three little letters

three little letters

when put in a particular order

add so much and enhance every word they join

just as we hope to do with those who gather near

beauti-ful

joy-ful

delight-ful

plenti-ful

it is wonder-ful

what those three letters can do

but if they are moved just so,

organized into alphabetical order,

they become something that

takes away

that hurts

that separates

and causes pain and loss–

loss of the sunshine of spirit

loss of the smiles and the singing

that once filled the air

and leaves only quiet and the sound

of a thermometer beeping

at regular intervals,

and red cheeks and peaked eyes,

and the worry and

glass after glass of liquids

and emptied tissue boxes

it is aw-ful

 

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Our Princess was diagnosed with the flu last night after a long, exhausting day of not feeling good at all.  The last straw was the high fever.  I don’t ever want to see numbers that high on a thermometer again.  What has struck me the most over the last two days has been how lackluster our days have been.  No one changed the Advent Calendar for 18 or 19.  No one has sought after our elf, Christopher Pop-in-Kins.  No one has eagerly rushed to see what the kindness elves offered as a suggestion for the day.  

You don’t miss the sun until it goes behind a cloud…..I have always teased saying she is our sunshine–only with her, we have to wear shades.  Turns out it can be quite gray and gloomy when our sunshine is under the weather.  

As she felt well enough to argue a little with her brother today, I am hopeful that tomorrow will find her with a little bounce in her step…..or a step alone would do.  It’s hard when your children are sick.  

Thankful tonight for catching it quick and for the improvements we’ve seen today.  I give thanks for helpful healing suggestions and offers of sustenance dropped off at the mailbox.  I am thankful for the moments of calm I have felt in the midst of the worry and stress of a baby with health issues.  That’s how I know my Mama is sticking close.  

Love to all.  

 

Asking for Directions

I found myself able to etch out an hour or so yesterday evening to make a serious grocery shopping haul.  It’s been a while since I’ve spent that long in a store stocking up.

I made a rookie mistake from the start.  Cart choice.

The cart I chose was too small for all I needed to get.  And the way the wheels rolled were wonky.  Ka-dump, ka-dump, ka-dump.  All the way through the store.

But I persevered nonetheless, and I was about a third of the way through the store when an elderly gentleman walked slowly past me, looking perplexed.  I couldn’t help it–it had probably been twenty minutes since I had talked to anyone, so the side of me that I get from my Mama took over, and I asked him if he was looking for something.

Turns out he was looking for the jelly.  My mind spun around and it took me a minute to get my bearings. And then I remembered.  “Over by the bread,” I told him and gave him the directions to find it.

He smiled and was on his way.

For whatever reason, I came across two others lost, looking for a particular something in the store I’ve come to know pretty well (of course now that I do, they are going to change it all up in the next couple of months)–one was looking for juice and the other for aluminum foil.  I was able to recall locations and give directions both times.   (No small feat–busy store, long list, I was a bit befuddled at best.)

This evening I saw something that never fails to take my breath away.

The river of birds

The river of birds

A river of birds.

When I see them, I always think of our friend Pastor Bill who shared about the river of birds at our cousin’s memorial service almost two years ago.

I was so thankful to see them.  It had been a long and tiring day, and when I lifted my eyes to see them, my spirits lifted a bit as well.  I realized I’d been feeling a little lost today myself.

The birds were all flying together, in one direction.  Sharing the journey.  So that not one got lost on its way.

You know what those soaring wonders, flowing along so gracefully, taught me?

Don’t go it alone.

Tonight I’m thankful for folks who are brave enough to ask for directions when they feel lost and are looking for something.  They remind me to have courage to do the same when I’m searching for something or someone and can’t find my way.  I’m also thankful for the beauty in the journey when it’s taken together–how it makes the work of living a little easier with folks all around you headed on the same path.

May we too learn from the birds, and find ourselves surrounded by folks who can take turns leading and following and guiding us on our way.  May we never be truly alone for long, and when we are, I hope we can all find someone to ask for directions who might be willing to travel alongside us for a bit.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

An Anniversary, ee cummings, and Christmas

December 17, 1967.

