay the extra $50 overweight baggage fee," I tried to calmly say. Oh, gosh, I just sunk down, embarrassed and at a loss at what to do.

I did not want to pay an extra $50 for my bag. I could buy a bag for less than that. So, my options were to eliminate 11 lbs. from my suitcase or go buy another suitcase and come back. Leaving and coming back was the last thing that I wanted to do. I just wanted out of there! Two bags fly free on SWA... but bags over 50 lbs cost an extra $50. Truly, I was so peeved with myself for packing so much, and I was so hot with embarrassment, that all I could think to do was to start unloading my suitcase.

Lucky for me, I had my giant, bright blue, brand new Coach bag (brand name dropping is appropriate when going to L.A. It just fits the L.A. profile, right?!)  packed in my suitcase, and it was EMPTY. So, I began stuffing it with my curling iron, my flatiron, my camera, heavy sweaters (it might be cold in L.A.), and extra coats (it's possible that it could be really cold in LA). I re-zipped my suitcase and plopped, ok heaved, it back up on the scale... 55 lbs! OMG! Now I can feel the sweat running down my back. I'm trying to remain calm and coolheaded, but I felt so silly. I keep thinking to myself, "You're 40. You're a grownup. You don't need to be embarrassed. Just keep your cool. I want my MOM!"

Back down on my knees again with my suitcase, I unzipped it and pulled out more things. My giant Coach bag did not seem so giant anymore. Clothes were now spilling over the top. Once again, I re-zipped and hoisted that damn (cussing is okay too when you're going to LA) bag up on the scale. Ahhh... 54 lbs. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?!

A third time, I knelt down and pulled socks, boots and shoes out... stacking them atop the other things in my now tiny looking Coach bag. Back to the scale went my stupid, huge, "why did I bring this" bag... 51 lbs! SERIOUSLY?! The kind SWA agents who had been watching me, said, "don't worry about it... we'll give you that extra pound." They then slapped a lovely red striped sticker on my ridiculous bag that read:  HEAVY.

Nice...

I stood up, thanked the SWA agents (they really were kind) and realized I no longer had my boarding pass. Perfect. All I wanted to do was to get out of there and to my gate. Graciously, the SWA printed me a fresh, new boarding pass and sent me on my sweaty way now carrying an extra 11 lbs. all balancing atop spilling my lovely,bright blue, brand new Coach bag :) I am so NOT L.A.!

Before going through security, I went to a gift shop and bought a small duffle to stuff my extra 11 lbs into. The duffle was a reasonable $9.99... better than $50! (Actually, looking back, I think the $50 might have been a well-spent $50.) Then I took my tidy little Juicy sling purse and put it into my Coach bag. Now, I had a duffle, a giant blue purse and my train case in tow... heading toward security-- Instead of being the wonderfully put together and prepared passenger, I am now the one that you don't want to be behind in line.

Lucky for me, though, there was a mom a few passengers in front of me traveling with two small children, one asleep in the stroller. She picked him up, still asleep, and then attempted to fold her stroller, get everything out of her pockets, load her purse, diaper bag and her other child's backpack onto the belt of shame... (truly, going through security is a humbling experience for most of us -- undressing ourselves, removing our shoes and piling up all of our belonging for everyone to see.) This process took her a good, full 5 minutes. I could have helped only I was balancing my 11 extra pounds and waiting for room on the moving belt.

At any rate, I made it through security with no "beeps" or "bleeps" for that matter. Onward, I proceeded with my extra 11 lbs and headed to SWA gate C-17. There are 21 gates in the C Terminal at BNA, and if you're familiar with the airport, it's a hike to the end.  After a stop for a Blue Coast Burrito (yum) to go and a trip to the Ladies' room, I began my stroll to gate C-17. Lucky for me, Mom had dropped me off at the airport with plenty of time to spare. So, my suitcase escapades had at least not made me run for the gate.

Arriving at gate C-17, hot and sweaty (again), by this point, I found it odd that so few people were going to L.A., and I found it even stranger that there was no gate agent, terminal check-in or marquee with my flight status. It was at that moment that my memory returned to me, and it dawned on me that my gate was C-7, not C-17. I knew this in my head, but for some flighty :) reason, I just had just trotted on down to C-17... Thinking to myself, "Well, at least I'm getting some exercise," was actually of very little solace to me at this point.

Deep breath...

My arms are KILLING me. I smell like a burrito, and I am sweating again... I calmly and cooly look around as though I had come to gate C-17 to find someone (like anyone is paying attention to me anyway... like they are so concerned at why this girl is here with so much stuff). Having not found the person I was looking for, I gathered my 11 lbs that now felt like 50 lbs and headed to gate C-7, which I had so swiftly and determinedly passed earlier... so I could sit down at gate C-17.

All I'm thinking is, "I just have to get on that plane. Get me OUT OF HERE!" Walking up to gate C-7, I ran into friends heading to L.A., and I threw up on them -- not literally -- I just had to find some sympathy from someone, and these friends were the lucky ones. Graciously, they listened to my morning adventure and even made me feel better by saying that they too had overpacked before...

