A Whole New World

different-races1So we went on vacation last week with the kids. Took our first for-real family vacation to Saint Simons Island. Rented a little house. Kicked it on the beach. Enjoyed walking around the Village at Saint Simons Pier, getting lemonade at Zuzu’s, and just taking a break from everything that’s been going on in my head for the past 15 years.

The kids loved it too; they got to share a room with twin beds and a television, complete with VCR (remember those) and DVD player. They watched movies to their hearts’ content, and the last movie they watched was Disney’s Aladdin. You know, the one with the hysterical blue genie and the sappy magic carpet ride across the world. In fact, the song during that sappy magic carpet ride got stuck in my head, and I’ve not been able to remove it.

Yesterday at church, it got stuck permanently, I fear.

The pastor who spoke was teaching on Jesus’ habit of eating with unseemly people. How Christ, God made flesh, came eating and drinking with sinners and the lowest of the low. The point of the message was about modifying the frequent religious expectation of people (to behave the right way, believe the right things, and then belong to the right group) in favor of the way Jesus brought people along (by letting them belong with him, then believe in him, then changing their behaviors). We learned that Jesus shared meals with people who weren’t like him so they could know how much God loved them.

But the thing that turned my head around was the following quote:

“When you are uncomfortable with people who are different than you, that says more about your insecurity than it does your spirituality.”

Can I tell you how much this rang true with me?

I spent years trying to teach people that uniformity mattered. That everyone walked the same line, thought the same thoughts, watched the same shows, sang the same songs. I was wrong. It’s not uniformity that Christ called us to, it’s unity. And there’s a difference.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the pull to be around people who aren’t like me. To be around people who don’t think like me, or believe like me, or watch the same kind of shows as me. I want to be around people who will stretch me, challenge me, make me laugh, and remind me that people aren’t horrible all the time. I want to go places I’ve not gone for fear of being judged and meet people I’ve not met for fear of being scolded. I want to be like Jesus, so secure in my own self that I can make others around me feel secure too.

My struggle lies in letting God accomplish this on His timetable. I’ve got this internal clock in my head that keeps sounding off about how I don’t have the luxury of time to wait for God. I can’t afford to give Him my complete trust because He might work so slow that I’ll have to sacrifice something like my house or my car just to stay afloat. I’m at war within because I am hungry for the deeper things that God is doing in my life, but I’m anchored to the security I’ve created outside of God.

Everything feels like a battle for my soul because I’m secured myself to insecure things, and God is calling me into a whole new world where I find my security solely in Him.

Not in my religion. Not in my self-righteousness. Not in my works. Not in my finances.

In Christ alone.

It’s scary, but it’s the only thing that offers peace these days. I will trust in Him, even as the battle inside rages on. I will be with him, and trust him to change what I believe and how I behave. That’s walking with Christ.

And that’s the life I want.

Why “Toy Story 3” Makes Me Cry Every Time

My children love movies (as I’ve written before; that post, by the way, still gets over 100 original views a day on average, far and away the most popular post I’ve ever typed!). So it was business as usual when Jon wanted to plop in front of the TV this morning and watch Toy Story 3.

Or, as he says, “I wan’ see Woodee an’ Buss?”

(That the request comes out in the form of a question is his attempt at psychological maneuvering. I honestly think Christopher Nolan got the idea for Inception from dealing with someone’s toddler.)

I sighed. I love Toy Story 3. I think it is one of the most beautifully animated and heartfelt movies ever made, but I hate to watch it because I cry every freaking time I see it. Happened again this morning – we got to the scene where Woody and the gang are slowly slipping to their doom in the garbage furnace, and as they do, the friends all join hands and lean into one another for comfort. Only Woody, in the center of the gang, holding them all together as always, faces their impending deaths alone. The way he closes his eyes and grimly accepts their collective fate just gets me.

The tears just came on their own. Rachel walked by and said, “Are you crying again?”

Yes. Yes I was. Because I can’t help it. The movie is just that good.

There’s a reason why Toy Story 3 makes me cry every time – it’s called parenthood. Having kids of my own, I’m acutely aware that every day that passes brings me that much closer to the end of my time with my kids. They are growing up, as evidenced by Jon’s rapidly expanding vocabulary and Ella’s writing and illustrating her first book.

(Seriously, Ella has written and illustrated a book. Sure, she copied pictures from a Clifford book and simply wrote descriptions of what she drew, but the fact that she cut out pages roughly the same size and tried to follow the same formatting for each page tells me that my little girl is really freaking smart. And talented. And perhaps adopted.)

