Friday, June 27, 2008

Native Tongue

English is not my first language.

Yes, you read correctly. I am bilingual. I didn’t learn the King’s English until I was in school. Fortunately, I was brought up in Houston, and was surrounded by educated people. I had excellent teachers, and they taught me well. Most people would never guess that English isn’t my native tongue.

But my parents both spoke a different language, as well as all of my relatives. I spoke their language as a small child, and often revert back to it when I am around close family and friends.

The language?


Yep, that’s right folks. Texun is mah native tuung. East Texun, ta be exaact. But I’ll try to write the rest of this article in English, as I understand some of you may struggle with mah – oops - my original language.

The language barrier did affect me in certain areas of my life. For example, when the teacher asked me to read the word w-h-e-n, I proudly said, “wheeyun.” And I was a teenager before I realized my Aint Darse was actually my Aunt Doris.

So, I continued to eat my greeuts (grits) for breakfast, all the while learnin’ to “tawk fancy” (speak properly). My sweet mother, who has the sweetest Texas lilt you’ve ever heard, insisted on it. She didn’t want her children to be singled out for their drawls, so she pushed us to perfect our pronunciation. Eventually, I learned to blend in with the city folk.

Since then, I have been somewhat of a chameleon, when it comes to language. When I need to sound like a city girl, I do. But git me around mah kin-folk, and I switch gears faster ‘n a two dollar pistol.

A strange thing has happened in the last couple of decades. Believe it or not, it has actually become cool to “tawk Texun.” Outsiders are trying to learn our lingo and our pronunciation.

Our national language (yes, Texas was a nation before it was a state) is distinctive from other southern states. We aren’t southern. We aren’t western. We are Texan. Linguists are actually conducting research on the language of the Lone Star State. They have made some interesting discoveries, too!

Apparently, we have different accents in different parts of our state. The East Texas lilt is more soft and musical, while the West Texas twang is a bit more nasal. But for those of you who “ain’t frum these parts”, some of our defining characteristics are listed below:

1. We add syllables. (cat = cay-ut)

2. We take away syllables. (going to = gonna)

3. We take away letters. (goin’ fishin’)

4. We change ing into ang. (thing = thang)

5. Long I is pronounced aaah. (night = naht.)

6. We say “fixin’ to" instead of about to, or getting ready to. Don’t question it, just do it!

7. We like to paint pictures with our words. A girl might be as “purty as a june bug,” and your boss might be “meaner’n a skillet full o’ rattlesnakes.”

8. Ya’ll is plural. Only those trying too hard to sound Texan use it in the singular.

9. “Yes” is pronounced, “Yep.”

10. Slow down! Nothin’ will give away a foreigner quicker than a speedy delivery. Stretch out your words, and slow down your sentences.

11. If all else fails, stick a cowboy hat on yer head, chew on a long piece o’ grass, and keep quiet! Everyone’ll assume yer a native.

Psalm 119:103 “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pulling Weeds

I have decided to become a gardener. This is a rather life-changing decision for me, as I am a card-carrying member of Plantkillers Anonymous. But not anymore. From this day forward, I plan to actually water my plants. Or at least I plan to try to remember to water them.

I have named my new utopia “The Prayer Garden.” Not because I go there to pray, but because those plants can use all the prayer they can get.

When I made the decision to develop a green thumb, I had visions of myself happily, peacefully working in the soil, surrounded by voluptuous blooms of every size, shape and color. Butterflies would flutter peacefully to and fro, our children would laugh and run around with butterfly nets, and our dogs would friskily chase the children. You know the picture. Straight from the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

But I have recently been given a reality check, in the form of the pesky weeds that keep appearing in my flower bed. Every day, I walk the length of the beds, pulling the stubborn little guys from the ground. And every day, more weeds appear. Every single day.

I have tried digging out the dirt, and replacing it with “clean dirt.” Still, they come.

I have tried spraying them. The spray kills the ones that are above ground. But it does nothing for the future generations of weeds.

So every day, day after day, I walk up and down my flower beds. I bend over, pinch the weed, stand up. Bend over, pinch the weed, stand up. It’s actually a pretty good little work-out. Who needs an expensive gym membership, when you’ve got weeds?

But honestly, I have asked myself the question more than once, “Why bother?” After all, they will just come back. There is nothing I can do, short of cementing the entire bed and sticking some silk flowers there, that will keep the weeds from reappearing. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure a concrete wall would stop some of those weeds.

So, I can either keep pulling the weeds, or I can give in and let them take over my flowerbed. It is that simple. Neither option is pleasant, but I refuse to give in. So I keep pulling the weeds.

It kind of reminds me of washing dishes, and doing laundry, and paying taxes, and stopping to pick up the trash others have left behind at the city park . . . all those little things we do to make a difference, when we know that before long, we will just have to do it again. And again and again.

Sometimes, we may feel like our little efforts are not making a bit of difference. We work and work, only to see our work undone before our eyes. But still, we continue washing those dishes. We keep throwing away those nasty soda bottles and candy wrappers that others leave behind. We refuse to give in, because to do so would just mean chaos. We don’t want to become overrun with the bad things of this life, so we keep doing our little good deeds, day after day, hoping we are somehow making a difference.

This morning, I stood at the street and looked at my flowerbeds. The shrubs are green, the flowers are red and pink and yellow and purple. The mulch gives it a nice, finished touch. No, it’s not a candidate for Better Homes and Gardens, but it won’t be entered into the Gardening Hall of Shame, either.

It looks downright (doggone you, weed! Bending, pinching . . .) pretty.

