Archives for January 2014

Better Day

At some point in the middle of the night last night / this morning / whenever it was, I started to think about how much money I’d be willing to pay for a hair clip.

Seriously. A hair clip. It became a pressing and urgent need in my life.

I could not stop thinking about how much I’d love to get my hair off my face, and finally, after several more minutes of hair clip obsession, I decided to go ahead and give up on the sleeping. I’d dozed on and off for a couple of hours, but between wondering about my fellas and plotting imaginary rescue missions and obsessing about the hair clip, there just wasn’t going to be much more rest. So I did what most people do when battling insomnia in this day and age:

I opened my laptop and checked Facebook.

As it turned out, my friend Kerstin (who was Alex’s 1st grade teacher) was apparently having similar thoughts in her classroom about seven miles away. At the time she was supervising a room of semi-sleeping young’uns who had gotten stuck at school, and she mentioned on Facebook that she will forevermore keep a pair of yoga pants in the trunk of her car.

AMEN TO THAT is what I say.

So for the next two or three hours – at least until sunrise – I tried to figure out what I’d put in my new and improved emergency kit (and I’m totally putting it together this weekend, by the way).

Here’s my list:

– an extra container of Mentholatum (I had some in my purse, but there were moments when I wondered if it would be enough to get me through a few days)
– cold medicine, Advil, cough drops
– Kleenex
– gloves
– knit hat
– YOGA PANTS
– long-sleeve t-shirt
– thick socks (so glad I happened to wear some to work yesterday)
– thick blanket/Snuggie/sweater coat (I had a big sweater blanket thingie in my trunk yesterday, and it kept me warm last night)
– HAIR CLIP
– almonds
– all the regular emergency kit stuff that’s already in my trunk

I realize that some of these items aren’t necessities. But when you realize that you can’t get home, you don’t really mind the idea of a few comfort items.

SO.

Once the sun was up, I stopped thinking about the emergency kit and started focusing on HOW DO WE GET OUR CHILD. Alex’s teacher had sent me a message to let me know that he had a great night and woke up happy, and that really made me even more determined to get to his school and get us all home. I was ready to get out on the road and slowly but surely make my way to his campus (he goes to the school where I teach, but the little kids and the big kids are on separate campuses). David – being the person in this marriage who actually thinks things through and exercises some degree of caution when it’s merited – was still at his office and kept telling me that I needed to wait until we had more information about the roads. I could see people driving on the road in front of where I was, but I had no idea what was going on in the hilly spots. So we waited.

Gradually we started to get word that this person had made it to their kids by following this route or that route, and when I tell you that the next five hours were a flurry (pun. sorry. didn’t see that coming.) of texts and emails and Facebook posts, I am not kidding. I kept telling D that I really, really, really needed a plan – I just wanted to know that we were doing everything we possibly could to get our boy – but we kept getting word to stay off the roads unless we had a four-wheel drive or chains on our tires.

Here’s what we do not have: a four-wheel drive or chains on our tires.

But here’s where people are awesome. All morning my phone dinged with messages from people who were going to try to get on the roads or who knew someone who was going to get on the roads. Plus, one of our next door neighbors is Alex’s principal, and she was so great about updating me, asking if I wanted him to call, and sending me their schedule (the principals and teachers organized an impromptu Snow Camp for the kids, and I will never be able to talk about it without bawling like a baby – that may need to be a separate post). Our other next door neighbors, Leah and Jeremy, have a four-wheel drive, and around 8:30 or 9 Jeremy offered to try to make his way to A’s school and get him home.

The ice was so bad that he couldn’t make it out of our neighborhood. But he tried, and that meant everything to D and me.

The rest of the morning was a roller coaster. David decided that he was going to try to get out of his office – despite a super-icy parking lot – and, since he couldn’t get to Alex or me, see if he could get to our house (we were worried about pipes since it was so cold last night). A friend from church texted with road advice from her husband. Several friends from work made suggestions about people who might be headed in the direction of A’s school. Another friend offered to have her neighbor go to A’s school so that he could at least be at her house with her boys. My friend Alison said that the parents of a girl I teach were getting out and happy to try to pick up A for us. For about an hour I felt like they were our best bet, but then they reached a point where the roads weren’t passable and they had to turn around and go home. It seemed like the morning was big hope followed by disappointment followed by big hope followed by disappointment – and around noon I decided that the best thing I could do was take a nap. David was still trying to get home, and I couldn’t think anymore.

