Wednesday, August 31, 2011


How to align the heart with the mind?

The mind says: The days end abruptly, take flight like startled birds.
The heart says: I can't wait 'til naptime. Or, better yet, bedtime.

The mind says: Too soon, her words will make sense, form the building blocks of half-conversations.
The heart says: If she repeats herself one more time, I'm going to put my head down and cry.

The mind says: School's right around the corner, and you'll miss her.
The heart says: Please, God, send a big, yellow bus. Like, yesterday.

The mind says: Someday she'll eat like a little lady, and you'll remember these days and laugh.
The heart considers the sticky, pink window panes and says: I'll never give her a bicycle popsicle, again!

The mind says: There'll be plenty of years, later, for leisurely haircuts and shopping.
The heart says: I'm sick of worrying that someone's going to fall out of the stroller, on her head. Or bite someone else.

The mind says: Someday, you'll want her, and she'll be too busy for you.
The heart says: What I wouldn't give for a little peace and quiet!

The mind says: You love her.
The heart says: I love her. But she would drive Mister Rogers to drinkin', and she's sure enough driving me plumb crazy!

Celebrate Good Times, C'mon!

We would make Kool & the Gang proud; I know we would.

Up in these parts, we scoff at birthday. We are all about birthweek. Especially when we (I) have been waiting a VERY long time to celebrate a child's birthday without worrying about snowfall.

We began celebrating Charleigh's first birthday by spending last weekend at Jellystone, Natural Bridge. By "we," I mean Jim, Cade, Clementine, Charleigh, and I; Cade's our curly-headed friend Andrew; Mom, Dad, and Baxter; Aunt Ellie, Uncle John, Daniel, and Madison; Rachel, Scott, and Zach; and Rob, Wendy, Luke, and Cole.

That would be thirteen people from the Greater Richmond Area; two people and one dog from East Tennessee; and four people from Hagerstown, Maryland. Everyone traveled a minimum of 2.5 hours to Natural Bridge, despite the likelihood of rain (since a hurricane was about to hit the coast). 

As it turns out, Cade pulled a muscle in his "shneck" (what I call the shoulder/neck area) at Jellystone, and Clementine managed to release the parking break on a keyless golf cart and send it rolling downhill, where it crashed into a fire pit.

But the weather was great! Here are some of my favorite photos. (I didn't manage to take any photos of either Scott or myself and borrowed those two from Rachel.)

Today, on Charleigh's actual birthday, we visited Miss Kim at Sears Portrait.

As always, she did a beautiful job.

(And here's an unprompted, shameless plug for Touchdown Tutus: my sister-in-law Jill's business. Jill made Charleigh's t-shirt and tutu. Please check out her wares on facebook and/or etsy. I know you have a little girl in your life who could use a tutu, and seriously? Jill has mad skills!)

So, anyway, then it was lunch and play with Clementine's and Charleigh's BFFs Camden and Zach.

And, later, it was a giant cupcake at home.
(My cousin-sister Andrea was here, which made it extra nice.)

And you know what? I have yet to sing anything but "Happy Birthday," so it's not quite over! Charleigh still has gifts to unwrap; a (yet unpurchased) cake to eat; and lots of celebrating to do at her favorite place (the lake) with some of her favorite people.

After all, a person doesn't turn one every day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Charleigh Evangeline's First Birthday

My baby girl turns one, today. Hard to believe. 

My grandma (who had seven children) always used to say: "Every one's different!" and she was so right, just as in most everything else she said.

People ask Jim and me, frequently: "Where'd she [Charleigh] get that red hair?" and the truth is: we have no earthly idea. Each of us has some redheaded cousins, and one of my great-great-grandmothers was known for her red hair, also for the burn-holes in her apron pocket (thanks to her tendency to drop a lit pipe in there when someone pulled up, unexpectedly).

But we love Charleigh's hair--what little there is of it--and are fairly certain it won't change color. We are waiting, patiently, to see if she'll have curls like her sister. There seems to be some hope of this since her longest tuft of hair curls.

There also seems to be some hope of Charleigh's having that stereotypical redheaded temper, which flares only when she believes something's been taken unfairly from her. One can never become prepared, entirely, for Girlfriend's shriek of conviction and fury: especially since she's so calm, content, happy, and quiet most of the time.

