Ending a Chapter in My Story

I just closed the door on a chapter of my life.  A very long chapter.  The why’s and wherefore’s really aren’t important, but here’s what is.

I’m a scriptwriter from way back.  I like to “write out” how something will go down, who will say what, where they will go, and how all of this will affect me oh so wonderfully.  Ahem.  We all know how that kind of thing can turn out.  Or not.  Even if you send a memo letting folks know how they should act, it doesn’t always go the way you plan.  Or I plan.  And so on.

The thing is that even though this chapter is closed, I don’t trust that it really and truly has.  It has been a part of my story for such a long time.  And I can’t let it go.

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But I have to.  This chapter will always be a part of my story.  It will always be a part of how my character developed and continues to develop.  However, this now closed chapter does not have to be the ending of my story.  I can choose better over bitter, joy over fear, forgiveness over anger, grace over revenge (and all of the related clichés).  In other words, I can choose to MOVE ON.

I have friends who are in the midst of closing chapters or starting their next ones.  I wish for them the resources to do what must be done to get them back to a safe place–mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Safety and well-being.  And trust.  Trusting the old chapter really is over.  Trusting that if characters or the hard emotions come back around from that chapter that she can handle it.  Trusting that the people around her can handle hearing her story.  Trusting that she is enough and that she will always be loved by those in her life whom she values the most.  That’s what I wish for them.  And for me.  And I think in a nutshell all those things add up to peace.   That’s really what we all need the most I think.  Peace, inside and out.

And one more thing.  I did not see this ending coming.  And even though the chapter that so needed to be closed didn’t have the ending I thought it would or could or wanted it to have, it did end.  It is over.  That’s what I really want to share.  If you are in a situation and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, turn to those you love and let them love you through it.  More than likely they will.  I bet you will be surprised.  And my other point is this–it may not end the way you imagined or hoped but the end of this hard chapter will eventually come, and then you will have a fresh sheet of paper and you can begin again.  You will need to call on every resource you have–especially loving friends and family, but you can do it.

I loved this.  Please ignore the clearance sticker.  I left it on there and took my picture.  Might put this on a canvas around here one day.

I loved this. Please ignore the clearance sticker. I left it on there and took my picture. Might put this on a canvas around here one day.

I saw this sign in Target.  (so just ignore the clearance sticker and focus on the sentiment, please) I thought on this a lot.  Is it true?   As I walked away from the sign, I thought, “Well if it said, every day you get a second chance, then I could argue with that.  There are just some things you don’t get second chances at.”

But as I read it again tonight, I love what it says.  Every day is a second chance.  And I think it’s true.  Every day is a second chance to rewrite our own stories.  To have them make a difference.  To close the chapters that need closing or get help so that we can.  Every single day is a second chance to seek and to do.  And I think that is the best thing I’ve heard all day.

Here’s to closing chapters that need closing and the folks that love us through that journey.  You can do it, as hard as it may be.  Just know the next chapter will be that much more beautiful because you did.  Love to all.

Hearing Mama’s Voice

A few days ago, our Princess came in from playing with her first love, Sugar Ray.  He is the kitten we took in when he was three weeks old.  Something had hurt him badly, but with bottle feedings and good medicine, a great doctor and lots of TLC, he grew to be the massive lovable guy he is now at almost eighteen months.

When she came in the back door, she was crying.  What on earth?  She came straight to me, wrapped her arms around me and sobbed, “I miss Maemae.”

Oh no.

This has happened a handful of times since February, and when it does, it is hard.  Our Princess is usually so full of joy and light.  This makes the tears especially painful to see.

I just held on to her and rubbed her back and told her that Maemae loves her and is still with us.  I don’t know what else to do.  I told her it’s okay to cry and that she can still talk to Maemae.  I am trying so hard to let her know it is okay to grieve–in whatever way she needs to.

I asked her what brought it on.

