Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters



Serendipity and the Swampland: Fishing for Inspiration

There’s this weird feeling I get sometimes. Like someone has hit a tuning fork — but the tuning fork is my body. And it rings and vibrates. Like a silver spoon hitting chilled stainless. Like ice hitting back molars. Like wintergreen hitting veins. And the one hitting the tuning fork is the universe. Is God, if you will.

I feel awake and alive and almost raw.

So I go to my computer and I dive into the current of serendipity’s stream. And I pay really careful attention.

Words swirl around me, boomerang back at me like white water rapids. They carry me, roll me, drive me forward. The universe is in charge, and I am on a wild ride. Where I’m going is out of my hands – but I know I’m on the right track.

So I swim. Hard. And fast. To stay inside that current. Not sink beneath it.

Because the universe has given me a gift — it has given me a path and a process. But it has expectations. It has demands. And those demands are rigorous. They are… well… demanding.

This current will take me to my goal, but only with a whole lot of work.

So work, I do. At first I’m cold and rusty, and my mind misfires. A lot. But I remind myself I’m trained for this. I can do this hard thing. I am prepared. And so I just keep kicking, doing my best to stay afloat and follow directions as the words swirl around me, bump up against me.

Inside the current, my mind warms, loosens — perhaps even unravels a bit – allowing flexibility and vision and a bit of slack to reel in the difficult bits, the hard bits. Of life. Particularly, my life. My past.

Because the hard and difficult bits require a whole lot of slack — lest I get too wound up, too tense, and then break the line and lose the way, the truth, and the life. My way. My truth. My life.

Barbara Kingsolver once stated that “memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin.” And I totally get it — especially when the memory itself is incredibly complicated, when the truth you are recording — the twisted religion of your formative years — was itself a relative to truth, but not its twin. Maybe not even the same family… or neighborhood. But definitely the same region. My truth fits within the region — the southern region, that is.

The South — where truths become memories, loosely maintained, that become yarns, wildly spun, that become tales, twisty and gnarled.  Where truths become monstrosities.

Here in the land of Faulkner and Flannery, we drill holes in mama’s coffin (and right on through to her face) so she can breathe in the hereafter. We have kinky morticians and corrupt bible salesmen and Presbyterian ax vigilantes. We have deaf mutes and hunchbacks and dwarves – oh my! All so we can safely unearth the darkened roots of our deep-seated insecurities.

Here in the South, we love a little batter on our vegetables and a little gothic on our histories. Sure, maybe raw is better for you – but they taste so much better in a solid bath of debauchery and a heavy dusting of sin. (Minimalist, we are not!)

It’s as much about embellishment as it is about fact here. We hide our tender bits inside hyperbole and the grotesque. The crazier the tale, the deeper the truth.

For me, swimming serendipity’s stream may begin with the exquisite chill of a spoon hitting stainless, but it never fails to dump me where stainless will always fall victim to stain: childhood and the fears and tears that form its fecund swamplands.

The water there is brackish and foul with trash and monsters. Monsters ready to be raised from the near-dead. Demons with watermelon rinds for smiles. Disciples with oily words and cardboard hearts.

I land there each and every time. And after I catch my breath and adjust to the temperature change, I dredge the swamp.

And as the silt and sludge swirls, I bring in my haul — words writhing and thick with hard muscle, slippery sinew, scaly gill. They emerge slowly, but in netfuls, tangled and twisted. Words glinting with a thousand splendid refractions, bending and contorting in the light. Piercing.

I capture them all by capturing my past. Finding the way and the truth from my life.

My biggest and most-tangled of truths thus far — a Pentecostal pastor’s circumcised daughter — flesh faulted and excised amid great ceremony and pain. She emerges from the darkness demanding her reckoning. She flips silver on my screen.

She is forged from the cold steel of serendipity’s stream, humming with the frequency of the tuning fork. The chill of wintergreen hangs in the air… along with the sweetness and rot of the swamp.

I gut her and clean her. I batter-dip her in admonition and intuition and the blood of the Lamb. I sear her on tongues of flame. I lay her on a slaw of shredded scripture. And I serve her up to the world.

+ + +

In the beginning was the word.

And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us — howling to be heard. To be seen. To be known.

Ex nihilo.

Play-Doh and the Sweet Breath of God: Why we are Born to Create

Thanksgiving gave me license to continual Christmas carols. I listen to them on my daily commutes to anywhere and everywhere. And I’ve heard “These are a Few of my Favorite Things” probably a dozen times so far, which got me thinking about my very own favorites and how I’ve written about quite a few of them in recent weeks: candy corn, hay bales, football, and family – always family. Today will be no exception.

