Junk and Passion Don’t Always Mix

Scan 3It wasn’t our finest moment. But truth be told, we had quite a few like it.

I could go into all the details. How Tim always wanted to build his own house. How it had to be on some land out in the country. How I let him talk me, and our preteen kids, into helping him do it. But that’s a story for another time.

But we did pursue his dream. And toward the end, we had a challenging piece of sheetrock that needed to be hung. Only it was on the ceiling, three stories up, over an open stairwell, at an angle, against a large support beam.

For days, I’d seen Tim’s mind struggle to figure out how the four of us could balance on his hand made scaffold. How the kids and I could hold a 12-foot, 40lb board, while he screwed it into place.

But we gave it our best shot. Tim lectured us on his strategy. The four of us teetered on six-inch boards, high above the basement floor. With creative positioning, we finally got it in place. But when Tim let go to put in the first screw, our strength gave way, and the sheetrock slid down the beam.

We regrouped and tried again. But the same thing happened. Not once, not twice, but three, four, or maybe five times. Tim’s frustration grew. About the sixth time I yelled, “I quit!”

Grateful we’d driven separate cars; I stormed out of the house and stirred up gravel as I tore down the driveway.

The kids later told me how Tim picked up that piece of sheetrock and hurled it into the wall of brick that made up our fireplace. Then he followed my footsteps, leaving our kids stranded out in the middle of nowhere.Cannon Bluff

But, you know we both came back. And we did figure out a simple plan. Tim taught Daniel, who was the smallest, to use the screw gun. Then with Tim’s strength, we held the board in place while Daniel attached it to the beam.

If you’d been there, you’d have thought we were nuts. And we probably were. Cause Tim and I were horrible at problem solving. In fact, for 38 years we did just about everything wrong you can do in a marriage.

But if you ask our children today what they saw, they will both tell you, “A love story.”

Cause sometimes passion has an ugly side. And sometimes we bring a lot of junk into a marriage. And when that junk mixes with our passion, explosions take place.

But before you call it a day, or you think you’re saving your kids from the ugly, think again. Cause sometimes, love just doesn’t make any sense.

We lived in that house for 18 years. And the whole time there was a white swatch of sheetrock embedded deep into the brick.

Now I don’t advocate letting our passions run amuck. But I also don’t advocate using them as an excuse to call it quits. Problem solving can take many paths. But the clear path should always be the one that keeps the family working together.

Daniel Cannon bluff





He Cut Up That Car

Suzuki2It sat in our yard for years. And it drove me nuts. Tim’s pension for keeping cars long after they were of any use was the source of many an argument. If it didn’t run, I wanted it gone.

But I never imagined the old Suzuki Samurai would come to its end this way. But to hear Daniel tell the story, you’d be in stitches.

That’s right, cause they cut up that car. It became a challenge to get the pieces small enough to spread them out in dumpster all over town. And all these years later, Daniel can tell you where every piece went.

“Mom, we put the transmission in the dumpster behind the 7-11 on Liberia. And the drive train went in the one behind Osbourn Park High School…”Suzuki1

I could just imagine them, laughing all the way to their next destination. Pleased with themselves for the clever way they went about making mama happy.

They had the time of their lives, and they did it their way. Now you can lecture all you want on the rights and wrongs of what they did. But on this anniversary of what would be Tim’s 62nd birthday, I’m grateful my son has such a crazy memory of his father.

And just last week, Kelly and I were talking about that ridiculous Suzuki and how Tim and Daniel chose to dispose of its parts. And she said, with tears in her eyes, “If I had it to do over again, I’d have cut it up with them.”

Sheik Tim 8-4-01“Me too Kelly, me too.”

Cause sometimes, life needs to be a little crazy. And sometimes it’s good to challenge societal pretenses. And sometimes, it’s worth it to ignor what’s considered proper.

Tim beat to his own drum. And many times, he needed to rein it in and follow some rules. But just as many times, I needed to relax and go with the flow. If for nothing else, but to create a lasting memory in the hearts of our children.

Happy Birthday Tim. You left an impression on us that I’m grateful will never go away.

So my friends, what adventure do you need to join in on? Go ahead, throw caution to the wind, and do something crazy.



Lollypops and Haircuts

1960, Al, Brian, Sheila, Ellen, JamesThey were a treat. Every time we went to Sears, Mother let us pick our own flavor. The big thick square lollypops sat in a display at the check out counter. My favorite was butterscotch. The day she took this picture, all five of us got one.

Sheila, my big sister is about six. She holds hers as she obediently smiles for the camera. Alfred, my oldest brother has his just outside his mouth, as though he took it out just to smile. I can’t see my brother Jim’s, knowing him, he didn’t even open it. He probably saved it for another day. Brian can’t be older than two. He’s got his plunged deep in his mouth. He doesn’t seem to care about the picture Mother is taking.

Me, I’ve got a sly smirk on my face. My lollypop is right our in front of me, already half eaten. I’ll finish it off as soon as Mother’s done.

