Friday, September 24, 2010

Don't miss "Misterslippi"!

My very first audition was for Annie.

At five, I was too little to play the title role. That, however, didn't make a lick a difference to me. I had my eye on the plumb part of Annie's pint-sized playmate, Molly. I remember that nite so well. Wearing knee socks and a dress with Strawberry Shortcake on it (back then, my wardrobe had two "looks" - layered and Strawberry Shortcake), I walked into the Anderson Community Theatre building in the city's then-abandoned downtown. Well, it was abandoned except for the A.C.T., the Osteen Movie Theatre (where I first saw Annie), Anderson Appliance & Television (where I used to rent Annie ), and Yons' Meat Market, where you could buy bottle Cokes and Cadbury Eggs ... year-round, for some strange reason.

Anyway, I remember walking in to the theatre and sitting in the house, waiting nervously for my turn to be called. Oddly, I don't remember anyone else being there. I know that my mom had to be, though, because that was a stage of my life when I didn't let her out of my sight, except for those two hours each afternoon when I was completely preoccupied with watching Annie.

Once I was called, I walked the long, carpeted aisle to the stage. I remember as if it were yesterday, attempting to sing "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" with enough pep to propel a jet plane. It didn't work. We were visiting Mayme in Kentucky when the call came in. I can still see Mom standing there holding the rotary-style phone, her hair styled in the "Apple perm" she sported for most of my early childhood. She took the call in which I was told of my first theatrical failure. Thus began a less than impressive stage career that included a couple of works by Moliere, some Tennessee Williams, and a grad school audition in which I couldn't talk for the cottonmouth but for which my scene-partner mother, her Apple perm all grown out now, practically won both a Tony Award and a dinner invitation from James Lipton who was sitting in the audience with his legs crossed and a clipboard covering his lap.

Luckily, my sister's three oldest children fared much better in their first auditions. Last Friday, they opened in CJR Productions presentation of Patch the Pirate's Misterslippi River Race. Naturally, I was there Opening Nite - "candy in one hand, a camera in the other." The boys - as Skeeter and Arnie - both had solos; Lizzie Gray just sat on stage and looked way cuter than I ever did (see?)

For your viewing pleasure - and so that Daddy can get a sneak preview before he sees the show next weekend - I give you Camden's Skeeter singing "A Servant's Heart" and Payton as Arnie singing "I'm Adopted."

Riveted? Can't say that I blame you! Want to see it for yourself? Well, you're in luck. The show runs through October 2nd! For tickets, visit here. I'll be there again Friday nite, but not Saturday.

Saturday, I'll be at home ... watching Annie and hoping there's a director out there somewhere who might still let me play Molly. And my extra-bossy, older sister? She'd make the PERFECT Pepper.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Woo pig, PHOOEY!


Georgia was supposed to win yesterday! Sure, they were outranked by the Razorbacks, but what of the home field advantage? What of the fight for Mark Richt's job security? What of the fact that it was the first time I ever stepped "between the hedges"?! All of this amounted to big pile of woo-pig-suey, as the Dawgs couldn't convert a valiant second half comeback into a win over Arkansas.


Thankfully, though, yesterday's trip to Athens wasn't a total loss. First of all, I was introduced to Sanford Stadium's "clothing optional" wardrobe policy. For some, like the fella pictured here, the bliss of this cannot be overstated, particularly for those noon kick-offs on blindingly sunny days in the mid-September South. All I can say is, "I bet his mama's prouda him." His wife, however, isn't. Just before that first quarter moment when he shed his red and black ecto-Polo, she stormed away and wasn't seen again. To be fair, though, it's entirely possible that she just left to find a quiet corner where she could melt in peace from the scorching heat.

The second "score" of yesterday's visit to Athens was stumbling upon Clocked. Our waiter mentioned that their burgers were awarded "Best of Athens" honors in 2010. I had the "Clocked Hamburger." With its fluffy bun and some sort of slap-yo-mama secret sauce, I can sure see why it's every Dawg's favorite treat. Good as the burgers were, though, I'm not so sure if it's that that brings the people in or the fact that they serve Cheerwine. From a fountain. Talk about "slap-yo-mama." We'll call it a draw.

