Previews…..the hint of good things to come

Sneak Previews
Sneak Previews (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I originally wrote this on 9 August 2008.  Thought I’d dust it off and share it with y’all tonight. 

I had the great joy today of going to the movies.  I haven’t been in over two years, so I was very excited and maybe a bit nervous that I pick just the right one to see, as it could be another two years before I get to go again.  Wow.  Prices have changed, but little else has.  The smell, the lights, the movie posters everywhere.  My friend, who blessed me by asking me to join her, led me to the right popcorn and coke line, where we got our small sizes of each.  We headed to the theater where the lights had already dimmed and the “Please turn off your cell phone” message was playing.  We found our seats and I settled in—here I am—entertain me!

As the previews began, I was mesmerized.  The first movie, hmmm, not so much.  I don’t remember the title.  I just know it won’t even make my “hey, let’s watch this on TV” list.  The next two, though, seemed to be full of energy and action, with plots that would keep one laughing, crying, and wanting more.  I was amazed that the producers could put together just the right clips to make me want to come back for more…..tomorrow…..I don’t want to wait two more months!  As the theater darkened, getting ready for the feature movie, I sighed.  I love the previews.  I could have gone home happy then.  I know so many people who groan and moan about the previews on DVD’s  and how they can’t just skip over them.  I must confess—were it just me watching—I would let them play, taking it all in, even if it was for a movie I’d already seen.  I love the previews.

The movie started, and it hit me how some of the best moments in my life have been previews.  The first time I saw each of my three children—what a preview!  A tiny little tadpole looking critter, whose only indication of life was a microscopic little heartbeat that brought me to tears.  They each had other previews, later sonograms…..and maddeningly enough to some folks, I turned my head during the most crucial time, so I could be surprised when they actually made their opening scene.  Did I mention I really love it when they don’t show all of the best scenes in the previews?  Previews that leave me giddy with anticipation and wondering? Yes please.

When each one took her/his first step, it was a preview of the times they’d run to me with open arms for a hug, turn away from me in frustration, or leave me behind for their very first “all by my big self” adventure.  When each spoke his/her first word, it was a preview of all they would share—the “I love you,” the “I can’t stand you,” the “you’re the best, Mama.”  When each dressed him/herself for the first time, it was a preview of the self-expression that makes each one so unique and precious and treasured.  Each day with each one is a preview of the people they are becoming, with every moment and with every breath.

When I first met the man I would marry and he held my hand, I had a preview of our life together—someone who would listen, someone who would walk beside me and share the journey, someone who would offer a hand—a hand up, a clap to cheer me on, or a hug when I need it.

At our wedding six years ago, I had a preview of a friendship that I would come to treasure.  Never would I have guessed back then that the person whom I had only briefly met, who gave so selflessly and took it upon herself to set up and decorate our reception area would, six years later, be sitting next to me in a dark theater, laughing and literally “rejoicing” with me over a movie that we both so connected with.

Our world gives us previews too.  The first flower that pokes its head up through the soil gives us a glimpse of the spring and summer to come.  The first blossoms on the peach trees leave us anticipating that first bite into the first juicy, ripe, sweet peach of the season.  The first cool morning towards the end of a sweltering summer gives us a preview and a reminder that fall will come.  The clouds and brisk winds brings to mind the precious rain that will fall down and nourish our earth.  Some plots are too good to be improved upon.

Previews.  What is to come for us.  The little things that make us come back for more—to seek more–and the delightful surprises that play out when we do.  That’s what is so wonderful and mystical about this life.  We are constantly getting previews of the good things to come.  Sometimes we just have to take a moment to sit quietly and look around.  And then get ready—the best is yet to come!

Why Even Bother?

Life is confusing.  And hard.

Especially explaining it to your children.  About how life doesn’t have to be fair.  About how most of the time it’s not.  And no amount of indignation is going to change that.

People make poor choices.  Every moment of every day, someone is making a poor choice.  A choice that may or may not have any consequences.  For them.

And yes, I know.  You have gotten caught at anything you’ve ever tried.  You’re the one who always gets caught and “they” never do.

It’s something of a catchphrase around here–“Sometimes it just be’s like that.”

And no amount of indignation is going to change it.

