the eerie light and Irish Spring

after a day of playing tag before the heat of noon
chased us indoors to have a sandwich or a buttered biscuit
leftover from last night’s supper

and marathon sessions of Monopoly
or building frog villages in the sand pile
under the big tree
complete with parking garages for the Matchbox cars
that all too often caved in
the casualties were regrettable
especially when Granny asked us where all the cars
had gotten off to

late afternoons spent in front of “Gunsmoke”
or “Andy Griffith”
cooling ourselves in front of the fan
with a cup of Granny’s homemade peach ice cream
she’d frozen in those individual cups
as the sun slanted through the front porch window
and began its descent

after a supper of fried catfish and homemade french fries
served by the hands that caught ’em, cleaned ’em, and cooked ’em,
we headed back outside for one more round of chase
but mostly we danced with the lightning bugs
enchanted, bowing, and following their lead
the music was silent but not in our hearts

and then it was time for baths
as the darkness surrounded the little house
all by itself out there miles from town

Granny let us fill the tub as full as we wanted,
a luxury to be sure
the feel of the footed tub worn smooth with all the scrubbing she did
the black rubber stopper on the chain keeping the water level up
the smell of Irish Spring a sure sign of summer
and all that was right in the world

the only light in the bathroom, the one up high on the wall,
gave an eerie almost green glow to the room
made all the more curious by the window up next to the ceiling
that faced the back porch
which was always pitch black during bath time
unless Granny had to go out to the washer or freezer

anticipating the ghost stories we were sure to share
as soon as the lights went out
I could almost imagine a face up there
and so I would duck under the water
and lay there for a second
closing my eyes, holding my nose
and listen to the world echo around me

all was quiet
and warm
and safe

there under the eerie green light
the scent of Irish Spring greeting me as I rose to the surface

and all was the best it could ever be
only I had no idea of any of that,
so I dried off and put on my pajamas

and hurried to the pallet Granny had made for us with her quilts
when the 11 o’clock news was over, she turned the TV off,
told us good night, reminded us to keep it down and go to sleep,
and then she turned off the lights

tonight as I reach over to turn off my own lamp
I find myself wanting one more bath under that light
one more sniff of Irish Spring and
and wanting, once more, to feel my Granny’s hand as she patted me on the shoulder
on her way to bed

more than anything though
I want to dance with lightning bugs
and the people I love
and have feet so dirty they leave a ring in the bathtub

just as they once did
beneath the eerie light
in the little house
that built me

His Heart Was Full to Bustin’

This morning when I took Miss Sophie out for her morning sniff’n’smell, the sky was overcast, a dark grey, with heavy clouds just ready to let all the rain fall down upon us.  It was still out as well–nothing moving, reminiscent of a cold, winter morning–only it wasn’t cold or winter.  But neither was it very hot or summery feeling–for a Georgia morning in August, we’ll take it.

Because the air was still, it was very, very quiet.  So quiet that I could hear the songs of the insects and birds quite clearly.  It was so peaceful, I almost felt completely alone in that moment–well, me, Miss Sophie, and the One who painted it all.

Peace.

As we turned back towards the house, I heard a sound that was out of place.  It was neither bird nor bug.  I couldn’t place it until I turned around and saw in the distance a man walking along with energy and purpose.  He had on headphones, and he was singing along to whatever he was listening to.  I couldn’t understand the words as they were of a language I didn’t recognize, but my soul understood the meaning.  I’m pretty sure he was singing worshipfully, as his voice was filled with awe and joy.

A sacred moment.

Miss Sophie and I quietly made our way back home, not wanting to intrude on his morning, but so thankful he’d intruded on ours.  I want to be like that, so filled with praises and joy, that I can’t do anything but burst out in song and enthusiasm–thankful for all I’ve been given, no matter who is around.  I want to be so in love with this life that I can’t be still–or quiet.

I’m working on it, y’all.

Tonight I’m thankful for a holy moment bursting into this quiet morning.  For a song that broke through the language barrier and the one who sang it, I give thanks.

May we all find something that fills us up and overflows our hearts with joy and love and wonder.

Love to all.

What’s Cute Now…..

My new friend, a fellow swim team mom, was excited to share with me that they got a puppy during our two-week break from practices.  A little yellow lab.  She talked about how much she is enjoying him, and how surprised she was to discover that the first few weeks it is similar to having a newborn in the house–the ups and downs at night, the worrying over what could be wrong, the “baby proofing” of the house…..but so much fun.  The smile on her face and the light in her eyes said it all.

Totally worth it.

Her uncle has trained some puppies and has given her advice.  She also talked with a local dog trainer.

“After all, he is going to be a big dog, so I want to start things off right.”  I nodded.  I totally understand that.

Then she told me about the wisdom the dog trainer gave her.  “Well, you know, I was asking is there anything I can do now, before we start formal training.  He told me, ‘Don’t let this ten pound puppy do anything you don’t want the 80 pound dog doing later.'”

