Ode to an Old Car

Dear Santa Fe,

At first I was attracted to you because of your name. A close second was your price.

You’ve given me 30,000 miles, though you started burning oil soon after I got you.

It’s been an eventful 2 years. I shared you with my son for a year after his car died.

During that time, you were hit twice, once by the infamous Steve-O of the “Jackass” TV show.

Like a Timex watch, you took “a licking and kept on ticking.”

You have kept me humble with your little puffs of black smoke and your bumpers laced together by plastic twist ties with locks.

Yesterday I got the news that your air conditioner compressor needs replacing.

I refuse to pay 1/5 of what I paid for you to repair you. The next thing will be replacing your tires, which have begun to dry rot, and God only knows what else.

Sorry, but I’m just not that sentimental. Thank you for the (cough, cough, sputter, sputter) service you’ve given me.

It’s a good thing that my daughter is graduating from college and will soon be home with her car. I can’t take many more days without AC.

Again, my sincerest, snarkiest thanks, dear Santa Fe. I will be a little wiser the next time I buy.

Yours truly,

Anne

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What I Hope for My Children

As I was musing about this blog, I originally planned to write “What I Hope for My Daughter,”  but I realized that I desire many of the same things for my son. Here goes:

* That they will feel loved unconditionally for who they are,  not for their achievements

* That they will find their own bliss, their unique calling and purpose

* That they will believe in something larger than themselves

* That they will love other people unabashedly and passionately and that they will receive the same kind of love from good, solid people and will remain faithful to the loves of their lives

* That they will care about the needs of the less fortunate and find ways to show their concern

* That they will have their own children someday and experience the joys and challenges of raising their children to become independent, loving, healthy, happy adults

* That they will remain curious  and will be lifelong learners

* That they will manage their money well and generously give to others

* That they will realize that careers aren’t everything … that balance in all areas of life is desirable

* That they will be tolerant of people who are different from them and will try to see others’ point of view

* That they will leave this world a little better than it was when they entered it

*That they will have faith, hope, and joy

* That they will be resilient in the face of troubles and never give up

* That they will experience much laughter and fun!

* That they will take responsibility for their own happiness and not blame others

* That they will remember a fraction of the things their daddy and I tried to teach them and will gracefully forget about the times we haven’t been the best models

* That they will always be surrounded by love

* That they will continue to develop their creativity and discover new talents

I guess that’s enough for today. My happiness does not depend upon what my children do or how they turn out. So far they’ve proven themselves to be kind, dependable, compassionate, intelligent, responsible people. They will only get better as time goes on.

Lessons from Waiting and Change

Recently as I was reading a manuscript at work, a sentence from the introduction practically leapt off the page at me. In Praying in the Messiness of Life,* Linda Douty writes,“We’ll explore ways to become more aware of God’s presence in life as it is rather than that mythical day when things settle down.”*

That’s what I’ve been doing, I thought—waiting for things to settle down. Maybe there’s a spiritual lesson here somewhere?

It seems I’ve been waiting a lot over the past several months. In March I was asked to consider moving from Upper Room Books, where I’d been an associate editor for nine years, to The Upper Room’s marketing department. After winding up a couple of projects, I made the move to marketing near the end of May.

Since then I’ve been “living into” my new job responsibilities. I’ve realized how much I have yet to learn about marketing and various kinds of writing—catalog copy, ads, press releases. And though I embrace the opportunity to learn new skills, I feel like someone who’s taken up residence in a foreign country—I’m learning a new language, and it’s taking a while to catch on to the different rhythm of my life.

At the same time, I’ve had to learn about waiting in my personal life. First there’s the long-term experience of waiting for my young adult children to mature (and watching them reject some of the values my husband and I have tried to instill in them) and make decisions about life directions.

A more daily experience of waiting resulted from our three-car family (with four members who needed to get to work) having to share cars for several months. At one point this summer, we were down to one car and had to rent two cars for a month.

Before this summer, I’d never thought about how much of my independence depends on being able to get in the car and GO. Some days as I was ferried to work, I didn’t know exactly how I would get home. (I can’t begin to describe how much not knowing the plan for the day rattles me.) Everything eventually worked out, but sometimes I had to ask people outside my family for rides, and this wasn’t easy for me, since I am, as my husband likes to say, “as independent as a hog on ice.”

So what lessons (spiritual and otherwise) have I learned over these months?

1. Change is constant; you can fight it, or you can accept it. As Linda Douty said, God is present in life as it is. Sometimes you have to look deeper to find God’s presence in certain circumstances, but often you will discover surprising evidence that God has been there all along.

2. It’s okay to ask people for help, even if you don’t (as we say in the South) “want to be no trouble to nobody.” Someday I hope to be able to help those kind souls who gave me rides, but if I can’t repay them, I can always help someone else.

3. Waiting gives you pockets of time for reflection. It can even be a spiritual experience. Some of my best prayer time this summer happened while I was waiting to be picked up from work. Perhaps my little exercises of waiting developed some patience in me, but that remains to be seen. 😀

*Praying in the Messiness of Life: 7 Ways to Renew Your Relationship with God by Linda Douty  (published by Upper Room Books, of course) will release in March 2011.  This honest, gentle book about how to weave prayer throughout your day is well worth the wait.