“I was just talking to Sugar and telling him how much I love him and how much he has helped me when I was sad.  And then I started thinking about Maemae.  I miss her so much.”  The tears began falling again.

Today I sent her to pick up her room.  She is a love and very creative.  She’s our resident animal caretaker of cats and puppies and even some frogs and skinks outside.  She got my ability to read anywhere, anytime and shut out all other distractions.  But she also inherited my lack of being able to focus and organize and keep things in place.  So we have to work a little harder at it. She came out of her room a little while later crying.  I figured she was upset about having to clean or that her brother had done something to frustrate her.  But no.

“Mama, I miss Maemae so much. So so much.”

There must be something in the air, because several of us have had a harder week than usual this week.  I don’t know.  Again, I just held her and gave her permission to cry.  It’s all I can think of.  And usually as she quiets down, I find something to make her laugh.  I so need to hear her laugh.

I don’t know how to heal her little heart.  I don’t know how to make her okay because this is NOT okay.  We lost Mama way too soon, and we didn’t get to have conversations that we had scripted in our heads would happen when she came out of sedation or when the vent was removed.  Never happened.  We never even got to celebrate her birthday because of littles being sick on the day, and she went into the hospital two days later.  It’s hard and it hurts and this is one more thing I cannot fix.  I can only hold her as she cries and dry her tears that are falling onto my shoulder, all the while wondering why I have yet to feel my own.

But this is what I do know.

Mama is with us.  Always.

It is a very thin veil that separates us.

Life and death.

She is still with us.

A new book by one of our favorites, Mo Willems.

A new book by one of our favorites, Mo Willems.

Today the littles and I found a copy of an Elephant and Piggie book at a clearance price at the getting place.  We were so excited.  We LOVE Elephant and Piggie.  The cashier asked us who the book was for, and I replied with indignation, “It’s for ME!”  The cashier laughed, and I did too, mostly because he thought I was kidding.

On the way to the car, Princess asked if she could read it.  “Sure,” I said, “but will you please read it aloud?”

She began the sweet short story, as I focused on getting out of the parking lot and into the steady flow of traffic.  I missed a critical plot point, so have no fear.  I won’t blow the story for you, no spoilers here, so you can get your own copy and read it.  But what I can tell you is that I heard my Mama’s voice.  Princess has been listening to her Maemae read books to her since she was eight months old, when we moved back from Japan, and she met her grandmother for the first time in person.  She has been mesmerized ever since.  I think her favorite one to hear was “Little Red Cowboy Hat.” (Another great book, by the way.) Mama had a way of animating with voices that was second to NO ONE.  I can still hear her hippo chewing gum from “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?”  It was awesome.

The newest character to join Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems.

The newest character to join Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems.

And today, my sweet one used a voice to introduce this character and it blew me away.  It was the very voice I am sure Mama would have used.  It was big and booming and downright fabulous to tell you the truth.  It caught my attention as I merged into traffic.  I asked her to tell me the story again.  It was amazing how much she reminded me of Mama.

So tonight as she was crying, I told her that.  That she has a part of Mama, one of the most special parts, deep inside of her.  And that when she read that story today it came out and made us all smile and remember.  And that is about the best thing we can do when we love someone and miss them.  Carry them with us and celebrate their lives in how we live and what we do.  And continue to share the love they gave us with other folks.  That right there.  Isn’t that just what life should be all about anyway?

Bold and Beautiful Things

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So this happened today.  Aragog has moved a little further from the house.  He is now starting from the corner of the house and tying out with ONE STRAND to the Loropetalum that sits across from the corner of the house in the flowerbed.  He is very skilled, and I continue to be amazed with his intricate designs.  I suppose as long as he stays there, and I keep “limboing lower now” under where he attached his web to the bush, we’ll all be okay.

Here’s the thing that I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around all day long.  The very thing that sustains Aragog is the thing that transforms and ultimately destroys the web he worked so diligently on. And then he has to start over, and he usually moves on to another spot. That’s powerful.  And hard.