But back to talking football, which is, let's face it, the reason God made fall in the first place. With Georgia's loss, my personal record now matches the Bulldogs' this season. I am a lackluster 1 and 2, which, now that I think about it, isn't all that bad, given that I'm about 0 for 757 when it comes to finding a full-time teaching position. I was there when USC did what it did to Brett Favre's alma mater and then attended Tennessee's heartbreaking home loss to Oregon , and, now, of course, Georgia's very sad fall to Arkansas. Instead of focusing on yesterday's losses, though, I'm gonna think about its wins:

Most importantly, my Wildcats whooped up on Akron (by the way, what's a "Zip"?)! Auburn pulled out a squeaker over Clemson, and that Michigan State finish against Notre Dame is an instant ESPN Classic.

The big winner yesterday, however, was my dear friend Leslie Bell. After several months of waiting - about nine, to be exact - she finally became an aunt when her older sister gave birth to Ethan Benjamin Taylor. Now that she has one of her own, I'm hoping that Les will be a little more understanding of my borderline obsession with my nephews (and nieces, but that's a whole 'nother blog!). Being an aunt, I guess, is kinda like live theatre. I can lecture my students until I'm (Kentucky) blue in the face about why I love seeing a show, but they won't get it until they see one for themselves.

Now's Les's chance, though. With Ethan's birth, she "wins" a chance to, without hesitation, spend every spare cent on a child that isn't her own. She's awarded a precious little fella on whom she can lavish love, laughter, and, alright, even a tiny jersey for Baby Gamecocks (clearly, Leslie and I don't see eye to eye on everything), and she gains a guy who will make her heart explode every time he smiles at her or spits on her or begs his mama to let him spend the nite with her.

I know all this, because nearly 11 autumns ago I was given the gift of my sweet Cammy Doodle. That beautiful boy with the head full of hair had me instantly smitten. Suddenly, my priorities completely shifted. I'd skip fun with friends just to sit and watch him sleep. Every move he made made me love him all the more. He's a big boy now - old enough to go to camp and mow the lawn - but I'm still able to pick him up and squeeze that sweetie Petey.

Two years after Cam came, on the Tuesday after Kentucky lost 43-29 in Athens, I got my precious Paytie Einstein. This little baldie was born with his mama's sweet spirit and a stubborn streak all his Aunta's. Nine years later, I get to help him write out the stories he imagines - each one about the same high-flying super hero whose every mission involves saving "a little girl named Aunta."

So congrats, Les. You don't yet know how lucky you've just become by the simple birth of a baby boy. And, now that I think of it, maybe THAT'S the reason God made fall in the first place.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Wish" You Were Here

Ask me who my hero is. Go on. Ask me.

I guarantee you it isn't who you're thinking. It's not John Calipari or John Wall or even a certain "6'6" senior from Modesto, California." It's not Dorothy Fields or Kristin Chenoweth or Amy Grant, though, for the record, I REALLY like her. A lot. No, no. Though I have great affection for each of the people listed above, not one of them is my hero. My hero is actually my grandmother, Mayme. There are exactly 6,007 reasons why Mayme is my hero. Not the least of these is the fact that she always kept Reese's Cups hidden in a kitchen drawer that my parents didn't know about but that my sister, cousins, and I did.

Though I think of her every day, Mayme's been on my mind even more than usual today. It's the 14th anniversary of the day that she died. Oddly, in a lot of ways, I don't even feel like she's gone. For instance, I have yet to turn onto Riverside Drive without fully expecting to see her there. With an ashtray on the ground beside her, she's standing on the blue astro-turf of her side porch, waving gleefully as my family drives up, and I still have an impulse to call her whenever something good happens in my life. In fact, I lost count of the times I thought, "Wonder what Mary Alice would think of this?" during UK's most recent basketball season (DeMarcus Cousins' buzzer-beating save at the 2010 SEC Tournament would've had her screaming "Slamma damma!" loud enough for all of Greenup County to hear!). Yep. My Mayme has proven a hard habit to break - and one that I hope I never do. I hope I never forget to remember her. How can I?

