April 29, 2010

Mad About My Mom's Favorite Child

Mama's Losin' It

I have accepted another challenge assignment from Mama Kat. I have chosen to write about an experience I have had with a celebrity. I decided not to tell you about the time I flew from Dallas to L.A. on the same plane as Victoria Principal back when the show, Dallas, was still on TV. I spent the entire flight wondering if having a celebrity on the plane was a sign the plane wouldn't crash...or was it a sign that it would.

And I'm not going to tell you about the time I nearly walked right into Noah Wyle in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and said "Hi!" to him in the way you say "Hi!" to someone you actually know and are surprised to see. Even as I said it, I was trying to figure out how I knew him. You see, I was convinced this was someone I knew in real life. I'm sure he could see the wheels turning in my head as I tried to place him. It finally came to me when the theme from ER filled my head, at which point I stopped myself from saying anything else...as I turned and bolted from the lobby. Later I came out of the gift shop laughing out loud at how stupid I must have looked and nearly walked into the poor guy...again.

No, I'm not going to tell you either of those stories. This is a story about another celebrity.

Despite the fact my mother has 3 children, I have told her that her favorite child is a celebrity...the child who gets to be perfect. His name is Paul Reiser.

Paul's dad, Sam Reiser, was a wholesale health food distributor and, at one time, the largest in the country. My mother worked for one of the distributorships that Sam Reiser owned. Apparently Sam had always assumed that Paul would follow in his footsteps so sent Paul to work for a several weeks at a time at the company's various distributorships. When he came to the one my mom worked for, Mom was appointed his surrogate mother. It was her job to find him an apartment and make sure he had everything he needed. Paul also accompanied Mom on sales trips while he was here.

I remember when my mom told me that Paul wanted to be a stand-up comic, my response was pretty much the same as everyone else's. "He wants to be a what?" You can see why his dad tried to encourage him to stay in the family business, so he could have a real job.

Mom talked about how funny Paul was the entire time he was in town. They traveled to Wichita in a snowstorm and evidently laughed throughout the trip. For years afterward, anytime I was in the car with Mom and she saw so much as a tiny patch of snow along the road, she would say, "That snow reminds me of the time Paul and I went to Wichita in a blizzard." And she'd laugh some more. It was during one of those trips down memory lane that I jokingly said, "Paul gets to be funny and not have any flaws. He's your favorite child, isn't he?" She denied it, of course, but the "favorite child" description stuck.

I met Paul once during the time he was here and I didn't think he was particularly amusing. Clearly Mom had raised my expectations far too high, because the guy really is pretty darn funny.

As we always suspected, Paul didn't really want to go into the health food business, and at some point, he decided to give show business a try. He worked the nightclub circuit for a few years, and everyone was excited when went on the Tonight Show for the first time. We were glued to the TV for that first appearance and noted that Johnny's laughter seemed very sincere.

Then Paul got his first movie role in Diner. Of course Kevin Bacon was also in Diner, so Paul is my link to Kevin Bacon. (You know me, and I know Paul, so there's your link to Kevin Bacon, too!) Not long after Diner came out, Paul came to town for an open house at Mom's company. This time, he lived up to all of Mom's hype, and I thought he was hysterical.

Soon, he was in a bigger movie, Beverly Hills Cop. His character bleeped his way through a couple of scenes, and I thought, "Don't the writers know that his mother is going to watch this movie? Don't the writers know that my mother is going to watch this movie?" Sure enough, Mom loved seeing Paul in the movie, but she didn't care for the language. I assured Mom that Paul had no control over the script.

More movie roles followed, and then a TV show, My Two Dads, which lasted a couple of seasons. Then in 1992, Mad About You debuted. Mom thought the first few episodes talked about sex too much. But she couldn't blame Paul for that, because he had no control over the script.

"I don't know, Mom," I said. "He's the creator, writer, director, and executive producer. I'm thinking he has some say. Ahem. Who's your favorite child now?" She laughed.

Mom still enjoyed watching Paul in Mad About You throughout its run, but somehow Paul's pedestal was just a little dinged after that.

I can't imagine why. ;-)

April 27, 2010


Com·mu·ni·tyn. pl. com·mu·ni·ties
 a. Similarity or identity: a community of interests
 b. Sharing, participation, and fellowship.

How many communities are you a part of?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a memorial service that had a downright festive atmosphere as friends who had not seen each other in years stood in the aisle hugging and greeting one another, taking time to catch up one one another's lives before the service began. The service was for my friend, Nancy, who I told you about a few months ago.

Another friend and I (who hadn't had a chance to visit for a few months ourselves) watched, speculating about how many groups were represented. Some were from other churches, some had worked with Nancy, some had met where she worked out, and I'm sure there were still more from other parts of her life. There's no telling how many communities Nancy had been a part of.

I couldn't help but think about how pleased Nancy must be that her service was a joyful occasion. And I thought about the importance of community, and how many communities we're all a part of. I thought of the faces that make up those communities.

