Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giving a panic attack

Many enjoy doing for others during the Christmas season.  People, I hear, find certain amount of satisfaction, even joy in this sort of altruism.  Not me.  Oh, my intentions are always honorable.  But I inevitably end up making as ass out of myself and force those I’m trying to help to comfort me in some way.

Most years my church ladies group adopts a family for Christmas.  The family is usually referred by a local school counselor and is in desperate need of basics.  It’s a perfect group for an adoptive family.  There are twenty plus ladies in all ages and economic levels.  So there are people who would be delighted to buy a gaming system if that’s the child’s dream.  Those who need to do something like clothes or a grocery gift card can do that. 

The year I coordinated the gifts, I forbade all gift bags.  Why?  Because kids hate gift bags.  If the only present you get all year long is in a gift bag, what a letdown!  Especially if the gift is clothes.  The child is robbed of the ecstasy of ripping open the paper and box.  I stopped short of insisting we have coordinating paper and bows.  But I let it be known what my preference was.  I haven’t been asked to coordinate this since.  Imagine that.

When I shop for gifts, I end up with hives and tears.  I want the gifts to be perfect.  I worry about size, color, Spiderman vs. Batman, Hello Kitty vs. Disney Princesses.  I chose something and then put it back.  I second guess and the second guess my second guess.  I worry that it’s too much, that it’s not enough, that I’m not a cheerful enough giver, that the child will be utterly and completely disappointed and will cry on Christmas morning.

Since last year my church group gave gift cards to a mission in Washington, I decided to participate in Operation Shoebox as well.  Only gifts that fit in a shoebox.  Then Samaritan’s Purse will get it to a child in the third world.  Fun and seemingly stress free.

I decided to prepare two boxes, one for a boy each of my son’s ages.  What could be simpler? I didn’t take my boys with me to do the shopping because explaining this to Bruce would be impossible.  I can hear the endless list of questions, “Where’s the third world, why don’t they have food, why doesn’t Santa just bring them something, why don’t they just move, how do they find the kids, what type of plane will deliver the presents, will they drop them from the plane by tiny parachutes?” Explaining to Reed why he couldn’t keep the gifts would prove equally problematic. 

I grew up in the “Band Aid” and “We are the World” generation.  You see, the third world is hot.  It’s populated by starving black children wearing tatters while standing in line to receive a cup of water and bowl of rice from UNICEFF.  That’s it.  I can’t envisage another scenario.  Although the literature from Samaritan’s Purse suggests differently – the third world is hot, drought stricken and run by tyrants who feed on corruption fueled by trafficking illegal drugs.  That’s it!

Shopping at Target, I began to have doubts about my previous supposition.  Perhaps Samaritan’s Purse knows a thing or two.  Cue the panic attack.  I wanted each boy to have a super hero t-shirt.  Boys are taught in the womb to love Spiderman, etc.  But what if my box when to a colder climate?  What if I should have included a long sleeved over a short sleeved?  I knew my boxes would go to brothers (they didn’t, in fact).  I wanted to ensure that little brother was getting gifts similar enough to big brother’s.  Nothing pisses little brothers off quicker than when big brother gets a present that he wants but isn’t quite old enough for yet. 
I fretted over colored pencils over crayons.  I picture the crayons melting in transit under the heat of the third would sub-Saharan sun. 

Toys dealing with war are not permitted.  OK, fair enough.  But Spiderman and Batman vanquish their share of bad guys.  Captain America’s first enemy was Hitler after all.  Did I have a Captain American item?  What if cartoon characters are too warlike? 

I made it to checkout, shaken, red blotches induced by stress marked my neck and I had tears in my eyes.  The checker remarked what great gifts these would be but no way all that would fit in two shoe boxes.  One hundred and sixty dollars later, I’m at home packing and repacking the boxes, tears running down my face.  Husband looking at me like the fool I was. 

This year will be different – maybe…

The family we adopted with the ladies group has fallen on hard times.  But this is temporary.  I have every assurance that this time next year they will be in a better place.  So I’m confident that my gift probably won’t be the sole gift this child receives.  I’m buying clothing for a 3 year old little girl.  I’m going to go to Kohl’s and go crazy in the pink section and include the gift receipt.  I intend on buy all colors girls like – pink and hot pink, Oh, and sometimes purple.

