Nowhere to Call Home

Last night our Princess was really feeling bad as bedtime came and went. We cuddled on the couch and watched TV. As she grew sleepy I tucked her in on the couch and moved over to the loveseat and pulled a blanket over me. I drifted off myself.
During the next hour I dreamed some weird stuff. We were in our home which didn’t look anything like home. Someone knocked at our solid wood door. I assured everyone it was okay, but I soon realized that the people behind the door were full of ill will and mal-intent. We gathered everyone (and I think it was more than just me and the crew) and headed toward safety the only way we could. Out the back. It was a sunny day filled with the darkness of the evil coming after us. I knew we wouldn’t be coming back to this house.

I looked back in through a window as we were about to leave. What came to my dream mind was my scarves. My flannel plaid, big, comfy, and warm scarves. I was sad. I knew I could not risk going back in after them. I think I’m so drawn to them in real life because they remind me of shirts Mama made for Daddy over the years. As I took my first step off the porch to safety while carrying a little one, I thought, trying to console myself, Well I can always order another one sometime.
And that’s when the realization hit me. I wouldn’t have a home. There would be no address to send anything to. Ever. Again. No home.
I woke up then.
Blinking.
TV on.
Our Princess was watching the screen quietly from her nest on the couch. Awake. I looked at the time. An hour had passed.
After I got her situated comfortably and tucked in for sleep, I was finally ready for sleep myself. My Fella has a theory that if you sleep somewhere other than your own bed, you will have strange dreams. Maybe. But my dreams the rest of the night–in my own bed–were just as strange.
And while they were full of the threat of danger too, none were as troubling.
I have been bothered by that first dream a lot today.
Because that must be what some of my friends without a roof over their heads feel like. Nowhere to call home, nowhere to get mail. Nowhere to let their guard down and just be. They also have to walk away from their things sometimes. I have heard numerous stories of one friend or another having his few possessions stolen, confiscated, thrown away, crushed under rubble, destroyed in the rain, or blown away by the wind.
And I was tempted to go back in after scarves? Of all the stuff to have been upset over? Not pictures? Not books? Not a gift from my parents? Scarves?
I don’t even know.
And if that didn’t feel shallow enough, I also had that thought–oh well, I’ll just get another one. Sigh. Where did that come from?
I was not raised like that. We were taught to take care of what we had. Fix what was broken. Mend what was torn. We did not replace things easily if ever.

I know I could probably sit down with my Psych 101 book and interpret every last detail of this thing. The loss of home…..makes sense. Loss of something I find comfort in…..yeah, that sounds about right. Surrounded by darkness threatening me and those I love in broad daylight–maybe a stretch but I think I’ve got it.
But my comforting myself with “it’s okay I’ll get another”…..it just troubles me.
I’ve been hoping and looking for a positive spin on this. Perhaps I’m trying to tell myself it will be okay? That I will make sure that it is?

I do find it interesting that what woke me up was not the paralyzing fear of what was coming. Instead it was the idea of having no address and realizing that I know the names of people and I love folks that have that situation to live with everyday.

I have no solid answers tonight. Just pondering what it all means. I’m running on a lot less sleep than usual tonight so please forgive my wandering thoughts. Tonight I am thankful for a much earlier bedtime and clearer thoughts tomorrow. I’m also very thankful for an address. Not so I can have stuff sent to it, but because it means I have a place to be, to belong, to laugh, to love, and to lay my head on a pillow (or couch) each night. Most of all, I’m thankful to be thankful. It’s good to be reminded to appreciate what I do have and that it’s not a given for everyone.

Love to all. Sweet dreams. Here’s hoping.

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the gift of cuddles

This post is brought to you by my sick children.

Whatever respiratory thing that has gotten hold of so many of our family and friends is putting a working on us.  Two down.  Three holding their own.  So far.

So tonight will be short and sweet.  (You’re welcome, Bubba.)

Mostly because our Princess asked me to cuddle with her.

cuddles
cuddles

Y’all.

This nine-year old has grown up so much in the past year–she’s become so much more independent.  She has friends who knock on our door, wanting to play, and she heads out with them for hours some days.  Yesterday she and her friends and brother had a great time, in intervals shortened by a Mama worried about them getting too cold, playing with the sled and throwing snowballs and sliding down an ice-covered slide.  (I shiver just thinking about it, but Cooter says it was the BEST SLIDE EVER.)

