hot buttered popcorn

because I had forgotten and left the bag in the car
I walked across the parking lot in the misting rain
each little speckle of water landing and quickly dissipating
except for the one on my cheek
which seemed to remind me of emotions better left in check

the dark parking lot lit by four street lamps
was half filled with cars
all uninhabited
for food or companionship
in one of the storefronts whose light reflected
on the wet blacktop

in the air there was a smell
and it triggered the memories before I could name it–
hot buttered popcorn
from the movie theater down the way
and suddenly
I missed you with an overwhelming pain

remembering movies
and laughter
and being scared (but not really)
and I wonder if we will ever
have a chance to sit
and be entertained
without the weight of the world on our
shoulders again

only what is in front of us
and the big tub of buttery goodness
waiting for us to take the world by storm

By Uploader; Vantey (Photographed by Vantey) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Uploader; Vantey (Photographed by Vantey) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Parenting with Ambiguity, Or I Might Have Messed Up Today–Still Not Sure

Despite this week having a lot of hard bits in it, we had a major win for the Zoo Crew.  Cooter, who two years ago was in first grade and barely able to read Old Hat, New Hat, finished the fourth Harry Potter book.  All 752 pages.  He’s been working away at it for a while, but has really been intent on finishing it for the past ten days or so.  To the point where I find him curled up with the book on a couch or bed or floor when he should be doing his math or spelling or science, and I can’t find him.

He was so excited when he finished the last chapter yesterday.

So was I.

Just typing that he read that whole book brought the realization home–he really has learned to read.  And read well.

I am so thankful I cannot even fully express it in words.

Not all the day to dailies of parenting are like that though.  A clear-cut win or failure.  So many of my parenting moments are cloudy–I’m not sure where they fall until much later, if ever.

Like today.

One of our deals about Cooter reading the Harry Potter books has been that once he reads the book he can watch the corresponding movie.  That has gone well until this one, which is the first one rated PG-13.

Still, I was open to trying it with the crew.  Our Princess has read all of the books multiple times, and she has been waiting patiently to watch the movies after her brother finishes the books.  She has been a great encourager and cheerleader for her brother.  I am proud of her for that.  She so could have put on the pressure and made it a miserable experience for him.

I told my littles this morning that if they helped get the house in order, they could watch the movie this evening with their big sister home from college.  They were excited and eager to do so.

Until they forgot.

I was out running errands, having left them with instructions of what I expected them to do.  I even went so far as to say no electronics (aka “Minecraft”) until after I got back and approved the jobs they’d done.


So imagine my surprise (read: disappointment) when I came in and discovered that not only had they not finished their tasks, they were on their devices, having misinformed their sister of what their instructions had been.

Not cool.  Not cool at all.

So I now share my room with two devices which won’t see the light of day or my littles’ hands anytime soon.

Off they went.  Before lunch was ready and after–picking up, putting away, sorting, and tidying up.  Their “messes” had grown legs and traveled into more rooms than their own, so they had quite a bit to do.

From time to time or twelve, they lost their focus and started playing Legos or trying to put together their Halloween costumes or re-read the favorite parts of a book or two.

*sigh*  The struggle is real.  Focus is a lost art.

Mid-afternoon one of our Princess’ friends came over and asked if she could play.  This sweet friend came to the door with her infectious smile and bubbling over with stories from her day.  She is adorable and pretty much an answer to prayers.  She is a good friend to my middle child, and I’m thankful for her.  Princess came rushing to the door and begging me first with her eyes and then her words, “Please.  PLEASE?”

The weather here has been a mess the past several days.  Rainy, misty, and finally a little cooler to go with it yesterday and today.  It seemed rather nice, if not still a little damp out, this afternoon.  I KNOW my children need to run around and play outside and get fresh air, something they haven’t really been able to do the past few days.  Still, I wondered what kind of precedent I was setting by letting her go play when all of her picking up wasn’t done.

I let her go.

And I let Cooter go out and play too.

Their smiles and the laughter and the sounds of children’s imaginations coming up with all kinds of storylines to play out was music to my ears.  Which was good because what my eyes saw that was undone in this house was not making me very happy.

I called my two back in at supper.  I knew we were about to board the struggle bus, as I was going to have to dole out the consequences.  No movie tonight.  They hadn’t upheld their part of the bargain.  Instead of focusing and getting the odd jobs and picking up that I’d given them to do before watching the movie, they had dilly-dallied much of the day.  And then this afternoon and evening, they chose to continue playing outside instead of finishing their work.  I had even reminded them of the consequences if they kept playing.

But here’s where my heart was torn. They had chosen to PLAY OUTSIDE with their friends instead of coming in and doing what they needed to do to be able to watch the movie.