Finally, though, the roads started to cooperate. My student’s dad made it to me and took me down the road to our friends the Kynerds’ house (Dr. K hired me when we moved to Birmingham, his wife is my Bible study leader, and besides my family, no one has influenced my life and my walk with the Lord more than they have). David somehow made it home, and that felt like the best forward progress of the whole 24 hours. Our neighbor Leah heard from a friend of hers who was heading to Alex’s school and willing to pick him up, and Jeremy offered to take his 4-WD and meet that friend at the front of our neighborhood so they wouldn’t have to turn off the main road.

About an our later, Leah texted me the happiest news.

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And once L and J delivered Alex to David, they decided they could make it to pick me up, too.

I am gonna make them so many homemade chocolate pies.

Sweet Dr. K wouldn’t even let me walk down their driveway unassisted; he held my arm every step of the way. Leah and Jeremy pulled up just as we got to the street, and once we hit the main road, I couldn’t believe how many abandoned cars there were (and apparently what I saw was just a fraction of what was there last night and early this morning).

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I told Melanie that it looked like something out of a Left Behind novel (I’ve read the whole series, you know) (certainly I don’t mean to brag) (I promise I was grinning when I typed that). The abandoned cars are just as big an obstacle as the icy roads, so when Jeremy finally parked his truck next to our houses, I was so happy to be home that I could’ve cried.

However, I did not have time to cry because I was ready to see my people.

I was so happy to see my people.

So now we’re all home, something that seemed utterly impossible even twelve hours ago. David and Alex are both asleep. I’m not far behind. I doubt we’ll leave the house tomorrow, and that suits me just fine. We don’t have school the rest of the week, and that suits me just fine. We’re going to be dependent on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until I go to the grocery store, and that suits me just fine, too. BECAUSE WE’RE HOME.

The last two days have been filled with incredible stories (and some sad ones, too). Earlier today I saw a couple of former students who’d spent most of the night and morning using their ATVs to pull people out of ditches. People dedicated their whole day today to driving stranded folks over hills and mountains that regular cars can’t handle yet. Our local Chick-fil-A passed out food to people stuck in their cars. So many people have opened their homes to their friends, to their kids’ friends, and to strangers. One of my seniors who knew that D was stuck actually drove back to my school today to see if he could take me somewhere. Emma Kate and LoraLynn checked to see if I had enough Mentholatum (which made me laugh). My principal and superintendent made everybody sausage and biscuits this morning in the cafeteria. Churches and businesses opened their doors to keep people fed and warm. The list of kindnesses is just endless. And I’ve been thinking about To Kill A Mockingbird all night.

“Atticus, he was real nice…”
“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

Thanks so much for praying and checking on us today. We’re so grateful. Continue to keep Birmingham and Atlanta in your prayers; the traffic issues created such a mess, but hopefully things will improve when it gets warmer tomorrow.

‘Night, y’all.

Winter Gridlock 2014*

So the thing about snow warnings in the South is that we rarely believe them. I mean, we hope for snow and heaven knows that we clear all the milk and bread out of the grocery stores, but we don’t really believe the snow will come. It’s just too rare.

Last night I read that the southern part of Alabama was supposed to get snow today; the forecast also said that Birmingham might get a “dusting.” I interpreted that to mean, “BIRMINGHAM, THERE WILL BE NO SNOW FOR YOU TOMORROW,” and I didn’t think much more of it.

About 9:30 this morning, though, it started snowing, and I still couldn’t imagine that it would amount to much. But around 10:45 my work sent everybody home. Schools all over the area were dismissing early, and I thought I had plenty of time to get to Alex since his school wasn’t getting out until 11:30. I was surprised by how much snow was on the ground when I got outside, but once I got in the car, turned on my windshield wipers and made my way out of the parking lot, I felt like everything was gonna be okay.

Well.

It only took about five seconds on the road to realize that the pavement was way icier than I had realized. Traffic was bumper to bumper and moving slowly, but I didn’t feel panicked or anything like that. Granted, there were a couple of times when the warning light for slick roads came on in my car, and it took me a second to figure out what it was because I HAD NEVER SEEN IT LIGHT UP BEFORE, but I kept moving down the road ever-so-cautiously. I figured that worst case scenario I might be a little late to pick up Alex if the traffic kept moving that slow.

