The Haves and the Have Nots–Thoughts on a Saturday Afternoon

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I had a bank errand to run this morning.  I prefer to pull up to the window itself instead of going to a middle lane and sending my papers flying through the air over me and into the hands of the teller inside.  I’m a bit odd like that.  So I chose the longer line and settled in to wait.  It was the rare occasion of being in the car by myself, so I was listening to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” and I was laughing my head off.  In the car.  By myself.  This is what crazy looks like people.

When I pulled up and placed my paperwork in the open drawer, I saw that there was one teller who was alternating between the two lines.  She looked at my transaction and then walked over to the indoor counter for a couple of minutes.  When she returned I really thought she was talking to me.  It came out over my speaker, and it’s hard to see where they are looking anyway.

“I’m sorry but we can’t cash this check.”  What?  I didn’t give you a check to cash.  “There’s insufficient funds to cover it if it’s returned so we can’t cash it. I’m sorry.”

Oh bless them.  She was talking to the people in the old truck next to me.  It broke my heart, and the wheels in my mind tuned out the game show on the radio and started turning.  How could I help?  Should I?  For goodness’ sake, they had a check written to them, and they can’t cash it because they don’t have enough money in the bank?  Shouldn’t the issue be whether or not the folks that wrote it had enough in the bank?  So what I’m hearing is that you have to have money to get more money–is that right?

What.  On.  Earth.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the gas station up the road.  While I pump, I tend to people-watch.  I saw an old, rather beat up vehicle parked near the fast food side of the gas station.  A woman walked over to the car and a man got out of the driver’s seat.  She slid across and he got in as well.  And they sat there.

I wondered if the car wouldn’t crank or if they needed gas money or if they were just meeting someone there.  It got me to thinking of the days years ago when I had car trouble and wondered how on earth we would get by.  When one of my cousins called saying she didn’t need my Granny’s Mercury Grand Marquis anymore and would I want it, I got down on my knees and cried my eyes out.  So fortunate.

I was talking with my Cousin the evening after seeing the folks at the gas station, and we struck up a conversation about the haves and have nots.

“Isn’t it ironic that the folks who most need transportation to get to and from jobs to make a living, to survive, are the ones who can’t always afford dependable transportation? ”  It’s a crazy, broken world for sure.

The concept of haves and have nots is not a fixed idea.  Compared to some, like those folks in Hollywood or some of our elected officials, I’m probably considered a have not.  But I know better.  I’m definitely a have.  And I feel very lucky to be that.  There’s no rhyme or reason why I was born in the country, state, area, family I was born in with the skill set I have.  It just is.  Oh I know it’s been up to me and my parents to make something out of what I’ve been given–believe me, I grew up with the whole “To whom much is given, much is expected” idea.  And I’m raising mine the same way.  But how to help those who are in need?

I’ve been there.  Never without a roof, but in my previous life, when it was just me and my oldest, we ate a lot of spaghetti and I mapped out where and when we went places based on the gas in my tank.  I remember one cold December my dear sweet landlord walked in the house and said, “Tara turn the heat up.  I can’t stand y’all living like this.”  And he said he’d charge less in rent that month if I would use the heat a little more.  It was an old house with really high ceilings and it was hard to keep warm.  I appreciated his kindness then and I still do now.   We had a great friendship and his offer was borne from that–it was a beautiful gift.

It’s not that I didn’t have family who would have helped.  I did and I do.  It’s that it wasn’t their place, so I didn’t ask.  They were already helping so much with my child.  I couldn’t have them doing more.  And besides, I still didn’t consider myself a have not.  Just maybe a doesn’t have as much.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately.  Especially since I’ve been spending time with my Sister Circle friends.  When I hear their stories, I am almost embarrassed to get in my roomy, running vehicle with AC and a radio and drive back to my pretty nice house.  Much has been given to me, what am I expected to do?

One of the people I respect and admire most, especially in the world of building relationships with and loving on people who are chronically homeless talked with me about this.  She cautions us against giving that $10 for the room at the boarding house.  Or the $5 for a burger.  Or $3 for cigarettes.  Once that money changes hands, we have changed our relationship–its has become one of have and have not.  It becomes a relationship based on need.  She’s right, you know.  I’ve realized this in my years of building relationships with people who have such basic unmet needs.

Again, I ask, what should we do?  What do I do?  How can we help?  In the case of someone being hungry, I know the best thing to do is not to give money for food, but instead, get two burgers and sit and eat with them–make it relational.  I read a great post about “What I should have done” here about a year or so ago.   In it Caleb Wilde writes and poses the idea that it’s easier to learn about what Jesus did than actually do it–orthodoxy being easier than orthopraxy.  I’m thinking he’s on to something.  I can sit and ponder all day what would be the right thing to do in a situation, just as committees and groups can meet themselves coming and going, discussing plans to make things better; but that doesn’t feed a soul or put a roof over anyone’s head or fix a blame thing.

Tonight I’m thankful for what I have, okay with what I have not, and wondering how to pull it all together and help someone else based on relationship without it becoming another case of the haves and the have nots.

Any thoughts?  How do you live “To whom much is given, much is expected?” in your life?

Thanks for thinking about this with me.

Potlucks and Parties–Why They’re Not My Thing Anymore

I used to love buffets.  Oh, the awesome options!  I can remember the last one I went to.  I got collard greens and pot liquor and cornbread and not much else.  Seriously.  That’s not something I cook for myself very often, and I was in Heaven.

And don’t get me started on church or club or community potlucks.  LOVE. THEM.  Do we really ever have the pineapple casserole anywhere else?  Casseroles are the best.  When you see Ritz cracker topping you know you have arrived.  My Great Aunt used to add almond slivers to her casseroles, and that just hollered “classy” to us.

But that was B. F. A.

Before Food Allergies.

Almost six years ago to the day I watched my child have a reaction.  I did not have the epipen with me, which was the last time I put myself in that position.  It was terrifying.  She survived which I am thankful for with every breath I take.  I was aware of the potential allergy before that day, but I let my guard down.  No more.

Having a child with a food allergy has changed our lives.  I have become what some would probably call hypervigilant.  I am always looking for the threat.  The threat that could come from any direction–a playmate’s hand, a family member’s kiss, a dust of residue on a movie theater seat, a toy in a doctor’s office, from anyone and anywhere at any time.

