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.

20140520-231239.jpg

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.

20140518-230220.jpg

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) 😉

 

 

Truth from The Middle

It’s a show I haven’t really sat down and gotten to know very well.  I’ve only caught it in passing, usually when I was focused on something else.  Sometimes I do that.  Have a show playing in the background.  I can be comfortable with silence sometimes, but then others not so much.  Which is what happened one evening.  “The Middle” was playing.

I hope to find it streaming somewhere because I’d like to watch it from the beginning I think.  I like Patricia Heaton, who plays the Mom, Frankie.  Of the Heck family.  You gotta love it.  And she tends to narrate from what I’ve seen so far, which is an interesting and not at all off-putting way of presenting their stories.  One night that I was actually paying attention to the show, at the end, Frankie shared this bit of wisdom:

20140517-220234.jpg

 

It struck a chord with me that evening, so I wrote it down.  And tonight I can say, unequivocably, this is the truth.

I find myself, when I did the internal emotional check like I do, that I’m okay.  Maybe even more than okay.

And as I did this check, I heard the littles in the background, giggling over something together.  Getting along.  Happy with their place in life at this moment.  My big girl came in and cheerfully said good night, smelling fresh and shower clean.  The windows have been open all day, fresh air is filling our lungs and good things are filling our hearts.  And my sick one is on the mend, with (oh please don’t let me put this out there and have it mess things up) no signs of anyone else catching the bug.  Good evening, happy children=happy Mama.

I think Frankie’s right–if any one of mine were less than happy, as has been the case on more evenings than I care to count, I wouldn’t be very happy myself.

Tonight I’m thankful for the sounds of simple joy and happiness in my home.  I’m thankful for shows that make the effort to share wise thoughts every now and again.  And most of all, I’m thankful for the peace in our home as the night settles in, the birds quiet down and frogs tune up their instruments.  Quite the symphony, and it makes me smile.

Love to all.

The Cacophony of the Week–Playing Catchup

Tonight’s catchup post is brought to you by a stomach bug/fever suffering young’un and a tired Mama.

First of all, this happened this week.

The green in our foyer.  I love this color.

The green in our foyer. I love this color.

This color, out of all of them, was the most stubborn.  It took three or four coats.  The first one looked like my littles had painted the wall.  It was such a thin paint.  I’m learning all about bases and the like.  Base C, and a color with as much yellow in it as this one–those take way more than just two coats.  But I LOVE it.  It just suits.  Us. The room.  This house.  It does.  And there’s a lesson in this.  The two colors I love the most, this green and the gold in the kitchen/living room–I had no samples for.  Not that I will give up trying samples out.  I like the ones I chose after trying way too many colors out, but these two I ran out of time and had to get the gallons needed THEN.  I took a huge leap of something and made the choice.  The gold without backup and the green with my Fella and Aub sharing their thoughts.

From the green of the foyer to the pink of the soon to be library.  Yeah, we go from Kermit to Miss Piggy.  That makes me smile.

From the green of the foyer to the pink of the soon to be library. Yeah, we go from Kermit to Miss Piggy. That makes me smile. (and it looks better than this picture shows)

And turns out I love what happens when I make a choice without obsessing over it.  Is there a lesson in this?  Perhaps.  But I’m a really slow learner.

 

Cooter took this picture of his empty cake saucer.  He loved his chocolate cake.  There wasn't a chance to take a picture of it before it was eaten.  He's just that fast.

Cooter took this picture of his empty cake saucer. He loved his chocolate cake. There wasn’t a chance to take a picture of it before it was eaten. He’s just that fast.

And this happened.  With a child with severe food allergies, we don’t go to a lot of restaurants.  And we especially do not do buffets.  The risk for cross-contamination is just too great.  The last buffet I remember us going to, looking back, I realize she had a mild reaction.  That was before the bad one that made me wake up and start carrying an epi-pen everywhere.