I remember her freezer, stocked with Pudding Pops and boxes of lima beans, which she made me eat, though I begged her not to. I remember the way she hooted like an owl when she laughed really hard. I remember that she made the best grilled cheese sandwiches on the planet and how, this one time, she dealt me a king-high straight when we were playing seven card stud. I remember riding my brand new Barbie bicycle (with the ginormous basket!) on the cracked concrete of her driveway and laying on her sofa watching "The Carol Burnett Show" while she "drew" on my back with her fingertip. I remember telling her "Don't forget to powder me!" after every bathtime. And that she loved McDonalds as much as I did. And that she always wrote me letters. And that she invented a method of sleeping "sideways," so that she could accommodate both my sister and me beside her in her tiny, full-sized bed.

I remember so many things about my Mayme, each one another reason why she remains my hero, 14 years after her death. If I had to sum her impact up in a single word, it would be "magic." Mayme made everything magical. To me, she was a cross between Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse and snow cones and bubblegum balls (which, by the way, she couldn't chew because of that trick tooth she had; she also didn't eat chicken for reasons I still don't know. That said, however, the woman loved her some Krispy Kreme donuts).

One of the most magical things about Mayme was the way she celebrated Christmas. I'm not sure what she'd say about this, but for her five grandchildren, holiday preparations officially began on the day the annual Wishbooks arrived from Sears & J.C. Penney's. Sissy, our cousins, and I would plow through the toy sections of each. Without hesitation - or consideration of budgetary constraints - we'd mark them up, each circling our hearts' desires until both books looked like Coach Hall's clipboard during the Louisville game. "Yes, Mayme," my overzealous wish-listing seemed to say. "If it's all the same to you, I'd like a Cricket doll, that My Little Pony bed tent, some skis (in case we ever go back to the mountains), a life-size Rolls Royce battery-powered ride-on toy, some Get in Shape, Girl leg warmers, the Barbie Dreamhouse, some Camp Beverly Hills clothes (so I can FINALLY look as cool as Lori), Cabbage Patch Kid Twins, a Rainbow Brite vanity, some walkie talkies (since Sissy won't let me share hers), a real-life cash register, a pinball machine, the hot pink electric guitar that looks like the one on "Jem," another Fold-Away Play Tunnel, a swingset (since Daddy never finished putting together the one you got us last year), a carriage-style baby stroller, and, oh yes, the Castle Greyskull."

In retrospect, I am amazed at how unashamedly we asked for way more than any kid should ever get on Christmas. I am also amazed that our parents let us get away with it. And I am even more amazed at the fact that, without exception, all five of us fully expected to get every single gift we'd asked for. After all, if she could take us to Camden Park several times each summer, our magical Mayme could make anything happen.

I was reminded of this feeling of reckless expectation while listening to the radio Monday morning. The Family Life Today program was highlighting a new book called "A Praying Life." The author, Paul Miller, was talking about cynicism in prayer, which immediately piqued my interest, as I am embarrassingly guilty of cynicism in prayer. I definitely know that prayer works. In fact, in some facets of my life, I am a resolute prayer warrior who takes more pride than I should in "acknowledging Him in all my ways." Praying about other things, however, comes a lot harder. Too many "hopes deferred" have made my "heart sick." As a result, cynicism grows where hope should spring eternal. Asked by the program's host how to combat this sort of cynicism in prayer, Miller responded:

"Pray like a child. Pray like a child. Pray like a child."

Instantly, I thought of Mayme and those crazy Christmas lists. I thought about how we'd give them to her without fear that she would reject our requests. After all, this was the woman who could convince Mom and Daddy to let Sissy and I spend another week with her instead of going home with them, and she always had a brown-leather billfold full of more twenties than I had the attention span to count. A couple thousand dollars' worth of stuff we had absolutely no use for was all in a day's work!

