Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Potted Plant for Mama

I've been thinking a lot about my Mom. She passed away more than two years ago and small things jog my memory. Lately, there have been LOTS of things. I'm not sure why; no birthdays or holidays are approaching. Nevertheless, she's on my mind.

Often, she comes to mind when my husband asks a cooking question. In a condescending tone I'll say, "Come on, everyone knows *that*. " Then I realize that I didn't spring from the womb knowing it either ... somewhere along the way, my Mama taught me. I learned so much from her without even realizing it.

This post will be long, but I'm including a story I wrote about my Mom another time I couldn't stop thinking about her. I read this in church my first Mother's Day without her. The style may seem awkward since it was written for the ear, not the eye.

I was watering the plant today, and I got it! I finally understood.

I've watered this plant at least 50 times. It doesn’t look so pretty, but it keeps living. It was mangled by my emotionally disturbed cat soon after I brought it home. Luckily, my husband found a plant stand and lifted it above paws’ reach.

While watering, I started to think about my Mom, or “Mama” as I called her. Everyone in the Deep South calls their mother “Mama,” or at least everyone I know does. Mama was, above all, unique… and one unique quality was her preference for a potted plant over cut flowers. I never understood that! I thought my boring old Mama was the most unromantic woman in the world – she only allowed Daddy to bring her yellow roses once a year on their anniversary.

She not-so-subtly urged us, “if you’re after buying flowers for me, I’d really prefer a potted plant.” I was nine years old when I asked her why, and she said, “Baby, big bouquets of flowers are awfully pretty, I’ll give you that. But they’re only pretty for a few days. Then they die, and you have to throw them out. I think potted plants are just as pretty and they’ll last as long as you love and care for them.”

There were plenty of things about Mama I didn’t understand, so I just filed that one to the back of the growing list. Then today, I finally got it.

At 29 years old, while watering a plant that had been a gift from my parents' next door neighbors, the Graces, it all came clear.

That situation's not unusual in small town Mississippi – neighbors do nice things for each other every day, especially during hard times. However, Mama had been bed-ridden for years and Daddy and Rev. Grace were locked in a feud that would have made a great Beverly Hillbillies episode. It was a land dispute in which both neighbors had been using the same driveway with only one maintaining it.

This was a small dispute. Certainly two grown men (both pastors, no less) should have solved it. However, since they were both from an earlier generation, and the Graces are a different color than we are, hurt feelings escalated and the situation became more complicated than it should have. I have to shake my head when I say, it ended with Daddy building a fence down the middle of the old driveway and building a new one on his side.

Mostly, I shake my head because I KNOW -beyond a shadow of a doubt- that Mama wouldn’t have let him do it!! Had this happened twenty years earlier, I know exactly how she would have solved the problem.

She would have made one of her fabulous chocolate pies (they looked awful if the butter separated and rose to the top - but Mama said pies are for eating, not admiring) and she would have taken it to the Graces' house. In my imagination I see her concocting a plan. I almost hear her say, “Deborah, these men of ours are awfully prideful, but I know how we can fix it. If you and I are friends, they’ll have to get along. It will make them crazy!” In my imagination, I hear two women laughing over slices of pie with the soft clinking of coffee cups on saucers in the background.

I know what you’re thinking. That scene is all in my imagination, but I watched LaNita Pepper in action enough to know what she'd do.

One scene I could never have imagined began a hot Saturday last August when the phone rang. It was my brother, Jeff, and he said, “Baby, do you have a cup of coffee in your hand?” I said, “not yet,” and he replied, “you’re gonna need one soon. Sit down, Baby. It’s over.”

He didn’t have to explain. Years of Mama’s trips to the hospital left the whole family on edge. Each of us pondered the end and wondered what it would be like once it was over. It was a bitter-sweet loss. Although our hearts wrenched from losing her, there was no comparison between how she felt in wheelchairs and hospital beds and how she feels in the arms of her Jesus.

Bryan and I made the trip to Mississippi and attended the visitation, funeral, and graveside service performed by my oldest brother, Doug. Then we went back into the fellowship hall to grieve like all good southern Methodists do, with enough food to burn a wet squirrel.

Giving the grieving family massive amounts of food is a tradition that I’m sure happens in all small towns, but it’s an art form in Webster County, Mississippi. If your cousin’s step-daddy’s aunt’s great grandmother on her mama’s side’s best friend dies, it’s time to cook!

We get through death with the life-sustaining act of sharing meals— we elevate the everyday, necessary act of eating to a ritual that binds us together, and reminds us that in the midst of death there is life. Much like Christ instructed the disciples to do just before He died. (You know, only with fried chicken and sweet tea. )

Back at the funeral home we divided up the flowers and plants. At the base of one corner of the casket there was a peace lilly. I spotted it at the visitation and read the card – “from Deborah and the Grace family.”
'Wow," I thought. A Peace Lilly from Deborah and the Grace family. I decided to make sure that plant came to Indiana with me, where I would love and care for it like Mama would have wanted.

