Saturday, September 29, 2007

Granny Annie???

This past May we went on a trail hike with a group of kids from our church. Yes, there were a couple of other adults along, too ... but they were in their 30s ... so, like I say, we went on a trail hike with a group of kids from our church.

This was a guided hike and a retreat run by Wilderness Trail, so we had some group devotional activities as well as some individual quiet time.

Before you start thinking 'How namby-pamby saccharine sweet,' let me assure you that part of the group devotional activities included sharing pack loads so one girl with blistered feet could continue the hike and another part involved relinquishing one's pack to another in the group to facilitate scrambling up rocky sections. And I don't know about anyone else, but my individual quiet time was a lot of "Pant, pant, pant 'step by step You'll' pant, groan 'lead me' pant, pant, pant 'and I will follow You' groan, pant 'all of my days.'

Which may not have been the image Rich Mullins had when he wrote the song, but the rhythm and the rhyme work quite well when one is toting 30+ pounds and ascending at a rate of ... I forget. But we were going uphill. A lot.

There were also the typical group togetherness times. One of the first occurred the night before we started the hike.

We had gathered in WT's lodge -- our group of seven, a family of three, and two singles -- to meet each other and divvy up the cooking gear and food. Then our group leader had us circle up and she asked us to share a nickname someone had given us and then to share what we were most concerned about as to the hike.

Interesting. Not a question we're often asked. About nicknames, that is.

Anyway, Lee sometimes calls me 'Luigi' because my middle name is 'Louise.' I think he calls me that more than he calls me 'Anne.' So I told the group that.

And then I said that sometimes when I'm differentiating myself from my grandchildren's other grandmothers, I refer to myself as 'Granny Annie,' just to be silly.

But in the back of my mind there's been another thought. I've thought that if I ever write an advice column -- for kids or for adults -- that Granny Annie could be a fun pen name. Kind of like Mrs. Doubtfire but with a bit more brass.

'Dear Granny Annie, My parents keep treating me like a little kid even though I just turned twelve. They won't let me date or anything. What should I do?
Mature For My Age

Dear Mature, They won't let you date??!! How provincial, old-fashioned, and downright repressive can they be?! I suggest you not wait a minute longer. Just elope and show your parents that you are sufficiently mature to work 40 hours a week -- no, wait ... I forgot ... you haven't graduated from college or even high school so you'll have to work two jobs at minimum wage to earn enough money to pay rent on an apartment. And then if you want lights on at night you'll have to pay the electric bill. And I'm sure you'll want to eat ... but maybe one of your jobs will be at a restaurant.

That isn't what you had in mind? Then what did you have in mind? Dating is not a game one plays hoping to win a prize. Until you are ready to build a life apart from your parents and to take responsibility for someone else's life in addition to your own, you're not ready to date.

A little girl once asked me if it was 'fun being a grown up lady.' I think I was all of 30-something at the time. "Of course it's fun," I told her. "But first I had to learn how to have fun being six, and then seven, and then eight..." She thought about that, and I watched as a big grin spread across her face.

Can you have fun being twelve without wanting to be eighteen or twenty-three? When you can, then you'll really be mature for your age. Write back if you're not sure what I mean. But I'll bet if you think about it, you'll figure it out.

Love, Granny Annie

On the other hand, maybe it sounds a bit dorky. Or even, heaven forbid, a little too senile.

So I'll leave it up to my admiring public. Yet another poll so you can weigh in on this most important of matters.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Just a-blogging along...

My editor tells me I'm not adhering to the spirit of the blog.

This is supposed to be an ongoing conversation, he tells me. Letting weeks elapse between postings doesn't cut it.

Mind you, sometimes weeks go by without my hearing from my editor.

Be that as it may, I guess I just don't feel the need to let it all blog out. Maybe it's the word blah-g. As in blah, blah, blah ... and is anyone really interested in what a 50-something has to say?