Are we like that too?  Do we need the things that we work so hard on, those things we throw ourselves into, to be transformed or destroyed so we will actually move? Move to do something bigger and better and bold, like hang our whole well-being and existence on one well-placed strand of webbing?  When things we work hard on are destroyed, do we have what it takes to begin again?

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I have not lost my arachnophobic ways.  I found a small spider crawling across the floor this evening.  He was crawling IN MY HOUSE.  My house, my rules.  And that’s all I have to say about that.  But I am beginning to respect Aragog; he must be doing all right for himself because he seems to be getting bigger.  BIGGER.  But he’s also being bold.  He started out with a much smaller web just over my front door, and now his web and all its connecting lines are stretching out at least four times as large as the original.  That one strand thing is blowing my mind.  How strong it must be.  Well played my bold friend.  Well played.

And by tonight it was gone.  Between the breakfast, lunch, and supper he caught earlier and the  breeze blowing and the neighbor child who came up and used one finger to break the link with the bush (that took my breath away for a moment, I’m not kidding–I was NOT happy), it was all but gone by the time the sun settled down behind the copse of trees.

Seeing Aragog begin again each morning this week has given me hope.  I know, weird, considering how I feel about spiders.  But the fact that he can begin again each and every day and NOT GIVE UP, though he must be extremely tired, THAT is the stuff that movies with great soundtracks are made of.  You know, the ones that have you cheering on the character who, by all rights, should be curled up in the fetal position because he or she has been through so much.  But no.  There he/she goes again, picking him/herself up and starting again.  With one strong strand hooked to the Loropetalum, slowly but steadily working step by step in the dark of night.  When things are the darkest, he or she finds what it takes to begin anew.  And to do bold and beautiful things, no matter how fleeting they may be.

That right there.  That’s what I want my story to look like.

The Ways of the Earthworm

This morning before the rest of the house was stirring, the pup and I headed out to the front yard to contemplate and do what doggies do in the morning dew.  The yellow of the sun and the blue of the sky seemed a more brilliant color today, promising us a day of beauty and perhaps a cool breeze or two thrown in there.

Meet Emilio, the new friend the sweet pup and I made this morning.  I want to find his rhythm and grace in my own life.

Meet Emilio, the new friend the sweet pup and I made this morning. I want to find his rhythm and grace in my own life.

As we were headed back in, I saw this guy making his way down the walkway.  I had already seen some of his kin whose demise had come all too quickly back on the pavement several feet away.  This one still had some get up and go.  As I watched his movements, it amazed me.  His head would stretch out and move forward ever so slightly, and then he’d wait for the rest of his body to catch up.  Again, stretch that head and wait.  It was painstakingly slow to me, who must have seemed like a skyscraper had he looked up.  Or, you know, had eyes.

As I watched him it hit me that I could learn a thing or two from Emilio the Earthworm.  He takes his time.  (I wonder what an earthworm in a rush would look like anyway.)  He leads with his head.  Then he waits for the rest of himself to catch up.  Wonder what he thinks about as that long body wiggles in and prepares to follow the head again?  He has a lot of time for cogitating, I’m thinking.

I tend to get ahead of myself a lot.  And then not wait for the rest of me to catch up, just plunge right in on the next thing.  And the next and the next, until I’m running in circles and find myself putting two entrees in the oven for the littles’ lunch (they did not complain on that) or I leave my wallet at home twice in three days (they did on this–Cooter was hoping for Chick-Fil-A that night–not without my wallet, buddy.)  And so it is.

My new author friend, Ann Hite, taught a Writer’s Workshop on Monday.  She talked about the exercise of walking slow–how important it is to slow down.  To listen, to think, to just be.  Still.  Slow.  Quiet.  That’s huge.  I have been walking fast most of my life; it’s a short girl thing.  It was especially true in high school when my ability to walk fast and dart through the throngs of students on the walkways between buildings determined whether or not I’d be on time for class and thus stay out of the Vice Principal’s office one more day.  Then there’s that whole walking fast thing to burn energy, burn calories, lose weight, stay healthy.  Our society is not one that emphasizes the benefits of walking slow.  Or crawling in the case of Emilio.