She's lithe, long, and loving; she communicates happiness with her feet; and she appreciates the great outdoors and water, in particular. She picked her own name, which I translate as meaning "good news to the house of Carl." (Carl is my dad's, brother's, and nephew's name.)

I know in my spirit that Charleigh will be the one to take care of me, when I'm old. I've spent the past twelve months holding her just as close as possible, and it's been an amazing, unforgettable year.

Happy Birthday, Monkey Stinkerbell. We love you and are so glad God approved your choosing to join our family!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Ground Shook

Where I could be found...when the earthquake came to towned...errr, town.

The children and I are lake bums. I've lost track of how many times we've gone to a lake, this summer, but, so far, we've visited three state parks and a campground for lake swimming. We've been repeat visitors at two of these locations, and I feel like Bear Creek Lake State Park, in particular, has become a second home.

On Tuesday, I was sitting just inside Bear Creek Lake--holding Charleigh while she played in the water--when we experienced an earthquake.

Have you ever heard the saying: "Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya?" Probably not. I mean: how rude. East Tennessee talk, methinks. But it makes me laugh.

And let me just say: when the earth started shaking, Tuesday, I felt a little like the door hit me where the good Lord split me. There was some shaking going on, in my nether regions.

You can see from this photo just how alarmed Cade was:

Just kidding. His friend Sam was pulling him off the turtle.

Seriously, though? Somebody said the fish were jumping up out the water. (I didn't see that, personally.)

But the strangest thing was the sound. I thought somebody'd gotten overzealous with his excavating machine. My friend Jeannine (a gift from God, and Maryville College) had driven down, from Connecticut, and was sitting near me. She thought motorcyles.

(I like knowing that Northerner can say to her people, of me: "Don't you know when I saw that girl for the first time in fifteen years, the ground shook?!")

Now, I know the earth shakes much harder, other places. But around here, we'd become pretty accustomed to walking up on solid ground. The only shakes we know much about come from Bruster's Real Ice Cream. So 5.8 is big news.

And, as the aftershocks continue, I'll admit: I find this earthquake business unsettling. I don't like the shaking, and I really don't like the rumbling. I don't like knowing that--earlier this summer--Erin Quigley (another gift from God, and Maryville College), the babies, and I spent a day swimming in Lake Anna at Christopher Run Campground, which happens to be located in Mineral, Virginia: the epicenter.

Here's a (crooked) photo from that day:

So, yesterday, I asked myself: Self, in the wake of the quake, just what would make you feel better? And I answered: Why, a trip to Belle Isle...and Bottom's Up Pizza; thank you so much for asking! 

And what do you know? It worked! I felt happier, having visited Belle Isle and eaten a slice of Greek pizza big as my head.

Still, after the girls went to bed last night, I thought some Bruster's ice cream might be in order. I went with New-York Cheesecake and Peanut-butter Crunch with Butterfinger. In a sugar cone.

Lovely, splurgy food aside, I've found nothing more comforting--in the wake of the quake--than the words of my talking scale, this morning, after I ate my oatmeal with raisins and climbed upon her, naked before the Lord.

"187.6," she said.

And, since I started the month at 199.8, I'll take it.

Traveling mercies, My Dear Jeannine. Let's not make it fifteen years until we see one another, next. xoxo

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Baptism

Praise Pictures, Images and Photos
from photobucket

Pastor David preached, Sunday, from Acts 2:38 and Romans 6. He spoke about what baptism is not (salvation). He also spoke about what baptism is: both an act of obedience and a complex symbol of putting away the old and embracing the new, through the power of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.

Just before, I'd complimented Rodney on his white robe as I'd passed him in the hall. (To be more specific, I'd told him he looked smashing.) And--from my excellent vantage point just to the right of the piano, between fellow choir members Karen and Carter--I'd watched Pastor David lay Rodney back into the water. I'd leapt up to applaud and (after the men had left the baptismal) crossed the sanctuary for Kleenex...

...because I'd beheld Rodney's heartbreakingly sincere expression. I'd seen his breath catch in his throat, just a little, before the moment of submersion.

And I'd remembered.

I'd remembered looking through twelve-year-old eyes, out from under dripping bangs, toward the shore of a pond. I'd remembered the clapping and shouting and singing...the sheer that moment, my having just risen, baptized, from murky waters. 

And it must've been cold, Brother. Sister, it must've been cold, 'cause it was Easter. In a pond. But I don't remember the cold, only the wild-blessed thrill of it all: the soft, inward tapping heart? The Holy Spirit, keeping toe-time with the hymns? I didn't know then and can't say, now; for four years, the two had been in there together, waiting to celebrate my baptism.

