Friday, October 26, 2012

A Southern Girl Afternoon

A Southern woman's role was once defined in the eloquent tones of one Ms. Ouiser in the timeless movie, Steel Magnolias.

"I'm an old Southern woman. We're supposed to put on funny-looking hats, ugly old dresses, and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don't ask me why. I don't make the rules."

Such a perfect movie. Shirley MacLaine is truly class on a stick, is she not?

On Tuesday, the outside world looked perfect. The sun was shining and the air was crisp, and I wanted to do nothing but be a part of it. Unfortuntely, the day's lessons didn't allow for such an adventure, so I planned my afternoon to allow me to be outside.

I called Daddy to see if I could borrow his lawnmower. My grass was looking all kinds of horrible. Normally my next door neighbor cuts it for me while he's out taking care of his, but I decided to pull my weight for that go 'round.

"Daddy, I need the lawnmower."

"Who's cutting the grass, baby?"

"I am."

"Who you paying to have it done?"

"No one."

"Oh...who's Granddaddy paying to have it done?"

"No one, Daddy. I'm going to do it."

"Child, I believe you. Or I will once you tell me where we keep the lawnmower."

Folks, therein lied the problem.

After laughing to himself for a bit longer than I liked, Daddy said he would have Will, the guy he pays to cut his grass, get out the mower and make sure that it was working properly.

I took the mower down to my house and got ready for my version of an old Southern woman's day. I put on my big, pink sunhat, threw on a tie-dyed cotton sundress and my Jackie O. styled sunglasses and was ready to work. I know that I was missing the part about "growing things in the dirt" but if you know me, you know that I don't do nature. Grass cutting is as close to dirt as I'm willing to get.

I feel like the actual mowing itself is best described by my Tweets from later that day.

3:01 -- "Peeps of MySmallTown, come snap a picture...I'm about to mow the grass. #firsttimeforeverything"

3:38 -- "You know it's gonna be a good day when the mower starts smoking."

3:58 -- "Dear Town of MySmallTown workers, please quit circling my block to watch me mow. It's creepy. Flattering, but creepy."

4:09 -- "My front yard makes me feel like a NASCAR driver: sharp left-hand turns in a tight oval."

4:39 -- "My yard looks like I gave a 4-year-old a pair of scissors and said, "Have fun!""

4:40 -- "Well, that satisfies my desire to mow for the next decade."

The first tweet is a bit misleading...I have mowed grass before. It was a long-time ago, and I haven't done it in probably seven or eight years, but I have done it.

During the course of my adventure on the mower, there were some mishaps. I didn't have a clue how to turn it on. It started smoking three or four times and consequently I had to take it home to Will to fix seven or eight times (there were other issues that required Will's attention, as well). Every time I pulled up in the yard, I explained -- very animatedly, I might add -- just what was wrong with this old piece of machinery this time, and bless his soul, every time Will said, "I can fix that." Gentlemen, you want a woman? Learn to be able to back up saying things like, "I can fix that." Any girl would love to never have to tell her daddy that she broke his lawn mower.

It probably wouldn't have surprised Daddy if I had to call him and admit the death (or murder, who knows) of Ol' Snapper. This thing is older than me. We have pictures of all three of us kids riding with Daddy on it, grins taking up our faces, so excited to be spending one-on-one time with him. Ol' Snapper was also the closest thing that we had to an ATV, so we were mighty thrilled to be chucking along on the beast.

After I returned Ol' Snapper to his normal resting place, I decided I needed to swing by Granddaddy's house to get a glass-bottle Coke. Granddaddy salvaged an old Coke machine from his days as a hardware store owner and it now sits in his garage, providing the family with America's classic soda and a sweet piece of conversation for any guests we bring over.

A glass-bottle Coke in hand, I walked home, wearing my funny hat and ugly dress. The sun was shining and the evening was starting to set in, and I said a quick prayer, thanking the Good Lord that I was American by birth, and Southern by the grace of God.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I was on Twitter earlier this week and saw that my high school best friend, Mandy, was planning on carving pumpkins that evening. She soon texted me asking for advice on how to properly carve a pumpkin, thinking that I know all things crafty, since I am, as she said, the "craft queen." After talking through tools or whatnot, I asked if she could hold on twenty-four hours after her planned time so that I could join her, along with our other high school best friend, Kasey. She said she would love to, and we all sat on pins and needles for the next twenty-four hours until we could meet up and dig in (to the pumpkins, that is).

