Be the Light!

Ahhh is it any surprise I turn to writing on a day like today? I have been to the news and facebook,and the phone and my kids beds while they are sleeping and even church this morning to hear what could possibly be said about Friday in Connecticut.  I have found a bit of comfort in all those places and tons of grief and pain an anger. It is a senseless act of violence with such enormity of pain and waste of human life and potential it seems silly and belittling to the lives lost to talk about anything other than their sweet little faces and their favorite colors and what was on their Christmas list. It seems callous to focus on anything other than the heroics of the teachers -people we pay $41.38 and hour if we assume they don’t do any work outside of the actual school day- who lied to the shooter while hiding the children in a closet. To focus on those lives is to focus on the light and the good. It is to remain hopeful. And that glimmer of light is exactly what the victims families need. Because right now it seems too hard to even breath.

Do you remember the show Hill Street Blues? I was on the edge of the appropriate age to watch an evening police drama but with an older brother, who was sometimes my babysitter, I managed to see more than my fair share of this great show. The theme song itself  starts with a slow simple piano, making way for a  70s Gerry Rafferty sort of jingly synthesizer, the 80s instrument which was everywhere from Cats to Hooked on Classics volumes 1-19. The hook before the theme was always in the briefing room, officers filing in for a day of work with talk about the day’s cases. In the first 5 years of the show, Sergeant Esterhaus would dismiss his cops and then grab their attention again with: “Hey, let’s be careful out there.” In 1984 a new sergeant put his own mark on the squad. After 4 years of Reaganomics, the opening quote for Sergeant Stan Jablonski became: “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us.” Not a surprising shift for the most “me” focused decade in our country’s history.

Today, we seem to be living more of the Jablonski’s way of life. Thoughts like: the world has become so crazy we better stock up and protect ourselves. Adam Lanza’s mother was supposedly a “preparer,” living with three weapons because she was a single woman who needed to be prepared to protect herself and for the end of the world. Ironically, her son used those exact “preparations” to kill her and many others. If we aren’t practicing two wrongs make a right, we have digressed back to an eye for an eye. It will never work, just ask the Romans. We need to take a stance, to demand reform. We need words on paper that change into laws. Stop with the semi-automatics weapons and the concealed weapons or the denial that mental health is a very real and very powerful problem in our country with hidden symptoms and an even more elusive path for getting help. Will this stop tragedy? Nope but if it saves the life of just one 6 year old it is worth it. Just like changing drunk driving laws has cut down vehicular deaths. As my brother  wrote last  Friday “Remember, now is not the time to talk about gun violence. Later is too soon too. After that is too late. Then it’s too soon again.”

What are we waiting for?   For enough time to work for social justice or gun reform or mental health coverage?  For someone else to say sorry first? To admit I have a problem and I need help? To touch your child again.. or not? Advent is the season of waiting. As Christians we wait with bated breath for a tiny baby born in a manger. But the good news is already here so why aren’t we spreading it more readily? We are the difference in this world. We are the light. We are  the shepherds and the wise men and the inn keeper. We are the ones who come as we are, tired and stinky and quirky, traveling great ways on a hunch that one day if we huddle together in a small space, bringing what little we have to offer, that will be enough to change the world. We have to be because we know the whole story from beginning to end. And we know that without it, darkness and sadness win.

If you aren’t Episcopalian, you might not know we have the best church music of any denomination. This is a fact. The word of God is spoken in the lyrics and the tunes created by those such as Handel and Bach are evidence of the genius in God’s creation. Today we sang one of my favorite hymns, #67, Comfort, Ye My People. It is sung in staccato which makes it some what challenging if you aren’t familiar with the tune because you have to arrive on top of each note, bouncing on it like a trampoline rather than sliding thru it. This device makes the music joyous, moving it forward with energy. How fitting for Advent. It seemed a bit happy for today but when I read the words, there could be no more fitting message. I have translated it below but included the real words after.