I have noticed in my own children the sad, forgotten truth that the Toy Story franchise brings achingly to the fore: that the process of time is best observed through children and their toys. Even as Ella transitions away from some of her previously beloved toys, turning instead to crayons and paper and toys for older kids, I see that part of her past fading away like morning mist. And Jon’s the same – while he’s still into some baby toys, he’s asking for Spider-Man, Star Wars and other action figures that move beyond the Little People and their world.

Heck, the only baby toys he really plays with anymore are his Woody and Buzz figures (almost called them dolls).

Why does this franchise have such an impact on the culture (and me in particular)? Because it engages us in that forgotten place from childhood – our imagination. When our sense of pretend gets cranked up by watching Andy construct elaborate worlds with his toys – and then watch as those toys inhabit an elaborate world all their own – we cannot help but be transported back to those times in our own childhood when all we needed was the plastic warmth of a beloved toy and space in which to play.

And perhaps the reason we all go to those places so willingly is that they feel safe. The memory of them, that is. When you think about that favorite toy and how you used to play with it for hours (assuming you were fortunate enough to have such things; I know I was) there is a sense of security and protection that comes over you that belies even the very truth of what was going on around you at the time. Maybe mom and dad were fighting all the time, or maybe dad had walked out. Maybe you only had the one toy because you couldn’t afford any more. Maybe you were abused by someone you thought was nice. The fears and worries of childhood can be many.

But the safety represented by that toy, and your ability to escape via your imagination, could not be undone. It was the one place we could each go to escape whatever else was going on.

It was only after we got older, after we lost those places of safety and solitude, that we put away the toys and tried finding another refuge. Most of us found that there wasn’t really a better one to be had. Adult escapes are generally magnifications of our greatest weaknesses – whether it’s booze, pills, sex, the internet or something else, when we try to get away as adults we usually end up where we started.

So when I watch Toy Story 3 and sense the death of childhood innocence and safety as seen through Woody’s love for Andy, or the toys’ love for one another, I can’t help but shed a few tears for the lostness of my own childhood and the creeping loss of my children’s. Does it make me a pansy? Probably.

But it also forces me to get down on the carpet and play with my son in his world, instead of dragging him into mine. It makes me sit at the table with Ella and marvel at how excited she must feel as she sees her penmanship or artistic skill continually improve.

I cry because Toy Story taps into the truth of human existence: that we all face this world on our own, but we survive it through the company of good friends who inspire us to imagine, who help us discover new worlds, who are simply there when we need them.

And I guess I cry, too, because all too often those good friends are only made out of plastic, instead of flesh and blood.

But I’ll take them all the same. And I’ll love them as much as my kids do while my kids love them, because one day, they’ll represent that portion of my life which was simultaneously the most difficult and most beautiful: the precious few years I had with my daughter and son, just us, together and dreaming.

Guest Post: Pregnancy, Pain And Hope

Not too far from my house, inside the city limits of Loganville, there’s a street that looks rather rundown. A mixture of houses and mobile homes line the sides of this street, and when you drive down it with someone who’s never seen it, you can almost feel the uncertainty that suddenly takes over. It’s only when you reach the end of Pecan Street that you’ll hear that first timer exhale, inhale and say something along the lines of, “Wow. I can’t believe people actually live down there. That’s scary.”

Scary. Uncertain. Uncomfortable. These are the words we reserve for the places we can’t bring ourselves to visit, those places where “normal” people just don’t go, places that frighten us into the belief that, since we can’t really affect change there, our presence isn’t required. Places light the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Or the slums of India. Or the home of a reformed prostitute looking for a new life for her and her child.

Naomi Zacharias McNeil* has made it her life’s mission to not only go into those places, but to bring them light and hope. Through the ministry of Wellspring International, a not-for-profit ministry that responds to the needs of women and children at risk, Naomi and her partners have changed countless lives in places where change was either thought impossible or of little consequence. A quick reading of the projects on the Wellspring website tells you that not only is change possible, it’s dramatic in its impact.

Naomi has chronicled her experiences with Wellspring in her first book, The Scent of Water: Grace for Every Kind of Broken (available for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CBD.com). Naomi’s distinctive voice combined with her own personal struggles have created a book that is at turns a heartbreaking and revelatory look at the damaged world we live in. Following on the heels of Mother’s Day, I thought it fitting to ask Naomi (who’s pregnant with her first child!) to share her observations on life and motherhood, brokenness and grace.