It’s like the deputy who sat at the end of our street yesterday.  Our DEAD END STREET.   And he waited.  Turns out he was watching for folks who did not come to a complete stop.  At the last stop sign before the last cul-de-sac on a cul-de-sac.  Ahem.  Slow day in town I guess.   (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about safety, but his three hours at the end of the street seemed a little excessive-we seriously don’t have that many folks in and out around here.)  Anyway, there are people who do the California roll every single time at that stop sign and they totally missed getting caught by him yesterday.  Maybe they didn’t come home during his hours with us, or maybe they saw him in time.  Whatever, they didn’t get in trouble.  And then there were others–the mom rushing home to check on something or the dad who came home quickly to meet his daughter’s bus–who might always come to a complete stop, but yesterday, well…..not so much.  And they got a warning or a ticket or whatever.  They got busted.  And the others? Most likely will continue to roll through and maybe nothing will ever come of it.

And worrying over it won’t do any of us a bit of good.  It just is what it is.

I get being angry.  I get the frustration.  Princess thinks Cooter never gets in trouble for what he does and vice versa.  The truth is each one of them gets reprimanded when and where appropriate and repercussions follow.  But in the big, outside world, I’ve known folks who seemed charming and delightful but were mean as snakes on the inside and no one ever held them accountable for their actions.  Maybe no one ever will.  I have to let it go.  The eating me up inside only makes me hollow.  Doesn’t hurt them one little bit.  And that’s why I know I have to stop.

So why bother?  If it doesn’t even matter, maybe I can get away with it too.  Is that what you are thinking?  I guess I can understand that.  But I’ve been thinking on it and I read something today that made me think on it even more.

In “Whistling Past the Graveyard” by Susan Crandall, one character has the potential to be in real big trouble even though what happened was done to protect the lives of others and it just couldn’t be helped, really.  A friend tells this character to go on, run, that the tracks would be covered.  The person who could be in all that trouble replies, “…..A body can’t run from what they done.  They carry it with them inside.  It fester and spread like poison if it’s buried.  It gotta be out in the air where it can heal…..Someday you understand that too.”  (p. 262)

Amen.  If you done it, you done it, and you have to carry that in your heart.  It really doesn’t matter if you get caught or not.  It has to be let out for you to be able to live and breathe and move on.  For you to be whole.

So what is life all about?  Why bother? Why do the right thing, why make any effort at all if you don’t have a cheering section for all those right things you’ve done in life?  Why try if the only time you slip up, there’s suddenly a glaring spotlight on that and no one remembers everything else you did that was right?

Eula in “Whistling Past the Graveyard” had an answer for that too.

“Well, now, we can all do better.  That’s why we get up every day, to try and do better with the good Lord’s help.”  (p. 242)

That right there.  Truth.

That’s why you do what’s right.  Not so you can be noticed.  Not because we are afraid of being in trouble or getting caught or what other people will think.  Because of that.  Because we can.  Because we know better.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating.  Mama and Daddy used to say quite often, “If you know better, do better, and folks will like you better.”

And another reason, from C. S. Lewis:

20130928-233221.jpg

That’s what it’s about.  No matter who is or isn’t watching, do what you know is right.  And if you aren’t sure, do the best you have with what you have in that moment.  It won’t always be easy, but it will always be the thing to do so you can get up and face that mirror day after day, look yourself in the eye and hear the echoes of folks in the past, and know that you have nothing to answer for that you haven’t already.  And that is worth more than gold or silver or whatever is the next big thing.  That is worth everything.

Why We Usually Run Out of Ketchup

English: A bottle of Heinz ketchup
English: A bottle of Heinz ketchup (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s just not on my radar.

I live in a house of ketchup eaters.  Of which I am not one.  At all.

I grew up with them too.  Sister loved ketchup so much she would eat it on everything from eggs to the Friday night fishsticks.  (We didn’t have them every Friday, but when we did have them it was usually a Friday.)  I don’t remember how old I was when I turned away from ketchup, but I do remember why.

Ketchup is red.  (Well except for that weird phase they went through about ten or twelve years ago where they marketed purple and green ketchups, yeah, RED.)

Blood is red.