The next morning, I realized that I had no pumpkins. In order to carve a pumpkin, one must possess a fresh, ripe, round, orange pumpkin. I didn't even have a fake pumpkin in my house, much less one that fit those adjectives. Thanks to Facebook, I was told that the Lowe's Foods in the next town over had a stash of ginormous carving pumpkins. After school, I headed that way and picked out a pumpkin for me and one for Kasey as well -- Mandy was bringing her own already-acquired pumpkin and Kasey was making me dinner in exchange for me picking up a pumpkin for her.

We arrived to my Cute Little House on Tuesday evening, set out newspaper on my front porch, grabbed some kitchen knives, spoons, and a large bowl for the guts, and went to work.

We laughed and talked about our jobs and boys and graduate school possibilities. We sat on my front porch of my cute little house and I was so thankful to have such sweet friends.

Before long, we had ourselves some might fine pumpkins!

Now, you may notice in the above picture (how you like that Block S? GO WOLFPACK!) that the candle inside of my jack-o-lantern is a bit small. I had forgotten to swing by the Wal-Mart and pick up some tea candles so that we could get some decent pictures with our newly-made pumpkins. I did, however, have a nice stash of birthday candles from different celebrations.

Since they were party hats, we decided it was a celebration of autumn and all the glorious things that come with it!


Thursday, October 18, 2012


This evening I went back to Wildcat Kingdom to go see some of my former students' choral performance. They did a most excellent job and they were so excited to see me (and I, them!!!). I tell ya, there's something about a mom coming up to you and saying, "You're still her favorite teacher."

I got in my car and was headed back to my Cute Little House and this feeling of inadequacy overwhelmed me. I can't even tell you all of the adjectives that I was having to process. All I know for sure is that my heart hurt, deeply and truly.

I have recently discovered the USB plug in my fancy-shmancy car and have enjoyed listening to my iPhone's playlist while driving down the road. I find it to be no coincidence that Big Daddy Weave's song "Redeemed" came blasting through my speakers as the first tear rolled down my face. Folks, do yourself a favor and click on that link and just listen to these words.

Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then you look at this prisoner and say to me
"Son, stop fighting a fight that's already been won."

I am redeemed, you set me free
So I'll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain
Cause I'm not who I used to be
I am redeemed...I'm redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear you whisper, "Child lift up your head"
I remember oh God, You're not done with me yet

I am redeemed, you set me free
So I'll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain
Cause I'm not who I used to be

Because I don't have to be the old man inside of me
'Cause his day is long dead and gone because
I've got a new name, a new life, I'm not the same
And a hope that will carry me home

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off these heavy chains
And wipe away every stain
Cause I'm not who I used to be

'Cause I am redeemd
Thank God, I'm redeemed

I have a "Dear God" board. When something gets too much, I just write it down, stick it on the board, and talk to Jesus about it. There was another ride home similar to the one that I had tonight where those words were taking up too much space in my head. I pulled off to the side of the road and found a napkin and started writing these words down so that I could get them out of my brain.

unhappy -- unworthy -- forgotten -- lonely -- unliked -- scarred -- calloused -- empty
insignificant -- insufficient -- ugly -- unlovable -- screw up -- failure -- aimless
mistake -- worthless -- bankrupt -- misunderstood

These words kept coming back to me on the way home tonight. They ran through my head like the Olympics had started over and Usain Bolt was looking for another win. They weighed on my heart and nothing I could do would shake them. I reminded myself of all of the good that had come out of the past eighteen months. I reminded myself of all of the ways that I have grown from the hurt that has happened. I reminded myself that I have done everything I could to forgive people that have wronged me and how I was turning this whole career situation into a positive. I recalled the looks on my kids' faces tonight when I saw them and tried to tell myself that they didn't hate me for making the selfish choice to take a year off; they still loved me and they were still just as beautiful and vibrant without me.

