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Why My Pumpkin is Blue

I’ve mentioned it before, but in case you might have missed it–

We are a family with food allergies.

Because if one person has food allergies, you all are affected.

We don’t have anything in the house she cannot have.  We don’t choose things in restaurants that she could not have, and we don’t go places she can’t go.

It’s how we roll.  All for one…..

her sister in college even avoids having things in her dorm room, just in case her sister stops by for a visit.

That’s what love looks like.

Caring enough to give up something for the benefit of another.

At least that is what motivates us around here.  Goodness knows, I don’t read labels until I’m blurry-eyed (have you seen how small some of the print is) and avoid certain places for the fun of it.  I don’t pack her extra snacks for get-togethers or cringe when she’s around folks eating what she’s allergic to because I enjoy it.

I do it because her life depends on it.

Holidays and celebrations are tricky times.  Most of these days/gatherings/celebrations come together around one thing, right?

Food.

Which makes it hard, when one’s choices are extremely limited.  Nothing with the allergens, nothing processed with the allergens, and oh good gravy, please tell me you didn’t forget your epi-pen.  Yeah, we’ve had some days of mad scrambling when that was left behind.

Halloween is one such day.  There’s the fun of dressing up.  The excitement of going out at dusk, all around the neighborhood with friends and family, and knocking on doors, visiting with folks on the sidewalks, and sharing stories and comparing what you got.

Remember what Charlie Brown had to say after each “Trick or Treat”?

Rocks.  He got rocks.

Bless him.

But I tell you what, I’d rather my girl get rocks than some candy that has the potential to threaten her physical health.

So we have two choices–

1) We don’t go trick or treating.

2) We go, but she doesn’t get to eat most or any of it due to presence or possibility of allergens.

Yeah.  Good times.

She’s had her costume picked out for two months and has been doing a countdown for the past week, and we’re still nine days out.  (I know, she told me a little while ago.)  Would you want to be the one to tell her we aren’t going?

We go.

Before our sweet neighborfriends moved, my friend prepared separate treats for my littles of things she’d asked me about beforehand.  Bless her, I miss her for many reasons, and there’s one more.   Usually I buy a special sweet treat for my crew and we “let” the Fella take the rest of it into work with him.  And it’s done for another year.

The other day my girl was talking about the one house a block over that gave her a spider ring last year.  She was thrilled.  So much so that she’s still talking about it.

That sealed the deal for me about something I’d been thinking about doing.

So Aub and I painted a pumpkin teal blue.

I think the teal is a nice addition to our Halloween traditions.

I think the teal is a nice addition to our Halloween traditions.

And it’s sitting on our porch.

I think it looks lovely–she and I are into that color right now.  (It’s not the only thing we’ve painted that color…..) But it is even lovelier to me because of what it stands for.

Inclusion.

All are welcome.

I recently found out through a Food Allergy awareness page on social media about the Teal Pumpkin Project.  For more information about how it began, click here for the story.   A teal pumpkin on one’s porch or a sign with a teal pumpkin on a door or mailbox lets folks trick or treating know that non-food items are available at that house.

Inclusion.

It’s about more than children with food allergies.  This includes children with diabetes and other dietary restrictions.

Everyone.

I’ve read some of the comments.  I don’t know why it is that when something new is introduced, some folks are so threatened, they get real, real ugly.

Suggesting that I keep my child home on Halloween because she can’t eat the candy, or that I’m pampering her and others who have allergies like her by “catering” to her needs.

Oh me.  Just walk away, Tara, just walk away.

Look, if this isn’t your thing, that’s okay.  I won’t think less of you if you give out Reese’s cups and don’t have a teal pumpkin anywhere around your house.  Ten years ago, I had no idea about all of this either. (And with Reese’s you would have been my hero!)  I get it.  Just please understand why this is important to me.

This is about children.  Being children.  Dressing up and having a great, safe, and fun night.

If my offering treats like pencils or stickers or slinkies and other novelties ensures that, then I’m all for it.

My Mama told me more times than I can count when we were growing up, “You better not leave anybody out.”

Yes ma’am.

So my pumpkin is blue.

The idea of the teal pumpkin project is not that folks can’t give out candy too.  It’s just that non-food options are available.

And that is a nice thing to do.

Because spider rings can make someone smile.

Even a year later.

Teal blue pumpkin love to all.

