Monday, August 30, 2010

Even On the Kneeboard

Here's a story that Allyson's been after me to write. 

On our July trip to Vancouver, Allyson enjoyed all manner of water sports. She was impervious to the cold, and she never showed a hint of fear. She loved the jet ski...

Cousin Katie, Bill, Allyson
and the kayak...

and the tube--pulled behind the jet ski and the boat:
Allyson and Katie
Towed Behind the Broken Jet Ski, Which Was Towed Behind the Boat

She rode the rope swing, and Daddy caught her:

What she loved best, though, was the kneeboard. On the two previous summers, Bill had hung onto the back of the kneeboard and ridden along behind her, but this year he said she was way too heavy. She begged him to take her out again, but he said his arms would be pulled out of socket--or at least he'd be sore for days.

"You could go by yourself," Bill suggested.

I questioned him with a sidelong glance, but Allyson just said, "Okay."

Bill got in the water with her and explained exactly what would happen and what she needed to do. She listened intently.

He helped her onto the board...
Sheer Determination
and she was off...

"Woo hoo! That's my girl!" I screamed.

And then the front of the board did a nose dive, and she was out in the water all alone, looking so tiny.

"And that's that," I thought. "No more kneeboarding for Allyson." But I obviously didn't know our girl very well.

Luckily, she hadn't made it too far, and Bill was able to swim right out to her. (Auntie Lisa was following behind on the jet ski anyway, so she would have been fine regardless.) Her little lips trembled, but I think it was more from disappointment than fear. She watched Katie go out for a couple of big laps.

"How come she got to go twice?" Allyson asked. "Why can't I go again?"

"You're not afraid to go back out there?" I asked.

"No. My life jacket helped me float, you know."

So when Katie came back to the dock, Bill helped Allyson get set up one more time, and this time she stayed on the board! She grinned from ear to ear, and so did I.

When I was snuggling with her at bedtime, I told her how proud I was.

"Were you proud that I rode the kneeboard without falling off?" she asked.

"Yes, but I'm even more proud that you got back on after you fell off the first time."

"I just keeped tryin'" she explained.

She told her story to everyone she knew, and to quite a few strangers as well, such as the flight attendants on the way home. I could relate to her sense of accomplishment; had I been a few years younger, I would have told them about my first wakeboard ride too.

It's been about two months now, but she still talks about her success on the kneeboard. She even prays about it. One of her favorite ways to pray is to quote Psalm 139 together and put her name in it. One night, a couple of weeks after we got back from Vancouver, she stopped me right after I said, "If Allyson rises on the wings of the dawn, if she settles on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide her; Your right hand will hold her fast."

"God is with me even when I go out on the water!" she exclaimed, breathless with excitement.

"Yes, Allyson, He's with you everywhere."

"Tell Him about the kneeboard," she said. "Say, 'Even if Allyson goes out on the kneeboard, Your hand will hold her fast.'"

I was so thrilled to see Allyson applying Psalm 139 to her life, and taking as much delight in it as I have over the last few years. The kneeboard is now an official part of "that scripture prayer," and I think that's as it should be--God really is with her on the kneeboard... and everywhere else.

Friday, August 27, 2010

All But the Water

Here's how the pool looked as of my last construction update:

Over the course of the next two weeks, the dog alarm went off between 7:00 and 8:00 each morning, heralding the arrival of yet another team of workers. First, they put in the tile. It looked alarmingly tacky against the dull gray interior of the unfinished pool:

But the stone wall looked gorgeous:

Most evenings, we had an assortment of neighborhood children (plus Lola) hanging out in the pool:

We also had quite a few grownups dropping by to comment on the pool's progress, both our immediate neighbors and a few strangers. Who knew that getting a pool would be a good way to meet the neighborhood? Maybe they'll come swim with us soon.

After the stone wall came the lovely brown sugar coping around the border of the pool:

The most beautiful curves are on the back side, where no one will ever see them once the new fence goes up.

The next part was pretty interesting. They built the forms for the deck and the stairs, and then a BUNCH of guys carted in wheelbarrows of cement.

Before the concrete dried, they laid little red doormat-looking things on top to create a rock texture. Here was the end result:

At this point, Allyson took a few shots of her own, and the whole family continued to mess around in and around the pool.