Wow.  She was awestruck by that message as well.
I mean, it’s simple, really, isn’t it?

And yet–

I think that’s good advice for any of us raising any kind of critters–puppies, kittens, children.  Don’t let that puppy/toddler start off doing anything you don’t want that big dog/teenager doing later on.

It might be cute now, but…..

yeah.  That right there.

Our tomorrow selves will thank us later.  I promise.

Love to all.

"I got it!" Back when our own dog was a puppy.
“I got it!” Back when our own dog was a puppy.

Grabbing My Computer and Other Things I Didn’t Use To Do

Today I was on one of those “Hold for the next available representative” calls with a government agency.  My estimated wait time was 30-60 minutes, which was more than I want to sit and wait for most anything, but I put the phone on “speaker” and continued on about my day to dailies, listening for a break in the music.  When it came, I grabbed the phone and *fortunately* remembered to hit the speaker button and not the talk button–just as I had practiced.

Yeah.  I practiced it.  This was the real deal.  Nobody deserves to be disconnected after waiting that long.  NOBODY.

I was very lucky, and I got a friendly representative who was extremely helpful.  Maybe it’s because I introduced myself and said it was nice to meet her  (seriously, it was–did I mention the WAIT TIME–I was just thankful to have a person on the line at all) or maybe it was because it’s Friday or maybe she was just having a great day.  Or she was a genuinely kind person.

I’m inclined to think it might have been a little bit of all of that.

She was telling me about yet another form I needed to fill out and send back to them.  Well, great.  I was worried that I might not have the right form AND that I wouldn’t know what I was doing, so I asked her a favor.

“Ummm, Ms. B, do you mind if I look up that form and make sure I know what you’re talking about before I let you go?”

“Honey, you go right ahead.  Take your time.”  Bless her.  Okay, maybe not so much for the people still on hold, but I appreciated her for that.  And for calling me honey.  That eased all kinds of stress.

“Okay, thank you ma’am, let me grab my computer, and I’ll look it right up.”

And that’s when it hit me how much things have changed even in my lifetime.  The fact that I said “grab my computer” rather than “go to my computer”–the portability of internet access is amazing.

Amazing and challenging.

I was recently in conversation with folks who work with college students.  It’s a whole new ballgame now.  The students can “Facebook stalk” or check out other students on other social media way before they even set foot on campus.  First impressions are already made.

We wrote letters way back when I started college.  You know, “back in my day.”  In the snow.  In the shadow of the dinosaurs.

There’s the world of social media which can do so much good and so much harm–an extension of what our words can do all by themselves, amplified by the number of “friends” “listening.”  There are the laptops and tablets and smartphones and even watches for goodness’ sake that keep us accessible to information, entertainment, and each other way more than ever before.  In fact, the only reason some folks are ever out of “touch” is the WiFi is down.  Or they are in a poor service area.

Seems a shame, doesn’t it?

And yet, when we can send pictures of newborns and graduates and ballet dances and first bike rides along the way to loved ones who might not otherwise have seen them, it’s a win for the advancement we’ve seen in technology.  When a parent can check in with her college student without setting foot on campus or calling every single night, that’s a definite win.  When a company can interview someone who is perfect for the position but would need to relocate, technology is the reason why.  And when a family can laugh and talk and visit with that someone they love who is thousands of miles away, that is a huge win.

Tonight I’m thankful for kind souls who work in jobs where they never see the person they are helping and still treat them like people–with compassion and respect.  I’m thankful for the advancements in technology that allow folks to stay connected–seeing smiles, sharing moments, laughter, and tears.  Most of all, I give thanks that I can still hear my Daddy’s words on a regular basis in my head and heart.  Words that keep me in check.  “Make it work for you, you don’t work for it.” He was talking about Facebook specifically, but I’m pretty sure he’d agree it applies to all of technology in general.

May we all continue to strive for that balance.

Love to all.

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It’s About More than Geography

Yesterday evening I was sitting watching swim team practice, when my neighborfriend arrived with her family for her son’s swim lessons immediately following practice.  He, his brother, and my two littles are the best of buds, playing and riding bikes together, but when they arrived at the pool, it was like they hadn’t seen each other in ages.

As my friend settled herself on the bleachers, I introduced her to the others I’d been visiting with.  When I went to introduce her, I told them her name, and then I added, “She’s my…..ummm…..”

“Neighbor,” my friend laughed, shaking her head at my hesitation.

I laughed too.  And yet I felt like I needed to clarify–point out that our relationship was more than a geographical one.  I mean, after all, she washed, dried, and ironed mine and Princess’ clothes for my Mama’s funeral back when our washer fell apart two and a half years ago.

That’s more than a neighbor, right?

Today I’ve wondered what that was all about.  My hesitation.  My need to explain how she was “more” than a neighbor.

When did “neighbor” become not enough?

We are called to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”  So in that context, I think that neighbor would be a pretty esteemed title to hold.

And my sweet neighborfriend is one who deserves every bit of that esteem.