Yeah, I’m that Mama.

I'm a label reader, looking for that allergen list or the information that is sometimes listed below, "Processed in a plant that also processes....." We stay away from those too.  Just in case.

I’m a label reader, looking for that allergen list or the information that is sometimes listed below that, “Processed in a plant that also processes…..” We stay away from those too. Just in case.

I haul a sheet with us when we go to the movies.  (I’ve found that a twin fitted works really well–covers everything without too much hanging off.  I might even try a crib sheet next time.)  I carry baby wipes.  Everywhere.  I burn up the internet on my phone checking allergen lists for restaurants.  I slide my glasses back and forth (can you say “need bifocals?”) and take three times as long to grocery shop, reading the allergen information on labels.   I insist that my child clean her hands all the time and I am constantly saying, “Please don’t touch everything or anything.”  We all call out when we see the foods that are off-limits. (Orange is the trigger color for danger.)  I find myself staring down other children when they come in with snacks at dance, at soccer games, or in church, assessing what they have and its potential for harm.  It’s all becoming second nature for me and mine, but I’m sure from the outside looking in we just seem odd.

We turn down invitations to events sometimes.  Other times we arrive with our own food in tow, right down to cupcakes in the cutest little cupcake containers ever made.  We refuse generously offered food samples and treats.  And suckers at the bank.  If I can’t read the label, y’all, I’m sorry it’s just not going to happen.  I love homemade goodies more than most, but I can’t risk cross-contamination.   So more than likely, we will pass.  No offense intended.

Mama's way of helping us remember.  It still does.

Mama’s way of helping us remember. It still does.

We’ve learned to carry around the epipen like lives depend on it, because well, they do.  There’s been so much stress over it being left at home or in the hot car in summer or cold one in winter that I am sure one day she will be talking about it on whatever show is the Oprah of her day.  Mama, always a problem solver, made us this tag to put in my car to remind us to take it with us or not leave it wherever we had gone.  Bless her.  It has helped more times than I can count.

I’ve read about children who have been bullied concerning their allergies.  Other children waving the allergen in front of them, suggesting they might touch them or otherwise expose them to it.  Stories like that break my heart.  And make me angry.  If that ever happened…..I would need bail money.  No doubt about it.  I’ve also heard numerous stories which did not have happy endings–it only took one cookie or one bite of something from a buffet.  These only serve to enforce my hypervigilance even more.

We’ve been fortunate on this journey.  First of all we live in a day and age of food labeling laws.  Thank you God and the FDA.  If she were alive a hundred years ago, well, I just don’t think she would be.  We have a beautiful family of people who get it and err to the side of caution.  They are not offended when I ask to read labels, and years ago the boiled peanuts and peanut butter bars and pecan goodies were left out of our family gatherings.  (Anyone from the South can appreciate that sacrifice.)  And I love them for it.  My Cousin discusses beforehand what’s she baking and bringing to the get-togethers.  Mess Cat has a special cabinet of snacks that are safe for us to have when we are over at her house.  We have friends who remember the allergies and offer information before I can ask.  We have precious friends who washed down their whole kitchen and offered to put the “offending” groceries in the trunk of their car while we were there.  That’s love right there.  (But not necessary, thank goodness.)  Today I was buying some vegetables at a locally owned market.  The man I spoke with called his supplier to confirm that they were indeed okay for me to serve my child.  Like the restaurant where they offer to cook her food separately from everything else, their “above and beyond” service was appreciated, and we will be back.

We are also lucky to have a great allergist who is on top of his game.  He has offered to test her in his office on things that I’m nervous about.  He even knew about the new epi-pens that talk to you.  That it just too cool.  He gets my paranoia and worry, and he is a calming force.  Something I need.

It’s taken time but I’m back to breathing.  I can remember a couple of times about three years ago when we went to a restaurant that I had checked out beforehand.  I told the server when ordering as I always do, “My child has a food allergy.  Just letting you know.”  No problem.  So we ate. And toward the end of the meal, my child would start acting differently, saying she didn’t feel good.  I would go into near panic, asking constantly, “Can you breathe?”  And we’d get through it.  I’m not even sure what was going on with either of us, but we now call those “melkdowns.”  And we don’t have them much anymore.  I’ve learned to swallow the panic and observe carefully and calmly and rationally:  she’s breathing, she’s fine, we’re okay.  Honestly?  I think it’s possible she was mirroring my panic and anxiety.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t expect people to cater to us or to feel uncomfortable carrying on as usual.  She is adapting quite well and understands when I tell her she can’t have this bubblegum or that ice cream bar.  We compensate for it later at home, and she gets it.  What I do hope is that people understand when I say no, or when I just can’t find it in me to come to this event or that party or this special occasion.  Sometimes it’s just more than I can handle or I feel like the risk might be more than I’m ready to take on.  It’s not that I don’t trust you.  It’s that I can’t trust anyone or anything–I have to question everything.  It’s my job.  To protect her first and foremost–that’s my top priority.  I don’t mean to offend or hurt feelings, it just is what it is.

I don’t know what the future holds.  No one can tell me why she has these allergies and no one knows if a cure will be found.  I hope with all my heart that they will find something so that I can send her off into the world one day and not worry every second she is away from me.  Until then, if I seem overprotective or if I turn down an invitation or gift of food, please understand and forgive me.  She is my gift from God, a treasure–and it’s all I know to do–to protect her and keep her safe, no matter what it takes.

My sweet friend shared this article with me.  The author does a beautiful job of sharing what it is like to have a child with food allergies.  Everything she says resonates with me–it’s all true.  It’s worth taking the time to read.

For more information about food allergies, please visit Food Allergy Research and Education

Anxiety Girl and the Hemp Seed Yogurt

Y'all remember my superhero?  I mentioned her here.

Y’all remember my superhero?  Anxiety Girl by artist Natalie Dee

I got an e-mail in the past couple of weeks warning of the contents in Chobani Greek Yogurt.  This triggered my superhero within, Anxiety Girl, whom I’ve introduced to you before. Her superpower is quite accurate—”Able to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound.”