Our flight began boarding, and since my friends had children, they went ahead of me. The flight was full, overcrowded even. Some got off to make room for others. I found a window seat toward the back next to an older couple who greeted me with, "Oh, thank God, you're small! I really didn't want to sit next to someone who's really big. You'll do just fine." "Well, golly, ma'am. Thank you very much. I'm flattered?"

As grateful as I was to finally be aboard the flight and ready to go, I don't like sitting in a full row, on a full plane, especially next to the window, but I took the opportunity to keep to my "little" self, eat my burrito (worth every bite) and chug down as much H2O as possible --

Mistake!

Our flight from Nashville to L.A., albeit a full 40 minutes ahead of schedule, lasted around 4 hours. The captain kept the "fasten your seatbelt" light on for almost all 4 of those hours. I was DYING. The "delightful" couple sitting next to me, were sound asleep -- He with his pillow and eye mask, her with her jaw dropped open and head bobbing and jerking every time it hung to far too the right. My bladder was about to EXPLODE. I was stuck.

Seriously, I thought I was going to throw up on the lady next to me -- and not with a story this time. I was nauseous. I practiced my kegels for 3 hours. I couldn't look at a magazine. I couldn't read my book. I kept crossing and recrossing my legs. I even prayed, "God please, please, please tell the captain to turn off that seatbelt light." I sent mental telepathy waves. I prayed and prayed and prayed. Then, I think I passed out... not really, but I did sleep a little which took my mind off of it.

I wasn't the only one needing to go to the bathroom. Folks were getting up right and left. As soon as someone did, the intercom would crackle, and the flight attendant would kindly remind the passengers to remain seated while the fasten your seatbelt sign was on. "It is on for a reason, ladies and gentlemen."

Oh my gosh, I'm gonna die of a bladder infection. Finally, that "ding" of freedom that I'd been praying for rang in my ears. The couple next to me gently awoke from their lovely nap, and with as much calm as I could maintain, I asked them to please let me out. On any other day, in any other circumstance, it would not have mattered, but this couple took sooo long to get out of their seats that by the time I got to the back bathroom there was a line 6 people deep and only one lavatory.

Of course, there was a lavatory up front, but you risk being handcuffed and tackled to the ground if you dare "loiter" near the lavatory... forming a line in front of the plane is strictly prohibited. Grandpa, though, the sleeping beauty in my row, managed to meander right up to the front of the plane and get into the bathroom while I stood and waited... sweet relief.

GET ME TO L.A.!

Landing 40 minutes early in L.A. was great. I was so excited to get off that plane and on to the hotel. I waited at baggage claim for my HEAVY labeled blue bag. It nearly drug me to the ground as I tried to get it off the turning belt. No one helped me. I then promptly ripped the HEAVY tag off and went on my merry way.. Because Don had meetings that day, I had to take a cab to Hermosa Beach where we were staying. All of my 61 lbs + waited with me in the taxi queue.

I hailed my cab, handed over my baggage for him to load and plopped myself down in the backseat and put on my sunglasses (it's the L.A. cool factor, right?). The cabbie climbed in and said, in his Jamaican accent, "Where to?" I gave the driver the hotel address in Hermosa Beach. We headed out of the terminal.

Before we got out of LAX, the driver was asking me if I knew where I was going. "Well, yes, I know where I'm going. I just gave you the address." Ahhh.... he didn't mean did I have the address. He meant did I actually know HOW to get there.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! MY CAB DRIVER DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO GET TO MY HOTEL. ISN'T THAT WHY I'M IN A CAB?!

Thank God, truly, for my iPhone GPS. I began entering the address into my phone as we merge into the L.A. traffic. Mom calls in. I put her on speaker phone so I can give directions to the driver. This was not a good plan. I don't know where the hell I am. "Seriously," I'm thinking. "I am going to have to tell him how to get to the hotel for real!" I had to tell Mom I'd call her back later.

Honestly, I had to give the cab driver turn-by-turn directions to a place that I'd never been in a city I had only been driven through a couple of times years ago. Thank the good Lord, though, we arrived at the Hermosa Beach Club safe and sound... a mere 5 miles from LAX.

Ironically, as I was climbing out of the cab, the driver said, "Oh, there was a much better way to go than the way you took me." (seriously?!) I looked up at the cabbie and said with a polite Southern accent and maintained composure (How I drew up these powers, I do not know), "Well, you didn't know how to get here. I didn't know how to get here.  Lucky for us, I had GPS, and we just followed what it said. We did the best we could, and here we are. Now, the next time someone asks you to take them to Hermosa Beach, you'll know where to go."

I then grabbed my 61 lbs of "must-have's" and headed for the trip of a lifetime...

Friday, February 5, 2010

If the Dress Fits...

For Christmas, Don surprised me with a trip to The Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Don did such a great job keeping the gift a secret and creatively wrapping and giving it to me. I opened a box about the size of a shoe box. Inside were 7 sealed envelopes numbered 1-7.