Yesterday Bill was able to stop his twice daily pool watering because they finally put on the plaster. They blew in waves of blue goop, which sometimes came out in bubbly spurts and sometimes flowed out like billows of melted marshmallow.

Before they started troweling the plaster, they pulled on funny boots that were attached to little spiked platforms.

This morning, the acid team arrived. Yes, acid. Bill and I watched in fascination as they fashioned head coverings out of what looked like old T-shirts and then covered those with hats, goggles, and gas masks.

"Quick, go take some pictures!" I told Bill.

"I'm not going out there and breathing those fumes. You go get the pictures if you want them."

"I'm not wearing a bra," I answered.

"I'll go out in a little bit," he promised.

I wanted a picture of the box labeled, "Caution! Hydrochloric Acid!", so I took a picture through the kitchen window, but a cloud of noxious fumes obscured the view.

True to his word, Bill did venture out to take pictures a few minutes later. He stood by the shed and watched as two men sprayed acid and one man followed behind them spraying water.

When they were finished, the smooth surface had eroded away to reveal the quartz crystals embedded in the plaster. The resulting color variation gives the color more depth, and the crystals make the finish much more durable. And to my relief, the tile now looks beautiful between the coping and the wall. Whew!

After they left, we finally started to pour in the 15,000 gallons of water!
That's a Coke Bottle Taped to the Nozzle to Make it Float

When Allyson woke up, she had to help fill the pool.

The hose has been running for 12 hours, now, and the water is about three feet from top. We have to leave the water on even after we go to bed; otherwise, there will be a permanent ring at the demarcation between wet plaster and dry.

With any luck, the "pool school" guy will come out tomorrow and turn on the chlorinator, ozonator, and mineral dispenser, and then we can swim! (Don't tell the kids, but Bill and I actually waded around in the bottom after Ethan left for school and before Allyson woke up.)

What About Lola?
Are you wondering how Lola's been doing with all these strangers in our backyard? Surprisingly well. She barks her head off when they first arrive, but that's actually good since it lets us know they're here (and then I can run upstairs and get dressed). Then we typically lock her in her run, which cuts down on her barking for some reason.

The other day, though, she managed to escape from her enclosure. The man who was putting the mastic in between the coping and the deck phoned me from his car and asked me to put the dog back up. "Did you let her out?" I asked, mystified.

"No, I thought you did."

"Come on, Lola!" I said, and she trotted obediently at my heels through the dewy grass. "Oh, you naughty dog!" I exclaimed when I saw where she had pulled the metal ties loose from the bottom of the gate. "How did you squeeze your big body through that tiny hole?"

She just wagged her tail and gave me a funny grin.

"Well get back in there!" I tried to slam the gate, but it was too flimsy. I pulled the latch down with a firm click. "And this time stay there."

Returning to the banana muffins I was trying to bake, I informed Allyson she was on dog duty. "You tell me right away if she gets back out."

I had scarcely dropped one spoonful of batter into the muffin tin when Allyson announced excitedly, "Lola's back out! You naughty dog!!"

I groaned. There was nothing to do except lock her in the garage until the man was through. Since it had been drizzling all morning, the temperature was delightfully cool, so this would not be a death sentence as it would have been the day before. But it did mean muddy dog prints and wiry dog hairs all across my shiny wood floor.

I know, she's just doing her job. I feel much safer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Every Little Detail

You know what makes me feel most loved? It's when someone pays attention to the little things that I like and then takes pains to fulfill those needs and desires. My mother-in-law is like that, and so is my husband. This past weekend, I learned that God is like that too. Over the years, I'd read all the verses about God supplying every need and giving me the desires of my heart, but I'm not sure I'd ever noticed it happening before.

It started with a mix-up over the starting time of the Women of Faith conference I was planning to attend. Turns out it started on Friday morning, not Friday evening as I had thought. I'd planned to ride out with my friend Cindy, but she couldn't get off work on Friday, so I had to scramble to find another ride. After a flurry of emails, I arranged a ride with an acquaintance, Tonya, and her lovely daughter Cassi. They even picked me up so I didn't have to leave my car somewhere overnight. All the time that I was enjoying their conversation, on the way there and at lunch, I kept thinking, "Thank you, God! You are so good to me."

God had blessed them, too, and they were thrilled to be there; they couldn't have gone had a friend not given them two tickets.

