Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Into the New Year (part the final)

Concluding the adventures of Sonny, Ashley, Cricket & Maggie as they document their trek across Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and back again…only almost one whole month after Christmas…

DECEMBER 29: DAY EIGHT OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: Yet another day of relaxation…and gift exchange. Turns out that in the flurry of gifts that Ash and I got, we received gift cards for stores that we don’t have in Miami. So, we decided that we would take some time to go shopping in Tupelo so that we could use the cards we got. …however, we didn’t take into account that (a) this would mean more crap to try and cram into the Jetta (which was going to be VERY close to capacity at this point) and that (b) we could have just ordered stuff from the respective websites of these stores.

Yes. I am a genius. Thank you for asking.

This was also the day that I think I gorged myself completely. See – during the car ride to Mississippi I kept espousing the virtues of the various and sundry places that I wanted to eat that there is nothing like in Miami. Like, fried catfish. Fried. Stinking. Catfish. You have NO idea how much I started craving this artery-clogging dish as soon as it was not longer readily available. So, the afternoon was spent eating dough burgers, chocolate milkshakes, and the evening was spent at the local out-in-the-literal-middle-of-the-woods catfish eatery.

And I had Pepto for dessert.

DECEMBER 30: DAY NINE OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: Memories…nothing more than…memories… I think this date marked a moment in time that should have been captured with a camera for all eternity. Too bad none of us were smart enough to do so…

Andy Pittman (see the blog link on this page), Kenny Anthony and I were moderately inseparable during a lot of our senior year of high school – which, in retrospect, is kind of odd, since we were all three so radically different in personality styles, tastes in music and movies, and dreams and aspirations from one another. But, there were a few common bonds that ran strong between us, and this is what was the cohesion to our loose little affiliation.

Anyway, unless I am mistaken, I think that the last time the three of us were together was at Andy’s wedding…in the mid 1990’s. Time and life had a way of letting us drift apart, but we kept weaving in an out of one another’s radar during the interim time: Kenny and I wound up as roommates for YEARS while living in Columbus, MS and never really lost touch for extended periods after that, while Andy and I had only recently (in the last few years) begun a moderately healthy and irregularly scheduled dialogue on church, culture, our places in it, what ministry was supposed to look/feel like…and how our respective life paths had changed/altered our perceptions and beliefs on living a life of faith.

But that afternoon in Starbucks…it was like we hadn’t seen each other for a few months. Oh, sure – the waistlines were different, the hair (or lack thereof) was different, the fact that Andy has three children was different…but the core of the connection was still there. My only regret was that we couldn’t devote as much time to the reconnection as we wanted to. Life, again, had other plans…and so did our respective families.

DECEMBER 31: DAY TEN OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: We left the great city of Tupelo sometime around 10:00 am for the first leg of the trip back home – which would mean a stop back in Albany, GA to see Ashley’s mom and to get Cricket & Maggie back.

The conversation on the ride home was VERY deep and meaningful, and I’ve debated talking about it on this blog. Ultimately, what was said in the car needs to STAY in the car…but it was a great time for Ashley and I to talk about the future, our plans/dreams for a family, and other intimate moments that only two souls who are so close can share in terms of a dialogue about life.

JANUARY 1, 2008: DAY ELEVEN – THE LAST AND FINAL DAY OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: You know how it always takes longer to get back home at the end of a trip than it does to get where you’re going? Or how it seems that way? Yeah. That was this day. In spades. But, we made it home safe and sound...and not at one another's throats.

So – ultimately, what did we learn from this roadtrip?

We miss our family and friends. Rather, I miss them more than I was either willing to admit or that I was even really aware of. Living in Miami has some amazing blessings attached to it (and no – I’m not talking about the weather), but ultimately? Home is where the heart is, and we found out that our hearts still lie in the Southeast.

We miss cold weather. Stupid UV rays…

We will NEVER travel with that much crap in the car again. Say it with me: UPS. Why the devil I didn’t just pony up and ship all the gifts we go back to Miami, I’ll never know. (Again: yes. I am a genius. Thank you for asking.)

Thus ends the travelogue.