On Friday, I’m also going to feed the homeless.  Our church participates in a great program called Family Promise.  The Cadles will provide the evening meal on the Friday after thanksgiving to seven children and adults.  Cue the PRESSURE!

First, good Christians from the South can provide some great food! I’d wager families in this program probably gain weight.  I just want my food to measure up!

Secondly, we’re going to give them a fried turkey.  I hope it turns out. If you've fried a turkey you know that this can quickly go south.

Thirdly, kids don’t really like Thanksgiving food.  I don’t know many who like dressing, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes.  I’m Googling kid friendly recipes for these guys.

I want to give them my best and I hope it is good enough.  Here’s to doing it without tears and hives.  Maybe I’ll find the joy this year. 

If I do find joy this year, then I will have more energy to devote to averting the gaze of the Salvation Army ringers because I have no more change!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

For Jane

Wow!  I haven't written in a while and I missed it. And do I ever have a good rant to get out.  But before that, we buried my precious great Aunt Jane yesterday.  I spoke at her service.  Here is what I said.

I am Anne Williams Cadle.  My mother is Carol Tatum Williams.  Jane was my great aunt – however she was really more like a grandmother.

Thank you for indulging me as I share some of my memories of Jane.

Jane loved Erma Bombeck.  She continued to re-read her books even after Emra died in 1996.  In many ways Jane and Emra were quite alike.  Which is probably why Jane admired her.  Both were quick witted, funny and faithful and chose to find joy and humor in life’s mundane.

There is a quote by Erma Bombeck that reminds me of Jane.  When I knew I would speak to you today, this quote came to mind immediately and I knew I had to include it.

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'.

That’s what Jane did.  When she left this world last Sunday, I don’t think she had any talent left in her. 
Jane married Tommy is 1947 and together they raised two children and lived all over the world including Germany and the Philippines. 

I loved to hear stories of their adventures, but my favorite stories she would tell were from the war years.  As a child and young woman, her family spent a lot of time in the Fort Walton Beach area.  Eglin Air Force base was a primary place where pilots were trained. 

She mentioned being astounded at the sheer numbers of young men who served there.  And as a girl in her early 20’s – visiting a town full of handsome young pilots was never was sacrifice she was willing to make.
I wish I could remember the all the details of this story.  If you do, please share them with me later.  One August they headed to the beach for a few days.  There had not been any significant rain for weeks.  Something was wrong with their car, the roads or probably both, but they could not return home to Tuscaloosa until it rained.  So Jane was forced to stay around the hundreds and hundreds of young men.  She was a giver!

I told that story to tell you this one.  Most of my greatest childhood memories were set at Jane & Tommy’s condo in Fort Walton.  Sometimes they would come, other times our family would stay there.  On occasion, we would get several condos and all go together.  As a teenager, after dark, me and whatever friend I had with me would go to the boardwalk and hang out. By hang out I mean look for boys.  Then we would walk of on the beach and look for seashells.  By seashells I mean boys. 

One time went to Fort Walton after David and I were married and Laura had a friend with her.  I asked Laura and her friend if they were going to the board walk.  Laura, (her granddaughter) not being as boy crazy as I was, said probably not.  And there wasn’t anyone down there anyway.  

“Oh, I remarked.  When I would go, all the boys would be there!”  Jane interrupted, “No sugar,” she said. “I was there when ALL the boys were there!”

When my brother and I were little, Jane and Tommy would take us each to the condo for a week by ourselves.  She said they couldn’t handle both of us.  That was fine with me because I didn’t want to be with my brother anyway.  My favorite part of these trips was going on what I called, a “midnight swim.”  After dark we’d go to the pool and I would swim, usually while singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the top of my lungs.  Jane would sit there and laugh at me.

Some years later I asked her what time we actually went swimming.  Turns out, it was about 8:30.
Although not one to keep up with pop culture, TV or music really, she was surprisingly hip!  One night I was on the phone with her and she was surprisingly distracted, which is not like Jane at all.  Finally, she said, “Sugar, do you watch the Idols? There are a couple from Alabama.”  And I'm thinking - I was watching it too!  So yes!  Jane was a fan of American Idol – at least if contestants were from Alabama.  Although I don’t know if she ever voted. 