First there's family. There's the immediate family we're born into, and there are grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As years goes by, and fewer and fewer of those "starter" family members are left, each remaining family member means more and more.

Later, there is the family we make for ourselves. Even those of us who are single should have that group of friends who family to us. For me, it's a group of brothers and sisters in Christ. They are my closest friends and I love them as much as I love my family by blood.

There are the people we went to school with. Most of us keep up with a just handful of the closest friends once we're grown, assuming that most of the acquaintances from school are a part of our past. But life is funny. The older we get, the more we realize that it's not just the closest friends, but even many acquaintance from our youth who are life's comfort food. I think it's God's way of blessing us in a way we never expected, as as somehow looking at one another through trifocals shows us something we never saw in that group of people before: Community.

There are people we work with. Outside of people we live with, this is the group we spend the most time with. They see us at our best, and they see us at our worst. They know our strengths and our weaknesses. If we're lucky, they become friends in spite of it all. =)

There are our neighbors. I'll be the first to admit, this is the group where I am the least invested. When I'm at home, I'm in my own little corner of my own little world.

There is our church family. If your church doesn't feel like family to you, then you need to find one that does. We talk about brothers and sisters in the church, but the truth is, there are going to be a lot of distant cousins whose names you can't remember, a crazy uncle or two, and an aunt by marriage who makes you crazy. That's what makes it a family. But here's the disclaimer: You won't get to the family part if you don't invest in the life of the church. You have to actually participate, not just show up. If you haven't made it a habit, it's hard, but trust me, it's worth it.

God never expected any of us to do life on our own. He designed us to need other people in our lives. He designed us for community.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ~ Hebrews 10:25

April 24, 2010

Writer's Workshop

Mama's Losin' It

A couple of blogs I follow introduced me to Mama Kat's Writing Workshop this week. Mama Kat offered a choice of writing assignments, and I liked this one - List 10 rules you’ve unlearned. Since it's not for a grade, I'm taking an artistic liberty or two...instead of rules I've unlearned, my assignment is more along the line of 10 Absolutes That Aren't So Absolute After All.

THEN - Everyone gets married.
NOW - The jury's still out on this one.

THEN - Cher has a daughter named Chastity.
NOW - Cher has a son named Chas.

THEN - Elvis is dead.
NOW - Or is he?

THEN -  Jesus turned water into grape juice. (The Word according to the Baptist Bible)
NOW - Wine? Really? He turned water into wine? Well, now that changes the whole story.

THEN - Republicans are all northern (pronounced nawlun) liberals. (I spent a couple of years in Mississippi when I was growning up.)
NOW - Republicans are all southern conservatives.

THEN - Two things you'll never see at tea parties: men and guns.
NOW - Two things you'll never see at tea parties: scones and well, apparently tea.

THEN - Women never wear pants to church.
NOW - Sunday is the new casual Friday.

THEN - I don't sing well enough to sing out loud.
NOW - Don't worry that you're not good enough for anyone else to hear...just sing, sing a song!

THEN - Wow. $5.00 is a lot to pay for a movie!
NOW - Does anyone know where there's a bargain matinee for under $6.00?

THEN - It's disrespectful to sit on a representation of the flag.
NOW - Sorry, I'm not giving that one up. There's something about flag chairs that just doesn't sit right with me.

April 23, 2010

Breaking News: Middle-Aged Brains Work Better!

A friend posted a link to an NPR article on Facebook last week and I saved the link because, well, I knew I would never remember where to find it again if I didn't save it. The article is about memory, you see, and how our middle-aged brains aren't nearly as bad as we (and perhaps my younger readers) think they are. The article was called The Surprising Strengths of the Middle-Aged Brain.

I found the article incredibly reassuring. Sure, I never know where my keys are, and if I park anywhere other than my "normal" spot, I worry that I won't find my car again. I keep telling myself that if dementia was the problem, I'd have way more trouble with my memory than that by now.

It was a good 20 years ago - maybe longer - that I grabbed the shopping cart away from the bag boy who was taking groceries out to my car because I had varied from my regular section of the parking lot and suddenly realized I had absolutely no idea where I had parked. Now I go to Walmart where they never take the groceries out for you so I could wander aimlessly in the parking lot for hours and no one would ever notice...but now that there's no bag boy to take my groceries out with me, I can always find my car.

Maybe it's the strength of the middle-aged brain.

A couple of interesting things from the article jumped out at me. One is that it's not a storage issue, but rather a matter of retrieval. For years I haven't made any effort to remember some things that I didn't consider to be brain-storage-worthy. (Things like the name of an acquaintance's 4th husband. Come on, I can't be wasting brain space with the name of a guy who is basically another interim husband, and who I'm not likely to ever see again.)

But now I find out that there's plenty of storage space in there. I just need to pay enough attention to actually commit the name to memory and then cross-reference what I store so I can find it again. They suggest going through the alphabet, which is actually a trick I've always used. It generally works, assuming I was paying enough attention to store the name in the first place.