GOD SAYS: Comfort my people. Comfort those who sit in mourning beneath their sorrow’s load. Speak to them about Jerusalem and peace that is waiting for them. Tell them God covers their sins and warfare is over. Hear the voice of those crying in the desert, calling to us about repenting since the kingdom of God is now here. Obey the warning and do whatever you can to get there. Shape Up! Make straight what was crooked, make the rough places soft. Be true and humble as if you were living with a king (or celebrity idol). Because the Glory of the Lord is everywhere and all of us can see: nothing will break the power of God.

*Comfort, comfort ye my people,
speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
comfort those who sit in darkness,
mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load;
speak ye to Jerusalem
of the peace that waits for them;
tell her that her sins I cover,
and her warfare now is over.

For the herald’s voice is crying
in the desert far and near,
bidding all men to repentance,
since the kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way!
Let the valleys rise to meet him,
and the hills bow down to greet him.

Make ye straight what long was crooked,
make the rougher places plain:
let your hearts be true and humble,
as befits his holy reign,
For the glory of the Lord
now o’er the earth is shed abroad,
and all flesh shall see the token
that his word is never broken.

 

 

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Don’t Be a Turkey

I found a photo between the refrigerator and cabinet. It is curled on the edges and the colors are slightly faded. The scene is from 11 eleven years ago, our large family gathered on the side lawn of my cousin’s house where we gathered for Thanksgiving. It should be blown up, in a fancy frame next to the one from last year, where my grandmother the matriarch sat front and center with half the family. The finding is fortuitous as we get ready for this holiday weekend. The dining room table is stacked high to over flowing. Homemade crostini, wine, Jezebel, nuts&blots made the old-fashioned way, in the oven (with margarine). Parkas, Sunday dresses, and Christmas presents: a step stool, a Jake and the Never Land Pirates boat, a bracelet. The refrigerator downstairs is stocked with dip, cream cheese, sour cream and more wine. We are preparing for a journey, up 95 with the rest of the country. Our “guest” room belongs to our youngest daughter and thus the other unused room in the house serves as the staging area for our trek to Connecticut to see The Cousins. We were a young married couple, from Richmond, the last time we did this in 2001. The last cousin had married the summer before and then the world blew up that September and we were all a bit sentimental to form new family traditions and cement old memories. The Kids Table was taking over, hosting in a younger generation house and all contributing to the meal. We were 17 3/4 strong that Thanksgiving -our hostess giving birth 4 days after the guests left.

I made this same journey every year of my childhood for both Thanksgiving and Christmas to see The Cousins. My mother would lay everything out in the guest room (there were just 2 kids in my family) starting the day after Halloween. Ice skates always went in as my grandfather lived on a pond in backwoods Greenwich and it usually iced over before the turkey was cooked. The adults would don skates in formal Thanksgiving meal attire, ties, blazers, and long overcoats. One year my mother was sure it would be too warm for the pond to freeze so she saved herself the effort of finding our skates in the attic. Mistake: a Nor’easter blew in the night we got there and skating happened the day after. Skates were found for everyone but me, my age 7 sized foot too small. But you can skate in sneakers, especially if they are Zips. They are just a lot more slippery and you have to fall to stop. I have a photo of my grandfather standing in his fur-lined Chesterfield,  holding my hand, letting me glide around him in circles. My engineer father would do major projects on his Dad’s property, getting out the electric chain saw and loving an excuse to chop things down in the woods. Then a photographer would come and capture the moment. Those large groups of people I love, standing amidst fallen crunchy leaves hang on my parents’ walls.