The problem is my children LOVE Chobani Greek Yogurt.  We only buy it when it is on sale.  When it is, we stock up.  They are great for snacks or with a meal.  And yummy.  (No, not getting reimbursed here—just wanting you to know how much this e-mail stressed me out.)  I’m a label reader from way back.  I have to be.  I have a child with severe food allergies.  It is my job to be vigilant.

So this e-mail suggested that the folks addressed in it should cease and desist from eating Chobani as it contained hemp seeds, which could trigger a positive result on a drug test.

Say what?

Now I know about hemp and marijuana—same species, different set of dogs.  But to think that I might possibly have been feeding this to my children?  Without realizing it?  No. Way.

I found myself doubting me.  And my abilities to feed my children.  I panicked.  I HAVE to be a good label reader. There is no other option. My child’s life depends on it.  Wouldn’t I have seen that?  Wouldn’t they have to label it properly?  I hoped for a story about this rumor but no.  So I did what has come naturally in recent years.  I looked it up on the internet.

My friends and I were talking about this yogurt yesterday--and then I found it in our local grocery store right after that.  Yes, the "hemp seed" yogurt has made it to middle Georgia!

My friends and I were talking about this yogurt yesterday–and right after that I found it in our local grocery store. Yes, the “hemp seed” yogurt has made it to middle Georgia!

It was on the Chobani website itself that I found the story about their new flip style yogurt being released.  These are square-shaped containers that have yogurt on one side and granola or fruit or hemp and chia seeds on the other.  You literally flip them over into the yogurt, stir, and enjoy.  One of the new ones is called “Blueberry Power” with chia and yes, you got it, hemp seeds ready to be mixed in.

Relief.  I can laugh about it.  Now.

No surprise ingredients--I had been reading it correctly. Thanks for that scare, Anxiety Girl!

No surprise ingredients–I had been reading it correctly. Thanks for that scare, Anxiety Girl!

Just to be sure, I re-read  for probably the 100th time the label on the Chobani we had at home.  (OCD much?)  We were okay.

That’s good.  Because I don’t know if my family could handle me if I didn’t get to have my little cup of Chobani Bites Coffee Yogurt with Dark Chocolate Chips.  Every day.  (but who’s counting?)

Anxiety Girl shows up at the oddest times.   Sometimes I hear a noise I’m not sure about, and I will be fine.  Then I’ll hear the story about the international young people going around selling books and trying to get in people’s houses for nefarious reasons, and I’m all about not unlocking the door for anyone.  There’s not really a rhyme or reason to what my anxiety locks in on and obsesses over–it just happens.  I can worry over something one day and then the next day it’s on to something else.

Ours is a society that feeds on anxiety, isn’t it?  Some people seem to love fear mongering.  The news folks like to share these stories that have us all convinced the next “bad thing” is going to walk right in our front door and settle in for a good long time.  And hog the remote.  Nothing you can do but prepare the guest room and sit and wait.  Which isn’t stressful at all. *sigh* The anticipating all the bad than can happen–seriously, that’s really exhausting.  Some call it hypervigilance, I just call it survival–it’s how I roll.

This way of thinking, this pattern of worrying over that which hasn’t happened yet and might not ever–it’s something I have got to break.  It’s a struggle.  I have my good days and I have my bad.  I have tried to pinpoint triggers, and I think I’ve found a couple.  1.  Sleep.  When I don’t get enough sleep, it’s easier to be irrational in my fears.  2.  Change.  When life delivers a big old bowl of change or loss or disruption to what might look like normal, I get all discombobulated and the stress is there to make sure things stay that way.  It’s hard to fight the waves of panic and be rational when things are uncertain and hard to deal with anyway.

I saw this quote the other day.  I smiled, but the truth in it resonated with me and has hung around in my head for days.

picture courtesy of

picture courtesy of

I do love my rocking chairs.  Inside, outside, in between.  But to give the time I could be sitting, rocking, and listening over to stress, worry, and anxiety?  I’d rather not.  I’d prefer to sit and rock and listen to the sounds of the hummingbirds zipping around (sounds just like the light sabers in Star Wars–sorry we’re a little obsessed over here–still), or the delighted squeals of the littles as they catch another frog or “Hoppin’ Joe.”  Just sit and soak in life rather than let it be chipped away and cracked by the anxiety and worry of what might could happen.

But please hear me say this.  There are some forms of anxiety and panic that are NOT a case of mind over matter or changing patterns of thinking.  There are legitimate chemical imbalances that can cause these attacks which require professional treatment and possibly medication.  And I’m one who believes in therapy.  With a good therapist.  Please don’t let anyone make you feel like you are weak or a failure if you can’t fight it alone.  It’s okay to ask for and seek help. *steps off soapbox* Thanks.

In the end I think the yogurt e-mail was a result of someone else jumping to conclusions.  Rather than realize that it was just this one yogurt, they were all prepared to not have any.  I think anxiety can cause us to do that–we miss out on so much because of one fear or past experience.  Instead, if we can and will do our research and not automatically jump to those worst case scenarios, we will begin to live and enjoy life a little more.  And hopefully one day a lot more.

After all, Anxiety Girl’s a cutie, but she’s a real drag to have around.


***In researching tonight I found out that Chobani will be removing the hemp seeds from their Blueberry Power in the future.  So if you’re wanting to try it, you need to put it on your list and head on out to your grocery store.  Let me know how you like it.

Also if you are interested, my friend Baddest Mother Ever and some new blogger friends are linking up to share responses to the question, “What’s a Challenge You Are Facing?”  If you are interested in reading more takes on this question, please visit Flotsam of the Mind and find other links at the bottom of her post.  Thanks!

Know Better, Do Better–Shooting Arrows Part 2

Last night I wrote a letter to a friend who is fighting the victim mentality.  I want her to know that not everything people do is aimed at her.  Or anyone else for that matter.  Sometimes it just is what it is.   So tonight I’m writing to those of us, yes–including myself–who maybe forget we are constantly shooting arrows unintentionally and they must land somewhere.

Dear You (Me, Friend, Acquaintance, Passerby),

Sometimes folks do things that are less than perfect, things that unintentionally hurt you and others.  It’s not meant to be personal.  It just is what it is.  And sometimes it is inconsiderate.  Sometimes folks do things without realizing how their choices and actions are going to affect the folks around them.  And sometimes they do it without caring or considering it at all.

