Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sundays In My City

A few friends dropped in from the city today.

The neighbors walked over to see what all the commotion was.

Even Ruby Jo ran out to greet the visitors.

Mrs. McQuackers was concerned. How was she going to feed all these people?

Ruby Jo said not to worry. She was sure she could dig something up.

Iggy thought she might have some frozen food to share.

Jake and Ruby Jo discussed the possibility of serving some grain to their guests.

Lucy, Goosey and Lily thought that was the best idea...

since all the roads were too icy for Bobcat to drive to the store.

So the grain was shared and a good time was had by all.

Soon, it was time to leave so ...

Ruby Jo bid her guests farewell...until next time!

Unknown Mami

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

But the fire is so delightful

And since we've no place to go

Let it snow!

Let it snow!

Let it snow!

That's right. We are snowed in here in Oklahoma and loving every minute of it. The grandkids have trashed the house and had a great time doing it. We have watched movies, baked cookies, opened presents and eaten until we are ready to burst.

Did I mention the playing in the snow part?

Being snowed in meant everyone, even the adult kids, had to spend the night. What fun!!

Last Sunday, before the Christmas blizzard arrived, we did another Homeless run. We gave socks, stocking caps, toothbrush and toothpaste and a few little candy canes.

There were several of us working together so we were able to pool $127. We filled 30 bags and the total bill came to $126.78. Not bad for amateurs! The tough part was the number of homeless we found this time. Our measly 30 bags were gone in mere minutes and we were literally mobbed by people wanting a bag. I would estimate about 100 homeless were needing help. Very heartbreaking indeed. One woman ran up to me as I handed the last bag to someone. I promised her we would be back. Driving away as we watched so many disappointed faces was awful but thought provoking. Our next run is January 3rd and we have a plan! We will be grilling hot dogs and serving chili on one of the street corners. That's right, a BBQ in January. I like it!!

We have decided to sell the farmhouse so the home for pregnant women will have to wait ... for now. I do have one more lead I will be contacting next week just to be sure I have done all my homework. I am a bit disappointed but I know there is a season for everything.

Also, next week our oldest son Matthew, daughter-in-law Molly, Bob and I will be doing some visiting at the Veteran's Hospital before scratching #3 off The List. Matt has agreed to go in uniform to make his mother happy. Yes, I am a dork but a patriotic dork at least. Matthew is a helicopter pilot in the Army, so I am sure he will identify with these men more than Molly, Bob or I could ever hope to. Even so, I am hoping for opportunities to touch the lives of those we encounter. So until next week ...


Friday, December 18, 2009

Dear Jolly Fat Man,

I made it home. In one piece, Only two hours late. Thank you, God.

Being so thankful to be back in my own bed this morning, I thought I might need to write a letter to the jolly fat man himself.

Dear Jolly Fat Man,

   I understand you bought your plane ticket just like I did. I also understand you were probably a big boned baby and can't help the fact that you are super-sized. Being a big girl panty sized woman myself, I can't judge. Would it be ever so awful if I made just a few minor requests?
  • When your jolly, fat man buttocks take up your entire seat plus four inches of mine, would you please consider purchasing part of my seat as well? Consider it buttocks property rental.
  • When your left elbow is literally jammed into my right breast for the entire two hour trip, could you at least offer to buy me a drink? I mean, seriously, if this is going to be like a bad date, then shouldn't I at least get something out of it?
  • Sneezing. Coughing. Hand covers mouth. Get the picture?
  • Heavy breathing has it's purpose. Would you kindly not do it six inches from my ear because you are leaning on me to get a better view out of the window. The window I am jammed into. The window I paid for. The window I prayed to find a way to jump out of for two solid hours.
                   ... oh yeah, and have a Merry Christmas, Jolly Fat Man!

This Sunday is Homeless People delivery day again! Yeehaw! We are going to do something different so stay tuned. We're also working up a calendar so we have a gameplan in place. Bob is so onboard! I love doing this with my best friend.

I am also working frantically on the homeless pregnant girl idea for the farm. It's amazing how much networking I have been able to accomplish in just a few short days. Time will tell.

Finally, Monday is launch #3 from The List day. My oldest son and his family will be here then. That means my other daughter-in-law, Molly will be here. That means I have a new partner in crime!! Molly, like Amy, is one of my very favorite daughters-in-law. We think a lot alike and generally go in the same direction, at the same time, at the same speed which is full speed ahead. I can't wait for Monday.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Verklemption And Valium

I am flying home to Oklahoma tomorrow morning. I hate flying. No wait, I HATE flying. There, that is much more accurate. I love traveling and really want to see the world. I have some of the best friends ever in Holland and my family lives in Switzerland and Spain. I really, really, really want to go to Europe to see everyone except for one thing. I HATE flying! If I stress over a little flight like Florida to Oklahoma, then how am I ever going to get to Europe? How did I get off on this subject anyway?