The other thing in the article that I found interesting is that they have found that cognitive functions actually improve as we get older because we get better at seeing the whole picture. (Note to self: Mom was right again.)

An example they used is this: "Social expertise -- in other words, judging whether someone's a crook or not a crook, improves and peaks in middle age." I wonder if that's really the brain functioning better or if it's experience. Maybe it's a combination, but I would suspect we see the whole picture better because we've been there before. Something triggers a memory and allows us to put it all together, even if a piece or two might be missing. (Although it does say that this skill "peaks in middle age" which I guess explains why so many elderly people seem to fall prey to scams - it's a skill they've lost.)

There was one part of the article I think is downright bad advice, at least for me. Under Memory Exercises (in a sidebar on the left of the NPR article) they suggest this: "If you're trying to remember to take your medication, imagine yourself taking it. This will create a bigger neural footprint in your brain, creating more ways for your brain to remember."

Imagine myself taking it? I don't think so. If I imagine myself taking the medicine, I'm going to think I actually took it. Forget that. (No pun intended.) Get a pillbox with the days of the week. Sure, you'll feel like your grandmother, but you'll always know whether or not you've taken your calcium.

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. ~ Proverbs 16:31
The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old. ~ Proverbs 20:29

April 20, 2010

Blame My Grandblog

I've mentioned before that I have a grandblog. Single and Sane indirectly birthed My Letters to Emily, which I'm proud to say is way better than my blog. Emily is written by someone with a wonderful writing style, and she always makes her point quickly and succinctly. I, on the other hand, tend to meander my way to the point.

Earlier this week, my whippersnapper of a grandblog tagged me in a game where I have to list 10 things about myself and then I'm 'sposed to tag 10 other blogs that I enjoy. Here's the problem: I fear that once I've listed 10 things about me, you'll all discover how truly dull I am and never come back. 

The good news is that it's an opportunity to throw out totally random thoughts that wouldn't qualify as an entire post. So here goes...

  1. I wonder why current clothing trends almost always seem perfectly fine until you look back at pictures of yourself years later and wonder what possessed you to ever wear something so hideous. Do you think Joan Collins cringes when she looks at this picture? If not, she certainly should.
  2. I don't have a favorite color. I love color in general, and the brighter the better. (Even so, I think Joan's jacket is a bit over the top.)
  3. I don't consider beige to be a color.
  4. My decorating style is eclectic. I have antiques that belonged to my grandmother (and to her grandparents) mixed with everything from wicker, to contemporary, to a hot pink sofa. (See item 2.)
  5. My musical tastes are also eclectic. I love Elvis, the Rolling Stones, and John Rutter, among others. (I didn't love Elvis until I'd been to Graceland. That place is a hoot.)
  6. I am not a fan of texting. As a matter of fact, I utterly despise it, which is why my cell phone generally lives in my purse and not out in plain sight. Call me, email me, but don't text me, bro. Unless you actually are my bro. (Relatives can text, as long as they don't abuse the privilege.)
  7. I think Sunday afternoon naps are one of life's greatest pleasures.
  8. Whenever people get in a dither over lead in paint paint, I find myself wondering how others who spent their entire lives in houses with lead paint managed to figure out how to get us to the moon. Imagine how smart they might have been if we'd taken the lead out earlier. (Basically I think it's silly to act like the dangers of lead paint were just discovered in the last 5 minutes. Ditto a wide assortment of topics.)
  9. I'll take a show with great writing, such as West Wing, Boston Legal, 30 Rock, or Modern Family over reality TV any day. Even the rerun of a well-written show full of clever repartee is much more entertaining to me than Dancing with the Stars. There is one exception to my "no reality TV" rule: The Marriage Ref. Of course, I keep forgetting it's on, but when I do remember to watch it, I think it's pretty amusing.
  10. Don't tell anyone, but I have a secret crush on Alec Baldwin. I know, I know...but he can be so darn funny...even when Tina Fey & Co. aren't writing his lines.
The Alec Baldwin confession was probably too much, but there you have it. Emily made up her own rules, refusing to tell us 10 things about herself - that is until she was prodded by Vee to give us a few tidbits. I'm making up my own rules, as well. Instead of tagging 10 other blogs, I'm giving you all a choice. If you want to play the game, then write your post with 10 things about yourself and leave a comment here so we'll know where to find you. If you don't want to play, but you're in the mood to visit some new blogs, then take some time to peruse the blogs I follow in the right column. You'll find some great ones!

But be sure to check out my grandblog. It's really good!

      April 19, 2010

      April 19, 1995

      President Obama has proclaimed April 19, 2010 as National Day of Service and Remembrance for Victims and Survivors of Terrorism. Americans in all 50 states have been asked to fly their flags at half-staff to mark the observance.

      My state is different. I live in Oklahoma, where our flags will be at half-staff throughout this week as we remember the 168 lives lost in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, which took place 15 years ago today. While it pales in comparison to 9/11, the Murrah bombing remains the greatest act of homegrown terrorism to take place on American soil.