If you enjoy Naomi’s post, please consider purchasing her book or visiting the Wellspring donation page. Her work is well worth supporting with more than just words and affirmation.

*(In case you’re wondering, yes – Naomi’s dad is Ravi Zacharias. But Dr. Zacharias will tell you what Naomi is doing around the world is an original and unique ministry born of Naomi’s vision and determination.)

Naomi Zacharias McNeil

My husband and I were sitting around their table in Oxford, England, eating a home-cooked dinner with a couple who have become good friends in a short amount of time. We were sharing stories from childhood, and while many brought laughter, only one story brought tears to my eyes. Perhaps it is because I am pregnant and teary eyes have become more familiar; perhaps it is because it was such a good story. Likely it is both, and the heightened sense of emotions from my version of normal served to help me appreciate a fullness to this story.

Our friend is of full-blooded Italian heritage, born and bred in New Jersey. He has the fabulous last name and tell-tale northeast shore accent to clearly attest to both. When he was about 6 years old, he was in a neighborhood field playing soccer with boys much older, bigger, and more self-assured than he was. He tried his best to play, but their taunting soon ran him off the field- perhaps Forrest Gump style- and all the way home. His mother greeted him at the door, and as her little boy approached her with tears streaming down his cheeks, she asked what happened. “Those boys say I’m not tough enough,” he said with such a sincere sadness, trembling lip and insecure defeat it must have ripped at the core of her heart.

Placing one hand slowly on her hip, she leaned down so her face was an arm’s length from her son’s.  With her other hand, she tapped her chin and said softly but defiantly, “Hit me.” His eyes widened in objection and he shook his head, absolutely no. “It’s okay,” she said. “I’ll be fine, I promise. Just take a swing right here,” she encouraged, she insisted. After multiple objections, her son somewhat uncertainly tried out his little right hook. She drew her hand up to rub the reddening mark on her face gently, and with a beaming smile the Italian mama said, “You’re plenty tough enough, I know you are.  Go back out there and get in that game.”  And off he ran. He finished that soccer game with boys who were still older and bigger, but that was all they had on him.

The point of the story is obviously not to encourage any kind of violence, and must be appreciated in its context, in its culture, and exactly for what it is – a mother’s belief in her son and her willingness to incur her own bruise in order to demonstrate to him a strength she knew he carried within himself.

I am pregnant with my first child, a son. There are many ways to experience the miraculous in life, and this is a present one for me.  I marvel at what the human body has been created to do- how my baby tells me when he’s hungry, how I can make countless choices each day to provide for him before I meet him, how in this 7th month it has been explained to me that the dramatic increase in my discomfort is because the little one has received the chemical release that tells him to turn his body to prepare to enter the world; how the fact that I trip multiple times a day and have adopted a waddle I was sure I would not is because my ligaments have responded to his signal to give up their resistance, and so feel a bit more like spaghetti. All of these things are fantastically wonder-filled to me.

I haven’t met him. But I worry I will have passed on my least favorite feature to his perfect little form; whether he will like me; if I be able to soothe him when he cries; if he will be ADD in school; what I will say when he gets his heart broken for the first time; what it will feel like when I reach up on tip-toe to hug his neck; what I will do when he comes home and says the older boys said he can’t play their game.

What I do know is that I deeply want him and love him from a place so far inside I can’t point to it; that I would give any part of my body or heart to ensure his safety and happiness; that my life seems so purposeful when I eat or sleep or laugh; that we’ve had countless of conversations just between us while his little fists or tiny feet thump against my ribs and I tap back; that I hope he has his father’s perfection of face and gentle heart.

I know that new fears have introduced themselves into my heart, that my very job now seems loaded in a new way. My involvement and awareness of global pains has now heightened as I’ve got a new kind of fight, a new investment dramatically out of proportion to his three-pound weight.

I look at the overwhelming presence of billboards, commercials, images and dialogue that serve to objectify women and insidiously worm their way into the heart of men; and one day, into the heart of my son before he is even old enough to have any clue what it is they seek to compromise in him.

I know that he is entering a world where over 12 million people are currently in forced labor and forced prostitution through trafficking; where pornography is multi-billion dollar industry, and that the ticker on news channels streams consistently of another natural disaster, another civil war, terrorism, political wars, poverty, hunger, discrimination. I know that few of these things can be “fixed,” and those that can be restored take years, patience, prayer, and an act of faith and persistence. I also know every single one of those things is  worthy of all that and everything more.