So, I am going to be home early tomorrow evening. Home, where my best friend in the whole world will be waiting for me, along with all my silly critters that love me because I love them. Well, that and because I stuff my barn jacket pockets full of carrots and treats. I am so happy to think of seeing my girls and other grandbabies who live nearby in Oklahoma. I love home.

I have had the best time with Amy and the kids. I am getting a bit verklemped just thinking about leaving them tomorrow. Have I made it clear how very blessed I am to have such a fine daughter-in-law? Well, I am. I love this girl so much my heart aches thinking of not being with her. I am so proud of the fine little family she and my son have created together. Life is good ... but I HATE flying!

I might need a valium. Talk amongst yourselves ...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No, I am NOT Pregnant, But Thanks For Asking

We made it to The Inn yesterday. This place is completely amazing. I am not sure what I was expecting but I definitely was not expecting what I saw. I have been to crisis pregnancy centers before and have found most to be a bit disorganized, cramped and sometimes even a bit on the not so clean side. This is one of the things that has turned me off in the past; the fact that they had the same feel as many of the health clinics on the poorer sides of town. I guess, I have always felt if you are going to do something to benefit someone else, then do it the way you would want it done for you. Sorry, I think I am slipping closer to one of my tirades.

Anyway, The Inn is like a wonderful vintage bed and breakfast from the moment you pull into their driveway. In existence for the last twenty-one years, the directors, volunteers and community have really poured themselves into this place and it shows. The gardens are lovely with flowers, trees and welcoming benches. There is a screened wrap-around porch that is absolutely inviting. The house itself is more than likely an old farmhouse that now finds itself surrounded by the city and city life. The Inn is truly an oasis in the midst of the storm of life.

Once inside, what a young, pregnant woman will find are rooms tastefully decorated like a real home. There is a fireplace in the parlor and comfortable furniture. Comfortable meaning clean, newer and pleasing to the eye. I found no mismatched discards anywhere in the house. The wood floors shine as does the entire house and what greets your olfactory senses as you enter this home is just that … the smell of home. There are three bedrooms upstairs and a very large bathroom plus a sitting room. Each bedroom is set up for two women plus their babies. The cribs and bedding are beautiful and new.

The employee that took us on our tour of The Inn answered all our questions and was very eager to have Amy on board as a volunteer. She told us that they are usually full with their capacity for only six and are thrilled to have volunteers who are willing to house a girl. She also handed Amy paperwork detailing the expectations of the home. Having done this for so many years, they have seen it all and understand what works but just as importantly, what doesn’t work. Amy is ready and I can’t wait to see what God does because of her faithfulness to these young women.

Visiting The Inn got me to thinking, which usually means trouble for poor Bob. We have a big, old farmhouse. It has been rented out for the last five years however it sits empty at the moment. We are getting ready to list it for sale. Maybe. When I told Bob about The Inn and how incredible it would be to do something similar out at the farm, I am pretty sure I heard him whimper just a bit. I promised I would not do anything crazy and would let the whole idea go … and yet, here I am blogging about it. Hopefully, Bobbity is in meetings all day and won’t have time to read my silly drivel.

Just for fun … what IF we could keep the farm and use it for pregnant, homeless girls? Where would we get the money? Are there grants available and how do you write a grant, anyway? What kind of licensing would be needed? Would the community see the benefit to society from this kind of project? I have always wanted to turn the farm into a bed and breakfast someday. I love people and cooking and nurturing … all that mommy/grandma kind of stuff. I am also no fool and understand people are complex and life is not easy. Just some of my wonderings.

A final thought. If you are a man standing in line with me at Wal Mart and you feel the need to comment on pregnant women while looking at my tummy … DON’T! Yes, yesterday, was quite the eventful day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Everything Must Change

Tomorrow is wipe #2 off The List day. Go ahead, laugh. I did. Anyway, as you might recall, or not, #2 was “Contact your local crisis pregnancy center and invite a pregnant woman to live with your family.”

~ Locate local crisis pregnancy center in Jacksonville: check

~ Gather new and slightly loved baby items: check

~ Pray our husbands remember how much they love us and how incredibly wonderful we are: check

The plan is to have breakfast and then head over to the center. Amy has lots of great items to drop off and we are hoping she can connect with some people there. The thought of taking in a pregnant girl has been brought up more than once and I am pleased to say my son seems open to the idea … with some stipulations, of course. I love how much he is like his father! We also talked about how neat it would be to get some of the other Navy wives involved in this project. I can hardly wait to see where this will take Amy and maybe some others. I’ll post what happens tomorrow night.