COMING SOON: Leadership Summit recap – HUMANA 08 – the East Coast Conference on Hunger and Homelessness – and much, much more…

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Pardon me while I have a strange interlude..."

BOOK LEARNIN' AN' TH' GOOD IT'LL DO YE: Ashley has been accepted into and has begun coursework for her Ph.D. at Barry University here in Miami. Send your praise, accolades, and "you go, girl" emails to, where I'm sure she will be wondering how and why you found out. Yes, this means that she will obtain the "Dr. Lemmons" status well before I do, since I am all but convinced that I'm going to start work on a Masters of Divinity before anything else...and it'll probably be from here if we wind up staying in Florida.

ON THE TABLE IN THE BACK ROOM, CURRENTLY BEING READ BY MY SILLY SELF: Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren, Wide Open Spaces by Jim Palmer, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Volume Three by - duh - Jack Kirby.

WHEN WILL THE "REAL" POSTS GET BACK? Yes. I hear you. Some people have asked for me to continue my foray into the realm of deep spiritual meaning and life stuff. Fear not; I have been journaling (as always) and these posts will make their way here in due time. Patience, grasshopper.

Until such time gets here, I've been working on a presentation that I will be - well, presenting on twice this coming Saturday (January 19) at the Undergraduate Leadership Summit here at the University of Miami. Much to the chagrin/annoyance of some people, I will be presenting on "Spirituality and Leadership," because (a) it's something I'm more than a little passionate about, (b) any opportunity that I get to speak in public about my faith, but in a culturally relevant way, ya'd better believe I'm a-gonna take it, and (c) since they were going to make me present anyway, I might as well do it on something I like and/or want to talk about.

Copies of the material may be requested by contacting me at the email address listed above in the little box that tells about me. The address.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Into the New Year (part the second)

Continuing the adventures of Sonny, Ashley, Cricket & Maggie as they document their trek across Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and back again…and you have NO idea how tempting it is to type “There and Back Again” as the title to this…

THE MORNING OF DECEMBER 26: DAY FIVE OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: If you want to see something entertaining, you should see me interacting with the gift that Ashley’s dad gave us. As a Christmas/late wedding present, we received a Tom Tom Go GPS system for the car – for no other reason than I have the natural navigation skills of a nearsighted Weeble. With vertigo. Which makes riding in my car with me driving in Miami an educational experience for sure. Anyway, we drove from Georgia through Alabama without a hitch until we hit Birmingham. Then, this device of the devil went partially blind and/or insane and navigated us through what can only be described as a “disreputable” part of the city. We eventually found our way back to Highway 78…but the best part was that as we drove on 78, the GPS system…lost us. We literally looked like we were driving through nothing on the face of the GPS monitor. As Ashley and I commented about “going off the grid” and “not even satellites can find us in Alabama,” we had a good laugh at the expense of this technological thingie.

We finally made our way to Tupelo sometime around 7:00 (CST) – and I got to see my parents for the first time since May 27. Almost seven months. I think my little Grinch heart grew three sizes in that moment.

One thing I have failed to mention up to this point was Ashley’s health. Ash, you see, has major allergies and asthma. Right about the time that her system was getting fully acclimated to Athens…after three years…we uproot and move to a completely different climate, with its own little new amounts of allergens in the air and water. Yeah. Fun. So, for the last few months, she’s been trying to get adjusted to living in Florida, with mixed results.

So – for those of you who’re sadistic and/or have a background in medicine (sometime, this runs a little closer that people might think)…imagine what it was doing to her system to go from southern Florida to southeastern GA to northeast MS in the span of about a week. But, more on that later…
The only other moment of note was when we made our way to dinner that evening and the restaurant managed to somehow mess up my order for a chicken calzone. Welcome home to Tupelo…

This morning saw Ashley experience a true Lemmons Christmas Tradition™ with the introduction of the “Happy Box.” Now, what might be a “Happy Box?” Well, this was something that my sister and I helped to concoct to meet the demands of my mother’s love language (giving gifts) and to keep her happy. Every Christmas, my mom would help to update the respective underwear drawers of my sister and me by going on a t-shirt and/or undergarment buying frenzy. However, no self-respecting kid wants to open underwear as a gift on Christmas morning, so we reached a compromise of sorts that would sate my mother’s desire to make sure we had clean, hole-free undies and to stave the rabid bloodlust for presents that a younger Sonny and Lea Anne had: the morning of Christmas Eve, we could open the “Happy Box,” which held the new unmentionables as well as a new pair of pajamas, which were not to be worn until Christmas morning.