 

IMG_5171

The One About Creating and Failing

Today the littles and I went on an adventure.  We went to our local art gallery to visit this lovely in person.  We had never been there before, so we had no idea what to expect.

This lovely painting by one of my favorite artists, Barbara Wilkinson

This lovely painting by one of my favorite artists, Barbara Wilkinson

 

This beautiful picture is painted by one of my favorite artists.  She speaks to my soul, as she paints my stories before I even tell them.  I saw a photo of this work of art the day I had just finished writing about my Daddy’s rows in his garden and how he laid them straight.  Perfectly in sync.  I love the story in this painting.

At the art gallery we were privileged to see all sorts of different works–some more abstract than others.  We saw animals and scenery and still life.  Several joined my wish list, as their stories became a part of mine.  We enjoyed an impromptu tour with another of our favorite artists, Miss Jackie.  What a gift she gave us today–her presence and her time.  She had me laughing with the stories about a couple of her paintings.  Cooter picked out one that she had yet to finish and said he wanted to hang it in his room.  I was surprised but pleasantly so.  If my children find their own love of art, I will be ecstatic.

I had both Cooter and Princess find one piece to make up a story about.  They entertained me with the stories on the way home.  Both had me laughing.  Such creativity!  These are the kind of days that make homeschooling especially joyful.

When we reflected on our visit, we talked about all the different kinds of painting we saw–all the different media used, the different sized paintings, the different subjects, right down to the way the artists signed their work.  As we talked, they began to understand.

“Is there any right way to create art?” I asked them.

I was thrilled to see the light dawning and a smile slowly growing on their faces.  “No, there’s not.”  I swanee I think I saw a look of relief on Cooter’s face.  He had been talking earlier about how he didn’t know how to paint like the artists whose work we had seen.

Exactly, buddy, do you.  Paint like you.  I can promise you I’ll love it for always.

On our way home, we stopped to pick up some frozen broccoli.  Yes, that was it.  Of course, I knew we would likely pick up a few other things, but I have turned into my Mama when it comes to shopping.  I get certain things from certain stores.  And from this store–frozen broccoli, rice, paper products, shampoo, and printer ink.  Those things especially but I can get others.  They are the only ones who carry the big five-pound bag of broccoli florets.  I was out, we eat a lot of it, it was time to make the stop.  And since it was on the way home and no one was in a wet swimsuit or dance leotard…..the timing was perfect.

Before we went in, I led our merry band of misfits in our shopping mantra, “Hey, we’re going in with nothing, and we’re coming out with…..”

“NOTHING!” they chimed in correctly.  This is my way of preparing them for no toy aisle expectations.  Eh.  Sometimes it actually works.

“Yes, well, except for frozen broccoli.  We don’t even need to walk by the toy aisle, y’all.  Let’s get in and let’s get out.  Okay?”

As they were unbuckling and moving to the door, Cooter said with a sincerity that was a bit troubling, “I will help you find the broccoli, okay Mama?”

Princess whipped her head back around to him.  “Oh, you are just trying to get on her good side so you can walk through the toy aisle, that’s all!”  She was livid.

Cooter had the good grace to look sheepish as a grin covered his face.  He caught me watching in the rearview mirror.  “Really, Mama, I want to help.”

Ha.  Whatever.  Busted, my friend.

As is par for the course, when we got inside the need for shampoo and detangler and lip balm was realized.  We finally made it over to the frozen vegetables.  I was thrilled to see some of my favorite veggies back in stock, frozen by a local company.  I loaded up on them.  We found the bananas we needed and a couple of other things, and we headed for the checkout.

The crew helped me unload the buggy, and we were on our way home.  We’d gotten about a half mile from the store when it hit me.  “Frozen broccoli!”  If I hadn’t been driving, I totally would have slapped my forehead.  I mean are you kidding me?  All that, and I forgot what. I. went. in. for.

Oh me.

I had to laugh.  I could almost hear Mama saying, “Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.”  I looked back at Cooter and pretended to be mad.

“Dude, you said you’d help me find the broccoli.  And neither one of us remembered…..” I kept on teasing him, and then I dropped the “f” bomb.  Pretending to give him a hard time, I said, “Dude, epic Fail.”

They were both laughing.  Then I heard Princess say, “Yeah, Cooter, you’re a failure.”

Wait.  What?

Nooooooo.

I seriously almost pulled the car over.

A failure?  No.  I knew then and there I had to straighten that out.