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Dad

I have a great dad. During my growing up years, he did everything that good dads are supposed to do, and then some. He provided for our family. He protected us. He teased me and tickled me and threw me high into the air and caught me. He pushed me on the swing, and carried me on his shoulders so that I could almost touch the sky.

And he put up with a lot from me, too. If my memory is correct, he spent hours with me in the back yard, teaching me to throw and catch a softball. Hours. Wasted hours, if my current ability to throw or catch is any indication. But he never made me feel clumsy or inadequate. He always said, “Good job, Renae! You’re getting the hang of it!” Thanks, Daddy, for the little white lies that made me feel special.

But he wasn’t so generous when it was time for me to learn how to drive. He made me practice for weeks, getting on and off I-45 in Houston. On and off. On and off. I thought I was ready to take my driver’s test, but he refused to let me until he was satisfied I wasn’t going to kill myself or somebody else. It didn’t matter to him that I had passed the written exam with flying colors.

Once, when I nearly hit a mailbox because I was looking at a handsome boy on the other side of the road, he yelled “Criminal! If that mailbox were a person, you could have killed them, and you would be thrown in jail forever!” A little extreme, yes. But I got the message.

So, on and off the freeways we went, in and out of subdivisions, circling through parking lots . . . until I finally passed the Dad test. Looking back, I now understand why Dad’s hair started turning gray in 1984.

Once, I asked to go to a party in high school. My parents didn’t know these people, so they said no. I begged. Dad wouldn’t budge. I pleaded. Nothing. I cried and begged some more, telling them that “everybody” was going to be there, and how in the world was I supposed to make friends at a new school if I didn’t go to parties?

Finally, Dad gave in. He looked at me with those gentle eyes and said, “Okay. I will drive you there, and pick you up. But if anything makes you uncomfortable, call me immediately.”

“Yes sir, Daddy! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I kissed him and hugged him and swore I had the best Dad in the world.

He dropped me off. Thirty minutes after arriving at the party, I smelled an odd smell. I noticed a funny, hazy smoke in the air, and some of my “friends” were acting strange, and had a glazed look in their eyes.

I called my Daddy.

He never said a word, just came right away to my rescue. He stopped on the way home and got me a soda.

So today, I want to say thank you. Thanks, Dad, for so many things, too many to list here. Thank you for working two and three jobs so that I could go to college. Thank you for standing in the hot sun, directing traffic until your feet were swollen and your back was aching, so that I could have what I needed. Thank you for keeping your police uniform on when boys came to pick me up for dates. Thank you for taking me to and picking me up from choir competitions. Thank you for sitting through long choir concerts, where most of the songs were in foreign languages. Thank you for telling me you enjoyed the concert, even though I knew the truth.

Thank you for always loving me, for always being there, for always making me feel special and important. I am blessed, indeed.

Isaiah 63:16 “You, O Lord, are our Father . . .”

Friday, June 6, 2008

Married to Mark

This coming Sunday, Mark and I will celebrate our seventeenth wedding anniversary. In honor of this momentous occasion, I thought about writing a column about marriage. In this article, I thought I would share with you all the grand and glorious wisdom I have obtained, regarding the male of the species.

But there is just one little problem. I am still trying to figure out the male of the species. After seventeen years of living up-close-and-personal with a real, live, red-blooded American male, I’m more confused than ever.

So instead, I have decided to tell you what I have learned specifically about Mark. My beloved.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here is what I have learned about Mark Foster Brumbaugh, in the past seventeen years:

1. He brings me flowers for no special reason.

2. He is very meticulous about his lawn. I have seen him spend hours on his knees, pulling up weeds from the roots, to make sure they don’t grow back.

3. He is hilarious! One of the first things that attracted me to him was his sense of humor. He is still making me laugh.

4. When he stood in front of nearly 400 people and pledged all his earthly goods to me, that didn’t include his hairbrush.

5. He is the best preacher I have ever heard. Really, he is! If you don’t already have a church home, you should come and hear him this Sunday morning at 10: a.m. Central Cities Church meets in the Extreme Youth building in downtown Copperas Cove, just up the sidewalk from the Cove Leader Press!

6. He is one handsome man. This is a really nice trait for the ladies in his congregation. On the off chance he preaches a boring sermon (which never happens!) we can just tune him out and look at his broad shoulders.

7. He is a great dad.

8. I am, under no circumstances, to sell the weight set that has been taking up space and gathering dust in the garage for years. If I do happen to accidentally sell it in a garage sale, he will go the following weekend to another garage sale and purchase another weight set to take up space and gather dust in the garage.

9. In my dreams, one week-long hunting trip to Kansas for him equals one week-long shopping trip to New York City for me. In reality, it equals a day at the spa. I’ll take it!

10. He talks in his sleep. It can be quite entertaining. Once, he awoke me in the middle of the night to tell me a “poor hungry mountain lion” was in our bedroom. I was nearly scared to death, until I figured out he was sleep-talking. Moments after I finally drifted back to sleep, he woke me up again – to tell me the lion was gone.

11. He is the grill king. He makes the best bar-b-cued ribs I have ever tasted.

12. He loves chocolate chip cookies.

13. He likes the smell of distant skunk. I’m still trying to analyze that one.

14. He will only drink coffee out of a Styrofoam cup, at a restaurant. He will not drink it at anyone’s home.

15. He likes a little tea with his tall glass of iced sugar.

16. His favorite movies are “Cool Hand Luke” and “A Christmas Story.”

17. He is getting better with age. I think I’ll keep him a while longer.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart!

Genesis 2:18 “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’”