      As the rescue workers went about their work that day, it began to rain. It seemed impossibly cruel that it would rain even as rescuers were risking their own safety as they frantically began to dig for survivors. Later that night a local anchor who traveled to Oklahoma City to cover the bombing gave the rain a wonderful imagery, suggesting that it was God's own tears.

      Oklahomans shed buckets of our own tears over the next few months. Our flags remained at half-staff from April 19 until July 4, serving as constant reminders of all of the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and coworkers who went to work or to daycare that day, never to return home again. Each time I saw a flag at half-staff, I found myself praying for the survivors and their families.

      May we never forget the 168 lives that were lost in the Murrah bombing, or the countless lives that were forever changed by the inexplicable act of terror.

      May we always remember that words matter, and that they can have an impact for good or for evil.

      May we stop talking in anger about militias and taking our country back and remember in love that we are, after all, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

      Most of all, may we learn what it is to truly love one another.

      Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. ~ I John 4:7-8 (NKJV)

      April 17, 2010

      Single and Sane: The Magazine Cover

      A few days ago, Jenners at Life with a Little One and More, invited her readers to Fun and Games. The object of this game was to create a fake book or magazine. Here are her rules:

      Create a fake book and/or magazine. Do it any which way you want; if all you feel up to is creating a list of fake articles for your fake magazine, that is fine. If you just want to create fake blurbs for a fake book, that is OK. If you feel really inspired, you can create the book/magazine cover. Let your imagination run wild! Here is a Fake Magazine Cover Maker you may want to play around with.

      Competitive soul that I am, I took the invitation as a personal challenge. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to do it. I started to do a fake Glamour cover, but decided to just stick with Single and Sane.

      So many potential titles for articles, and so little space...but I still managed to get a lot of them in.

      So here ya go! Drumroll, please....

      Having trouble reading the article titles?
      Click on the picture to see a larger version.

      Even if you don't have an itch/desire/compulsion to take Jenners up on her invitation, go visit her blog. It's always a fun time!

      April 15, 2010

      The Curse of Beauty

      I could always feel it in the air before I could actually see it. It sent a chill down my spine and then it loomed before me like a hand reaching out to choke me.

      It was the budding tree just outside my front door.

      I'll grant you, it looked a lot more menacing before an ice storm that took a number of the larger limbs a few years ago, but it still generates lots of pollen. Allergy season has begun.

      Does it ever truly end?

      I recently heard that spring allergies begin in January, as trees begin the earliest stage of budding. Summer allergies, of course, end with the first hard freeze, usually in November in my neck of the woods.

      December brings with it the dusty Christmas tree that's spent the previous 11 months in storage.

      My suspicions have been confirmed. Allergies are a year-round curse...the curse of beauty.

      Allergies come from all the things we delight in as winter turns to spring.

      They come from the lush green grass that we crave, not only to look at, but to walk through in our bare feet.

      And even as we relish the wonderful sights to behold, we find ourselves struggling to breathe.

      My allergies got worse as I got older. I was in my 30s before I ever had an ear infection. That first one was caused by spring allergies. I was 34 and had an infection so bad that I had to have tubes put in my ear in order to clear it up. People looked at me in disbelief. More than once, I was asked, "They can do that at your age?"

      Uh, yeah. Clearly they could. I had to put Vaseline and a big wad of cotton in my ear before every shower for weeks to keep the water out.

      The next fall, my ear stopped up again, although it wasn't as bad as the first time. Throughout the rest of my 30s, my ears were routinely stopped up from October until late April. Each year, just as they'd begin to clear up from fall allergies, spring allergies would kick in.

      I tried singing in the choir and had to give up because I couldn't hear the notes. (Actually, it was typically the same note for 32 measures that I couldn't hear. That would be the curse of being an alto. Altos hardly ever get to sing the pretty part, the melody. Meanwhile, sopranos have all the fun!)

      In my 40s, I progressed from ear infections to my very first sinus infection. I had no idea it was possible to feel so miserable. The beauty of the earth brought me little more than misery. I was truly beginning to hate nature. Instead of eagerly looking forward to spring, all I felt was dread.

      I know, I know. There are drugs for these things. I have friends who get shots for their allergies but I'm way too big a wimp to sign up for regular shots and I don't like taking prescription drugs long-term. Maybe it was Elvis, I don't know, but somewhere along the line I decided that was a bad idea.

      So I suffered until the day a God-thing happened. I know we tend to think God only intervenes for really big stuff, but occasionally, I am convinced the He reaches down to change the quality of our lives in ways that seem small at the time, but have huge impact. I have no doubt that He really does care about chronically stuffy noses.

      A couple of years after my first sinus infection, I was in a drugstore loading up on throat lozenges and nasal spray as I recovered from another one. There was no one else in line, so the cashier was free to chat. At the time, chatting was the last thing I wanted to do. All I wanted to do was take my drugs home and crawl into bed. It took all of my strength to stop myself from snapping at her when she started rambling on and on about how she and her husband had both been dealing with sinus infections over the previous couple of months.