In my very young mind, I could not comprehend that vessels contained the blood in our body.  I figured that it was all just in there hanging out together.  I also didn’t understand that our food wasn’t in there free floating.  Put it all together and I decided not to eat ketchup because how on earth would the doctors distinguish the blood from the ketchup if I got sick?

Ummm okay, did I mention that I was very young?

That same youth and lack of comprehension about how the world worked was what made me afraid when I realized we were not inside the dome of the earth–that we were actually standing on the outside of the planet and the only thing holding us in place was something called “gravity.”  All of a sudden I felt so small and vulnerable.  And very hopeful that gravity would never stop working.

Fear is an interesting interpreter isn’t it?  Fear that comes from not knowing, not understanding.  It filters everything through the unknown and comes out on the other end creating stress and worry and exhaustion.  And strange habits.

Like not eating ketchup.

Oh sure I’ve eaten it since then.  And occasionally I find it tasty.  But mostly I don’t care for it, and I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t because a tiny bit of that worry from when I was small still lingers.  Not rational, but maybe.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 to the sound of our Princess sniffling.  I’m afraid she’s gone from allergy symptoms to a full-blown cold.  (Can I say how unfond I am of ragweed?)  It was then that I noticed that my bedroom door was only opened about six inches.  Hmmmmm, I thought, that was odd.  My bathroom door was near about closed. Even odder.  I went to check on Princess, found her awake, and asked her if she had pushed the doors to.  Waiting for her answer, I was thinking, “Please say yes.  Please say yes.”  But instead she answered in her sleepy voice, “No.”

Oh boy.

I spent the next hour, in the darkness, fighting fear with common sense.  I knew that no one had broken in, but the darkness and the unknown kept pushing the common sense and what I did know back against a wall.

Fear.  It’s why I Iose sleep some nights.  It’s why I often don’t try new things and why I avoid old ones.  And once upon a time, it was why I stayed indoors and tried not to go outside very much at all.  Fear is why I avoid my front porch when Aragog’s successor’s web is visible, and it’s why I panic when our Princess starts getting sick.  Fear, it is the impediment to living life fully.

I have spent many years working on the fears that come along irrationally.  And not all fears are.  (To paraphrase my Mama, “Sometimes if you aren’t fearful, you don’t understand the situation.”)  It’s the irrational ones that I want to eke out into extinction.  When even my plans and dreams get filtered through the lens of fear, it is time to do something.

I love this story.  It is endearing and eye-opening and heartbreaking all at the same time.  And joyful--there's joy in there too.
I love this story. It is endearing and eye-opening and heartbreaking all at the same time. And joyful–there’s joy in there too.

I’m reading a book recommended by my friend and wonderful writer, Karen Spears Zacharias–“Whistling By the Graveyard” by Susan Crandall.  The main character, nine-year old Starla, tells it like this: “Whistling past the graveyard.  That’s what Daddy called it when you did something to keep your mind off your most worstest fear.”

Whistling past the graveyard.  Yes.  I know what that feels like.  Only usually for me it’s a way of breathing.  Or whispering the same words over and over to bring me peace and comfort when I’m most afraid.  Or it’s picking up the phone and calling……Sister, Mess Cat, Bubba, my Aunt, a friend, someone I love and trust.  Just to keep me distracted long enough to get over the wave of fear and worry that can come without a moment’s notice.

It’s time I start whistling more and worrying less.  Let go of those fears that cripple me and my ability to take the next step in whatever it is.

20130927-231329.jpg

I love this quote by John Wayne.  Yessir.  That’s what it is.  And I’m thinking after all the times I’ve given in to the fear in my life, it’s time that I learn to saddle up.  There is not right or wrong in the trying; it’s just important that I do it.

So in addition to finishing the book I am reading, I need to learn to saddle up regardless.  It might be scary and it might be way out of my comfort zone, but that’s what true courage looks like.  In the face of fear, not in its absence.

Oh yeah, and one more thing for that to-do list.   Add ketchup to my shopping list.  I think we might just be out.  And tomorrow is very likely going to be fish stick Saturday, and goodness knows these folks can eat some ketchup.  I might even have some myself.

Playing with Ice Cubes and Holy Moments

So this happened this evening.

Sophie Ru chasing after an ice mouse.
Sophie Ru chasing after an ice mouse.