In that moment, Miller's point was made. I began to imagine what might happen if I asked God for things as boldly as I asked Mayme for them? What if I believed in His ability to hear my prayers as deeply as I trusted her ability to fulfill my wishlist? After all, that is how we are commanded to pray. Matthew 7:7-11 says this:

7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

I made a decision right then. Instead of listening to the shouts of my inner cynic ("Kristin," he says with a snarl, "you know you're being COMPLETELY ridiculous. There's no way God will do this for you. You know it, and I know it, so just spare yourself or you'll end up as disappointed as that birthday you didn't get the Baby Heather doll you wanted so much"), I am going to choose to ask "believing I'll receive." With His help (and in submission to His will), I am going to give my requests to God with the same anticipation that I'd make my wishes to Mayme.

And as soon as He grants this one request in particular, she'll inevitably be the first person I'll want to call and tell about it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Oh, tell your Aunt Louise, tell anything you please ..." ?!?!?

I don't care what anybody's told you. Writing a dissertation is no fun. In fact, it's not all that unlike belly-busting into a concrete swimming pool that hasn't yet been filled for the summer. Or coming home after a week away to find that you left raw chicken sitting out on the countertop. Or waking up to eyes that are swollen shut, because you cried yourself to sleep after watching Switched at Birth ... again. In other words, it's a painful, smelly, ugly experience.

One of the upsides of my writing time, however, has been the many occasions I've had to revisit the hallowed halls of Furman University, where I attended as an undergraduate and where, I was recently surprised to learn, there is a library. Right. On. Campus. Lis, did you know about this? Camille? Maybe if there'd been a library on campus when we were there, we wouldn't have spent so much time eating pancakes at Stax, huh?

At any rate, earlier this week, I visited Furman's new-fangled library to work on some re-writes. I was sidetracked as soon as I entered by a new lobby display featuring "One Hit Wonders." "Oooh. This'll be fun," I thought. Instantly, I found myself humming the refrain of Bertie Higgins "Key Largo" as I perused the photocopied "album covers" on F.U.'s Wall of Musical Mediocrity.

Then, as quickly as it had started, the humming came to a full-stop. Somewhere between Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime" and "What Mattered Most" by Ty Herndon, I saw this:


Does anybody else spot the heresy here? Well, in the unlikely event that any present Paladins are reading this entry, I'll give you a hint: there are two of them, and they just about broke my achy, breaky heart. First of all, Billy Ray Cyrus was HARDLY a "one hit wonder." I know this because, in 2007, my cousins and I attended his Homecoming show at Ashland, KY's Paramount Arts Center, and I'll have you know that the singing along did not stop. "Achy Breaky Heart" was followed by a string of hits that would make Vanilla Ice melt. Among others, there were "Could've Been Me" (#2), "She's Not Cryin' Anymore" (#6), "Words by Heart" (#12), "Busy Man" (#3), and, my favorite, "Where'm I Gonna Live?" an autobiographical ditty that peaked at #23.

Secondly, 1982??!!?? Sorry, Brainiac, but you missed it by a decade. To the Furman student who did the research for this little window display, "I'm not even gonna think about what they're not teaching you in school."
The experience did, however, get me thinking about what they taught ME in school. How much of it did I just accept? "Well, the billboard on the way into the library says so, so it must be true!" Not necessarily.

This, in fact, has been a major source of frustration for me, as I've researched. Yep, I'm goin' through the Big D (and don't mean Dallas!), and in so doing, I've read a thousand and six different opinions on what makes a musical and how Dorothy Fields accomplished all that she did. It's hard to know which idea is the one to hang my hat on. I'm constantly trying to get my students to explore information and synthesize it in the way that works for them, but I'm the first to admit that this is hard for even me.

Indeed, this process of academic discovery is an ongoing one. There are new, existential questions with which I wrestle every day. Most of them at present are centered on ideas such as "Why, oh why, must I read so much feminism?" and "Does it REALLY have to be 200 pages long?" At this point, however, I'm sure of exactly three things: 1) unlike discussions about the validity of Dorothy Fields's work, the truth of God's Word is not up for debate, 2) Billy Ray Cyrus was neither a one-hit wonder, nor was he recording in 1982 (honestly, people. Somebody's diploma should be revoked), and 3) even if they had had a library when we were at Furman, Camille and I were probably better off skipping our 9s to spend time at Stax.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the King & I

Chick flicks make me insane.