This tradition has held up through the ages, and even extends to today…where my sister, Ashley and I all got similar pajamas to wear on “Christmas morning” the next day. And before you ask - no. There are no photos of us in our respective matching iPod themed pajamas. And you’re all depraved for asking.

So, besides having to endure the repeated comments of how precious this tradition is by my clearly mentally deranged wife – nothing of any sizeable event happened this day. We ate, we drive around the city of Tupelo, and…yeah. Oh, Ashley and I DID get to go to a Kroger’s for the first time in almost six months. And if that was the most monumental event of the day…you know the day was quiet.

DECEMBER 28: DAY SEVEN OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: So. That bit about Ashley’s health? This morning, it took a MAJOR turn for the worse…

Ashley woke up after only having slept maybe 3-4 hours that night due to her breathing being so labored. Her mother – who also suffers from asthma – had given her the portable treatment machine from her house in case she needed it. Turns out that this was greatly needed, as she used not one but two treatments in 48 hours. But, by this point, because her system was so hopped up on chemicals to help her breathe, coupled with the fact that she really couldn’t due to the conditions of my parents’ house, nothing was really working. So, at 5:15 in the morning, we went out to my car so she could sit in the cold air and just let her lungs clear out. This helped, but at the same time, I knew that something more drastic was needed. I kept suggesting that we go to the hospital, but she kept insisting that she’d be fine after a while.

We stayed out in my car for a good 45 minutes…which was great, because if nothing else, it gave the neighbors across the street something to gawk at. You see, the couple who live across the street from my parents embody the stereotype of the quintessential older Southern couple who take it upon themselves to – of course – be experts on EVERYBODY’S business save for their own, of which they, of course, have no problems, skeletons in the closet, or the like. Sweet kids as far as judgmental, opinionated and critical people go. Really.

Anyway, after we came back inside, it took the combined genius skills of me, my mom, my sister, and my dad to remember that I have a second cousin who is not only a doctor, but he is the only allergy specialist in all of Northeast Mississippi…and he was a phone call away. – look, I never said I was all that swift before my first 16 cups of coffee in the morning, did I? So, I spoke with Robert Bryson on the phone, explained the symptoms, and he graciously called in a prescription or two to the local pharmacist, at no charge. I still have to remember to send the guy a thank-you gift. Ashley and I waited a little while for the prescription to be filled, drove off to get it, and – thankfully – they helped immensely. So much so that she was able to stop using the bronchial inhaler. …which was good, because I needed it after all that. Ashley’s not the only person in our family who suffers from asthma. Our kids are screwed.

So, after all that…we came home, showered, changed clothes, put on our Happy Box PJ’s, and went downstairs to open our gifts.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Into the New Year (part the first)

Time for a multiple-choice exam, kids. I mean, what a better way to start the new year off?

1886 is:

(a) The year Emily Dickinson died;
(b) The year the statue of liberty was dedicated in the harbor of NYC;
(c) The total number of miles driven by me from Miami, FL to Albany, GA to Columbus, GA to Tupelo, MS…and back again; or
(d) All of the above.

If you chose “D,” not only are you a smarter than the average bear, but you’re also probably staring at the screen, muttering something under your breath about how you’d probably rather eat your own foot than drive that far. Trust me: I understand. After that little roadtrip, I don’t want to see the interior of my car again for a long, long, LONG time.

But, there were some definite highlights of this trip, as well as some much-needed moments of importance at the various stops. Since I am still road-weary and pretty much exhausted (even 48 hours after coming home), this will be brief. – and as we all know, “brief” for me is, like, long-winded for almost every other human on the planet. Except certain televangelists.