This is what happens when you have an overzealous ice dispenser, a playful puppy, and two littles (and okay, one Mama) to cheer her on.

Daddy was the first to call those pieces of ice that scattered when you were trying to fill a cup “ice mice.”  Try with all your might, it was hard to catch those things.  In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “Slippery little suckers.”

And so Sophie found out.  It was quite by accident.  Our ice dispenser sometimes shoots out one last cube though you and your cup might have moved on.  It has been known to land on the floor.  Sophie saw something moving and went after it.  And after it.  And after it.  It was funny to watch because sometimes she’d catch it and try to carry it in her mouth and then she’d act surprised and drop it and there it’d go across the floor again.

"I got it!"
“I got it!”

This.  This is why I so needed a puppy.

"Is it going to move again?"
“I’ve got my eye on you.”

Laughter has filled this house…..the littles (okay, me too) have been kicking that ice cube all over the place…..and then off she’d go again.  She loved trying to catch that ice cube. (or cubes, there might have been more than one–totally by accident.  Absolutely.)

Who needs cable or electronics when you’ve got this much fun an ice cube away?

Sleepy baby.  Wore herself out and crashed next to her water bowl.  Sweet dreams.
Sleepy baby. Wore herself out and crashed next to her water bowl. Sweet dreams.

Of course, as with all things, the fun must come to an end…..and we were all exhausted.  It’s hard being the life of the party.

Tonight I am thankful for moments like these.  Impromptu joy.  Unexpected laughter.  The exuberance of new life.  In the midst of sorting out all kinds of emotions and thoughts that come with living this life, it is a good and holy thing to laugh with my children, to watch them learn and grow with every moment, and to see the light reflected in their eyes and realize that, for a while, the shadows are gone.

Those moments when light and laughter and simple joy chase the shadows into the corners–that’s what I’m most thankful for tonight.

Go play with an ice cube.  Love to all.

The Gift of Grits

My Jim Dandy grits I cooked this morning in the perfect bowl.  Easy to wash out grits--the true test of a good bowl.
My Jim Dandy grits I cooked this morning in the perfect bowl. Easy to wash out grits–the true test of a good bowl.

When I went to bed last night I felt it coming on, and sure enough, when I woke up this morning, the sneaking suspicion that all these sniffles were maybe something other than allergies…..yeah, pretty sure I was right.

So rather than go with my old breakfast standby of a handful of dry cereal or a cup of yogurt or nothing much, I cooked myself some grits.  Jim Dandy grits.

Yuh-ummmmmm.

I love grits.  I don’t know why I don’t take the time to make them more, but today I did.  As I spooned them into my bowl, memories came flooding back of the crisp mornings Mama would make us grits for breakfast before school.  And I realized I had made these today for myself as comfort food.  I felt puny, so I made what Mama would have made for me.

As I stirred them around in my bowl I just about drooled over the creaminess.  I cannot tell you how long it was before I realized that grits weren’t usually eaten as a gelatinous substance.  All my fault.  If I had gotten up when Mama said and been ready to eat earlier, they would have been every bit as creamy as the ones I enjoyed this morning.  But I was not an easy (or early) riser and rarely got to the table in a timely fashion, so gloppy grits it was.  They were still great though.

I miss Mama.  There’s something in the air I guess because we are all missing her more than usual it seems here lately.  I miss calling her and telling her I don’t feel good and she, after assessing I would make it through and telling me so, would give me the appropriate number of “poor baby”s and all would be well.  She would then most likely offer for me to bring the children over and take a nap there.  I didn’t do it often, but when I did that was some kind of good sleep.

We got home a little later than usual today.  After taking our sweet puppy out to do what puppies do, I realized it was almost six p.m., and I still needed to fix some supper.  My first instinct was to pick up the phone.  And call Mama.  Because with us, it didn’t matter the time.

The only time I hesitated to call was late at night, but if it were something serious, I punched in the same numbers I’ve called almost all my life, and the moment I heard her voice, things were instantly a little better.  I remember late one night during the first few months of my first year in college, my roommate and I got a creepy call from someone acting like he could see us. Interesting, considering we lived on the third floor of the freshman dorm.  On an all women’s campus.  Still it spooked us and we called Mama immediately.  I don’t remember what all she said, but I do remember she talked to us and wasn’t mad that we woke her up.  And I slept better after that.