On that first day at the conference, I had the pleasure of hearing Sheila Walsh for the first time. What a delightful woman! She has a catchy sense of humor and a lovely Scottish accent that reminds me of my mother-in-law's friend Aggie, to whom I could listen all day long. More importantly, Sheila speaks from her heart to mine. I lost track of how many tears I shed, both happy and sorrowful. It was a good thing I'd been in a hurry that morning and hadn't bothered with any makeup.

Tonya and Cassi had to leave on the afternoon break, at 3:30, and I needed to make my way to Hotel Indigo, where a friend had booked a room for me. The hotel shuttle pulled away just as I arrived, and my nervousness mounted as I waited in the sweltering heat. The crowd swelled with each passing minute, but I felt painfully alone amid the swirl of conversation and laughter. Sweat trickled down the back of my knees and down my sides, but I was afraid to back into the shade of the giant silver boot that marked the pickup spot because I didn't want to lose my spot at the front.

When the second shuttle arrived, about 15 agonizing minutes later, I pressed forward but then held back. I was pretty sure I was one of the first ones there, but I felt guilty to put myself ahead of all the other women who were waiting. A cool breeze from the air-conditioned interior finally tipped the scale, and I climbed in.

There was just one sort-of-empty seat left, on the back row. Three other women were already crowded onto the bench seat, and there was a small space left for me, but no place for my little suitcase. I stumbled down the side of the van anyway, set my suitcase down in front of the seat, and sort of vaulted over it, plopping down next to a blonde woman who looked about my age.

I'm not sure why I struck up a conversation with her, probably to distract myself from my embarrassment. "Are you here alone?" I asked hopefully.

She pointed to the front of the van. "No, I'm here with a group of women, and a couple of them are here in the shuttle."

"Oh," I said, a stab of guilt piercing me since I'd probably denied one of her friends this seat. 

"How about you?" she asked.

I explained that I was alone at the hotel but that my friend Cindy would be at the conference that night and the next day. We chatted easily for several blocks, and I learned that she lived just 20 minutes away from me and also that she'd been at the hotel the night before. Just as we arrived, I screwed up my courage and gave voice to my biggest worry. "Do you know what there is to eat around here? Is the hotel food expensive?"

"I don't know about the hotel food," she answered, "but my friends and I are going to walk to a restaurant. Do you have anyone to eat with?"

I told her I might be meeting up with Amber, who'd booked the rooms, but I wasn't sure where she was or what her plans were.

"Well, we're in room 807," the woman said. "You're welcome to join us if you'd like."

"What's your name again?" I asked sheepishly. "I'm terrible with names."


I settled into my empty room and thought about a nap, but there wasn't really enough time, and I was afraid if I dropped into bed after the prior night's insomnia I might not wake up in time for the evening session, or I might miss dinner, which might be even worse.

I sat with my hand on the phone for several seconds while I hemmed and hawed. Was Lorrie just being nice, or did she really want me to come along? What if I went along and I didn't like her? Sighing with exasperation at my own indecision, I finally phoned room 807. Thankfully, Lorrie answered. "Come on over," she urged. "We're still figuring out where to go."

There were about six women in the room, plus four or five more from the room across the hall. They welcomed me warmly, and one of the women shocked me by handing me a gift bag clear full thoughtful little items. I didn't have time to go through it at first, but I carried that yellow bag to the Mexican restaurant, back onto the shuttle, and to the conference.

Lorrie and I talked all through dinner and on the walk back to the hotel, and we discovered that we have a lot in common. Our meeting was starting to feel momentous, and I had the feeling that God was doing what I so often pray He'll do for others: He was surrounding me with little reminders of his love, what a blogging friend calls serendipities. Lorrie felt the same way; she told me in a Facebook message the next night,"I think God set up our encounter.. No doubt."

Despite my anxiety, I arrived at the prescribed meeting place with three minutes to spare and was able to connect with Cindy to hand over her ticket. After all that walking and riding on a crammed shuttle, I was parched, but I didn't want to spend $4.50 on a bottle of water. Cindy bought me one. And then she wrote me a check for both her portion and my portion of the hotel room--this despite the fact that she wouldn't be able to stay overnight after all. "I want to do this," she assured me. I thanked her profusely and thanked God too; He knew how concerned I'd been about all the weekend's expenses.

The evening session was mainly worship. We sang with twins Mary Mary (neither of whom is named Mary, by the way). They made us want to kick the Shackles off our feet so we could dance. After that we heard more from Sheila Walsh, who made me cry again. We ended the evening with a concert from Natalie Grant, who has a phenomenal range.