Honest to goodness, if I have to watch Katherine Heigl overcome her insatiable crazy one more time or see Kristen Bell show off her blunt-cut bangs or hear Reese Witherspoon ...

Wait a minute. Reese Witherspoon I actually like. That she's from Nashville is reason enough. Add to that the facts that she attended the same school as Amy Grant and can play June Carter Cash better than the woman herself, and I am officially a fan.

The same cannot be said, however, for the genre of films typified by her work in such movies as Sweet Home Alabama and the unbelievably misguided follow-up to Walk the Line, Just Like Heaven, in which she plays a ghost courting a landscape architect.

Yes. I'm serious.

And no. I didn't see it.

I just get so frustrated with the perfect little "Hollywood endings," where everything is all neatly wrapped up and, no matter how unlikely, no matter if you're a friggin' ghost, for Pete's sake (I'm looking at you here, Reese), it all works out in the end. This has just not been my experience. As a result, I find myself growing increasingly cynical towards a class of films where the implausible is more commonplace than the probable.

Instead, I prefer to feed my cinemappetite on a diet of films whose stories are far more realistic. Tropic Thunder comes to mind, as does the classic MacGruber (now on DVD!) in which the only American hero to earn 16 purple hearts, 3 Congressional Medals of Honor, and 7 Presidential Medals of Bravery saves the world from nuclear war using little more than a bobby pin, some street smarts, and a really rockin' mullet.

All kidding aside, I do prefer to watch (and read) things that I can relate to, things that make me think, "Boy, have I been there" and "Man, it sure is good to know I'm not alone in thinking that!"

That's probably why I like the book of Psalms so much. Talk about relatable. In my opinion, it reflects the roller coaster of emotions we feel on this ride of life. Feeling never better, with a song in your heart and a sparkle in your eye? There's a Psalm for that! Think that gray skies and endless rain couldn't even express the extent of your morose melancholy? Well, guess what. So did David!

Psalms had really been just any other book of the Bible to me until about a year and a half ago. I had just broken up with my boyfriend and was nursing a broken heart and a shattered spirit. At the same time, I was prone to outbursts of tears both unprovoked and unquenchable. As Jonathan Forbes said of Jan Morrow in Pillow Talk (one chick flick I DO like, though probably more for Doris Day's costumes than the actual storyline): "I never knew a woman that size had that much water in her!"

Shortly thereafter, I happened to start a devotion book on the life of David. As soon as I did, he was my companion in the valley. My misery loved his company.

Truly, just like him, there were times in my journey of recovery when I was high: "Thank You, Lord, for Your guidance. Thank You that You lead me, and You keep me from making mistakes." Same goes for David. "Praise the Lord, O my soul," he wrote. "All my inmost being, praise His holy name ... and forget not all His benefits!" (Ps. 103:1, 2b). Other times, I was lower than a well-digger's shoes, borrowing the shepherd's words when I'd plead, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? ... How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?" (Ps. 13:1a, 2). In these moments, I could almost hear David whisper, "Boy, have I been there."

There was one way, though, in which I couldn't relate to David. He was constantly talking about his enemies being after him - "O Lord, how many are my foes!" (Ps. 3:1) "Save and deliver me from all who pursue me." (Ps. 7:1). "Wah-wah-what is he talking about?" I'd think, sort of annoyed, to be perfectly honest. This sort of chase is just a tad outside the purview of my experience, sorta like the "Hollywood ending" of every chick flick I've ever (begrudgingly) seen.

But it was real life for David. Just like getting the guy is real life for each of Julia Roberts' characters, so was it commonplace for David to be on the run for his life. He had armies and kings after him. At certain points, his own son sought to kill him. He was forced to call out to God from the shallow safety of a cave. And him a king?! Needless to say, these were points on which my buddy David and I couldn't really commiserate.

Until recently.

