Best Advice for Graduates…..and everyone else

I’ve listened to a lot of graduation addresses.  I’ve even given one once many moons ago.  Last year I contemplated how different that would have been if I were to write it now.

But now, now I have heard very possibly the best advice ever given in one of these speeches.  For graduates.  For all of us.

And it was offered by the salutatorian, Divine Francis, of Veterans High School, one of the local schools here in our county.

First Divine said that he didn’t know the secret of success.  He said if he did, he’d have already written the book and made a million dollars and retired to the Bahamas…..basically, not be HERE.  Then he described a movie.

“What if I told you there was a new movie coming out, two hours long, of watching paint dry?  And that if you paid the admission price, you could sit there and watch paint dry for two hours, up there on the big screen?”  He paused.  “You’d probably shake your head at me and ask, ‘Divine, why would I want to do that? Why would I want to waste two hours of my life doing that?  That’s dumb!'”

“But what if it’s the night before finals and you decide to go to a party instead of studying.  That’s just as dumb. I say, ‘Why would you want to do that?'”

“And I think that’s the best thing we can do as we go forth.  Don’t do dumb things.  That’s it.  Don’t do dumb things.”

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Y’all I’ve never been crazy about that word.  But I have to tell you this.  I clapped.  As did so many who heard the words of this still seventeen year old–“I have a late birthday.”  That pretty much wraps it up, doesn’t it?

In whatever you’re about to do, don’t waste your time on poor choices–instead make the effort to do the smart thing, the right thing.

Truth.  From a graduate about to set out on a new path.

I think he’s going places.

Y’all too?

Tonight I’m thankful for a young man who stepped outside the box and didn’t give the traditional speech filled with sentimentality and inspirational quotes and challenges to make every moment count–I’m thankful for his keeping it real and sharing simple wisdom and truth.

Love and an overabundance of wise choices to all.

 

 

The Stories Interwoven With My Own

Today has been one of those precious days that you set aside in your memories to come back to later when the days are dark and cold, to warm yourself by as though it’s a fire burning in the fireplace.  Time with my family, getting things done, and in the midst of the doing, taking time to smell the books…..I meant roses.  Actually, no, I mean books.  Anyone else do that?  Maybe it’s because I worked in the library for years, but I do tend to sniff my books occasionally.  Weird, but true.  I love books.  And everything about them.  Including their smell.

Today has been about bringing all of the books in our home to one area and putting them on shelves.  Over the years of collecting books, we’ve had some tucked on bookshelves in nearly every room in the house.  So if you were looking for a particular book, often you would just give up before you’d go through all the possibilities.  Today I have channeled my inner librarian and sorted by different groups–the books from Maemae’s house, the children’s stories, some separated out–like the Berestain bears and the chapter books and the fairy ones and the Star Wars and Cars ones.  I’ve even gotten a little crazy and “alpha by author” ‘ed our Junior fictions.  I have yet to start on my books, and the space is dwindling.  Obviously I have some culling to do.  I know, it pains me to even think it.  But I’d rather do that than get rid of any more of the children’s books.

And that is just something I can’t do.  As the day progressed and I saw and heard my children’s reactions to having their books put away where they can see them all in a glance, I knew there was no way that I could get rid of any of their books anytime soon.  And in part it was because many of these books are a part of my story as well.

Some of the classics sitting together on their own shelf.....

Some of the classics sitting together on their own shelf…..

Aub, as she surveyed the nearly done shelving of our “Junior Fiction” books, said, “I feel really vulnerable and out there with all of these books together like this for anyone to see.”  She touched one set of books and then another, “These were my third grade world…..these I loved when I was in the fifth grade.”  And then there’s the Harry Potter series.  She and Harry grew up together think.  I know what she means.  As I shelved some of the oldest ones we have, I remembered my own fifth grade year.  And high school.  And the book Mama and Daddy bought for me when I turned six.  All there.

Princess' and Cooter's very own shelves to hold their very own favorite books.

Princess’ and Cooter’s very own shelves to hold their very own favorite books. My Daddy’s “granite” bear was the first thing placed on the shelves.  It had to be.

 

Our Princess was thrilled that she got her own shelves for her fairy books and the Junie B books and the Magic Treehouse series.  Though we’d gotten that set for her sister at least twelve years ago, those are the ones she jumped into after she first learned to read.  Those will always be precious stories to us.

