Words of Wisdom Waiting To Be Found

This evening we had the joy and honor of attending a service in the brand new Pierce Chapel at my alma mater, Wesleyan College.

This was only the second service to be held there.  It was quite lovely.  The music whirled and echoed throughout the hallowed hall, and it was beautiful.  The words encouraging us to be the hands and feet and eyes and ears of the One who taught us best how to love were empowering and challenging all at the same time.  Instead of foot washing, we washed each other’s hands.  It was a precious moment when our Princess grabbed my arm and said, “Mama, I want to wash your hands.”

Oh my heart.

Such a lovely service during this week of weeks.  I am thankful for the invitation and that our own Wesleyanne welcomed us coming and being a part of what is now her home, her alma mater.  It means the world to me that she doesn’t turn her head and wish we weren’t there.  She could, you know.  She’s nineteen, so it could go with the territory.  But instead she seems glad to see us.  Again, my heart is full to bustin’.

What I enjoyed most I think was realizing something.  As we wandered through quietly before the service began, reading the plates on the back of the seats (Cooter: Are ALL of these seats reserved?!), I looked down and realized that wisdom can be found most anywhere, if only one is looking.

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A legacy of wisdom: “Keep your blood pressure down and your chin up.” –Morris Beller

 

Out of all the chairs and the dedications and memorials–there is, tucked amongst them, this tidbit of wisdom.  I laughed a little (quietly of course) and gave thanks for Mr. Beller and his wise words of truth.  I don’t know him, but I find it wonderfully fun and delightful to find these words in the midst of all the others.

Very cool.

Tonight I leave you with these images of the long-dreamed of and much-anticipated Pierce Chapel.  Welcome.  And may you stand tall and remind ALL who enter that dreams can and do come true.  In time.  And may ALL who want to enter always be welcomed.  And loved.

Love to all.

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A view of Pierce Chapel from the loggia when we visited for the Party on the Green Sunday evening. Beautiful, isn’t she?

 

Pierce Chapel shining brightly when Cooter and I attended "Ain't I a Woman" two weeks ago.

Pierce Chapel shining brightly when Cooter and I attended “Ain’t I a Woman” two weeks ago.

And one more shot, simply because I love it.

And one more shot, simply because I love it.

 

What I Was Wearing…..and the Why

The night my Mama died, it was after midnight before we left the hospital.  My sister Mess Cat and my oldest Aub and I headed back to my Mama’s house since it was so late.  We were exhausted, and despite the fact that there were at least three beds (two doubles) in the house, we all three piled up on the two couches in the big room and tried to get some rest.

The only clothes I had with me were the hospital-filthy ones I was wearing.  Perhaps you know the ones–those that you can’t wait to get out of and drop to the floor and only touch again with two fingers to drop into a washer for a long soak and washing.  I also had a pair of clean knit pants that I had thrown in a bag when I planned on spending the night with Mama at the hospital–purely for comfort’s sake.  When I got up the next morning and began to get ready for the day of meetings with the funeral home, florist, and many others, I threw on the knit pants and grabbed a sweatshirt I’d gotten for Mama at the GW Boutique.  It wasn’t lovely, but I was clothed, and that was a far cry better than I felt like I could do on the inside.

We went and did what had to be done.  Driving around in pouring down rain, putting the pieces together to honor Mama and her life as best we could.  It was a hard day.

But here’s the thing I’ve been thinking about lately.

I was out.  In public.  In those knit pants and a sweatshirt.  An Eeyore sweatshirt.

It wasn’t a pretty sight y’all, I can promise you that.

I remember my one friend we saw, smiling and saying, not unkindly, she’d never seen me when I wasn’t in my jeans.  And that is probably the truth. My jeans are pretty much the staple of my wardrobe.  Everything goes with them, and they’re comfortable (if not always fashionable–as my Fella says, “Comfort is king”).

Occasionally a picture comes across my feed on social media where someone (sometimes it’s a person I know and sometimes not) has taken a picture of a person out “in public” who is dressed in a unique way. Or their look is unusual for one reason or another.  And someone chooses to take a picture and point out just how unusual the person is.