Since I began working with Wellspring International to respond to the needs of women and children at risk, I have to be honest in saying that life has an ever-present sadness. Oddly, what was present before wasn’t really an every-present happiness, but it was a naivete that allowed for easier living I suppose. Easier, and emptier. Yet this sadness is at times a weight that feels like it gets the best of me some days, but one that refuses to settle at the ocean floor of my being. Instead, it’s like the pendulum of a clock that keeps me working and serves to fuel the passion and calling God has given to me. It is a determination, the inability to forget and go back to simple.

And now with the miracle of a new life, a life that is part who I am in every sense, and part my husband and therein ever present reminder of my greatest gift in my life, I have a new immense responsibility and desire to protect this little human from the world itself- a world I am compelled to participate in. I want to protect him from it; I am somewhat defeated in already knowing I cannot fully do so.

As we considered his name, his baby décor, our parenting style, whether or not we agree with controversial Baby-wise methods, our mission statement for our child is to, with God’s help, raise him in a way that will break our hearts anew by opening his eyes to the world before him and teaching him the discipline, values, and strength he must find to face it.

Some days my heart will beat tears of joy as he experiences treasures of beauty from a life that takes in all the wonders- an airplane flying overhead leaving a trail of white puffy clouds behind, his fascination rather than impatience at bustling activity around him, his delightful first taste of freakishly blue ice cream, belly-shaking joy at a silly face I can make that will make him laugh over and over and over again. As he grows older, it will be in helping him to be a good friend, to learn what to defend and when to lay down his fists for the numerous fights and heartaches life will send his way from Kindergarten, Junior High, and forever onward. It will be to help him discover who he is- his talents, his uniqueness, to recognize his God-given purpose that will be different to mine in so many ways, his need to own his mistakes but overcome them. His ability to see into a person- to learn what it is that defines character; not to necessarily surround himself with those who have never fallen, but those who learned the discipline of standing back up. To instill in him his sobering yet compelling opportunity as a man in his private and public life to demonstrate a longed for and needed healing respect,  protection, appreciation, and honor to women that has been lost and minimized, corrupted and excused by culture in its accepted perversions and epic global personifications. I want to try to show him what it means to love; the honor and challenge of compromising, yet not compromising yourself or an other. I pray we will show him how to look at a world far outside his own borders and experience, to participate in the injustice he sees regardless of whether he is its victim.

I say this with the beginnings of pangs of understanding- may he live a life, not that is easy or free of pain, but that is intentional, purposeful, that is full and introduces him to peace, grace, and wholeness- the wholeness of a humanity he is part of and of the Creator that brought him into being for a purpose greater than himself.

I will have opportunity, both seen and unseen, to point to my jaw and help him find his strength.  Sometimes it will bruise the outside, always and to varying degrees will it bruise the inside. For I will ache at what he must see and what is my calling to try to guide him through.

I am reminded of this every day when I sit at my desk or board a plane to a new destination. Staying informed through the articles I read, exposing myself to the conversations with victims of injustice and seeking to understand a horror-filled story, trying to raise support for legitimate and urgent needs that keep me awake at night, continuing to recognize the real-life examples of a powerful grace that can heal wounds and empower wounded individuals to keep walking. It has crossed my mind to back off of it, to fill my mind with more pleasant things. Work has not been easy of late- my mind, my body, and my heart are somewhat tired inside. His presence tempts me to justify a reason to stop.  But it also tells me why I cannot.

Yesterday was my first Mother’s Day. My husband gave me pink tulips, my son woke me up with a few treasured thumps in my belly. And I am aware he is already teaching me. He gives me another reason not to give up. He furthers a conviction to try to participate in something that brings healing to the countless wounds found in life- because he remind me of life, of what makes it matter, of why I agreed to venture from the safety of my mind to publication and the scrutiny of reviews, and of a world in which I long to contribute something meaningful and good.

Because, in my ever so small capacity, I want to try to introduce that healing and remarkable all-sufficient grace I know can be found; that I have experienced and witnessed through stories with happy endings we long to hear and in those with different kinds of endings- but equally powerful stories that we need to hear.

Because I want to learn the meaning and living of the very things I want to teach my son.

And because I think that doing so is one of the universally -shared callings in all of our God-scripted stories.

The High School Lunchroom (Or, Social Darwinism At Its Apex)

I went and ate lunch with some high school students today (I was invited by one of the students from my church). I blogged about the entire adventure here, but there was one particular aspect that I felt worthy of exploring in more depth here on my personal blog.