My Mama got it.  She could get more done in a day than most folks do in a week or maybe a month.  And yet she had her quiet times.  I honestly don’t remember ever seeing her in a hurry.  I don’t remember her ever saying, “Hurry up” or “right now!” or huffing and blowing getting out the door.  She simply did not run behind.  It’s a trait I admire as I did not inherit it.  At all.  I asked Sister if she ever remembered seeing Mama in a hurry.  And she immediately responded, “Yes.  I did. Once.”  She was quiet.  I asked her “when” about the same time the memory hit me.  When Daddy was being transferred from the local hospital to Emory in Atlanta at the end of August in 2009, Mama went home to pack and Sister was there to help her.  That is the only time either of us remember Mama being in a hurry.  She had strong faith and peace.  I wonder if her slow and steady pace helped with that.

As I rose from my squatting position to go back in the house this morning I thought about all of this.  I might need to tack a picture of Emilio on my mirror to remind me to slow down.  Don’t let my mind rush ahead with dreams and goals and ideas.  Slow down, listen, and wait.  I feel calmer just breathing that.  In and out.  Slow down.  Listen.  Wait.

I looked down at my new little guru and back at the sun that was getting brighter through the trees.  Another little bit and that pavement would warm up fast.  He didn’t seem to be headed toward the yard but instead in a line with the walkway.  Y’all know what happens to earthworms on hot pavement, right?  Very sad.  I felt like one of those wildlife photographers.  I know they are filming nature and have some sort of perhaps ethical something holding them back from letting the inevitable happen, but I could not bear to come back out in a couple of hours and find him baked on a 350 degree pathway.  I took a leaf and helped him along until he started wiggling so much it reminded me these guys must be related to snakes.  Ack!  I left him to his own devices to finish heading into the dirt. One stretch and wait at a time.

There he goes.  Thanks Emilio for stopping by and teaching me the ways of the earthworm.

There he goes. Thanks, Emilio, for stopping by and teaching me the ways of the earthworm.

May we all remember to let our bodies and souls catch up as we go through our busy, filled to the brim days–to slow down, listen, and wait.  I think that will be my new breath prayer as the winds of fall and yet more changes blow through my days and I find myself overwhelmed.  My friend taught us about breath prayers, an ancient practice that allows one to meditate through steady breathing and focusing thoughts.

Inhaling—slow down

Exhaling—Listen…..and wait

Walk slow, my friends.  And soak in the good that follows.

Eighteen Years Ago…..Dear Me

Dear Me,

I know you may not recognize me but I’m you, only eighteen years later.  That’s right.  You not only survive this whole childbirth thing, but hey, It’s a girl, and you raise her to be a pretty great person–with LOTS and lots of help, of course.  She’s gonna do all right.  And so will you.

First of all, that DQ cheeseburger, fries, and salad you chowed down on after you realized you were in labor…..yeah, not your most brilliant moment.  I know you were hungry, but, well, bygones.  Just for future reference–Just.  Don’t.

The fact that he honked the horn waiting for you to come out to the car while you were calling folks to tell them you were on your way to the hospital–in labor–we gone have us a baby tonight–yeah, you’ll get a lot of laughs over that one through the years.  Actually I’m shaking my head and laughing as I type it.  What was he going to do, leave YOU behind?  And the fact that he watched motorcycle racing while you did the hard work of labor?  Hang in there girl.  Far better things are on the horizon for you and this little one.  Just laugh it off and tell your friends.  The ones who love you will make you feel better with their indignation and smart cracks.  It’s going to be okay.  Please remember that.

