A Literary Dish

My brother Bubba is in town.  This evening after a great time over at Blackberry Flats with Mess Cat and Leroy (who cooked a fantastic meal by the way), he and I sat down to go through some boxes that have been waiting for him to look through and make decisions about.

Of Mama and Daddy’s stuff.

Oh y’all.

We laughed over stories of old teachers.  We were quiet as we read through books from our childhood.  We unwrapped mugs and dishes and things that Mess Cat had tenderly wrapped and boxed months ago.  Bubba and I read inscriptions and discovered that the old dictionary we grew up with was given to Daddy when he was sixteen years old.  Good stuff, y’all.  Really good.

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Halfway through a box, I handed this book to Bubba to decide if he wanted it.  I went back to digging in the box.  Then I heard the unmistakable sound of Bubba getting tickled about something.  That right there.  You can’t help but join in.  Mirth and joy and all kinds of delightful.  All mixed together.

I looked over my glasses at him.  Really?  What book was he looking at?  Surely not the one I’d just handed him.  I mean, I don’t know much about the author, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t a comedy.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

He laughed some more.  Then he told me he was pretty sure the book was something of a gag gift from Daddy to Mama.  A glance inside the front cover showed it once belonged to a Jack Reeves and that it was 50 cents in a used book sale.  Yep.  Sounds about right.

Bubba told me the story of how one night Mama made sausage rice for supper.  She put a plate of it in front of Daddy and said, “It’s not much, but we’ll call it a meal.”  To which Daddy replied, “Zola?”

Ba dum bump.

After that whenever Mama made sausage rice she called it “Zola.”  And a new dish was born and named.

We are pretty sure that no one ever read the book, but if anyone would have, it would have been my Daddy.  He was an eclectic reader and a lover of words and thoughts.

I love this story, and I love having people to share these stories with.  I am tickled to hear this family lore that happened after I had moved out of the house.  What a gift that my brother was there to see it unfold, remembered it, and shared it with me tonight.  He’s even pretty sure he found the book at the Old Book Sale and showed it to Daddy, who of course had to get it for Mama.

As for the book, it will go on my classics shelf.  Because the story behind it is definitely classic Mama and Daddy.  And now I have a new memory to recall when I see it–the laughter of this night with my brother, the one in which we took on a task that could have been more painful than it was but ended up in us rolling with fits of laughter.

And as if all that weren’t enough, now I am craving me some Zola.

Wishing you all a good story that brings a smile to your face.

Love to all.

 

**Credit and many thanks to Bubba for not only the story but also the title of this post.  🙂

 

“You never would have let ME do that!”

So today I figured out I’ve grown up a little more.

I found great joy in making a mess.   And I didn’t rush around to clean it up.

My little nephew, a precious and bright 17 month old fella, figured out that if he pushed on the handle of this–

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that water squirts out.

And that if he aimed it just so it would hit him…..or me…..in the face.

And we laughed and laughed.

And then he pushed on it again.

Before it was over, he was a bit wet, my arm was soaked and there was water all over the recliner where we were perched together quite comfortably.

And it did not bother me one bit.

Him either.

I’ve thought about those moments today, and what my own children would have said if they were watching instead of being outside playing with their older cousins or working at a job.

They probably would have looked on incredulously.

“You never would have let ME do that.”  I can hear it in my head as though it actually happened that way.

Why?  Because I have said those words so many times to my own parents.

The folks who raised me did not hang around for long.

See, there were three different couples going by the same names who resided at Blackberry Flats over the years.

First there were my parents–the ones who made me toe the line and do what was right.  The ones who stayed on me hard and expected me to do my best and pick up my room and contribute to the household by doing other things as well.

And then there were my brother’s parents.  Somewhere in the nine years between my birth and his, my folks took off and his showed up.  Oh, they were tricky–used the same names, looked very similar, but they were Not. My.  Parents.

Instead these were the folks who were less strict about bedtimes, who did not insist their son wear shoes in the middle of winter (“if his feet get cold, he’ll put some on”), and whose bedding requirements had changed drastically.  (He did not have to keep a top sheet on his bed complete with the mandatory hospital corners–bottom sheet and comforter only.  Why I never!)

And then, nearly eighteen years later, we discovered that those folks had flown the coop too.

In their places, the grandparents.

