Saturday, May 24, 2008


I have always been too much of a planner to get anybody’s money’s worth out of a surprise. Now, anticipation, I love. I can MAKE money on that. At the lake this weekend, Jeff and I were thrown a couple of unwelcome curve balls-not at all anticipated. After Jeff came home from work on Thursday, we hooked the boat and trailer to the back of our vehicle along with lake gear for two nights and food for seemingly five. It thrills us that Julia and Brighton love the lake and all that goes with it. One of my favorite things to see is Brighton laid back in the water just floating, arms outstretched and eyes squinting in the sun. Julia gets almost as excited about finding a strange shaped pebble on the “lake beach” as she does an unbroken sand dollar on St. George Island. This trip, like all trips, we threw out the anchor close to our favorite shore, tied our oversized tube (nicknamed Big Bertha) to the boat and were about to jump in to play when Jeff sort of tapped me and gave me a look in a certain direction. I began looking for what I already knew I didn’t want to see. Wanting to keep the kids “out of the know”, Jeff and I had our own private freak out shows when we saw not 1, not 2, but 3 snakes. While trying to distract the children things like “Oh my gosh!”, “No way!”, “Sick.”,“What kind are they?”,“Yikes!”,“Creepy!”, “THREE?”, “Right here?”, and last but not least, “What are we going to do all day tomorrow?” stopped just short of our tongues. I am not yet home to research and try to find a reason for their abundance and their boldness and to our dismay, their new found love for our swimming holes.

Curve ball #2: The second night we settled in on the bunk beds with popcorn and hot chocolate to watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Jeff projected it on a big screen hung from a rafter of our 16x16 square foot one room cabin. We have started reading the books to the children and about once week or so we read a couple of chapters and then watch an episode with them calling that night a “Little House Night”. (No snickering, please. I actually know a handful of people who read these books and watch these shows who DON’T home school.) How can you go wrong with Little House—Pa and Ma, Mary, Laura and little Carrie? Our surprise? The “D word”! We quickly turned it to “dumb” and for the children’s benefit became incredulous that they used the word “dumb” on Little House on the Prairie. Thankfully, it wasn’t Ma who said it, however, she did call someone a “mean, stubborn old man”. Well, I never. We will cross the 4-letter word bridge at some point, but not just yet.
First surprise: bold “swim right by us” snakes- unexpected and major. Second surprise: profanity from the banks of Plum Creek- not major, just unexpected. I think the worst part is now having to put my censor ears on as we watch the Ingalls family survive drama after drama and wondering if anyone will ever accept our invitation to the lake after reading this post.

"Post- post"-- The next day as we were riding (note- not swimming) around the lake, we saw several turtles on some rocks and decided to take a closer look. As we got closer, this is what we saw. (Picture below.) You will have to click on the picture to see all the, I can hardly type it, SNAKES sunning on the log!! Now you can say all those words that went through our minds! I told the kids I was taking pictures of the turtles and as you can see, all the turtles had slid off the log into the water. My observant children weren't fooled for a minute. Julia adamantly said, "NO YOU ARE NOT! You are taking pictures of snakes!!" (We have sent the pictures to a, for a lack of a better word, snake expert, so maybe he can help tell if they are water moccasins or banded water snakes. We are hoping for the latter.) In all my days on Lake Sinclair and Jeff's on Lake Lanier, we have never seen a snake in the water until this weekend.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mr. Incredible