Wednesday was the day I met Mr. A. A. Law in person and finished handling some business for my Great Aunt and Mama.  For those who might be wondering, I behaved myself.  I apologized to the women whom I inadvertently took my frustrations out on via a bad attitude when I spoke on the phone with them last week.  I was prepared to have a conversation with Mr. Law if the opportunity presented itself.  It did not.  And I’m okay with that.  But I acted like I was raised to behave, and that’s all that concerns me.

His office was right across the street from Side Tracks, the buffet restaurant that my Great Aunt used to take us to.  Cooter, who made the trip with me–exactly because he figured we’d have to eat out and he really wanted to,  joined me there for a trip down memory lane.  He’s been there before, back when he ate baby food sitting in his car seat/carrier.  He doesn’t remember going at all.  When his little eyes got over the disappointment over so many vegetables (he’s a self-proclaimed fruitatarian, y’all) and he chose some rice, catfish, and a biscuit, he saw the desserts.  Cake and pie slices wrapped securely under plastic wrap.   He looked, with his eyes popping, “Whaaat is thaaaat?”  “Dessert, buddy.”  “Can I have some?”  Sure, I said.  And he was off.  He carefully perused and chose a slice of chocolate cake.  Bless him.  The joy in that little guy that day is a memory I hope to treasure for a long time.  He took pictures of the plates on the table and he was fascinated with my catfish bones.  If I may for just a minute indulge in a bit of pity pot sitting, food allergies stink.  I wish I could take our Princess too.  I wish we could go in a restaurant without mapping out a game plan first.  I wish I didn’t have to quiet my anxieties every time we have a meal prepared by someone else.  But we do.  And I will do it over and over to keep her safe.  And maybe my meal with my little guy was all the more special because we can’t do it all the time.

And then there’s this.

"Sophie!"

“Sophie!”

"What?"  :)

“What?” 🙂

Miss Sophie sure worried us all after her fairly routine surgery.  She wouldn’t get up and walk around.  I called the vet.  Twice.  One time at 11:30 at night.  He is a kind, understanding person, and I’m thankful for that.  He knows I’m overprotective and a worrier, but when Miss Sophie wasn’t up and walking around three days after surgery, I knew something was wrong.  Turns out maybe she doesn’t like accessorizing.  When I took her cone off, she got up and started moving.  Slowly at first, but then she was back to her old self.  And that little face and wagging tail on the one who barks and pouts when I leave the room–I am thankful for her.

 

Lastly, I was reminded today of what little good it does for me to worry over things.  Things in the future.  Now, don’t think I’m going to stop.  I’m a work in progress and change for me will take as long as the rerouting of Highway 96 out my way will take.  LONG time.  Still.  Lesson learned.  Again.  I’ve been worrying for a week over how to fit things in and do what we were supposed to do today and tomorrow.  I just about had it all figured out, after much worry and figuring and planning, and then this morning at 4 a.m. I heard a little voice next to my bed.  “Mama, I feel like I have to throw up.”  Followed by proof.

And just like that.  Plans for today and tomorrow cancelled.  (Tomorrow’s cancellation was validated by a fever this evening.  Yeah, we’re staying put for a while.)

All that worry for naught.  I do that a lot.  Burn a lot of energy and wear myself out doing just that.  Worrying.

But with Anxiety Girl as my BFF, how could it be otherwise?

Wishing you all a day filled with surprises and good things as full as the dessert bar at Side Tracks.

Love to all.

 

for the three

 

I packed up my things,

along with my talismans from Mama, Daddy, Aunt Wease–for courage

and peace, I hoped

and drove the same road I’ve traveled for over forty years

to one of the houses that built me

to say goodbye

one more time

As I drove through Hawkinsville and saw the 45

mph

sign

I heard Mama say, “They’ll get you through here.

Watch your speed.”

