back to normal

hurricane-michaelWhat a week! Hurricane Michael moved through swiftly on Wednesday, leaving a wide swath of destruction. We ended up being on the edge of it, and even without a direct hit, ninety percent of Tallahassee lost power. Trees, power poles, and light poles were (and still are) down all over. We lost cell service for a time. Many roads are still closed.

Panama City and Mexico Beach, along with communities north, were destroyed. Folks there have a long road to recovery ahead, and I can only imagine their suffering.

Our power was restored just after midnight Saturday morning, and we’re already back to normal. We had to throw away everything in our refrigerator and freezer, and we went to the grocery store (Publix rocks!) today to restock. I’ve caught up on laundry, and Paul has the yard whipped back into shape. We had no damage to our house at all, and we continue to remind each other that we have so many reasons to be grateful. Truly, all we experienced were some minor inconveniences.

My parents, in nearby Cairo, Georgia, still don’t have power. Their town was hit pretty hard, and they may not have electricity restored to their neighborhood for days. Their local officials haven’t been forthcoming with information, either, which only adds to the frustration.

As we woke up Thursday morning and realized the extent of the damage, I would not have predicted that I’d be sitting here on Sunday evening, with television on, laptop fully charged, and the refrigerator and air-conditioner humming. Many have been working around the clock to make that possible, and I am thankful! And truthfully, I don’t know why that’s our situation, when that’s not the case for so many.

Life is hard, and it’s harder for some than others. It’s really hard for many in the Florida panhandle and southwest Georgia right now. Would you take some time and pray? And give if you’re able to organizations that are helping? If you’re in this part of the country, churches and other organizations are mobilizing to get in there and help just as soon as they’re allowed in. When I hear about good places to donate, I will pass that along.

Grateful, grateful, grateful!

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hurricane day

We don’t get snow days in these parts very often; more often than not, a mandatory day off is caused by a hurricane. Today’s one of those days. Right now we have electricity, but the rain is picking up, and our satellite is going in and out. I cooked us a good breakfast, took a hot shower, and am on my third cup of coffee just in case those opportunities get scarce later as Hurricane Michael moves our way.

I’m planning to read and knit, and I’m glad the worst of it is expected during daytime hours. When they come through at night, I don’t sleep.

Praying everyone stays safe!

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random thoughts

~ I’m so glad today is game day. I do not want to see or read about or think about politics.

~ Fall? It’s endless summer in these parts. But today I’m going to get out my fall decorations, watch football, and pretend that I don’t live in Florida. I kind of want to cook a pot of chili

~ Last weekend we went to the loveliest village on the plains, and MAN, I love that place.

toomers-corner

It was so very hot.

war-eagle-wall

jordan-hare

~ I got to meet a long time blog, Facebook, and Instagram friend in person! It was so good to meet Ellen. And then I met Van and John from AU Wishbone, my favorite Auburn football podcast. I met Auburn Elvis, too. ūüôā

~ Any of y’all have DirecTV? Their new interface is SO bad. Shows are missing from the recordings list in the living room, so I have to watch in the bedroom. So stupid.

~ I’m on my 50th book this year. So many good books!

~ There’s a stretch of wildflowers in the median between Thomasville, Georgia, and Tallahassee, Florida, that is stunning. But there’s a no cell phone while driving law in Georgia, so I can’t take a photo on my commute. Trust me. It’s gorgeous.

Happy Saturday y’all!

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“…we have to keep choosing each other.”

love-and-ruinFrom Paula McLain’s Love and Ruin:

“We can’t lose sight of what really matters,” I told him, easing against his neck and shoulder and kissing him there.

“Hmm?” he asked sleepily. “We won’t.”

“I mean it, Rabbit. Even when other things come in loud, we have to keep choosing each other. That’s marriage. You can’t only say the words once and think they’ll stick. You have to say them over and over, and then live them out with all you’ve got.”

 

on sleep, or the lack thereof

pillowI’ve mentioned before that I periodically battle insomnia. I’m in one of those battles now, and it’s as maddening as it’s ever been. I go to sleep with no problem, but lately I’ve been waking up between 2 and 3. I look at the clock, breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not time to get up, but then my brain turns on and I can’t turn it off.

I start thinking about concerns I have, and because everything is worse in the dark of night, I begin to borrow trouble, worrying, imagining worst case scenarios, composing to-do lists in my head, and then pretty soon I’m tossing and turning and deep in full-blown anxiety. When I realize this, I pray, confess my unbelief (Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!), and sing hymns in my head. Then, all of a sudden I’m back in the cycle. Rinse and repeat.