Okay, I’m just going to call it what it is.  They’re posting it to make fun of that person in the picture.

And it’s not just on social media.  There’s a whole website devoted to the shoppers of a certain Mart, where photos of folks who come “as they are” have been photographed and put out there for all to see.

Oh me.

If someone took a picture of me the day after my Mama died, I could have made one of those pages or I could have been an interesting Facebook post for someone.  I am sure my fashion choices (oh did I mention the main color of the outfit was grey, but the only shoes I had were camel colored suede?) made some folks’ heads turn.  But the thing is, there was a reason why.

And I would wager a bet that there usually is in most cases.

I’m not innocent of this myself.  I point out interesting folks.  But I have to draw the line at taking a picture and poking fun.  I just don’t see how that is serving any purpose other than giving the darkness and brokenness in our world a more solid foothold.

I have to wonder why this makes folks feel good about themselves or why it’s considered entertaining.

Tonight I’m thankful for this memory and for the reminder to be on watch for my own pointing fingers.  People are people, and most are doing the best they can with what they have.  Who am I to point out their mismatched clothes, their peekaboo underwear, their fascinating hairstyles, or anything else for that matter?

We’re all in this together.  I need to remember that, and that there’s always more to the story than what meets the eye.

May we all begin to truly understand that.

Love to all.

 

Hope’s a Bloomin’

All those blossoms unfurling their delicate beauty and reflecting the message of life on branch after branch…..it does my heart good to see all the excitement and joy those little flowers bring.

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They defy the season of dormancy and life being on hold, and they tell the world that new life is returning.

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There is so much joy that crowds gather to celebrate,

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and full-grown men wear pink jackets proudly

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and dogs are just tickled pink

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and fireworks honor their return each year…..

I am filled with hope for a community and a world that knows just how precious new life is.

May you find a sign of new life to lift your spirits and give you hope today.

Happy Cherry Blossom Season!  Love to all.

 

The Words Worth More Than a Thousand Pictures

At the beginning of this school year, I was a bit concerned about where my two elementary aged children were, regarding their comprehension of basic math skills.  I did what has turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done as a homeschooling parent–I asked for help.

Our tutor turned friend turned family was a huge gift.  She gave our Princess what she needed to be able to approach math with a different attitude–a “can do” attitude.  And I am thankful.

So while I am still very focused on math and practice practice practice, I have shifted my concern over to writing.  Both in content and in handwriting.  *sigh*  We have a lot of issues around here.

While they both love to tell stories, and they both are avid readers, when it comes to writing those stories down, well–the motivation factor seems to be *ahem* missing.

So I’ve been encouraging more creative writing, especially with our Princess.  She has a workbook that we get writing prompts and activities from.  We choose one together and she works on it on her own.

On Wednesday, she had a list of twelve words–nothing spectacular–and she was to write a sentence or two about each one.  Mailbox was one word.  I think flower was another.  Pretty basic words.  She did this task without too much gnashing of teeth, and I was pleased.  The next day the assignment was to pick one of those words and write about 200 words–anything having to do with the subject.

And then it was meltdown mode.

“Mama I can’t think of another thing to say about any one of those words!” she said, adding in a bit of whine for good luck.

Oh me.  I decided to take a different tactic than the one that came to mind first.  Raising my voice and telling her to sit down and think probably wouldn’t be good for getting the creative juices flowing.

“Okay, fine.  I will give you a subject, and you can write whatever you want to about it, okay?  At least half a page or longer, okay?”

She nodded through her frustrated tears.

I thought for a minute.  “Okay, Aunt’s.  You can write anything about being there or anything having to do with her place.  Got it?”   I wondered if she’d write about picking vegetables from the garden or playing with her cousins or our yearly family get together there.

She smiled.  “Can I write about the Easter Egg Hunt?”  It was on her mind since it was coming up soon.

“Sure,” I said, relieved.  Now we were getting somewhere.  There would be a lot she could write about.