I know I have been off-track with accomplishing one item a week from the list. Sorry and well, get over it. With all the traveling I have done this last month, I am lucky to have clean clothes to wear. I am seriously hoping to get back on the weekly game plan after the holidays. Yeah, I know, you've heard that one before.

One last thing before I head for bed. A friend of mine sent me a book to read, Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren. Even though I am only a few chapters into it, I can already feel my excitement and anticipation growing. The author really challenges the way we look at Jesus and true faith in the West. If you want to be challenged in what you believe and why you believe it, check out this book. True faith should be able to stand up to anything.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On The Road Again ...

Tomorrow morning, Amy, the kids, Miranda and I head back to Florida. Miranda and I will be there about a week before flying back home to Oklahoma. It should be a very interesting week considering how like-minded my daughter-in-law and I are. Even more interesting, we will be together without our husbands for that entire week. Can you say, “Please send bail?”

Now that we have finally completed #1 on the list, we are preparing to finish off #2 during our last week together. Amy found a great organization close to the Naval station and her home where we can hopefully connect with a pregnant gal needing a hand up. We have a bag of baby goodies to drop off if nothing else pans out at least. Then we will post #3 and the happenings that ensue. So there is the game plan anyway.

There is one last thing I wanted to say before heading off again. I so appreciate all the kind comments everyone has left on this blog. Just knowing people read the crap I write is amazing in and of itself. To receive a comment is pure sugar icing on the cake. Having said that, I must say I feel a bit ashamed when I read that people think I am good, kind, wonderful, decent and normal. I guess the truth is, I know me. I am rarely any of those things for more than a minute at a time. This isn’t meant to sound like humility from a saint. It is just the truth.

Doing this list is about learning to let God turn those good minutes into longer stretches. It’s also about making my life count after I am gone. Even if it just counts to one homeless guy, one pregnant girl or one prostitute. Doing this list is my gift to my children. Even the ones that don’t get it yet.

I have everything I don’t deserve in this life. I am so thankful that God, in His mercy, has yet to give me what I do deserve. So, that’s my story, until the next chapter is written, at least.

See you in a few days and remember, while I'm gone, "Behave, baby!"

Monday, December 7, 2009

Takes One To Know One

Remember that guy I am married to? You know, the one that has been less than pleased with The List and me doing it? The one that told me I am crazy and I will probably get mugged or worse? The one that refused to have anything to do with this whole stinking mess? Well, he has come over to the dark side.

Sunday, as the girls and I packed twenty-nine lunches to hand out to the homeless, Bob wandered in and out of the kitchen, not saying much but definitely watching. Amy and I were talking through the details and trying to figure out the best way to get the babies to their aunt's house so we could make it downtown and back in time for church. Nothing seemed to be working out as far as timing in regards to the kids. That’s when Amy looked at Bob and said, “Why don’t we just load the kids in your truck and you can follow behind us as we make the deliveries? Then we can all head to church together afterwards.”

When I heard Amy say those words to Bob, I turned to look at his face, knowing how strongly he felt about the entire thing. I knew he would never agree to go. Imagine my complete shock when I heard him say, “Yeah, ok. I can do that.” As Bob loaded the kids into their car seats, I grabbed Amy by the arm and told her we had just seen a miracle. I would have never believed my husband would go with us, not even following behind in another truck.

Once downtown, we spotted our first homeless man, sitting up against a dumpy little building. He looked cold, tired and very old, although I doubt he was even fifty. As I pulled up along the curb, Bob close behind with the kids, Amy leaned out the window and offered the man lunch. He slowly stood and walked over to the car. Taking the bag from Amy’s hand he simply said, “Thank You and God Bless You.” This scene would be played out twenty-eight more times, with each person accepting a lunch, then thanking and blessing us. It was quite humbling to say the least.

When we were down to the last five bags, we saw a group of five men with as many dogs, standing on one of the corners. I drove over to them and Amy offered the last lunches, which they quickly accepted. We had also brought small bags of dog food and offered those as well. I did not expect the response we got. One of the men, obviously the “owner” of the dogs, was absolutely teary-eyed that we had food for his pets. He took the bags from me and hugged them tightly to his chest as if he had received some great and valuable gift. My heart stuck in my throat as I felt the tears well up in my eyes.