Cooter sat on the rug tonight, and asked us all to “keep it down” please because he wanted to read.  He pulled out books that he hasn’t looked at in ages, because he could put his hands on them now.  Only this time he saw them with a new lens–for the first time, he is seeing them through the eyes of a reader.  At one point today, as we were working on shelving, I looked and all three had a book OPEN in their hands, and they were reading for a moment.

Yes, I think this is a very good thing.

My Mama's books tucked away for the night in their own section.  The apples and kokeshi Grandparents use to sit on top of Mama's bookcase.  My children would feed the dolls the apples and then Daddy would move them when they weren't looking.  Too much fun and a sweet memory.  They will move for more books but for today, that is right where they belong.

My Mama’s books tucked away for the night in their own section. The wooden apples and kokeshi Grandparents use to sit on top of Mama’s bookcase. My children would “feed” the dolls the apples and then Daddy would move them when they weren’t looking. Too much fun and a sweet memory. They will move for more books but for today, that is right where they belong.

I thought we had shelved all of the children’s books, and I was beginning to breathe a little easier about having room for my books.  And then we found one last bin of books from my Mama’s that we’ve had for a while.  As I saw the sorted piles growing, I realized I needed another shelf to hold these.  These books had Cooter exclaiming, “Oh that’s one of my favorites!” several times. Princess, as she was helping me get them out of the bin, had to stop every few minutes and flip through one and read several words.  So sweet.  And my college girl, Aub, saw the lift-the-flap board book that I remember from long ago, and said, “Oh this was my very favorite book EVER! I love this book.  See all of the children’s names.  I used to say I liked this one, not that one, that one’s okay…..”

Umm, so no, of course that one wasn’t in the give away pile.

Ahem.

It is funny and beautiful to me the way these stories and mine are interconnected.  There are books that touch one’s life and never let go.  They never really leave, woven into the tapestry of who we are.  In truth, I think that I probably have fewer of those in my adult fiction and non-fiction books than I have in the children’s books that bring back memories.

Maybe if I look at it that way, it won’t be too hard to cull some of mine.

At least I hope so.  Because I won’t say goodbye to the children’s stories.  They’re just that good.

 

Love and wishes for a good book to read to all.

 

 

Those Days That Leave Folks Out

Dear Hallmark,

Thanks.

Sincerely,

Girl Who’s Tired of Being Reminded

 

Okay, this one probably isn’t going to make me very popular.  If you are one who has always and will always love the “day” celebrations honoring this one and that one in your life–then okay.  No offense meant.  Personally, I’m over these days.  Valentine’s.  Mother’s Day.  Father’s Day.  Grandparent’s Day.

Why can’t we honor and love and be kind to these folks everyday?  In the words of Miss N from my Sister Circle, “Why’s it gotta be just one day?”

I’m thinking it’s because you won’t buy a card if you’re doing it everyday.  Right?

All right, in all seriousness, here’s my problem with the “day” thing.  It excludes people.  It leaves folks out.  And that was in my Mama’s top three rules.  “Don’t leave anyone out.”  I’m not placing all the blame at the foot of the card companies, but they are the ones whose displays and tear-jerking commercials remind us we must do something for the day.  Them and the sales on things that are not related at all–like grey tissue boxes and size H crochet hooks made from rosewood.  And 20% one item coupons from Bed, Bath, and Beyond in the mailbox in honor of the day.  (They never expire you know, despite what they say.)  And then there’s some pastors and church folks who decide to honor those special people that day.  *sigh*  What a relief it is to be in church on one of those Sundays and get through the whole service without mention or reminder.  So thankful when that happens.

Sure, it’s wonderful to honor your parents.  Or your grandparents.  Or the love of your life.  I’m all for it.  I grew up doing it, making cards, cooking waffles for a special supper, making a cake with so much blue dye in the icing it almost took my Daddy out–yeah, I was full of the love and the spirit.

But now…..

I see it a little differently than I did back then.  I see my friends who have no roof over their heads, remembering children who long ago stopped searching for them.  Or parents who did the same.  I see the Mama who had to do what no Mama should do–go through a day all about Mamas when she, for the first time in years, had no child to hug her or treat her to dinner.  I see a child in adult’s clothing, gripping tight the tissue hidden in her hand, so she can wipe the tears quickly so her own children won’t notice her pain.  I see the young woman bemoaning another Valentine’s without someone special to share it with.  I see a child torn as she tries to honor one while grieving another.  And then there are those who are estranged from the one the day calls us to love and honor.  It’s painful and private and suddenly a spotlight is on the relationship that isn’t.  And all of these precious people put smiles on their faces and try to carry on as though nothing is out of sorts as best they can.  So those who are having a wonderful time celebrating maybe won’t know.