We went back to home to divide up the chores. Bryan mowed Daddy’s two acres of lawn, and I tracked down addresses and wrote thank-you cards for the flowers and food. I made a stack of envelopes to be mailed but put one aside. Daddy picked it up and asked, “Did we run out of stamps?” I said, “no, it's going to be hand-delivered.”

While he drove to the post office, Bryan, Jeff and I went next door. We were indiscribably moved by this loving gift from a woman who forgave in the most difficult of circumstances: in the absence of an apology. I wasn’t sure how we’d be received, but when we introduced ourselves, she smiled and said, “I’m so happy to see you all! I don’t know Brother Pepper that well. I know he grew up in another generation, and things were different back then; but I just try to see him as God sees him - and older man caring for his dying wife.”

Well, all four of us stood on her front porch and cried in broad daylight. I hugged her at least five times because I didn’t know what to say. We were awed by her generous spirit, and vowed to someday build a gate between the two houses.

As I finished watering this ragged plant, I took a closer look. It hasn’t bloomed in months - I think it was too traumatized by close encounters of the kitty kind. But I realized why my mother favored potted plants over cut flower. I was enjoying this plant (and reliving memories of my mother) months after receiving it. I'd started to worry about getting through Mother’s day without Mama, then I saw all the gifts of love and wisdom that live on.

I was privileged to see the reflection of Christ in a woman called Grace, the unconditional forgiveness in a lilly called Peace, and a strong mother never enticed by fleeting beauty, but who valued lasting things and chose the life that conquers death. In heaven and in my heart, she lives on.

Monday, January 22, 2007


It's a good time to be a Midwesterner. My home team (the Colts) will battle the team from the way cooler city three hours north (da Bears) in the Superbowl.

I won't write about football much. I'm not very knowledgable and it's only a matter of time before I make an ass out of myself. But what a freaking comeback! Plus, you have to feel good for Peyton. Being touted as the über-talented quarterback who chokes during big games has to wear on your psyche nearly as much as the actual choking. So, hey, rock on. At the end of the game I had to quote the comentator from Dodgeball, "Do you believe in unlikelihood..."

In other news, I sent a résumé to another TV station in an effort to leave no stone unturned. I gotta be honest, I don't have high hopes for it. I'm getting the sense that my long absence from broadcasting coupled with the large market size jump looks risky to employers. However, having this road blocked may be the encouragement I need to take another path. (Apparently, my absence from the biz hasn't been long enough to stop me from beginning paragraphs with "in other news.")

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Can I Get a Strong Sedative If I Ask Nicely?

You're thinking, "Enough grousing about your job search already!" Well, I agree. I'll grouse about something entirely different.

My vision is so bad that my first criteria for a good doctor is one that doesn't scream, "Wow! You really can't see!" upon finding out my prescription. It can still be corrected with contacts, I'm glad to say.

Don't worry - this isn't what I'm complaining about. I'm blessed- I'm well aware that if God had dropped me and my faulty eyeballs on Earth, say, during Medieval times I would have been a drain on society. [The urge to write about my "transitional period" arose, but after a healthy swig of wine it passed.] Sure, these days vision impaired folks can live a full life, but back then I would have been S.O.L.

The point is, I'm considering LASIK surgery, and I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I'm not into elective surgery in most cases, but this is interesting. However, they do CUT OPEN YOUR EYEBALL AND SHOOT A LASER INTO IT.

I watched an online video that explains the procedure, which was cool. A few sections of the monologue stuck out in my mind, though:

"It's natural to have a certain amount of apprehension." -- Yeah, especially for sci-fi fans.

"Don't worry, [?!] things will get fuzzy and may go black for a moment."

"You may be offered a mild sedative like Valium to calm you down." -- I'll take two, thanks. One for now and one in case my vision gets fuzzy and goes black!

Number of "loss of vision" mentions - 5
Number of "blindness" mentions - 1

On the positive side, Tiger Woods did it, which says a lot. Plus, many regular people have had positive results. But, I can't help wondering if I'm being too greedy. Medical science has given me twenty-two years of corrected vision with no more hassle than changing contacts. Sure, the surgery has a very high success rate, but is it worth risking that one percent?

What do you think? Does LASIK's high success rate balance out the small number of failures? Do you think Tiger Woods' surgeon snuck a couple Valium for personal use the night before that surgery?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Damn the Man

As is my custom, I went to church yesterday. We had a good service and I got a break from my usual worship leader duties. However, I was asked several times (by very well meaning people) if I had gotten the job I'd interviewed for. Oy.

