Monday, June 16, 2008

Leavin' on a jet plane

After worrying that there might not be enough to do in Mississippi, my daughter--all in the course of two weeks of normal family living--had biked country roads, gone swimming in the creek, driven a golf cart, won a diving contest, swam in a salt water pool, attended two military retirements, gone to two backyard BBQ's, played in the water hose, caught frogs, overcame her fear of large dogs to walk ours on a leash and pet the neighbor's three, driven a four-wheeler, gone fishing, gone bargain-hunting at local haunts, was offered an apprenticeship at a local pottery studio for next summer, and discovered that at Parkers Pecans and Scrap Metal (We Buy Fur), recycling pays cash.

After the first week, she was introducing herself as "a country girl and a city girl" and had mastered the liberal use of "y'all". Her complexion was glowing, her smile was radiant, and she was truly relaxed.

After an all-too-short visit, the day came when I had to take my oldest to the airport to meet her father and fly back to his home. Both our hearts were heavy and emotions were running high, but we enjoyed some wonderful conversation along the drive to New Orleans International Airport.

About fifteen miles out of Wiggins she sighed and said, "Well, now I have to go back to GOing and DOing, instead of BEing. You know, if it weren't for the fire ants and some of the bugs, this would be just about the perfect place to live." I smiled, empathized about the biting creatures, and gently reminded her that she is in control of herself and of her life; no matter where she is, she can still make time to BE; time to connect with the green world around her, or with the stars in the heavens; time to connect with the Creator, and find her peace away from all the demands that come with busy-ness. She nodded sagely and said she was going to try. I believe that she can do anything she sets her mind to doing.

I miss her so much it physically hurts...but I believe in her. I believe that her pure, unconditionally loving heart, sustained by her faith and by the love of her family and friends, can overcome any challenge presented by this materialistic world.

I love all of my children unconditionally, and I love all of them equally. There is no favoritism here. But the bond between a mother and her firstborn is unique. We had to learn so much together, and we taught each other well. We are still teaching one another, and still learning together. Every day is an adventure in growth, in love, in laughter, sometimes in patience, and in learning. It is always a privilege, and always a joy.

On our way to the airport, we were routed through a section of New Orleans that was still comprised of mostly boarded-up homes, destroyed by flooding when the levees burst after Katrina. She was at first surprised, then saddened, then somber as she learned how long it takes to recover from a disaster of that magnitude and the subsequent bureaucratic wranglings.

Daisy, let's never stop exploring, learning, and growing together. I love you. Our bond is eternal. May every blessing of heaven be yours, today and always.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

There oughtta be a law...

Judging by the statutes below--all of which are still on the books of these Southern states--there are some pretty interesting folks running around. After all, if a law exists, you know more than one person has done something to prompt it...

As well as I have transplanted to Southern soil, before undertaking this research I honestly did not know that the South had such an epidemic of large animals in bathtubs, ice cream cones in pockets, enterprising cotton farmers, aggressive senior citizens, or that they were such kill-joys in Texas and Virginia: C'mon, no going barefoot, trick-or-treating, or tickle fights? Geez!

-No turtle races may be held at the airport.

-It is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle.

North Carolina
-You can't plow a cotton field with an elephant.

South Carolina
-Horses may not be kept in bathtubs.

-Alligators may not be kept in bathtubs.

-Donkeys may not be kept in bathtubs. (Do you see a pattern here??)
-No one may carry an ice cream cone in their back pocket if it is Sunday.

-A city ordinance states that a person cannot go barefoot without first obtaining a special five-dollar permit.
-It's illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow.

-Biting someone with your natural teeth is “simple assault,” while biting someone with your false teeth is “aggravated assault".
-It is a $500 fine to instruct a pizza delivery man to deliver a pizza to your friend without them knowing.

-Children are not to go trick-or-treating on Halloween.
-It is illegal to tickle women.

Now, Kentucky and Tennessee fall into a special category, being technically in the South but the center of the Hillbilly world. Accordingly, they have some extra special laws:

-By law, anyone who has been drinking is "sober" until he or she "cannot hold onto the ground."
-It is illegal to transport an ice cream cone in your pocket.
-Every citizen of Kentucky is required by law to take a bath at least once a year.

-You can’t shoot any game other than whales from a moving automobile.
-It is illegal to use a lasso to catch a fish.

Now that all of my Northern readers are feeling pretty smug about themselves and laughing at the poor, ignorant South, let's see what faux pas their kin are guilty of having committed:

- In Fairbanks, it is illegal to feed alcoholic beverages to a moose.

- Any misdemeanor committed while wearing a red mask is considered a felony. (A black mask, however, is fine.)

- It is illegal for anyone to give lighted cigars to dogs, cats, and other domesticated animal kept as pets.

- No gorilla may be in the back seat of any car at any time.
- Mourners at a wake may not eat more than three sandwiches.

- A parent can be arrested if her/his child cannot hold back a burp during a church service.

- Any motorist who sights a team of horses coming toward him must pull well off the road, cover his car with a blanket or canvas that blends with the countryside, and let the horses pass. If the horses appear skittish, the motorist must take his car apart, piece by piece, and hide it under the nearest bushes.