Today I write about one of the most nostalgic of all my faves: Play-Doh. My boys have developed a passion for the stuff, and I must confess mine has been thoroughly rekindled. They’ve been huddled around the coffee table  rolling and pressing and nudging their sweet imaginations to life. And watching them – and playing with my own slyly pilfered wedge – has made me attempt to put into words just exactly why I love the colorful clay.

At first, I thought maybe it was Play-Doh’s brilliant technicolor – grown even brighter over the years (now in neons!) — that makes me love it so. When you crack open a canister, the brightest and best of the color wheel shimmer with promise. Who can resist chunks of rainbows at your fingertips just hankering for some handling?

Or maybe it’s Play-Doh’s smell – so indefinable and so distinct. When I tried to write about the scent, I was stumped. It is impossible. I even searched the web for help. Some sources say it’s a combo of warm vanilla and wheat. But that’s not quite it. It is far more mysterious and compelling — so compelling that according to my research, perfume companies have attempted (unsuccessfully) to bottle it.

But Play-Doh isn’t just about the smell – which is why I think no perfumery will ever succeed at corking its nostalgia. I think it is the brightness of its colors, plus the warmth of its smells, and ultimately, the feel of Play-Doh that gives us ALL THE FEELS. Those three things together are what send us with dizzying speed back to the innocence and endless potential of childhood.

Play-Doh is imagination in its purest physical form. It is a tactile myth-maker. In toddler hands, fantastical creatures are fused out of colorful, naked nothingness. What could possibly  be better?

Some would argue blocks. Or LEGOS. Me, I would say… meh. Blocks are cool, I guess. If you’re into that sort of thing: hard angles and static substance. You can create with them, sure, but you are limited in your design.

Same with LEGOS. Plus, LEGOS inflict pain. In irresponsible hands, they can damn near kill. I was a victim this past week when I unwittingly stepped on one with my slick-soled dress shoes and found myself skating wildly across the hardwood floors before falling headlong into a viper’s nest of them. One punctured the palm of my right hand, and my right shin bears the pock-y bruises of another three.

If Play-Doh is imagination in its purest form, I truly believe LEGOS are imaginiation in its evilest. They are the pimply scales of Satan’s backside.

But back to Play-Doh. Clay is the ultimate in terms of creativity. Think back to your Bible. It states that Adam and Eve were formed of dust and water and the breath of God.

Ah, there you have it. Play-Doh is God’s chosen medium. And that secret ingredient we’ve been searching for… it’s not vanilla or warm wheat or the nostalgia of childhood, after-all. Play-Doh smells like the sweet breath of God.

Play-Doh is the height of creative purity… and I think we should all rekindle our passion for the stuff.

Now, I’m not suggesting you run out to Target and snag a couple dozen canisters off the endcaps – although that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea. No, what I’m saying is that we should approach each new day like it is a nice, bright, spotless container of Play-Doh. Crack it open and smell God in its glorious technicolor.

Seize each day, tug it — slow and weighty with potential — out of its column and into the palms of your eager hands. Feel the cool denseness just waiting to warm to your touch. That’s life – begging you to mold of it what you will.

Clench it by the fistfuls, press it and knead it and watch it unearth new possibilities between your bare knuckles, under the whirls and ridges of your own, capable hands. From your design and God’s blessings, everything will roll and gather and slide into place. Embellish it with the scallops and curves and creases of your choosing.

Your masterpiece will form. Trust the process. Each new day brings a bright new color. Use them all.

And when troubles collect – which they will – in clumps and scales round your rings and in slivers gathered under nail beds, collect the shavings with a precise pivot of thumbnail and wrist, and move forward. But use what you’ve excised, use the residue of hardships and misfires, roll them between your forefinger and thumb, and build from them: lessons learned; lessons used.

But whatever you do, don’t seal yourself up in your bright, beautiful container — your mind a beautifully rounded cylinder of God particles — and squander your promise. God made you perfect, but He doesn’t want you to just sit there in your beautiful perfection. He wants you to use that potential — to mold glorious masterpieces out of your matter.

By merely sitting there  in your bright shiny container then you’re quite simply doing what that old Sunday School song tells you not to do: hiding your light under a bushel (to mix metaphors). You’ll end up all dried out and crusted over. You’ll be all musty and brittle. Don’t be brittle. Don’t be musty.

Be fresh and fun and follow the pathways of your passion. Follow your bliss. Allow the natural oils of your imagination and the natural pliability of your promise to shine forth in glorious, God-given splendor. You are the colorful clay and sweet breath of God. Go make something spectacular of yourself.

So there it is. There’s the reason I love Play-Doh so very, very much.




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