I remember the moment of my salvation even more clearly than that of my baptism. I was eight and alone in my bedroom, and I don't know, exactly, how I'd learned what to pray.

I'd been bussed, during school hours, to kind-hearted women wearing Traditional Pleated Minnies.  
Traditional Pleated Minnie
I remember their shadowy little sanctuary with wooden pews; their pastel cards upon which scripture had been printed, perfectly; their emphasis on the memorization and recitation of Bible verses. 

I remember, too, going to various Vacation Bible Schools and church services, mostly under the care of my maternal grandparents.

At any rate, I knew what to pray, and I prayed it, and I felt a change wrought in my heart. I've never doubted my salvation, even during those years of my failing to walk "in newness of life."

Separate moments: that of my salvation, and (some four years later) that of my baptism. Both memorable, precious, powerful, unequivocal. I am so deeply thankful that neither experience can ever be stripped from me.

(Devil must not want this one published because the Internet went down last night; the post went inexplicably deleted for a few minutes; and what is up with the white background and all the seemingly unresolvable spacing issues?)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chicken with My Head Cut Off

Just in case you've been wondering (and you probably haven't), I've not fallen off the face of the earth. It's the other cliche what's got me. The one about running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

Monday night: sports camp at church. I brought home an extra kid (one of my faves).

Tuesday: pool day with friends.

Tuesday night: Court of Honor for my Scout.

Wednesday: thrifty adventure with new friends and lunch at Galaxy Diner.

Wednesday night: sports camp. I brought home a different, extra kid (another of my faves).

Thursday: lake day, with friends, at Holliday State Park.

Thursday night: I fell asleep at 8 pm. (Slept for 12 solid hours.)

Friday: met my auntie at our halfway point so Cade could spend the weekend with her family. 4 hours in the car.

I haven't the energy to write much more, but here are some of my favorite photos from the week:

Sooo...this week I learned that two things are possible: to become too busy for blogging, and to become exhausted, utterly, by fun.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Length & Convolution (w/ a Gospel Message)

I spent most of the day, today, with my son.  Jim wasn't feeling 100% this morning, and it was pouring the rain, so he stayed home with the babies while Cade and I went to church.  We sang in the choir, as we always do, and he crowded me in the pew, as he always does.

Today, Pastor David began his sermon by talking about being lost (in the non-religious sense).  Sometimes, he said, we know we're lost, and sometimes we don't: either way, we're lost.  He mentioned a group of church ladies who headed south instead of north on the interstate, one time, and didn't realize it for a couple hundred miles. 

Pastor David proceeded to read out of I John 1.  He explained that--in order to be saved--a person must recognize the sin in his or her life and truly repent of it.  He stressed: it's not enough to learn about Jesus in class, attend church regularly, be a "good person," repeat someone else's prayer, or get baptized.  And, tragically, many people believe they've been saved because they've said or done things that didn't involve repentance, at all.  They're lost and don't know they're lost.***

Now, I'd promised Cade that--if he achieved an "A" average in all of his classes, last year--we'd do something really fun, just the two of us.  He managed to pull off the A in social studies by the very film on his teeth, so I owed him and decided to make today our special day.  We played two games of putt-putt and sprayed one another with water out of bumper boats.

As we walked toward the boats, I claimed the turquoise and purple one, which turned out to be genius on my part.  My boat shot water out in a perfect arc so it landed--with precision--in Cade's lap.  Conversely, his boat shot water straight ahead in such a way that I could duck a lot of it.

I laughed so hard I swallowed my gum.

Thanks to my perpetual state of Lake Preparedness, I had beach towels in the minivan.  So we dried off and went to Chili's.

Over dinner, I interrupted Cade, at one point, to ask: do you feel confident in your salvation?  Do you pray even when Mommy's not praying with you?  Do you feel Jesus, in your heart?  He answered all three questions with a bright and confident "yes" and returned to his talk of video games and Peter and the Starcatchers.

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 1:4, KJV). 

I was relieved by Cade's answers, today, but, you know, he has good "fruit of the spirit."  Just today, I was concentrating on the road and daydreaming about sports camp when he leaned over, suddenly, and turned off the radio.  "What was it?" I asked.