I smiled and drove on over the bridge,

the long one that made her nervous,

the one that, as we crossed one time, she told me

about her fear of bridges

I always think of her when I cross it

Then down the Golden Isles Parkway

past the sign for Bembry Road–one day maybe I’ll have a

grandchild with that name

I always say how much I like it, and they all agree

Then the turn and Congo Lane

I always looked for the gorillas when I was little

and sometimes

I still do

And then

The house.

As I entered with the key left by the realtor,

I could smell

oh that smell

Her scent still lingers

Even now, four years after she left us

I wish I could bottle the smell and carry it forever

and pull it out for special occasions like she did with her silver

I wandered from room to room,

remembering the wall that was once full of clocks

how proud she was to finally have that sun room

the CB radio room that was later a lovely sitting room

after he died

The spot where Toogie their Chihuahua ate

or hid, I could never be sure

The bookcase behind the door where she kept toys for my littles

The bedroom where she had Lucy and Ricky beds

and where I took the best nap I’ve ever had–

first time Mama kind of tired, you know

and where the lidded vase sat–

I was convinced it held ashes, but no

The pink bathroom I rarely went into

and the black and white tiled bathroom, so fancy

with the dimmer light that seemed magical

and still does

Cooter tried it out as I once did, fascinated,

“Look it’s a storm,” he said, turning it up and down

And the bedroom where she took her last breath, I quietly

bowed my head

And the tears flowed

I grew up here, played here, spent nights staying up after having ice cream

and playing Go Fish

It was where I could go and be the only, and for a day or two

that was just fine

It was where I visited with college friends,

in what Daddy and I lovingly called,

“One of the finest homes in that there Eastman, Georgia”

And now it looked old and tired and weepy,

just as I was

The voices echoed off the walls and the little girl I was

peeked around the corners

Cooter ran in the formal living room and I stood there,

laughing through the tears

I had no memories of this room without him.

We were not allowed in there as children, but him–

she let him run and tackle the pillow from the couch she held in her lap

and she laughed with joy

as I stared and thought, “Who are you?”

and it was as it should be.

 

We locked the door and drove away,

leaving behind the ghosts and memories of growing up

and returning as an adult and the roles reversing

and suddenly I was caring for her…..

and now it was time for someone else to make their own stories there

 

As I sat down to sign my name–oh how I’ve come to loathe doing that

It once felt so grown up to sign my name in full, and now

Now I hate what it usually means

Someone, something I have to let go

 

I touched the remembrances of Mama and Daddy, of her–

the one who loved this house

and felt safe there right up to her last breath–

oh please, I hope that is so–

and yet, when I looked down and took a deep breath, it was there

in what I saw

that my heart steadied and I didn’t feel

alone

Three other signatures, already there, waiting on me

to join them

The three that came behind me, yet have always

walked alongside

Those three names, typed yes,

but then handwritten with care by each one

First Sister, then Mess Cat, then Bubba

and I felt steadied

The pen didn’t wobble and neither did my voice

For as much as we may have bickered and picked

and teased

all those years ago, or last decade, or year, or month, or week

It turns out Mama was right–

and we are “all really very wonderful, I’m sure”

And together we stand strong

and can do what life requires next of us

No matter what blows our way

For in them, I see the lines of faces of loved ones gone

and I hear the echo of their words

and feel the dust of their love in the hugs

or waves from the back porch

In that moment the four were one

and for that, I am thankful

There is strength in numbers, yes

but there is something even stronger than that

in love

 

My last time pulling into this drive.

My last time pulling into this drive.

 

My Daddy built this handrail years ago.  Like anything he did, it is strong and has weathered the years well.

My Daddy built this handrail years ago. Like anything he did, it is strong and has weathered the years well. That door always made me happy because I knew I would get a hug and hands cupping my face as soon as I knocked, and her looking me in the eye, oohing over seeing me. Each and every time.

The lovely stained glass light over the table where I had my first cup of coffee, lightened with PET milk.  Which always seemed extra special.

The lovely stained glass light over the table where I had my first cup of coffee, lightened with PET milk. Which always seemed extra special.