These memories of people, MY people, are strong and rich like a good gravy stirred from the drippings of a well roasted bird. By no means are they perfect. I remember the time my cousin and I punched each other during a game of Ghost in the Graveyard. I was bragging, having evaded her  for a third trip around the house and she was pissed. She punched me and I tattled. We were both sent to her room while the Moms were told by their mother how terrible the parenting was. (My cousin and I were, by that point, upstairs giggling at how silly grownups are). There were the annual money conversations where my grandfather would ask my Dad and uncle into his office, close the doors, and discuss the economic status. I have always wondered what truly was discussed and whether it was straight dictation or a true conversation. The doors would open 30 minutes later and the meeting would adjourn, no details shared with the rest of us. It seemed very grown up too. One year I was admonished from Christmas Eve dinner for giggling, uncontrollably, during the grace. No idea what was so funny I just know the more I bit my tongue to try and stop the more my gut rolled and tears streamed down my face. I didn’t even care I had to skip spaghetti but I was devastated to be allowed out of captivity only to find all the new fangled ice cream treats called a Klondike bars had been eaten by the other kids and the Dads.
And there are the funny stories too like eleven years ago when my husband had so many Dark and Stormy’s on Turkey eve with my cousin Perry, he could barely keep down the stuffing the next day. Last year half of the family gathered in Charlottesville with my 95-year-old grandmother. She is still with us but too weak to make any journey. I feel a bit guilty thinking of her in the nursing home, eating a mooshy bland meal with jarred cranberry jelly. Her mind is still with it at points but I hope she sleeps through the Turkey buffet. She would find it tacky. My oldest daughter and her cousin made a fabulous puppet show and dance. The production was proof, sometimes two chiefs can work together.

Traditions. Why do we do it? It takes a hell of a lot of effort, money, and patience to gather. But I have a theory. I think we keep recreating snippets of our childhood, hoping to modify it a bit, keep the good and toss out the bad. It’s a great big “Do-Over” if you will, the chance to be a better self while still sharing our own imperfections with those who have been added to the clan. It is our glue, the thread, weaving different patterns and fabrics together to fortify us from the dailiness of a crazy spinning world. I think there are some guidelines to a happy holiday so here my suggestions:

1. Spend a lot of time outdoors. Grown-ups and kids. Most towns have turkey trots now. Six of us signed up to run this year. Nothing like 5 miles before a big meal. But if running isn’t your thing, take a walk, kick the season’s colorful foliage, sit in a rocking chair on a porch. Breath in crisp air.

2. Make the effort. To get there. To be Happy. To be Kind. To snap the family photo (not everyone has to be looking at the camera). To make a fancy cocktail, signature dish or whole meal. Get the good stuff out. There are probably enough people around to help with the cleanup. Besides when else are you going to use all the stuff you had to write wedding thank you notes for?

3. Surround yourself with people. Even if you are an introvert. It doesn’t have to be all day. You can curl up with a book for most of the afternoon. But sharing is part of being alive. If you don’t have family and are not a cook, go to a soup kitchen or nursing home and serve food. Find a church service. Share the gift of yourself.

4. Stop to be thankful. For what you have. For what you don’t. If it isn’t what you want, vow to change it by next Thanksgiving.

5. Tired is not an emotion. I have stolen this idea from Glennon Melton and am obsessed. Tired is often a mask for hiding emotions. Emotions are tiring but when we name them and share them -with our selves, our God, or our partner- we have a lot more energy to feel. And that allows us to be open to new, happy memories

Tomorrow morning I will drop the kids at school, fill the car with gas, and pack the trunk. I will assure the dog he is coming with us. Load the ipod, pack the dvd player (it is a ten hour drive y’all). I will fill the cooler with my southern recipes shared by my new peeps: pimento cheese, yeast rolls, pickled okra, and stuffed jalapenos. Swing by Cooper’s for some barbecue because Yankees think barbecue means burgers on July 4. I will check the glove-box 4 times for the E-Z Pass since there are seven tolls between here and Southport. I will remind myself not to yell at the drivers or the traffic. I will triple check the camera is packed. Our crew has changed a bit since the one I just found on the kitchen floor. We have added NINE to the new generation, topping at ten cousins. Bob, my grandmother’s husband is gone and she of course will be alone in Virginia. Greg’s parents will be in Pinehurst. We have added Guy and Lisa. The backyard has changed but my hair is surprisingly similar though there have been many renditions between then and now. I see us on the slate patio with the Long Island Sound in the background. Inevitably someone will not look at the camera. A few will have half-mast eyes. Someone may be fuming from some comment about where to put the gravy boat or water goblets. But we will be together and it will create a new memory for me and my kids. Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

23

Click. Whirl. Click. Whirl. Click. Whirl. Around and around it goes keeping time better than a seasoned drummer. There must be something in the dryer hiding in a pocket. A coin, a clergy collar stay; a piece of sea glass. Hopefully it is not a melty thing like the blue crayon that turned my dryer into an aquarium diorama  last year. It is the sound of an unscheduled morning, all kids in school, husband at work and the dog lounging on the bed, thankful to have quiet. He seems to like the new temperpedic pillow as much as I do, if only he knew it cost $60 on sale. The weather is cooperating with my mood, a sunrise of orange and gold stripes giving way to heavy gray clouds which threaten rain. A day to stay at home, if not in bed, dreaming of soup and comfort.