At 10:00, we hurried out to Cindy's car with two other ladies from Hotel Indigo who would not have to wait for the shuttle. (Okay, so most of my serendipities came as a result of Cindy's kindness!) We made it through the snarled traffic in the lot and safely navigated the one-way streets with only one extra trip around the block.

My roommate still had not arrived when I let myself into the room, so I had plenty of time to relax all by myself, a very rare treat (one more serendipity). I settled onto the comfy queen bed and unpacked my now ratty yellow gift bag. Wow! There was a starter kit from the Beauticontrol skincare line--after I'd just asked God whether I should cut my expensive skincare products out of our budget--along with some aromatherapy foot cream for my cracked heels, some intensive hand cream for my rough hands, and a lip balm/lip peel which I still haven't figured out how to use on my dry lips. There were many other items including lipstick and nail polish in my favorite shades and a little charm bracelet that Allyson later appropriated. And though I wouldn't appreciate the providence of it until the next morning when I unpacked my toiletries, there was even a tube of fragrant deodorant. Slipping between the cool, clean sheets I murmured, "Thank you, God! You are so good to me!"

I slept like a baby despite the city noises and my roommate's arrival around midnight. I woke at 7:00 and headed downstairs for breakfast by 7:30. In the hotel restaurant, I ran into the ladies who'd ridden with us the night before, so I didn't have to eat alone. We had lots of time to talk since it took forever to put in our order and get our breakfast. I was convinced I'd be late to the conference and that Cindy would be worried, but we climbed right on the shuttle at 8:45, and I was back in my seat just as the timer on the giant screen wound down to 0:00. (Cindy wasn't there yet, and I worried about her.)

Cindy arrived about ten minutes later, and we enjoyed another day of inspiring speakers and music that stirred our souls. I can't describe how it felt to stand with hands raised to heaven, singing praises with my dear friend Cindy and 13,000 other women. If you haven't been to Women of Faith, you should definitely try it!

You don't have time to read about all I learned, but here are a few highlights:
  • From Sheila Walsh, a story of how God showed her she was holding back a portion of herself from her husband because she was afraid to love anyone enough to make herself vulnerable. This brought tears of recognition. 
  • From Luci Swindoll: She encouraged us to step out there and do what God has called us to do, not to worry whether we're smart enough or strong enough because God will equip us. She even encouraged us to "write that book" if God has given us the story. That gave me goosebumps!
  • From Michelle Aguilar, 2008 winner of The Biggest Loser: "Feel the fear and do it anyway." 
And now for one more serendipity story.... Throughout the conference, the speakers urged us to sponsor a child through World Vision; they held up several cards with children around the world who need sponsors. After Lucy Swindoll told us about a little Guatemalan girl named Ruth, three people went to the World Vision table and asked to sponsor her. The third woman cried when she learned that someone else was sponsoring the girl. She explained that she'd been separated from her sister for many years but had recently been reunited with her. Her sister's middle name is Ruth, and she really felt a connection to the little girl because of that. The volunteer at the table apologized and offered to find her another girl to sponsor. At random, she picked a child named Ola (sp?). The woman burst into sobs, and when she could talk again she explained that Ola is her sister's first name! Can you believe that?? It still would have been impressive if the sister's name had been Mary or Cindy, but Ola?  How cherished that woman must feel!

Okay, one last "serendipity": On the way home, I discovered that Cindy's car has air conditioned seats! I didn't even know such a luxury existed. It felt so, so good on my sticky thighs. God is so good to me!

Do you have any serendipity stories, ways that God has shown His love to you or someone you know? I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

About the Vampire Teeth...

...And other Allyson stories:

On the way home from church Sunday, Allyson interrupted Ethan in the middle of a story to ask, "Can I have some van-pire teeth?"

"Vampire teeth?" Bill echoed.

"Just a minute," I said. "Ethan was talking."

The moment there was a break in the conversation, Allyson continued, "About the van-pire teeth... can I have some?"

"Why do you need vampire teeth?" Bill asked.

"I want to be a vampire for Halloween. Can we get my costume now?"

"It's a little soon to get your costume," Bill replied.