The first envelope I opened had a photo of The Blackeyed Peas. I was confused. The second envelope and third had a pictures of Taylor Swift and The Zac Brown Band. Now, I'm thinking concert... Next up, a picture of the LA LIVE icon.  Ok... concert in LA? Inside the 5th envelope was a Southwest airline flight itinerary for me to fly to LA! Ok... Wow! We're going to a concert in LA! I then opened a hotel reservation in the 6th envelope. Still... I'm thinking trip to LA for a concert at LA LIVE. Fun! The last envelope, however, took me over the edge with excitement. It was a photo of a Grammy award. OMG! It wasn't until that moment that I fully understood that Don was taking me to the Grammys!

With a trip to the Grammys on the horizon, I had to get myself in gear, get a dress and prepare for the trip of a lifetime. So, when the kids went back to school in January, I hit the pavement. Driving all over Nashville and Franklin, I tried on dresses in every shape, size, color and length. I even solicited help from a blog author, Liza Graves, who knows our town upside down, inside and out. After plowing through every glam, hip, 2nd hand, designer and exquisite boutique, though, I found my dress at the mall at BCBG... but by then I knew what I wanted and had fun in the process. Actually, I knew what I didn't want and ended up with a dress in a color I hadn't tried... but it was the right one for me.

From picking out my dress, my jewelry, my shoes and my makeup to helping me regain my body's PH level :), I had "fashionista angels" helping me all along the way. My wonderful mom and BFF, of course, went to almost every dress shop with me and watched me don every dress, giving input all along the way. I couldn't have made my pick without her.

My beautiful and talented friend, Karee Hays, helped me with my skin and makeup. I've been really out of the loop on makeup trends, but Karee set me straight. Karee does facials at Dr. Retief's office in Green Hills and is AMAZING. She helped me get my skin in great shape. However, she not only helped me with my face, she also treated me to spray tans in her attic (because I was told that I would need "a little color")! This was so funny. The spray tan gets all over everything. So, the best place to do it is in a room where you don't care what gets on the walls. Karee's attic served this purpose well. I loved it when Karee said, "Girl, it doesn't get much more redneck than spray tanning in the attic!" I agreed, but it was so worth it!

Following the spray tanning, Karee went on to give me makeup lessons in her home. I sat on her vanity stool while she taught me how to do the "smokey eye," add highlights to my face and play up features while diminishing others. She even GAVE me her own makeup to take along with me on the trip to ensure that I had the right colors... including a new tube of her coveted, impossible-to-find Loreal lipgloss . She gave me this to KEEP... so sweet!

My darling & beautiful model friend, Tiffany Baker, helped me all the way from Asia through "inboxing" me on my Face Book page with all sorts of health and well-being tips, not to mention suggestions for makeup that she loves as a high fashion model, and books for reading, which covered topics from the Perricone diet for clear skin to The Hip Chicks Guide to Macrobiotics. She introduced me to the Japanese Ume Plum and its healing and restorative properties, and she gave me encouragement and confidence.

(*author's note: I have known both Karee and Tiffy my entire life... I think it's so cool how God has brought us full circle and back into each other's lives.)

At this point, whomever is reading this is probably thinking, "Good grief. Aren't you going a little overboard with the glam?!" Well, part of me thought the very same thing; however, I decided to embrace the experience, bathe myself in some totally out-of-the-ordinary "me focus" and have fun doing it (my fashionistas encouraged me to do the same). Like Liza Graves told me while I was searching for my dress, "The thrill of the hunt is half the fun."  Karee said, "75% of the FUN is the getting ready and having something fun to look forward to," and Tiffy, "...don't stress too much on what (dress) to choose (dress). Wear what YOU feel good in!" Mom affirmed me, as she always does, by saying, "Thought you selected the perfect dress for the Grammys. Beautiful on you!"


So, with their advice and affirmation in tow, I headed to Unruli, an Aveda Salon in downtown Franklin, to get my hair in shape! Vallorie Chappel Barnes, the best colorist in the world :), got my hair color-perfect, gave me detailed styling suggestions and loaned me a glove for the curling iron to protect my hand (oh, I need to return that). Uli, owner of Unruli, gave me a beautiful cut and got my hair in healthy shape.

I had my dress, my shoes, my makeup... but I didn't have my jewelry. So, Mom and I hit the shops again searching for that perfect necklace. We looked at everything from vintage and antique to new and sparkly. I finally landed on just the right necklace through an invitation to a Stella & Dot jewelry show. The only problem was that I needed the necklace right away. My problem was no problem for Stella & Dot consultant, Kim Wright, though. She brought me a bagful of jewelry to try. I picked one. She ordered it, and it arrived the day before I left! Awesome!

Of course, I got my pedi/mani so my toes and fingers would fit the glam profile for LA. I also picked out a new suitcase because with all of the fashion advice I'd received, I had A LOT that I need to take on my trip... I packed up EVERYTHING and Mom picked me up on Thursday, Jan 28 (a day earlier than my original flight... I moved it so as to avoid the huge winter storm of 2010!... no way was I gonna miss this trip!).

With THE dress that fit (and felt perfect) all packed neatly in its own BCBG garment bag, I approached the SWA check-in counter quite unaware of what lay before me...

(The airport arrival and the trip itself, however, will merit blogs of their own. More to come.)