The luxury of this time. I was in a meeting last week where we started speaking of the need for quiet and how our crazy busy lives had no time for it. Really I thought…whose fault is that? My first job at a boarding school required morning chapel every day. Assigned seats, coat and tie attire. I think it was no coincidence my seat was directly behind the headmaster’s so he could monitor any snickering or tardiness from me. Once a week the chaplain would conduct a meditation service. All 500 of us were required to sit silently and ponder. For FOUR minutes. It was an eternity. At times I would count to 60 4 times, others 30 8 times. Occasionally I would be transported asking my mind to blank and let myself drift. My point is not that meditation had a profound affect on me. Rather, 4 minutes can be enough. Turn off the car radio. Lay in bed and stare at the ceiling. Sit. 4 minutes. See what happens.

I have been traveling through the valley of the shadow of death lately and it’s not the Halloween decorations around town either. Things that once seemed concrete and known appear more like ghosts wafting in the breeze.  There is a metallic taste in my mouth, a feeling of nausea and hunger rolled into one. Demons of doubt wrestling with dreams and visions I had for my future. Jealousy, fatigue, permanence, cold seep into my brain like a leaky roof allowing the rain to drizzle down, rotting the wood and core of strength. It is an all out gory horror film, this doubting future I am fighting down. With hatchets, and swamp creatures and shrill screams coming from victims as they trip over the stick in the woods. I hate horror movies, gratuitous gore with no plot, predictable to say the least. But sometimes my life feels the same way -fill the calendar up with so many activities and places and things we end up running from place to place screaming at one another. It’s as if Jason and his hockey mask are lurking around the next corner, ready to wrestle us to the ground with a machete. Well maybe not as cliched but the pattern is predictable. Kids too tired to go, insist on going in a rushed fashion. Fight over car seats. Parent one intervenes, parent two sits”quietly” critiquing terrible parenting skills of other parent. Kids continue to act up. Parent two tries “better” tactics, equally ineffective. Parent one proclaims “you just undermined what I was saying”. Kids sense discord among the ranks, ratchet up bad behavior to next level. Arrive at destination, head in opposite directions so as to not interact with cast of horror film.

Have you ever had that? A moment in time when you realize you are not on the right track? That you are really not headed anywhere at all? Just swirling around, things moving through you. And at you. It feels ghostly, as if I am watching my life on a movie screen, unable to stop the unfolding scene. My first reaction is to quit. To get up and walk out, turn the movie off. But then what? This isn’t a movie, it’s life and it keeps going. The three little lives I am helping to build keep progressing forward and they need me, not just as a robot marching through the day. I need myself to have days that coincide more with the voice in my head.

I just read an article about the editor of Food & Wine Magazine. She says all her time is split between work and family; she does not need me time because those two areas are “me.” They are her fulfillment and joy:  sounds like success to me. I do not have my answers, let alone “the” answers but I am finding a dimly lit path. It starts with stillness and conversations with God. It has strong, wise friends who are good counsel and ask hard questions. There is sleep and hugs and warm soup. And a lot less running from scary monsters.

 

Remembering

I was supposed to write this blog five days ago when we were all focused on remembering. But I haven’t taken this year’s “first day of school” photo either so let’s just say I am working on my time. At my wedding 13 years ago, we somehow missed the all important Christmas card photo, the one with my family plus Greg. My Mother was crushed and so I said let’s redo it. Redo what? her pragmatic self asked. The shot; when Greg and I come home for Thanksgiving. Let’s get dressed up again and stage the photo in the church courtyard. We did and it was fabulously fun. We got to admire one another and how good we still looked. We laughed at the the funny stories from the reception that had not happened when we were supposed to be taking this shot for real. There was no stress about getting grandparents safely to their pew or checking to make sure all the groomsmen were present and accounted for. We relived the day and the pictures show it. Big grins. And in a way more realistic since the wedding was over but the marriage was just starting.

