Six-Year-Olds and the Sound of Music

Tonight we had the great honor and privilege of being with friends who are like family.  We celebrated Christmas with them by being together, laughing, eating, catching up, and going to the theater together.

20131210-011429.jpg

Theatre Macon in downtown offered their performance of “Sound of Music” tonight as a gift to Daybreak, with all ticket sales going to the shelter.  What a beautiful gift!  Before the performance started, Sister from Daybreak shared that we all need to work hard but also rest hard, and she hoped it would be a good night for all of us to do just that.  To laugh, to have a song in our hearts, and to enjoy a wonderful performance.

Check.  Check.  And check.

As the nuns began singing about a problem named Maria, I was mouthing the words to our Princess.  She laughed and whispered that I was silly.  She and Cooter, our little guy, were up way past their bedtime, and this was the longest play they’ve ever been to.   With the exception of a few wiggles, they did pretty good.  And they had moments when they were totally entranced.

As did I.

The cast was brilliant.  In the wake of all the negativity of  the Artist now known as “Someone Other Than Julie Andrews” playing Maria Von Trapp last Thursday night on live television, I guess I was a little nervous.

No worries.  The stories all over about how the musical is different from the movie version prepared me for the songs and song placement that were different.  The actors and actresses knew their lines perfectly and had beautiful voices that blended well together.  I adore Julie Andrews, but y’all, I never looked back tonight.  My Daddy used to say, “When you compare, you lose.”  And I think if I had spent the entire evening comparing this to the iconic movie version I would have lost a beautiful evening of entertainment and being with folks I love.

The talent was amazing, especially considering the first timers on the stage…..and the youngest actress–a kindergartener from our very own little town down here.  Y’all.  Precious don’t get any cuter than that.

She caught my eye immediately, as I suppose she did everyone in the theater.  But I was watching closely in the second half of the play, which I suppose was very likely past her bedtime as well, and I saw two of the older girls sit on either side of her.  I would not have noticed the “dead space” at all–it was not noticeable–if I had not seen one of the “sisters” put her hand on Gretl’s leg and the other patted her gently.  She promptly asked if Fraulein Maria was coming back.  Beautiful.

In this life we all need someone “older and wiser” to sit with us and give us a nudge or a pat or a shoulder when we need it.  We need to feel safe and secure on the stage of life, when one never knows exactly what is coming next.  We might know what we think is coming, but that is the beauty and tragedy of live theater and life itself–you never really truly know.  Someone could forget a line, miss their cue to move across stage, or just not show up at all.  Tears welled in my eyes when I watched how well those young actresses worked together.  If only we would take a lesson from that.  Don’t leave the folks around us hanging out to dry–if we can help, we should.  Remind folks what they already know.  Sometimes that is all it takes to get someone back on track.

Towards the end of the play at the Salzburg Festival, Liesl had Gretl sitting in her lap.  The stage was dim and the Captain Von Trapp was singing “Edelweiss.”  I saw Gretl look up at Liesl and whisper something.  Never stepping out of character Liesl, only fifteen herself in “real life,” gently “shhhh’ed” her little sister.  When Gretl attempted to communicate again, Liesl shifted the little one who had been rubbing her eyes only moments before in her lap and shook her head gently “no.”  Well done.  Well done.  Not everyone would be able to handle a sleepy kindergartener after 10 p.m.  I was impressed.  A few minutes later little Gretl went up and tried to hand her doll to Maria as she was having a conversation at the Abbey shortly before their escape into the mountains.  I noticed a couple of the older children reach for her just as if it were all scripted.  Which it might have been.  Mix live theater with a six-year-old and who knows what you might get.

Tonight mixing it with my six-year-old led to a magical ending.  Towards the end he was also a little fidgety.  And, as luck would have it, OH MY LAND, he wound up with the squeaky seat.  Let it move a millimeter up or down and it squeaked.  I just knew everyone around us was going crazy from the sound.  I finally pulled him over in my lap, this little fella who at one point had taken off his sweater vest (our nod to show respect to the theater and the folks performing) and a little later leaned over and whispered, grinning, “I took off my boots.  My feet were too hot.”  Ah yes.  That sounds about right.  Country come to town.