And yet today, when she started feeling poorly, all she wanted was to cuddle with her Mama.  Done.  I’m in.

And my big girl, whose fun times with friends in the snow at Wesleyan Tuesday night (they got a lot more snow than we did) and again yesterday brought me great joy, called and wanted to come home.  If only for tonight.  She doesn’t feel good, and she too wants her Mama.  Or her bed.  But I’m going with Mama.  It’s my prerogative.  (And I am hoping that their playing in the snow and being sick is only a coincidence.  *sigh*)

I’m not happy my babies are sick.  But I am thankful that my babies, no matter their ages, still want their Mama.  And so tonight I sign off to go love on them and cuddle, and I wish each one of you the gift of someone to comfort you and the precious gift of being wanted and needed.

Love to all.

 

transformation

Last night as the house settled into its quiet slumber, and I was the only one stirring, I went to the front door and peered out.  There had been a light dusting of snow.  No big flakes.  In fact, the snow had come down as tiny little specks that floated and hovered like fruit flies in the summer and formed an icy cover just over the top of the grass.  As I thought over this, the long-awaited snow, one word came to mind.  I know that the snow and winter weather can be devastating and has been for many this year, and still this word has followed me through my day.

transformation

As we peer through the icy glass and our breath forms a fog upon it

we are hoping for the world to turn white,

to be covered with white icy snowflakes

that can change what we see everyday

into something we cannot gaze upon enough.

Something that can take an ordinary day and make it extra special,

full of celebration and whimsy

New life to notice

the red berry against the white snow and the green holly leaves

once lost in the midst of our everyday

Footprints of those who have gone before us

we now notice and wonder who they were and where they were going

but before we hurried on, ignoring who might have

paved the way

their steps guiding us along

easily seen now

The sound of the icy shapes hitting the leaves and the roof

and the windowpanes

Our senses are heightened

we are aware

of the beauty

The moon shines down lovingly caressing the white in the night

and the snowy ground reflects her beauty and smiles back, glowing

making the darkness brighter

If only we could do that for each other

What is the magic of this thing so rare, so sought after and hoped for

What does it give us that we long for, that we watch for quietly,

so much so that we celebrate the first flake we see

Much like that first star in the night that we wish upon

when the darkness covers the sky

Could it be the magic of transformation?

This transforming the everyday

into something new

and fresh and clean

and bright

It takes an ordinary day and fills it

with festivity and fun

with new adventures and friends and laughter and silliness

and contemplation

Something that changes what is before us

and takes our breath away

with its beauty

Could it be we want the magic for ourselves

for our hearts and minds and souls

This transformation

to be taken from the ordinary

to something more, something precious, a treasure

to be the one who reflects the light and love

of those around us

even in the darkest of times

To create a stirring in their hearts

to be so wanted

and to be seen as beautiful too

Tread lightly for this beauty is fleeting,

it will not stay

If only the transformation could last…..

but maybe, if we remember, and carry the memory

in our hearts

maybe we can be like the snow gently falling in the dark of night

transforming what is around us

making it so people will see, really see

what is all around them

and maybe then, the magic will last

In the Quiet of the Waiting

Have you ever been to a sporting event? High school football game? Little League baseball game?  It’s a bit rowdy and full of excitement and noise, right?

Even when sitting in a theater and waiting for a play to start or waiting in your pew for a church service to start, there’s a rustling and conversation and at least some noise.

Today, however, our waiting has been quiet.

Okay.  Those of you who know the Zoo Crew (my littles and Miss Sophie) know that there’s no way that could be completely true.  Not for ten hours straight.  And you’d be right.

But with the exception of the running off their energy in circles through the kitchen for about five to ten minutes this afternoon, it has been an amazingly quiet day.

There’s something about anticipation and waiting that fills us with awe and wonder.