People have been asking me lately how do I have time to write a blog. Answer is I don’t. But you don’t have time to read one either so that makes us even. But only sort of because I am constantly writing a million blog entries in my head, it only takes effort to sit down and spew them out. But afterwards I feel lighter and more right with myself and the world. Perhaps that is why write and right sound the same. So the week got away from me and I was going to skip writing about September 11 all together because I missed it. But that’s not true. Each summer, when we drive back and forth to Maine I suffer through the traffic of the George Washington Bridge and toll just so the girls can look out their windows and see the skyline of the Great Big Apple, like I did as a girl. IT LOOKS SO DIFFERENT without the twin towers. Do I dare say it looks less impressive? Each year on September 11, I think about when Greg and I lived in Manhattan almost under the shadows of the towers. He gave his first sermon in English in St. Paul’s Chapel, the one a friend from seminary turned into a first aid station because it was in the midst of ground zero, yet miraculously unharmed. I read stories about a man trapped underneath in the subway station, the same one I used to walk Sunday mornings when it was dark and quiet and empty. I thought about my cousin whom I love like a sister and worked for a company whose people were wiped out on that day. She was home, on bed-rest waiting for her first baby to come and watching the news in her hormonal state and losing it. About her brother in a meeting in midtown who saw the plane hit and slammed his notebook and abruptly said (with a few swear words thrown in) I am out of here and ran to Grand Central and got the last train out to Connecticut.

But what has been nagging me about September 11 is my Dad. A man who spent 29 years serving the country in the Navy. A preppy New England boy who wound up in NROTC at Auburn after being stuck at St. Paul’s, an all boy boarding school for eight years. Needless to say co-eds far outweighed the hassle of basic training and he was happy to be in the south although it was a VERY different world from the one in which he grew up. Imagine going from the woods of New Hampshire surrounded only by boys and male teachers from elite families to civil-rights-angry-alabama. My father’s NROTC unit was put on “stand-by” when James Meredith was attempting to enter the University of Mississippi. While Dad’s fraternity brothers talked about that annoying nigger, he was learning how to help the National Guard if the same thing happened in Alabama. I remember him telling this story when I was learning about the civil rights movement in high school and thought how cool my Dad was part of history. When I asked if he was scared or worried or mad or what was he feeling, he shrugged and said, I was just doing what I was told. Doing his duty.

So it should not be surprising to learn he volunteered to help when the plane crashed into the Pentagon. His office was across the six lanes of 395 and he could see the hole from his office window. What many don’t think about is the papers at the Pentagon are not for everyone’s viewing. Whether you agree with that or not is not the point. The area could not simply be opened  to any and all volunteers. Think about how spooked everyone was: we had just been attacked by 4 planes. So my Dad, with a full time job and top level security clearance, took on a midnight shift of cleaning and sorting through the rubble. Many did. Showing up and doing what they could. He did not wear a uniform or end up in People magazine. Most people don’t know he even did it. But he does. And I do.

I remember exactly where I was when the second plane hit. I had eaten toasted pumpkin bread with Greg, Joe, and Sarah at Betsy’s in Carytown Richmond. Greg had dropped me at The Martin Agency and as I walked in our atrium, the three story high tv was showing the second plane slice through the World Trade Center. I remember thinking it went it but didn’t come out which must mean the whole thing must have blown up. I was terrified thinking of my cousins and college friends living in the city and wondering if they were ok. But today a week and eleven year later, I remember peoples lives were changed or ended just for showing up. And for those of us lucky enough to still be here, we could be changed too. By showing up and doing what we can.