Tonight I’m pondering what being a neighbor really means–how to do it right.  Folks use to greet one another with affection and respect, “Howdy, neighbor!”  When did that change?  Was it because we are losing the art of front porch sitting…..standing on the sidewalks visiting…..borrowing a cup of sugar or a can of diced tomatoes?

I’m extremely fortunate that my neighbor and I have done all of these things.  I love her, her family, and what it means to live close to them.  Neighbor is indeed a term of endearment around here.

May you all have a great neighborfriend in your life–someone with an ear, a shoulder, an extra hug or cup of sugar, and who laughs when you try to explain exactly what your relationship is–and may you ever be close, no matter the geography.

Love to all.

The World Is Breaking Her Heart

Courtesy of Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.
                                 Courtesy of Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.

Today on this, Women’s Equality Day, the 95th anniversary of when women were given the right to vote in 1920, the following conversation happened.

I took Miss Sophie out for her evening constitutional, and the littles were riding their bikes up and down the street.  Our Princess came over on her bike and stopped where I stood with Miss Sophie, allowing her to do all the sniffs and whatnots.

“Mama, how come some people will say, when someone is screaming, ‘You scream like a girl!’ I mean, why is it an insult to do something like us?  I don’t get it.”

Oh my heart.  The tone in her voice.  She really doesn’t understand.  Just like she didn’t understand when she read about the Ku Klux Klan the other day.  It is breaking her heart, this broken world of ours.  At age almost 11, she is struggling with all that does not fit in her world of happiness, fairies, dolls, and really great books.  After all, I think she’s still sort of waiting on her letter from Hogwart’s.

And it hit me the irony that on this day, 95 years after women were given “equal” rights, I’m having to explain why doing something like a woman–running, hitting, throwing, screaming–is considered a BAD thing.

I told her the truth as I know it.  People don’t understand what is different.  They sometimes feel threatened so they use put-downs and insults and other hurtful things to keep those who are different away.

And I don’t know.  Basically, in the end, I told her we could guess and try to figure it out, but bottom line–I don’t get it.  I don’t understand.  She continued, talking about the line drawn between the boys and the girls on the street and how her brother likes to put her down because she’s a girl.

“Do you think you can talk to him?”

We talked about it, about how her Daddy sees women as his equals, and how her brother was probably just trying to show off in front of his buddies.

“Yeah, that’s why I wanted to get that folder that said ‘Girls Rule, Boys Drool’ today.”

Ummmm, no.  Just no.

Sigh.

I explained to her why THAT wasn’t cool either, really.  If we want to be equal, we need to respect the other gender the way we want to be respected.

We have come a long way in 95 years in many respects.  But the fact that a child 95 years later has heard the same put-downs and insults that have been heard for years–that we haven’t already put a stop to such as this–really hurts my heart.  That my daughter is struggling with this now and still, all these many years later, breaks it.

Tonight I’m hopeful that when we have the centennial celebration of women’s right to vote, we will be standing side by side–men and women, girls and boys–with respect and admiration for each other.  The only way for that to happen is to start now–teaching our boys and girls, daughters and sons, a language and regard filled with respect for the other person.  Comments like “You scream like a little girl” might seem funny at first glance, but really they are hurting the souls of our children–the future of our world.

May we all one day sleep the sleep that comes with peace and respect and harmony. I wish, as I tuck my two in, that it were tonight.

Love to all.

The Sweet Sound of Lighter Notes

So one evening after a long day of discussing hard things over the phone and through messaging, Aub, away at college, sent me this message, referring to some specialty lemonade I’d picked up on sale recently and sent up for her to try:

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That made me smile.  Yes.  Lemonade.  Sweet and sour.  A perfect balance between the two.  And one of her favorites.

And then this exchange followed–

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Wow.  That is truth.  Sometimes the simple things, the little things, even those we might call petty can be beautiful.  In the moments they give us to breathe.  To step away from the hard things we face every day.  To simply, if only for a minute, be.

Lighter notes.  Filled with grace.  A sweet, sweet melody.

As we were closing our conversation, I thanked Aub for that thought, because I felt pretty sure that the next day and all it entailed would “stink.”  And then I followed with, “Sorry, God.”

I mean, if each day is a gift from the Creator, I’m sure the last thing the One who is giving wants to hear from the one who is receiving is, “I’m sure this is going to stink.”

And then my girl gave me even more grace.

“The Holy Spirit is present even in the little stuff and the stinky stuff so I’m sure God forgives you.”  

When did this little one whom I brought into the world almost twenty years ago become so wise?  How did THAT even happen?

Tonight I’m thankful for those words that I so needed to hear that came from the mouth of one I love so much.  I’m thankful that things like lemonade can bring joy and light in the midst of turmoil and change and hard stuff.  It makes me happy that I can go from discussing real and serious things to sharing happy thoughts with this one who makes my heart glad.

May you all have someone to share “lighter notes” with and to remind you of the beauty in the pettiness and that God is always there, even in the hard stuff.  That’s so easy to forget, y’all.

Love and light to all.