I love my children and Fella.  I appreciate their efforts to honor me and make me feel special on that day.  Hey, I appreciate it any day that happens.  And I want to honor my Fella as a good person and Daddy.  But we tend to keep it low-key.  The Fella says he’s just happy to be home.  I usually have help making his favorite dessert and we hang out and call it a day.  And it’s good.  And I’m thankful he’s okay with low-key because anything else would send me on another spin on the grief wheel pretty quick.  As it is, when I’m by myself I say a quiet thank you to the man who loved and raised me, and I try to move beyond.  That’s hard to do sometimes.  I don’t know how my Mama did it all those years.  She made us feel special that we were honoring her, all the while she was grieving the relationship she never had with her own mother.  And we didn’t know until we were much older.

If you love these days and really get into them, that is great.  I think it’s wonderful the ones who go all out with teas for their Mamas or big barbeques for their Dads (and vice versa), big candlelit dinners and a night out on the town with their Valentine, or a picnic with their grandparents.  Love it.  Keep on loving those precious ones you treasure.  In your own special way.  What I’m asking is for a little patience and understanding when I seem less than enthusiastic.  I’m all about loving on folks, but sometimes that looks a little different than what many might expect, I guess.   I struggle with days and things that make people feel left out or like an “odd man out.”  Fitting in is a good feeling, and that’s hard to do when you’re not a part of the celebration through no fault of your own.

All I’m asking is the next time one of these days rolls around, maybe take a look around and think about how someone else might be feeling.  And be okay with wherever he or she is.  Maybe, if you are so inclined, be a safe place for them to be, away from the hoopla and festivities.  #bethefeather

Happy Everyday and love to all.

 

 

 

 

 

On Being Asked, “What Are You Afraid of?”

Last week my friend Michelle who writes over at Correct and Continue posed the question–

What are you afraid of? 

In the moments of quiet that find their way into my days and rapidly disappear, I have thought about this question.

And I have worked on my answer to that.

Spiders.  Definitely.  No doubt.  I don’t play about that.

I have finally decided to find it quirky and embrace it rather than work through it.  Family lore has it that when I was maybe four and Sister was nearly one, I started losing it over a spider I saw on the floor.  Sister reached over and smashed it with her hand.  She may or may not have then licked said hand.  That bit’s a little fuzzy.  Needless to say, I spent all my years after that, when I was living at home, calling her to my rescue.  One of the reasons our front porch and front flower bed needs so much attention now is my arachnophobia.  I’m done.  My Fella knows, and he says we will do it together.  I’m good with that.  Spiders.  Just. No.

Boogie Man.  Well, who’s not, really?  Am I right?  The embodiment of all evil and darkness in the world.  Don’t need him around either.

Something bad happening to someone I love.  Been there, done that.  But I don’t think that exempts me from a future without any more of this.  When the littles get sick, like Cooter has been since last night, if I don’t block the door so Anxiety Girl can’t get in, I have to deal with her and all of her what if’s and panic-laden thoughts.  I’m trying though.  She and I really aren’t good for each other.  At all.

Oh I could go on and on.  Odd stuff.  Thanks to the Tylenol tampering and subsequent deaths of 1982, I have a moment of stress when I open a new bottle/bag/container of something.  I want to make sure that joker is SEALED.  I unplug things that my Daddy taught me could be fire hazards before I leave my house.  I double-check the locks at night.  And when I’m leaving.  I worry that I will lose my wallet.  Or my phone.  I’ve tried to do both a time or two.

But none of those can touch what I think is my greatest fear.

I am afraid of becoming comfortable.

I could, you know.  I have the potential to do just that.

I could stay at home and hang out in my little world of times tables, Harry Potter reading, Lego building, cleaning up, cooking and feeding, and teaching and healing and kissing boo boos.  I could do that, and it would be okay.  It would be comfortable and the right thing and I would be taking care of business in my home, in my own part of the world.

But here’s a thought.  One that speaks to my heart and calls me out.  Something that I saw today on the Facebook page of Love Wins Ministries, which “shares unconditional love and friendship with the homeless and poor population of Raleigh, North Carolina.”

Yep.  See, if I become comfortable in my own little world, oblivious and unaware and indifferent to the suffering and heartbreak and loneliness and brokenness of those who share this world with me, I’ve missed out.  That is my fear.  That I will become comfortable and unaware and indifferent.  And if I do, an important part of living, of being on this journey will be gone.

I’ve learned this, through watching my parents and the example they set:

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. 