Eventually I made it to my turn, but I noticed that no one was driving up the big hill to my right. I found out later that a car had run off the hill, but at the time I just figured it was too icy, so I turned around and thought I’d take a different route. I started to look at all the side roads and think about what hills I might encounter, and over the next minute or so a really sad realization started to sink in: I am not going to be able to make it to Alex’s school. David was leaving his office about that same time, though, so I figured that either he or one of our friends would be able to pick up Alex. I was trying really hard not to panic.

Only I wasn’t doing so well with the whole not-panicking thing.

There was one big-ish hill that I needed to climb in order to head back in the direction of work, and since the cars ahead of me didn’t seem to be having too many problems, I figured it would be okay to give it a try. It must have taken 30 minutes to move 100 yards – traffic was barely moving by that point – and there were a couple of times when my wheels would just spin and spin without me making any forward progress. All I knew to do was pray, “Lord, help me up this hill. Lord, help me up this hill. Lord, help me up this hill” – and after I put my car in the lowest possible gear, I finally made it to the red light. At that point I started praying, “Lord, help me make this turn. Lord, help me make this turn” – I was SCARED OUT OF MY MIND. I mean, I know that cold weather and icy roads is nothing to you folks in other parts of the country, but down here, WE DO NOT KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THESE THINGS.

After I made the turn I was a nervous wreck; cars were sliding and spinning and a couple were on the side of the road. David had started to realize that he wasn’t going to be able to make it home from his office, so we were trying to coordinate how to get Alex, but cell service got jammed and we couldn’t talk. Traffic was still just barely creeping, and I started to have visions of winding up on the news because I was trapped in my car. Plus, I noticed that I only had about 1/4 tank of gas, so I started to whittle down my options: go back to work (which was only about 1/4 mile away), go to a gas station, or try to get to the house. Two of those options involved hills, so I picked the one that didn’t and went back to work.

Since cell service still wasn’t working, D and I were dependent on texts, and over the course of the next hour, we must have had 10 different plans to get Alex home. Every single one of them fell through, though, because people were having trouble getting to his school.

And my mama heart was very sad.

By three I had started to realize that the folks in my little family were pretty much stuck. We knew that somebody could probably get to Alex (and sure enough, our neighbor Jeremy made it to the school) – but whether or not they’d be able to get home was another story. D and I decided that since Alex’s teacher was staying for the duration, we’d rather that he stay at school – where it was warm and he could play with his friends – than to get on the road and risk not making it home. It probably won’t surprise you that A was DELIGHTED with this decision and seemed to think that he had stumbled into THE GREATEST ADVENTURE OF HIS LIFE, oh bless him.

Roads are still a mess here. I have heard stories all afternoon of people who were in their cars for six or seven hours before they abandoned the cars and started walking. Some cars slid off the road and into the Cahaba River. There are thousands of people who are still in their cars and stuck on the roads. It’s supposed to be super cold tonight and again tomorrow.

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Isn’t that surreal?

There are still about 200 kids at Alex’s school, and they’re all spending the night there tonight (with their phenomenal teachers). Alex’s teacher will take such good care of him (and from what I hear, the kids are having a blast). David is staying at his office tonight, and I’m staying at my work. I really am glad that we didn’t try to brave the roads – because we’d still be on them. My little family is just fine even if we’re not all together. Hopefully we’ll be able to get back home tomorrow.

So. I think it’s safe to say that the state of Alabama would appreciate your prayers. And I really thought I would try to make this post lighthearted since the whole day has been so full of serious, but I decided about a half hour ago that none of this is funny to me yet. It will be. Eventually. But I’m gonna have to give it some time. :-)

Even still, I think this is a pretty good assumption for tomorrow:

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(It made me laugh when someone sent me that on Twitter.)

(It’s so true.)

Y’all stay warm and hug your people real tight tonight.

And just for the record: when I finally get home, I reserve the right to never leave again.

Amen.

(* They really are calling it Winter Gridlock.)

(* I’ve never heard of such, but I appreciate the originality.)

Little Bit Of This, Little Bit Of Some Other Things

— I feel like I need to let y’all know what’s going on in our den.

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You see, what we have here is not one but two (TWO!) pieces of blow-up furniture. In the main living area of our house. Because apparently I have given up altogether. I mean, we set it all up because A was having some friends over and they wanted to play a Mario something-or-other and it was a way to seat all of them comfortably, but now it’s still there and we don’t seem to have any inclination to deflate it.