 

I had forgotten about these beauties.  If I had had a screwdriver on me, the two she had in her bedrooms would have come home with me.  I adore these.

I had forgotten about these beauties. If I had had a screwdriver on me, the two she had in her bedrooms would have come home with me. I adore these.

The black and white magical bathroom. Fancy.  I loved this room.  Always.

The black and white magical bathroom. Fancy. I loved this room. Always.

 

Cooter creating the "storm" turning the dimmer up and down.  Yeah.  I let him.  For a minute or two.  I used to do the same thing when I was his age.

Cooter creating the “storm” turning the dimmer up and down. Yeah. I let him. For a minute or two. I used to do the same thing when I was his age.

I spent many a day visiting in this room, laughing over shared stories, listening to tales of the past, and smelling the delicious meal my Aunt and Uncle fixed for us.  I never sat in this house and felt less than special.

I spent many a day visiting in this room, laughing over shared stories, listening to tales of the past, and smelling the delicious meals my Aunt and Uncle fixed for us. I never sat in this house and felt less than special.

Cooter holding the sketch drawing of the house that was done in 1976.  I am thankful that I have this art to remember this precious home and the love freely given there.

Cooter holding the sketch drawing of the house that was done in 1976. I am thankful that I have this art to remember this precious home and the love freely given there.

 

Love Ya, Dear–remembering her

 

One Thing You Can Do

Today was an emotional journey for me, but that’s a story for another day.

Because this story begs to be told.  Yesterday.

While I was with my little guy at lunch, I got a phone call from Becca, co-founder of ABAN–the organization in Ghana that transforms litter and changes lives, whom I’m honored to call friend.  We talked about their journey and how far they have come and how excited they are with where they are heading.  Beautiful.  It was wonderful to hear her voice, and I strained to hear every word as I sat in a south Georgia buffet restaurant at the noon hour.

When I got home and took a moment to catch up on Facebook, I saw this video shared by Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary.

http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/2rgt3x/-bringbackourgirls—rosemary-nyirumbe

In the response to the question, is the “#BringBackOurGirls” helpful, the nun being interviewed, Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, answered yes.  We need to shout it.  And often.

We need to care.  If we can do nothing else, we have to care.  And if you don’t, this nun wants to punch you–it’s the most peaceful thing she can come up with.  I love her.  She’s on my “I want to meet” list.  And it’s not as long a list as you might think.

As I pondered the story of the young girls forcefully taken–kidnapped–from their school in Nigeria last month, I thought about the young women of ABAN.  These young women, practically still girls, no longer live on the streets.  In the words from the ABAN website–they care for the whole person.

ABAN operates a 2-year holistic in-residence program in Ghana, Africa, that transitions young mothers out of poverty and off the streets of the capital, Accra. After a series of interviews, ABAN selects 20 apprentices aged 17-22 who show a strong desire to work hard to change their situation.

The coursework focuses not only on education and vocational skills but also on health and well-being. Our curriculum takes into account each woman’s innate sense of self. We believe that her identity, dignity, and ability are significantly molded by the health of her body, mind and spirit and her experience is guided by these principles.

In addition to taking care of the young women, the program also provides for their children.  And it takes care of the environment by upcycling 20,000 water sachets a month.

They are making beautiful things from trash and creating beautiful lives for those that had been left to the streets.

I know it won’t bring our girls back, but supporting ABAN and the work they are doing will protect these girls in Ghana, whose welfare is just as important.  It will provide them an education, a place to live, a future.  For them and their children.  It’s something.

There are several ways to support them.  You can shop for gifts or a treat for yourself.  It’s the season for wet towels and bathing suits and the like.  Their sachet lined bags are perfect for such as that.  I love the looks of their new products too, and I know the blessing bags will be perfect for keeping things organized in my tote bag.

Another way to change lives and the environment is to invest in these young women and their futures by making a one-time or monthly donation.  As of this afternoon, they still needed nine more sponsors of $150/month to be a part of the Annual Sponsorship program.  But even a $10 one-time donation makes a difference–it provides a Sister Scholar with National Health Insurance.  Check out more options here.