Tonight I didn’t really have anything in particular I wanted to talk to her about.  Just whatever.  I would have loved to hear her voice while I puttered away making the pancakes and fruit for the littles. (Oh, how many meals did I prepare just visiting with her on the phone!)  I could have asked her how to work through what’s on my mind, and she would have known just what to say.  She would have laughed at the stories of the stuff the littles do and listened about how potty-training the puppy is going.  Nothing overly special or important.  It’s just she was my best friend, and I miss her voice and her heart and her love.

So grits, thanks for the trip down memory lane.  You are as quirky as you are delicious.  I love that no matter how neatly I eat my grits, I always inevitably find one little grit somewhere on me later in the day. (How does that even happen?) And pretty much, you are the best ever–so versatile– breakfast, lunch, or supper, you’re fashionable at any meal.

Tonight I’m thankful for the ones who answer their phones now–I am lucky to have them to listen and encourage and laugh and cry with.  I’m grateful for my Mama, who always answered and listened, who loved me through my puny days, and who always, no matter how tired she probably was, made us a good breakfast to start our day.  It’s taken me far too many years, but I now appreciate what a gift that was.  Actually, what a gift SHE was.

Love to all.

Does the Mayor Know About This?

Official seal of City of Macon
Official seal of City of Macon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last Tuesday was election day in Macon.  There were signs all over for the Mayoral race.  Pretty heated I think, with a former mayor running against the current mayor, with several others thrown in to keep things really interesting.  And all of this being beside the point, as I don’t live or vote in Bibb County.

However, as we drove on election day from the more affluent side of Macon to the destitute visage of downtown, I guess our Princess noticed the signs and asked some questions.  Like, what were the signs for? (election) What does a mayor do? (help run the city) She knew about voting because both she and her brother joined me during the last election I voted in.

Finally she asked, as we headed toward Daybreak for our time with our Sister Circle, “Mama, does the Mayor even know about all the people who are homeless?  All the ones who don’t have enough to eat?  Does he even care?  Does he want to help them?”

Bless her.

These questions were asked with such imperative sincerity that it made me just about cry.  She struggles with the idea that people could be without homes, even after three years of hearing their stories and getting close to people in these circumstances…..she still can’t understand why.  When she sees empty houses, she is convinced that is the solution.  All those for sale out here where we live?  That could solve the problem.

I listened to her questions and told her we could talk to our friend who helps run the programs at Daybreak to see if she thought the Mayor knew.  Then I asked her if she would talk to the Mayor and tell him if he didn’t already know.  She was reticent at first, but I believe she would.  She feels just that strongly.

Before the Sunday night suppers we volunteered with joined up with Daybreak, it was known as “Come to the Fountain.”  My littles know that, as there have been a few occasions where we gathered downtown to serve dessert and coffee on Thanksgiving or breakfast at Christmas.  But I don’t know if they knew the story of why it was moved to Central City Park before Daybreak was built.  This afternoon on our way home from Sister Circle and Daybreak, they started asking me about it.  I told them the truth as I knew it.  That some of the downtown businesses would rather not have folks who are in need, as our friends are, hanging around where their potential customers could see them.

Oh the beauty of innocent indignation!  “What?” our Princess asked.  “Are you kidding me?  Does the Mayor know about this?”

I love her.

I love that she thinks that one person in charge can make a difference and would even want to.  I love that she is on her way to being a champion for those who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t have a voice.  She can be such sunshine and joy in our lives, but when she gets her mind and heart stuck on something, she’s much like a teething puppy grabbing one’s pants leg.  Ahem.  She just won’t let go.  She genuinely cares and her heart is troubled.  She is not going to stand by and let things just happen.  Not if she knows it’s not right.  She’s a lot like her big sister in that respect.  I am so thankful and scared to death to be raising these strong women.

I really don’t want to mess this up.  I want to do the right thing for her.  I want her to know she is being heard–that her voice matters, even at her age.  Her thoughts are important, and I want her problem-solving skills to continue to grow.  I wonder how much longer I will let these questions go on before I make a call to the Mayor’s office and set up an appointment.  And I wonder how he will respond to the advice and thoughts and suggestions of an almost nine year old.