After 17 years of post-high school life, and several trips back into the belly of the beast over those 17 years, today was the first time that I actually felt safe in a high school cafeteria.

Pathetic, I know. But true.

I stood in the midst of the typical chaos that is a high school lunch (which has changed a bit since I was last in school) and felt completely secure, completely at ease, and not the least bit intimidated. It was liberating.

Now, I’m sure you’re nothing like me; you’re probably well-adjusted and socially secure, and have never battled the powerful forces of Social Darwinism on its home turf. But for me, today was quite an achievement, as I believe with all my heart that one of the most socially destructive (and perversely formative) places in the universe is the high school lunchroom.

It begins as soon as the bell rings: who are you going to eat with today? Where will you sit? What will you eat? What will you drink? Will you have dessert? What will you talk about? With whom will you talk? The average high schooler has to have these and other questions answered in the five minutes it takes to get from your classroom to the lunchroom, because once you walk through those double doors, you’d dang well better have a plan in place or else you become the wounded gazelle in a field full of ravenous lions, hyenas and other predators.

I hated the lunchroom in high school so much that I eventually quit eating there. We mercifully had a drama teacher that allowed her students to eat in the theater lobbies, a sanctuary just off the dreaded killing floor strewn with green beans and crushed egos. It was a perfect haven – only people like me would even think of eating there, and no self-respecting jock or popular would even think of stepping inside the doors. Thinking about it now, it was a strange inversion of the actual lunchroom – a place where the unpopular ruled and the popular feared to tread.

So powerful was the lunchroom that it forged the social destinies of many people; all it took was one bad day and your entire life could become an endless joke for the amusement of others. But there were the occasional fairy tale endings where a jock or a popular would actually sit next to one of the great unwashed and discover something interesting or attractive about their unpopular classmate and begin a relationship that crossed lines more stringently drawn than those of race or creed. Indeed, the lunchroom was the place where only the fittest survived, though most came away wounded.

So, when I stood in that lunchroom today, liberated as an adult from the need to please others, the need to be perceived as cool or interesting, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I looked at the kids surrounding me and wondered how many of them felt the way I did as a student: hating the fact that no one seemed to notice me, but scared to death that I would do something stupid that would live in infamy. And with thoughts like that rattling around in my mind, I sat down with very interesting group of kids and enjoyed myself. I realized that if I can feel that way in a high school lunchroom, I can feel that way anywhere in the world.

And that’s a pretty great feeling – but that’s just me. What do you remember from your high school lunch days?

Ramblin’ Man

There’s something inherently insane about being fastened inside a 40,000 pound tube as it flings itself ground-ward towards a strip of asphalt no wider than a panel truck and surrounded by ice-covered patches of grass. It’s otherwordly, actually, a strange sensation of being inside of a movie, which is made even stranger by the fact that I’ve been reading an essay by David Foster Wallace on the fact that my generation sees the world through the prism of the televisual media. But such is life when you’re on a plane bound for somewhere you need to be, or so said the lovely lady next to me, a retired flight attendant (“I did it so long, we were stewardesses when I started”). You sort of hold your breath and let the ride take you wherever.

I would say I’m not a great traveler, if based on no other evidence than the fact that I’ve just turned 35 and this is my first solo plane trip anywhere. Ever. But what I lack in experience I make up for in sheer nervousness when confronted with the unknown and the possibility of confrontation with government authority. I was so nervous about the flight, my stomach wouldn’t stop making noises; it doesn’t help that I’m always worried I will somehow fit some bad-guy’s profile and get tackled while in line for the security screening. I feel like the TSA screeners are always looking at me funny, waiting for me to make a mistake or a sudden movement, and – BOOM – I’ll end up face first on the little roller belt that transports your shoes into the x-ray machine.

This paranoia is why the new full-body scan doesn’t bother me. I’ve always assumed that the screeners can see right through me anyway, so what’s the big deal now that they actually can? I’m certainly not going to feel anymore self-conscious than I already do, so let’s hop into the big round tube and zap away!

An interesting aside: I knew things were going to get weird when the couple in front of me started talking. He was about three beers into the case and she was a tad too flirty. Suddenly, he reaches into his pocket and drops the F-bomb: when he pulls his hand out, he’s holding a curved folding knife that’s four inches long, folded (that means it’s over eight inches long when open, a legal NO-NO in Georgia). Homeslice hops out of line, marches over to a security official and SHOWS HER THE KNIFE. He then asks, literally, “Do you mind holding this until I come back tomorrow?” The security guard, God bless her, smiles, says, “No, sir,” and politely grabs the gentleman by the arm and escorts him away. Where, exactly, I don’t know. Probably Guantanamo. Regardless they never came back.