There’s a patch of road that I drive on at least once a day where it goes from four lanes to two.  When I’m heading home there is this merge area that really has little warning if you are not from here and used to it.  It never fails that one car or three will think they are entitled to zoom ahead of the car/cars next to them, and so they do, rather than taking it in turns.  They don’t even look to the side of them.  It’s just how they do.

And that’s how it is in most of these situations.  Folks are just looking out for themselves and they do what they do without even considering how it affects others and the consequences.  It never even occurs to them.

So, umm yeah, this happened today.

My little guy asked me, after being excited that he knew that 5 plus 5 is 10, “Mama, is 8 plus 8 eighteen?”

“No. 8 plus 8 is 16.  See?”

He sighed.  “Well, at least I know what 5 plus 5 is.”

Dude.  No!  Now you also know what 8 plus 8 is.  LEARN from your mistakes.

Please.  For the love of everyone else who shares airspace with you.  Learn from your mistakes.

And don’t make excuses.  Oh my land.  I was married to an alcoholic in my previous life and I have a dear friend who is succumbing to the disease now.  I have heard just about any and every excuse you can think of uttered with the greatest conviction and sincerity possible.  You’re not fooling me.  Stop it.  Excuses like you didn’t know or you didn’t mean to or well, hey, no one ever really follows that rule anyway.  Or everyone else was doing it.  *eye roll*

Your Mama raised you better.  And if she didn’t, there’s a whole world out there who has shown you with their responses to your behaviors that maybe you might want to try something different.  Learn from that.

Just stop it.

pic of know better do better

As my folks said more times than I care to admit, “If you know better, do better, and folks will like you better.”

And as Mama used to say, “Act like you are somebody,” with my addendum, “and treat everyone else like they are too.”

There’s a whole world of folks around you.  Look around with your eyes and your heart and see how connected we all are.  Everything you do affects someone.  The arrows of insensitivity and unkindness and lack of respect we’re shooting off have to land somewhere.  Live intentionally.  Let what you do affect others in a positive way.  Think before you act.  Those magic words “I’m sorry” mean nothing if you are just going to turn around and do it again.  Say them, yes, but MEAN THEM.

But if you do say them and you make an effort to change how you roll, grace will abound and most folks will forgive you–and you will be on your way to being the kind of person you were intended to be.

Our Wednesday book group is studying Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott.  Today we talked about God’s idea of a good time as described by Ms. Lamott.  She shared that it is those times, for example, when we take the time to speak to someone in the grocery store checkout line or let someone go ahead of us at an event or in the store or in traffic or we spend time listening to a lonely loved one.  When we share what we have to give–that’s God’s idea of a par-tay.  I immediately visualized bare feet dancing. When we are filled with joy in our house, we dance.  And that was my vision of God’s reaction to our spreading goodness with our actions–Bare Feet dancing.

We need to make every effort to stop sending arrows into the air unintentionally.  Let’s focus on making those Bare Feet dance.  By sharing goodness and smiles and time with other folks.  Willingly and graciously.  Doesn’t matter if we know them or not–just say hello and smile for goodness’ sake and go from there.  You can do it.  I know you can.  And so can I.

May the Dancing of the Feet begin!

Love, Me

Positive to Positive, Negative to Ground

Bamboo arrows

Bamboo arrows (Photo credit: dog.breath)

Today I’ve been visiting with a friend, who is fighting hard the mindset of a victim. Don’t get me wrong, she has enough in her life to feel persecuted and put upon by, but I really hope she doesn’t lose the battle.  This is what I wish I had said.

My sweet friend,

You are not a victim.  Not every arrow you see flying through the air was meant for you.  Duck.  Don’t let it land on your heart and make you bitter.  Sometimes arrows hit targets they weren’t aiming for.  Don’t be that person who walks around accepting the direct hits, none of which were meant for you.  Sometimes people are who they are, without considering how it affects other folks.  Inconsiderate?  Yes.  Intentionally cruel? Alas, no.  Sometimes it just “be’s” that way.

I remember an episode of Gilligan’s Island when a “witch doctor” made voodoo dolls of the castaways.  Supposedly people who have voodoo dolls of a person can make that person do all kinds of crazy things, by moving the figure or poking pins in them and things like that.  No one, NO ONE AT ALL, has a voodoo doll of you.  No one has control over your thoughts and actions and moods and behaviors. Unless you give it to them.   It’s all up to you, dear one.  How about trying to treat your voodoo doll, YOURSELF, a little kinder?

When someone drives really slow in front of you and you are running late and driving with a sense of purpose, they are not doing it to make you crazy.  It has nothing to do with you.  Same thing at the checkout counter with the person doing a price check on every item before committing (and sorry about that by the way).  The neighbor with the big truck who cranks up and drives off with a roar of a loud engine at 11:15 every night.  Again, none of this done with you in mind.  Arrows not meant for you.  No mal-intent at all.  So much in this world happens that you could take on your heart.


Just don’t.

You have a big, precious heart, but you are quite unkind to someone I care about and I have to call you on it.

Love yourself and learn to let some things go.  One of my favorite phrases when something happens lately has been, “Yeah, that’s about right.”  It’s my way of SMH’ing and LOL’ing all rolled into one.  And that’s how I hope you will be able to cope.  Just let it roll off your back and laugh it off.

Turns out my little guy Cooter has been listening better than I thought.  Two weeks ago my cousin came out to teach my girl about her car, especially how to use jumper cables.  He even brought her a pair.  “Most folks have a good battery they can let you use–not everyone has the cables.” (Smart and generous. Love him.)  He explained it step by step.

Picture courtesy of

Picture courtesy of

This evening when I was speaking with you, Cooter heard me say to you, “Be positive!  Positive. Positive. Positive.”

That’s when he piped up.  “Negative to ground.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

Just yes.

How did my cousin explain that?  You don’t put negative to negative because it could blow things up.  Oh my land, ain’t that the absolute truth?  Best thing to do is exactly what Cooter said, “Throw that negative to the ground.  Drop it and bury it.”  Well maybe not exactly, but you see where I’m going with this.