But he made it.  And so did our Princess who is a wiggler from the womb.  (I actually did not believe the sonographer when he said there was only one baby in there.)  Our sweet friends also made it through, saying our littles were well-behaved, despite all the wiggles and squeaks.  (Love y’all for that.)  When it was over, our two littles were bouncing up and down–“Can we go meet the characters?  Please?!”  I looked at the crowd waiting to do just that.  And I looked at folks crossing the rows and taking the more direct route out that I so longed to follow.  Cooter and Princess remembered saying hello after “White Christmas” two years ago.  So I said yes and told the rest of our group I’d meet them outside.

So.  Worth.  It.

The talented cast of Theatre Macon's "Sound of Music" takes a bow

The talented cast of Theatre Macon’s “Sound of Music” takes a bow

Cooter wanted to meet the boy who played one of the Von Trapp sons.  They have something special in common, and he was determined to meet him and ask him a question.  Princess wanted to meet Brigitta who had blonde curls like she does.  So we waited just a couple of extra minutes and wound our way around to say hello.  I called out the boy’s name, and he turned around with a big smile.  Bless him.  And then it happened.  As I was introducing Cooter, my little baby boy stuck his hand out to meet him and say hello.  Because that’s what our people do.  Only he never has before.  Ever.  I almost started bawling right there, but Princess wanted to meet Brigitta, so I had to shove it back down and keep on moving.  I got a beautiful picture of the four of them that I will treasure forever.  For what is actually in the picture but even more for what took place moments before.

My baby boy took his first step to becoming a young man.

Somebody hold me.  Now.

I’ve watched his legs pumping so hard moving him rapidly up and down our neighborhood street on his bike.  I’ve stood amazed and entranced watching those amazing little legs, the ones that wouldn’t stretch out completely for several days after he was born.  The ones he toddled around on eventually, later than the girls had, thrilling and relieving me all at the same time.  And now, less than two months after kicking the training wheels to the curb, he’s ready for the Tour de France.  I’m not kidding.  Move over, Lance, I got a real champion on my hands here.

Or maybe an actor.  After he asked the young actor how old he was, he said thanks and goodbye, and I, being a little starstruck myself perhaps, said with a lump in my throat, “You were both wonderful.  I know you will treasure the memories from doing this for a long time.” And with that cheesy, gooeyness we walked away.  Only to hear my Princess say, “I sure will.  This was the best play ever!”  That, my friends, is just how she rolls.  As we walked down Cherry to Third and to our car, Cooter piped up, still thrilled to have met his new friend, “I wanted to know how old he is, and when he said twelve, all I could think was you are just like me!  I mean, he is, he’s just like me!”  And that’s how it all starts.  His wheels are turning for sure.

Tonight I am thankful for different ways of celebrating and giving this Christmas.  For our friends who made time to be with us tonight and gave us the gift of good company, last minute as our plans were.  I am thankful for theater companies who donate entire performance’s proceeds in an era when that could have really helped them.  I am thankful for Daybreak where I spend one afternoon a week, but where my heart is all the time.  Spending time with my family and live theater all rolled into one always fills me with joy.   But most of all, I’m thankful for the exuberance of my Princess, the presence of my oldest who’s in the midst of finals week,  and that handshake I witnessed tonight.  The tears I cry over it are good tears.  Tears of love and remembering and gratitude for being there to see him take his next first step.  Those are the tender and thin moments of this life I live as Mama.  And I am thankful.

The magic and lights of downtown Macon as we were leaving--the Cherry Street fountain.  Where my relationship with Daybreak had its beginnings.

The magic and lights of downtown Macon as we were leaving tonight–the Cherry Street fountain. Where my relationship with Daybreak had its beginnings.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Several years ago Oprah came to town.  She was supposedly going to select her studio audience based on letters written in about why the writer wanted to be there and whom he or she would bring with them.
As we’d been stationed overseas for a while, and because of the timing of the airing of her show (my children were underfoot at that point in the day, and let’s face it, she’s not always family friendly), I hadn’t watched her in years.  Maybe since college.  But I wrote and talked about how I would take my dear friend, who was a huge fan, with me.

Not.  Selected.

Oh well.

When the show aired, I recorded it and watched it later.  And that was the last time I watched her show.
It was her show called “My Favorite Things.”

Just no.