None of this worked.

unworthy -- unloved -- insignificant -- forgotten -- replacable
failure -- insufficient -- aimless -- worthless

And then "Redeemed" came on.

Then I remember, oh, God, You're not done with me yet.

You look at this prisoner and say to me, "Daughter, stop fighting this war, it's already been won."

Those children you left behind? They're still mine, and they still love you, and they know that you still love them.
Those people that hurt you? They're human, but I created them and I love them and therefore you must too.
That pain they caused you? Beloved, please remember I know pain. This is not too great for you -- this too shall pass.
That unshakable feeling of loneliness that you feel as you lay in bed at night and cry? I'm right there. Allow me to hold you. Remind yourself that I'm right there.

Zechariah 9:12 "Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you."

Isaiah 52:2 " yourself from these chains, Daughter of Zion!"

The only chains you are captive to, my Daughter, are the ones that you put on yourself. I took all the burdens on for you. You simply keep taking them back.

Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him..."

Let it be, Child. Let it be. You have been redeemed. I've set you free.

Job 19:25 "And I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand on the ends of this earth."

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Ms. Sandy..."

"How many kids do you want?"
"I don't know. I kind of need a husband before I have kids. But I think I want a lot."
"I hope you have a lot of kids. You need a lot of kids. Imma see you at the Food Lion one day with all of your chillins' and I'm gonna get to meet them. Do you know what I'm gonna tell them, Ms. Sandy? I'm gonna say, 'You've got yourself a good mama there. She was my mama first. I was one of her school babies before you were her baby.'"


"Sandy! You gotta come to the football game on Friday. I'll be starting and you'll hear my name over the loud speaker a lot. Whenever you hear it, I'll then hear you on the field, yelling for me!"
"What will I be yelling?"
"That's MY CHILD! That's my boy! MY BOY made that play! Oh yeah, LOOK AT MY CHILD RUNNIN' SO FAST! ... I'm gonna do so good on Friday and you'll be so proud of me!"
"I'm already proud of you, baby."
"I know you are Ms. Sandy. You the only one."


"Guess what. I'm taking AP English IV!"
"You're doing WHAT? Why are you doing that?"
"Well, Ms. San-San...I figured if I could pass your class, I could do anything."


"All right, children. Let's quiet down. Let me take roll."
*children continue to talk*
"I'm not yelling. I'm not going to yell to get your attention. Children, you know better than this."
One of my children: "MS. SANDY SAID BE QUIET. You either listen to Momma or you deal with me."
*dead silence in classroom*
"Go ahead, Ms. Sandy. I'm ready to learn today."


I'm up at the white board, writing instructions for the day.
Student #1: "Ms. Sandy, I have a question!"
I turn around, "Yes?"
Student #1 "...I forgot."
I turned back to the board, continue writing.
Student #2: "San-San!"
I turn around, "Yes, honey?"
Student #2: "Never mind."
Student #1: "Sanna-sin..."
"What's up, darlin'?"
Student #1: "I forgot again."
I turn back around to the board to finish writing instructions and I hear, "I told you she flips her hair around. It hurts if it catches you in the face."


I walk past two students in the hallway.
#1: "Hey, Sandy!"
"Hey, baby!"
#2: "Hi!"
"Hey, darlin."
#1: "I told you she won't call you 'baby' ... you're not her real baby. She only says that to her kids and you never had her full-time."


While I was subbing one day, I decided to go read through my cousin Hannah's blog so that I could re-live the cuteness that is Baby Eden. In one of her posts I found this little questionnaire that she tagged me in to do, so I decided (eighteen months later) to do it!

1. If you have pets, do you see them as merely animals or are they members of your family? I no longer have any pets. I have had three dogs in my lifetime (Lady, Ginger, and Milley) for a total of about sixteen years. Milley lived with me in Raleigh for almost two years before we had to put her down back in July. When she was living with me, she was my baby. Lady and Ginger were just pets, but being Milley's sole provider put a whole new idea of having a pet. I've also had a collection of goldfish, but they don't really count.