Now, remember, he was with a woman who has now watched him get dragged off for some waterboard fun. She proceeds to dump everything into the little bins and steps into the ring of x-ray. She emerges and I step in. When I step out, this is the exchange.

TSA Screener: (pointing at the woman) Ma’am, you’ll have to stay right here. (Speaking into his microphone) I need a Security Supervisor to my position, stat.

Woman: (tapping her foot in annoyance) Listen, what’s the big deal? (She holds up a small cell phone, produced from who knows where) It’s only a phone, dude.

TSA Screener: Yes ma’am, a phone that you felt the need to hide inside your bra.

Woman: I don’t have pockets. Where else was I going to put it?

TSA Screener: Into the bins like the signs say. (Speaking into his microphone) Security Supervisor, on me, stat!

Woman: (slides opens phone) What? It’s not like this will detonate a bomb…

TSA Screener: (grabs woman by arm) With me, ma’am, right now.

(They disappear. A new Screener steps over to me.)

New Screener: You don’t have a bomb on you, do you?

Me: No.

New Screener: Then you can go on.

Now that I think about it, that’s a pretty evenly matched couple. I hope they enjoy the couple’s deprivation at Gitmo.

The rest of my day went well. Got on the plane and had the obligatory “I’m too good to sit in Coach!” person pitch their little fit, which I think is one of the FAA’s worst new rules. This lady was seated behind me, in literally the last row of the plane.

“I can’t believe this! I fly too often to get stuck back here like someone who doesn’t matter!”

So now I understand my seat assignment better – I don’t matter, so I move the back. Like the bus in high school.

Anyway, Ms. Too-Good continues to pitch one until a member of the flight crew comes back and asks her what the problem seems to be.

“I want an upgrade!”

The flight attendant caves and promises to arrange something. (I later learn that particular flight attendant was a trainee on her very first training flight; she looked like she knew the plane was going to explode in mid-air and wanted off really badly.) Ms. Too-Good folds her arms as if she’s been granted rulership of the plane. The fligth attendant comes back and says she has a seat upgrade – a window seat on an otherwise unoccupied row. Ms. Too-Good nods, and the flight attendant moves her six aisles up. I kid you not. Ms. Too-Good begins to swear at this point, so another flight attendant comes over and asks the problem.

“I want a first class seat! This is ridiculous! Don’t you people know that I’m one of your best customers?”

(An aside: I work with people who are some of this particular airline’s best customers. Even they don’t get a first class upgrade all the time – and these are people with over 3,000,ooo SkyMiles! I somehow doubt this particular lady could even begin to sniff that kind of mileage.)

The flight attendant looks at her and says: “This is all that is available. There are no first class seats. The plane is sold out, with the exception of these two seats, which we are allowing you to have at no extra charge. If this isn’t good enough ma’am, you will be escorted from the plane and will have to catch another flight.”

Ms. Too-Good sits down and doesn’t say another word. We take off and, despite the look on the new flight attendant’s face, we don’t explode. We land in the ‘Burgh and the cold rushes in, and that’s where you came in.

So here I am, in the city of Three Rivers,  Steeltown, and the local 11 have kicked the ever living crap out of the New York Jets, a feat that is much appreciated by the slightly doughy people seated at the bar across from me. They cheered non-stop throughout the first half and are still cheering, I’m sure, and while I can certainly understand how Pro Football is king here in the land of the snow, it still doesn’t hold a candle to college football in the SEC.

I was  singled out for my accent (“Are you from England?”) and for my politeness (my waitress said, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard ‘Thank you’ this many times in a month”) so I would say I blend in well.

Seriously, though: I couldn’t stand out more if I wore a Jets jersey and randomly kicked people in the butt. But the people are nice, if loud, and the airport, though unbelievably cold, is nice enough to hang out in as you wait for a ride, which has arrived and I am now on my way to Ohio for the next few days. Pittsburgh, albeit brief, was a nice place to visit.

I miss my home and family, and hope that my trip  goes well. For now, I’m contented to hum the Allman Brothers and count the hours until I’m back someplace where I don’t sound weird and the cold is only on the surface, instead of straight to the bone. I’m a Ramblin’ Man, but not born that way; hopefully, I won’t have to ramble anymore for a while.