I don’t remember everything she gave out.  Some might say I was jealous because I didn’t get to go, but that is not the case.  I was sick to my stomach after watching.  I remember two things specifically that she gave out to everyone in the audience.  A refrigerator with a TV in the door and six gourmet cupcakes worth $50.

Say what?

I lost a lot of respect for her that day.  Here she is with all of this–power.  She could have bought and given out things that made a difference for the giver and the recipient (and so much more, because you KNOW some folks had to rush out and buy whatever because they saw it on her show).  But it didn’t go that way.  Today her favorite things list might be different.  I wouldn’t know, as I haven’t watched or read her magazine since then.  I do know that I saw this on the cover of her magazine on 14 November 2011, three days before my Daddy died, and it did not sit well with me.  “Things” –“If you’re looking for joy, you’ve come to the right place”.  What in the world?

Cover of O Magazine at the checkout at the grocery store on 14 November 2011.  I don't think she gets it.

Cover of O Magazine at the checkout at the grocery store on 14 November 2011. I don’t think she gets it.

Y’all why would anyone let Oprah “handpick” their gifts for the people they love?

Friday is the beginning of things getting crazy in the retail arena.  Actually I’m noticing that more and more stores are opening up tomorrow, Thanksgiving.  This makes me sad.  Are we so desperate for sales or for a bargain that we will forego the needs of folks to be with their families?  To be able to take time to breathe and give thanks, if only in the smallest of things?  I don’t even know.

So before the madness begins, I’m asking y’all to take a minute and browse through a few of The Happy Napper’s favorite things.  A few years ago I was introduced to The Advent Conspiracy by my brother, Rev.  It’s a powerful book to read, and it’s even more powerful as a study for a group of folks to discuss together.  The thing they share which breaks my heart is that the world’s water shortage could be ENDED with the amount of money spent on Christmas in THIS COUNTRY alone.  What?!  That right there.  It is a fact that broke my heart and has changed my way of “doing Christmas” a little more each year.  They break it down simply to–Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All.  Amen.

They offer lots of great ideas in the book and DVD.  Ways to give and let folks know you love them here at Christmas AND also how to help the world.  Your community.  Build relationships and make a difference.  Because I think that’s what we really want more than anything–to be loved and known and to make a difference.

I’m happy to share a few of my favorite things.  Thanks to my Aub for creating the links for all of these.  She knows that the gift of her time and expertise is one of my favorite gifts she gives me.  And I love her.  I think she’s getting it too.  One day she saw a purse on-line that was over $10,000.  She showed me and said rather vehemently, “Well that makes me just want to slap somebody.”

She gets it.

So without further ado, here is my list of My Favorite Things.

20131127-215220.jpg

Bare Bulb Coffee–If you aren’t local around here, find your own local coffeehouse or locally owned bookstore or such as that and support their missions by supporting them.  If you are local, they have the cutest little fabric coffee sleeves with a pocket for a gift card.  Great gift, great coffee, and you’ll be supporting missions that feed children in need and share great books and time with precious children from low-income families.  They also have art classes on a regular basis.  Make plans to paint with a friend and give that as your gift.  Fun and meaningful. They get to be with you and you with them AND you each take home a painting.  Awesome.

The Open Arms Shop–They make skirts and scarves from recycling t-shirts.  Y’all, they are the cutest.  The people working there are refugees from other countries trying to build a safe life for themselves and their families.  Beautiful.

Stitches & Paint–These folks are some of the best.  A family business, the husband and wife and daughters quilt the fabric–and they have an eye for cute prints–and make all kinds of bags and accessories.  My favorite of the favorites is their clutch wallet.  Mama got me a new print every year for my birthday.  Love this Georgia company.  (And they are fine people–they support missions as well.)  They’ll make you say “Vera who?”

Goodwill–aka The GW Boutique.  Y’all know I love ’em.  Name brand jeans for $5.  Please.  And we have found Legos and all kinds of toys like new there.  It’s gotten so my children beg to go.  We don’t always find something, but it’s always a fun adventure.  Last year we made a rule that all gifts from siblings to each other had to be something picked out at the GW.  They had so much fun!  The focus was on the adventure and finding just the right thing–not on how much money spent.  I think that’s a tradition we are going to keep.