2. If you could have a dream come true, what would it be? Oh gosh. I have lots of dreams. Maybe I would publish a book? Lose all the weight? Get married? Meet Tim Tebow? MARRY TIM TEBOW -- I like that one. Travel endlessly at no cost to me. Adopt some orphans and live happily ever after?
Nope. I've got it. I had a dream a few weeks ago that I did marry Tim Tebow (from my subconscious to God's ears) and his wedding present to me was a plane ticket. Not for me, but for my Belarussian brother, Petr. My family participated in ABRO (American Belarus Relief Organization) for several years and had Petr come and live with us for five summers. For my wedding present, Tim flew Petr to America (I haven't seen him since July, 2007) for a month to be in my wedding and reconnect with our family. I think about that boy a lot. I would love to know how he's doing.

3. What would you do with a billion dollars? Travel. Pay off my car. Go to grad school debt-free. Build a house. Build my parents a house. Invest it so I would never have to work again. Open a school. Open orphanages and schools overseas. Adopt said orphans. Go see Petr.

4. What helps to pull you out of a bad mood? My love language is acts of service. Someone doing something good for me (especially without being asked!) is a way to bring out the sunshine for any day.

5. What is your bedtime routine? I haven't had a "routine" in years. Now it's more of a "wake up on the couch at some point in the night and move to the bed to finish the sleeping hours." Back when I did have a routine it looked like this: wash off my make-up, take a sleeping pill, let Milley outside for five minutes, the two of us head over to bed, cuddle while watching an episode of "Friends" and then fall asleep until the dreadful alarm makes his appearance into my life.

6. What activities did you do in high school? If you could go back, would you do the same stuff or something different? Oh goodness. High school. Marching band was my main thing. I also participated in the spring musicals, Student Council, Beta Club, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society. Among others, I'm sure. I would do high school almost exactly the same. College might be another story (note: I loved my college years, but I would love to experiment to see if the grass would be greener elsewhere).

7. What kind of books do you read? Chick lit. Historical fiction. I want happiness and romance. Daisies, roses, and sunshine. I don't do creepy stuff.

8. How do you see yourself in 10 years? I'll be 33. Wow. 33. That's hard to consider. I don't know. Published? Living in a house I own? Married with kids, maybe? I don't know if I'll be teaching again. Definitely with a Master's Degree. Hopefully have traveled some more.

9. What’s your fear? I have lots of them. Snakes and heights are my biggest ones. Failure. Being cheated on. Dying young.

10. Would you give up all junk food for the rest of your life for the opportunity to see outer space? Nope. I really don't care that much about outer space. I would totally give up junk food for a decent trade-off, but outer space isn't it.

11. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Pee. Isn't that everyone's answer? Or maybe it's "hit the snooze button."

12. If you could change one thing about your significant other, what would it be? I don't have a significant other. Next question.

13. If you could pick a new name for yourself, what would it be? I used to be obsessed with the name Elizabeth. I'm pretty content with my name, though. It's recognizable, but spelled atypically.

14. If you had to choose between six months of sun or six months of rain, what would you choose?
Well, I hate rain, so I guess I default to sun. Can we have the sunshine like in the Bahamas? No humidity, a slight breeze? A high of 75 every day? Yes, I choose that.

15. If you could only eat one thing for the next 6 months, what would it be? Oh goodness. Either Asian food or Mexican food. I could live off of queso. And sesame chicken. But that means I couldn't eat pasta. That's probably the hardest question I've ever been asked.

16. What is the thing you enjoy about blogging the most? Events. I like documenting the people that are most important to me. The main problem is is that I hate using my laptop. It's slow and it's bulky. If I had the money laying around for an adapter to get pictures from my camera to my iPad I would be more likely to document it. As it is, any pictures on my camera are super unlikely to ever make it to the blog.
17. Do you prefer salty or sweet foods? SWEET! I hate salt. I dated a guy once that would load up everything I cooked him with salt and pepper. During one really hormonal (on my end) meal, I barked at him asking why my food wasn't good enough. I let him know that I never had to cook for him again if he didn't like what I fixed. Completely caught off-guard (and probably completely terrified), he said that he loved my cooking. I then waved the salt shaker in his face and asked why he felt it necessary to use so much of this. He proceeded to laugh until he cried. Apparently, he loved salt. He claimed he would "put salt in his toothpaste if it were allowed." He knew I hated it and while my food had good flavor, he also knew it wasn't proper etiquette to simply spoon salt from the shaker at the dinner table. Food was just a gateway.
18. What items are in your purse right now?  I currently do not use a purse. I will just grab my card, ID, or some cash whenever I need something. My car is kind of my purse. Anything I could possibly need I'm sure I could find in there.
19. One week, anywhere in the world, all expenses paid – where do you go? Wow. Anywhere? Beirut would definitely make the list -- but I would want to take someone I love with me to show them the incredible place that stole my heart. I've always wanted to see Spain. Or go to an orphange in Uganda. Or Australia, but I would totally need a first class plane ticket to survive that flight.

