“Sizzlin’, Summer, Sun” by Anne Stewart Helton

The jazzy, buzzing, Spring June Bugs have stopped jumping in town and the cicadas are screeching.

It is Summertime. It is Texas.  And. It. Is. Hot.

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As it is written in Ecclesiastes 3- “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens” but every year when the seasonal calendar turns over to Summer, it seems we forget we live in Texas and we are surprised. Its’ like a light switch is turned on and overnight the temperature soars: 92-95-98-then the century mark countdown begins! Old-timers start reflecting on the hotter days of yesteryear, spouting copious stories that usually begin with, “You think this is Hot?? Well, we didn’t have air-conditioning in the summer of_____ (take your pick)”! I have to admit I remember talking about those old days too. As a child, we ate dripping popsicles on the porch, never stayed inside and opened our windows at night, yes, in Houston, Texas of all places. We left the Attic fan on all night long to allow a breeze through the windows until Dad would get up and turn it off to save electricity. Of course, we turned it back on and then the fan wars would begin only to have Mom settle it with Dad. We won!

I remember the perspiration on our pillows and hearing the sounds of the night through our screened windows and sometimes sneaking out to play with neighbors to run through lightning bug filled yards. Yes, in Summer, the Winter and Spring creatures step aside for the dragonflies whizzing by as Sunflowers stretch high while Texas cooks. As the Bible says there is a time for all Seasons, but it also says in Psalms 104:19 “He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.” So, we often say okay Sun, it’s HOT, you can go down a little now.

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Y’all need to know, that in Texas when we say HOT we mean devil-type-pitch-fork waving heat! We are known to say “Oh, it’s just the humidity that gets you” but that’s just to compete with our Nevada or Arizona compadres who have the oven type dry heat. But hot is hot . Our Texas heat is the all encompassing overall mirage of waves of heat soaring from concrete that make 98 degrees seem like you are in a desert and should have buzzards circling overhead. We are frequently proud and boastful to pretend Summer doesn’t bother us, after all we are tough Texans, but it is common to see families sneaking away for weeks to Colorado or Cozumel to escape the heat. They may say they are going on vacation but we know what is really going on.

We adapt and change our schedules in Summer….running or walking in early mornings or late evenings, avoiding crowded freeways filled with road-rage-squared drivers waving hot fists in the air and we LOVE our air-conditioning. After all, we did build the world famous, air-conditioned Houston Astrodome before it was fashionable to have indoor stadiums.  The Summer heat also is known to trigger bucket loads of rain drop surprise showers that fill up our bayous and creeks. The thunderstorms leave us with flooded roadways, overgrown elephant ear ditches and hoards of people hungry, whelp producing, skin itching, west nile and zika carrying virus mosquitoes! So, we spray ourselves like safari explorers before we go outside and we zap mosquitoes with every type of mosquito repellent or spray systems invented, most of which work like snake oil! Oh, and we have more snakes after the flooding rains and we even have heat-crazy alligators walking out of ditches and Rivers onto golf courses and into the roads! We also have three species of Copperhead snakes in Texas that show up in groups in the summer.

Yep, one has to be tough to survive Texas summers.

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We learn Wisdom from these tough Texas Summer seasons. The June bugs teach us that what lies dormant in the ground as a grub all year has Hope and can emerge with joy and dancing. The little seed of the sunflowers show us how Patience grows with Faith into Glory from the Summer rains. The elephant ear filled waterways and bayous help slow and “still” the water down to feed the dragonflies, turtles, birds, frogs and even snakes, which are kept in balance by the alligators!! A large population of cicadas can be deafening but soothing as they sing us to sleep at night but beware…a flock of cicadas can be a meal and dessert all in one for Copperhead snakes. So be careful where you walk barefoot when you hear the cicadas screeching. The snakes of Summer teach us caution. Did you know that some Copperhead snakes have a little bit of a greenish-yellow color on the tip of their tail resembling a caterpillar? They coil up and stick their tail up, wiggling it to lure a frog or lizard, then they strike and gobble up their prey. It’s funny, this resembles the song “Smiling Faces” to me, where some people will lure us with fake smiles, pats on the back or pretty words only to strike and devour us too! Yes, the Copperhead snake teaches us caution, as everything may not always be what it seems!  As far as the mosquitoes???  Really Noah, you had to pick two of them too?  Well, I guess we can be grateful that they feed the birds, but as for a benefit to people?….all I can say is at least mosquitoes make us go inside, into our beloved air-conditioning!!

We will weather through this Summer season too and we will enjoy our steaming 4th of July fireworks, wave our wilted Flags, watch neighborhood parades and perspire at bar-b-ques. We will lie down on floats in swimming pools or close to sprinkler heads in our yards, if necessary. We will drive to Galveston Beaches or the Hill Country lakes and Rivers for cooling breezes and water sports. We will watch our flowers and gardens turn brown and scorch and we will watch and wait for possible Hurricanes that eventually may form in the bath-tub like heated water of the Gulf of Mexico. We will get through this Season with our own stories of the Summer of 2016 with a lesson of gratefulness that we have the Seasons, the weather, the creatures and the memories to carry in our hearts to pass on to others in our own stories that may start with: “You think you’re hot now?? Why, in 2016, our summer was…..(take your pick)!!”