It was forty-seven years ago that my parents said their I do’s and joined their lives forever.   With close friends and family present, and Mama’s best friend from school and my Daddy’s Daddy standing up beside them, they joined hands and hearts and stories.

Forever.

I’m convinced they are up at the House sitting on the back porch, side by side.  Mama will reach out her hand as they watch the beautiful sunset and Daddy will take it.  And though it might be quiet between them, they love each other more than any two people I’ve ever met.

They loved children–their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews.  They loved all children.  They kept copies of “Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm” by the Provensens in the trunk of their car to give to children or parents they met whom they thought might enjoy reading it.  Daddy sometimes carried Matchbox cars in his pockets to share with little boys and girls he came across, especially at the doctor’s offices.  When he left this world, he left quite a few he’d collected yet to be shared.  He loved cars and children just that much.

The last few years before Mama passed, she enjoyed picking out Christmas or winter stories for the children in her life. Last year, our first Christmas without her, I decided to carry on that tradition–the picking out of the holiday story.

I really enjoyed myself, and I was so happy when I found the right book and felt like Mama was there, giving my choice a thumbs up.  (Patricia Polacco’s “Uncle Vova’s Tree”)

This year I started earlier, reading and searching for just the right book.  I found several good ones.  My crew have really enjoyed the daily readings in “The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits: A Christmas Story for Advent.”  But what one story would wrap up all the joy and delight and emotions of this Christmas season?

This past weekend I found out that my Aub, home from college, has a newfound love of ee cummings.  Sunday evening I took a few minutes to reacquaint myself with his poetry.  As I was reading some of his work, I found one he wrote called “Little Tree,” which has been published more than once as a children’s story.  I found a copy illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray, and it called out to me.

Could it be?  Could this be the book for this year?

My copy arrived today.

I had already read the poem, and it touched my heart, but when put together with Ms. Ray’s warm and whimsical illustrations, it became a new favorite.

Just like that.

The littles and I read it together.  When we finished, they both sat still for a moment.  I asked if they liked it.  Both nodded.  Our Princess said, “It’s really almost like a Christmas poem, isn’t it?  It’s so beautiful.”

Yes.  Yes it is, as a matter of fact.  On both accounts.

We hunted for our Christmas trees in the woods on my Granny’s farm most of the years I was growing up.  Such great memories of beautiful afternoons wandering around, finding one we liked, but continuing on just to be sure. And then trying to find our way back to the one we’d chosen at the very beginning.  Daddy was so patient with us.  We never chose the “perfect” trees as there was an unspoken understanding that those belonged to the animals and the woods.  (Well, maybe I did speak it a time or two when someone dared to suggest us getting that perfect one.)  We usually looked for the ones that the deer had rubbed their antlers on.  Daddy taught us how to look for those trees, and he told us there was a chance that those wouldn’t make it.  So we chose one of those each year–we called them corner trees, which was perfect since we always put our tree in the corner of our living room.

Perfectly imperfect.  And every year Mama would say it was the prettiest tree yet.

That made me happy.  And I was quite sure it made the tree happy too.  Daddy taught me the word anthropomorphism many years ago, and it suits me.  I like to think that the trees have feelings and are happy or sad to be chosen or not.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons that ee cummings’ poem spoke to me.  I’m sure it was, but when I read the line–“and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy”–my heart was home.

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from “Little Tree” by ee cummings and Deborah Kogan Ray

 

Yes.

This beautiful book will find its way onto our shelf after the 12 days of Christmas, but it won’t be forgotten throughout the year.  This timeless poem turned children’s book is one that can bring back memories whenever it is opened and read. It is too lovely to be tucked away for very long, dreaming of when it might be able to share its story once again.

Tonight I’m thankful for this story I found (thanks Aub!) which brought back memories that were such a big part of my Christmas each year.  Those tree hunts with Daddy were a tradition I love and dearly miss.  I am also thankful for the story that began 47 years ago tonight, celebrated after all had gone home over cups of warm Pepsi, because they had heard it was so good.  I give thanks for the two who loved us and taught us and encouraged us.  And I’m thankful for their love of books and generous spirits.  They left some mighty big shoes to fill.  While I cannot fill those shoes myself, I can walk along the path they left, and do my best to live up to whom they raised me to be.