Begin

The first day of school pictures flood my facebook account. Perfectly brushed ponytails and grins the size of orange peels convey a sense of independence and confidence better than words. The bottoms of our backpacks have traces of sand and salt water fishing in the bottom, now mixing with permission slips and classroom supply lists. The excitement is almost measurable in my girls and the photos of their friends as we embark on another year. Somehow these kids seem to start fresh each August, like squash and zucchini pushing through the late August dirt of a garden. No memory of the scorching July sun or the doldrums of a cold February without outdoor recess.  A sense of wonder and creativity oozes through the toothless grin of my 7 year old as she tries to spread grape jelly on to the bread for a sandwich. “Mommy they should make a spoon-knife combo because the jelly is so slippery.” I agree and explain how the spork was invented for salad bars so why not a spife for jelly? My 9 year old reminded me to sign her agenda -my daily homework- after she turned the lights out in her bedroom, and thank God because I had completely forgotten…already. It is intoxicating to watch their enthusiasm and realize a summer outdoors has created stronger, more independent, and energetic kids.

Beginnings marked with official calendar dates are easy to jump in to -even if I still believe it is un-American to start school before Labor Day. We are participating in a nostalgic tradition marked by supply shopping, perfect-first-day-outfit picking, and jitters as we go to sleep on the last night of summer vacation. I can still remember the crocheted tank top sweater I wore on the first day of 8th grade. I had found the directions in the back of my September issue of Seventeen magazine, the one that weighed over two pounds and came to the beach everyday of the August of 1985. I ripped it out and showed my Mom, the most can-do, hand-crafty person I know. As we walked to the beach with baby oil and chairs, I brought my summer reading assignments (school and magazines) and she brought her needles and cotton thread. Needless to say, I looked incredible with my Esprit turquoise capris, an aqua tank top and my freshly knit sweater, that looked somewhat like a shrunken hammock hanging over my lithe 85 pound frame. The first day outfit was probably the highlight of a school year marked by a lot of lows as I straddled the bridge between big kid and young adult, fighting authority every step of the way. I suppose that too is a ritual, growing too big for an old skin.

I wonder if I can shed some old skin during this upcoming year. The more blogs I read or people I meet, it seems we are all at a crossroads, a shifting from home and babies and chaos to self. Not in a centered, selfish way but in a more exploratory way of: what is my passion, my role, my calling- in this next phase of life. It seems we have just gotten out of the making meals for new Moms vortex and jumped right into bringing cheese straws for a funeral phase. What happened to the middle place? The one where everything is really really good and easy and happy? Did I miss it? Was I too tired or too busy or too angry to notice the nirvana next to me?

The mood in Raleigh is somewhat subdued on the beginning of this school year. There was a bad car accident involving 4 girls, seniors in high school, coming home from a weekend at the lake. Instead of matching folders and spirals to each subject, or passing notes in the back of calculus class, one of the girls is in a coma, fighting for her life. And while it seems almost cliche because this seems to happen every year, either at the beginning or the night before graduation, it breaks my heart open. At 18 I drove around all the time without a seatbelt, it wasn’t a law and the cars didn’t beep to remind you back then. I bet we even swerved off the road and over corrected a few times but still I am here, safe and sound, plodding around wondering what I am supposed to be doing with my life. What a luxury to be able to ask the question! To not have the assignment of sitting in a dark hospital room praying for the life of my teenager. To not be exploring new cancer treatments with my 9 year old or visiting a grave side wondering what my 4th grader would have worn to school had she made it past third grade. To not be starting 10th grade without a Mom who lost her battle to ovarian cancer.

It is all in the perspective isn’t it?

When people ask me where I am from, I answer in paragraph form. I moved a lot. This 8 year stint in Raleigh is the longest I have lived anywhere. So I am not sure why I keep wanting the big question -what will I be when I grow up and what will I do with my life?- to be such a short answer. I will be lots of things, some good and some bad.

What will I do with my life? Live it, because I can.

A Risky Move

It is never a good idea to write about a beloved icon, especially after he dies. It is particularly risky when said icon represents all that is good about the place you live, as a transplant. But bear with me here and I promise to tread lightly. Andy Griffith, or more accurately Sheriff Andy Taylor is a legend, a representative of good clean living, where right and wrong stood clearly on opposit sides of an invisible line. For those of us watching reruns in the turmoil of the 70s, where latch key kids and divorce and free love were being played out in real life, he was an ambassador of morality where things were literally spelled out in black and white.