Jane was a competent, even a good cook like any mother and grandmother would be.  But you would not call her a gourmet.  My mother would often share recipes with her and I would too on occasion.  When you’d ask her how they turned out, she would always say, “It turned out fine.  I used cream of mushroom soup.” And I would say something like, Oh, OK.  So you were able to make that work with quiche.”
Jane was one of the most genuinely sincere people I have ever known.  She was universally adored — whether you were her friend, hair stylist or the checker at the grocery store you Jane made you feel important when you spoke to her — for three reasons, she was always happy; she treated everyone as if they were the most special person in her life; she carried herself with class and dignity.  I made a joke about her cooking, but if you want to be widely loved, she had the perfect recipe.

Jane’s incredible and beautiful faith guided her through her life.  She took real joy in studying the Bible and reading scholarly accounts.  In her later years, she found a special friend and companion in Richard Rose.  I think it was their mutual love of studying the Word that brought them together.
Jane truly had the spiritual gift of prayer.  She’s prayed me through many many things!  Once not long ago, my mother was going through an especially trying time and she asked Jane to pray for her.  She did.  The next day she called and told my mother a scripture to read.  She said, “I don’t remember that off the top of my head and haven’t had a chance to re-read.  But I prayed, that’s what I got.”  We read the scripture and it was almost an exact account of what was happening at that time.

I could go on and on and tell you about the unique gifts she gave, our Christmases we spent at our house in Enterprise, about how she almost sort of knew Harper Lee, about how much she loved her grandchildren and my children and my brother’s children, her spaghetti sauce with peas in it, their series of dogs named Corkie, and how I got married on their 50th wedding anniversary for luck – but we would be here all day.  So I’ll wrap up.

When we think about going to heaven, we think of hearing the verse, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  If you’re me some days you’re just hoping for an exasperating “WELL, an eye roll from God and then “Get in here before I change my mind.”

I don’t believe that’s how Jane was received.  She received a “well done!” But then there was a fanfare composed in her honor, a choir, ringing of bells, releasing of doves, fireworks and a 21 gun salute.  And I can’t wait to get there so she can tell me all about it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Faith & the John Hughes house