Don’t feed those negative thoughts that try to creep in.  You’ve got this.  You are NOT a victim.  People in your past hurt you, and I wish I could change that.  But you, you are stronger and better than that already.  If you let your heart soar and throw down the negative that is keeping you grounded, you will reach heights not even imagined.  You have it in you to do great things.  More than you already have.  Now LET YOURSELF.  It’s okay.  Give yourself the grace you give everyone else so freely.  LET YOURSELF go and do and be and soar.

And if one of those arrows does happen to hit, I’m here to listen and love and sit with you as the pain subsides.  But don’t go chasing those arrows and looking for them to hit you.  You are not the one the arrows were looking for.  Let them pass.

Or, in the words of my wise Daddy, “Don’t go borrowing trouble.”

I love you, my dear, sweet friend.  Now go and do.  And be kind.  Even to yourself.

Always, Me

***SMH (shaking my head)

***LOL (laughing out loud)

The New Magic Words

Does anyone remember the “Please” and “Thank you” song? Please and thank you, they are the magic words.

No doubt. They can carry you far in life.

picture courtesy of

picture courtesy of

But there are two words that can make amends, change destinies, and heal hearts.

I’m sorry.

My sister Mess Cat pointed out to me the other day that we say it way, way too much. I think our text conversation looked something like this.

MC: Hey!

Me: Hey. I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Busy doing blah blah blah. Sorry.

MC: Oh I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to cut into that. Just needed to ask about blah blah blah.

Me: Okay, no problem. I think that’s fine. And sorry, no, you weren’t disturbing me.

And so forth. I think you see the pattern here.

Yes, we say it. A lot. Maybe we are making up for the deficiency of “I’m sorry”‘s that exists in our world. That or you know how sometimes folks give you a gift that they would have like to have had themselves? Yeah, that.

I’m for serious, sometimes if folks, those whom I live with and those whom I only come across in the day to day would just say I’m sorry, it would make a world of difference in the relationship and in my outlook on the world.

I’m talking to you, grocery checkout clerk. I know you didn’t mean to drop my apples all over the floor. (And yes, I did almost apologize to her that my bag tie came loose. It’s an illness, and I’m seeking help.) But when you picked them back up and were going to send them home with me, banged up and all, that really hurt my feelings. And when I asked if some could be replaced and you said two and sent me all the way back to produce without ever ONCE uttering any kind of apology…..Hurt. Feelings. I know you didn’t mean to, and I would have made you feel all kinds of okay about it if you had just said those two words. But you didn’t, so I didn’t, and I left frustrated and with a bad taste in my mouth. And with more banged up apples than good ones.

And to the salesman who promised my children a remote for that blame DVD player, what’s up? For months you have called to see if I had anyone to refer to you. Each time I asked about the remote, you said you were on it, check again later. But when I showed up and asked you about it, all of a sudden you’re telling me I have to pay for it. It was one of the higher ups who actually apologized and made it right. You just continued to look at me fearfully like I was going to have some kind of hormonally induced breakdown. But never once did you say “I’m sorry.” I so would have forgiven you. But for now, yeah, that’s right–no referral for you.

It’s not always that petty either. People from my previous life who misjudged, spread untruths, and in general made things worse–an apology would be a good place to start. Family. Friends.

I know it’s not easy. And I know I haven’t always said it when I should. I regret that. And I’m sorry. Really. I think it’s interesting and important to note that one of the steps of healing in a twelve step program is “to make amends” with folks one has “harmed.” It’s as healing for the person who says it as it is for the person who hears it. Who sometimes really needs to hear it.

I’m sorry says a couple of very important things. It says to the other person, You matter. You exist and have rights just like I do. You matter. And it says, I respect you and I care about what just happened to you. I regret my part in the whole thing. It shows the other person they have been heard. And sometimes that’s all we are asking for.

For a while my children seemed programmed to reply, when one or the other was compelled (or coerced) to apologize to another, “It’s okay.” That was an acknowledgment, “I hear you. I hear your apology. We’re straight. It’s okay.” The more I thought about it though, I decided to put a stop to that. It’s NOT okay that you took her doll and hid it, or you called her a name, or you just knocked the fool out of him (whether you meant to or not–ahem). Instead they are learning to say, “I forgive you.” And sometimes it takes the apologee a moment or several to reach the point of replying with that. And that’s okay too. As long as they eventually reach that point. At least in this house. Grace abounds and so does forgiveness. You just need to ask for it. Just as the apology helps both sides, so does the forgiveness.

If grey is the new black, perhaps I’m sorry can be the new “Please” and “Thank you.” Please and thank you can open doors and help you make friends, but I’m thinking I’m sorry can unlock the doors slammed shut and help you keep your old friends. Just a thought.

“Our Liberation is Bound Up in Each Other”

I first “met” Hugh Hollowell as “The Marine” Karen Spears Zacharias writes about in Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?: (‘Cause I Need More Room For My Plasma TV).  He is the founder of Love Wins Ministry in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Their mission statement is:

We feed people…

But we are not a feeding ministry.

Sometimes, we help people get jobs…

But we are not a job training program.

Maybe 10-12 times a year, someone leaves homelessness with our help…

But we are not a housing ministry.

Yet, at any given moment, we may be doing any of those things.

But what we really are is a ministry of presence and pastoral care for the homeless and at-risk population of Raleigh, NC.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings, friends and volunteers of Love Wins meet at the park (on the sidewalk at the edge–it would require a permit to meet within the park itself, which would cost $1600 per weekend!) and share biscuits and coffee with folks in need.  There are no other feeding ministries in Raleigh on the weekends.  If you are in need, THIS IS IT.  Nothing else all weekend long.  Unless you panhandle.  Which is illegal.

Picture from

Picture from    Hugh Hollowell and staff and volunteers of Love Wins ministry speak with police Saturday morning.

For six years they’ve been doing this.  Just sharing goodness and food and relationships with folks in need in Raleigh–folks who are homeless or otherwise in need.  But yesterday morning, August 24, the Raleigh PD came up as folks were gathering and said that there would be no feeding of folks happening–that if anyone handed out a biscuit he or she would be arrested.

*sound of crickets*

Say what?

Let me get this straight.  The good folks who prepared the coffee and breakfast sandwiches and showed up on a Saturday morning will NOT be allowed to share what they have with the good folks who showed up for both physical and spiritual nourishment?  Is that what you’re saying?  ‘Cause I’m not sure I’m picking up what you are laying down.