Follow me here down the trail called "Digression": my transition from PC to Mac began last Christmas when I got my beloved MacBook Pro. It was completed a week ago when I became the proud (and obsessive) owner of an iPhone 4. As amazed by the App Store as I am Shutterfly slideshows, I downloaded a Bible app and signed up for a Daily Reading Plan of Psalms (I also downloaded a Skee-Ball app, but that has absolutely nothing to do with this post, other than the fact that I've stopped writing no fewer than six times to squeeze in a game ... or seven. It's just that the cyber prizes (Hamburger Phone, anyone?!) are really cool).

Anyway, the Plan starts with Psalm 1 and works through the book numerically. In reading it, I was instantly reminded of one of the differences between David's experience and mine, as he started droning on and on again about his enemies, asking God to save him from them, and there I was again, wondering what in this world that had to do with me: "Come on, David," I'd think, rolling my eyes Heavenward. "Hit me where I live, Brother."

And then he did.

He kept talking about the way he'd overcome his enemies. In Psalm 8:2, he said, "From the lips of children and infants, You have ordained praise because of Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Soon after, he wrote this in Psalm 9:1-3 - "I will sing praise to Your name, o Most High. My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before You."

This verse instantly made me envision that scene in Airplane when Robert Stack fights off zealots of a thousand different stripes, only, in my vision, David did it in reverse - he'd sucker punch his enemies with songs of praise to his God. "Oh, yeah, Saul? You wanna slaughter me? Well, guess what - POW! - 'The Lord reigns forever.' And ya wanna know what else? - ZAP! - 'He has established His throne for judgment.' Take THAT!" Saul is instantly obliterated. Then I see Absalom ready to catapult a fiery canon into his father's cavernous hide-out, only to be subdued when David says to him, "Son, let me tell you something. 'The Lord is King ...'" Uncomfortable, Absalom would retreat, shouting over his shoulder as he did, "Um, good talk, Dad, but I hear Mom calling." And off he'd go.

I obviously don't mean that to sound as sacrilegious as it probably does. Those images, though, really do help me to think about my own enemies. Sure, there aren't armies after me, and I don't even have a son, but I am in a battle. Ephesians 6:2 describes it in detail.

Paul writes, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

My enemies, then, aren't "flesh and blood" but discontentment, impatience, lack of discipline, slothfulness, selfishness, vanity, pride, and a thousand others. Realizing this, cries like David's "How long will my enemy triumph over me?" had a whole new resonance.

"I DO have enemies," I thought, bizarrely happy that my kinship with the Israelite king was complete.

And thanks to him, I also know how to make them "turn back." Like David, "I will sing praise to Your name," and just as they did for him, so will "My enemies turn back. They stumble and perish before You." Discontentment can't live in a land where there's full awareness of God's bountiful blessings; impatience can't abide the knowledge that God's "way is perfect."

And that reminder alone is "perfect."

Sorta like the Hollywood ending of every chick flick I've ever (begrudgingly) seen.

(By the way, this was not the post I had in mind when I posted this. That one's still to come. Maybe.)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thanks for Shutter-flying by!

I should just post something already, right? I've been at this - what, a week? - and already, I've become as reliable about posting as I am about taking those iron tablets I told the doctor I would. It's just that I don't want to be one of those over-posters: "I saw this and wanted to share ..." and 20 minutes later adding, "Did you see this? How did you not share it with me?!" I also don't want to be negligent, writing once a quarter something obligatory like, "Sorry you haven't seen much of me lately, but don't worry. I'm not dead ... yet. Peace out." There is nothing I hate more than getting addicted to a blogger only to find out he writes with the same frequency as Halley's Comet streaks across the sky.

To be honest, though, an entry has been percolating in my mind, since I took an unexpected drive on Sunday morning. While it simmers a little longer, allow me to pacify my anxieties about being an inattentive blogger by sharing a slideshow (again with the snappy Shutterfly tool, but seriously. If you only knew how easy it is, you'd be as excited by it as I am!) of some early-September goings on. Maybe that's better, anyway. After all, they say that a picture speaks a thousand words ... which, incidentally, is the theme of the blog I've been bandying about.

Stay tuned ...

Click here to view these pictures larger

Friday, September 3, 2010

U-S-C! GooooOOOOOO, Cocks!