LOVE146–The story behind this organization that works with young women who have been rescued from trafficking is a heartbreaking one.  It all started with one young girl.  In an undercover mission, they saw the young girl with 146 on her tag still had some fire in her.  She hadn’t given up like the others.  When they went back to rescue, she was gone.  But they remember.  The Christmas cards made by the girls in the Round Home are absolutely beautiful.

Living Water International–This is the mission directly supported by the Advent Conspiracy.  They work to get clean water for every person on our planet.  Such a simple thing, but it is so hard to make possible.  They have neat ways you can support them.  Pop over and check it out.  Clean water–hard to believe we live in the age we do, and not everyone has it.

Heifer International–My brother introduced us to them.  He bought a goat in our honor.  Yeah, he gets it.  He has just been waiting for me to catch up.  I’m trying, Rev.  Heifer has a great catalog of things you can buy in honor of someone, and it makes a wonderful gift.  I love it when we get our catalog every year.

St. Jude Gift Shop–They have really great gifts in their shop and sales go to support St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  This was one of Daddy’s favorite places to support, so yeah.  Go check them out.

Society of St. Andrew–They  work to put together volunteers to glean from fields and distribute the food to those in need.  A $12 donation will feed 600 servings of nutritious food to hungry families in America.  For your donation, you receive a beautiful Christmas card with unique artwork to give to your recipient.  Feeding someone in need in honor of someone you love–that is a beautiful gift.

BeadforLife–Make a difference in the life of a woman in Uganda, who is trying to create a better life for her and her family.  Our sisters there cut and roll beads from recycled magazines and newspapers, and oh–the beautiful jewelry they create!  If you are local, I have lots of their crafts I can show you–just let me know.  From bracelets to necklaces to jewelry bags, soap, and lip balm.  The person you give something from BeadforLife to will love the gift as much as the story.

ABAN–This is a beautiful story of young people making a difference.  Callie and Rebecca were college students who came up with an idea to help the young women living on the streets of Accra, Ghana and help rid the streets of the water sachets that littered them in bulk.  Thus, ABAN was born.  They have created some fabulous bags and accessories from the recycled water sachet bags.  The young women who are a part of the program are learning to dream, and they are gaining the skills to make those dreams come true.  Again, a gift with a  story that will make a difference.

Mossy Creek Soap–I love her soaps.  The different “flavors” are delightful and there is a scent for everyone, including her “naked” unscented soaps.  I recently visited with her and picked up a tin of the most amazing stuff  that works naturally on aching muscles.  If you know of someone who would love to make their own soaps, she has soapmaking classes on a regular basis.  Give them as a gift, or better yet, give it as a gift and join the recipient.  The gift of time with them and soapmaking. Win.  Win. Win.

Which brings us to another point of the Advent Conspiracy.  All gifts do not have to be wrapped in a box and paper. A gift described by one of the authors was a gift given to his wife.  One of her friends put together a book of notes from many people who loved her.  She had the gift of spending Christmas day reading all of the wonderful thoughts written just for her.  Beautiful.  We adapted this idea and put together a Hope Book for my Daddy one Christmas after his fight with Goliath began in earnest.  It had notes and stories and jokes and pictures that people who loved him wanted to share with him.  I cried putting it all together.

Other gift ideas that are outside the box are also relational.  Tie an invitation to have a cup of coffee out with you to a teaspoon or special coffee mug.  Give a bottle of nail polish with a note to have pedicures together to your sister.  A card with a note with a “gift card” for a picnic together or a walk in the woods is perfect for just the right person.  The point is to make the emphasis on the relationship and time together rather than the “thing.”

Over the next few weeks things are going to get hectic and crazy.  Don’t get caught up in the commercialism that takes away from the beauty of the Light of the season.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-shopping.  As a matter of fact, the places that give me my purchases in a paper bag with handles just turns my head.  But don’t let it run your life and take over your schedule.  Because it can.

I started off small the first year.  I picked one gift to change it up on.  Since that time several years ago, I find it easier and easier to step outside the box although some gifts are still bought at the store in a box or on-line.  It’s about trying to be more intentional and making the season more about time together than anything else.  Letting go of the stress and making more time for what is most important.

I’ve only included a few of my favorite things.  Please feel free to share yours with me.  I’d love to hear your gift ideas or what your most favorite and special gifts have been.

Wishing you all a day of great memory-making and joy!  Happy Thanksgiving.