Happy Anniversary to my parents, and Happy Everyday, as my Mama would say, to everyone!

May today be a day that you will always remember joyfully in the years to come.

Love to all.

 

#######################

I will be giving away a copy of the book “Little Tree” by ee cummings to a lucky reader.  The winner will be chosen randomly at 12:01 a.m. EST on December 18th.  To enter, comment below with your favorite Christmas book or like the “I Might Need a Nap” Facebook page and comment on this post on that page.  For handwriting practice for the week I will have the littles write your names down, put them in a hat, and we’ll let Miss Sophie draw out the name.  I will send the book out to the winner on Thursday, and it should arrive before Christmas, barring anything unforeseen happening.  Good luck!  Only one entry per person please.  

More of the story of the two who became one can be read here.

Selfie with Superman

Tonight was our Princess’ Christmas dance recital.

Precious.

From the little ones dancing to a song about having chicken pox at Christmas to the precision of the older girls as they performed their jazz number, it was a wonderful way to celebrate the season.  I am thankful over and over for my children being able to attend this dance studio and gym.

Our Princess was thrilled that her aunt Mess Cat and cousin Shaker and Aunt and Cousin came to see her perform.  I was tickled pink too.  I got to hug and visit with some of my favorite folks in the world.

My Cousin and I were talking about Julie Andrews and “Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” and his high standards in viewing live theater.  The conversation then shifted to talking about movies we’ve seen over the years and the fact that they still have their Video Disc Player.

Oh me, the memories of that VDP!  We had some awesome movie nights, all of us crashed out in their living room, watching “The Man from Snowy River” or the original Star Wars movies.  Or so many others.

Turns out they still have those Star Wars movies.

I think it was my Aunt who mentioned “Superman.”

And my eyes glazed over and I left the room for a minute. Or two.

I was at least thirty-five years younger, and there was Christopher Reeve on the screen.

And I was in love.

I spent YEARS in love with the man.  Superman, yes.  Oh, that movie.  The flying scene.  Most.  Romantic. Scene. Ever.

Okay, I’m telling a tale.  There’s also that dancing scene in Sound of Music and every single scene in “Somewhere in Time.”  (Also Christopher Reeve–in case you didn’t know. And Jane Seymour.  #perfection)

My crush was no secret.  Daddy often teased me about my undying affection for, as he called him, Christopher “No Lips” Reeve.  I don’t know, Daddy, who looks at his lips…..I mean, really?

It was so widely known about that even Santa was in on it.  There was the year that Santa put a small figure of Superman in my stocking.  If you pushed his legs together, he did something but I can’t remember what.  No noise, just moved his arms or something.

And he was awesome.

I wonder where he got off to.  Isn’t it odd how some things just drift off over the years?

But I digress.

When I came back to the present this evening, I looked at my Aunt, and I was so thankful she reminded me of my infatuation.

Y’all, I really hope we can take selfies in Heaven.  (You know, those pictures you can take with your phone of yourself and someone else.  Or are they “ussies” when you include another person?)  I mean, because I really want to take a picture with Superman for sure.  I cannot bear the thought that such a photo opportunity can never happen just because he’s left this world.

And I’d love to snap a photo with Michael Landon.  And Whitney Houston, bless her heart.  And Maureen O’Hara.

And of course–if he wouldn’t mind a really quick one–

Elvis.

All of these people who have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  How cool would it be to walk up, hug their necks, say thanks for all the joy over the years, snap a photo, and then get back to partying with my people there?

Ah.  Silliness, I guess, but in the words of someone I hold dear, “I think we’re all going to be surprised.”

So maybe I will be able to take a selfie or two.

Tonight I’m thankful for the really great movies of my growing up years.  The ones that bring back all the feelings and emotions and memories from way back when.  I give thanks for sugarplum fairies and littles ones dancing their hearts out and smiling so big as they do.  I’m thankful for family gathering together to make little ones feel special and for conversations that remind me of what I used to love and really, that I never stopped loving.

Ah, Christopher Reeve.  Tonight I’m especially thankful for a visit to my youth and a dream planted in my heart.

One day–a selfie with Superman.

(And the REAL one please, not all this “remake” junk–and yes I know CR wasn’t the first–just step away if you don’t think he was the best Superman ever–we simply canNOT be friends.)