Click here to view these pictures larger

Well, as is to be expected when an S-E-C team plays what appeared to be a peewee squad from a Deep South parish, Carolina beat Southern Miss decidedly. The final score was 41 to 13. This surprises me, because I honestly don't remember Southern Miss scoring at all. Maybe the new "we're all winners" mentality has prompted the NCAA to give S-E-C visitors a certain number of gimme points for every touchdown scored? Does that make me sound like an S-Elitist? Yeah. I probably need to tone down my loyalties to football's dominant conference. I'll work on that the same way I'm trying not to shout "SUCK IT" every time I see Lane Kiffin on SportsCenter. In other words, it won't be easy.

Anyway, I totally wasn't planning to post about the game, until I discovered Shutterfly's snappy new tool, which allows me to post a slideshow directly to my blog. No muss, no fuss! How cool is that?! Clearly, I'm still in the "enamored" stage with all of these new-to-me technologies, so enjoy the pics. One of my favorites is the panoramic. My new camera, which I bought at the beach after an unfortunate incident with my old camera and a mound of sand, takes panoramics. Talk about "still in the enamored stage."

My second favorite is the one of Leslie looking towards who-knows-what on her right. You see, we were taking photos for the cover of our new album "I Went to Columbia and Didn't Even Get Shot" when Les went all emo on me. Either that, or she was feeling what the Eagles might've felt on the long road back to Southern Miss.

All kidding aside (though the part about Lane Kiffin was totally NOT kidding), it was a great nite! Cool, even in Columbia, and a perfect kick-off to College Colors Day. Speaking of which, I hope you're wearing yours!

You KNOW I'm in mine.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

the Girls of Fall

It couldn't come soon enough.

Like a paycheck at the end of the month or dinner when you don't think you can wait a single second more before you faint dead away from starvation, football season is upon us.

At long last.

My compatriot Leslie and I are kicking the season off in Columbia, South Carolina, where, we hope, the Gamecocks will pulverize the Southern Miss Whatever-they-Ares. Oh, who am I kidding. I could care less if Carolina wins or loses. I just don't want to miss the first shot of the season to watch the boys of fall pass around a pigskin.

It has been entirely too long.

I've missed you, Kirk Herbstreit.
Hook 'em, 'Horns.
And you Louisville Cardinals? Watch out for the Wildcats.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Yeah, that's always been the thing in your way ..."

My family has its share of idiosyncrasies.

First, we tend to dress alike at theme parks. Go ahead and poke fun. It's nothing we haven't heard before, but I'm telling you, matching shirts in coordinating colors make it so much easier to find each other in uncontrolled crowds. Plus, between my sister and all of my cousins, there's practically a football team full of children whenever we're all together, so personalized gear helps us each to keep track of who's who. After all, were it not for the names emblazoned across our Beefy-Tees, there'd be absolutely no telling me from my wafer-thin, model-tall, blonde-headed cousin Lori. As you can see from the picture to the left, the family resemblance is uncanny (I hope you're picking up on my sarcasm, because I'm laying it on pretty thick).

Secondly, we're probably just a tad too excited about University of Kentucky sports. This, I don't apologize for or feel compelled to defend.
Finally, we tend to talk in movie lines. How this started, I don't know. I do know, however, that we can have entire, meaningful conversations without expressing a single, original thought. For instance, the birthday song we sing to each other? Totally ripped off from the "Ache in Every Stake" episode (my favorite!) of the Three Stooges (if you're pressed for time, start watching at 17:13). Whenever Mom, Daddy, or Sissy asks me how I'm feeling, I'll respond, "Much better, Deah," mimicking Judith Ivey as Aunt Blanche in the film adaptation of Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs, and I have not heard my father say the word "Yes," since the premiere of Napoleon Dynamite. Instead? He borrows Pedro's "chess." In case you're wondering, that doesn't get old AT ALL (again with the sarcasm).

We say these things without even thinking about them. They're automatic - like when an Auburn fan, no matter where he is, spots another Tiger and nods an involuntary "War Eagle."

I realized last nite that I often do something similar with my Bible reading. Once again, I was going over Psalm 40, a passage I've read probably as many times as I've told my mother "Much better, Deah," a passage I've been able to quote since Mr. Davis's 7th grade Bible class, a passage I can even sing a song to, but last nite's reading was anything but automatic.