Maybe that's why I'm drawn to journalism. I like writing about other people--what they do, what they say, what they think. It's why I like writing children's stories, too. I can hide behind my characters. I can be any of them ... or all of them ... or none of them. And who would ever know?

So here you are, dear editor. A new posting in the spirit of the blog.

What? You mean I have to do this again tomorrow?!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Dark and Stormy Night

Most of us think of Charles Schultz's beagle Snoopy when we read those words. Snoopy, perched on top of his dog house, pecking away at his typewriter as he worked at writing the Great American Novel ... and seldom getting farther than the first line or two.

Other readers might think of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, a 19th century British writer, whose opening line of Paul Clifford (1830) read: "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

In this one line Bulwer-Lytton shifts focus at least four times and, by today's standards at least, it's a bit much in terms of length and verbosity. 1830s readers put him up there with Charles Dickens, but his writing is mercilessly satirized by our less forgiving age.

In fact, the line sparked a bad-fiction opening line writing contest beginning in 1982. You can read all about it at, where, they say, www means “Wretched Writers Welcome.”

Afficiandos of children's and young adult fiction, however, will recognize “It was a dark and stormy night” as also being the opening line of “A Wrinkle in Time,” written by Madeleine L'Engle, which won the 1963 John Newbery Medal.

I encountered “Wrinkle,” if my memory is correct, as a high school freshman in Tustin, CA, back in the dark ages of the 1960s. I didn't use the school library often, preferring the larger Tustin City Library or, better, the neighboring Santa Ana Library. Extra time at lunch one day caused me to wander in to browse the school library as it was in the same quad as the cafeteria and picnic tables. (Thought: Where do schools situate their libraries?)

I picked up “Wrinkle,” began to read, and ended up checking the book out when the bell rang. It's funny—out of the few memories I've retained of my high school years, walking out of the library with that book is one. The oddities of the human brain...

I remember devouring the book and understanding, for perhaps the first time in my life, that there was more to God than I'd previously thought. That the supernatural was real and that God was in control. Not that my life changed. I saw no visions, heard no voices, didn't become a Joan of Arc or even of Arcadia.

But a grain had been planted that germinated and grew and blossomed less than ten years later when I, as a young mother of three small children, came to understand that living life based on what I thought I should do and on what I thought was right, was slowly destroying me. And there was God, offering me a supernatural life based on what He wanted me to do and on what He said was right...whether I understood it or not.

(Note to those who question God's gender: Yes, I believe that God is neither/both/above and beyond gender. Genesis 1:27 says “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” To me, the creation is not about body or gender, it's about God creating triune beings as a reflection of His triune Godhead. Email me if you'd like to chat.)

Three decades later, I marvel at the road God had prepared for me and at how He has, in very deed, given me the desires of my heart ... desires I didn't even really know were there, they were buried so deeply. But He knew because He put them there. Topics for another day and time.

Today's reflection is in honor of a woman who lived life in the understanding that God sees more than we see, God knows more than we know, and God cares more than we care.

Madeleine L'Engle died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 88. One of this age's most prolific writers, she wrote fiction, memoir, essay, plays, children's and young adult fiction, science fiction based on the real sciences of quantum mechanics and particle physics, romance fiction, poetry, and God alone knows what else. The New York Times' obituary said her work “transcended both genre and generation."


Since rediscovering “Wrinkle” as a young adult and then reading as much of L'Engle's other work as I could find, I've considered her as one of the Titus 2:3 women God has put in my life. Not just, as the Scripture instructs, admonishing me to love my husband and love my children (ever wonder why we need to be admonished to do those things?), but showing me how to be a woman open to God's voice and God's leading, not afraid to ask hard questions nor to hear answers I don't like.

I wrote to her once.

One Thanksgiving, I believe it was. I wrote to thank her for her impact in my life through the books she had written.

She wrote back. A thoughtful, typewritten letter with a handwritten note scrawled at the bottom inviting a response. I can't remember if I responded or not. I know I was stunned that she had written to me ... who was I, after all?