Nana and Papa rolled into town last week all the way from Soperton. Their arms were laden with home-baked goodies, 8th row Ranger tickets and some good old fashioned high fructose corn syrup disguised in various colorful packaging- TWO bags of it, I might add, one for Julia and one for Brighton. Of course. Much to my chagrin, in true "grandpa form", Papa took the privilege of divvying it out exactly as he pleased whenever he pleased. Literally minutes after their arrival, they got to “go fishing” in the bags of candy as Papa held them high. One at a time with grins as wide as a Milky Way, they squeezed their eyes shut, started digging and feeling around with their hands as their feet danced on the floor. On the first mystery dig, Julia pulled out a chocolate Moon Pie and Brighton pulled out grape Big League Chew and so the week went. Nerds, Sugar Babies, pacifier pops, rocket pops that lit up, Jolly Rancher chews and on and on and on. For the first few days, Julia was unashamedly stalking Papa after every meal. She wanted her sugar and she knew where to get it. Those of you who know me are loving this. I think I just went into denial. I stopped watching the whole process and acted like if I didn’t see it, it really wasn’t happening. Wednesday night, I was put out of my misery when I went to work, that is until Jeff called me with the candy report. Papa had saved the big guns for when I left the house. He gave them Pop Rocks (yes, the candy with a shaky reputation). My kids have barely had Coca Cola fizz in their mouths, much less the shock and awe of Pop Rocks. So here is the reaction. Papa shook some into Brighton’s open mouth and B just stood there wide eyed. When he could finally speak, he looked at my Daddy with a new reverence and said, “Papa…………’re incredible.”

Monday, May 12, 2008

From the Backseat # 5 A Developing Theology

Actually, this one is from Jeff’s backseat. While I was out of town a few weekends ago, I think Jeff played
“grandpa” with Julia and Brighton. At least that is what it seems like to me. He does all kinds of out of the ordinary things with them like feeds them “fun” food, lets them sleep downstairs and buys them “special” drinks. So, how do I know these things? I found throw pillows in my bedroom in strange places and bed covers more disheveled than usual. I found cherry stems in the car cup holders which scream of a trip to Sonic. I can tell by the brown bananas and what is left in the refrigerator how many times they ate out. With late night softball games, Sonic runs and eating out, they spent some time in the car and that means Jeff spent a lot of time listening and granting “the floor” to either Julia or Brighton. One night, this is what Jeff overheard. “Julia, can you open this for me?” “No, I can’t,” she responded. He thought for a second, turned to his sister and said, “Work it out.” No response from his sister. He thought again and then added, “Ask God to help you.”

After I had a good laugh, I thought, again, about how typical Brighton’s responses are for me—so much like a hokey Christian movie plot or any "Touched by an Angel" rerun-- the usual mistake of doing it my way and when that doesn’t pan out, finally asking for help from the One who has been waiting patiently to do it through me. Thankfully, Julia and Brighton are still figuring all this out and have not developed this debilitating habit. As I have said before, in so many words, the problem is, I am responsible for modeling this simple and beautiful dependency.
A few weeks ago, it was Jeff's turn to be out of town and it didn't go so well without him here. Sometimes when I have days like this, it makes me think of when I took bowling for P.E. in college (I know, so lame, but since I was pre-pharmacy, I never needed to camp out to get the classes I needed. Nobody wanted them, however, I always got sorry P.E. classes.) Anyway, I had a great gutter ball. To say the least, this was frustrating to me. Every time, my ball would curve far right and make that familiar thudding sound and roll its way into bowling pin neverland. All pins were able to sigh with relief and remain standing tall and until my instructor helped me to roll the ball a completely different way, I continued rolling it into the gutter on the right. That’s how I feel at home sometimes- like I am throwing gutter balls when it comes to my responses to certain situations. When Jeff was gone, I threw out my best efforts only to watch them slant right into the familiar gutter of overreaction, snippy comments, and irritation. Lovely. Again. I am still reading Andrew Murray’s little treasure, Absolute Surrender, thinking each chapter is better than the last, but at some point, I have got to do something completely different. Think differently, process things differently, choose differently, train and discipline differently, talk differently, love differently. B’s second response of “Ask God to help you,” is simple…….almost too simple for me to really grab hold of and practice. However, I am learning it is critical, so therefore, I must do it. Ask for help……and ask often.

