Sunday, November 13, 2011

O.K. Corral

My husband likes to stretch a dollar. Some might even call him cheap or a tightwad.  For instance, when we travel, he likes to shop around for “budget” hotels.  Before a trip, he’ll get those hotel coupon magazines that you see in all the truck stops and scour them for amazing deals.  

He’s managed to traumatized all of our children with creepy hotels.  For instance there was the time when we were walking into a hotel and Lulu innocently asked here father why the two men were sitting on the curb drinking out of brown paper bags and he replied, “I’m sure they are very nice men.”  
Then there was the time when I was fast asleep but had this strange sensation that someone was staring at me.  I opened one eye to see Jennifer, Katie and Lulu standing over me all staring at my forehead.  Jennifer yelled, “Don’t move mom!”  
I ask you, what does one do when three children are standing over you while you’re sleeping and then one of them shouts, “Don’t move mom!”  
I didn’t just move, I screamed, bolted out of the bed and ran out of the room butt naked!
Apparently there was a cockroach the size of Godzilla crawling over my face and the girls were trying to figure out how to kill it without waking me!  
That wasn’t our only “critter” experience.  There was the close encounter with the rat running across the bed and some other incidents that were so traumatizing I think I’ve blocked them from memory.  But, there is one hotel hellhole that trumps all the others by far.  Let me say that I have not embellished this story one iota.  It is told exactly as it happened.
About five years ago, Bill was playing on a men’s tennis team and they made it to the finals which were being played on Longboat Key island about three hours from our house. Bill told me not to worry about a thing because he booked us a room at the “Cadillac Hotel”.  The Cadillac hotel sounded like a nice place to me.  Besides, it was on a resort island so I figured it had to be fine.  
What Bill failed to tell me was that the hotel wasn’t actually “on” the island.  It was “close” to the island.  The rest of the team and their wives (with the exception of one single guy) were staying “on” the island close to where the tournament was taking place.  
As we were getting close to the resort island, Bill handed me the page he tore from one of his coupon books.  
“You didn’t tell me the Cadillac Hotel was in the coupon book.”  I said as my red alert radar began to kick in.
“Oh, didn’t I?” He replied innocently.  “Just tell me the address.” 
I looked at torn page and found the postage stamp ad for the Cadillac hotel in the bottom left corner.   
“I need a magnifying glass to read this!” I complained.  I got out my high powered reading glasses.
“Oh, here’s the address under the beautiful picture of the concrete pool.”  I said as the sarcasm oozed from my voice, “1117 MLK Boulevard.”  
“Look, we’re only staying one night and Joe’s staying there too.”  He said as he turned off the road leading to the island and headed for downtown.
“That’s supposed to make me feel better!”  I retorted.  “Joe is so cheap he usually sleeps in the back of his truck in the hotel parking lots!”
“Well,” Bill said, “Aren’t we getting hoity-toity! Have you forgotten that we used to do the same thing when we were first married.”
Okay, maybe we did throw the mattress in the back of the pickup and stay in the Holiday Inn parking lot a few times, but that’s when we were broke and it was sort of romantic back then.  Now, we could afford to stay in a half way decent place, but I was tired and there were no other hotels in the area since this was the main tourist season.  So, I gave in and we found the Cadillac hotel in a rundown section of town just across the street from the Salvation Army thrift store (I don’t believe that was just a “coincidence”).  I’d be willing to bet that Bill did a google search for hotels within five miles of thrift stores.  We hardly checked in and he was out the door and on his way across the street.   
While he was gone, I decided to check out the concrete pool.  It was concrete alright - and empty!  I returned to the room and turned on the air conditioner which was loud enough to wake the dead. Things started looking up when I discovered that the t.v. worked, and even got four channels.  The highlight of the Cadillac hotel was the refrigerator in each room.  Our refrigerator even came stocked - with leftover Chinese food and half a beer.  
“It doesn’t get any better than this!” I said pointing the leftovers as Bill returned from his Salvation Army jaunt.  
“Look, let’s just sleep here tonight and we’ll find a different place in the morning.”  He said as he covered the bed with a blanket from our car.  
Luckily, Bill and I had brought our own pillows, so we slept fully clothed on top of the blanket from our car.  Surprisingly, we both slept soundly through the night.  I don’t know if it was the loud drone of the air conditioner or the mental exhaustion, but not even the sounds of the gunfight woke us up!
So, the next morning I woke up early and decided to take a stroll down MLK Blvd., but my walk was cut short when I opened my door to the crime scene tape stretched around the corner room of the Cadillac hotel.  
What in God’s name...

My eyes took in the scene.  I kid you not - sticking out of the corner room of the Cadillac hotel beyond the crime scene tape was a mangled Cadillac!  
We learned from the hotel clerk that, sometime during the night, the person who was involved in the high speed police chase down MLK Blvd. decided the check his Caddy into the Cadillac hotel and proceed on foot behind the hotel (right behind our room).  A gun fight ensued and the wounded perp tried to run back to his caddy (which would explain the blood stains all over the parking lot) apparently to try and make his getaway but the car wasn’t budging from its room and the guy was subsequently arrested.  
“So, will you be staying with us another night?” The clerk asked as we stood at the counter.  
“No.” I replied as I handed him my keys, “My husband booked us a room at the O.K. Corral for tonight.”  