There are other ways to support them and be a part of the team making a difference in the education of young women in Africa.  Like them on Facebook.  Sign up for their newsletterHost an ABAN party for your family and friends.  Share their story. None of these cost anything. Tell folks about this program that was started by three college students in 2008 and has grown to include 25 employees, 20 apprentices, and 3 interns on 2 continents.  Amazing.

No, supporting this program won’t bring back those precious girls from Nigeria, torn from their families by the dark and evil in this world.  It won’t change things for them.  I believe, like Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, that we have to care, no matter how far away this might seem to us in this country, and that we have to make our voices heard.  #BringBackOurGirls is one way of doing that.

But supporting the life-changing good work of ABAN will change lives.  It will help them bring girls and young women out of the horror of life on the streets of Ghana.  It will protect them from the evil and darkness that threatens to engulf them.  It will be a turning point for their precious little ones–who may never have to remember or know what it is like to live life with uncertainty, without shelter, and filled with physical hunger and emotional needs.  And fear.

Because someone cared.  Because someone shopped for a gift that changed lives.  Because someone gave generously from their heart.  Because someone clicked like or forward or told their Mama, sister, uncle, best friend’s cousin’s groomer…..the more we share the story, the more impact it can make.  It’s another way of wrapping someone up in our love and offering refuge.  Another way to #bethefeather.

Hashtags are cool, and they can inspire change.

But today I’m throwing out the challenge for us all, me included.  Let’s go one step further.  Let’s do one thing today that can change the world.  One child, one young woman, one upcycled piece of litter at a time.  Let’s put our actions where our hashtags say we are.  The more women and children we share light with, the smaller the darkness in this world becomes.

Love to all.

                                                                 =============

This was an interesting read here regarding social media and its impact in this situation.

 A story I shared last year about ABAN, all they do, and how precious they are to me.  Beauty From Trash and Healing Hearts

The Friend All in My Chili

As I walked into Daybreak this afternoon, he waved me over from his regular seat in the middle of the room.  He was facing the door.  I think he likes to see what is going on, who is coming in and who is leaving.

I walked over and saw that he had a to go plate with his late lunch on his lap.  One glance–French fries and fried chicken livers.  Ahem.  It looked good, but I knew better.  I am not a liver fan–any way you prepare it.  But my friend was digging in.  Mr. B put his food down, wiped his hands on his napkin and reached out for a hug.

“How is my friend doing?” he asked.  He loves my Fella.  When we were having the Sunday night suppers, they visited together on a weekly basis.  It’s been a while since they have seen each other.  Mr. B always asks after him.

“Good.  He’s flying today, so he’ll be tired tonight. Long day.  But he’s good.”

“Good, good.  The children okay?”

“Yessir, they are.  I left them with their big sister today.”

He nodded.  “And you?  You look good, you doing all right?”

He’s such a sweet man.  “Well, thank you.  Yessir, I’m doing pretty good.  A little tired, after the dreams I had last night, but I’ll be just fine.”

He nodded again.  “Won’t you break bread with me?” He offered his plate to me.

Bless him.

“No sir, I thank you, but I’m full.  I ate before I left.” I patted my middle to reiterate.  Full.

“Won’t you have at least one bite of chicken liver?  It’s so good.  And I promise I haven’t had my phalanges all in them.”  He chuckled.

It was time to be honest or eat some chicken liver.  The last time I had some I was younger than Cooter–maybe five or six?  I don’t know, but that taste was enough to last me a lifetime.

I told him about my experience as a child and how I am sure I disappointed my Granny, something that never failed to break my heart, by not just gobbling them up.  I just think it’s chalky tasting.

He nodded.  “Well, it is chalky.  But so good.”