I wanted to sell my house the moment after I bought it.  I have been actively trying to sell it for about 18 months (although not consecutively).  The moment I’d been waiting for finally arrived last Sunday.  Someone shot us a joke of an offer.  Although we tried to play hardball, we ended up pretty much giving him everything they wanted.  When I think of the deal, it’s almost like an assault.  But we get to move into a new house.
Now, if you don’t know who John Hughes is, stop reading immediately and don’t come back until you have a proper appreciation of John Hughes and the movies he wrote and/or directed.  Kids who grew up and came of age in the 1980’s and 1990’s no doubt have a favorite John Hughes movie.  His chronicled the lives of teenagers.  He is the father of a genre:  comedies about disaffected youth.
Sometime in our lives together, Husband and I developed this notion of the “John Hughes House”.  This would be a house that looks like it could be in a John Hughes movie.  Most of these homes have a similar look about them.  They tend to be larger, traditional, conservative.  They definitely are not starter homes, but most would not be described as overly affluent. 
In all of these houses there was ROOM and lots of it.  Room for the kids to be kids, and because there was enough space, the kids could be left to their own devices.  In other words, people wouldn’t be tripping over one another. 
A John Hughes House is in a neighborhood.  Residents do things like decorate for Christmas (Christmas Vacation) and have block parties (She’s Having a Baby).
For us a John Hughes House says “grown up.”  Even if it is in name only…
So where does faith fit into the notion of the John Hughes house?  Waiting!  That’s what.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:14
The house from Sixteen Candles
Ferris Bueller's House
The Griswold's house
No explanation needed....
The house from Home Alone
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
She's Having a Baby
Uncle Buck
I truly believe that God’s timing is perfect.  But waiting for my house to sell truly tested my faith in this.  If not for my neighbor, Tanya, constantly reminding me of this, I just might be in the “nervous hospital” about now.
Our house wasn’t working for us – at all.  Yes that’s a first world problem and at least I have a house to live in – yadda, yadda yadda…  I understand that.
Through a lot of prayer I really felt that I was being lead to have a family member come to my house and have surgery and begin recovery.  There was no way that could happen in my current situation.  No way. 
Friends said, “Anne, the Lord knows you need to care for your family and it will happen.”  But it never did.  We waited even longer.  People would look at my house but no offers.  I slashed the price and no offers.  I list it For Sale By Owner, and no offers, just sleazy investors. 
So then I began to ask, “God, why do you want my relative to suffer?  If my house would just sell, suffering could cease!”  No luck.  I waited some more. 
This is the second go round on listing the house it we were nearing the 1 year mark…  I began to tally the financial and emotional toll of this house selling endeavor.
I’ve packed up thing that I use frequently and put them in a storage unit that I have to pay on each month.  I spent probably $3000 on tree cutting, stump grinding and grass planting in the back yard.  Husband still hasn’t forgiven me for this.  Asking a man who works for the Forest Service to cut down perfectly healthy chestnut oak trees, is like asking him to cut off his own limbs.  Seriously, he’s still mad.  Really mad.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, we get an offer.  Of course it was when I was out of town and Husband was also out of town.  Our crappy offer came under the most inconvenient of circumstances.  Of course if did. 
We tried to play hard ball, but in the end, we said, “Fine! FUCK this!” and accepted the offer.  My realtor said it was the right thing to do.  When she called the other agent I asked her to sigh heavily and simply say “Fine…” rather than “We accept your offer.”  Not sure that she did that.  All the while she’s ensuring me that we’ll make our money up when we buy. 
And then God reminded me about His timing…  And did He ever!
I didn’t feel that it was the moment God intended my house to sell.  I thought I would feel more excited or more of a catharsis or something – anything.  I was probably just irritated.  The irritation was probably caused in fact, by my prolonged and intimate dealings with the TSA that I experienced on my flight home.  I was scolded, swabbed, patted down and felt up.  But that’s a story for another time. 
So we set our sights on a new house.  There was one we liked – just liked.  My comments were, “Yes, this could really work for us.”  Not “This is THE house!” 
We plan a marathon house hunt for Saturday, but I’m resigned that I’ll end up with House #1. 
We looked at a house where I left convinced that the owner is into Wicca.  Another was pretty, expensive and still needed renovations.  A third had wood paneling and a scary basement.  But there was a 4th house to see.
This house is a John Hughes house in a John Hughes neighborhood.  It’s in town -where I want to be.  The average sales price for a house here is out of our price range.  And it’s not even for sale yet.  Our realtor spoke with their realtor and they’ve agreed to let us look.  I don’t let myself get excited at all.  There is no way this is going to happen. 
Built in 1992, I go in bracing myself for all gold fixtures and teal and pink wallpaper.  But to my surprise, I didn’t find either one.  The owners are in the process of updating and painting – readying the house to sell.  They are installing granite, silver fixtures, fresh paint.  Now I am positive that we cannot afford this house.  But I love it.  I mean I REALLY love it.  It's perfect for the boys for relatives for parties or whatever.
We put in an offer and wait an anxious 24 hours.  I just want them to reject us out right so we can offer on House #1.  You see I fail to mention the person who bought my house for a criminally low amount of money then had the audacity to request closing in on April 7th.  We said that we need the standard 30 days.  He said no…  I believe this man should work for the TSA the way he keeps working me over…
Well, it happened – finally.  We got the house.  Their realtor told them about our family and what we wanted to do with the house, etc., and they agreed to sell it to us!
I just began to cry when I got the news.  Because at that moment I understood God’s timing.  If my house would have sold a year ago, or six months ago or any time before it did, I would not have been able to buy my John Hughes house.  Remember, it wasn’t even on the market.  Our realtor pulled in a favor for us to look at it.  God did that!
Things seem to be going smoothly.  Since the diva who bought my house has to be in so soon, a friend of Husband’s offered up his rent house to us.  But then then owners of our new home agreed to let us stay in the basement while the completed renovations upstairs.  When God is ready for a plan to come together…
So we will move into our John Hughes house in early April.  Who knows what life will bring us while living there.  Maybe we’ll get in Asian exchange student.  Maybe Bruce will get married and I’ll forget Reed’s 16th birthday.  Maybe David will go out of town and have to endure an Odyssey to get home for Christmas.  Or perhaps we’ll go to Europe to see my brother and I’ll leave Bruce in the basement.  One day Reed might feign illness to skip school.  I might even have to leave town to deal with a sick relative and I’ll be forced to leave the kids with a crazy uncle.  We might plan a cross country car trip to an amusment park.  David might be overcome with the Christmas spirit and cover our home in lights.  Who knows? But we will do it in a house large enough to house the antics.  Antics, faith and a little wine.  OK a lot...
The Cadle house from the non-existent movie
Life in the GTSA (Great Tri-State Area). 
There will be sequels...