"And I'm not too sure about you being a vampire," I added, finishing with the pat answer that Allyson has already learned to dread. "We'll see."
Allyson on Her Second Halloween

But I'm Not Gonna Eat Any
Last week while I was fixing lunch, Allyson gathered a handful of green grapes, a bag of marshmallows, and half a banana from the refrigerator and carried them to the table. "Can I have a little bowl?" she asked.

"What are you doing with all that?" I handed her a tiny red bowl, her favorite after the pink one, which was dirty.

"I'm making dessert for you."

I cringed as I watched her smashing the grapes with her sort of clean hands. "I have to cut up the bananas now," she said. She clutched a table knife awkwardly in her fist and laboriously chipped away bits of banana, which she transferred into the bowl with the oozing grapes. Five minutes later, she carefully sprinkled mini marshmallows over the fruit in a symmetric pattern.

My stomach made a funny lurch as I anticipated the obligatory bite. "I bet you're going to love those marshmallows," I remarked.

"Oh, I'm not gonna eat any," she said. "This is special just for you. Here, try it!" Beaming, she held out the little bowl.

I surveyed the banana bits, slightly brown now in the grape juice. "Looks yummy," I lied, and then I reluctantly took a tiny spoonful and chewed gingerly. You know what? It wasn't half bad! The texture was sort of weird, but the blend of the fruits and marshmallows was rather tasty. I ate most of her little fruit cocktail.

"Very nice!" I said. "Thank you for making me dessert, sweetie."

She flushed with pleasure. "I knew you'd like it!"

Just a Little Bit
The other night I was giving Allyson a bath, and it wasn't going so well. That task usually falls to Bill, but lately he's been busy in the yard at night, working on replacing the fence. I'm not so patient as Bill, and we both got agitated when I tried to rinse her long hair and she wouldn't cooperate. "Allyson," I said gently, "you need to obey with a willing heart."

She looked in my eyes and said calmly, "I like Daddy more than you."

"I know you like it better when Daddy gives you a bath," I said, "but he's busy tonight. I'm doing my best."

"No, I mean I love Daddy more than you."

Although on one level I knew she was just aggravated with me and was trying to make a point, her deliberate coolness cut deeply. I think the main reason was that she was only saying out loud what I've always suspected: Bill is her favorite. She's been a daddy's girl from birth, and usually that doesn't bother me. But on that day, when I'd spent every minute with her and tried very hard to be patient and loving, and even played three games of High Ho Cherry-O with her, her casual remark brought tears to my eyes.

"That hurt my feelings," I said.

"Oh, I didn't want to hurt your feelings. I just meant that I like Daddy a little bit better. That's all."

I smiled ruefully; she didn't realize that she was only twisting the knife further. She prattled on cheerfully throughout her bath while I held back tears.

It wasn't until an hour later, when I talked it over with God in my closet, that I let the tears fall. "I know I should be thankful for the bond that Bill and Allyson share, and I know it's not a contest, but why does it hurt so much? I'd heard that there are often conflicts between girls and their mothers, but she's only four, God! I'm not ready for this." I knelt there in our secret place, resting my head on my crossed arms, until my breathing became slow and steady. "Help me rest in your love," I whispered.

Then I prayed my favorite verses over Allyson, including Ephesians 3:17-18; I asked God to let her be rooted and established in love, so that she can grasp how long and wide and high and deep is the love of Christ. I prayed that I too will be rooted in that love so I can share it with her, that my love will be firm enough to stand through all of the conflicts we will face together.

The next day, her morning snuggles were that much sweeter.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Construction Commences

As I mentioned in my last post, the pool excavation crew came out last Saturday, the day Allyson and I drove out to my nephew Greg's wedding. We had expected them on Thursday, but they were delayed due to rain. I was bitterly disappointed with the new dig date since it meant Bill would miss the wedding (and I'd have to do all six hours of driving on my own), and also because I really wanted to watch.

As it turned out, the dump trucks and the Caterpillar excavator rolled up around 7:30 A.M., so I got to see them break ground after all. Allyson and I were ecstatic, though I suppose our neighbors were not as enthusiastic about the constant drone of heavy engines and the beep-beep of the excavator when it backed up.

They started by uprooting the five tree stumps, which took about 15 to 20 minutes in all. They just dug around each stump a bit, then pressed the bucket against the stump until the whole root ball popped up out of the ground.

Allyson cried when I made her get in the car around 8:15, but she was back to her cheerful self before we got to the highway. After we left, the workers built the wooden forms, and then the excavator operator dug the hole from within the frame.