“O wretched [woman] that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


As Jeff said the other night, “You have been waiting for this since he was born, haven’t you?” I was sitting in my spot on the couch with my laptop, sorting the pictures I had taken that afternoon at Brighton’s first T-ball game. Have I ever mentioned I love sports? I do. However, there are strict criteria the game has to meet. It has to be either football, basketball or baseball and there must be some personal connection like the University of Georgia or Furman University or better yet, someone I know is playing. Anything else, I can take it or leave it and more often than not, I leave it. Watching Brighton’s first T-ball game was more fun than I had anticipated and the bar was high after 4 ½ years! His Toronto Blue Jays uniform was like a second skin –very normal and perfectly comfortable. I got the biggest kick out of watching him adjust his hat “just so”. He was almost as serious about his game as he is about breakfast or snack time. He was focused and ready. I was so sad when the game was over. What was I thinking when I adamantly declared to participate in a league that had only one practice and one game per week? (TJ/KB, I expect better counsel than that!) I had not seen him run around in his adorable uniform or get in his fielding stance near enough. Not having been to a T-ball game before, there were other things I had not expected like he only got to bat twice! Now, who decided that is how it would go? Although he knew which base to head for once he hit the ball, we forgot to teach him to lose the bat before he sprinted to first. He ran all the way with the bat in hand. I also had not expected the “pile up” on the baseball as it was knocked off the T. This seemed to be the goal of the team—get on the ball, and make sure you were the one who stood up with it, no matter the cost. Brighton was SO aggressive about this, Jeff had to have a little two man huddle with him.

Several days before, as we were gearing up for his first practice, he had to accompany Julia and me to her appointment for ballet pictures. After all the fuss made over her costume, hair, hair ornaments, choker, tights, shoes and lip gloss, he was more than ready to talk about something that had to do with him. On the way home he started fantasizing about his baseball skills, out loud. After speaking of things that only Mickey Mantle could have pulled off, a bit of humility came out of somewhere. He said, “Mom, I will be a good batter, but I may not be a very good ‘glove-er’.”

We were proud of him his first game. Can you tell? He obeyed the coaches when they told the boys to stop kicking dirt around. He paid attention to the next batter and where the ball was hit. He kept his elbow up and his eye on the ball as he swung with all his 4 year old might. And he kept his hat perfectly straight and just down a bit on his cute little forehead. Needless to say, I was not disappointed after 4 ½ years of waiting. Now, Jeff has a daughter who can make his coffee and I have a little boy who plays T-ball.

(The tee got in his way of his close call to make it home "safe". Actually, I think Jeff and I are the only ones who saw him "score". "Score" because you don't keep "score" in T-ball. Yeah, right. I can't help it. Its in my blood.)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Blakely Sutton Dennard and me (Part II)

In high school, Blake was everybody’s friend. Really. He was an excellent student and a great athlete. He played sports year round and I don’t think I ever missed a game. He was not what I would call a “charmer” because so many times that holds the connotation of being insincere and “insincere” and “Blake” cannot be used in the same sentence (although there were times you wished he hadn’t been quite so “sincere”) but he knew how to befriend the orneriest teacher and become his or her favorite student. I am still baffled by how he pulled this off. I loved being at the same school and was quite proud to be his little sister. He never brushed me off during breaks, in the halls or at lunch which gave me a great sense of security and made my confidence soar. (Hear that, RJ?)