“No!  Cooter is not a failure.  Y’all you can completely fail at something, but that doesn’t make you a failure.  Ever.  That means that you tried and it didn’t work out, so you need to rethink it and try again a different way.  Or let it go for a while.  But trying and failing DOES. NOT.  MAKE.  YOU.  A. FAILURE.  No way, no how.  Y’all got that?”

Yeah, I might have raised my voice.

I feel just that strongly about it.

Because fear of failure means they might not try.  And I want them to try.  Always.  Try their best, and see where it takes them.  Sometimes failures can take you to some pretty neat destinations.  I can attest to that firsthand.  But I never want them to label themselves OR ANYONE ELSE a failure.  That’s not okay.

I think they heard me today.  About being you, doing you, creating your art.  I think they understood a little of what I was trying to say about falling down not making a person a failure.  I do.

But if homeschooling and raising this zany bunch has taught me anything, it’s that usually none of us get it on the first go round.  We have to read it or try it again.  So we will be talking about these things again.  And often.  Because I think they are related–being you, creating your own mark in the world that isn’t a copy of anyone else’s, and not being afraid of doing so because you might fail…..yeah, I think they are.

Failing at something is a bump in the road.  It’s not a place to live.  You hit the bump and keep on going.  Creating.  Loving.  Living.

That’s a good lesson for today.  And everyday.

Love to all.

 

Three Things (or more) We Learned at the ER

Today started out soon in the morning.

4:40.

a.m. that is.

I awoke to the sound of the phone ringing in the other room.  Once fully awake, I moved with purpose to get to it, only to miss the call.  Hoping it was a weather alert or some such as that, I looked at the Caller ID.

Oh no.

My oldest.

Supposedly tucked in safely in her dorm room at the Oldest and Best.

But something wasn’t right or she would not be calling so early.

I was right.  Something was very wrong.  She’s had health issues similar to this before, but the pain has never been so bad, so terrifying–she felt paralyzed.

The calmness in my voice did not betray what was in my heart.  I was at least 45 minutes away and I was in my pajamas.  I suggested she call 911, but she said no, she could wait.

I have not gotten ready that fast since Mama called me and told me it was time to come tell my Daddy goodbye.   And this morning’s trip up the road to the campus was a long, long drive.  I played the radio on low as I drove as fast as I dared in the darkness.  Trying to distract myself, I flipped through a couple of different stations.  Finally I ignored it all and just thought.  About my sick baby.  About my Mama.  And for a few moments it was as though she were sitting in the passenger seat alongside me.  I felt peace, and a few minutes later my daughter texted that the pain had lessened somewhat.

That was news I could handle.  Definitely.

After five hours in the ER, where everyone was nice, the facility was clean and quiet (come to think of it, I never heard an intercom), and we were given a room almost immediately, we were heading out with news that nothing was seen that could be problematic.  It seems to be, unfortunately, something she will have to live with and deal with from time to time.  The good news is she can live with it.  So thankful.

In the middle of her visit, when they were pouring liquids down her to prepare her for the ultrasound, my girl did what most her age seem to be doing.  She took a selfie.

Oh me.

But instead of rolling my eyes, I laughed.  She must be feeling somewhat better if she felt like taking a selfie.  After we were able to share with her grandmother what was going on, my daughter shared her funny picture on Facebook, hospital gown and all, along with three things she learned today:

Things I learned today: 
1. Hospital gown blue is definitely my color 
2. Hospitals use Starbucks straws, and 
3. You’re never too old to call your Mama to hold your hand in the ER.

It made me smile.  Folks continued to check on her throughout the day and wish her well and ask her what on earth was going on.  I hope that girl knows how loved she is, and not just by her Mama.  But yeah, mostly her Mama.  I adore the ground she walks on, but I don’t hesitate a second to yank it out from under her when need be.

Today was not one of those days.  Today was a day of “poor baby’s”  and trying to make her laugh and asking the nurse to wait to take her blood pressure until this particular political commercial was over, because it really was making her crazy.  Today we memorized the weather in our town and all surrounding areas because we heard the weather report over and over on the morning news.  They really do design those shows for folks who are there for a few minutes and gone.  Seriously, same stuff.  Over.  And over.  And OVER.  We questioned Dr. Phil’s choices, and then questioned if he had run out of normal troubled folks, because it seems that he’s digging deep to find this sort of crazy.  For real.  Tomorrow’s show will be about two women–each one thinks the other is stalking her…..and they’d never met before the show.  Okay, that eye roll I skipped during the selfie?  Insert it {here} please.  I will not be watching.