So not only am I missing hours of sleep that I need, I’m doing some seriously exhausting battle during those hours.

All the while, Paul snores beside me. God bless him. (I recently came across this line in Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair: “She was a good sleeper, and I took even her power to sleep as an added offense.” One of the things I have to battle in the night is jealousy!)

I don’t know a solution except to accept that this is a season, because this cycle comes and goes. As I said, the issue isn’t falling asleep. That’s no problem. It’s the staying asleep that eludes me. I’ve tried melatonin, and it gives me weird dreams and no improvement in sleep. I’ve tried serious sleeping pills like Lunesta, and while they’ve helped me sleep, that one gives me the worst metallic taste in my mouth the next day. And the last thing I need is a drug habit, so I’ve avoided taking that kind of thing for the past few years. Benadryl doesn’t give me more than 4 good hours of sleep, and, well, that doesn’t cut it. I’ve tried all kinds of little tricks and techniques. Yet…I toss and turn. Perhaps the most effective thing is just to get up and go into the living room to read. At least that’s productive and far less discouraging than checking the clock and fretting about the hard day to come.

I guess there’s no real reason to share all of this except to say that if you’re tossing and turning, you’re not alone. Maybe we could pray for each other. And if you’re a sound sleeper, yay you! Thank God for it!

Groggily,

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“He didn’t know the subject matter?”

sun-does-shineFrom The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton:

“Judge,” my attorney began, “let me make aware to the court that Mr. Hinton has requested the opportunity to testify. I have no particular idea of the subject matter of testimony, so there’s no way of questioning him. I don’t see how it could make any difference if he just testifies.”

He didn’t know the subject matter? The subject matter was this court just convicted me of two cold-blooded murders without any evidence. The subject matter is my attorney just let them find me guilty of two capital offenses based on a third attempted murder that happened while I was at work. The subject matter was my attorney hired a ballistics expert who could hardly see and who was crucified on the stand. The subject matter was the State of Alabama wanted to strap me to Yellow Mama and murder me for crimes I didn’t commit. The subject matter was somebody was trying to kill me and I was fighting for my life. That was the subject matter.

5 stars

sun-does-shine2018 has been a very good reading year for me, and I can recommend several books to you, depending on your tastes and interests. But I finished one last night that I want everyone I know to read. I can say that about two books I’ve read this year, actually: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, which I’ve already mentioned here before and now¬†The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton (Bryan Stevenson wrote the foreword and plays a major part in Hinton’s story.)

Ray Hinton’s story of being convicted of a crime he did not commit and incarcerated on death row for almost thirty (THIRTY!) years is all at once heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and blood-boiling — yet it somehow manages to be hopeful and encouraging. It helps that Ray is just plain likeable, a regular guy in Alabama who loves his mama and good food and football but was treated with monstrous injustice by the State of Alabama. (I hate to lump all of the individuals who did him harm into that innocuous “State” term.) It is maddening to read about how the system does not work for poor black people like it does for those who can afford good representation.

I so badly want to believe that governments can be trusted, that people in power are acting according to the law, doing their duty. This ISTJ¬†wants to believe that rules are followed. But they’re not. People and systems can be corrupt and lazy. And, after all, we’re born with that bent:

total-depravity

Ray Hinton was wrongly convicted in 1985 and finally set free in 2015. I was a junior in high school in 1985, and between then and 2015, I went to Auburn, met my husband, had two children, lived all over the world, got divorced, and started a whole new life with Paul. So for just about my entire adult life, Ray was sitting in a tiny cell in Alabama, his freedom stolen from him by people who were dishonest, incompetent, selfish, racist, and just plain evil.

[Hinton’s book, along with Just Mercy, has me re-thinking some things related to the death penalty. Hinton believes that capital punishment equals murder, but I don’t agree. When the state takes the life of a person who has taken a life, I don’t believe it is the same thing as murder. But if the person is innocent? And has not been tried fairly? Well, that is murder.]