I don’t even know, y’all.

(Does anyone else see the dilemma here?  Hungry people who cannot be fed as they usually are on the weekend and cannot panhandle to get what they need–ummm, it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out this equation.  Hurting people hurt people, but so do hungry ones.)

Apparently the mayor did meet with Hugh Hollowell today and said that no one would be arrested for the feeding ministry until this is all straightened out.  There will be a meeting or a hearing to follow.  I am hopeful this can all be straightened out.  Soon.  In the meantime, there are people who went hungry this weekend because someone was administering the law without looking at the spirit of the law.  And the names and faces behind it.

In writing about what happened yesterday, Hugh said, “…..our liberation is bound up in each other.”

So true.

My friend Mac is back on the streets.  He lasted the ten days of detox/rehab and about six in the transitional housing before he walked.  So some could say it’s his choice.  And it is.  But it’s also his disease and how he’s programmed himself over the years I guess.  The alcoholism has a powerful hold on him.  He doesn’t want to want to drink, to need the drink, but the desire doesn’t ever completely leave him.  And so he’s back.

He came to see me last week right before my Sister Circle.  We visited a little before and a lot after.  It was good to see him.  He is still laughing and teasing.  I’m trying to love him where he is and not put expectations on him.  Like he go back into Rehab.  That I won’t care about him unless he does.  I just can’t do that.  But it’s hard.  Hugh Hollowell is right.  My heart is tied up in knots as long as my friend suffers and is on the street.  And y’all, there is always a name and a face on the streets.  Someone’s child, sister, brother, friend.  Whether we know him or her or not.  Always.  And as long as there are, none of us are free.

Tuesday night after our visit, Mac called me from a friend’s cell phone and asked if I were close by.  I was not.  Seems that he wanted to see if I could get him a room–“so I can get a shower and get cleaned up.”  Mac.  This friend, this brother of mine, who has never begged around me before.   When he realized I wasn’t in town, he said, “Oh well, that’s all right.”

Frustrated I said goodbye.  They have showers and washers and dryers at the Day Center.  I don’t understand exactly why he didn’t partake of those things earlier that day. And he has told me many times he prefers sleeping outside, so I’m not sure what that was about.  But I got the same call again today.  A room.  For the night.  To get cleaned up.

My heart is breaking.  I had to say no.

It’s not about the money.  It’s about the relationship.  It’s about what his disease is doing to him.  It’s about codependency and enabling and addictions.  It’s about choices–his and mine.  And it’s about transitioning from a friendship to the haves and have-nots.  I have the resources to get a room, he does not.

And still I said no.

Yesterday I got angry because the powers that be said no to hot biscuits and coffee for folks in need.  Today I tell my friend no to a room that would get him in out of the elements for a night.

I make no sense even to myself.  And yet, I’d do it again if asked.  And I’m pretty sure I will be.  Mac knows I love him, and he even said, when I apologized, “Yeah, I know, it would be enabling me.”  Oh yeah, he knows all the key words and phrases.  It’s not his first rodeo either.

My little guy has taken to asking “how old were you” questions.  “Mama, how old were you when I was born?”  “Mama how old were you when you got your first puppy?” “Mama how old were you when you first watched Star Wars?”

If tonight he asked me, “Mama, how old were you when you finally had it all figured out?”  I’d have to answer, “I don’t know, baby, I’ll let you know when I do.”

It’s a confusing thing, this loving on all kinds of kinds.  All I hope is, as Mr. Hollowell’s ministry says, that in the end “Love wins.”  I’m counting on it.

If you’d like to help and support Love Wins, Hugh Hollowell lists names and numbers to call and share your thoughts–even for those of us out of town–at the end of this post.  You can like Love Wins on Facebook or subscribe to their blog by e-mail to stay informed. 

Tea Olives and Tales and Teasing

The littles and I went to visit our “Pirate” at my alma mater–her college today.

I am not old enough to have a daughter in college.  Seriously.

When I started school and began first grade, I had Mrs. Partain and Mrs. Crouch.  Most of my time was spent with Mrs. Partain.  Everyday before I left for school, Daddy would tease me and say, “I’m not old enough to have a daughter in first grade.  You need to tell your teacher that.”  And every afternoon when he came home, he asked, “Did you tell your teacher I’m not old enough to have a daughter in first grade?” And everyday I said no.  Until one day in the spring, I surprised him.  I answered, “Yes.”  When he got over the shock, he asked what she had said.  “She laughed.”  Which made him laugh too.

He was 31.  Way younger than this Mama of a college student.

We wandered around the campus.  Do I miss it?  Yes.  I told my oldest last night that I would so “Freaky Friday” her in a heartbeat.  Those were good days.  (Only I probably didn’t recognize it each and every day.)

It’s home.  So many landmarks. So many memories. The fountain I got thrown into every birthday I had my four years there and when I was engaged.  (My friends weren’t crazy or mean–it’s a tradition.) And the place where my husband and I married almost twelve years ago.   The window to my freshman dorm room (turns out it was across the hall from where our resident ghost hung out–I did NOT know that at the time–thank goodness), my sophomore dorm room, and the manhole cover I’d always walk over because I like to hear the echo.  The window to the office of our favorite professor, who was known to poke his head out if he heard us calling.  The building where I learned how to fail and try again.  The pond where I rode the paddleboat with a classmate from India and she read my palm.  I could go on and on with the memories.  They’re all still there.

As we were heading back to our girl’s dorm and maybe for a walk by the pond, it hit me.  That smell. I sniffed again.  Intently.  I turned around.

“What are you doing, ‘Dre?” she asked.

“Tea olive.  I smell tea olive.”  As I turned completely around I saw it.  It was so big I had dismissed it as being a tea olive.  We went over and soaked it in.

Soaking in the smell of the tea olive

Soaking in the smell of the tea olive

There is NO smell I love better on this earth than the smell of a tea olive.  Except for maybe a clean baby smell.  I don’t know, it might be a tie.  I wish I could bottle it up and take it everywhere with me.