 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not on your own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, March 14, 2014

An open letter to Bruce's teacher

Dear Bruce’s Teacher:
You are truly a great teacher.  You do a fantastic job at a school where I’m so blessed my son is able to attend.  Keep up the excellent work.  I’m sure this is your first “real” teaching gig, and you’ve proven that you truly have a gift for imparting knowledge to young people.  Bruce is reading novels on grade level and can quote scripture like a Baptist preacher at a preacher at a tent revival.  You did that.  And you get all the commendation you deserve.
You not only make me feel old, you’ve made me realize that I AM old. 
In photos you could and are mistaken for a high school student.  That’s OK.  I once was too – last century. 
This week one of the spelling words was “safety.”  Bruce kept leaving off the “e”.  I started singing the song “Safety Dance,” by Men Without Hats.  Sure enough, he learned to spell the word. 
Bruce asked, “I wonder if (my teacher) knows this song?”  Sadly, I had to answer, “No, no she wouldn’t know this song.  She wouldn’t know it because she was born in 1992!”  Bruce feigned looking shocked.  We convinced him not to mention how aghast we were at her age.
Last night she send an email about a dress code change.  She sent this at 9:57 pm.  Bless her young, precious little heart.  Call it a generational thing, but we Gen X’ers aren’t checking our email at 9:57.  If you need to communicate with us at that time, better choose another means.  And there are a fair amount of us, (David and Me) who have LOOOONG been asleep at 9:57. 
Keep up the good work.  Oh, and respect your elders and their music!


Anne Cadle

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Top 10 reasons we're taking a break from Indiana Jones

I've had to issue a moratorium on all things Indiana Jones.  I realized that when I saw this as a child, I only saw it once.  My boys can watch it over and over.  Although most of the movies are like comic books acted out, there are some serious and violent parts.  If you're a kid and you've only seen it once, when you act it out later, you're more likely NOT to remember the inappropriate parts.  However, if you're my boys and you've seen it many times, the only parts you re-enact are the violent ones.  Thus I give you the TOP TEN REASONS THERE IS NO MORE INDIANA JONES.  If you haven't seen these movies lately, you might need to re-watch to fully appreciate the list.

10.  Although Bruce attends a Christian private school and can quote the Bible like a preacher, he wants to go on a search for the Arc of the Covenant, and the Holy Grail - in the U.S. archives....

9.  They won't eat vegetables but are totally willing to try bugs or brains.

8.  They (Husband included) say I'm exactly like Willie (Kate Capshaw) from "Temple of Doom".  (OK, they might be right about that)

7.  Bruce has several real world examples of how he could use a "real" whip.  They involve saving his brother and swinging into the car when I pretend I'm going to leave without him in the mornings.

6.  They know all the words to Elvis' "Hound Dog" because of the opening sequence to "Crystal Skull."

5. They can sing "Anything Goes" in Chinese.

4.  If I say something like, "Hey David, can we watch something other than Indiana Jones or Duck Dynasty?"  Reed will say to me, "You call him Dr. Jones, Doll!!!!"

3. Reed's answer to any question is likely to be, "OK, Hold onto you potato!"

2.  Reed tries repeatedly to remove his brother's beating heart with his hand.

1. Reed has a Nerf gun and walks through the house shouting, "I'm a good Nazi!"

...Ay Yi Yi!!!!!  Just add this to my mom of the year application.