We live in middle Georgia.  We get snow on average every three years or so.  The only significant snow I can recall in my lifetime was in 1973.  “The Snow of ’73” is what it’s called.  And folks who were around then know what you’re talking about.  It snowed long and hard and was deep.  I was four and a half or five.  I wore my little cowgirl boots out to play in the snow, because why would any of us have such things as snow boots?  I played with the little girl next door in the yard between our two houses.  I remember either her Daddy or mine letting the car run so we could sit in it and warm up while we were playing.  My feet were like ice, and when all the cold took over the fun, I remember going up on our backporch and shedding myself of all my wet things.  It was a beautiful sunny day, the sky was so blue.  And the snow.  There’s no white as white as the snow that day.  So vibrant.

We have been waiting for the snow today.  Folks started talking about it a few days ago.  The local schools made the call yesterday to close today.  Forecasters predicted the precipitation would start around 11 a.m., with it shifting to freezing precipitation by 2 or 3 p.m. and snow would follow shortly.

My littles woke up expecting it to be snowing.  They don’t understand things like weather forecasts and cold fronts and humidity.  They just heard the word “snow” and visions of snowflakes and snowball fights and snowmen and sledding began dancing in their heads.  Seriously.  We have never needed a sled in all of their lives, but yesterday they had the Fella go get his sled out of the attic.  I’m telling y’all that thing will get used even if there’s only .10 inch of snow on the ground.  They won’t settle for any less.

As happens the forecast was a little off, but let’s stop a minute and think.  How amazing was it that they could even pinpoint today as the SNOW day?  I’m in awe of weather forecasting.  Really I am.  It’s kind of like magic to me.  However, my littles are not as forgiving.  When we checked the noon news to see what they were saying, the prediction of snow was pushed out until tonight between 7 and 10 p.m.  If that man had been standing in the living room with us, I would have ushered him out quickly, fearful for his safety.

The littles were mad.  Especially Cooter.  We talked a bit about kindness and forgiveness.

Other than that, though, a day of awe-filled quiet and waiting and learning about patience.

My littles sang “Snow” from “White Christmas” together most of the morning.  Love.  That.

The cowl I've been working on whenever I had a few minutes for the past few weeks.
The cowl I’ve been working on whenever I had a few minutes for the past few weeks.

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I finished this project.  It’s not a hard one, but in the stillness of the day, I carved out some time and finished it.  (Do you get that finish is the important thing here?)

It snowed at Wesleyan, and I’ve gotten to see the joy on my oldest’s face as she walks around in the beautiful white, cold, fluffy stuff in the pictures she and her friends are taking.  It brings back memories of the snow day we had when I was in college there.  Is there a greater joy for a Mama than to see joy and peace and happiness in her child’s face? So thankful.

I’m one of the lucky ones, I know.  There are folks still trying to get home all over Atlanta and in Alabama.  There are schoolchildren sleeping in school gyms with no way to get home, and people sitting in their cold cars almost out of gas on the interstates.  I give thanks for being in my home with my little people and the Fella, knowing that the people I love are all okay.  I don’t take it for granted.  I even heard from Mac today.  “If nobody’s told you today, Mac Carter loves you.”  Thank you, Mac.  For the phone call and for the love.  He’s staying with friends tonight who have a room out of the cold.  I am very thankful for that.

Tonight I give thanks for singing littles, for children and puppies chasing each other around the house, for little people quietly playing with Legos and Playmobil people, taking little breaks to press their faces to the glass and sigh longingly.  I am grateful for my oldest and her good friends, who work hard and play hard and love each other fiercely, as only Wesleyannes can.  Most of all I am thankful for the warmth.

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Warmth in my heart.  Seeing the enchantment in my children’s eyes and hearing the excitement in their voices warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes…..

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Warmth in my home.

Miss Sophie, best foot warmer ever!
Miss Sophie, best foot warmer ever!

And warmth on my cold feet.

So thankful for home.  In the words of Edith Sitwell:

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:  it is the time for home.

Y’all be safe.  Please keep the children and families and people in Atlanta and Alabama who are not home in your thoughts and prayers.  Love to all.

BYOD…..do what?

We are headed into unchartered waters, and I’m not gonna lie.  I’m more than a little worried.

