Beauty Queens

People use what they have. I first heard this statement while listening to a conversation about an extraordinarily handsome young man who had landed a lucrative modeling contract. Naturally, there were a couple of people who just had to make catty, disparaging remarks, mainly about how it was a good thing he had looks because he had nothing else behind those pretty blue eyes. He was “eye candy,” just not too sharp. That’s when Marsha remarked that everyone uses what he has.

I thought of Marsha’s comment last week when reading a letter to the editor in the local newspaper. The writer was protesting an earlier article that had made unkind and degrading remarks about beauty queens. Why, she wondered, was it okay for male sports figures to get their girlfriends pregnant, experiment with drugs, act promiscuously, get drunk, and so forth, but a girl using her beauty and talents to secure scholarships and to represent her state or nation was mocked or ridiculed?

The controversy made me think of Queen Esther. If not for her beauty in besotting the king, her people the Jews would have all been destroyed. In fact, she became queen primarily because of her looks when she entered what amounts to a beauty contest, and the king ended up loving her above all the other women. She was brave, gutsy, and loyal to her people, but it was her physical attractiveness that initially won the king’s heart.  

 One of my favorite lines is at the end of verse 14 in Chapter 4 when Mordecai asked her, “…who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Who knows but that golfers, teachers, taxi drivers, beauty queens, accountants, and football players are all in the “kingdom for such a time as this?” People should all use what they have whether it be brawn, brains, or beauty

Sunflower Lesson

Everything in nature can teach us a lesson…or remind us of one that we’ve temporarily forgotten. Sunflowers, for instance, have reminded me that nothing happens before its (as in possessive sense for those of you who might be correcting my pronouns) time and that you just have to trust the process.

I planted sunflower seeds a couple of months ago and have been checking my little flower bed for signs of their mammoth beauty every day since.  At first, I thought they were weeds, and my husband concurred. Still, they didn’t look quite look like our numerous other weeds so we left them alone. Soon, they grew taller and taller, and before long, we could see that indeed these were sunflower plants. Within a couple of weeks (no exaggeration), they went from being about two feet tall to being two feet ABOVE the window ledge.

Yet, there was a problem of sorts. No flowers. I could tell that something was about to happen because I could see some thin yellow strips deep within the green head at the top of the plant. Everyday it opened just a little more, and the yellow strips got wider, but nothing else happened. Then Saturday, I walked out and Voila…there was a flower. It wasn’t open, meaning that the yellow petals were still tight against the plant head, but I see could evidence of an emerging flower; it was awesome.

Last night a quick peek at the progress of the emerging petals both surprised and pleased us. Within the course of a day, more than half of the petals had turned out, and the flower actually looked like a sunflower, a big one.  Impatient me, I wanted to see the whole thing opened up, so I touched a petal and gently tugged on it. Nothing happened. There was no prizing that pretty petal outwards until it was ready. I could’ve pulled harder, but my efforts would no doubt have resulted in a torn petal.

This morning before leaving work, I took a quick glance at my tall friends, and two of them were fully opened. I laughed aloud. It was almost as if they were kidding around with me. The sun wasn’t even that bright yet, and yet there they were: yellow and full and beautiful indeed.

I’m still incredulous at these miraculous flowers. Just like us, when the time is ready, they bloom. Water, fertilizer, and gentle coaxing might help, but they develop on their own time schedule, not ours. Pushing, pulling, and forcing don’t work for sunflowers, and they don’t work for people either.

Summer Symphony

Tonight my husband called me outside for a moment. Dutiful wife that I am, I came when beckoned, and after staring at each other for a few seconds, I asked, “Wassup?”

“Don’t you hear it?” he asked.

“You mean the bugs?”

“Yes, all those bug sounds. Don’t you think that’s neat?”

Actually, I do.

I don’t know how it is in Minnesota or Montana, but here in South Carolina, the days are getting noisier and noisier. The nights too. Morning, noon, and night, the constant din of the cicadas can be quite annoying. I say “can be” because I actually find it a bit amusing. If you’ve once heard the incessant droning, whirring sound, it’s unmistakable when you hear it again. If you haven’t, then it’s indescribable. Just imagine what I call “night sounds,” those of crickets and frogs and “bugs” that go on all the time, magnify them dozens of times, and make them last all day. Then you’ll begin to imagine the constant cacophony of sound that these insects make.

There’s virtually no escaping the summer symphony. As I’m sitting inside the house with a t.v. on in another room and the air conditioner running full blast in this one, I can STILL HEAR THEIR ROAR.  Incidentally, I recently learned that the males are the ones making the ruckus; the voiceless females are busy doing something else. But get this, her ears are attuned to hear only the male’s song, and that’s it. Neither sirens, shotgun blasts, nor screaming banshees would be heard…just the male’s music.

Ah, the South in the summertime. I’m going to miss these little noise makers soon.