I have to say, that despite the untidy house, I’m kind of pleased that they chose outside and relationships over watching a movie.  Not happy about the house, but definitely pleased that they chose as they did.

Which doesn’t even make much sense, does it?

Well, the mess will still be here tomorrow, and I will supervise a little closer so they will stay focused.  I hope.  Together we will get it done.  And one day, probably not tomorrow, they will get to watch the movie.  And it will be spectacular.  But tonight what I’m celebrating is my children’s priorities.  Skewed as this may sound, I give thanks that they chose their friends over a movie.

And you know what else?  They didn’t really sound off much when I laid down the law and said “no” to the movie.  After the initial thirty-second pout by Cooter, they ate their supper talking about what they’d been playing with their friends and who said what, and it was wonderful.

Relationships.  People.  Every single time.

(and the house–I know.  But we will get to that tomorrow.)

I know that today wasn’t my shining moment as a parent, because I’m still confused if I handled things as I should have.  Perhaps I should have kept them locked inside until all the chores were done.  I don’t know.  Somehow it just felt wrong in that moment.

And goodness knows they sure fell asleep fast and well tonight, from all that playing and adventuring.

I might never know if any of my decisions were right, wrong, or otherwise.  All I can do, in the words of my Mama, “is the best I can with what I have in that moment.”

And that was today.

May we all choose people over the other stuff in this life.  Every single time.

Love to all.

Three of My Favorite Words

This past week has been filled with texts, posts, e-mails, phone calls, and face to face expressions of three of the most precious words to hear–

“Are you okay?”

I’ve said ’em, I’ve read ’em, I’ve typed ’em, and I’ve even skyped ’em.

Are. You. Okay?

Aren’t they powerful?  To be in the midst of a hard time and have someone come in, take your hands, and look you in the eye and ask that question.  Someone who really cares about your answer.  Or open up an email notification and those be the introductory words.  Or get a text out of the blue with those words or their very close first cousin words–

“How are you?”

It’s been a hard week in many ways, but it has had its brighter moments.  Most of those involve someone I love and one or the other of these three word questions.  In three words I feel embraced, cared about, and like I matter to someone.  With those three words I am seeking to convey all of those things, but mostly I am saying, “I love you and I really want to know that you are okay.”

Because sometimes okay is good enough, okay is real and raw and honest, acknowledging that while all might not be perfect or pleasant or going the way I’d like for it to, I will go on. I will move forward.  Okay is I might be curled up in a ball right now, but I will eat a bite in a little while and I will get dressed and I will do the next thing.  Okay is hesitantly hopeful–okay says I’m here, I showed up, and I will do it again tomorrow.

And in weeks like this, I’ll take it.

I’m okay.  Thanks for checking.

How are you?

Love to all.


P.S. Before I hit publish, I was doing the nightly wrapping up around here, and I remembered this that made me smile.  About the time Daddy became bedridden in his fight with lymphoma, I came across a Youtube personality, Glozell. (watch this one or this one if you are curious) She made me laugh, but what I remember the most was her introduction.  “Is you okay?  Is you? Good. ‘Cause I wanted to know.”  I started greeting Daddy that way, and it made him laugh.  And because I really did want to know if he was, contextually speaking, okay.  Okay was a gift in those days.  And some days it still is.  Love to all.

To Moving Forward, Even When…..

Our Princess chose to learn about sea creatures this year in Science.  She has really enjoyed reading and learning, and she has shared things with me that I didn’t know.  Like the sea turtle who eats plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish, or like today.  I didn’t know that Columbus and the folks of his time weren’t really afraid of sailing off the earth.  But they were afraid of something else.

“Mama, do you have any really, really old maps?”

“I don’t know.  How old are you wanting?” (Keep in mind she has lived almost her entire life in the GPS era.)

“Well, it says in my book that mapmakers used to draw sea monsters on their maps to warn the sailors of danger, and I wanted to see what they look like.”

Ahem.  After I assured her that I most likely didn’t have any maps THAT old in my collection, I told her we could look them up on the internet and see what we could find.

We did a search and found a great number of “sea monster” maps at .  (Very interesting, check them out if you have time.)  They are really amazing to see–the detail and the imaginations.  There are drawings of sea “monsters” that date back to the 12 century and pottery pieces that can be traced back to 1st century.

Absolutely fascinating for us–we sat together and guessed what animals the cartographers might have seen that made them draw the different creatures.

Some of those creatures though, we knew they’d been straight made up in someone’s head and drawn from what they imagined was out there.


So they imagined the worst and drew it out as a warning on these maps… though what they feared was real?  Giving the fear a life unto itself?

Huh.  Again.

I don’t know about y’all, but I might have been known to do that–a time or ten at least.

Taking what scares me, and bringing it to life in my head, so much so that I am afraid to move, to set my sails and take off into unchartered territory.