In Honor of Mom

My mom has been on my mind a lot this month. May 2 was her birthday (she would have been 89 this year), and then of course I thought of her on Mother’s Day.

Hattie Bernice Robinette (oh, how she hated the name Hattie) was born May 2, 1921, the youngest of six girls born to Rosa Alice Steele and Henry Tyler Robinette. Mamaw and Papaw married in 1912, about a year after Papaw’s first wife died of  “consumption,” or tuberculosis, as we know it today. But that’s another story.

My mom grew up with five sisters who were close in age: Eunice Mae was born in 1913, Reba Susan in 1914, Della Bertha in 1916 (I think), Myrtle Virginia in 1918, and Edna Frances in 1920 (again, I’m not sure of the year). I could get out our family Bible and find all those dates, but it’s downstairs and John’s asleep, so my memory will have to suffice.

Mamaw and Papaw were farmers, and, I found out not long ago, sharecroppers during the Great Depression. So my mom grew up in poverty, though that wasn’t unusual for the people in her little “holler” near Fairview, Virginia.

I don’t remember my mom talking much about her childhood. She showed me pictures of her house and school, and everyone looked poor. I think the family was too busy eking out a living to do much else. Hard work was definitely a Robinette family value.

My mom’s mantra later on in life was “Keep peace in the family,” so I imagine there must have been lots of arguments among six girls and two stepsisters from my grandfather’s first marriage.

Education was another Robinette family value. My grandfather had a degree in agriculture from Lincoln Memorial University, and my grandmother went to college to be trained as a teacher (I think they only went 2 years in those days). All six sisters in my mom’s family got a college degree. Options for women were limited in those days, so all were trained as teachers. The neat thing to me is how the sisters helped each other financially during college. When one would graduate, she’d work and save money to send to the next sister.

Because of finances, my mom went to three colleges before she finally got her degree. She went to Carson-Newman for one year (and always talked about it), Radford College for one year, and finally finished at UT-Knoxville.

My mom and dad courted for 7 years before they finally married in 1954. My dad said that the last time he asked her, that was going to be THE last time, so it was a good thing Mom said yes.

So my mom had me when she was 37, which was old in those days. I remember asking for a brother or sister for Christmas when I was about 7, and she joked, “You’re going to have to put your order in a little sooner.” Then she explained to me that she was a little old to be having another child at age 44.

Here are some things I remember about my mom:

* She was a strict disciplinarian. None of that “Wait til your father gets home” stuff for her. I remember countless spankings with a yardstick. Our daschund, Sandy, used to run with her tail between her legs when she saw my mom reach above the kitchen doorframe, where she kept the yardstick.

* She rarely spoke a critical word about anyone. I remember that she said something encouraging to the preacher every Sunday after worship at our little country church, no matter how green the preacher (we had a lot of religion students from Carson-Newman who served our little church) or how ignorant (later we had some bivocational pastors whose preaching I could hardly stand to listen to; they yelled and windsucked, and I really hated being in church. I couldn’t understand why they were so angry).

* She was a partner with my dad. They cooked together, planted flowers together, and did lots of household chores together. I took this model into my own marriage, but it hasn’t worked too well most of the time because I’m strongwilled and John likes to be the boss…well, there you go.

* She was dedicated to her career, often slavishly. I don’t recall many nights going by without her sitting at the kitchen table grading papers or averaging grades for report cards. In fact, I resented how much attention she gave to her work. (This came back later to haunt me when my own teenage son made the comment, “You and your precious work.” That got my attention.)

* She was close to her family and was the peacemaker of the extended family. Seems like she could always come up with a joke just at the right time, when tensions were high as we were preparing Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, or on other occasions.

* She loved music and passed on her love (and perhaps some of her desire to play) to me…she signed me up for piano and clarinet lessons and then pushed me to practice. Occasionally she would sit at the piano and try to play hymns, and the result was less than pleasing to the ears … then she’d say, “Oh, Anne, you can play so much better. Why don’t you play ______________ for me?”

* During my teenage years, my mother did not try to be a friend to me. She had the guts to break up one of my friendships that she thought was moving in an unhealthy direction. Turns out she was right…during my freshman year in college, she sent me a newspaper clipping about this girl, informing me she’d been arrested for prostitution. Gulp. Anyway, when my own children were teenagers, I remembered her example of standing firm and not trying to win a popularity contest. Can’t say I did quite as well as she did.

* Mom’s faith was important to her. I remember her love of singing hymns especially, and she took notes like crazy and wrote in the margins of her Bible. I do the same thing today…she taught me that you can learn something from everyone.

*My mother was very outgoing and loved to talk to people. As a child and teenager, I hated waiting around on her while she had conversations after church (eternally long conversations), but she always had a smile on her face, and people seemed to enjoy her.

*Perhaps the greatest lesson my mom taught me was how to face adversity bravely and make the best of it. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1985, and watching her deteriorate each time I saw her (by then I’d made my home in Nashville, 5 1/2 hours away) was one of the most painful experiences of my life. The hardest thing to watch was her mental deterioration. My mom had been a very smart woman, and she was reduced to being able to speak just a few words in response to questions. Even then, she’d attempt to make a joke, and she always had the sweetest attitude.

Nearly 20 years after her death, I still miss her. She was my encourager, the one I looked to for advice, and we were just becoming adult friends when she fell ill. I like to think of her looking over my shoulder sometimes and wonder what she’d say.