Big Day

carrie-and-braden.jpgBraden, my grandson, officially began preschool this week. As a four-year-old big brother to Brooke and Emma, he’s the trailblazer, the new scholar in the house. Reading my daughter’s blog about the first week, especially the first day, has brought so many memories to mind. I well recall his mother’s first few days of kindergarten, especially the day when her principal informed me that my daughter couldn’t get through life on a pretty smile! Annoyed at her audacity, I remained calm and smiled sweetly. That pretty smile has opened a lot of doors and warmed many hearts. But I digress.

Twenty-seven years later, Carrie’s oldest began preschool on Monday, and I think his parents’ preparation is paying off. I’m copying and pasting the first day events from Carrie’s blog to this one. Enjoy.

     “Today was definitely one of adventure; I am not even sure where to start. I guess I will just start from the beginning, Braden’s first day of preschool. Braden woke all of us up at 6:30 this morning exclaiming it was “school day.” Within an hour, he had eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, brushed his teeth, put on his backpack, and was ready to walk out of the door. Of course, not all of the family was ready, so he then went around the house telling all of us to hurry up (he also told me what he thought I should wear). Rich had arranged to go in late to work, so he could be there to take Braden on his first day; he didn’t tell the rest of the family until this morning though, so it was a nice surprise! We of course also had to take pictures on the first day; Braden made sure that Emma was included in the action. We then all loaded up into the van and headed to his school. Braden did a great job this morning; I wondered if he would be clingy or not, but I guess all the preparation work we had done worked. After getting him settled and helping him go through the morning routine: find your spot with your name, put it on the dog, give your folder to the teacher, hang up your backpack, and pick a center, we each hugged and kissed him and left as he played in the center of his choice, home living (they called it housekeeping when I grew up).

 

Marjorie Ann

Last night Debbie W. and I dined on tacos and burritos and talked about our mothers. That seemed a natural thing to do since we were celebrating our birthdays, and these fine ladies brought us into the world. Debbie’s in the position of being able to care for and spend time with her mother, and she realizes her good fortune. Her words: “Not many people get to take care of their mothers, and I’m going to savor every minute of it for as long as I have her with me.”

As the seventh anniversary of my mother’s death approaches, I find myself thinking of her more as the years go by rather than less. Crazy, huh? I envy (but not in a resentful way) Debbie’s daily contact and conversation with her mother, and this morning I find myself thinking of what I’d say to Margie if she were here. I’d  like to ask her what to wear to a wedding that I have to attend in three weeks, what she thinks about Paul’s lovely girlfriend, and how she likes my enormous sunflowers. And about that wedding, since she knows the mother of the bride, she’d remind me to say hello to “Little Ella,” her term of endearment for my friend.

More importantly, no one but my mother would appreciate the delightful beings that my children have become. She and my father both had “their finger on the pulse” in that they knew my children’s strengths, attributes, shortcomings, dispositions, traits, and abilities, and we were able to chat about any and everything related to them. This, incidentally, was true of all of her grandchildren, for she loved them all.

With Braden, her great grandson, beginning four-year preschool this week, I’d LOVE to talk to Mama about his being such a big boy and about his mother Carrie. She was once just a little preschooler herself, and my mother would not only remember that, but she would also listen to me prattle about it and then add her own memories. A phrase she often used was “get a charge,” and I know she’d “get a charge” out of Brooke’s fireball personality and her desire to go to school with Braden. And Emma? She’d melt Mama’s heart just the way Carrie did 32 years ago.

What a gal! And how fortunate I am to have had such a mother.

Palm Trees

snowy-palm.jpg

I read and responded to a post about palm trees yesterday, and it prompted me to blog a little something about these super trees on my own blog. It’s the state tree of this great Palmetto State, South Carolina. Then there’s the fact that there are so many types of them…sago palms, fan palms, windmill palms, needle palms, date palms, and so forth. Although I think of them as being tropical trees, I’ve learned that many of them are surprisingly hardy.

But I digress. The main thing I wanted to write about is how tough these lovely trees are, at least the ones I’m acquainted with. Having lived on SC’s coast for nearly three decades, I’ve seen my fair share of hurricanes. For several years we lived on the first fairway of a golf course, and on more than one occasion we saw tall pines simply snap and break when hurricane force winds gusted through. I, like you, have seen dozens of images of wind and rain wreaking horrific damage and devastation in coastal areas. Remember Hurricane Katrina in which houses, churches, buildings, and so forth were utterly destroyed?

But what about the palms? I’m not saying that they can withstand any and everything. I am saying that the ones I’m familiar with sway and bend and “go with it.” Regardless of the severity of the weather, they usually don’t break and are not uprooted. One year we had quite a heavy snow in Myrtle Beach, and when I looked out of the kitchen window, I saw one of my pretty palms covered in snow. Did it survive? You bet! In fact, it seemed to grow larger after that blanketing of snow.

I’m thinking we could take lessons from these trees. If we could bend and not break, sway with our problems, and ride out the storms, we’d be more able to survive whatever life throws our way.