The good news, however, is that apparently we are right on target with the room’s primary demographic, because yesterday our next door neighbor, who’s 9, walked in the house and said, “WHOAAAAA – THAT IS AWESOME.”

I believe my decorative work is done.

— Melanie has written an absolutely hilarious post about Downton Abbey over at Ree’s blog. If you’re not caught up on the show, you should be warned that the post has lots of spoilers, but if you are caught up, you will laugh a whole bunch.

— A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine mentioned Chris Rice’s hymns CD on Twitter, and since I was looking for some good writing music, I downloaded the album on a whim. I’m guessing that some of y’all have probably been listening to it for years, but somehow I missed it. The arrangements are just gorgeous, and I don’t know that I’ve ever loved “Rock of Ages” more. Mighty good stuff.

Dave Barnes’ new album, Golden Days, released today. His music is always such a treat, and it reminds me that it’s a very good and worthwhile thing to support artists who are doing great work (especially when those artists are making music that the whole family can enjoy). Way to go, Dave Barnes.

— It’s hard to believe, but it’s been five years since I went to Uganda with Compassion International. THE TIME, IT DOES FLY. This week there’s another group of Compassion Bloggers in Uganda, and I’ve already been so touched by the stories they’re telling (this post of Emily’s and this post of Nester’s are a great place to start). If you’ve been thinking about child sponsorship through Compassion – or if you’d just like a first-person account of Compassion’s ministry – be sure to follow the Uganda trip over at CompassionBloggers.com.

Have a great Tuesday, everybody!

This Will Be Short Because, Well, TV

Listen.

I don’t remember a time when there’s been so much quality television in one night.

There’s The Bachelor wedding. There’s Downton Abbey. There’s Sherlock. And there’s the Grammys, too, but I’ll probably pass because I don’t think I can watch without feeling like I’m 115.

Here’s what I would enjoy, though: a Grammys show that only featured the significant singer/songwriters of the last 40 years. That would be FANTASTIC, wouldn’t it? A bunch of acoustic guitars and thoughtful lyrics and soothing vocals? SIGN ME UP.

As far as weekends go, this one has been pretty delightful. On Friday night / Saturday morning I spoke at a women’s retreat at Lake Guntersville State Park; I’d never been there before, but OH, I WILL GO THERE AGAIN. It was absolutely beautiful, and late Friday afternoon I stood outside my room and watched this happen.

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Y’all know I can’t get enough of a good sunrise or sunset. This one almost made me late for supper.

There was one other thing that almost made me late for supper. When I was getting ready to dry my hair, I realized that I had left my much-beloved Redken mousse at home. I spent about thirty minutes trying to coax my hair into some semblance of volume, but alas, I had an incurable case of the flathead. I also had a terrible case of the flyaways because it was 21 degrees outside and, well, STATIC, but I still had a great time despite my hair-related challenges. Very fun to be around such sweet people.

I got home yesterday afternoon and promptly reacquainted myself with my yoga pants. It was a glorious reunion.

After church today we met some friends for a belated birthday lunch for D, and afterwards two of their boys came over to play. I thought I’d tuck myself away and maybe try to do a little bit of writing, but instead I did super-fun things like make a grocery list and look at Facebook and calculate how many words I need to write each day between now and my deadline.

I finally gave up on anything productive and told myself that I needed to relax for the rest of the day.

This is a very roundabout way of saying that I procrastinated.

Anyway. Let’s talk about the important stuff: The Bachelor wedding? I thought it was absolutely beautiful and just as sweet as it could be. Catherine and Sean are a gorgeous couple (her dress was a dream) – and I thought Sean’s daddy was the star of the show. It made me so happy to see a father of the groom who was so joyful and tenderhearted, and I loved the words that he spoke over them during the ceremony. I was totally teary-eyed.

Did any of y’all watch?

A Brief Follow-Up Of Very Mild Importance

Well, I so wish that I had some exciting news about the eyelash curler that I bought. Unfortunately, though, it was the CVS special, and I don’t even know the name brand of it. What I do know, though, is that my old eyelash curler was apparently worn slap-out, so I think the biggest difference is just that this one is new and effective at doing the job it’s supposed to do. The top part of the curler is bigger than the bottom part, and that seems to help it grab the lashes better. This all sounds very confusing, I know. But if you’re in the market for an eyelash curler, just know that I didn’t buy a fancy one – I bought the one at CVS that costs about $7.00 and came with a free pair of tweezers in the package. FANCY.