Somehow then we got on a conversation about gator tail and the story of when he accidentally brought some home when he was little and had to take it back to the store, so he’s never had any.  (I have–if it’s the light meat, it’s delicious.)  He said he hadn’t thought about that time in a long time.  “Memory’s a funny thing, isn’t it?  It can be good, or it can be bad.  Or it can be both.”  He got a faraway look in his eyes for a moment.

Then he asked me about the dream that had kept me from resting last night.  I told him.  In the dream I was going on a trip that I am going on in real life, but in the dream we were leaving RIGHT THEN and I hadn’t packed or anything.  I was rushing around trying to get it all together and I couldn’t make it happen fast enough.  This was one of those dreams you wake up from and then go right back into.  Yeah.  No restful sleep last night.

It isn’t hard to figure out that I’m anxious about being ready, about being prepared, about it happening without my having everything in order.  Mr. B asked me some questions about my anxiety, and then he did the unexpected.  After he agreed with me about my major concern and said we’d pray together about it, he got in my chili and called me out on a couple of things.

And *sigh* he is probably right.  (And that’s as far as I’m budging, even though I know probably could be eliminated and there’d still be truth in that statement.)

Just like he was last week when he called me out and asked me to look at something in my life with a different lens, from a totally different perspective.  I had never thought about it in the way he was asking me to think about it.  It stretched my brain, but more importantly, it stretched my heart and asked more of me–for me to grow and do more, accept more, love more.

Mr. B is the first person I met the very first time I went to the park for the Sunday night suppers four years ago.  I had prayed on the way up, Please God let me make a difference to someone.  Let me say and do the right things.  And as it turned out, the tables were turned.  Mr. B had a bicycle parked against a tree next to him.  I opened up the conversation asking him about his bike, and it wound up with him saying to me just before we parted, “You are the best Tara there is or ever will be, just as you are.”  I looked puzzled and a bit doubtful I am sure.  I am nowhere near the best I can be nor was I then.  He repeated and clarified, “You are the best Tara; you are the only Tara.”  And he smiled.  Simply put truth in loving words.  That’s Mr. B.

And so our relationship has evolved from that tender moment years ago when I almost cried.  That would have made a lasting impression, huh? The next week he asked me why do folks always point up when they speak of God.  “Isn’t God everywhere?” he asked.  And so, when we speak of God with each other, we make a circle all around us with our pointer fingers.  Phalanges.  😉

This man is a prophet of sorts.  Today it hit me that even though I didn’t like what he was saying, it was the truth and I needed to hear it.  Acquaintances don’t do that for you.  Sometimes even family doesn’t do that for you.  This man must really love me.  And I love him.  I am starting to think God is using him to set me straight.  My friend who has battled alcoholism, who has lived in all different kinds of situations, including the streets, and who had heart surgery in December and was eating a plate of fried chicken livers today–God is using him to call me out and tell me like my Mama used to, “Act like you are somebody.”  I don’t doubt the choice of my friend to say the things I need to hear–after all, God has used some pretty odd ducks to get the message across before, right?  David was hardly a model of upright citizenry, was he?  And yet, truth and love and wisdom and beautiful thoughts came from his heart and mind.  Just as they do from Mr. B’s.

Tonight I’m thankful for this man and the gift of his friendship.  He loves me enough to look me in the eye, tell it like it is, and say to me, “Am I right?  You know I am” or “Are you picking up what I’m laying down?”

Yessir, Mr. B.  I am.  And what you said today reminds me of something else my folks used to say:

20140513-232816.jpg

Thankful for you Mr. B.

Love to all.

The One About Tucked Away Candy Wrappers and Star Wars in my Fridge…..and so much more

Today has been one of those days of Mamahood that I’ve found myself shaking my head more than once and had my heart swell too.

Today I found a Matchbox car on my kitchen counter.  That never happened before Cooter joined my world.