20. What do you watch on television that you know you shouldn’t?
That I "shouldn't"? Well, I watch "Sister Wives" and I definitely do not condone that lifestyle, but I am fascinated by it. I also used to watch "The Girls Next Door" -- it was a show about Hugh Hefner's (the Playboy founder) girlfriends that lived in the mansion. No, there was nothing illicit shown (and anythingconceived that way was tastefully bleeped out). Again, I was completely fascinated by it. It would never be a lifestyle that I would have and to see people living was like a social experiment.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Poor Girl's Heat

I turned off my air conditioning about a month ago because it was simply too expensive. I have ceiling fans in most rooms in my house so I keep those going 24/7 so I am normally fine, temperature-wise. I was so excited that my electricity was almost cut in half by this simple adjustment this month. Growing up is fun...until the bills start to arrive.

Now that North Carolina seems to have skipped straight from summer's overwhelming humidity to winter's bitter frost, my internal thermometer is unable to completely deal with these kinds of changes. I have been wrapping up in blankets and sweatshirts to beat the chill in the air, but this morning, I just couldn't take it.

As I was getting ready for my day, I couldn't stop shivering from head to toe. My teeth were chattering, for crying out loud! The last time I remember being that cold I was in Kentucky is the middle of March for spring break. I was spending the night with one of my Clearwater sisters in Lexington. She lived in a house with no central heating system and my naive self had packed a tank top and a pair of gym shorts to sleep in.

I knew that if I turned on my heat, my house wouldn't heat up quick enough to do anything for me by the time I dried my hair and put on a bit of make-up.

I needed heat. Immediately.

Ladies and gentleman, may I introduce you to the Poor Girls' Central Heating Unit...

Yes, that is my hair dryer.

No, I'm totally not joking.

Ladies, haven't you ever noticed the heat wave when you walk back into your bathroom after drying your hair? I closed the door to my bathroom, turned my hair dryer on high, and by the time I was dressed and my eye make-up was done, it was nice and comfy in the bathroom. The hum of the dryer was soothing and I soon stopped shivering.

I've talked with multiple girlfriends who are also single and loving this transition time from college/our college town/circle of friends to our independent, grown-up selves. The little things that we never thought we would learn or experiment with are mind blowing. I can now install and uninstall blinds, fearlessly work a power drill, live on a severe budget, and get along just fine by myself.

I can now add "enjoy heat on a budget" to that list!

Friday, October 5, 2012

August 28th.

I'm a fan of blogs. I love reading about other people's lives. Real life is always more entertaining than fiction. The drama that I, Norah Efron, Steven Spielberg, or Joss Whedon can write is nothing compared to what fate, the fairies, or God Almighty (depending on your personal preference) can script.

I stumbled upon Who Says 8 Is Enough? a bit ago and have loved getting to know her story and read about her nine (yep, NINE. Take that Kate Gosselin) children. Not too far into her blog, she had a posting that revealed the story of her husband's affair. I immediately clicked on the label link and read the whole story, start to finish.

Debi writes with a bite that any woman scorned would appreciate. She never covers up her reality, whether she is writing a letter to the other woman or she is expressing her butterflies about beginning to "date" her husband again. One thing that captivated me while reading was that throughout the journey, she clinged to God's grace -- as efficiently as a woman lost can -- and truly wished to forgive her husband and save her marriage.