When we returned the next afternoon, I couldn't stop gawking at the giant hole in our backyard. "It seemed so much smaller when I was looking at your chalk outline!" I marveled.

"Yes," Bill agreed. "Isn't it cool?"

On Monday, the plumbers came. That evening, we all crawled down into the hole, and Lola jumped down and joined us.

Allyson had to show Lola how to get back out.

The next day, the rebar crew came to build the steel skeleton. Under the beating sun, they pounded the steel rods around a big metal tube conforming it to the contours of the wooden forms.
Man in Blue Shirt is Standing on the "Bending Tube"
Allyson watched from the shade of the umbrella, lounging on the cooler Bill had filled with water bottles and Dr. Pepper cans.

Bill gazed wistfully at Allyson. "Man, I wish I didn't have to go to work today," he said. "I want to stay and watch."

"You are so cute!" I said, planting a kiss on his cheek. After he left, Allyson and I watched them for hours, mainly from our air conditioned kitchen. At last we could see exactly what the pool would look like:

See how much of it is above ground due to the slope of our yard? All of that will be a lovely rock wall, visible from our kitchen window.

We had to wait a few more days for the electrician and the city inspector, and then the big day arrived: Yesterday, it was finally time to blow in the gunite, a dry concrete mix that is injected with water just as it is blasted out of a big hose. We'd heard this was the most fascinating part, so Bill worked from home while he watched. It was very loud and very dusty; clouds of concrete dust billowed through the yard.

For four hours, the men took turns wielding the giant hose overhead, their teeth rattling in their jaws and sweat saturating their long-sleeved shirts.

At 7:00 last night, Bill did his first twice-daily watering. He'll have to do this for about a week while the concrete cures, and then the pool will be covered with plaster. He'd scarcely completed the watering when a thunderstorm rolled in, dumping about two inches of water in the bottom of the pool. Today, he used a broom to splash that water onto the walls.

Allyson, Lola, and I climbed down the steps to watch. I was quickly driven away by the heat radiating up from the concrete, but it didn't seem to bother Allyson at all.

And Lola was fascinated by the brackish water. I hope she's smart enough not to drink it.

Speaking of Lola...
I have yet another Lola story for you. Around 8:00 last night, while it was still pouring rain, I noticed some familiar, incessant barking that sounded like it was coming from the front yard. "Is that Lola?" I asked of no one in particular. Not surprisingly, no one answered.

It's probably someone else's dog, I reasoned. Or maybe it just sounds like it's out front because of the rain

"Is that Lola, Bill?" I hollered, but again there was no answer. I put down my dish towel with a heavy sigh and stepped onto the front porch. The rain was falling in sheets, and thunder was crashing. Just as I started to holler Lola's name, I noticed a strange man in the grass.

"Is that your..." he asked, his voice trailing off.

"Is our dog out front?" I asked.

"A black lab?" he asked. I nodded, and he pointed at the driveway. "Over there."

I groaned and stepped out into the downpour. Sure enough, Lola was standing at the top of the driveway, barking her head off at the well-meaning stranger. I grabbed her soggy collar and dragged her, still barking and pretending to lunge at the intruder, to the gate. Headed  back to his car, he was now far enough away that she could put on a show of bravery.

"Thank you so much! I really appreciate your stopping to check on her!" I called over my shoulder. "I'm sorry you got wet."

"I didn't want her to get lost," he answered.

"Well, thank you ag-" I broke off, slipping on the mud in front of the gate. I caught myself on the gate handle, which was loosely tied closed with a stretchy rubber cord. I yanked the gate open about eight inches and tried to force my wet dog through the opening. "Get back in there, Lola!" I spat out through gritted teeth, but she wouldn't budge, and I couldn't get any traction in my flip flops. I jerked in terror as a flash of lightning blinded me and the immediate crack of thunder vibrated in my chest.

Just then, Bill appeared on the other side of the gate. He untangled the rubber cord and yanked Lola through the gate. "Get in here, ya dumb dog!"

"Thank you!" I said, turning back toward the front door as another bolt of lightning lit up the sky. Bill locked Lola in her run and then brought me a towel--a hand towel, for Pete's sake!