Thursday, November 3, 2011


My daughter, Jennifer, teaches first graders.  I have the privilege of volunteering in her class whenever I can.  The first time I went into Jennifer’s class, she introduced me as her mother.  Of course, in the world of six-year-olds, teachers don’t have mothers.  They don’t have husbands or families and they live at school.  
Once they got over the shock of the realization that their teacher was a mere mortal with a mother and everything, they soon discovered that I held extraordinary power since I was the source of great knowledge about Jennifer.  This fact immediately elevated me to star status.  
The first time I met the group, they were all seated on the floor listening to Jennifer read a story.  Jennifer introduced me and I joined them.  The story officially ended when I pulled up my chair and they all began at once asking questions.  
“Are you Mrs. “P’s” mommy?”  “How old are you?”  “Was she a little girl?”  “When did she grow up?”  “Do you live at school too?”  “Where does Mrs. “P” sleep?”  “Are you a grandma because you look like a grandma?”  
“OKAY, that’s enough!”  I yelled.  (Well not really, but the grandma question was a bit over the top!)  
I told the children that they could each ask one question about Mrs. “P”.  We started with Jimmy who said, “I have a mommy too, and a dog named Stubs.”  
“That’s a statement, Jimmy.”  Jennifer said patiently, “Remember that we talked about what questions sound like.  Questions start with words like; who, what, where or when.  Why don’t you try again?”
“When I went home yesterday, stubs wet the floor.”  Jimmy said.
“Good try, Jimmy.”  Jennifer said, “Who has a ‘question’ to ask?”
Kinsley raised her hand.  “Mrs. ‘P’ is pretty, but you have those things on your eyes that make you look like a grandma but that’s okay because you’re old.”  
“Kinsley,” I said through clenched teeth, “I don’t think that was a question.”  
“Let’s try this again.”  Jennifer said quickly, “Who has a question?”
A shy little tow-headed boy in the back of the group barely raised his hand.  Jennifer cautiously called on him.  “Ryan, what is your question?”
“Your mommy is old, but you’re not.”  Ryan STATED.
“Well,” I said to the enthralled group.  “I think question time is over.”
Jennifer timidly asked me if I was staying to help after the question and answer segment.  
“Honestly, Jennifer,” I replied, “Do you really think that those ‘questions’ fazed me!”  
Then I felt a tugging on my blouse and I looked down to see a toothless child grinning up at me.  
“What do you need honey?” I asked.
“I have a question.”  She replied.  “Do you take your teeth out at night?”
“That’s it!”  I said to Jennifer, “I’m outta here!”  
Okay, maybe I stayed for a little while after that.  Actually, I stayed for a few hours and I even went back.  The thing about first graders is, you gotta love their honesty!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hallelujah Acres

“To Dream the Impossible Dream” is my theme song.  I have a big audacious dream that has been a part of shaping my entire life - even when I didn’t realize it. What I thought were roadblocks or detours in my life’s map were not that at all.  They were God’s way of leading me to the place where my dream is within reach and, yet, I hesitate to step out of the dream catcher and into the dream light.  
The dream catcher snares the dream and incubates it.  Then, finally, in the dream light, there is joy.   Sometimes I wonder which will I choose: the catcher or the light?  There are people waiting for my dream to birth itself.  Now, the labor pains are seconds apart, and yet, I hesitate.  I’m leaving the safety of the catcher’s net and moving into the joy of the light - almost there.  I can almost touch it, taste it, believe it, give birth to it...and yet I hesitate.  
My dream started when I was eight and I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit telling me that I was destined to do something great.  I didn’t know what or how or when or why, I just knew.  I spent my whole life asking God, “What is it? What do I have to do?”  
Then, one day God answered.  “It is in the living that you are doing.  You are living the destiny I have planned for you.  Everyday is my gift to you and you must let people see Me through you.”  
Suddenly, I knew in my heart that God’s plan for my life doesn’t diminish my dream, it adds to it.  There are seasons in our lives when we must rest and then there are seasons in which we must act.  I know in my heart that it is time for me to harvest my dream.  
In the story of Rudolf the red nosed reindeer, he went to the island of misfit toys where he found refuge among the throwaway toys that no one wanted.  My dream is to take the throwaway misfits in our society and give them a place of their own.
I have a dream to provide a safe refuge where they will be loved and accepted and nourished; a place where they will flourish and grow and be.  Where they can just be.  Where no one says that they have to be anyone or anything that they are not.  Just as you are...come just as you are for this is where comfort and joy live. 
I have a dream that one day the broken misfits can come join with this broken misfit and together we will color our world with happiness.  We will color it smiling green, happy brown, splendid pink and rejoicing yellow.  Together, we will make the joy grow until is overflows into the world and people will see with new eyes.  They won’t pity the broken misfits.  (Frankly, aren’t we all broken misfits?) No, they will see productive citizens who cherish their work and produce lovely joy.
You see, joy comes in all flavors and is possible in all circumstances because it comes from within.  I know these misfits and I love their pure joy.  I want them to come and help me fulfill my dream.  I want them to come to the farm and grow with me.  I want them to come to the safety of a place where acceptance reigns.
The outside world sees misfits.  I see fits.  They fit here.  They will make my world complete.  I need them as much as they need me.  So, I will build my dream; my farm;  my “Hallelujah Acres” where God’s ways are my ways.  I have asked God to take over the reigns and guide me out of the dream catcher and into the dream light.   At Hallelujah Acres, hallelujah will be our motto because we will find joy in praising Him through our work.  
The world will come to know the contagious joy that will flourish at Hallelujah Acres.   We will amaze you because God will be showing up here every day!  
I have a dream.  I have a prayer.  I pray that, if it is God’s will, he will reach down his mighty hand and take over my simple dream and grow it into an audacious, outrageous dream that glorifies His work.  Even the misfits are His work.  I believe they are His best work and I believe He wants to use me to show the world how beautiful they are.  This is Hallelujah Acres where everyday is a hallelujah day!