Years ago Daddy planted one at the house, Blackberry Flats.  The first time it blossomed and I smelled it, I found myself drawn to it, soaking it in.  I told Daddy that I hoped Heaven smells just like that.  It is the most perfect scent there is on God’s green earth.  Hands down.

Daddy's tea olive at Blackberry Flats

Daddy’s tea olive at Blackberry Flats

When we moved to our house here, there was one planted on the side of the house.  I just noticed it blooming the other day.  The scent hits you first as the blossoms are tiny.  Then you see them.  Precious.  In the midst of all the chaos of the past year, my wise gardener friend brought me one, knowing how much I love them, and planted it where I can smell it from the rocker on my porch.

When Daddy died, we were so fortunate to have a kind and witty and compassionate funeral home director work with us.  She asked about a spray.  We had no idea but knew that Daddy wouldn’t have wanted anything fancy.  She suggested we take cuttings from greenery at the house to the florist to be worked into it.  I remember well that crisp fall day, my Aunt and I out cutting small branches from the cedar that had come from their parent’s farm over thirty years ago and from that tea olive.  It turned out beautifully and it meant so much.  Daddy had planted and tended to both of those trees over the years.

So it was that in March of last year, on Daddy’s birthday, our first without him here, Mama and the crew and I took Daddy’s shovels and went out to the little country church where they both are buried now, and we dug a hole and planted a tea olive there.  It was not an easy task–us and the shovels vs. Georgia red clay.  I spent a whole lot of time getting to know that tea olive last year.  Mama saved her milk jugs, and she or I would haul eight gallons out there twice a week to water it all through the dry summer.  I spent a lot of time out there pouring water into the big bucket with slow draining holes my wise gardener friend had loaned us.  As I poured I talked to Daddy.  The conversations were private, but suffice to say, there weren’t always happy and grace-filled.  There were times I just wanted to lay down out there and give up, I missed him so much.  There were days the sky was filled with angry clouds gathering, but much like me, they were all talk and no rain fell, so still I watered.  I knew how to look for new growth on the tree because my Daddy had taught me, so I was pleased when I saw some, and I pointed it out to him.

I love the smell of a tea olive.  I think I may have to go out there and see how it’s doing.  I haven’t worried much about it with all this rain we’ve had this summer.  And it’s seemed harder to go out there lately.  But if there’s the promise of blossoms and that smell, well, that might just change everything.

I hope the smell will bring comfort to my children just as it has for me.  And maybe my oldest will find herself walking out of her way to sniff the tree that very likely was planted about the time I was there, oh-quite-some-time-ago.  And I think that would be just fine.  It is my hope that she too will take root there and grow and hopefully bless the world as she blossoms into who she is becoming.  I’m already seeing new growth in her too.  And though it’s not easy, what follows, just like the scent of the tea olive, will be downright beautiful and worth every bit of the effort.  I promise.

The Puzzle of Prayer

pic of walk

Tonight after supper the littles asked to take a walk.

It surprised me.

I’m used to them asking for dessert, or to play some kind of electronics, or to watch a tv show.  But to take a walk? It’s been a while.  And the irony of them asking on this day.  It just about made me cry.

Four years ago exactly, in the evening, I was taking my second walk of the day.  It was a luxury I didn’t take lightly.  Walking through the neighborhood by myself, letting the breeze blow out the cobwebs.  My husband was home doing prep for a procedure, so when I saw him walking towards me through the shadows of dusk, I knew something was wrong.  It was Daddy.  He was in the hospital ER and it wasn’t good.

Tonight as the littles and I walked, off and on Cooter would reach up and take my hand.  So sweet.  And our Princess would lean over and hug me happily as we walked side by side by side.  The sound of thunder rumbling sped us along, as I didn’t want it to find us before we were able to get inside safely.  The dark was closing in on us as the clouds grew darker and closer.  Just as it did four years ago.  That blasted darkness.

Just the day before we’d gathered at Mama’s and Daddy’s to celebrate my nephew’s fourth birthday.  In the midst of the laughter and merry-making I sat next to Daddy on the brown couch in the big room.  He was unusually quiet.  I don’t claim to know something was going to happen but there must have been some kind of prescience as I remember wanting to hug him close and not let go.

We’d had at least six months of symptoms to seek explanations for, but it was when Daddy’s hand wobbled and he couldn’t get his glass to his mouth that day that Mama noticed and said, “It’s time to do something.  Now.” And so they went to the ER.

I was relayed the message that I was NOT to go to the hospital that night.  So I didn’t.  I did what I was supposed to do which was make calls and share the situation with family.

That night was the beginning of the change in my relationship with prayer.  Before this I really thought that if I prayed hard enough or believed enough…..

One family member asked what could be done.  I said, “Hit your knees and start praying.”  I was so convinced we could ward off the Giant with prayers.

The next morning I called to tell Daddy’s sisters and brother.  My Aunt and I cried together as I recall.  Her big sister, the one in the middle between her and Daddy, offered to pray with me, for me, for all of us.  I remember being comforted and some of her words have stayed with me–words about how much I loved and needed my Daddy.  And how much his grandchildren needed him too.  She knew, she got it–her Daddy died when she was in her twenties.  Her words covered me and held me tight as I knelt in the dark inside my closet, weeping where my children hopefully couldn’t hear me.

Prayer is a hard thing, you know.  Or maybe it isn’t for most folks.  But for me, I don’t get it.  I read part of a book where a man walked around the property he hoped would be his community’s church one day, praying around it.  And it “worked.”  They got the property and have grown since then.  I know people who say that their prayers have been answered in one way or another.  And I’m not saying they haven’t been.  I just know that when someone is sick or hurting or they ask for prayers……all I can say is “I’ll keep you in my thoughts” or “I will be thinking about you” or “You are in my heart and on my mind.”  Which is all true.  I cannot say “I will pray for you” because I don’t know what that is supposed to look like.

And here is why.

Starting very shortly after this date in 2009, when my children fully grasped that their loving grandfather, their “Cap,” was very sick, they ended their table blessings ALWAYS with “And make Cap better. Amen.” It was so much a part of their prayers that they even said it at his table with him sitting there after he came home from the hospital several weeks later.  Loving friends and family let us know they were praying.  Friends in Japan and Germany and young women in Ghana whom we never met were praying for us, for Daddy.  If ever anyone was covered in prayer, it was my Daddy.  And yet….