      But then she said something that piqued my interest.

      "Garlic," she told me. "You need to take garlic. You'll never get another sinus infection."  It was January, you see, so in addition to the remnants of my sinus infection, my ears were also stopped up, as they had been since October. I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly.

      "Garlic? Huh? Fresh garlic?"

      "No, garlic pills."

      That particular sinus infection had taken 2 rounds of antibiotics and 5 or 6 weeks to clear up. I was so desperate, I was willing to try anything. Much to my surprise, my ears cleared up weeks ahead of the normal April date. I've never had another sinus or ear infection, and that was 8 years ago.

      Here's my disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, and I've never played one on TV. I'm not much on holistic stuff but I do know that you should always check side effects, even with herbs. I know that garlic has been associated with stomach problems, and it can act as a blood thinner. Since blood clots run in my family, that's actually another plus for me. It can be dangerous for pets, so keep that in mind.

      Back to me, because it is all about me. My allergies are still with me, but they're not nearly as bad as they once were. I can look at the budding tree by my front door and accept that my eyes and my throat are going to itch for a couple of weeks and my nose is going to run but I can live with that. I can even sleep with the windows open and wake up rested and able to breathe. I've stopped dreading spring. Life is good!

      Of course, I 'spose that garlic could explain that whole singleness thing. Hmmmm.

      For the beauty of the earth, 
      for the glory of the skies, 
      for the love which from our birth 
      over and around us lies; 
      Lord of all, to thee we raise 
      this our hymn of grateful praise.

      April 12, 2010

      Farewell, Ms. Sugarbaker

      The first time I saw Dixie Carter, was when she joined the cast of a daytime soap, The Edge of Night, playing the role of Brandy Henderson. Even at 15, I could see that she stood out from the rest of the pack. The next time I saw her was on Filthy Rich, which had a very short run in 1982. There was another standout in that cast, Delta Burke.

      The two joined forces again when Designing Women began in 1986. They were hysterical together. Dixie played the older and wiser Julia Sugarbaker, while Delta Burke played the role of younger sister and a former Miss Georgia. Julia was full of depth and selective compassion, while Suzanne was, well, let's just say that Suzanne was fully in touch with her shallow side. (Since I have a friend who, like Suzanne Sugarbaker, is a former Miss Something, let me hasten to point out that Suzanne's shallow side wasn't related to her pageant past ...at least not necessarily.)

      Designing Women had other great cast members - Annie Potts, Jean Smart, Meschach Taylor, and Alice Ghostley - but it was the Sugarbaker sisters who stole the show. The progressive Julia would often go off on a rant about some perceived injustice in the world - and occasionally an injustice aimed at her younger sister -  while the less politically correct Suzanne would go off on rants about things like men and guns. (She was fully in favor of both.)

      One of the best examples of a Julia Sugarbaker rant was when she defended her sister, Suzanne to another beauty queen:

      Nobody else could carry off a tirade as well as Dixie Carter.

      Delta was let go after 5 years in a bitter contract dispute that reportedly also damaged her relationship with Dixie. It was a shame because they really were great together. While Dixie was always the stronger actress of the two, she was at her best when Delta was around.

      Aside from throwing out the baby with the bathwater when Delta was let go, I had one beef with Designing Women. It always something that always baffled me about Julia Sugarbaker. To tell you the truth, it grated on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard.

      I never understood why Julia used the title Mrs. before her maiden name. True, she had been married and was widowed, but she was never married to Mr. Sugarbaker. Suzanne had been married multiple times, but Suzanne always went by Miss Sugarbaker.

      I can see why the progressive Julia would have rejected Miss, but I never could figure out why she would not have used the honorific Ms.

      Mrs. is generally not considered the correct honorific before a woman's first name, or before her maiden name, regardless of whether she is (or has been) married.

      No matter how many times Scarlett O'Hara was married, she was never called Mrs. Scarlett. Alright, Scarlett wasn't a real person, and Miss before a first name is a pretty quaint custom. 

      Here's an instance where it still comes up. Teachers who work with young kids often go by an honorific before their first name, such as Miss Mary or Ms. Debbie. It doesn't matter if they're married because the honorific is going before their given name - Mrs. is never correct in that instance. (Back to the example of Scarlett, Mrs. Rhett could be -I'm not saying it is - technically acceptable, but Miss Scarlett sounds ever so much more approachable.)

      As for maiden names, no matter how many times Elizabeth Taylor has been married, she has never been called Mrs. Taylor. Sure, she has been called Mrs. Wilding, Mrs. Burton, Mrs. Warner, and so forth (and so forth), but never Mrs. Taylor. Even if she actually marries husband #9, she'll still be Miss Taylor.

      Our old friend Julia Sugarbaker, who either kept her maiden name after her marriage, or took it back after her husband's death, should have been addressed as either Miss or Ms. Sugarbaker.

      It strikes me as the kind of thing that would have sent Julia into a tirade.