Eh, he’s probably had worst advisors.

Just sayin’.

Folks, y’all go and let your voice be heard.  About things that really matter.  And take some time to listen to the voices of those around you.  It’s going to take all of us getting mighty creative to straighten this mess out.  As we talked about in our Sister Circle today, the seventh principle about living gracefully in community is, as written by the Magdalene women of Thistle Farms, “Make a small change, see the big difference.”

It doesn’t matter how small, whether nearly 9 or 19 or 97–all voices matter.  And can make the change the world so craves and needs.  It all starts with listening.

The 7th principle of living gracefully in community from the women of Magdalene of Thistle Farms.  www.thistlefarms.org
The 7th principle of living gracefully in community from the women of Magdalene of Thistle Farms. http://www.thistlefarms.org

Sometimes a Cigar is More than a Cigar

A double guillotine-style cutter, used for cut...
A double guillotine-style cutter, used for cutting the tip of a cigar, next to two hand-rolled H. Upmann Coronas Major cigars, one inside its storage tube and one outside. The “Made in Cuba” label (see “Cuban cigars” section) is visible on the lower tube. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the midst of tackling Mt. Washmore and using my Psychology degree on a ten week old puppy AND two children–wait, make that three–and doing all the things that Monday brings to be done, I had hopes of doing something out of the ordinary.  Like finish a painting that Mess Cat is pretty much convinced I will never finish, I am sure.  Or working on a new crocheting project.  Or, I don’t know, maybe reading one of the bajillion books I have waiting on me.  ALL OF THEM guaranteed to be excellent.

But instead I unloaded the dishwasher and took care of vet appointments and math lessons and thought about how I really don’t have the time to do these things I’d really like to.

And then I heard him.

“You don’t have the time or you don’t make the time?”

It was my Daddy this time.  Yeah, I’ve heard him say this before.  A time or two.  Or ten.

He was right then just as he is now.

Because in truth, there are a million little moments each day that I piddle.  I don’t focus, I let myself get distracted.  I spend five minutes on Facebook, ten on Pinterest (pinning ideas I rarely make time to try), and fifteen clicking this and that on the Internet until I’ve almost forgotten what I sat down to look up to begin with.

And there you go, a half hour that could have been spent focused on a book I want to read or crocheting a little bit more on my project.  Or sorting through things in the littles’ rooms. *sigh*  But that’s an entirely different thing all together.

Daddy once told me a story.   Two men were sitting in a restaurant bar, and the first guy says to the second, “Hey man, let me buy you a drink?”  The second guy says, “No, I’m good.  Thanks.”  First guy: “Aww, c’mon, man, just one drink.”  Second guy: “No really, thanks anyway.”  A couple of minutes later the first guy tries again, “Let me buy you that drink now, okay?”  The second guy shakes his head and says, “No, I don’t drink.”  First guy: “Well why not?”  Second guy, after thinking for a minute, replies, “Because I just had a cigar.”  The first guy stops for a second and then says, “Just had a cigar? What does that have to do with anything?”

Exactly.

It’s just an excuse.  And when you’re looking for a reason, for an excuse, a cigar is as good as any other.

Daddy and I used to talk about our cigars and what other folks used as their cigars.  “I don’t have time” is used a lot.  But here’s the deal.  If I really wanted to, if I focused, I could make time and get to read some on my book du jour.  Or I could plan it out to take my crocheting with me and work on it in the doctor’s offices or dance room waiting areas instead of pulling out my phone and cruising through other people’s business.  Or people watching–again, other people’s business.

But instead, I say I don’t have time.

That’s my cigar.

My friends, it is time I “quit smoking” and making excuses.  It’s time I quit tossing out, “Well we’re too busy” or “Maybe when things get back to normal” or “My house just isn’t up to par yet” and let those all go.  For good.  I want to do these things that I enjoy.  And my life doesn’t make them prohibitive; my not “making” time to do them does.

I am not sure I’m ready for Technology free Tuesday just yet, but I think I’m going to try to make my mind a cigar-free zone and see what I can make time to do.  No excuses.

The only thing standing between these things I want to do and me is ME.