That nurse you just met?  The one who asked if you had picked out a name, and when you told her, she ripped open her snap-up scrub top and showed you the Auburn shirt underneath?  Yeah, she’s the bomb.  She’s the only reason you don’t have to have a C-section.  Yeah, I love Dr. B and everything, but it was Paige, the nurse, who made things happen.  And about him…..he’s still around.  I know you were nervous about him delivering since he only just joined the practice in July, but he’s all right.  Y’all get along and laugh and yeah, he’s taking care of things.  Tonight is only the start of a great relationship.

That moment when your Mama and Daddy come in and see their first grandchild…..No, you are right, you won’t ever forget it.  And when your Daddy squeezes your big toe because he has no words, treasure that.  Life is far too fragile.  Soak it all in while you can.  And by the way, eat all those tea cookies your Mama goes home and bakes for you and feel no guilt.  Eat ’em now while you are still young and should have no worries about such as that.  They’re made of love anyway, which makes them practically health food.

Your brother, by the way, won’t ever let you forget that he had a big test the next day and wound up spending much of the night at the hospital waiting on this baby to arrive.  But it’s okay, you’ll forgive him.  He is going to bring you Nu-Way grilled cheese with extra dill pickles, crinkle cuts, and a huge sweet tea over the best ice ever.  Every. Friday. After school.  Until he graduates.  So yeah, don’t hold a grudge.  Just remember he has a birthday in a week.  Take that cake out of the freezer.  You can serve that when he comes by.

That friend of yours, the one who knew you were pregnant almost before you did?  Who listened and dreamed with you about this little one?  The one who called the hospital at 5 a.m. because she couldn’t sleep, to see if the baby had come?  You will always remember the sound of her voice as she comes walking in soon in the morning, “We got us a girl.  I’m going to buy her Barbies.”  She will too.  A chest full of ’em.   She’s the one who will fight tooth and nail for you and that baby.  And the time will come when that will be real important.  But for now just know that no matter how far apart in miles you may be in the future, you will always stay close at heart.  Pick up a phone every now and then and tell her you love her, okay?

And the fella who came and held her as long as you would let him? He winds up marrying someone who falls right in with the rest of you and is a real sweetheart.  They will stand by your side when you think that they wouldn’t or shouldn’t or couldn’t.  They will always put this baby first and love you both through some stuff.  Give them a hug and that son of theirs too (oops, hope I didn’t give too much away) and for goodness’ sake call them and go eat Mexican with them as often as you can.  Time flies by way too quickly.

When the doctor comes in and finds you not completely covered because you are trying to figure out this whole nursing thing without the appropriate undergarments, don’t worry and stress over it for *ahem* days.  Modesty is OVER, girl.  You are a Mama now.  Good news, the doctor didn’t even notice.  Bad news, you will never go to the bathroom by yourself again.  That’s right, there are more coming behind this one, and you still have no privacy.  But you get used to it.  And they are worth it.

Your sisters, by the way, are going to be awesome aunts. They are some of your best friends and don’t forget it, no matter how crazy or hard things get.  They’ll be there this coming weekend to hold and love on this new baby girl, very possibly part of the reason she will never like being put down.  Because they won’t.   Not the whole time they are there.

This girl you are about to hold for the very first time is going to be one of your best friends.  She is one of the three greatest gifts you will ever receive in your life.  She will make you crazier than anyone ever has, but don’t worry, she’ll get through that stuff too.  In the hardest of times she will make you laugh, in the saddest of times she will remind you that you are strong, and in the happiest of times she will make each day a celebration.  Hold her and don’t cry too much when she won’t go to sleep at 3 a.m.  Soon she will be out on her own, and those nights will only be a memory.  Far too soon and yet right on time.

When she gets cranky, tell her to take a shower.  It just worked tonight, the eve of her eighteenth 3:32 a.m. birthday.  When she acts out of control, let Cap take her to the yelling tree.  She says he just sat her down out there, so whatever, don’t question it, it works.  Oh, and please oh please, you might want to think about investing in Scholastic and a company that makes dark chocolate.  She’s an avid reader and dark chocolate can turn her frown upside down faster than you can say Dove Bliss.