When I narrowed it down to three things I learned, here’s what I came up with:

1.  This raising children is never over, it never gets easier, and no matter how old they are, when they’re hurting or in trouble, they’re your baby.  ALWAYS.

2.  You’re never too old to wish your Mama was there in the ER with you, no matter how old you are, no matter why you’re there–you never stop wanting her comforting presence.  I know, I sure wanted mine today.  

3.  Good news becomes more precious and appreciated the older I get.  When the doctor said, “all clear,” my whole body did the fist pump, “YES!”  

 

Tonight I’m thankful for that good news, for my baby girl who still wants me to hold her hand, and for the nurse who tied the back of her hospital gown because I had not done it.  (Epic Mama Fail there.)  I’m thankful for the Fella and Leroy who took care of the littles in style (I think they are working to have me replaced by their uncle–he is now their favorite! Adventures and lunch out will do that for a person).  I give thanks for all of those who love my girl and wanted to know she is okay.  I appreciate those who were there to calm my worries and anxieties so that I didn’t pass them along to my girl.  And I give thanks for the voice of one who loves her so and has ever since she became the other female in the family, whose voice quivered today when she thought about what could have happened to her little one–the one she will probably always see as 7 years old and in pigtails.

It’s always a good day to give someone good news and tell them how much they mean to us.  We really shouldn’t wait until they need us to hold their hands in the ER.  That’s a good message to hear anytime.

Love to all.

The Bricks and the Twine

I can still see, in my mind’s eye, my Daddy’s strong and weathered hands, tying the twine.  First through the hole on one clay brick, taking his time to tie it tight and knot it well.  Knowing how long he wanted it to be, he pulled his pocket knife out of his worn jeans pocket and cut it precisely.  He then went to work at tying and knotting it through the hole on the second brick.

The bricks were still warm from the rays of the sun.

He put his knife back in his pocket, and stood up to get on with the task at hand.

Daddy worked quietly and efficiently.  I enjoyed working alongside him, comforted by his presence and the songs of the birds near by.  He made his land a haven for many, birds included.  As he walked out to the plot of land he’d decided to garden that spring, his shadow grew long.  He was tall enough, but his shadows could stretch for yards that time of day.

Daddy handed me one brick and walked a ways before he set the other brick down at the edge of the plowed ground.  Telling me to keep a hold on my brick, he pulled it taut.

And so it began.  Daddy used the hoe to make a straight line for a straight row…..of corn, okra, squash, snap beans, peas…..whatever he decided he wanted to plant and whatever else Mama asked him to.  After he finished hoeing the straight rows, he handed me the bag of seed and told me how many and how far apart to plant them.

It just depended on what we were planting.

But the rows were always straight.  Daddy made sure of that.  As long as I followed what he’d mapped out, all was well.  I couldn’t go astray.

As it was for so much of my life.

Daddy guided, showed me the way, made suggestions on what and how much and the timing…..and then he let me grow.  I’m not saying I never went astray; there were times I did so with flying colors.  But with my Daddy there, I always knew where the right path was.  It depended on the situation, but he never failed to share his wisdom when I asked.  And he always had brick and twine to lay out the right course ahead of me.

The bricks out back are still warm from the rays of the sun.

But my Daddy’s hands are at rest, as is he.  The hands that were so strong–the same ones that held me when I was a baby, that toted the bucket of horse feed and me perched in on top of it, that lifted me up onto my horse, that guided my hands in brushing her and putting the bit in her mouth…..the hands that showed me how to do so many things, the hands that played cars with his grands and read books with them, and shelled peas that he’d just finished picking–those hands aged from the sun and hard work, the hands that wrote stories and love letters to his bride and poetry and letters to his children far away…..the hands that built and programmed computers and lifted knifes to slather peanut butter on just about anything it could go on…..those hands are no longer here to tie the twine and lay the bricks and hoe the straight rows to guide the garden…..or me.

Tonight I am thankful for the man who was the brick and twine in my life.  As time gets closer and the memories of those last days become more vivid…..again…..I listen to the birds and feel the warmth of the bricks and smell the fragrance of the tea olives he planted…..and I hug the children he loved so much.  I know that I have grown to be who I am because of the ground he plowed, the rows he laid, the seeds he planted and the weeds he pulled out of the garden of me.  As time continues to take me away from when he was here, I hope that I don’t grow too far away from the rows he planted, taking the time to lay them out.  With brick and twine.