Needless to say, when he went off to college, a HUGE hole was left in our home and in my life. I missed him and counted down the days to every University of Georgia home game. I don’t have any letters from him really, but I do have these great notes he would leave on or under my door if he had something important to say during his weekend visits home. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:
“You do a pretty good job knowing when to ignore your brother and yesterday was a good example.”
Before a city softball tournament: “Many of the women will use VERY BAD language.”
“If you play first base, keep your foot on the side of the bag so no one will step on your ankle. They will possibly do this on purpose so as soon as you catch the ball get OFF the base.”
“Hit the ball your way (toward 3rd) and run hard (like a gazelle). 'Ain’t' many 3rd basemen who can throw you out.”
And his P.S.: “Get a trophy as big as the one I’m getting.” (in the tournament for which he had already left)

Our friendship continued to grow through phone conversations and weekend visits so my transition to the same university was completely uneventful. He lived two doors down and if I needed him, I could get him. I even went through pharmacy school in his wake where he had the same effect on people there as he had in high school. Graduation came, then marriages, children and then miles and miles in between us, the only yucky part of this whole story.

Blake is now my Daddy’s partner in the pharmacy in our hometown. I will never understand how two people can be so entirely different but yet, so much alike. I wouldn’t say “two peas in a pod” but definitely on the same vine. There have been times I’ve called the drugstore and have not been sure, at first, who answered. He shares my Daddy’s love for hunting and fishing, but where Daddy is content hunting things that fly, Blake hunts almost anything that can’t hunt him.

(Blake and his son, RJ)

To my delight (and relief), he actually liked Jeff when he met him. You know, these things can go either way. Even though Jeff enjoyed hunting and fishing, growing up in Atlanta didn’t provide a lot of opportunity for it so Blake would set him up in a deer stand or a boat any chance he got. Early one morning, my city boy won some respect by killing a 6 point buck. Jeff found out none too soon that Blake likes pratical jokes so now each of them always test their iced tea or coffee before they drink it because it might taste something like pepper sauce or salt. Jeff also learned quickly that Blake doesn’t sit still very long—no lounging around the house. When there is no ball to watch on the TV screen or fish biting in the pond or animals to hunt in the woods, beware. Once, when this happened, he asked Jeff if he wanted to go catch some arrows. Yes, shoot them up with a bow and catch them on the way down.

(Can you tell who won?)

He is married to Adele and is a “hands on” Dad with two great kids, RJ and Hunter, who absolutely adore him. He has coached some sport since his son could say “ball” and has developed some great athletes over the years who now are starting players at the high school. (RJ included) He has picked up boys all over town for practice, fed them and then taken them home. He and Adele have chaperoned these boys to out-of- town tournaments and for some of them, it may be the only time they ever leave our little town. He is making an impact on these kids in his own special way.

Can you tell, I kind of like him? He is a country boy through and through who uses gracious Southern manners, but, by choice, not so good English. However, he can fit right in at the Sunday brunch at the Waldorf-Astoria not to mention, get his money’s worth. Actually, Daddy’s money. He's got the best laugh and what's so great about it is that you hear it often, but the downside is that it is usually at your expense. As “bsd” commented on the first part, I have left out A LOT, but this is a blog, not a book. Life was certainly full (and running over) growing up as his little sister and I have the sweet memories to show for it. So, Blake, thanks for all the fun, for helping me maintain my weight, for all the forgiveness, for increasing my pain tolerance, for including me, for thickening my skin and for being a fantastic big brother. Happy 40th birthday! Just in case you forgot, I am still in my 30’s.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Blakely Sutton Dennard and me (Part I)

My big brother turns 40 this weekend and I can’t think of a better thing to do than put some of his quirks, shenanigans and greatness into print. It has become my longest post to date, so I will post “Part II” on Saturday, his actual birthday. Oh my heavens. No one can fully understand the task which is before me. Blake gives the word "unique" a whole new meaning. He's sort of like a filet mignon spread with peanut butter and jelly on white bread (Is there any other kind, he would ask?)- a little class, a good bit of fun, and a lot of "good ol' boy". He is two and a half years older than I am and until I got married, I think, in some form or fashion, he reminded me of that everyday. He manipulated his authority to his advantage on every occasion whether it be to sit in the front seat, to decide what to watch on TV, or to simply boss me around. Come to think of it, this hasn’t changed at all.