DECEMBER 22: DAY ONE OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: Ah, the joys of owning a dog. So, my coworker, in a fit of holiday spirit, decided to get all Martha-Stewart-y and take peppermint candy canes, unwrap about 2/3 of the plastic off each cane, dip it in chocolate, roll the still-warm chocolate-coated cane in candied sugar, let it cool, re-wrap it in festive holiday plastic wrapping, bundle it in a package of four, and give me a set of these for Christmas. So, of course, on the eve of going on a 6-hour long first leg of the driving tour, Maggie decides sometime in the middle of the night of December 21 to climb on top of the table, knock the bundled candy canes down, and eat all but one-quarter of one candy cane. Let me clarify this: eat everything – plastic included – of all but one-quarter of one candy cane. I, of course, presume this is her moment of civil disobedience in protest to having gone to the vet that day to get inoculated. I also – for the briefest of moments – contemplate what she’d look like as a rug. However, in spite of the gurgling noises coming from her tummy, I explain to her that her ruse to keep us from traveling will not work. This just means more fun stops on the FL turnpike on our way to Albany. Joyous. It does, however, give me the excuse I need to stop and buy a bag of oranges at one of the roadside vendors for my dad, who will get giddy like a kid at the idea of fresh oranges in December. He’s weird like that.

Anyway, we arrive at Ashley’s mom’s house sometime around 5:30-ish – which was great, because this meant we got there before dark, which was her mom’s major request. It was also a time of great rejoicing, because this was the first time Ashley and her mom had seen each other since June when we moved to Miami. Many tears were shed, many hugs were given, and many licks were administered by Maggie & Cricket. Love actually is all around.

DECEMBER 23: DAY TWO OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: Sleep. Eat. Rest. The trifecta of perfection for this day.

DECEMBER 24: DAY THREE OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: We left Albany, GA for the 1.5 hour drive to Columbus, GA to go see Ashley’s aunt and uncle, as well as her dad and two kid sisters. We knew that we couldn’t stay long due to the fact that the two mongrels were going to be left at Ashley’s mom’s house unattended (all leather goods and/or food WELL out of reach of the nutters), but we also wanted to maximize the time spent with family. So – we stopped off at the aunt & uncle’s for a bit, before going off to spend some much-needed time with Ashley’s dad and her two sisters. A good time was had by all, and watching the three of them act like teenagers…well, especially in light of the fact that 2/3 of the equation still could be classified as nigh-teenagery…it was kinda cute, I gotta tell ya.

We then headed back to Albany to settle in before Santa came the next day.

DECEMBER 25: DAY FOUR OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: Christmas Day. ‘Nuff said. Relaxation, time to drink hot cocoa, and watch Ashley’s mom trip out over the DVD surprise I got her. It seems that Ashley, back when she was in the eighth grade or thereabouts, was an extra in a film that was shot in Columbus/Albany called To Dance with the White Dog. Her scenes were all in the very beginning of the film, and – after a LONG and arduous Internet search – I found a copy of the DVD, which we watched. Repeatedly. Well, we watched the beginning of the film multiple times. I still have no clue what the plot of this movie is about, but I do know what Ashley’s hair looks like shot and lit from multiple angles.

THE MORNING OF DECEMBER 26: DAY FIVE OF THE GREAT SOUTHEASTERN ROADTRIP OF 2007: This was probably the hardest day of the trip…so far…as we took Maggie & Cricket to the local “dogsitter” to be watched after and doted upon while we continued on our voyage to Mississippi. It was painful to leave the pooches behind, but we knew we had to. Plus, with them being in Albany, had anything happened, Ash’s mom would have been right there to go and take care of the mongrels. For those of you who know these two idiots, you’ll understand fully when I state that Cricket had no problems whatsoever (in fact, we learned later that she would go out behind the kennel and run and play in the yard with the other dogs), whereas Maggie…? Yeah. She was NOT a happy puppy.

So, we hugged Ash’s mom goodbye, stopped in Columbus to say bye to Ash’s dad & sisters (and to eat at Zaxby’s), and started the voyage across Alabama and into Mississippi…