The bricks that are still warm from the rays of the sun.

 

the strength of his hands

still carries me through hard times

and points the way home

~~~~~

the bricks are still warm

the same sun has watched him live

and knows he is gone

~~~~~

the garden, its rows

so straight and obedient

growing the good things

What Grown Looks Like

A little while ago, I saw where a young man posed the question, “What makes a man?”

I’ve been thinking on that.  So often we hear in graduation speeches, “Now we are adults,” or when a young person gets his/her driver’s license, “Well, so you’re driving, you’re grown now.”

Ahem.

I beg to differ.

I don’t think that any one thing makes someone grown.  Or not grown.  I think our lives are a series of mature and immature choices, selfish and not.  We can slowly become more “grown up” and in the midst of that, we can make some really “child-like” decisions.  Having a child, getting married, getting a job, turning 18 or 21–none of those makes one grown.  It’s what we do in each of these moments that determines if we are really “grown.”

Today I watched as my oldest made a decision that was not comfortable for her or what she really wanted to do at all.  She chose to do something for someone else because she loves them and they needed her.  She is growing up so fast right before my eyes, and today only served to remind me of that.

This afternoon Cooter came in and said out of the blue, “Don’t force love.  Let it come to you.”

I almost spewed my water.

What?!

I asked him where he’d heard that.  “Oh, Princess said it to K [a neighbor boy around her age] today when he was talking about the girl he really liked.”  The way Cooter imitated her, I knew she’d said it with compassion.

I’m not one for all these early boyfriend/girlfriend pairings–I think they’re way too young–but I am happy to know that my girl can be compassionate and sensitive to someone else’s emotions…..and show great wisdom in such circumstances.  Wisdom beyond her age…..

Yesterday morning, our Princess woke up and came to my room in tears because of a bad dream.  Cooter was already piled in there, staying warm under the covers.  He was a bit groggy, but to my surprise he leaned over and gave her a hug and asked her what happened.

Surprised by sweetness.  Right there.  I didn’t know he had it in him.

When it comes to my children growing up, sometimes I have a blind spot.  Often I don’t want to see it so I don’t.  Or I might look for it in my oldest because she’s over 18 and in college, but I forget to look for it in my littles.

The truth is we are all still works in progress and all still growing.  Tonight I am thankful for the ways each one of my children is growing.  I give thanks for the reminder that the most beautiful form of growth can’t be measured on a scale or yardstick or even by looking in the mirror.  The most beautiful and precious ways people grow can only be seen by looking in the heart and hearing their words and seeing their actions.  And for today, I am reassured by and thankful for the compassion and love I see in those gifted to me.

May it be a growing sort of day…..

Love to all.

stone mattress

in the quiet and the dark

I climb into my bed,

tugging up alongside me my worries and woes

about days gone by

and the things that they carry with them–

the regrets, the sadness, the doubts, and things not let go,

words left unsaid, things left undone

 

I tuck them in around me

and weary, I try to rest and fall asleep

on the stone mattress

I have made for myself

 

 

 

three story house

I live

in a three story house

tucked away in

the midst of the tea olives

whose scent makes me cry

missing the one whose

hands and back

planted them

 

I live in a three story house

with the books and the papers

and pencils and words

waiting to be written

by me or anyone

who will give them life–

these words what want to breathe

 

I live in a three story house

with the children

growing to be people

who can affect change

one day,

as they learn what 2 plus 2 is

I ask with a whisper

oh please let them learn so much 

more than sits 

in these books

let them dream, discover, build, create

comfort

let them love

 

I live in a three story house

where the squirrels romp

and the butterflies come for one last

sip

before they travel afar

and the cardinals, oh the cardinals,

they bless my heart…..

the cats lounge and make it feel like home

and the puppy plays and make us laugh

while the sun and shadows dance to music

we can’t quite hear but know the tune of anyway

 

I live in a three story house

with two flights of stairs

from the story of where I’ve been

to the story of where I am

and then the story of where I’m going

 

I often find myself on the first floor,

remembering, reminiscing, wishing

for things and people long past

As the days grow shorter and the wind

blows colder

I find the steps to dreaming of the places I

might one day go

harder and harder to climb

 

I live in a three story house

but the first floor I call home

 

 

 

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