Jesus and the Mean Girl

It takes one. Only one. You’ve heard the old saying: One rotten apple spoils the barrel. It’s so true. Look around in your own life.

In your work setting, in your social circle. One “mean girl” or bully, spewing hurtful gossip, just plain making up stories, lies, putting on a show overtly with the intent to hurt, then sitting back folding her hands with a satisfied smirk on her face. And then running to church every time the doors are open and claiming to be a rule-keeper and a Christian, taking in communion—blood of Christ—with all that rotten gossip, trying to mix the ultimate love and ultimate hate.

Okay, you can deal with that. You see through it. You pity the one who has had so much hurt in her own life to make her this way—to have to put down and stomp on others so she can be higher and better. She puts on a show of some good acts to build followship. But then.

What do others in the circle do? Yes. They follow and support the bad apple. They are afraid not to, knowing they will be the next target. So they listen to the gossip; they believe; they look at and treat the target as though it is all true. And then they run to their own churches every Sunday and pretend they believe the Bible, when all they like is the black leather outside and their life actions mock the black words printed inside.

This is our world, macrocosm and microcosm, and I’m talking here about the microcosm, and it is hurtful. And there’s nothing you can do, except come out of it soiled and beaten down and limp in a mean world of mean people who don’t give a damn.

I can see why some just want that pill to end it all.

In my weak moments, I’m there.

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Some things I did in 2018….

Finished my novel (first draft)

Traveled to the beach four (4) times

Walked in the Nashville Women’s March

Took my granddaughter to a lookout on the Pedestrian Bridge in downtown Nashville and showed her where I made history by participating in the first Women’s March in 2017

Wrote a seven-thousand word essay

Met family in Destin, then spent a day and night there alone with my dog

Planted a butterfly garden, with butterfly lights, a house, a bath

Tried for the first time planting a vegetable garden in containers

Made eggplant parmesan for the first time

Visited the Biltmore in Asheville and attended a lecture by one of the “Hidden Figures”

Took yoga, spin, and barre classes

Provided river tonnage statistics for the governor of Ohio

Wrote a poem for the re-marriage ceremony for my son and daughter-in-law

Hosted a wedding reception for the above two

Went to a Titans game for the first time in a lot of years

Went kayaking on the Duck and hiking at Timberland Park

Went to Art Crawls and book festivals (three!)

Went to a play at Chaffin’s Barn

Chose titers for my dog instead of re-vaccinations

Said goodbye to a longtime friend (and missed our lunches at Chop House and talk about poetry and essays)

Saw my grandson make his first touchdown—a 65-yard run!

Hosted Thanksgiving for seven

Reached a milestone of ten years following the loss of my husband

 

Stepping into 2019!


Pots and Red Blooms and Sucking Marrow

I planted my back yard garden in pots this year. This came out of need—out of frustration and despair over the last two seasons’ results. No yield of tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupes. I lost everything I planted to pests, rot, fungus, weeds, and disease. Oftentimes, before those menaces could even get a grip, birds pecked holes and ate the flesh and juice.

Nancy.Pots

I’m a Southern girl. I have to plant things in the dirt and watch them grow. I come from a long line of farmers, from my grandfather back. My father, too, had a garden in his town yard, a yard that was once a fertile Mississippi Delta cotton field before it was a neighborhood. My garden area is small—twelve feet wide and three feet deep, in a corner against the wooden fence.

In the past, come spring, I’d pull weeds, hoe and air the dirt, add some new soil. I’d select my varieties, pick some heirlooms, put in a few cool things like broccoli or Brussels sprouts. I’d water, feed, and wait, and by June, tiny vegetables appeared, and then July brought an onslaught of hundred-degree heat. The plants curled, browned, gave in to it. I gave up, too.

I’ve lived in this house for six gardens. Before I got here, the yard was a pasture, prone to weeds, hard to tame. Beneath the bags of garden soil, conditioner, and humus I’d laid out was clay. There was nothing winning about this combination. The plants growing out of it were small, spindly, and sick.

Nancy.Garden Plants in Pots

Pots—my last hope. I bought big plastic terra-cotta-colored ones. Real clay pots were too heavy. I lined them up in my garden space and filled them with new dirt. In the first three, tomatoes. Then cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash, and peppers. I tend them daily, water them, help their vines trail safely. I’ve been blessed with the fruits of their growth.

***

Having a seasonal garden is like watching before your eyes a sped-up version of life. New tender plants are put in their beds. Watered, fed, watched, fussed over, cared for. Their stalks are straight, leaves green, baby fresh, perfect, no flaws, nothing but potential, a blueprint to fulfill and feel out beyond. Then life comes and brings its good and bad. Plants grow and bloom and produce. Nourished by spring’s sun and rain, they flourish. Then it turns on them and beats them down and rots them out. It’s an all-out attack of the elements and the outside forces that begin to suck the marrow out of life. There’s nothing you can do. You can water with a hose, you can put poison out to kill the bugs, you can cut off the sick and dead parts, but it’s not enough, it’s never enough, and you sit and watch the deterioration, and wait for the decline. Until that once strong and happy life succumbs.