Fill in the blank with almost anything.

Just because you can–

eat the whole pizza at one sitting…..

get a new credit card…..

speak your mind to the one who cut you off in traffic…..

buy yourself a new purse, a new car, a new pair of boots……

doesn’t mean you should.

We are all connected.  I can become comfortable and indifferent and think that any one of those things won’t affect someone else.  In my own little world, I might think that what happens to “them” “elsewhere” doesn’t have one iota of anything to do with me.

And I’d be lying to myself, wouldn’t I?  Because, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

What is my greatest fear?

Losing that sense of connectedness, however painful as it may be to be aware, connected.  And living in my own little world, unaware and indifferent to the stories of those around me.

It could happen.  It would be so easy to go there.

But for me, I can’t let it.

Because while I’d be comfortable, I wouldn’t be living the life I was meant to live.

And that’s what I’m most afraid of.  Not living as I was meant to.  Made to.

Love and a beautiful, uncomfortable moment or two to all.

 

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other……

“One of these things is not the other,

one of these things just doesn’t belong.

Can you tell which thing is not like the other,

By the time we finish this song?”

Anyone remember this song?

Can you name that show?

Yep, Sesame Street.

And now it’s in your head.

You’re welcome.

Recently I was in the checkout lane with a cart full at the Grocery Store.  Usually I stand scanning magazine article titles, making sure there isn’t anything I need to turn the littles away from.  As we move closer to the belt, I ignore the candies and whatnot shelves, after a quick scan for triggers to our food allergies.  (Sometimes it feels like I’m scanning more than the checkout clerk.)

But one day recently I stopped short of ignoring and stared.  There was something that gave me pause for a moment.

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Because that doesn’t belong.

I know where cornbread can be found in the store–over near the deli and bakery section.  On a table out in the middle of the floor.  But it does not go in the middle of the gum and candy and gift cards and discounted books in the checkout line.  Huh.  Interesting.  I can remember that cornbread doesn’t go there, but I could not have told you what was there until something that didn’t belong showed up.

It took seeing something that was out of place for me to actually look around at what was there and notice what did belong.

Sometimes it’s like that in my heart.  Deep in my soul.  Sometimes it takes something feeling out of place before I really take stock of what is in there.  To figure out what belongs, what is in place, and get rid of the negativity and brokenness that doesn’t go there.

I wonder if there’s a regularly scheduled “check” in the grocery store to return misplaced items to their rightful places.  There must be, because the sight I saw is a very rare one.

Maybe I should consider scheduling similar checks for my own heart and spirit.

It’s a thought.

Love to all.

 

the sanctity of the sink

Last night at Evening Prayer we talked about finding the sacred in the ordinary.  Even in Mt Washmore and the folding of the clothes.  Ahem.  Over the weekend, my Fella was out of town, our Princess was sick, and Aub was working.  The emptying of the dishwasher was left to me and Cooter, who can’t do much more than the silverware and tumblers without climbing on stools.  And trust me, with this one, climbing is contraindicated.  As I faced the pile of dishes in the sink, on the counter, piled on top of piles, I realized I had put it off long enough.  If it were to be, it was to be me.  Last night I thought about that sink full of dishes and tried to see it with a different pair of eyes.  To see it as sacred.

the sanctity of the sink

All those dishes

dirty in the sink

beside the sink…..

but all reveals the blessing

in the having of dishes

and silverware and the food

that was prepared and served

and that left the spoons

and cutting board

and knife covered with flavor and

remnants of a meal lovingly created

for all

The hummus container

needs rinsing

for recycling because we can

and we should

The medicine cup used

to give a dose of relief

along with a prayer for healing

The cups that were filled with water,

clean water, to parch a thirst

and replenish our bodies

Such a simple thing

and taken for granted

but a gift to be appreciated nonetheless

The puppy’s kong for dispensing treats,

soaking,

a reminder of this one we wished for

for so long

and we love

The blender parts

left over from the fruit smoothie

that boosted my spirit–

thankful for those who grow and pick

and freeze the fruit,

the perfect timing of all three of those

or it’s no good to eat

The dishrag that I got

from Mama

I see her hands washing the dishes and

wiping down the counter

with this one–her favorite color

green

She loved washing dishes by hand

the warm water helped her arthritis

“Besides, it’s just me” she said, and

so she rarely ran the dishwasher

As I rinse and load

I remember the lesson she taught me

“A dishwasher will last longer if you don’t

work it so hard–rinse your dishes”