It could happen, right?

Wishing you a joyful memory from the past to make you smile today.

Love to all.

Photo of my favorite fella growing up via http://justicebulletin.com/articles/suit-me-up-superman-pt-2/

Photo of my favorite fella growing up via http://justicebulletin.com/articles/suit-me-up-superman-pt-2/

 

Come Sit By Me

After a weekend of thinking about light and darkness and all that weighs heavy on my heart in the midst of the joy and laughter of the season, this is what I continue to hear in my head as though it’s on continuous play:

 

If you have light,

it will not be diminished by inviting those who stand in darkness

to come alongside you.  

It will only diminish the darkness for others.  

You will still have as much light

as if you were standing alone. 

Or maybe even more,

as the flickering lights reflect in the eyes of all who gather.

Keeping the darkness at bay for as many others as you can–

that is what this journey is all about.  

And we cannot travel it alone.  

I think it really can be that simple.

If you have it, share it.

And if you don’t, look around–I hope and pray that someone will turn to you and wave you over. With a warm smile and a hug.  There’s little better than standing next to someone strong when one feels weak or lost, tucked in under the shoulder and wings of someone who cares.

If you have light, share it.

If you don’t, come sit by me.  For as long as I have it, we can share.

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Love and light to all.

 

http://imightneedanap.com/2012/12/16/keeping-christmas-everyday/

 

My Christmas Wish…..

Oh such a lovely day.

Absolutely shimmering with love and light, much like the fire I’m sitting by right now.  In much the same way as the sunlight danced on the water at the fishing pond this afternoon.  And just like the candles that lit the lovely old room where we shared stories and celebrated the life of St. Lucia this evening.

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Our folks out fishing, waiting on Santa to arrive.

The littles welcoming Santa and Mrs. Claus

The littles welcoming Santa and Mrs. Claus

Light in the darkness honoring St. Lucia--sharing stories and cookies to remember

Light in the darkness honoring St. Lucia–sharing stories and cookies to remember

Our girl as Santa Lucia

Our girl as Santa Lucia

 

A day filled with good things–visiting Santa at the Go Fish Education Center and fishing off the bridge while we waited for his arrival.  Listening to a precious conversation that Santa and Mrs. Claus had with our Princess and Cooter.  Reading the kind words my oldest’s godfather had to say about her.  Hugs and a visit with Mess Cat–those don’t come often enough.  The sun shining, the breeze just right.  Baking cookies from Maemae’s recipe for Swedish Ginger Cookies to share with people tonight at the St. Lucia Day service.  Putting together a wreath last minute from things around the house for our Princess to dress up as Santa Lucia.  Laughter and sharing stories over good food with great friends.

All of it–really, really good.

My heart is full to bustin’.

And yet I feel like weeping.

I feel…..sad.

Stories are overwhelming me–stories of families in need who can’t give their children the magic they would like to on Christmas morning, let alone put food on the table.  Stories of children in homes that aren’t theirs, being asked for the very first time to dream and wish and the list is oh so heartbreakingly long.  Imagine no one ever asking what you want under the tree–ever.  And then one day someone finally does ask.  Children.  They’re only little for just a little bit–we only have one chance to get it right, to make this world a safe place for them.  And I say we, because it’s up to all of us to care for the little ones of the world, whether we have little ones sleeping under our own roofs or not.

So much hope lost, so much brokenness, so many children without someone gazing on them with love and joy.

I was at the grocery store this morning (yes on a Saturday–but it was a quick in, quick out–it was SATURDAY after all), and I saw a Mama and daughter shopping together throughout the store.  The daughter wasn’t much older than our Princess.  At one point I saw the Mama throw her head back and laugh and then hug her daughter with a side embrace. As she looked down at her girl, love shining in her eyes, the Mama told her precious girl, “Oh you are so funny!”

It was enough to bring tears to my eyes.  The love in that Mama’s gaze.  I’ve seen that.  Every time my Mama looked at me.  Right up to the last time, when she wrinkled her nose in her “I love you” language, unable to say those three words out loud.