And then in winter you sit on your deck and wonder what else you could have done. Or what you could have done differently to make it work, and last. And the answer is, Nothing. Sometimes things are out of your control.

***

Last summer my friend Nancy gave me some bean seeds to plant. She’d already planted hers along her white picket fence in downtown Franklin. Before the bean pods came, flowering red blooms would appear against the green bean leaves. We’d watch them grow and have fun comparing our bean blooms during our regular get-togethers at Chop House for lunch and poetry and essay reading. Here’s what she said:

“In South Carolina we always grew Scarlett Runner Beans. They can be put on fences, posts, or anything they can climb on, have beautiful red flowers and tons of runner beans. Lots of foliage also. I went to four places here in the Franklin area and none had ever heard of them, so I ordered packs from Burpees. I planted mine along my picket fence and have a packet left. I want you to have them as I know you love flowers, gardens, and anything that is different. So when we meet I’ll bring your packet. They are so easy. Just drop about eight seeds into about a two-inch hole, cover them, and water. Sprouts start showing in about seven days. When the beans appear in about forty days, if you constantly pick them, they are prolific. I am planning on my little white picket fence having bunches of red flowers this summer!”

Nancy.Red Bean Blooms

The vines grew and trailed. I watered, waited, and we took pictures and compared, and finally I saw maybe a dozen beans. I picked them and steamed them with some carrots. I watched for more. Then I got distracted with work, with writing, and I grew tired of waiting. This spring, a year later, I pulled all the twining vines off the poles and fence and found a hundred or more bean pods. They were hidden inside all the foliage, had ripened, and were waiting attention that never came because I wasn’t patient enough to tend them every day.

* * *

It’s been three weeks since Nancy died. I wish I had another Burpees pack, some red blooms twining up my fence, and some bean pods to look for.

I’m reminded that the season of life may be a season, or it may be years and decades, and it’s never enough, and there’s never enough we can do to sustain it. We just need to remember to always put in all we can, to take hold of all the good we can find, and to get out of life and friendship all we can.


Old Stones of Immigrants

I descend from immigrants.

My fourth great grandfather came here from Ireland. My third great grandfather fought in the resistance and revolution to separate this land from Britain and establish a new country of immigrants. At the end of the war he fought on the frontier, tracking and killing native people, the originals who owned this land.

Two hundred forty years ago today, John Mahaffey signed up to fight for America’s independence.

Here’s what happened to some of America’s first heroes, now rock-stone and dusty bone stiff and piled up in a quiet graveyard of Revolutionary soldiers in Ohio.

ebenezeroldstones

Here is the original stone for my Revolutionary era ancestor.

johnoldtomb

Granted, John Mahaffey did get a new tombstone.

John Mamaffey new tomb

John Mahaffey was born August 31, 1759, in Sussex County, New Jersey, one of seven sons of Scotch-Irish immigrants, Moses and Jennet McIntyre Mahaffey. In the fall of 1774, at the age of 15, John moved with his parents to Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, where they resided two years. In the spring of 1776, near the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in nearby Philadelphia, in his seventeenth year, John accompanied his parents to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

The War of Independence began in 1775. John Mahaffey served four voluntary terms, totaling twenty-five months, during the War of the Revolution.

John was almost nineteen years of age when, on July 3, 1778, he originally enlisted for four months. He volunteered for two seven-month periods in April, 1779, and in April, 1780, serving as a “spy or ranger, watching the Indians and giving the earliest information on the approach of the Indians.” During the year 1779, in the frontier settlements of Pennsylvania, British Loyalists and Indians attacked American settlers. The Loyalists soon were defeated, and Americans destroyed many Indian villages whose residents were fighting on the side of the British. The British surrendered October 19, 1781. America was officially independent.

John Mahaffey’s blood now runs through my veins. I take after him. I stand up for this country. I will resist anything that makes her less and harms her, that which keeps us from worshiping in the religion of our choice, that which makes us less equal and takes us toward authoritarianism.   


Peel It Away

Stop. Close your eyes. Hold your breath. Take your fingernail and scrape around the edges of YOU until you find it—the thin silver sheet that represents your soul. Scratch at it, peel it away, remove it, hopefully in one piece, fold it carefully, put it away. And wait. Wait for better times. This is one way to make it through trying times like these. For without a soul, you won’t know. You won’t care. You won’t feel. Truth, lies, right, wrong, good, bad, hurt, pain, compassion, discernment…nothing will matter. You will just trail along, unaware.


Happy Dance in Destin

We live a quiet life, the dog and I. We take walks in the neighborhood and visit with special friends, we walk in parks, and we walk on trails. We go to Petco to greet people. Locally, we’ve been to Walgreens and SunTrust Bank. She’s welcome in those places. We’ve traveled together and walked on new trails or sidewalks and through hotel lobbies.