Finished with the lunches, we drove a few blocks over to the City Rescue Mission, where we were dropping off jackets, jeans and sweaters. As I pulled into an empty space in the parking lot, Bob pulled in beside me. Jumping out of my car, I ran over to Bob’s truck to let him know I would only be a minute. As I opened his truck door, I was stunned to see my husband crying behind the wheel. I have never loved him more than at that moment.

Later that evening, as Bob and I talked and cried over the days events, I asked him two questions; Did he still think I was crazy and would he be willing to do this again sometime? He answered without hesitation,

“Yeah, I still think you're crazy but I also want our family to feed the homeless twice a month. That’s church, Marla.”

Yep, takes one to know one!

The greatest man I know holding our youngest grandson.

The infamous lunches


We realized later, bananas might have been a better choice, considering the lack of teeth we saw. Sorry Homeless People. We'll know better next time.  :-)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Humble Pie and Other Tasty Treats

I am home and yes, it's true, there is truly no place like home. Daughter-in-law Amy and the kids are here, making home even better. We will only be here a very short time though. This coming Wednesday, I will be driving back to Florida with Amy and the babies. John is gone on a training exercise with the Navy, so I am going back to help with the kids until he returns on the 18th or so. God bless these young military wives. I admire them and don't know that I could be as brave and selfless as they are.

So, as you can see, our time together in Oklahoma is going to be fast and furious meaning we have a lot to accomplish in order to keep The List moving along. Amy and I seem to come back to The List in just about every conversation we have. I like that. We are attending a Beth Moore conference today and tomorrow, so Sunday is launch day. We will be driving downtown to a well known homeless hangout. The plan is to take food to pass out and just go with the flow as far as meeting any other needs that we might be able to address. I think I will take along a handful of jackets as the weather has been brutally cold here of late. My stomach is in knots as I think about this face-to-face encounter we are preparing for. I am not scared, I am happy beyond measure that I get to do this. It does make me think about another homeless people experience, however.

The last time I saw a homeless man, dirty and disheveled, my heart went out to him. I was on my way into the convenience store he sat in front of to pay for the gasoline we had just pumped into our car. Once inside, I quickly grabbed a bag and filled it with a sandwich, chips, cookies, milk and a banana. I was so excited that I was going to get to feed this guy…read my previous posts; I have a thing about food and feeding people. Once I paid for my purchases, I went outside and smiling like a weirdo, I am sure; I walked over to Homeless Guy.

“Hi. Are you hungry?”

He looked up at me and glared. Not only did his face look less than inviting but his lack of verbal response would have told any normal person … keyword: normal … to move along. Homeless Guy was obviously not interested in food or conversation. Once again, I held the bag filled with my heart out to the smelly stranger.

“My name’s Marla. I bought this for you. Here you go!”

Homeless Guy looked at me like I was some whacko, crazy do-gooder. Wow, Homeless Guy was no dummy! He reached his filthy right hand out and quickly shoved the bag back at me.

“Eat it yourself!” he growled at me, then stood and walked away.

I was stunned. I was only trying to help. Didn’t he know I cared and I was only thinking of doing something good? I turned and walked back to our car, feeling embarrassed, stupid and a little humiliated.

As I prepare for Sunday, I am remembering Homeless Guy. Why? Because I never want to do something ever again just to make myself feel good. I realize now, that I didn’t respect Homeless Guy as a human being. I didn’t think about him as someone that had feelings and might be embarrassed, feel stupid or even a little humiliated by a whacko, crazy do-gooder trying to feel better about herself. This time, when we go into Homeless Guy’s and Gal’s community, I will remember I am an uninvited guest there. I will remember to wait to be invited in. I will remember that Homeless Guy had feelings.

One last thing. One of my sisters and I are having major communication problems right now. I don’t know how to fix this and I am not even going to try right now for fear of making things worse. One of her concerns, and from what she has told me, other’s concerns as well, is that I am doing things that will place my children and grandchildren in harm’s way. I want to make sure everyone reading this blog understands something. Anyone that would ever, in any way, try to harm one of my own, would find themselves dead before they hit the ground. That’s right, I said dead. I have no problem protecting the mini people God put in my care, the ones I am responsible for. I have never and would never put anyone, especially children, in danger. If you don’t know that, you don’t know me very well.

My sisters have said … once again … that they will never read my blog again. I respect them for showing they have good taste with that decision. On the odd chance that they accidently stumble onto the blog while Googling for strange and bizarre human behavior, I just wanted this disclaimer in writing for the peace of mind of all concerned. I do care what they think, but in their words, I just don’t listen.

So, until Sunday …