- All lollipops are banned.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Congrats on a job well done

On my recent trip, I found--to my great chagrin--that 160 miles of Interstate 85 was under construction. Between Atlanta, Georgia and Montgomery, Alabama, four lanes were reduced to two and at times to one, and traffic moved along suitably slowly. Frustration and boredom set in suitably quickly. At times like these, the eyes try to take in the scenery and the mind begins to wander in a hypnotic daze...

I began to notice that there were porta-potties roughly every two miles along the construction lanes. When I saw the sign on the doors, I burst out laughing. I could just hear a masculine TV announcer's voice in my head: "For the man who works hard on the job site and in the bathroom, there's finally a potty that congratulates you on a job well done"--

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Beeping, BEing, and Scratching That Itch

I've been on the road again. Over an 8-day period I drove 3,000 miles. I'm so tired of driving that I don't even want to go three miles to the Pig(gly Wiggly) for milk! My three-year-old daughter and I once again braved the Nefarious North to visit our beloved ones, and to bring my oldest back to Mississippi for a few weeks of country livin'.

During the course of our long drive home, her cell phone was beeping every three minutes. Fingers moved fast and furious as text messages flew between her and her classmates. Most of them kept asking her every two hours, "Are you there YET?" I had to laugh--my three-year-old only asked that twice on the entire trip!

One of my daughter's friends sympathized with the boredom of the long drive, and then said he felt sorry for her because he just knew there would be nothing to do in Mississippi. She texted back, retorting that there was plenty to do in Ole Miss, hit the send button, and then looked at me questioningly: "Mom, just what is there to do in Mississippi? --Besides spend time with you, I mean?"

I laughed again, and started a long list of things she might enjoy doing during her stay with me. She looked at me a little skeptically, and came back with a list of things her friends enjoy doing in their spare time--most of which are entirely consumer-oriented and not inexpensive.

I listened, and then noted that those activities are dependent on the service and entertainment industries, all of which suffer during economic recession. Times are hard, and they are going to get harder.

I posed this challenge to my thirteen-year-old daughter: "You are used to a lifestyle based on GOing and DOing. What would happen if you had to adopt a lifestyle based on BEing? Could you create your own diversions? Could you grow to fully appreciate the miraculous, interconnected world in which we live?"

We rode in silence for a while. I noted that in the rural South, life is based more on BEing. People tend to be more aware of their connection with, and dependence upon, the Earth. Most of us in the country have the opportunity to be more self-sustaining than people who live in cities, and can therefore be less impacted by hard times.

I went on to tell her that she has a unique opportunity in life: to experience both sides of the coin, since one parent lives in a large northern city and one parent lives in a small town in the rural South. By learning from, understanding, and appreciating both environments and both ways of life, she can perhaps make a greater difference for good when her generation assumes the mantle of leadership. Her generation will face critical decisions about how to manage and sustain the limited resources we take for granted, and will be forced to implement very hard changes in order to ensure the future of the human race.

The rest of our trip was lighthearted, and when we got home, she wanted to read my blog to absorb more anecdotes about rural life. After several posts, she said, "Nice blog, Mom...but my butt itches from two days in the car. I can't sit anymore!", and ran out to play in the water hose and enjoy our gorgeous green slice of paradise. I had to agree that the garden was the perfect antidote for a bad case of road rear, and followed her out.

It has taken a day or two, but she has shifted very nicely into the country mode of living. I hope it blesses her the way it has blessed me.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

He Stood the Watch

Today I honor my beloved husband, soulmate and best friend,

CEC(SCW) Walter J. Goulet, Jr.
Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy Seabees

on the occasion of his retirement from active duty after twenty years of

  • faithful and meritorious service,
  • deployments too numerous to count all over the world,
  • multiple combat tours,
  • years away from family and friends,
  • missed births, birthdays and Christmases,
  • on the job injuries,
  • humanitarian aid projects completed,
  • students trained,
  • troops mentored,
  • battles fought,
  • tears wept, and
  • achievements won.
In simple terms, his job was to keep the lights on--no matter what. He lights up my world so brightly that even the darkest nights of the soul are but wisps of gray cloud.

John, I love you, and I'm bursting with pride at the passion, excellence, unwavering strength, commitment, and compassion with which you've done your job these past twenty years, defending the rights of the rest of us to exercise our freedoms.

I sleep well at night because you've got my back; I am privileged to be under your vigilant protection, and I am grateful. I hope that the rest of America is, too.

As for me, I am just his lighthouse keeper. I will be privileged to keep the lights on for him for the rest of my life.

For twenty years
This sailor has stood the watch.

While some of us were in our bunks at night
This sailor stood the watch.

While some of us were in school learning our trade
This shipmate stood the watch.

Yes.. even before some of us were born into this world
This shipmate stood the watch.

In those years when the storm clouds of war

were seen brewing on the horizon of history
This shipmate stood the watch.

Many times he would cast an eye ashore

and see his family standing there,
Needing his guidance and help,
Needing that hand to hold during those hard times,
But he still stood the watch.

He stood the watch for twenty years.

He stood the watch so that we, our families and
Our fellow countrymen could sleep soundly in safety,
Each and every night,
Knowing that a sailor stood the watch.

Today we are here to say
"Shipmate... the watch stands relieved
Relieved by those you have trained, guided, and led.
Shipmate you stand relieved.. we have the watch..."

"Botswain, stand by to pipe the side...Shipmate's going ashore."