Frozen by fear.

There is so much to be afraid of in this world, so much REAL stuff.  When I looked at these maps today, I realize that I’ve bypassed the real stuff and gone straight to making up things to be worried about or afraid of.

Yeah.  When the real stuff that does exist is bad enough, I’m off drawing monsters that I can see in my head and trying to make them real…..because I’m that afraid.

Of something that may not even happen.

Of something that, thus far, doesn’t even exist.

Well.  It’s time to tear up that pencil and pad and find my boat.  The one that will take me places I have never been with people I’ve never met.  And where most of the things I imagined could devastate me will. NOT. even. happen.


Tonight I’m thankful to know that I’m not alone in breathing life into my worries and letting them chase me from the next journey I should be taking.  Our people have been doing this for hundreds and hundreds of years apparently.  Fearing what may never come to be, what isn’t even real.

Tonight I’m also thankful to be reminded that many sailors apparently did sail through waters they feared might be the death of them.  They sailed on and went forward.  It reminds me of a quote my very wise cousin shared with me two days ago, when darkness threatened to shut out all of the light and brokenness tried to win over love.  The line is from “Wish I Was Here” with Zach Braff.


Amen.  To moving forward.  Into the unknown.  Moving past our fears or dragging them along with us.  Either way, moving forward.  In the direction we were meant to go.

May we all have the wherewithal to do just that today.

Love to all.

the winter people

as the sun paints the leaves a lighter color
in anticipation for the changing of the season,
laying out the fancy fall foliage,
waiting for the summer crowds to head on home

a pot of soup waits on the stove
and in the woods, beneath the fallen logs
and inside the hollowed out trees
await the winter people

those who love the frigid temperatures,
dancing in the air as the snowflakes drift down
to cover the gold and red and brown carpet
that Fall left behind

the winter people politely wait their turn
sending messages that they will be arriving soon
their sentiments echoed in the smoke breathed out into the air
and in the frozen dew crunching beneath steady steps

they bring with them evergreens and white
and berries not for the tasting
and memories made wrapped in warm blankets
created all those years ago by a great-aunt or grandmother

the winter people smell like peppermint
or ginger and cloves
and they delight in mugs of hot chocolate
or apple cider

and roaring fires in the hearth

and at night just before closing their eyes
the winter people tease their hosts with stories of
seasons gone by
and memories of warmth and bare feet and
bright-colored flowers

they come with a jovial spirit
and settle in quite nicely
closing shop early, making the evenings longer
asking us all to slow down and be


in the glow of the fire
their hearts are reflected
and the strength of those who can bear the cold
is breathtaking

they have a special gift
these souls who thrive in the coldest of times
they bring peace and comfort
and warm the souls for whom the cold

is daunting
and for those who think they might never survive

the winter people are there
to say
“yes you can,
I’m here,
we can do this,

"Las Golczewski zima" by Radosław Drożdżewski (Zwiadowca21) - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons -
“Las Golczewski zima” by Radosław Drożdżewski (Zwiadowca21) – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons 

one day I hope grace and love and mercy will prevail

grace can come in so many ways
on days such as these
much like love

in the reaching of a hand
as the words “I forgive” pour forth
freely and quickly

in the vehemence of a child
who doesn’t understand why killing
would ever be okay
and says that the folks in that big city
must be out of their minds
except for the ones who run that doll store
“because it really is lovely though”

in a cup of coffee and a muffin
gifted over the miles
to lift a spirit and share light
in the darkness

in the signs held by hands
that are weary
from the weight of worry
but still join together
in prayerful petitions and praises

in the messages sent by family
and friends
with encouragement
and permission to shed tears
and be angry
and then to move on…..
as on is the only place left to go
and make all of this mean

love and grace can be found
in all of these small moments
and so many more
and when I look back on this day,
I hope that I remember those
the most

that love and grace
joined together
and erased the lines between people
and we all held hands and
hoped that love would win
and grace would triumph
and mercy would be granted

love to all



Dear Kelly,

They say the way to a Mama’s heart is through her children.  Or maybe I’m the only one who says that.  Anyway, tonight I’m writing to you because you have made a powerful difference in my daughter’s life.

My oldest, now a junior in college, attended the vigil for your planned execution last March.  I’m not sure what either of us were expecting, but we left there changed people.  We arrived as people who believe in redemption not revenge, but when we left our stories had intertwined with yours.  As I stood under the bright lights out on that cold dark evening, I faced the prison where I had no idea what you were going through.  I had no idea what to pray, so I stood watching.  Waiting.  Letting my heart pour out everything it was feeling and watching.  Hoping that you could feel God with you.  And know that you are loved.  By God and so many of us whom you have never met.