As I was moving furniture in preparation for today’s painting, I found more foil chocolate wrappers.  Ahem.  My boy is an addict.  Sugar.  Chocolate.  Based on all of the wrappers I have found behind books on shelves and behind furniture and in drawers during this “Fresh Paint, Fresh Start” campaign, I figured out how he’s gotten by so many nights not eating a bite of his supper.  He’s a picky eater, but I could not figure out how he wasn’t absolutely starving.

Now I know.

When I found the first wrappers, his hazel eyes got really big and he swished his blond hair out of his eyes and said, “Oh Mama it must have been a really, really big mouse.”  And he gave me that clever grin of his.  Sigh.  He and I both know it was no mouse.  My boy is a chocoholic.

I made sure all temptations were tucked away where he couldn’t reach them.  Only I forgot about one.  Tonight I was headed in to the garage bathroom.  I heard him in there, but as I walked down the hall I heard a crinkling sound.  What on earth?  I turned the corner to enter and he fell to the floor, clutching his fists to his tummy.  “Ohhhh, I have to goooooo.”

What?

It took me two seconds.  Crinkling sound.  Clutched hands.  Aha.

“What do you have?  Give it here.”  I held out my hand.

Y’all.  That boy.  He did a dance and held it out towards me, just out of reach, “It’s halfway open, so it’s okay, right?”  He smiled hopefully, as his voice quavered slightly.

I said no.  Then it was like separating Gollum from his Precious.  Not kidding.  It took me and his sister both to separate him from the Bob’s peppermint candy.

Yeah.  Have a long way to go with this boy.

Then I found this today.

20140512-232225.jpg

C3PO and Chewie set a Stormtrooper straight in my Frigidaire…..

 

No, contrary to what I thought, my little guy did not put his favorite folks in the Frigidaire.  That would be his sister.  But he’s the one who left them there after I asked about them.  At supper he told us he wants to see if they will freeze in there.  “Like Han in that Carbon-Knife.”  He tickles me, this one.

At the end of this evening, as supper was in the oven and a stir fry was on the stove, I found myself needing a quiet moment.  Aub was at work, my Fella was at his computer, our Princess was reading in her room, and Miss Sophie was settled in for a nap.  I looked out and Cooter was riding his bike.  I slipped out the front door and sat on the steps and watched.

Cooter riding his bicycle through the sprinklers this evening

Cooter riding his bicycle through the sprinklers this evening

Such joy it brings me.  He went from training wheels to flying, almost overnight it seems.  I love the sight of his little legs pumping the pedals on that yellow bicycle, his hair flying back behind him.  He loves riding that bike and his joy is infectious.  Tonight he was taking advantage of a neighbor running their sprinkler system.  He was soaked to the skin, and his smile couldn’t have been any wider.  When he showed me the worm crawling across the sidewalk, the gaping spot where his front tooth will grow made him seem so much older, and yet still so small.

 

There he goes right through the water.  Such fun!

There he goes right through the water. Such fun!

I love moments like these.

The other day I found myself alone with my little guy.  We had a couple of errands to run.  As we walked across the parking lot, him by my side, I held my hand out slightly.  When he took my hand almost immediately, a smile and a few tears came simultaneously.  I know that one day, perhaps soon, I will reach out and he will be too old to take his Mama’s hand.  It makes the moment when that little hand slips into mine all the more precious.

Tonight I am thankful for being a Mama to three wonderful and treasured souls.  They keep me on my toes and challenge every fiber of my being at times, but they also bring me more joy than anything or anyone else in my life.  I am thankful for the uniqueness of their spirits and the beauty of their smiles and the sweetness of their voices as they share their lives with me.  And I am thankful for their love and the privilege of tripping over their Legos and gluing back together their Lalaloopsy dolls and finding their shoes so they won’t be late to work.  I have my moments where I’m tired and I just want them all to go to bed; I won’t say I don’t.  But when I wake up in the mornings, the sound of their soft breathing and the sight of their tousled heads are what I listen and look for first.  And the joy that they bring me is beyond compare.

May you all find a surprise on your counter or in your fridge or on your sidewalk that brings you joy today.  Love to all.