My Mama firmly believed that every child should be wanted and loved.  She loved each of hers so very much, and I don’t see how any of us could have ever doubted it.  Oh she fussed and she gave us one more chewing out on more than one occasion, but I never doubted my Mama loved me.  Ever.

And the fact that there are children who do have doubts–who cannot be sure that they are loved–and the fact that there are parents who love their children so very much but cannot provide the basic necessities…..

My heart and mind aches.

It’s like having the flu, but it’s in my soul.

And there doesn’t seem to be a cure for it.

I like to peruse the titles of books.  Sometimes I go to Doubleday’s website and just look at book covers and titles and wonder how the writers chose the design, the fonts, but mostly the words in their titles.  What about those words encompassed the meaning they were trying to convey?

Tonight I saw a title of a book that gave me pause.

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon.

I have no idea about the story, though I have read some of her books.

This is about what those words said to me.

Somewhere safe with somebody good

somewhere where there is enough food,

where love is plentiful, and there is enough so that just enough dreams

that float around through those little ones’ heads and hearts

can come true–

just enough so that hope is not lost forever.

Somewhere safe with somebody good,

someone who will fight tooth and nail and lion, tiger, or bear

to provide for and keep the little ones safe.

Somewhere safe with someone good

who will always gaze upon them with love,

so that even when the one who loved is gone,

the ones left behind will still feel the warmth

of that love.  Always.

Somewhere safe with somebody good–

that’s my Christmas wish.

For my little ones and for all little ones, young and old,

who share this earth with me–

somewhere safe with somebody good.

So that the doubts and fears and hunger pains

and sorrow over dreams that never came to be

will dissipate and never be a part of this life for the

precious little ones again.

That’s it.

It is all so overwhelming that I don’t even know where to start.

And so I pick up the one starfish I see, and I throw it back in the ocean.

And I pray that on Christmas morning the little one will look around

and know that he is loved,

that she is treasured,

and the seed of hope will once again be planted

in their little hearts and souls.

I pray that there will

always be a caring someone there to tend that seed and

help it to continue blooming and growing.

May we all get a chance to plant a seed of hope for someone today.

Love to all.

 

 

Lucia and the light

there was long ago a girl named Lucia

whose faith and beliefs were so strong

that she refused to falter

and when they tried to move her

they could not,

even with all those men and oxen pulling

 

imagine that,

a little sprig of a girl,

barely old enough to be an adult

in today’s world

standing up, standing strong,

brave, unwavering, adoring

 

she traveled on the darkest of paths

with candles on her head

lighting the way

so she could carry more in her hands

to take to those in need,

those who were imprisoned,

lonely

 

she gave what she had,

selling her dowry to have

more to help others

 

and when her time came

to leave this world

at the hands of her accusers,

she only said a word of prayer

and let go

 

this day is her day

a day of sharing light,

the light that leads us down

untraveled paths

and through the darkness

of this season and of life

and fills us with compassion

and love and hope

 

we shall bake her cookies,

in the tradition of St. Lucia Day

in Scandinavia, and

we will share them with friends

 

and the light from within–

just as the brave young girl’s light did so long ago–

will ignite the light within others

until the darkness and brokenness

are edged out and

no longer have a place in our world

 

#because Elvis

 

I love the song’s lyrics in English that I found on this website:

Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Night walks grand, yet silent,
Now hear its gentle wings,
In every room so hushed,
Whispering like wings.
Look, at our threshold stands,
White-clad with light in her hair,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Darkness shall take flight soon,
From earth’s valleys.
So she speaks 
Wonderful words to us:
A new day will rise again
From the rosy sky…
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

I find comfort in these words–“Darkness shall take flight soon…..”  Yes.  This.  We are all a part of sharing the light that will have the darkness hightailing it out of here.

To read more about St. Lucia, you can go to this website or you can check out this book among others.

To read “Love, Light, and Cookies,” my own story about Mama’s Lucia Pepparkakor cookies and an unusual and special St. Lucia Day we had, you can download “A Cup of Christmas” from Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Cup-Christmas-Barbara-Barth-ebook/dp/B00QB6F35E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418443486&sr=8-1&keywords=a+cup+of+christmas&pebp=1418443487651

 

Thankful for the legacy of love and light left by those who have gone before us.  Remembering.

Love and light to all.  Pass it on……