My first memories of Blake are, at best, vague but are set in a little red house with a sunken den in Soperton, Georgia, a sweet small town that I wouldn’t change a bit. The most traumatic memory comes to focus around the yellow and red wrapper of a Sugar Daddy. Do you remember those little oblong cards that used to come in the candy? Some had animals, flags or race cars on them. For some odd reason, at the age of 3, I REALLY wanted his card. However, he was not willing to part with it, unless, of course, I let him cut my long hair. Makes sense, right? At 3, it sounded completely reasonable. So, Blake played barber and I had a new Sugar Daddy card. Other memories that weren’t quite so distressing are playing with Weeble Wobbles on the wood floor in some room, both of us being afraid of the dark, seeing a hole in the sheet rock in Blake’s room created by a swift kick of his and that’s about it.

(Post-haircut hair)

We did most of our growing up in the country just a mile or so from the heart (or the red light) of downtown Soperton. Here is where we had our biggest blowouts- really, knock down drag outs, wrestling, pinching, hair pulling, biting complete with blood, bruises and tears - THOSE kind of blowouts, but thankfully, it is also where we became what brothers and sisters should be. Unfortunately, that took a while. Blake had a knack for aggravating me until I thought I would either hide in a dark closet, curl into a fetal position and rock myself or kick him in the you know where. I usually just cried instead of resorting to the first and if I chose the second, HE cried and ……….well, that is why I can run so fast.

Since we didn’t live in a neighborhood, we played mostly with each other. Some days this went great and some days.......... well, let's just say, I improved my sprinting skills. We covered every square inch of the woods and fields that surrounded our home, dodging poison ivy and cow patties. Much to our irritation, we were not always successful at that. Whether it was in our woods or on a Boy Scout camping trip, Blake contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tic. It seemed he was in the hospital forever. I don’t remember all of this very well, but I do remember it being a BIG deal and that I missed him something awful. Someone came up with the sweet idea of tape recording messages to each other and that is what we did. His tapes to me brought some much needed excitement and encouragement to our seemingly empty and VERY quiet house. I would give up my Sugar Daddy card collection to hear those tapes again.
(Note who has the BIGGER and BETTER gun AND the flag. And look, I am happy about it!)

We rode bicycles and then graduated to dirt bikes. When The Dukes of Hazzard were on primetime, we had more crashes than I can count. Some still make me flinch and thank God that we are both still alive. (My kids will never have anything with a motor—or with that switch that makes it easier to crank and causes the thing to not respond to brakes. I learned to aim for an azalea bush and not a pine tree.) We learned early to steer clear of games of any kind. We are both competitive and neither one of us handled losing to the other very well. I have to say, NO ONE, not even Jeff, enjoys winning as much as Blake Dennard does and NO ONE can celebrate a win quite like him. It is up close and personal, if you know what I mean. It only increases his euphoric state to know that you are feeling the salt he is so happily working into your wound of loss. What if he doesn’t win, you ask? Well, that just doesn’t happen.

As we got older, our play was considerably calmer and our relationship changed quite a bit. It is almost as if one day he decided to take his big brother “job” seriously. From time to time, he still wanted to pay me to pull off his cleats or something like that after some practice or fix his lazy self something to drink but mostly, I didn’t mind. Now, I DID mind him eating every last cinnamon roll for breakfast before school. This happened only a couple of times because after that, I learned to get ready faster.

Of course, we still had our moments of complete frustration but at the end of the day, all was well in our home upstairs. When “bedtime” rolled around, many nights he would come in and sprawl his stocky frame across the bottom of my bed and talk. Those were some of my favorite times. Mom says some nights as she would be turning out lights downstairs before going to bed, she would see all of our lights shining upstairs. She would come up and find us both asleep- me on my pillow and Blake, still, across the foot of my bed.

(Blake, I will post the rest of this on Saturday when you turn the big 4-0! I know you won’t be able to sleep tonight wondering if I am really going to mention………………….)