      Oh, well. Farewell, Mrs. Ms. Sugarbaker. No one could have played the role nearly as well as Dixie did.

      April 10, 2010

      Blog Redesign

      If you've been here before, you have no doubt noticed that I have done a little redecorating.

      When I started my blog last spring, I went with Blogger's basic Minima template.

      But I soon began to notice tons of blog layouts filled with personality and I began to feel like my blog was a little too Minima. So I went to The Cutest Blog on the Block where I found a boatload of dazzling backgrounds. I have a few male readers, and wanted them to feel comfortable visiting, so I went with a fairly gender-neutral theme - Graisley.

      For months, Grailsey helped me to overcome my blog design insecurities. It was an easy way to help my blog stand out from the crowd.

      But then a couple of months ago, I began to feel inferior again as I visited more and more blogs, all brilliantly showing their individuality with designs themes that supported their blog themes. I began to dream of the day I could devote time to a blog design that properly expressed what goes on here at Single and Sane.

      But the reality is that it's all I can do to write the posts. There never seemed to be enough time to play with the design...until last night, when I impulsively decided to delete the Graisley design and start over with my own creation.

      Unfortunately, it wound up reminding me of the time I went to a Superbowl party and an hour later found myself - along with two other women from the party - in the hair color section of a grocery store. An hour after that we had gone to my house to apply the new color and were faced with the results. It would be fair to say that our reactions were less than enthusiastic.

      And no, we had not been drinking.

      Here you go - take a look at the result my impulsive attempt at the redesign.

      Much like the blond shade I had applied to my hair that Superbowl Sunday, it was a step towards my desired results, but it still fell far short of my intended goal. I hated it.

      I wanted something a little whimsical, but not over-the-top girly. After all, I still want my male readers to be comfortable at Single and Sane. I wanted a cartoonish woman from another era, but this was not the woman I had in mind. The cross was good, as I wanted the design to convey the faith aspect of my blog without hitting people over the head. That part was a keeper.

      But all in all, this was not change I could believe in. It did, however, force me to seriously tackle the design, ready or not, before too many readers found my unwelcome changes. So I went through my giant set of clip art books, perusing one tiny thumbnail after another. And finally I found the cartoonish woman I was looking for. She was close to perfect.

      True, ideally I'd like for her hair to be red, or even blond or brown, but she fits the image in my head, and I love the typewriter.

      For some reason, I suddenly find myself in the mood to go look for a new hair color...

      April 9, 2010

      Oh Facebook, You Don't Know Me As Well As You Think You Do...

      Facebook is known for customizing the ads on each user's sidebar. They're generally pretty good at it...to the point of being a little disconcerting. Once in awhile though, an ad will appear that leaves me wondering what possessed them to link me to that ad.

      On closer inspection, sometimes I can see that it's because some of my friends are fans. Surely that's why the ads for Ann Coulter keep showing up in my sidebar. There can't possibly be anything on my profile that would lead Facebook to link me to Ann Coulter.

      Then there are generic ads for things like Netflix and for weight loss. Although come to think of it, I'm not sure if the weight loss ads are generic or not. The paranoid part of me suspects they might not be generic at all, but since obesity is a national epidemic, maybe I shouldn't be so sensitive.

      Facebook can't actually see me, can they?

      No, Margaret, stop the paranoia. And stop talking to yourself. They might be watching you right now.

      Take a deep breath...breathe in, breathe out.

      OK, I'm better now. Where was I?

      Oh, yeah. I was leading up to the ad that really ticked me off. It was about this time last year. It was an ad that was so offensive, I felt led to ask Facebook to permanently remove it my sidebar.

      What was it for?

      A dating service for SENIORS

      As in senior citizens. Seriously. SENIORS.

      I'm telling you, I was ticked. My 50th birthday was approaching, but it was still a couple of months away at the time. And even if I had already turned the magic number, it's only 50, for crying out loud. When did 50 earn senior status? How many senior discounts do you see for 50-year-olds? Um, none that I've seen. I'm just sayin'...

      Despite my outrage, I managed to spot a thumbs down sign right below the ad. I clicked it, and lo and behold, a Facebook pop-up magically appeared inquiring as to the source of my unhappiness.

      "There's an ad for a senior dating service on my sidebar, and I'm not even 50 yet! I'm still 49 for crying out loud. And even if I were 50, I wouldn't be interested in dating senior citizens. I want you to make the ad go away!"

      To Facebook's credit, the ad did, indeed, go away.  I haven't seen it since that fateful day.

      Now where's the thumbs down under that Ann Coulter ad?

      April 8, 2010

      Going Rogue

      In all of the recent outings of public officials and celebrities caught in the web of adultery, I've noticed a trend. We've begun to refer to adultery as dating. When the heck did that happen?

      When David Letterman confessed that he had sex with women on his staff, there were questions about whether he had continued to "date" any of the women after his marriage. Even it all of it took place before his marriage, do you think Dave ever thought of it as dating?