A fellow irrational, she might have responded.

The Irrational Season
This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild;
Had Mary been filled with reason,
there'd have been no room for the Child.
Madeleine L'Engle

So, here's to Madeleine Camp Franklin, known to her readers as Madeleine L'Engle. It was a dark and stormy night.

It is, God willing, a luminous and eternal morning.

I look forward to the time when all veils are removed and we see Him face to face and each other as we truly are, made in His image.

See you then, Madeleine.

Monday, September 10, 2007

M'Ladys M'Log beats 'Bama Blog

September 10, 2007

Go figure.

Even those who visited my Blog at voted for M'Log instead of the Blog.

For those just tuning in and not inclined to scroll down to the 'Older Posts' section for an explanation ... and for those reading this in M'Log format ... our oldest son, the IT expert, had admonished me that I couldn't call my serial e-mails a blog because they weren't actually posted to a Web log. I conceded the point and developed an official blog, but was mindful that many of my faithful readers might not want to go to the extra trouble of clicking on the link. So I termed my musings a Mail Log or M'Lady's M'Log (remember that you heard this term here first!). And I set up a poll on my blog and said I would accept absentee ballots via e-mail.

I was right.

Got four absentee votes for M'Log and none for Blog.

This is where it gets really interesting. I also got four votes for M'Log from the Blog poll and only three for Blog--and my son voted twice for Blog. As he reminded me, that's one of the inherent risks with any poll -- and let's all remember that come election season.

I also received two votes for handwritten greetings on exquisite stationery. One of those was my vote. I wanted to be sure the poll was recording votes correctly and I knew I wouldn't hold myself to actually penning an epistle to me.

To the other person who voted for this option: When you send me a handwritten greeting on exquisite stationery, I'll send you one. Not before.

Nobody voted to have me remove their name from my list.

I guess that's a good sign.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Now it begins...

September 5, 2007

We knew it was coming.

We were warned by faculty and by last year's fellows. But warnings never quite prepare you for reality.

So I played. And I paid.

"Come out over Labor Day weekend," I told Lee. "I'll work ahead and we'll have time together."

He did. Found reasonably priced (under $200 round trip) tickets from Tampa to Birmingham. Flew out Friday afternoon and I picked him up at the Birmingham International Airport--to which there are no signs on the freeway or on surface streets. Navigating the parking garage was another adventure.

We had fun...played tourist and went to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Talladega SuperSpeedway. Took the van tour, drove through the tunnel and onto the infield, stood in the winners' area and up in the stands, saw how incredibly steep the turn banks are -- imagine four cars side by side roaring around the inside of a bowl -- and heard the sound of one car running laps then tried to multiply that by 40 or so.

Drove into the town of Talladega and hung around waiting for the stock car races that evening at the Talladega Short Track ... only to discover when we got there that the races had been postponed due to weather. A line of unhappy racers at the barred gate didn't get the message ahead of time either.

That was Saturday.

Sonday morning we tromped around the woods up near The Star, which is also near two museums and a community center. There's a mountain bike trail near the community center and we followed part of that, then did part of the nature trails near the museum. Nice being outdoors ... I feel a bit cooped sometimes. I think I'll be comfortable on those trails by myself. Or I would be except that twice now I've seen groups of loose dogs. Not a good sign.

Later we went to St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, a historic building in town -- incredible architecture and pipe organ.

Wandered around, ate, shopped--even did a Home Depot date!--cooked, Lee fixed stuff in my apartment (shh...don't tell the landlord) and made kumquat pies & calamondin jam, I did some school work. Had my fellow fellows over for dessert Monday night, back to class on Tuesday, then drove Lee back to the airport Tuesday late afternoon.

That was hard.

Then I had to pull my head back together and get two assignments in some kind of shape to turn in on Thursday. Which meant I worked straight through until midnight on Wednesday, got up early and worked another hour before classes on Thursday.

I paid.

But you can bet I'd do it again.