Recently I found out about a plan that has been integrated into the local school system.  BYOD.  Bring Your Own Device.  That means iPads, smartphones, laptops, e-readers, tablets–bring them all.  They are planning to incorporate these devices into all areas of study–Math, Science, English/Language Arts, Social Studies, and PE.  By the beginning of the last nine weeks of this school year, this program will have been implemented in all of the schools in this county.

That’s right. The devices that could have been confiscated or gotten you in trouble before–you’re not only allowed but encouraged to bring them.

Good gravy.

I have two major problems with this.

First of all, how many children in this community have their own electronic devices at their disposal?  How many families can afford to go out and buy some kind of device now that this has been brought into existence?  My favorite coffeehouse, Bare Bulb Coffee, has a program called Backpack Buddies.  This program, as described on their website:

Each week, we fill more than 60 backpacks with food to help children who rely on free meals at school make it through the weekend. You can volunteer to pack backpacks, deliver food, or simply drop a donation by the shop. We’re collecting: juice boxes, cheese and crackers,easy mac, granola bars, trail mix, fruit cups, and instant oatmeal. 

This is not the only program in our county helping children have enough to eat on the weekends.   And on breaks.  In a county where some of our children do not have enough to eat in their homes, we are going to encourage bringing in electronic devices for use in the classrooms?  No these are not being distributed.  In reading about the program, I did not see anything about there being devices available for loan in the classrooms for those who do not have them.

My heart breaks.  I think our priorities are skewed.  Here, yet once again, we are dividing ourselves into the haves and the have nots.  We are creating that “other” that Hugh Hollowell warned us against in his post I shared once before:  “What Folks Who Live Outside Do Not Need.”  We have the children who have their own devices and then there are the other children.  I cannot stand the thought of it.

There is a video of a child who has difficulty in communication using a tablet to improve communications.  It’s awesome.  If we need those in the classrooms for learning tools, then we as a community need to step up and somehow make sure that those are available for the children who need it.  School-owned and school-provided learning resources.  That’s it.  As for day to day use in a classroom, it frustrates me beyond belief to think of the children turning the pages in their textbooks trying not to catch the glances of the ones clicking on words and instructions on their devices.  It plain makes me mad.  But then I’m the parent who got a stomachache around Field Day time each year, worrying if all of the children were able to send in the money for their class’ Field Day t-shirt.

Mama’s rule of interaction with others #568.  “You share with everyone or you put it away.”  Rule #1.  “Don’t leave anyone out.”

My other problem with this plan is what our children will actually be learning.  A couple of the examples involved clicking on QR codes and receiving instructions…..in science, in PE.  Okay, so now we’re cutting back on interaction with the instructors.  Wow.

People are unlearning how to communicate with each other.  I’m as guilty as anyone.  I have great friends whom, unfortunately, much of our contact and communication is through messages–on Facebook or text messages.  E-mail is even becoming a less used option.  I’ll take this form of communication over none at all, but still.  Are we forgetting how to sit still and look at someone and carry on a conversation?  This is my fear.  I also worry that we are becoming desensitized.  It is very easy to “say” anything on social media without seeing the hurt in someone’s eyes.  Things communicated electronically can often be misinterpreted and promote misunderstandings by the truckload.  It’s one more mess waiting to happen.  Why are we contributing to this by encouraging less human interaction in the schools?  Our children, all of them, need to learn courtesy and kindness and compassion.  School, among other places, is a place to interact with others and practice those skills.  But not if we fill their hands with devices, so their focus is there, and they are looking away from those around them.  It’s just too much.

And now for the elephant in the living room.  Yes, I homeschool.  My oldest attended a private kindergarten, Department of Defense Schools, and public schools in this county before she asked to be homeschooled at the beginning of eighth grade.  I realize I don’t have a dog in this hunt.  However, my heart is breaking for those families that cannot afford to put a device in their child’s backpack and send them to school with it.  Many families have more than one child.  How do they decide who gets to take the device they have if they even have one?  I may not send my children to school in this county, but I do have a voice and I am concerned for those whose voices may not be heard, so I decided to share my thoughts.  One of my friends expressed her own concern about being able to afford a device, and it made me sad and mad.  I love her fiercely and her little guy too.  He deserves the same opportunities as every other child in that classroom.  I don’t like to think about this form of segregation.  Because that is what it comes down to.