A few minutes later, she came back.  “Mama, how ’bout I draw a picture instead of writing about it?  I will go get the paper now, and it will look great…..” She started to go after her art supplies.

“Wait.  What?  No.  Nonono.  You are not going to draw a picture.  You have to write about it.”

She turned back around.  And smiled.  While she can be the sweetest and most tender-hearted child most of the time, she has these moments of pre-teendom that make me worry about the future.  This was one of those moments.  I saw the glint in her eye, and I wondered what was coming.

“Well, Mama, they say a picture is worth a thousand words.  And since you only asked me to write 200 or so, I’d really be doing more than you asked.”  And then she smiled.  Knowingly.

Y’all, I may wind up with more than one of my offspring becoming a lawyer.  I mean, really?  #Loophole.

She began to giggle, and I couldn’t help but laugh too.  Unfortunately, contrary to what she thought, my laughter did not equate to letting her off the hook.

She wrote her story.  She decided to interview everyone in our family and ask them what their favorite thing was about the Easter Egg Hunt/Wienie Roast/Family Hootenanny.

It turned out pretty good too.  She used complete sentences and proper capitalization and her reporting was spot on.  While more than one said the hot dogs were their favorite part, it was usually paired with being with family.  Her big sister threw in that her favorite part was sneaking our Princess’ Nerds from her Easter basket.  (Princess correctly used parentheses to note “I’m going to get her!”)

But what really got me, and what told me that no matter what her calling in life is our Princess will always have that same tender heart, were her closing words:

“For me it’s seeing everybody happy.”

Oh baby girl. Me too.

Me too.

(And just for the record, she was wrong.  There’s no picture that could have been worth more than those six words right there.)

May you all have a ray of sunshine around to remind you of the important things in life.

Love to all.

 

Until Everybody’s Free

A week ago Cooter and I traveled up to Wesleyan to attend Core Ensemble’s production of “Ain’t I a Woman.”

Many years ago, I read Sojourner Truth’s words calling for men to get out of the way and let women fix the world.  I fell in love with her then.  A strong woman who had suffered through so many hardships.  I knew when I saw that this was being performed that I had to go.

What an amazing evening it was.  Cooter sat quietly, drawing and listening and happy sitting next to his big sister who met us there for the performance.  He was there to see her–me for the performance.

Amazing is an understatement.  One young woman played four different roles.  One young man played the piano with music that suited each story.  Between the two of them my eyes were opened and my heart was touched.  And broken.

The first woman to come on stage was a sassy Zora Neale Hurston.  She was delightful and the music was a bluesy jazz that I adored.  Laughter was heard all through the audience when she said, with her head cocked just so:

“Love, I find, is like singing. Everybody can do enough to satisfy themselves, though it may not impress the neighbors as being very much.”

The next woman to come out and visit for a bit was Clementine Hunter, an elderly artist whose story was fascinating.  I loved her accent and her passion for what she was doing.  That she didn’t begin painting until she was in her 50’s was an encouragement to me.  When she showed her painting of a young couple being married, she pointed out that the bride looked scared.  The groom did too.  “Men need to be scared,” she adamantly stated.  Ha.  She was delightful right up to the end, when she “kicked” us all out because she had work to do.

Sojourner Truth was powerful and to the point.  I have seen her speech re-enacted by many women, but I still get chill bumps each and every time I hear those words.  “And ain’t I a woman!”

Then came Fannie Lou Hamer.  Oh me.

What an incredible story–this woman who set out to register to vote because IT WAS NOW LEGAL for her to do so, and she lost her job.  It only got worse from there.  On the way back from a conference in Charleston in 1963, she and her traveling companions were stopped in Mississippi and arrested, jailed, and beaten.

I was on the edge of my seat.  In tears.  I was willing for the words she was about to say, for the story she was telling about what happened to her–for those words not to be the horrific ones that they were bound to be.  I didn’t want to hear them, but more than that, I didn’t want them to be true.

But they were.