Most of all, give yourself some grace.  It’s not easy, this raising up of young’uns.  Daddy will tell you, I think in just a few days, “No one’s going to help you raise her.”  You will wonder what he means, but all too soon you will understand.  And give her grace.  She’s far more competent and wise than you can see sometimes.  She’s infuriating and compassionate, brilliant and creative.  She loves music almost more than she loves chocolate and she will fill your life with it.  She gets the spelling gene by the way, and that makes for some fun adventures.  Most of all you will be blessed by the people she brings into your life.  Her friends’ moms will be some of the people you treasure most.  She will open your eyes to great books, great music, great thoughts, and one of the things you love the most will come from her…..she’s a leader and she will ask you questions and rarely will she accept “just because” as a valid answer.  You will find yourself saying when she is still small, “Oh my, I hope this hard head and strong personality will serve her well.  One day.  Because it’s not today.”  Spoiler Alert:  It does and it has and it will.

Enjoy the days, don’t wish them away.  Love her and I promise you will love her more and more everyday.  As I do.

Take care and get some sleep while she’s sleeping.  I promise you, you’re going to need it.  You got this, girl.

Best wishes and much love,

Me

Me and my new little one just before her first day at church.  She's wearing a dress that her aunts wore at one month old.

Me and my new little one just before her first day at church. She’s wearing a dress that her aunts wore at one month old.

Aub at our first spend the night party at Maemae's.  Cap took apart our old crib, painted it with safe paint, and added in dowels to make it meet the new specs so it would be safe for his new grandbaby.  She was so loved before they even met her.

Aub at our first spend the night party at Maemae’s. Cap took apart our old crib, painted it with safe paint, and added in dowels to make it meet the new specs so it would be safe for his new grandbaby. She was so loved before they even met her.
At 3 weeks she was already my little "ten pound bag of sugah!"

At 3 weeks she was already my little “ten pound bag of sugah!”

Happy Birthday, my baby girl!  I love you "moistest."

Happy Birthday, my baby girl! I love you “moistest.”

Pinterest Win, Precious Ladies, and a Promise Kept

Last year getting ready for Christmas was pretty much one Pinterest win after another.  Yes, I know, right?

I had gift ideas I tweaked and made into reality.  Recipes? Yes.  As we had decided that for gifts from each other in our immediate household they had to be made or purchased from the GW Boutique or both, I was often on Pinterest for inspiration…..or looking for laughs to get me through all that stress of being crafty.

There was one project in particular that I especially enjoyed.  It was a clothespin Holy family ornament.  I am not sure what the original idea looked like, but I was pleased with the results.  I gave Mama one as part of her pre-Christmas goodies.  She loved it.  “I would love to give these to the ladies in my Circle,” she said, referring to the once a month gathering of ladies from her church.  Since they had already met in December, we decided that she could give them out at the July gathering–sort of a Christmas in July if you will.  I even had the perfect thing to put with it.  “Do you mind making them for me?” she asked.  “I’ll probably need 8 or 10.”

“No problem, I enjoy it,” I told her.

This has been in the back of mind and on my heart for a while now.  I spoke with one of the ladies from the Circle and found out that they had taken a break for summer but were starting back up this month, today in fact.  I knew it was time.  I asked if I could come for a few minutes and bring something Mama wanted them all to have.  The assurance that I was welcome was genuine and kind.

So last night I sat down with a pile of wooden pieces, my fancy cordless glue gun (I know how to maximize my 40% off Hobby Lobby coupons, y’all), and some paper clips.

"Whatcha making, Mama?" Cooter asked. "God and Jesus and His mama?"  Oh my.

“Whatcha making, Mama?” Cooter asked. “God and Jesus and His mama?” Oh my.