They say they are working to ready these students, all of them K-12, for college, where devices are used on a regular basis and integrated into the coursework.   My oldest is in college,  and she does use her electronic device in her studies.  We discovered that e-books are a lot less expensive and she (unlike me) has no trouble studying from that format.  She uses the calculator on her phone, and she communicates with her classmates through text messages.  The professors relay information through e-mail.  All of this is wonderful.  But I can tell the school system one thing, college requires something else.  Being able to get along with others.  Working together.  Being a part of group work and teams.  And compassion.  Understanding.  Tolerance.  Kindness.  Respect.

And I’m afraid, dear BOE Powers That Be, there’s just no app for those things.

Weigh in:  What are your thoughts on BYOD? 

For more information about the BYOD plan, click here.

Waiting for Another Day

There’s all of these thoughts that run through my head when Life gets real like it has today.

“This too shall pass.”

“It’s not the end of the world.”

“Keep on keeping on.”

“Papa killed can’t.”  (They really told us that growing up.)

“If this is the worst that ever happens…..”

And the clincher, that Mama would say if she were here to answer my phone call, usually preceded by a sigh, “Well, at least they’re not shooting bullets at us.”

Today I’ve been talking back to my the voice in my head.

“How soon do I have to wait for this to pass? ‘Cause enough is enough.”

“It might not be the end, but I sure might be okay if it were, because this is hard.”

“I don’t have it in me to keep on anything.”

“Can’t.  Can’t.  Can’t.  Can’t.  I just can’t anymore.”

“It’s not.  The worst happened over the past two years, but this isn’t too great either.”

And finally, shaking my head, “No Mama, they’re not.  But sometimes these things hurt like bullets flying…..”

My head, my heart, my mind–it’s as discombulated as my Mama’s once neat house.  “Everything in its place” was her motto, but right now, you’d never know it.  Things being sorted, piles made, nothing where she left it.  I know it has to happen, I do.  It’s all part of the process of taking care of business.  It’s just that everything is lost, but mostly me.  I wander through what was once familiar, and I find nothing but chaos, mimicking the turmoil in my heart.

I promised I wouldn’t write about this every day, but today it has hit pretty hard.  The grief, the needing to talk to her, the need for her organization and my old home to be my safe place for sorting it all out.  The need for her wisdom.  The need for her.

Instead the time has come for me to sort things out myself.  I don’t even know what that looks like.  I do know that it’s what she would have wanted.  She would not have appreciated my dragging my heels or my moping about.  “Take a moment, do what you have to do, then let’s get this done.”  I can almost hear her whisper in my ear.

Today I found a little storage box with drawers that Daddy had kept on his worktable in the back bedroom.  Once my brother’s room, it had become a reflection of their interests, of who they were.  The drafting table with Mama’s art supplies, her sketches and drawings, rough drafts of stories, and stored underneath, copies of her favorite books for giving to those children she loved.  Under the other windows was Daddy’s table with his paper model airplanes–so intricate, the amount of patience they must have taken!  They hang in Cooter’s room now.  Daddy had notebooks with notes about interesting words and pages with drawings for his next woodcraft project.  In the drawers there were bits of wood, wood glue, and other materials he used in his projects.  I opened it today, and I saw Mama’s hand close it, and her voice saying, “We’ll just leave this for now.  We can just put it on this bookshelf for the time being.”  It was just yesterday that we moved things around, so we could put it on the shelf.  Just yesterday, I’m not kidding.  And now, today, we are having to make the decision without her.  What to do with it?  It’s funny that she let that one thing go.  She was so strong about going through other things and sending things like clothes to organizations that could use them.  She offered tools to the family.  We folded up the table to move it out of the room, but that little drawer, filled with this and that, she set aside for another day.

I decided that today wasn’t the day.  I closed the drawer, and I stopped for a moment to breathe.  It’s all gone by so quickly, this past year, and yet it hasn’t.  This year without being able to dial the same seven digits I’ve known almost all my life, and hearing her cheery “hello?” each time she answered.  Without asking her for her advice and then arguing with her that there was no way it could be better and then later finding out she’d been right all along.  Her hugs.  And telling me how much she loved me.  Yeah. All of that and her biscuits and pork roast gravy.  There’s a lot to miss in that little woman.