That day, Sheila and I should have been punished. We decided to play “hair dresser” with Kathy, the girl across the street. With her mother’s big scissors, I whacked off Sheila’s long red ponytail. Then Kathy snipped off my blond curls. I had the throat of the scissors locked on Kathy’s ponytail when her mother walked in and gasped.

Our Mother spent the afternoon straightening the ends of our hair. When she was done, it barely covered our ears. We went to Sears afterwards. I picked my lollypop from the display.

Back home, Mother saw the humor in our haircuts. She lined us up on the stairs and took the picture. Today, it sits in my office and it still makes me laugh. It reminds me of many things, but mostly lollypops and haircuts.

But really, it’s about how my mother didn’t let a little thing rile her. How she loved the creativity of her children. How she did her best to see the good in bad situations.

This picture reminds me to laugh at trials. To stop and take a picture, and that hair always grows back.


STOP! Before You Kill Someone

flagman-190063 (1)After a long days work, I was barreling down the two-lane country road that led me home. My mind was spinning with anger over something Tim had done. All these years later, I don’t remember what it was. But I do remember the rage.

I didn’t see the flagman holding one of those Stop signs on a pole. I didn’t even notice him until he had lifted his sign, and sprinted for the shoulder. I slammed on the brakes and came to a screeching halt. The jolt catapulted me out of my fury.

We shared a few sideways glances. Then the man picked up his sign and walked right to the front of my car. Without saying a word, he glared at me and turned that sign to clearly declare the word “STOP.”

As if that wasn’t enough, he then picked it up and banged the pole into the ground, not once, not twice, but and over and over for what seemed like an hour.

Then he calmly turned the sign around to say “SLOW.” And I did slowly make my way past him.

But as I crossed the bridge over the Occoquan River, I kept thinking how my anger had taken over me. How it so distracted me that I almost took a persons life.

In the few minutes I had before reaching home, I chose to think differently. Instead of focusing on what Tim had done wrong, I began to think of some of my fondest memories of him.

I thought of the time we drove all night from Georgia back to our home in Virginia. Kelly was not yet a year old. This was before car seats, so we had put the back seat down in our old VW bug, and made her a soft bed to sleep on.

It was past midnight when we pulled into a gas station and Tim got out. After pumping gas, he opened the drivers side door and I looked over at him. Something in the back seat caught his eye, and his face melted. In a voice so tender it touched me deeply, he said, “Hey boogh, did we wake you up?”

I turned around, and the warm glow of the lights fell softly on Kelly’s chubby little face. She was sitting up, caressing her security blanket close to her chest while sucking her thumb.Tim, Kelly, and Ellen 1974

The more I thought of that moment, my heart softened, and my rage subsided. By the time I got home, whatever Tim had done wrong, was now in it’s proper perspective.

We do get to choose our thoughts. And we do get to bring them captive to the will of God. And God’s will is that we think on good things. And not the things that bring us down.

So, what track are you stuck on today? And what thoughts can you bring captive? Isn’t it time to change direction?




Before You Pour that Glass of Whine

It was a catchy title, so of course I clicked over to see why this writer was saying it sucked to be a Christian these days.

And in the article, did he tell stories of persecution, or his family being imprisoned, or perhaps, his house burned to the ground?


Let me attempt to sum up his problem – he doesn’t seem to fit in at his local church.

IMG_3450 I can’t help but contrast him with my Aunt Jeanne Marie and Uncle Eugene, who, at 89, are living out the last of their years with the same positive outlook I’ve witnessed all my life.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard either one of them complain. About aging, money, the church – well, maybe a little politics here and there, but that’s it.

Having spent most of their youth on the mission field with the Presbyterian Church, Uncle Eugene never felt led to be a pastor. So when they came back to the states, they settled in Daly City, California and Uncle Eugene entered the business world.

They didn’t spend a lot of time looking for a church to meet their needs. They did what they’d always done; they became members of the Presbyterian Church closest to their home. Aunt Jeanne Marie joined a women’s circle. She took courses in how to minister to those facing death. She served in hospitality, and visited folks in the hospital.

On my many trips to their home, I was often taken back at how my conservative aunt and uncle functioned so well within such a liberal church. But it didn’t take me long to realize, they went to serve, and not be served.

12734164_10153894649633864_11092912052327412_nI love my church. And I’d be the first to admit, it’s flawed. And if I look in the corners, I can see the hypocrisy, the fakes, and the insincere. But then, if I look in the corners of my own heart, I see those very same things in myself.

But when I focus on serving, I see my church differently. Or maybe I don’t have the time to check all those dirty corners.

So maybe the advice my friend Vonda Skelton gave me would work for this lost writer – offer grace, grace, grace.

Then shake the dust off your feet and go serve.

We’re all getting older. And at my age, I would have thought my corners would be cleaner than they are. But they’re not. So if you see them, let’s make a deal, I’ll offer you grace, grace, grace, if you’ll do the same for me.

Then we’ll all have a better perspective on the church.