Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
While on a self-guided walking tour of Richmond's Northside,
or a trip to the beach in your bathing suit.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
We played games.
It was an amazing journey. I will never forget it.
And we wept.
Merry Christmas, Paul.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Very LONG story kind of short..
Little girl (Alyssa) is eligible for a Make-a-Wish.
Wishes for 4 years in a row that Ty Pennington
will come right on over and re-do her family's home.
Make-a-Wish can't really promise Ty.
"Is there anything else?"
But after seeing the SpectroMagic parade and
lit up princesses at
Disney, Alyssa decides that going
to that magic might be worth everything.
And, after four years, she gives up on Ty and the home makeover.
Her family starts planning a trip to Disney.
Then Alyssa gets admitted into the hospital.
But she gets better.
Her mom and dad ache from sleeping in chairs.
Her dad in particular.
If fact, he feels awful.
It's because he has appendicitis!
Alyssa on one floor, her dad on the other.
The trip to Disney up in the air.
After a couple of their vehicles break down,
and it rains for three days,
and Alyssa's IV lines blow
everyone gets better!
And then they leave for Disney.
Right on time.
Not so fast.
While all of this was going on,
the town of Mechanicsville, VA
was planning the sneakiest, fastest
extreme home makeover ever.
Before the Orlando-bound plane ever left the ground,
PODS were delivered, the house was emptied,
movers, plumbers, tilers, painters, and carpenters
flocked from near and far.
Old carpet was torn out, new tile layed.
Shiny new appliances. Check.
Pretty, pretty paint. Check.
New furniture. Check.
Deck built in 1/2 day? Check.
Vehicles repaired. Check.
Box of tissues placed in every room
so that the family can cry their way
through the house when they get home tonight.
This project moved me to tears. I started crying as soon as
I rounded the corner
yesterday to deliver some small things to the house
and saw the street FULL of work trucks. I cried again when I
saw people in every single room of Alyssa's house, busy, busy, busy
making her wish come true.
The masterminds behind this don't want to be
highlighted here. I already asked them.
They said that they don't deserve the praise.
I'll tell you this, though. In Mechanicsville, this is what Ty Pennington looks like:
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I kept at it somehow to honor my gratitude for Debra, Roz, and everyone else who has ever realized they have the power to change fate by simply being kind right on time.
It was as good as it was going to get. And I posted it. I posted it with the crappy picture of Debra's card, with whatever grammatical errors there might have been, and with the funky (stupid) spacing issues that come with writing on Blogger.
Then I did some laundry and other things I know how to do.
Then I went out with my son and his girlfriend. We did what I wanted to do first (walked around Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and looked at all the Christmas lights). And then we did what he wanted to do (have a few beers at Buffalo Wild Wings surrounded by 432 televsions all tuned to different stations). When I got home, I sat down at my computer and read my story. I don't know if it was the Christmas lights in the garden or the beer at Buffalo Wild Wings, but I started crying.
I am not a writer. For me, writing is much like drinking--at the time it seems so FUN and liberating, and AWESOME, and maybe you'll make some new friends this way, and sometimes you can even convince yourself that tequilla tastes delicious! Woooo-hooooo! But then morning comes and you have throw up in your hair and you hope beyond hope that it is your own throw up and that you are in bed alone and you wonder REALLY? Really?
So I was reading my story and thinking REALLY?
And then you chimed in. I started getting messages from all of you. So sweet. I am blown away by the kindness of your notes and comments today. Humbled.
Thank you. You have made my writing hangover bearable.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Debra was my best friend. We were inseparable.
We spent long days together and then
had sleepovers at her house.
We both had typewriters and would sometimes
stay up all night pretending to be working
on something very important.
In the late mornings we would work on our complicated,
choreographed dance routines to Captain and Tennille's
Love Will Keep us Together.
When we had to cross the lawns of the dozen
or so houses that separated us, we would pretend
that if a car came along and spotted us
we would immediately be turned into a
mysterious vapor and then disappear altogether. Forever.
Engine revs and headlights sent us running for our lives--
scurrying behind trees or bushes.
If there were nothing to hide behind we might have to
throw ourselves down on the ground and lie as flat
and still as possible until the car passed.
Often very dirty and out of breath upon walking in our front doors,
we never explained the game to anyone else.
Best friends do things like that.
Debra had a beautiful mother, Roz.
Roz was a real estate agent.
I didn't know any moms who were real estate agents.
She seemed to constantly be going here and there,
but was always around when Debra needed her.
My own mother went between here and there, too,
but because of crippling depression and a brutal drug addiction,
didn't always come back from "there" when you needed her to.
I remember when Debra turned 10.
She and Roz let me in on all the plans for the party.
We figured out what kind of cake to have,
what kind of games to play, and who would be invited.
On the day of the party I got dressed
in a pair of brown corduroy pants (that I loved)
and the cleanest shirt I had.
And I went into my mother's room.
"Mama?" I had to wake her up.
"Did we get a present for Debra?
Her party is right now. Mom? Mama?
I have to go soon. Did we get a present for Debra?"