      When Tennessee Titans quarterback, Steve McNair, was found dead in an apparent murder-suicide, the Nashville newspaper reported that he and his girlfriend [who was also found dead at the scene] had been "dating" for months.

      When the wife of a recent presidential candidate was interviewed by CNN a couple of years ago, she was asked directly why her husband "dated" her while he was still married to his first wife. She replied, "[His] reasons were [his] reasons." My question for her would have been, "What the heck were your reasons?"

      But I have a pretty good idea what the answer is. After all, she wasn't the one who was married, so she she may have rationalized that there is a loophole in that whole "Thou shalt not commit adultery" business. She wouldn't be the first single person to do that. If God wanted to answer her prayers with another woman's husband, who was she to refuse God's answer?

      That's precisely the problem, of course...and this is where people often go off course and make a decision to go rogue. God cannot answer our prayers in a way that is contrary to His Word any more than He can answer our prayers in a way that is contrary to His character. He can't answer our prayers in a way that causes us to sin.

      Let me be more direct: 

      God will never answer your prayers with someone else's spouse.

      I understand how easy it is to get off-track. I've had friends who convinced themselves that the married men in their lives were an answer to their prayers.

      It always started innocently enough. They were flattered by the attention. They didn't know the wives, so it was easy to believe everything they were told about them. It was easy to believe that the marriages were all but over. It was easy to believe that they understood these men better than anyone else - especially their wives - ever had. It was easy to believe the guys really cared about them. It was easy to believe that these men were the answer to their prayers.

      But God will never answer your prayers with someone else's spouse.

      I have had friends who looked forward with excitement to the phone calls received, and the text messages and the emails that the married men in their lives had to sneak around to send.

      And I have also had friends who were the wives of men who sneaked around to make phone calls and send text messages and emails to other women. I know the devastation those wives felt when they discovered the evidence that their husbands were cheating. I've also known men who were just as devastated by the evidence of their wives' affairs.

      It didn't matter whether or not the relationships had progressed beyond texts or emails. It was a betrayal that shattered their trust.

      Just in the last couple of months we've learned how Elin Woods and Elizabeth Edwards discovered their husbands' affairs by checking their cell phones. The tragedy is that the same scenario is played out every day in countless homes, wreaking havoc on the lives of countless people.

      Tiger taught us that there can be more than one girlfriend. That shouldn't surprise anyone. If a man is cheating on the woman with whom he vowed to share his life, the mother of his children, and the woman to whom he promised to remain faithful unto death, he'll cheat on anyone.

      Sometimes the other woman convinces herself that the she has nothing to do with the problems in the marriage. On some level, that's true. At the same time, it's the extramarital relationship that has given the husband an excuse to quit trying to make his marriage work. As I said in my last post, it's the coward's way out.

      I understand what you might be thinking. The candidate's wife who was interviewed by CNN is proof that sometimes people who begin their relationships while one is married do wind up together.

      That's because God allows us free will. He allows us to make our own choices, as painful as those choices may be for Him to watch. It happens because we're too willing to settle for less than all that God wants for us. His truth never changes...

      God will never answer your prayers with someone else's spouse.

      April 6, 2010

      Dear Rielle,

      I just got around to reading your interview in GQ. Much has been said about the pictures that accompanied the article. I'm not going to give you anymore flak about that. It's the content of the article that I found most baffling.

      Anyone who has been single any length of time has likely experienced the unpleasant feeling that someone thinks we are a threat to their marriage. It doesn't have to be based on anything we have done - or failed to do. It almost always comes entirely from someone else's insecurities.

      But then someone comes along and seems to give credence to those insecurities. Someone, well, like you.

      It's not that I blame you, at least not entirely. We have all had our stupid moments when it comes to relationships. It's just that most single people choose other singles with whom to have those stupid moments.

      Don't get me wrong. Your Johnny fooled lots of people. I was with a group of women shortly after he admitted that he was the father of your adorable daughter and one of the women said she used to look at him and think, "What a nice, clean-cut looking guy." She went on to say, "Now I look at him and just think, ICK."

      You told GQ that Johnny doesn't lie to you. I have to tell you, that's hard to imagine since he seemed to lie so easily about you to the other 300+ million of us.

      He spoke with such eloquence of two Americas that I can only imagine how persuasive he was when he told you about two Elizabeths. You spoke of "the wrath of Elizabeth." Do you understand that there's not a woman on the planet who doesn't understand that wrath? There's nothing you, or Johnny, or Andrew for that matter, can tell us about Elizabeth that we won't believe was totally justified on her part.

      I feel bad for you. You genuinely seemed mystified as to why you have been cast as a villain in this. Did you not realize that marriages have ups and downs? Did you not realize that if things were as bad as he said, there were other ways for him to deal with it? Did you not realize that an affair is the coward's way out?

      Those of us who were paying attention felt like we got to know Elizabeth during the 2004 campaign. Sure, it was a public persona, but still, we empathized with the mother who had buried a son. We admired her  determination to go through fertility treatments and two pregnancies in order to have more children at an age when many women are looking forward to grandchildren. We respected the woman who articulated her husband's position in interviews as well as - and sometime better than - the candidate himself. We prayed for her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer immediately following the 2004 election. The bottom line is this: not only did we feel like we knew Elizabeth, we liked her.