During one of her most recent blog posts she wrote this:

August 27th.
It’s the day that forever changed my life,
our life.
It’s a day I hate remembering,
a day I wish I could forget,
but a day that needed to happen so that
August 28th could happen.

August 27th I found out the marriage I was living,
the life I thought I loved
was gone.

August 28th was the day we both decided it was worth fighting for,
worth what we have gone through the past two years;
Often times,
pure hell…
ripped-open-wound hell.

The profoundness of this statement "a day that needed to happen so that August 28th could happen" gripped me.

I immediately began to flash back to all of the "August 28ths" in my life. Some of them weren't the day after, some of them weren't even the year after, but the August 28ths still exist.

I laid in bed that night, sobbing into my pillow because I knew that a certain gentlemen and I were never going to date. We were too different; too many unkind words had been spoken between us. I had wasted months of my life waiting for him to make a move and it had become clear that it was simply never going to happen. I laid in bed, alone, lonely, sad, mascara coming together in clumps on my cheeks.

After coming home from Clearwater and becoming so life-changingly depressed, I remember a day that I had skipped class (again) and I was laying in my bed, praying for the world to go away. I remember curling up in my purple comforter and through very sleepy eyes, looking up to the front window of my dorm room and scowling at the sun. I remember a few hours later, after napping on and off, my roommate coming in from class and asking if I was going to eat that day. I tucked up my head into the cocoon of the comforter and didn't verbally respond.

The night that a seemingly perfect boy and I broke up, I laid down on our yellow couch in my still-very-new apartment and tried to block out the last words he spoke to me, "You're not worth it." I was completely defeated, completely heartbroken, and very angry. For someone who had told you about the world that he wanted to build for you, with you, around then, in the heat of fight, tell you that you're "not worth it."

When Uncle Barry called to tell us that Hannah was being taken to the hospital for high blood pressure, and Mama explained to us that there was a chance that Hannah or baby Eden could be harmed, I curled up in my Daddy's recliner and turned the TV up louder to try to forget everything she just told me. I was channeling a mental utopia as hard as I could.

But then, August 28th happened.

Psalm 143:8 "Let the morning bring me news of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You."

As I laid in bed with my mascara ruining my favorite pillow case, a received a text from a friend with the words "Psalm 143:8" in it. I grabbed my little pink Bible and flipped to the page. I started praying this verse over and over again. I fell into the Twilight Zone while repeating it in my heart. I wasn't counting sheep, I was praying for news of His unfailing love.
At 6:14 the next morning, the sun was shining so brightly into my dorm room that I was forced to wake up. My head was pounding due to the ceaseless tears the night before, and the mascara had taken over my face, but the sun was shining. The Lord's presence was in my room. I was completely surrounded by warmth and comfort. My roommate let out a groan in the bunk above me and a four-letter word slipped out about the sunshine, but I knew in that moment that I was loved and I wasn't forgotten.

I started going to class again, meeting with my girls, talking to Jesus in a not angry voice. I started to eat actual food (not ice cream) and I started to not curse the sunshine. I learned from Jesus and from my beloved Clearwater family how to love and how to truly live, and I stopped hating them for not being with me. I applied the lessons that I was given over the course of our summer together and became more of the person I was meant to be.

Eden arrived with a perfect strength and her laugh is the reason that I wake up most mornings. When she cuts that precious blue eyes and me and scolds, "Bekah!" or when she giggles and squeals, "MY Bekah Suzanne" I know that the Lord reigns supreme. When she screams at the top of her lungs just to see my reaction and then melts into a fit of joy, I am reminded that things don't come on time, they come on His time.

I have traveled to the Middle East. I have loved the unloved. I kissed the faces of orphans and I have stood where my Jesus stood. I have had coffee dates, popcorn dates, movie nights, noodle nights, sleepovers, and let's-go-swinging-in-the-park playdates with over 200 of the world's most beautiful girls. And I get to call them 'mine'. They wouldn't be mine, at least, not to the depth that they are now. I taught 161 of the best students on the planet. My life is better than the one we talked about building.

August 27ths are the days that people consider checking out. Those days bring only pain and hurt and tears.

August 28ths are the days where the sun is shining too brightly.

Loving the 28th is easy. Being thankful for the 27th is when true love is formed.