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“MOTHER, May I?” by Anne Stewart Helton

It’s May…Mother’s Day month and I am remembering when even our childhood games asked for our Mother’s permission. Can you imagine….?

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In childhood days of the past, before texting, twitter or Facebook, sometimes we would place our Mom in a chair, outside in the front yard, and we would gather up neighborhood friends and line up in front of Mom. We played the game “Mother, May I?”, facing her, so she could actually watch us doing whatever she sometimes mischievously commanded us to do!

In the “Mother May I?” game, for instance, we would ask her “Mother May I ” take 5 steps forward…the winning objective was to get closest to her…first!  She could either “allow” us to do certain antics to get closer to her or tell us to take 10 steps backwards or jump like a frog, or take scissor-steps sideways, and so on.  If we forgot to ask for her permission or didn’t wait for her command of “You May” we had to start all over again. My Mom always tried to be over-fair so I can only imagine how she would play the game now, in today’s politically correct world of “no competition”.  We would probably all have to line up and walk in unison just to be at her side, like zombies! But also, I think it must have been so difficult for her to be involved with her ten children 24/7, and then be involved even when playing games, when she really just needed a break from kids. I imagine she probably wanted to say No you may not take 10 steps forward towards me, You may go run around the block 10 times and then take the bus downtown. Of course, a directive such as that today would get a poor Mom arrested! Sometimes Mom probably wanted to say “You may go take a walk at Brazos Bend State Park…” which, on second thought would have probably not been a good idea!

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Mothers of little humans aren’t given quick pregnancies or short childhood development periods nor are they given the instinctive ability to flip the little creatures from the nest. Human Moms have never ending years of caring…long months of gestational periods of the nines, sleepless nights with hours that never amount to nine and long years, where each year may seem like nine. And then the nines start over when the darlings move out or go to college. The nines change to maybe nine minutes free of not worrying about them, no matter what age!

When communicating with children, Mom’s are usually the Parent of the mundane…the laundry, the breakfast, the homework, the computer, the squabbles with friends, the sports schedules, the taxi service and the orthodontist appointments….And, granted in the early developmental years, the young humans usually do ask, albeit in different ways, “Mother May I?”, but it’s more like:

MOM, PLEEEEEEZE? Everyone else does it!!” And if the mom says No, you may not”,  it is often followed by long strings of arguing to exhaustion, debating the pros and cons of the requests and nowadays, as the offspring grow, it’s often, “Well, I’ll do it anyway!” or they just choose to never ask, they just do!! Whatever!

It makes one wonder if any rock singer asked her Mom, “Mother, may I twerk on stage?” or, “Hey Mom, can I go half naked and sing in this cool video where I wear a dog-collar? orMother, may I get a forehead tattoo of my new fav-boy band and pierce my tongue?”.

Of course, It’s doubtful children would ever ask “Mother May I?” to any of these requests but sadly, some Mothers desire desperately to be cool friends rather than guiding Moms to their kiddos and they may actually allow their children to compromise themselves just to try to keep up with peers.  And fame can be so intoxicating at times, that some Mothers may actually encourage their children to act-out to gain attention. When I see this played out in real life I think about what my old friend Lori used to say, “Where’s that kids’ Momma? ’cause they are acting a fool!”  But, in reality perhaps the Momma is doing some of the same stuff herself and the real question is Are there any grown-ups anymore!!”

When it seems overwhelming how some children lack honor, respect or obedience to their Mothers I remember that even Mother Mary had problems with her youngster Jesus over two thousand years ago. When Jesus was age twelve, Mary and Joseph were leaving a Passover Festival in Jerusalem to return home. Unbeknownst to them, Jesus stayed behind. Now that is something every busy and stressed out Mother can identify with!  When Jesus had been missing for three days they finally found him back in Jerusalem, in the Temple. In Luke 2:48-50, when Mary found Jesus, she asked him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

Jesus replied “Why were you searching for me?”…. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Of course, they realized later He was starting his mission on Earth and subsequently He did become totally obedient to them. But, the point for me is even Mother Mary didn’t have total control and even Jesus didn’t ask “Mother May I?” when he stayed back in the Temple. Of course our children are far from being Jesus but He does dwell in them as the Holy Spirit!  So, Jesus’ own pre-teen rebellion can give a current day, frazzled Mother a little comfort that sometimes our offspring do have good plans and intentions in the behaviors they portray.

So, maybe No, we don’t really ask our Mom for permission anymore. Even in silly games.

But I still go to my Mother for wisdom and playful games.