Well, internet, I didn't get the job. I was overqualified for it, AND since the Deputy Mayor is a friend of a friend, he called and vouched for me. So, I couldn't land an entry level job offer with 7 years experience and the Deputy Mayor lobbying for me. Nice.

Yes, yes, it's for the best and all that. I'm keeping my eyes on the horizon for something appropriate to appear in the video/TV realm, but it's not looking promising.

Here's the plot twist - I started college on a music scholarship. I double majored in voice and piano with grades at the top of my class before switching majors my sophomore year. I switched for several reasons, one being I had become someone I didn't like - a music snob.

In response to the pressure, I morphed into someone who listened solely to the classics, and stayed in a 10x10 rehearsal room about six hours a day (on top of classes and other studying) and started losing touch with people I cared about. I also didn't feel drawn to teaching, and that left performing. I'd been warned all my life about hitching my wagon to that star.

So, okay, I turned off the music path and got back to "normal." But, now I'm re-analyzing things. Here are the last words my piano professor said to me: "You'll be back. You have to. Music is inside of you; it may be ten years, it may be twenty, but you'll be back."

I'm considering trying a little performing here and there for pay. Actually, I've taken preliminary steps. I've started learning music, and bought a pick-up for my guitar. I've also been talking to the owner of a local restaurant that hires performers, and she seems excited to work with me since I'd be her only female act. There are several other opportunities within thirty miles of home, so if I play my cards right, this might actually work. As an additional way to earn I'm considering technical trading/trading stock. Yeah, seriously.

A little tip - If you want to hear crickets chirp, mention to your friends and family that you're considering not getting a full-time job. That you might do something less conventional.

Boy oh boy do I have my fears. But, as my husband put it- "it's not irrational - you're not trying to be the next American Idol, you just want to love what you do, make a few bucks, and avoid working for the man."

Nicely put.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Self-Aware Communication Artist For Hire

Here's my situation: I'm curently unemployed, but I've been in either video or broadcasting for most of the last decade. My most recent job required traveling a third of the year, and I couldn't do it anymore.

By that, I mean a bunch of my hair fell out.

I'm pretty stubborn, so my inability to pack a bag without crying didn't switch on the cartoon lightbulb. Losing hair piqued my interest, though. After a full blood workup, my doc found nothing physically wrong. Then I started to notice the timing of the hair loss: right after business trips.

So, you know, I liked the job and everything, but I wouldn't go bald for it.
To save my life, like chemo? No doubt. Not so much for a job, though.

Finding myself at this crossroads, I took a career assessment. It was called "Free Career Test." (read: "$25 Results")

I was pretty amped to see the results. I wondered if some combination of my personality, work style, values and interests would unearth some great job that would complete me and make dump trucks full of money.

My top job category? Communication Arts. FOR REAL! I could've copped a free glance at "broadcast journalism" on my freaking diploma. It gets better:

Under Communication Arts, this test lists 14 sample careers. Guess how many of those I've done in some form or combination? Ten! Nine professionally, the other for fun.

Apparently, I'm self-aware. So, I got that going for me. [Sigh] If you need me, I'll be over at

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Hey, howya doin.

I'm an over-thinker. For instance, here's my current inner monologue:
What topic should I choose for my first post? I mean, it's my very first post ever. Should it be monumental in some way?

I say, NAY! Why should the first post be significant? I don't intend to write anything monumental here. Like, ever. In fact, if I ever post anything remotely significant, I will shut this blog down immediately. Don't make me pull this car over.

So, what's up with the name? Glad you asked.

Until recently, I was a video producer. Once my coworkers and I lost some video shot in Mississippi (which, by coincidence, is my home state, but I didn't live there then. Nor do I now. But I digress.) An innocent bystander inquired about the object of our frantic search. I responded, "the Mississippi raw footage," to which he quipped, "Hey, I think I saw them open for Skynyrd."

Since I'm drawn to strange band names, it stuck with me. If you wanna get all deep about it, it also touches on my southernness, and my loves of video and music. (OK - the music thing's a stretch, but given a ton of context it does highlight my affinity for weird band names.)

Crowd participation time! Pull up a seat, introduce yourself, and list your five favorite weird band names. Preferably imaginary ones, but odd real ones are cool, too.

I'll start:
  1. Mississippi Raw Footage (imaginary, of course)
  2. Illegal Bulldogs (imaginary - called IBD by hardcore fans)
  3. Cornfield Pepper and the Mississippi GQ Band (real - I swear - it was my brother's band)
  4. Screaming Chickens (imaginary)
  5. Three Piece Dinner (real - my friend Mark's band)

Your turn. If you need a formula to get started, one of my favorites is first word adjective or adverb + last word animal. But, hey, this is all about you.