She didn't say anything.
Her eyes were open and she was looking at me,
but not seeing me. Even in my clean shirt
and my favorite pants,
I was starting to crumble a little with anxiety.
"Let's see what we can find."
She had a tall dresser in her room
and the top drawer was full of things not clothes.
We all knew this. Sometimes she'd ask us
to get something out of the drawer for her--
a rosary, a crochet needle, an extension cord, a postage stamp.
When she opened that drawer, any hope
that she remembered and had gotten a present just for Debra faded.
"Here. Take this."
"What is it?"
She had handed me a yellow Avon box.
Inside was a jar of hand lotion.
It was the same lotion that my grandmother used.
No. I can't. I can't give this to Debra today.
"Is there anything else?" I asked.
On my way across the lawns,
with the Avon box in my hands,
I didn't hide from one car.
I closed my eyes and wished every car that passed
would vaporize me and save me from the party.
At the door, Roz let me in.
I tried to tell her everything with my eyes,
but she just broke my stare, kissed my head,
and took the small package from me.
Everyone was there and we ate popcorn
and listened to Captain and Tennille. At one point,
Celeste started throwing popcorn up in the air
and trying to catch it in her mouth,
and we all cheered her on, and I temporarily forgot
about the little yellow box of humiliation
with all of the other brightly wrapped presents.
I told myself that it might be possible that Debra
was enjoying her party so much that she
wouldn't even need to open presents.
But seeing the floor covered with popcorn, Roz said,
"Sweetie, are you ready to open your presents and have some cake?"
Celeste's gift was a charm bracelet that got passed around the party.
Debra opened a sparkly baton from Doreen.
Twirled it in her fingers.
Kathrine gave her roller skates!
Nicole gave her a mood ring that we all put on in turn.
Roz stayed close and picked up wrapping paper.
Handing Debra that yellow box was like offering up
every failure a ten year old girl could handle.
It was like saying, "Here, here are my shortcomings.
Here is everything I lack today:
the whimsy of a charm bracelet,
the flash of a baton through the air,
the shiny ball bearings in the wheel of a roller skate,
the mystery of a mood ring,
a mother who can get out of bed."
Debra took the box and shook it.
The heavy jar thudded around.
What is it? What is it? Let us see!
Debra pulled the jar of lotion out of the box.
No one said anything for what seemed like an eternity.
It was so quiet that I was pretty sure my life had ended.
And then Roz said, "Oh! How thoughtful! How wonderful!
Something that you can really use. Let me smell it.
Ummmmm. Look how pretty it is. It's like butter.
It's beautiful. It's the nicest gift so far."
Taking her cues from sweet Roz, Debra nodded in agreement.
Everyone else, slightly confused,
came to believe that it really was the best gift.
In the seam of shock and overwhelming gratitude,
I vaguely remember everyone rubbing their hands together
as the lotion was passed around the party.
I don't remember anything, really, after that.
Like singing Happy Birthday, or eating cake,
or going out into the driveway to try out the skates.
In the 32 years since then,
there have been other people who reached down
and pulled me up when I was surely sinking.
And it may be that I was rescued once or twice
before the day of Debra's party.
But I think that this is my earliest memory of being so keenly aware
of both my need to be saved
and the heroic kindness and grace of those around me.
When I was 12 our family moved away from Atlanta--
and from Debra and Roz.
I have not seen either of them since.
But I got a Christmas card from Debra today.
It had a picture of her and her family.
On the back it said, "I think of you often and always remember
what a good friend you were to me. The best.
Thank you for everything. Merry Christmas. Love, Debra.
Thank you for everything, Debra and Roz.
Everything. Every. Thing.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I visited Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens to see the GardenFest of lights. It's a cold garden all warmed up by millions of lights.
There was an entire grove of trees that had been decorated by local elementary schools. I was envious of every young artist behind the beauty. But one tree in particular took my envy to a higher level: I was inspired. I immediately wanted to make something even half as beautiful. Every ornament on the tree was made from "odds and ends from the art room." There were these wonderful little silver frames with gorgeous collages in them.
(I've had to say this before: this is not a photography blog. I may go back to the garden and take better pictures)
Sometimes when I read a good book like, oh, say, Life is a Verb, or hear a lovely song, like Kristin Adreassen's, I feel compelled to know the artist. I find a way to send a letter. Yes, it's usually something as transparent as "I like you. I want to be your friend. Okay? Check yes or no." (If you have ever thought of reaching out to someone who inspires you, go ahead. I've had some amazing replies from writers, singers, painters I thought I would never hear from).
I took a picture of the teacher's name. Merle Kincaid. I searched for an email address for her. No luck. But, of course, she has a Facebook account. So I sent her a message.
Hello Ms. Kincaid,
Are you the art teacher at Echo Lake? I was at Lewis Ginter last night and I saw the most amazing tree ever. If you are responsible for some of that beauty, will you send me an email? I would love to say THANK YOU for doing what you do. I would also like to say: I have to make one of the little frames and I want to know what the magic silver/foil stuff is, and what the students used to color it. I love, love, love the tree that I saw. Loved it. It made me very happy. I'm still happy about it.