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I took her to lunch recently and asked my over 90 yr old Mom what she thought about the “Mother May I?” game of long ago years that we used to play. She remembered playing it with her own Mother. And I asked her what she thought about children asking Mothers for permission and if she could write her thoughts in a journal we keep. As usual, she gave me some very wise words.

On asking Mothers for permission??…in a modern day version it was just like what Mother Mary found out, she wrote: “I think it’s very important! Listen to (my) mother, not the movies or T.V. and mainly listen to God.” Love Mom

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“BLOOM. REACH. PLANT.” by Anne Stewart Helton

It sounds so simple.
Just blossom or do something wonderful in life, then get it out there, reach far, plant it and let it grow! I watch my wonderful Walking Iris plants do this every year. People can do this too, right?

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These Irises are beautiful wearing their purple vests against their white skirts, they bloom, sway, reach out and then plant themselves elsewhere and grow. It’s kinda spooky when you think about them moving around in my garden and it sounds pretty simple in it’s design…right?

Uh, well, I don’t think so!

I tried to watch the blooms for awhile this year, to check the process and I observed the flowers daily to see what was happening. The weight of the blooms became heavier and heavier with pollen, attracting me and the bees, as well as moisture. Then, when the March winds came to town, the blooms ebbed and flowed within the windy waves around my garden. Each gust allowed them to reach out more and then the rain storms actually weighted down the blooms with water and little sticks or debris blown down upon them. I was tempted once to remove the sticks until I realized they pushed the blooms closer to the ground to receive new life. While I wanted to keep the blooms unscathed, in their flawless purple glory, I left the sticks and water in the blooms, and watched and waited…

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But I missed the real transition one rainy, stormy night. I had thought about protecting them from the predicted storm but I didn’t. So, when I went outside the next morning I saw that the Irises had already planted themselves firmly in the dirt. The storm had blown them all around, pushed them down and allowed the blooms to put down hardy tendrils to find new nourishment in the dirt in order to continue growing and to multiply. One Iris looked pretty beaten up but its’ bloom stood tall. Not only had it survived the loud thunderstorm but it had been tried and tested now and would live on to survive more storms.

My Honeysuckle Ivy is doing the same thing now too. It is blooming but it’s using a distraction of an intoxicating fragrance while it performs it’s slight of hands and wraps its reaching tentacles around my sweet little Orange Tree. I can let it go like this for awhile, as it is blooming and growing but eventually….chop, chop! You see, it’s a tricky little vine, not rooting itself but trying to survive off the life of something else!

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Whenever I bloom with…an idea, a song, a creation, a book…I tend to think like the Iris. Okay, I made it, I wrote it, it’s pretty good, now come on wind, just get it out there. Plant it. I’m done.  But life isn’t like that. If something or someone is to be well planted, sometimes it has to reach out and go through some storms or even get filled up with sticks and debris to grow. Sometimes we may create something but we need to bury it for something better to come out of it. Learning to let go is an art in gardening and life…knowing when to prune, weed or fertilize is all part of the planting.  Sometimes, perhaps, we have to do the same with people…to observe and wait, even with our blooming children or grandchildren, to see where they will land and grow. But they have to survive their own storms in order to be strong! Often, we just overthink life believing that we can catch that perfect moment of someone’s transition when reaching out and planting, just to make it go our own way.  As if… we are in control!

Or sometimes we may live like my Honeysuckle Ivy and latch on to someone or something else for support but we must be careful not to overwhelm or suffocate the support with our own growth. If the thing we latch onto is a toxic diversion we will grow off course, perhaps even for a long time until someone helps us cut free or we are blown free from it, usually deep within our own storms. Sometimes we won’t actually go anywhere with our beautiful blooms but that’s okay too because our roots will become really strong and deep and they will last as we keep blooming. And sometimes we will get blown away by the wind and land far, far away from where we wanted to be or should be and then, we may have to actually start over. That is really hard, especially if the soil we land in is rocky and dry and there is no one who cares to nurture us or helps us grow. That’s when it helps to know the ultimate Master Gardener and to know that it is all designed, purposefully and perfectly in the production. After all, even a vicious forest firestorm prepares the ground deep in the forest which then produces the strongest of seedlings. In nature and in life, the sooner the better for us that we realize that whatever happens is  “all God’s timing. And sometimes we are left in a stormy period for awhile to refine our character.” (From “Happy Jesus Nurse: Heart Lessons”)  http://bit.ly/HappyJesusNurse

And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and I will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God.”– Zechariah 13:9 (KJV)

I still continue to Bloom. Reach. and Plant in my life, even as the sun is lower on the horizon for me and my garden. I continue to wait with wonder at what survives, grows and multiplies around my life. I continue to work at being thankful for the Grace and Mercy that allows me to say ‘The Lord is my God’. And I remind myself daily to see His glory in the majesty of nature because it all belongs to God. I also know that prayer keeps me on that rich and fruitful garden path of life.

And…every now and then I light a candle for myself and for those I love, who may need a little extra light in their lives in order to Bloom, Reach, and Plant wherever it is that they are going and growing.

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