Mama was strong.  Right up to the end.  She didn’t give up, not once, through all the heartache and joys and ups and downs in her life.  I’m sure she wanted to, but she simply did not.  Tonight I’m going to take that thought to bed and mull and it over and see if I can garner some of that strength from across the thin veil that keeps us apart.  And hope that somehow one of the other things Mama would say at times will prove itself true.

“Go get some rest. Tomorrow is another day.”

 

 

 

Chocolate. And Love. And Chocolate.

My Awesome Cousin has a shirt that I first saw over six years ago.  Her Mama made it for her I think.  It says, “Save our planet: It’s the only one with chocolate.”

I remember thinking that was brilliant.  I even embroidered that quote on a tote bag to share at our family reunion that year.

I got it, but I didn’t really get it.

I have always been a vanilla over chocolate kind of girl.  At least where ice cream is concerned.  And milkshakes.  And milk.  So yeah, vanilla over chocolate.  Until just a few years ago.

Maybe I can blame it on Mama’s Texas Brownies that I fell in love with.  Yes, IN LOVE.  They were the best.  But since they had coffee in them too, the results might be skewed.  I suppose I could blame it on my Joyful friend who makes brownies with a layer of Hershey bars baked right in the middle.  Oh my.  Hang on, I need to clean the drool off the keyboard.

Wherever the blame lies, I have only just in the past few years become the kind of person who needs (not craves, there is a difference) chocolate on a regular basis.  I think it might have something to do with the discovery of the deliciousness of dark chocolate.

Sure, growing up I loved Mama’s chocolate chip cookies.  She would call us into the kitchen and have us each test a  semi-sweet chocolate chip from the bag before she poured them in.  I never turned her down. It was for the good of the family after all.  When I was in Japan, around the time I gave birth to our Princess, one of the women in my Fella’s flight baked me “The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever.”  (Seriously, that was the name of the recipe.)  Oh my word, were they ever good.  The best.

But my need for chocolate did not arrive until that first bite of dark chocolate.

Before, I only enjoyed chocolate.  Now I was savoring it and thinking about it and well, needing it.

So I started buying it.  And then the trouble began.

There is a great appreciation for dark chocolate with the 18-65 year old members of this household.  So much so that it gets real at Christmas when Santa puts the dark chocolate kisses in folks’ stockings.  Rest assured there will be no sharing.  To each his or her own.  And woe be the person who dives into someone else’s stash without asking.

We’ve finally reached a compromise, it would seem.  The Fella likes his frozen, so he keeps a bag tucked up high in the freezer door.  He learned to move it up there after we started finding colorful foil pieces all over the house in little corners or tucked in a planter or between the pages of a book. (Ahem, caught you Cooter!) Aub does not care for hers frozen, so she stashes hers elsewhere.  And they are off limits for me for a while (yes, condolences are appropriate here), so I’m coping.  And not digging into the stashes I know exist.  Some days it’s a moment by moment decision, but I’m doing the best I can, and it only makes me “slightly” grumpy.  (My family might say this is an understatement.)

Just before I had to cut out the chocolate, Cooter saw me grabbing a dark chocolate kiss (or two) on my way out of the house.  As we headed to the vehicle, he asked, “Mama, why are you eating chocolate?”

Without blinking, I replied, “Because I don’t drink.”

Okay, it was more to myself under my breath than out loud where he could hear me, but I think that just might be the truth.  Some days are like that.

I do miss my chocolate.  I look forward to the day I can have it again, and in the meantime, I find myself walking down the candy aisles that aren’t on the way to what I need in the store.  I find it fascinating that after all of the years of being a vanilla girl, I have developed an appreciation and affinity for chocolate.

Maybe the Peanuts cartoon was accurate all those years ago after all.

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Tonight I am thankful for the discovery of something new that brings me joy.  I give thanks for the willpower to give it up for a bit so my body can do what it needs to do.  And most of all, I am grateful for those close to me, both near and far, who share their love.  This might sound cheesy (adding in another favorite food I’m avoiding right now), but–as good as dark chocolate is, love is the sweetest thing of all.

Love to all.