Very quickly it all came together.  Soon I had all them all ready.

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Mama wanted to share these with her dear friends from her Circle with a writing I found, interestingly enough, by watching Ally McBeal.  (Don’t judge.  I all but had my law degree by watching the whole series all the way through.)  One of the characters mentioned it in passing and it stuck with me.  Something about Christmas everyday.  We live in an amazing age, don’t you think?  The morning after I watched that episode, I Googled the line and very quickly found the original work.  It is called “Keeping Christmas” by Henry Van Dyke.  I was so moved by it, I shared it when I wrote about my Daddy and Granddaddy and the peppermints they shared with all the children when I was growing up.  This morning I printed out copies to give with the ornament to remind us all to keep Christmas.

And so it was that I sat with a group of sweet, dear ladies who made me feel nothing but welcome and loved, and they shared how much my Mama had meant to them.   We laughed over shared stories, and they loved seeing the pictures of Mama’s two newest grandbabies.  It was a sacred time, and I left them with my heart singing and my soul at peace.  I had taken care of something that was important to Mama.  That I knew it was something she had wanted to do and that I could make it happen–that was precious to me.

My parents were people who tried to live by the ideas presented in this selection.  They were human, after all, so they may not have had it down perfect, but they certainly kept trying.  That’s why it was such a pleasure to share this “work of art” by Mr. Van Dyke with my new friends.  It shouldn’t be just a way of life at Christmas but for all of our other days too.

So tonight my friends, I leave it with you.  I shared it last December, but it’s certainly worth being shared many, many times over.  May you too find it in your heart to keep Christmas everyday.  And may you be fortunate enough, like my Mama was, to find wonderful people around you to join you in this keeping of Christmas.

Keeping Christmas

There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.  

Are you willing…

  • to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;
  • to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;
  • to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground;
  • to see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy;
  • to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life;
  • to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness.

 

Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing…

  • to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children;
  • to remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old;
  • to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough;
  • to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts;
  • to try to understand what those who live in the same home with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you;
  • to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you;
  • to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open—

Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing…

  • to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world—
  • stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death—
  • and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?

Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you can keep it for a day, why not always?

But you can never keep it alone.

Six Days of the Week, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1924 and 1952.

May you be blessed along your travels--may there always be kind people who make you feel at home and may you find joy and laughter in everything you do.

May you be at peace along your travels–may there always be kind people who make you feel at home and may you find joy and laughter in everything you do.

Whom Do You Need to Kick Out?

Y’all.  Yesterday was a moment in time I will replay over and over in my mind.

Those fingers were flying y'all.  And what they made that banjo do was nigh unto amazing!

Those fingers were flying y’all. And what they made that banjo do was nigh unto amazing!

Banjo music.

I was done for.  I sat with my toe tapping and my heart singing.  I once heard someone call good stuff for the soul “soul tanning.”  Too true.  I didn’t even recognize the songs but it didn’t matter.  It resonated with me and I was home. Sitting there in one of my favorite places surrounded by friends and family.   I could have sworn my Granny was there too.   The banjo player is a friend of Aub’s from college.  This young woman is going to go places.  She is not even a college graduate and yet she already recognizes the value in preserving, sharing, and celebrating things from the past.  Like this toe-tapping, ear-pleasing music.  I could have listened for days.

As if that weren’t enough, two of my favorite authors took the stage to share about their newest books.  Karen Spears Zacharias (“Mother of Rain”) and Ann Hite (“The Storycatcher).  They shared stories from their pasts and stories from their books.  It was entertaining, informing, and just downright fun.  I love hearing the stories of others about as much as my Daddy did.  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Ann Hite and Karen Spears Zacharias sharing "Conversations with Mountain Women." Too much fun.

Ann Hite and Karen Spears Zacharias sharing “Conversations with Mountain Women.” Too much fun.