"Mom, they were talking about moist chocolate cake," he answered.  "And I didn't think you needed to hear that, since you're dieting and all."

And, one day last week, Cade's dad and stepmom drove over to get Cade and came in to visit with the babies, who were fairly off the hook thanks to its being past naptime.  At one point, Jason and Tabitha were ready to leave, and Cade was nowhere to be seen.  We adults joked around about Cade's tendency to wait until the last minute to gather his belongings from the four ends of my (messy) house, also Cade's tendency to read for long periods of time in the bathroom (where the babies can't bug him).  But, suddenly, Cade emerged from the belly of his room, waving a glue stick.  And we adults watched as he carefully reaffixed a googly eye to Clementine's construction-paper bear on a stick, saying: "Now, MeMe, you can show it to Daddy when he gets home."

Oh, I have prayed desperately for my son.  I wanted so much for him to have what I had, growing up: happily-married parents.  And I guess he does; they're just not married to one another.  I beg God to redeem my failures and make my son better and more than I've been.  Just today, I asked Cade: "You be a'ight?"

"What do you mean: 'I be a'ight?'"

"You keep doing well in school?  Keep working hard at Scouts and karate?  Keep your good friends?  Don't smoke or do drugs?  Wait a long time to get married and have kids?  Wait a long time to have sex...preferably 'til you're married?  Because you know: you don't have to do things just because other people do them."

He nodded and smiled out at me from his wide, gray-green eyes.  "I be a'ight, Mom," he said.

It's been seven years since I left Cade's dad, and they (being bright with promise compared to the seven years during which I lived with his dad) have, mostly, flown.  I have seven years, more, before Cade leaves for college.  I know they, too, will fly. 

What joy to know Jesus goes with Cade, wherever and whenever he goes.

***If you have questions about salvation, feel free to e-mail me at normalgirl (at) hotmail (dot) com.

On In Around button

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Knowing What You Know

When I was a freshman in high school, nine of my fellow band members and I participated in the East Tennessee Solo and Ensemble Competition.  I'm the flutist on the front row, second from right.  (It amuses me to report that all the boys in the photo are my facebook friends.  None of the girls.)


Maryville College hosted the competition.  It was my first time visiting the campus, and I fell in love with it.

Years went by.  I studied hard and visited several other schools, but I knew I belonged at Maryville College. 
A couple other schools offered me full scholarships.  I still remember my mom begging me to consider how wonderful it would be to graduate from college debt-free, but she couldn't sway me.  Finally, my dad said: "Now, Sherry, she's studied hard, and she'll go wherever she wants to go."  So Maryville College it was.

And I can tell you, honestly: I've never for even one second regretted my decision.  I loved studying there; I was advised by amazing people; my roommates remain among my closest friends; and I'm married to my college boyfriend. 

Granted, I didn't marry Jim until thirteen years after we dated and eleven years after we graduated, and I married my son's father, first.  Still.  I'm married to my college boyfriend.

And, you know, I'd started to write: I don't know how to explain my knowing I belonged at Maryville College.  Then I realized I do know, and I deleted my words.   

So here comes the best part.  The heritage of faith part.  

After we accept Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit informs us.  His words are soundless and sometimes wordless, too, and it takes practice to "hear" Him well.  He's told me countless things that made no sense at the time, things like: "Get in your car right now."  And: "Take the bread to the church."  And: "Check your baby's mouth."  And: "Lay hands on, and pray for."  After each of the above instances, I learned in short order why I'd been instructed, and these experiences built my faith...grew my tendency toward obedience.

But, sometimes, it's taken years for God's plan to unfold.  Even now, I have unanswered questions about the 2005-2006 school year, when God called me away from a postsecondary environment and into a sixth-grade classroom.  I had a terrible time: cried constantly and experienced anxiety to the point that, many mornings, I got sick before leaving for work.  But the whole time I knew, and to this day I know!: I was called.  It's a 100% knowing.

Very much like my knowing I belonged at Maryville College. 

I've so many times refused to be led by the Holy Spirit.  I'm so thankful that--when it came to my college education--I signed up for the one for which I continue to pay instead of a free one.  Some things are priceless, and the photos below are proof:

Where Jim and I Met

Close Up.
On the Steps of the CCM, Where Jim & I Met

Erin's and My Daughters in Front of Copeland, Where E. & I Lived as Freshmen

And Walking Toward Pearsons, Where E. & I Lived Our Senior Year