Easter weekend, we went to Destin, Florida, where we met her “big brother,” his wife, and their two children. Heidi Deering went shopping with us, ate meals out with us, and even sneaked out on the beach early mornings and late evenings. It’s a pet friendly town, and we walked lots of new trails and sidewalks here and met lots of dogs and dog owners.

But the funny thing—Heidi Deering has never been to a gathering of hundreds of people, except when she was three months old and I took her with me to Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin. I’ll preface this little story with the fact that Heidi Deering loves people! Especially children. She loves to greet people and be around all the activity.

So one night we went to Baytowne Wharf. It’s a little village of quaint shops, boutiques, eateries, galleries, and nightlife, with family games, like a big checkerboard and checkers, a shooting gallery (pretend), and ziplining over the bay. We went at eight in the evening. The little village streets with bulb lights strung across them, were packed with people—families and children and seniors. It was a festival atmosphere with a great vibe, lots of noise, lots of excitement.

We walked through the entrance gates, and Heidi Deering saw all those people. She came to an abrupt stop. Her ears perked. Shock and awe. She hopped to the right. She hopped to the left. She looked at all the people, movement, and fun. And noise and laughter, and children running about. She started to pant. Her tail wagged so hard it was a blur. And then . . . she started happy-bounce-walking, and she looked up at me. And I could read her face.

“Oh my gosh! Look at all this fun! Are you looking? Are you looking? This is fabulous!”

What a sweet face and sweet moment.

She had a ball. And she draws a crowd. People come to her, pet her, hug her, tell her she’s beautiful.

We’ve got to get out more. To where hundreds of people are.


Name-Calling

By the time I was six years old and in the first grade, I’d learned to not call people names. If I did it, I got in trouble. I learned to do unto others as I’d have them do unto me. I learned it was important and right to love other people and to treat them kindly.

In elementary school, I learned the name put to bad behavior toward others—bullying. I learned that bullies put others down to lift themselves up. I learned that bullies have problems within.

I learned rules from the Bible—at home, at Sunday School, and at school. I learned not to bear false witness against people. That means lying, speaking falsely and unjustly, or deceiving.

I read the commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” What does that even mean? I used to think it meant saying God’s name with a cuss word.

But looking more deeply, does it mean to use God’s name in a wrong and empty way, to assign authority to beliefs and behavior in his name, when said beliefs and behavior are not of him and are contradictory to the Bible? Does it include our claiming to be of him, when we believe things or do things or support things that are obviously not of him, thus bringing shame to his name and damage to his character?

In our new world 2017 AC, name-calling is apparently accepted. Putting people down, saying false things, saying any adjective that will stick with that person for all time . . . it’s the new thing to do. I don’t like it. I’ve done it, and I don’t feel good about myself when I do. But even in the world of good people, of Christian Evangelicals and conservative Christians, it is given a go-ahead. Somehow, some way, Christians are willing to close their Bibles, put them on dusty shelves, and open their hearts in support of the one leader in our country who is so adept at name-calling. And not only that, they assign the name “Christian” to that one.

I just don’t understand. I really, really don’t.

But to help everybody out, The Failing New York Times has provided a list of examples. We can consult this list to learn how to effectively name-call—how to break the bones of our enemies, or even the ones who’ve legitimately called out something wrong we’ve done or said. After all, in our new world, we must get them back!

Here are a few examples of slams and slurs to draw from as we go about our days:

Low-energy Jeb Bush. Lyin’ Ted. Little Marco. Liddle Bob Corker—incompetent, couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee. Leakin’ James Comey—a leaker! Sloppy Steve Bannon. Cryin’ Chuck Schumer. Dummy John McCain—has done nothing! Total Dud John Kasich. Sleazy Adam Schiff. Al Frankenstein. Failed Presidential Candidate Lindsey Graham—I ran him out of the race like a little boy. Kooky Roberts. Pocahontas. So Totally Biased Shep Smith. Dope Brit Hume. FoxNews Flunky Charles Krauthammer. Unelectable Jeff Flake—toxic, weak, sad. Little Rocket Man. Hillary-flunky Meryl Streep—one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood. Ruth Bader Ginsburg—her mind is shot. Really Sad Mitt Romney—a total joke. Low-Life Lisa Belkin. Dumb as a Rock Mika Brzezinski. Very Weak Paul Ryan.

Here’s a link to 421 people, places, and things our president has insulted on Twitter—a complete and ongoing list. Thousands of slams and slurs! This is our brave new world and our newly molded Christian mindset.

Nobody’s perfect. We’re all guilty of something. We’ve all sinned. We’ve all done this maybe a little. I did in my teen days and lived to regret it. But this list . . . this seems like an awful lot of name-calling.