As I stood there on the rug, cold rivulets of water coursing out of my drenched hair and down my back, I was surprised at how relieved I was that Lola hadn't run away. I think I must be falling in love at last.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

More Fun Than You're Supposed to Have at a Wedding

Here's one of the many stories I've been saving up....

On July 10th we went to my nephew Mitchell's wedding. Bill grumbled about getting dressed up and driving to Dallas, but it was well worth the effort. In fact, it was probably the most extravagant wedding I'll ever attend. It was held in a beautiful Catholic church in an auditorium filled with light. It began with a couple of amazing vocal solos by a man who sounded like he belonged in an opera. The way his voice blended with music of the string quartet was so beautiful that tears gathered in my eyes. Even Allyson appreciated it. "Is that opera music?" she asked in a stage whisper. "Yes," I whispered. "Be quiet!" 

The reception was held in an art gallery, which was filled with pictures and mementos of Mitchell and Michelle and their families. For example, one room housed a display of black and white wedding pictures from generations of their ancestors, flanked on both sides by antique family wedding dresses on bust forms.

There were fancy appetizers served by wandering servers whom I stalked as unobtrusively as possible, accumulating an awkward stack of crumpled napkins and dirty toothpicks.  There was a full bar with a very long line, and a tasty buffet. In addition to the fabulous cakes, there was an ice cream cart with three kinds of Italian gelato. Best of all, there was a smashed potato bar (Mitchell's contribution to the menu plan)! You filled a giant martini glass with potatoes and topped them with an assortment of delicious toppings like spinach sauce, gorgonzola cheese, and other more typical choices. It was so good I should have skipped the buffet and ate three potato servings.

The most popular activity was a photo booth. As various configurations of guests piled in and posed for four timed shots, all the raucous laughter was almost as entertaining as the pictures themselves. After each session, two strips printed out: one for the couple's keepsake book and one copy to take home. Here are a few of the pictures from our family:

Bill and Me
Sister Amy, Niece Erin, Me, Sister Melody (Erin's Mom)

We laughed so hard at Mom and Dad's pictures; even strangers laughed along with us.

 Don't they remind you of this picture? 

It took a lot of coercion to make Mom put the pictures in the book--and almost as much to get her permission to post them on my blog. She said yes... I promise!

The pictures of my sister Amy and our aunt Judy were also hilarious. They accidentally stood up for the first two shots, so it was a picture of their... well, you see:

Their message in the book was: "We thought you needed at least a couple of boob shots!"

My favorite part was the dancing. For a long time I sat watching everyone else having fun, tapping my feet and then swaying with my upper body.

"You need to take your wife out on the dance floor," Aunt Judy suggested, but Bill just shook his head. He finally danced one slow song with me, but then he made a beeline for his chair. I stayed on the floor, dancing with my sisters and my nieces until my knees creaked and my toes protested angrily in my high heels. When Erin remarked that she never expected Aunt Sarah to dance, I smiled and blushed. My other niece, Mindy, dragged her dad out onto the floor with us. I was proud of my brother, so handsome and youthful in his tux:
Diane and Rick, Parents of the Groom
It was the first time I had ever danced with my siblings--all except Emily, who was out of town for my niece's state dance competition. It was so much fun that I almost forgot the pain in my feet. Glancing over at my mother, I wondered how she felt about the scene; we were never allowed to dance when we were growing up. She later told us that she really enjoyed watching her children having fun together.

That's the way I'll remember the wedding, as a bunch of friends and family having fun.

Another July Wedding
Yesterday I drove to Nacogdoches, Texas, for another family wedding. This time it was my sister Melody's son, Greg, getting married. Greg and Jessica were married in an old hotel, rich with history. It was a small, intimate ceremony which Bill would have liked because it was very short. (He stayed home because our pool excavation had been moved to this weekend, but that's another story.)

I loved being so close that I could see Jessica's tremulous smile and Greg's shaking hands. I loved the quiet, relaxed reception afterward, where I could visit with family while eating a scandalous portion of the decadent cheese log--but not so much as my niece Hillary ate!

I was reminded of my own first wedding, when I was about the same age as Greg. I remembered the promise of grown-up life stretching before me, and then the shocking reality of scrubbing toilets and learning to cook, paying bills and balancing the checkbook. I remember the pride of decorating my own home and entertaining guests for the first time. (I made meatloaf. Just meatloaf. And there wasn't enough to go around.)

I pray life holds many adventures and joys for both of these young couples.


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