Also, I am happy to announce that I am officially all caught up with Sherlock. And I have to say: as far as hour-long dramas go, it is right up there with Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, and Downton Abbey in my book (and truth be told, I might like it even more than Downton). Anyway, I wrote a post about Sherlock over at Ree’s blog, and I am presently counting down the hours until Sunday night’s new episode.

So that’s what’s going on here. Well, except that today is David’s birthday, my brother-in-law Scott’s birthday, and my dear friend Bubba’s birthday. So clearly the Lord has used January 23rd to provide the world with some mighty good men. I’m so grateful for all of them.

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(See what I did there?)

(Tied it all together.)

(Well, sorta.)

Have a great day, y’all!

It’s Old And We’re Good

By and large I think I’m a pretty content person. I don’t keep a running list of things I’d like to buy or places I’d like to go. I don’t feel like I have to keep up with anybody (though my 20s were a different story in that regard, as evidenced by the fact that I once bought a very expensive purse when I was not entirely sure that I could pay my rent). Now, though, I like things low-key and low-pressure and low-maintenance. I’m a devoted fan of super-ordinary things like going to the grocery store, watching high school basketball games, and changing into pajamas at 3 in the afternoon. My needs are simple, people.

But I am here to tell you that this past Friday night, something strange and strong came over me. We had plans to have dinner with some friends, and we were rarin’-to-go because 1) we love them and 2) they just moved into a new house that we hadn’t seen yet. We had the best time – the food was great and we laughed a ton and all the kids had a blast. And much to my surprise, I got completely obsessed with looking at the NEW-ness of everything in their house. Keep in mind that our house was built in 1974, so being surrounded by all the high ceilings and brand-new appliances and beautiful tile and whatnot made me think, “You know, there is something to this whole build-a-new-house thing. IT IS ALL SO VERY FRESH AND CRISP AND PRISTINE.”

And then, no kidding: when we got home we walked in our back door, and I looked around the kitchen, and I turned to David, and I said, “It’s old.”

And he said, “Yep. It’s old.”

And then we sighed.

It was the strangest thing. I really do love our house – and location-wise it is PERFECT for us – but if I could make the ceilings about two feet higher and remodel the kitchen and re-do the bathrooms and install new carpet by the end of this week, that would really suit me just fine.

That sounds do-able, doesn’t it?

But fortunately, I guess, we got a new garage door installed yesterday, so when I got home from dinner with some girlfriends last night, the whisper quiet of that new garage door felt very fancy indeed. Granted, it’s not at all fancy, but it’s home, and I think I’ve successfully recaptured my contentment. I just had a moment Friday night where I was ready for my boundary lines to fall in newly-tiled places. I think that might be a promise from the Old Testament.

Or maybe not.

Other than all of that, our weekend was happily uneventful. I spent most of Saturday getting ready for some speaking stuff that’s coming up, and being able to spend the day digging through books and quotes and Scripture made my inner English major nerd so very, very happy. Sunday we went to Chuy’s after church (SHOCKER), and then the rest of the afternoon was a blur of football, naps, and Twitter. I also started watching Sherlock Sunday night, but I can’t even talk about it yet because IT IS SO DELIGHTFUL even though I’m only on the third episode of season one. My word at the clever.

Oh! I have also made the most exciting discovery. I have long bemoaned my issues with my eyelashes, and I have honestly wondered if I wasn’t going to have to resort to a magic eyelash serum. There have been glimmers of victory with this mascara or that, but by and large it’s been a humbling eyelash road. No length, no volume, no nothing.

HOWEVER.

Early last week I picked up a new eyelash curler on a whim, and in the words of Robert Frost, “that has made all the difference.” Somehow the new curler grabs my eyelashes better, and now, if you look really closely, you might think I have 30 (!) eyelashes. At this point in the day all my mascara has worn off, of course, so the difference isn’t very noticeable, but in the light of early morning, with a fresh coat of mascara, YOU CAN ACTUALLY SEE MY EYELASHES. Needless to say, I feel very grateful that the Lord has given my eyelashes and me a second chance – an opportunity for meaningful ministry, even.

Happy Tuesday, y’all.