      You didn't even recognize her husband as a former Vice Presidential candidate when you first saw him in 2006, a mere 2 years after his campaign ended.

      If you didn't recognize such a recent candidate, I'm guessing you may not remember the story of another politician, Nelson Rockefeller. He also had a messy personal life, and a wife who had faced cancer. I'm not going to include the details here, but if you need a refresher, you can find plenty of details online. Suffice it to say, the messy personal life led to a messy ending for the former Vice President. There was the drip, drip of sordid details for weeks after his death, decades before 24/7 cable news.

      I know you haven't asked for my advice, Rielle, but I'm going to offer it anyway. Cut your losses and move on. Johnny's not worth it.

      April 4, 2010

      He Is Risen, Indeed!

      Years ago, when I taught first and second graders in Children's Worship, one of the boys asked me about the Easter story. 

      He said, "Let me see if I have this right. Jesus came to earth and was born as a baby, then He died on the cross, and He rose from the dead, and because of that I'm saved."

      "Yes, that's right."

      "But that doesn't make sense."

      "You're right," I replied. "It doesn't make sense. God doesn't have to make sense to us. That's what makes it faith."

      It's impossible for us to intellectualize God...I'm mean He's God. He is all-knowing. He created the heavens and the earth. He created us. How could we begin to intellectualize Him with our puny little brains, and our painfully limited abilty to comprehend All that He is?

      It's enough to know that He loves us, and that His love for us is so great, that sent His only Son to die as a living sacrifice for us. A Son who was - in every way - a part of God.

      Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

      Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
      Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
      Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
      Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

      Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
      Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
      Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
      Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

      Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
      Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
      Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
      Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

      Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
      Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
      Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
      Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

      Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
      Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
      Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
      Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!


      April 2, 2010

      Good Friday

      Simple words from a traditional spiritual to meditate on this Good Friday. Though instead of "they" perhaps we should substitute "we" since truly, all of us had a hand in the crucifixion of Christ. 

      Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
      Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
      Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
      Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

      Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
      Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
      Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
      Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

      Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
      Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
      Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
      Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

      Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
      Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
      Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
      Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

      Were you there when they laid in the tomb?
      Were you there when they laid in the tomb?
      Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
      Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

      April 1, 2010

      Maundy Thursday

      I don't come from a religious tradition that is not known for being particularly demonstrative in our worship. Growing up, the closest we ever came to charismatic worship was a hearty "Amen!"

      We don't (at least most of us don't) raise our hands above our waists when we sing - not that there's anything wrong with that as Seinfeld and his friends would say.

      We don't dance in the aisles, although a few of us do occasionally sway to the music in our pews, provided it has a beat you could dance to if so inclined -- as long as you don't dance like Elaine Benes.

      We sure as heck don't fall down in worship...although there are times when I find myself fighting the urge to do just that. The only thing that keeps me from actually doing it is the realization that people around me would assume it was a medical emergency of some sort.

      The urge to fall to my knees in worship is particularly strong leading up to Easter, when I am overwhelmed by Christ's love for us.

      It can be the simple words of My Jesus, I Love Thee...

      I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
      and purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree;
      I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
      if ever I loved thee, my Jesus 'tis now.

      Or the familiar poetry of When I Survey the Wondrous Cross...

      See from His head, His hands, His feet,
      Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
      Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
      Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

      Were the whole realm of nature mine,
      That were a present far too small;
      Love so amazing, so divine,
      Demands my soul, my life, my all.

      Or the haunting melody of In Christ Alone...

      In Christ alone my hope is found
      He is my light, my strength, my song
      This Cornerstone, this solid ground
      Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
      What heights of love, what depths of peace
      When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
      My Comforter, my All in All
      Here in the love of Christ I stand

      In Christ alone, who took on flesh
      Fullness of God in helpless babe
      This gift of love and righteousness
      Scorned by the ones He came to save
      ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
      The wrath of God was satisfied
      For every sin on Him was laid
      Here in the death of Christ I live

      There in the ground His body lay
      Light of the world by darkness slain
      Then bursting forth in glorious Day
      Up from the grave He rose again
      And as He stands in victory
      Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
      For I am His and He is mine
      Bought with the precious blood of Christ

      No guilt in life, no fear in death
      This is the power of Christ in me
      From life’s first cry to final breath
      Jesus commands my destiny
      No power of hell, no scheme of man
      Can ever pluck me from His hand
      ‘til He returns or calls me home
      Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
      Written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty 
      (c) 2002

      These are the songs that remind me of the majesty, the glory, and the amazing grace of a Christ who loves each of us so much that He chose to live and walk among us, taking on flesh, "fullness of God in helpless babe, this gift of love and righteousness, scorned by the ones He came to save."

      These are the songs that transport me to Gethsemane...and to Calvary...and to the empty tomb.

      Sunday's coming...

      Amazing love! How can it be,
      That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?