She thought the loading was like a Tetris puzzle

she could always fit in one more thing,

after all

she did once “fit a five foot swimming pool

in a little bitty Falcon”

That’s family lore there

As I rinse the remnants of another meal done

I give thanks

for those who grew it, prepared it, sold it,

transported it, sold it to me,

and I give thanks that I am able to cook–

nothing fancy, mind you

but it’ll do

and I give thanks that we have so many dirty dishes

at each mealtime

because that is more love and laughter to go around

At the bottom of the sink what Mama used to call

“dinner dandruff”

I used to marvel that she could reach in

and touch the stuff–ewwww

And now I watch my own hands,

not totally unlike hers

as I finish clearing out the sink

I find the dishwasher soap from underneath

and pour it in

I press a button and give thanks for this

gift of modern technology

the invention of someone who wanted to

change the world

and she did (or he maybe?)

Tomorrow I will do this all over again

and likely it won’t feel the same

It is easier not to feel and

hard to always think and give thanks

in all

but for tonight

I’m on Holy Ground

standing over my sink

in my bare feet

 

 

 

 

First Lady, Prolific Writer, Amazing Thinker

My Fella got a free magazine subscription for signing up for a discount card.  Just a few issues, but he could take his pick.  And he chose “Real Simple” for me.  Very sweet and I appreciate it.  Unfortunately, I don’t make a lot of time for sitting down and skimming through it.  But today I did.  I sat down with the latest issue and instead of turning on the computer, I read through about half of the magazine.  Turns out I really like this one.

There was a quote in there from Eleanor Roosevelt.  It gave credit to “My Day” in 1938.  I was not aware of what they were referring to, so I did a little digging.  I discovered here what this column actually was.  They describe it as:

“Eleanor Roosevelt’s “My Day” was a syndicated newspaper column published from 1935 to 1962. During those years, Eleanor wrote the column consistently six days a week, the only interruption being when her husband died, and even then she missed only four days. The column allowed Eleanor to reach millions of Americans with her views on social and political issues, current and historical events, and her private and public life. Dealing with subjects far out of the range of the conventional first lady’s concerns, “My Day” is an outstanding example of the breadth of issues and activities which occupied Eleanor Roosevelt’s life.”

Wow.  She wrote six days a week for over 27 years.  Amazing.  (I have a long way to go.)

What an interesting representation of life through those years.  I’m excited to learn that there is a compilation of her most memorable columns available.  They can also be read on-line here.  Mrs. Roosevelt was a “blogger” before such a thing even existed, I’m thinking.

I love this quote I found tonight as I was searching around on the web.

“NOVEMBER 5, 1958 – If the use of leisure time is confined to looking at TV for a few extra hours every day, we will deteriorate as a people.”

A woman ahead of her time in this line of thinking.  Yes ma’am.

But I digress. (No surprise there, I’m sure.  I seem to be chasing rabbit trails this evening.)

This is the quote from the magazine, and it has intrigued me much of today.

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I’ve thought about this, and I am wondering if I agree or disagree.  I’ve been talking about “just love each other” and “#bethefeather,” but maybe I should consider dosing out a bit of Miss Manners or Emily Post for myself and those I’m supposed to be teaching?

Mama instructed us over and over throughout the years, “Act like you are somebody.”  This did NOT mean act like you are better than others, just act like you had good raisin’s (which we did) and carry on as such.  We were not seven course, all kinds of silverware at each meal kind of folks, but we were raised to ma’am and sir and respect our elders.  Speak when spoken to.  Look folks in the eyes.  Show respect. Please and thank you and open the doors.  Be good stewards of our things and our relationships.  All of that sounds like good manners to me, but sometimes I see the line between the two–loving others and good manners–as being a bit blurred. But then you don’t have to love someone to treat them kindly and with respect.  Mama taught me that too.

Before I close, two more quotes from Mrs. Roosevelt–I swanee she and my Mama were kindred spirits.  Mama has shared similar words over the years.

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” –E. Roosevelt

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” –E. Roosevelt

Tonight I’m thankful for my Mama who was a strong woman and raised us to be strong, compassionate, and respectful people.  I’m grateful for my Fella choosing a magazine for me, this one that has me stepping outside the box and learning something new.  Doors opening to see inside the life of this amazing and strong woman, Eleanor Roosevelt.  I give thanks for the life she led and the example she set, and that I can share it with my children.

Isn’t it funny the things we can learn, if we’ll just step away from the screen and do something different?

So what do y’all think–manners or “brotherly” love?

Love to all.  (politely offered of course) 😉