Here’s a little glimpse of Ray Hinton, in the early years of his imprisonment:

No one can understand what freedom means until they don’t have it. It’s like being wrapped in a straightjacket all day every day. You can’t make a choice about how to live. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have a choice to make–any choice. I think I’ll go for a walk rather than go to bed right now. I think I’ll have chicken for dinner. I think I’d like to take a drive and just see where I end up. I didn’t begrudge Lester [Ray’s best friend] his life and his choices. I was happy for him. I wanted nothing more than for him to be happy. I would be sorry to miss the wedding and sad not to be able to stand next to him and be his best man. I had to get out of this place. I thought about the children I would never have if I didn’t get off death row. I wanted a son. I wanted to play baseball with a son someday. And basketball. I wanted to take him to Auburn games so he knew there was only one team in Alabama that mattered. I wanted to show him the woods, and the river, and the quiet beauty of a night spent in the country. I wanted to show him how to fish and teach him how to drive. I wanted to show him that anything was possible in this world if you only had faith.

My breath caught and I stopped pacing.

Faith. How could I teach anyone about faith when I didn’t have it?

“Oh God. Help me, God…”

(You know right where I smiled in that first paragraph, don’t you?)

And I have to share this bit from when Ray asked the warden for permission to start a book club on death row:

“Look,” I said. “These guys need something to focus on besides what the guards are doing and not doing for them. Besides the heat. Besides the fact that our food tastes like dirt. You know? It’s a way to keep the peace. A book club will help things stay more peaceful.”

He nodded.

“You can’t have guys spending twenty-three hours a day thinking about death. It makes them crazy. And when people go crazy, who know what they’ll do.” It may have been a bit much, but it was the truth. I wanted him to believe that if we had books on the row, it would keep the inmates quiet. But really I knew that it would set them free. If the guys had books, they could travel the world. They would get smarter and freer. There was a reason back in the slave days the plantation owners didn’t want their slaves to learn to read. Charlie Jones [the warden] probably had family who once owned my family, but I wasn’t going to bring that up. I wasn’t going to show him anything but how a book club would keep the peace.

He got his book club, at least for a little while.

I’ve gone on long enough here, so I’ll just say one more time: Please read this book.¬†Both ¬†Just Mercy¬†and¬†The Sun Does Shine were loaned to me (Thanks, CK!), but I’m going to get my own copies. If you do read them, let me know what you think.

summer reading

This summer is a blur of heat, humidity, endless thunderstorms, and lots of reading. Here’s what I finished:

JUNE

  1. The Dinner – Herman Koch
  2. Rainbirds – Clarissa Goenawan
  3. The Relationship Cure – John M. Gotten
  4. The Lake House – Kate Morton
  5. The Lola Quartet – Emily St. John Mandel
  6. Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

JULY

  1. Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
  2. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry – Jon Ronson
  3. This Is How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel
  4. Sunburn – Laura Lippman
  5. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson

AUGUST

  1. My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
  2. Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like If We Cared About Results – Robern D. Lupton
  3. Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America – Michael Ruhlman
  4. Visible Empire – Hannah Pittard
  5. The Supper of the Lamb – Robert Farrar Capon
  6. The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
  7. Off Season – Anne Rivers Siddons
  8. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street – Karina Yan Glaser
  9. Snap Judgment (Samantha Brinkman Book 3) – Marcia Clark
  10. The Widows of Malabar Hill – Sujata Massey

This is more reading that I’d planned or expected, and I believe it all happened because:

  • I tend to take a hiatus from knitting in the summer.
  • Our internet was messed up a lot this summer, and I gave up trying to connect to Netflix
  • No knitting or Netflix? Then I’m reading!

My favorites?

What about you? What did you read? What are your favorites?

4

seasideFour years ago today, Paul and I were married. [Insert the time flies clich√© here.] Seriously, it’s really hard to believe it’s been four years because this is my life now and that other life feels so very far away. Life is funny, y’all, and I know that’s not the first time I’ve said that here. ¬†I could never have predicted the twists and turns in the story God has written for me. But you know what? He’s the best Author!

Without divine intervention, our paths would never have crossed. But a friend of his mentioned something to a friend of my mom’s and then we went on a blind date (my first and last!) and here we are.

This is the second marriage for both of us, and as the pastor who married us counseled, that can actually be a real blessing. We know some pitfalls and are alert in ways we might not have been the first time around. It’s also a challenge because we married as adults in our 40s and 50s, “set” in our ways, with very different backgrounds and experiences. We’ve had to figure some things out as we learn how to live with each other and our histories.

But as we’ve traveled this path for these four years, this man has taken my hands nearly every morning and prayed for us, our marriage, our families, and others we know who need prayer. He thanks God for me and us. (He learned to pray about everything from his mom, and I really wish I could have met her – I will one day!).

I’m grateful.

God is good, and that’s not just some trite little phrase trotted out on a special occasion.

He is really good and faithful in ways that astound me.

Grateful and surprised and content,

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