But going back to the real person, Andy Griffith, it appears much more complicated. Born on the wrong side of the tracks and considered “white trash,” show business was a a way out of town and a destiny which looked less than promising. Perhaps that is why the Sheriff in the show seemed so patient with the wrong doers. While right always prevailed, it seemed to pain Sheriff Taylor to have to punish the culprits who had made poor decision in the 27 minute episodes. It was as if he was saving the bad guys from themselves. And so to did the show save Andy Griffith from himself. When the show left the air, the good appeared to get pushed to the back burner. The human Andy Griffith divorced two times and lost an adult son to drug abuse. It was easier to parent Opie on film where the script was clearly written. How many times as a parent have I longed for clearly written words to spell out a solution to my daughters complaints and issues? But like most Hollywood endings, Griffith got it together, revived his soul and career with Matlock (a show I have never seen) and passed away a legend with strong religious faith, happily married to his third wife. Those of us longing for our own Mayberry here on earth are sure he entered the pearly gates whistling his theme song to Saint Peter.

Information about another public persona was also revealed this past week. Anderson Cooper admitted to Andrew Sullivan -and the world- he is gay. Cooper claims he has never denied or publicly discussed his orientation because as a celebrity and journalist he wanted to keep his private life, private. And while it shouldn’t matter or surprise anyone that the the best looking news anchor who is the younger son of the writer Wyatt Emory Cooper and the artist, designer, heiress Gloria Vanderbilt  is gay, the information is somehow newsworthy.  For someone who has a made a career of uncovering the truth, this does not seem like such a leap. Perhaps he was fearful we would tie Anderson the person to Cooper the reporter? Maybe. As a culture we are obsessed with celebrities, thinking we are one big break or stunt away from being the next star. One only has to watch half an episode of The Kardashians or Jersey Shore to realize no talent -except for showing the world how much air is between your ears- is required. Maybe Anderson Cooper was worried we would become so obsessed with his life, we would no longer pay attention to his work. Valid concern.

It seems we choose what we want to know. The Pa of Andy Griffith Show was always patient but firm; does it matter the off air Griffith was less stellar as a Dad? Anderson Cooper’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina revealed the gripping details of the suffering of NOLA citizens; who cares who he sleeps with? Maybe it matters to some. But what if we used a filter not to judge but to take everyone at their best? What if we suspend disbelief long enough to imagine the scripted sherriff could be the real Andy Griffith? I think God does this for us each day. It’s called grace. He knows we are broken sinners making the same mistakes. But somehow we are given the chance to try again, with a little more patience, more humility. More knowledge. Through God’s unconditional love, we are given the grace to become who God sees us as-perfect in the image. So as you walk about whistling the catchiest of all theme songs, remember the ideal Mayberry may be Mt. Airy, NC but it’s our choice to live it.

But My Friends Like Me

Well I did it. I went on my first job interview since 1999. I had one after that but it was more of a brainstorming session on a beach in Nantucket with two friends when we conceptualized Peter Blair Accessories. Doesn’t feel like that should count, even though I learned more about small business at Peter Blair than anywhere else. To prepare for today, I printed out my updated resume, using regular computer paper rather than creamy 24 pound stock which seems stuffy and outdated. (I wonder if people actually print resumes anymore or just email them.) I selected two writing samples and  brainstormed story ideas. I googled my interviewer to see what sort of topics I could hook him on; everyone loves to talk about themselves after all. I did my homework, asking Scott Mason of the Tar Heel Traveler his advice. David Crabtree the WRAL news anchor gave me an encouraging pep talk and opened the door for this meeting. I got the kids to VBS and met a friend at the pool to swim a mile. I felt taking a step towards my training goal -a half ironman in October- would give me confidence for this other big step in a new direction. Two people assured me I would knock him dead. My friend Allison even said my dress selection said “I don’t want to be forgotten.”