I was led to the verse by a book I've been reading. Beth Moore's "Get Out of that Pit" is every bit as good as everything else she's ever written (and that's GOOD). I picked it up on my most recent trip to McKays, because lately I've been feeling a little "blue," and I don't mean Kentucky blue, either. I mean "a little anxious for no particular reason, a little sad that I should feel anxious at this age. You know, a little self-conscious anxiety resulting in non-specific sadness, a state that I call 'blue.'"

Beth Moore calls it being in a "pit." So did the psalmist. He wrote, "I waited patiently for the Lord ..."

Stop right there.

"Patiently"? He waited "PATIENTLY"?! In reading this verse for the umpteenth time, I suddenly realized, for the first time, how I get myself into these pits to begin with. Impatience. I am waiting every way BUT "patiently." As a result, I slip into a pit, because God hasn't given me what I want ... a job, for instance, or an iPhone (again, sarcasm) ... when I want it. My bootstrap response to His seeming inaction is to go into over-active mode. I strike out to make something happen on my own, but obviously, I'm powerless against the providence of a sovereign God, so I throw what amounts to a holy temper-tantrum ("God! I'm doing MY part; why aren't You doing YOURS?!") and wind up taking a self-imposed time-out smack dab in the middle of Pit Central.

That concept reminded me of another verse I know as well as I do the entire script of Annie (the 1982 Aileen Quinn classic, NOT the later Disney remake so insufferable that I won't even dignify it by adding an IMDB link; incidentally, I DO own the "Special Anniversary Edition DVD").

"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10

Hold up. Be WHAT?

For one who prefers to be in perpetual motion, being still is just about as easy as being patient. Unlike the "patiently" thing, though, I can't pretend that this is the first time I've wrestled with God's command to "Be still." Sensing God's periods of seeming inaction, I have a tendency to try and "take over." My admittedly flawed line of thinking goes like this: "You know, He's been holding the reigns for awhile now. He's probably just tired or busy helping someone else out these days. The least I can do is drive through the night."

It's almost as if I see God and I as partners in a relay race. He's just handed me the baton, so I can take the next leg, while He takes a breather on the sidelines. One hand clutches His heaving chest and the other holds a gallon of Gatorade. Though that image sounds really sacrilegious, I leave it in for no other reason than to illustrate to myself how ludicrous my misguided idea is. I know that intellectually, of course. As I stand on the precipice of a pit, however, that doesn't stop me from trying with all my might to make something happen that will keep me out of it. That, too, is ludicrous. Proverbs 16:9 puts it this way: "In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."

Philip Yancey talks about these ideas in his excellent book "Prayer," which I read earlier this year. Writes Yancey:

"'Be still and know that I am God.' The Latin imperative for 'be still' is vacate. As Simon Tugwell explains, 'God invites us to take a vacation, to stop being God for awhile and let Him be God' ... God is inviting us to take a break, to play truant. We can stop doing all those important things we have to do in our capacity as God and leave it to Him to be God ... To let God be God, of course, means climbing down from my own executive chair of control. I must uncreate the world I have so carefully fashioned, to further my ends and advance my cause."

Yancey's work probably resonates with me, because concepts like "vacation" and "truancy" are two that I can really get my arms around. Given that, why is it so hard for me to "be still"? To "wait patiently"? I wish I knew. I'm so thankful that God has shown me where I go wrong, and I'm trusting Him to fill me with the strength to obey His command to "be still."

Maybe the solution is as simple as getting more specific in the whole vacation analogy. Clearly, I'm a visual learner, so maybe I'll finally learn the necessary lessons by giving myself a concrete image to imagine when I feel myself foolishly thinking I need to take over for my sovereign God. Instead of seeing myself in a pit, I should instead imagine being in a place where I won't want to do God's work (as if I could, anyway) - being indefinitely at Disney World or traveling cross country in an Airstream trailer or, maybe, it'll help to imagine myself on Nebali, "the name of the planet in a galaxy way, way, way ... way far away."