Here’s something I want y’all to know.

We are teaching history all wrong.

If we want to make an impact on our young people, if we want to make them want to change things for the better so things like what happened to Mrs. Hamer don’t happen again, we need to do just what the Core Ensemble performers did–take it out of the book and make it come to life.

Because I walked out of there, weeping on the inside, torn up over a history that I didn’t cause but one I haven’t really worked to change either.  And things like this are still going on.  Discrimination.  Racism.  Bigotry.  Hatred.  Abuse of power.  Slander.  Exclusion.  So many hard and horrible wrongs are still happening.

When I sat there and saw Ms. Hamer’s body react to the lashes she described, when I saw her walk weakly across the “room” from her “hospital bed,” when I watched her hands bound in her gown “handcuffs,”  I wanted to jump on that stage and stop it right then.  I was glad that my oldest, who has just begun in earnest on her journey of who she is becoming, was there to witness the horrors that have gone before.  I was thankful that her heart was touched.  As were the hearts of many of her friends in the audience.

I did notice one young woman a few rows in front of us, whose head was bent over her phone or a pad of paper, it was hard to tell which.  She rarely looked up at what was playing out in front of her.  I wondered later if she would just rather not have been there, or was that her way of avoiding a story that was too painful to bear.

Because, if so, I get it.

Tonight I’m thankful for the opportunity to hear the stories of these courageous and ordinary women from “their own” mouths.  Their stories stand out but there are so many others like them, whose stories haven’t been heard.  My heart and respect goes out to them as well.  I’m thankful for having my eyes opened to what our country’s story was in the not too distant past; and I realize that many days we are still there, it’s just disguised in another way.

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As I left Porter Auditorium last Thursday night, I watched my oldest and youngest walk together, and I realized that they are the ones who will change this world for the better.  I am doing the best I can, but I realize that one of the greatest things I can do for this world is raise children for whom these stories also bring frustration and a sense of what is right and wrong and a drive to stand up for those who have been wronged.  More than that, I hope I am raising them to cut off the wrong before it ever has a chance to get started.

Because, in the words of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Amen.

Love to all.

 

 

 

The One About Finding Just the Right Spot

Yesterday I was in our little laundry room switching a load from the washer to the dryer when something caught my eye through the window.

It was a bird.  Hopping a few “steps” at the time up the tree just a few feet away from the window.  I stopped to watch.  I saw the red crest on his head, and I knew he was a special one.

A woodpecker.

He would hop, and then stop and peck.  He’d tilt his head back, looking at the tree, and then up a few more steps.  He’d try it again, cock his little head, stare for a minute and then move on.  He did this over and over until he reached a spot about two feet from where I’d first seen him.  He tapped with his beak, leaned back, tapped again, and then he went at it full force.  Over and over and over, pecking at that one spot on the tree.

You know, doing what woodpeckers do best.

After I called the littles in to watch, and we all moved on to our own “what comes next,” I started thinking about the tenacity of that little bird.

He kept on moving, he didn’t waste time and energy and his talent and gift on the parts of the tree that weren’t just right.  He kept on until he found that sweet spot.  The spot where he could shine and his efforts could be the most effective.

You go, little bird.

There’s a lesson in that, right?  One I needed this week.  But then I am quite sure it was no coincidence that the little bird and I happened to meet at that tree outside that window at that exact moment.  Sometimes the Creator gets mighty creative in trying to get a message across to me.  (I can be a little hard-headed, but that’s a story for another time.)

Tonight I’m thankful for the reminder to keep on moving, to find the right place to share what gifts I’ve been given–the right thing to pour myself into.

Imagine how tired that little bird would have been if he hadn’t waited to hit just the right spot.  What if he had stopped a foot lower?  Or below that?  All that effort.  To no avail.  Only to end up exhausted.

May we all have the drive to keep on pushing until we find right where we are supposed to be, and may we have the heart to give it our all when we get there, so that we too can make our mark on the world.

Keep on pecking folks, we make things better when we find where we belong and let our light shine there.

Love to all.