While I stood there, focused, straining to catch a glimpse or an idea of what was going on in the building beyond the trees, my daughter sat in the camp chair we brought and she searched for information on her phone.  These smart phones are pretty amazing what they can do.  She dug and she was able to tell me what appeals were going on as we stood there.  And then…..

she kept clicking.

I asked her what she was doing.

“Looking up law schools.”

That night changed her, Kelly.  I saw an adult emerge that night.  She was decided as we left the prison grounds and she has not looked back.  She did what she had to and changed her majors to what law schools look for and what she is passionate about.  Psychology and–you should know–Religious Studies.  She is now an intern at a law firm and has been studying for the LSAT much of the summer.

She recently read that a disproportionate number of death penalty cases come from the county where she is in school and where a law school is also located.  That decided it.  She wants to study law there and then become a defense attorney there as well.

All because of you.

Thank you, Kelly.

Tonight my heart is heavy.  You are scheduled to be executed by the state tomorrow evening, September 29, at 7 p.m.  The Parole board has agreed to another clemency hearing at 11 in the morning.  I pray, I PRAY with my fingers crossed and my eyes closed and brow furrowed and with everything in me that they will commute your sentence to life in prison.  That is what I hope will happen.  My head and heart hurt too much when I contemplate what it means if they don’t.

See, I became complacent.  Right before your scheduled execution in March, I made calls and sent emails and shared posts and tweeted articles, and I was so overjoyed that the drugs were cloudy and there was an anti-death penalty movement growing very strong across our nation that I let it slide.  I shared a story or two every now and then.  I paid attention when there was an article about the cloudy drugs.  I listened and I read, but spring and then summer came and went, and I was not prepared for the news of your new execution date.

I’m sorry.

Kelly, I hope you can feel the energy from where you are–the furor and the drive of all the people who care for you and about you.  Those of us whom you’ve met and touched directly and those whom you have not.

You are loved.

You have made a difference.

It is my belief that you have so many more lives to touch, and that you will continue to make a difference in the lives of people who are broken and lost and just need someone to say, “I’m here.”

It is my belief that your children who love you so very much deserve to have you a part of their lives for many, many years to come.

It is my belief that one day we will see an end to the killing as punishment.  That the death penalty will be abolished for always.

I just hope I am right.

The thing that I remember so strongly from that day in March, your second execution date as the snow prevented your first one from happening as scheduled, was that the day held the promise of spring.  I had so hoped you were able to go out and feel the warm sun and the gentle breeze on your face.  That you knew that winter was fading and spring was coming.

And here we are again, on the precipice of seasons changing.  Only I hope that summer is not the only season ending.  I hope that the season of government executions and hatred and people standing divided will end as well.  I hope that you will be here to see the leaves change, to hear the Christmas carols sung by those with great voices and those with great spirit.  I hope you will ring in the New Year, knowing your season of fear and worry and time on death row is over.

I hope for all of the good things.

And I hope that one year in the near future, my daughter’s wish will come true.  That she will be able to meet you face to face and tell you about how you changed her life.  How your story being intertwined with hers for a moment set her on the path of fighting for fair trials and justice for all.  But mostly so she can smile and tell you, “Thank you.”  And you can see the light in her eyes that you helped put there.

Redemption is a beautiful story, Kelly.  And our people are fighting to choose redemption over revenge.

I can only imagine what tonight is like for you.  For your children.  This is inhumane, in my opinion, this torture of not knowing.

Oh, all the not knowing.  Neither you nor the people who love you deserve the reality and fear and worry and waiting of this night.

I’m sorry, Kelly.  I became complacent.  I’ve spent the past ten days trying to remedy that, and make up for all the days I didn’t speak up and say, “This is NOT okay.  Not in my name.”

I am asking God once again to be with you this night.  That perhaps you will get some rest and have peace in your heart.  And the same for your children and your Sisters and all of those who care.  May the peace that passes all understanding be with all of you and all of us, who join you in the worry and the waiting.

Thank you, Kelly.  For not letting who you were define who you were to become.  For letting your story bring so much hope and heart to all of us.

And for reminding us that grace abounds and love ultimately wins.

Holding you in the light,



If anyone would like to speak out against the scheduled execution, please read below about the ways you can still make a difference:  

(from the #Kellyonmymind Facebook page)

CALL the GA Board of Pardons and Paroles and ask for mercy for Kelly. They’re considering Kelly’s petition and a call will make a big difference. Call, tweet, post. please! Less than 20 hours to save Kelly’s life so please call and ask others to call. Then tweet and post them too! Let’s do whatever we can to stand with Kelly! 

GA Board of Pardons & Paroles
CALL TODAY (404) 656-4661 (press “0” then “4”)
Twitter: @GA_ParoleBoard