The lobby was vacant, the receptionist desk protected by a window and empty chair. It felt like the corporate version of a ghost town. A sign said dial extension 4040 to speak to a human. I knew it was a bad omen.  My contact quickly came out and gave a friendly smile and handshake as he walked me back to his glorified cubical. I looked around at the people we passed on the way to his office. They looked as if they needed babysitters to be there. Everyone frantically typing away on a computer, looking busy if not engaged. There was no verve but it’s absence may have been caused by the monotone battleship gray interior and fluorescent lighting as much as a lack of inspiration.

I “made myself comfortable” across the desk from my new firing-squad/friend and we talked. He told me how news was a tough business for anyone (especially as old as you is what I heard) It requires long hours, holiday sacrifices, the ability to do all levels of production from script writing to editing to production and even camera work. I admitted feeling silly providing a resume with no experience in the field I was interviewing for. He told me I might as well rip it up and realize I was competing with 21 year olds who probably had more experience than I did, working on a college newspaper. When I asked if he was telling me I was too old he said no, but it’s a long road without any guarantee at the end. I think he began to feel guilty for being such a pessimist, not asking me one thing about myself. He should have said, you have a real face for radio. He is not looking for a 41 year old wanting to finally follow her dream. He doesn’t care I am smart, or accomplished in other things, or did really really well at the one time I got to be a color commentator on a sports show. I guess this was more for me than for him.

Twenty five minutes later I was done. I swung the door open as graciously as I could, said thank you for your time, and headed to the minivan as quickly as possible. I hoped he did not see my car, fearing it would only secure his opinion of a Mom trying to find her next calling. Luckily I made it to the car before bursting into tears. I am not sure what I expected: Robert Redford to discover a diamond in the rough like Michelle Pfeiffer in Up Close? I mean who tries to break into tv at 41?  Thoughts of self doubt and loathing swirled in my mind. Why didn’t I find a mentor in an interesting field and run with it when I had all the time in the world? Why wasn’t I a better decision maker when I was young? Why didn’t I pay my dues, suck it up, climb the corporate ladder? Why can’t I win the lottery?

I have never submitted my writing to a publisher for fear my trump card will be trumped. If my writing is rejected than I don’t know what my secret dream could be. It used to look like chatting with Oprah or Katie Couric about my great american novel. But I haven’t written it yet and both anchors will be dead if not retired by the time I start the process. Maybe I could find a political angle and get on the Rachel Maddow show. She is a year younger than I am and broke into tv in 2005. Who cares she had a radio career beforehand and a Rhodes scholarship? This sports tv thing felt like a calling, something my whole life has been working towards without ever being in the field. I tried not to get “political” when we talked about the all male 6 person sports staff or the plan for covering more girls sports now that Wake County has agreed to work harder to comply with Title IX, the 41 year old FEDERAL LAW requiring gender equity in sports. But the ideas were futile. It felt like I was stuck in the worst blind date imaginable (which by the way did you see an eharmony customer just won a $900,000 lawsuit for contracting herpes while “dating” a fellow customer-next blog topic thank you!)

Here’s the juggernaut: I feel like I am at my best ever. My windy life path with stints as a teacher, a brand builder, tie guru, missionary, Mom, ref, and exercise instructor seem to be coming to a pinnacle. I can speak in a microphone, multitask, solve problems, and accomplish things in double time of my 30 year old self.  I have enough confidence to hold my own and enough wisdom to laugh at my many faults. So what if my time is not the same as your time?

I do have some good news. I have always been negatively motivated. My lacrosse coach used to tell me all the things I did wrong and I would get angry and do them right just to prove my -well her- point. My conversations with God go something like: you can make me fall in love and marry a minister but you cannot make me be a cliched preacher’s wife. I think it’s the little sister in me who constantly tries to keep up. Or maybe it’s my inner- rebel or the way my Mom raised my brother and me to be risk takers. After about 15 minutes of crying, and the help of a very consoling preacher,  I hatched my own idea. I will do my sports features as part of Notyourpreacherswife. I want to give female athletes a voice -probably because I hear a bit of myself in them. All I have to do is…well…everything. Story ideas, writing, filming, interviewing, editing, posting, advertising. No big whoop. I guess you have to do it all to have it all. Well I do anyway. If you have any story ideas, send them my way. Who knows, I may realize this dream afterall.

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