On a cold morning in November of 2011 I was driving as quickly as I safely could to my parents’ house, my three babies in tow.  When our Princess realized we weren’t taking her big sister to school and that it was still rather dark out, she asked, “What are we doing?  Where are we going?”  I waited until we were on the backroads in case I had to pull over I guess.  I told her, “Baby, God is coming to get Cap today.  Sometimes He has to take folks to Heaven to heal them all the way.”  Or something like that.  And that’s when she started crying and said,

“Oh no, we didn’t pray hard enough.”

Dear God, what had I taught her about prayer?  And what do I teach her now?

It’s a hard thing.  And so I think about it more than I should probably.  And I worry over it.  Not so much for God’s sake as I figure I’m not the first to ask hard questions, but for those I love.  Those I love enough to want things to be better but not really understanding the process enough to commit–“I’ll pray for you.” How can I if I don’t know what I’m doing?

After Daddy died,  I spent fourteen months trying to get my faith and my prayers back on track. Then Mama went in the hospital. So many people praying, saying to us that they were praying for the surgeons, for us, for Mama. Three weeks later, after suffering more than anyone ever should, she too passed on from this world. My friend Mac has told me he has sat in the park and cried and prayed and asked God to take away the taste of alcohol. He’s prayed for strength. I’ve told God how much he means to me and asked God to help him through the constant battle of addiction. And still… we are.

I’ve talked with some folks about prayer. Told them that I don’t get it. I don’t understand exactly what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Expectation management as my husband would call it. If I’m praying, believing God can or will heal my Daddy, my Mama, Mac…..then is it any wonder that my faith is shattered and my heart broken when they aren’t healed? And if I’m praying, knowing it could go the other way, then why bother at all? That would be praying, having no faith that it could help. I’ve heard some folks say, “Well you must not have prayed hard enough.” NO. I can’t take that upon myself, nor can I believe in a God that would punish for prayers said wrong or not at all. Somehow I think we’re missing a piece of the puzzle here. I pray and…..? And what? There has to be another part of it.

I don’t know what the answer is and may not know in this world.  For now I borrow from a wise Mennonite minister, Hugh Hollowell, who shared in an old post that his prayers evolved into telling God how much someone meant to him and asking Him/Her to be with that person.  That I can do.  That doesn’t set expectations or requests–just puts someone in the Light for a few minutes. And I’m hoping that in the midst of the dark and brokenness that can be overwhelming, that if I talk to God and share how much I love that person, maybe for a moment the Light will shine through the darkness.  And shine a bit of peace through it all.  For that person I care about and for all of us.


For the Birds

English: Picoides villosus, Hairy Woodpecker -...

English: Picoides villosus, Hairy Woodpecker — Whitby, Ontario, Canada — 2006 January, The red on the back of the head identifies this as a male. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I originally wrote this four years ago about a walk I took in August 2009.  I wrote it in December of 2009 to be included in a Hope Book of encouragement in which family and friends shared stories and pictures and laughter with Mama and Daddy, as Daddy began his fight against Lymphoma. 

Lately I’ve really gotten into cardinals.  I love them–males and females.  I can remember one flying across the bottom just before Evans Packing Shed on Highway 96 just about every morning on my way to work at Peach Area Child Care Center.  I made it up in my head that the cardinal was a sign of good luck.  I guess I felt like I could use it at the time.  Recently on a rare time of running an errand at Blackberry Flats by myself, I saw a beautiful flash of red in one of the cedars.  Breathtaking–and oddly comforting.

It’s interesting, because birds were always my sister’s thing–especially cardinals.  But birds go way back for me.  I remember Daddy telling me, while he was working to pull my tooth, some story about bluebirds in their mailbox when he was growing up.  I couldn’t concentrate on the story because I just knew that when one of those birds flew out of that mailbox, my tooth was going to fly out of my mouth.  That’s not how it happened though.  But to this day when Daddy asks me if I remember the bluebird story (a different one), I first recall the mailbox one and think, “No, I was only half listening back then.”

Back on an August Sunday morning I went on a walk before the neighborhood woke up.  It was a beautiful day.  I finally heard someone else who was up–a woodpecker.  Crazy thing, he was pecking at a metal light pole.  When he realized I was close, he flew over to a tree,.  I thought, “Well good, now he will figure it out, poor ignorant critter.”  I walked a ways before I turned back toward home.  By this time, the August heat was doing a number on me and the dew on the grass–steamy! I heard the woodpecker again, and would you believe that he was back on that metal pole?!

It hit me on the way home that I’m a lot like that crazy bird.  I’m just that hard-headed.  I will keep at something that maybe I wasn’t made to do.  Even when I might be veered in a different direction, sometimes I still go back–determined to make it work.  And that works out about as well as a woodpecker pecking at a metal pole.  And it can be just as discordant.


The Other Bluebird Story

Daddy told me this one several times, especially after he became so sick. 

It didn’t keep me from wanting to make him my top priority and

he didn’t quit reminding me where he wanted my priorities

to be.  I’m thankful for how much he loved our children and how he

wanted us to focus on them even in the midst of what he was going through. 

Sometimes remembering the strength of his spirit and

love makes me cry. 

There was a Mama bluebird and four babies in a nest.  One day

a bad storm was coming, and Mamd Bluebird knew it.  She

decided to move her babies to safety.  She didn’t

have time to get them all under cover, so she decided to move as

quickly as possible.  She took the first baby in her mouth and flew

towards safety. “Oh Mama thank you so much for saving me first.  When you

are old, I’m going to take care of you just like this.”

Mama Bluebird dropped the baby and went back for number two.

The same thing happened–“Oh Mama thank you, one

day I am going to take good care of you just like you cared for me.”

Mama Bluebird dropped it and headed back.

The same thing happened with number three.

When Mama Bluebird went back for number four, the

little bird sang out, “Oh Mama, thank you for taking such good

care of me.  One day I will take care of my little ones just like

you took care of me.”

And Mama Bluebird and her baby flew on to safety.

~The End~

And for those who can’t get enough of good bird stories, here’s a beautiful one from my friend over at Baddest Mother Ever–A Tuesday Kind of Miracle.  I never get tired of reading it.