All the best,
Merle wrote me back. Twice. Her replies told me two very important things. 1) How I, too, could be an artist for the small price of the silver foil tape (huge roll, $8.00 at Lowes). And 2) That my email made her feel connected to the world in a big way.
Hi Amy, thanks for the kind message! It is so sweet you took the time to say our tree made you happy! I can't wait to share your note with my students! My 3rd-5th graders are the talented artists responsible for the decorations. Most everything we used were donated odds and ends I have collected over the past few years in my art room and studio. The frames are so easy. I took leftover cardboard boxes, cut them up in different sizes and shapes. Next I had the kids cover the cardboard with foil tape I got at Home Depot or Lowe's-it's a huge roll for around $8.00. Next I cut out an opening out of the middle with an xacto knife-this takes a little time. The students used a ball point pen to carve in the decorations-but a stylo pen would work great. We then rubbed acrylic black paint on the lines with a brush in a circular motion and quickly buffed it off with a paper towel-again in a circular motion. They used colored sharpies to decorate the designs-but they look great with no color as well. I punched holes in the frame and the students used wire and beads for hanging it. In the past we have added holes in the bottom of the frame as well and attached beads to wire to hang down. Then we added the collage in the middle. In the past we have recycled old art magazines and put famous art work in the middle.....that looks great too. Hope you have fun making one. They make great gifts! Take care and thanks again for the note.
Blessings, Merle Kincaid
There must be something about Amys because you are the second Amy God has placed in my life in the past few weeks and you both are so kind.
I think your blog is VERY cool...it is a testimony that there are no coincidences. Not a one .The picture I see is God in the middle of a giant web of circles. The web glistens and radiates life. It has no hard edges like a regular web. God is connecting us all through his grace and unconditional love. We are His messengers.
Thank you for being God's messenger of a kind word.
Blessing to you and thank you,
The world is big, disjointed, and chaotic. But it's so pretty in those moments when you can feel a part of it all. Whether you believe in coincidence, luck, God, humans, fate, silver foil tape, or some other thing that brings us together--even if only through a little frame--you can't deny the comfort that feeling connected brings. I'm so grateful for Merle the artist for reminding me of this today.
I will be making one of these for First Wednesday January (which happens to fall on Epiphany--which is a story for another day).
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
There was a song on the radio yesterday that said, "in case you need reminding, you're beautiful.. don't waste the pretty." I like it and thought you would too.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I was born in Huntington, West Virginia
(recently rated the most unhealthy city in the United States).
While the hollows may be filled with illiteracy, obesity, and poverty,
and while there may be no shortage of West Virginia jokes
(I've heard them all),
there is also the most amazing love that grows there.
Linda Hoover is from West Virginia. Magically, the pound cake that
I got from her tasted as if it had been made with WV Love (and butter).
It made me weep. It tasted like this kind of love:
Love that can sprout through even the thickest layer of coal dust.
Love that means soup beans on the stove at the end of a long day.
Love that smells like applebutter with the right amount of cinnamon.
Love like clothes on the line.
Love that tapes a dime (when you are 9), and a dollar (when you are 19)
to a red-paper heart on Valentine's Day.
Love that rocks your baby to sleep when you're simply too tired to do it yourself.
Love that offers Castor Oil if you suddenly don't feel like going to school.
Love that can pack quickly and get there on time.
Love that cuts your crust off until you are old enough to realize how good crust is.
Love that will say, "Honey, you sit right down and let me fix us a Coke."
Love that has a really soft neck.
Love that exclaims, "Well, I am finer than a frog's hair sliced twice! How are you?"
Love that hears the porch swing creaking at 3:00 a.m. and comes to sit with you.
Love that says, "I reckon we'll have to just have each other
for Christmas this year."
Love that writes letters to shut-ins.
Love that can whistle the gospel song "P'wr in the Blood".
Love that never tires of a much repeated story.
Love that understands kids real guidance, and biscuits need real butter
Love that never forgets the spin cycle or the fabric softener.
Love that can spell your name with pancake batter.
Love that tells you to "Get out of the bubblegum"
if you try telling an outrageous lie.
Love that offers a prayer for stray dogs.
Love that won't get mad at you if, when you are 5, you somehow become convinced that you have been abandoned in K-Mart and need to walk the 13 miles home by yourself in the dark rain and love frantically runs out of the store to find you, slips, and breaks a leg.
Love that will don combat boots and pull six children
through the snow on one sled.
Love that insists you take some snacks with you.
Love that knows who you eat with is more important than what you eat.
Love that wakes you up early the day of the funeral
so that you can have a good breakfast.
Love that tells your new husband that he is "handier than a pocket in a shirt" when he straightens up the leaning mailbox.
Love that says casually, "Well, lookie there" when another age spot appears.
Love that says to you one day, "I am forgetting words".
Love that continues through confusion and heartache.
Love that gives you just a little time to give
back a fraction of what you have received.
Love that goes before you could even start to get even.