This morning we were back at our favorite coffeehouse, which hosted the writers’ events.  Ann led a Writer’s Workshop and Karen wrote along with us and shared her thoughts as well.  It was the most encouraging, challenging, and exhausting two and half hours I have had in a long time. (With this crew I live with here, that’s really saying something.)  And did I mention exhilarating?  Yes, that too.  Definitely.

I haven’t written fiction in a long, long time.  There are things you give up and then you look back and think–when?  why?  And I have my suspicions but no definite answer so let’s just say I gave it up.  But today we were writing and sharing fiction based on writing prompts Ann shared with us.  Pen to paper, and lose that editorial voice.

Lose who?  You mean that voice in my head that constantly quirks its eyebrow over word placement, comma usage, and for goodness’ sake, have you completely forgotten how to spell everything?

Yes.  That one.

Perhaps that wasn’t the hardest thing.  Not to nibble on the end of my pen and wonder what this character’s name should be.  What room in the house are they in?  Ooops, I should really rewrite that.  None of this is worth reading anyway.  Might as well just start over.

Hush up.

And just write.

It doesn’t matter if it’s good.  Ann Hite said that too.  It doesn’t matter.  We will write junk on the way to the good stuff, and it’s okay.  Karen said that the reason people get published is that they don’t give up.  Well that would do it, wouldn’t it?

I’ve thought a lot about that voice today.  It used to sound a lot like the voice from my previous life.  And I’ve thought a lot about the voices we let in our heads in general.  Whom do we have to kick out of our heads to allow us to TRY for that full potential?  And what will it take for us to finally do it?

I had a sweet, precious, and tenacious lady who was a patient of mine when I worked with Hospice.  We became fast friends.  She was younger than most of our patients, too early for retirement anyway.  She had a degenerative disease, so her husband had placed her in this nursing facility.  I got the impression that he wasn’t a kind husband to begin with and suspected that she actually might have been better off in the facility than at home.  But she didn’t talk a lot about that.  I soon figured out that she still heard his voice and that it was a negative one.  One day we were visiting and she shared that her husband was on a hunting trip.  We shared stories, and  I complimented her about something.  She pretty much waved it off.  I was being sincere and I said it again.  She said, “No no no.”  I knew she was dealing with all the negativity she’d been handed very possibly for years.  I touched my temple with my pointer and said, “Is that what he says? Is he in there saying all of that?”  My sassy friend cocked her head as best she could, smiled, and pronounced carefully and deliberately, “No.  He’s in the woods.”  She laughed, and I did too.  At least she could keep her sense of humor about her.  But I’m not sure she ever could completely silence his voice.

I am thankful for the voices that are much, much louder than all of the others, especially that negative one from the past.  I hear my Mama saying, “You can do anything you want to do.  Just try.”  Or my Daddy asking me, “Did you not have the time or did you not make the time?”  Believe it or not, that is a positive one.  He reminds me to be intentional with that one.  They both told us girls that we could do the same things that boys could do, not to let that limit us.  I always felt encouraged by them and I still do even though their voices are only echoes of things said in the past.  They said them enough and with so much conviction that I believe their words will always be with me.

I do wonder what voices my children will carry with them and hear in the future.  Will it be the “hurry up we have to go now” or will it be the times I’ve told them what a good job they have done, or how I’ve told them people trump everything–relationships are what is most important in our lives?  I know what I hope it will be, but I really don’t know.  It reminds me of a Brian Andreas quote:  “There has never been a day when I have not been proud of you, I said, though some days I’m louder about other stuff so it’s easy to miss that.”

I need to learn to be louder about the stuff I want them to remember and hear from now on, long after I can’t say it to them myself.  And I need to work on kicking out my own negative voices and dreaming of what I will try if those voices aren’t telling me I can’t.  Scary but exciting, all rolled into one.   Oh, and I definitely need to listen to more banjo music.

Whom do you need to kick out of your head?  Go ahead.  Try it, and dream big.