The people who took on loving my children acted nowhere near like the folks who had taught me right from wrong.  Oh, they still made my crew toe the line and pick up their toys, but these folks let these children do all kinds of things we had never been allowed too.  The woman posing as my Mama loved to let my oldest use a knife to cut up different foods when I was nowhere around.  They had tea parties and whiled away afternoons reading books and playing with cars and hoola hooping.  One time they bought a trampoline and had it waiting in the backyard for my oldest to arrive…..and then proceeded to jump with her.  Their predecessors NEVER jumped with me.

And so tonight I had a giggle, thinking about those folks and who they became.  I guess I’m really on my way, because my crew would probably be right.  I don’t think I let them play with a spray bottle when they were little.  We tried not to make messes and we stayed as clean and dry as we could and if we were going to get wet, we put on bathing suits first.  Because that’s what we do.

But now, now I’m an aunt who is fun (or tries to be) and who wants to dote and laugh and giggle over the silliest of things.  Or just sit and hold napping babies who are pretending to be asleep while I pretend I don’t know they’re awake, just so we can sit and do nothing more important than be together and love each other and create memories and stories to share for years to come.

As for these folks whom I’m raising, they’ll have good stories too–the ones who start off with my “Mama left when my baby cousin was born and some other doting, willy-nilly silly person took her place.  Looked just like her, but she was not the one who raised us.”

Yep, I like that I started that story for them today.

Y’all go do something unexpected and surprise folks who know you today.

Love to all.

 

 

 

A Visitor, the Chaos, and Love All Around

We had a visitor today.

And it was total chaos.

My crew, every single one of them, were loud and boisterous and jumping around or lying on the floor.  (Seriously y’all, Cooter was trying to do back flips in the middle of all this.)  Several conversations were going on at once–about dolls and Star Wars (or was it Star Trek?  You know that LaForge guy is on Reading Rainbow, right?) and work and coffee.  And then, bless her sweet soul, I had no more good sense and decorum than to pull out the pictures from the Mouse House and subject her to them.

Wow.

Bless her heart.

It was overwhelming to say the least.  All of us crowded up around her, barely giving her space to take a breath.  For sure no one was taking a pause to breathe as the often one-sided conversations continued.  She could barely get a word in edgewise it seemed.

And she sat in her sweet, quiet, genteel way and took it all in.

She’s a calming force, that one.  At least where my soul is concerned.

After she left, I found myself shaking my head, frustrated.  I even wondered aloud to my children as to what on earth had gotten into all of them.   As one of my favorite teachers at the child care center where I worked twenty years ago used to say, they were “off the chain.”

And in the midst of all of that emotional mess, it occurred to me that maybe I was most frustrated because I wanted to be the one all but curled up next to her, sharing my thoughts and dreams and woes and joys.

It was then that the words came to me, almost a whisper in my ear.  “Comfort.” And “special.”  And then I wanted to cry.  It’s been a while since my children have had someone dote on their every word like that, ask them questions and then wait patiently for the answer, no matter how long it took or how far around their elbow they went to get there.  But today, today, they had exactly that.  No wonder they were clamoring over each other, voices and bodies, to share their stories and excitement.  So yeah, good tears.

Am I rationalizing my children’s less than *ahem* perfect behavior?  Maybe.

Or maybe I’m just giving thanks for the one who sat there, so loving and patient, and listened and always does for that matter.  I’m thankful for the love she gave my children and for the message she sent later that was so grace-filled–well, if I didn’t already love her and think she’s the bee’s knees that would have sealed the deal.

Here’s to keeping it real and unrehearsed and filled with love, and all the messiness that entails.  Because I think messy, loud, bouncy love might just be the best kind of all.

 

May someone dote on you for a little bit today too.

Love to all.

 

Shoes That Make Me Wonder…..and Old Habits Die Hard

So ummm, yeah, I’m back.

Old habits die hard y’all.  All day long while I’ve peeled peaches and prepared meals and done our OutandAbouts, I’ve found myself thinking about what I was going to write about.  I paid close attention  to those around me and the insects and the sunshine, looking for that story that begged to be told.  I can’t turn it off.  (And I’m not sure I want to.)

Anyway, in the midst of it all, these shoes stayed on my mind.

The mystery shoes--have no idea where these came from y'all.

Y’all.

I may have waited too long to rejoin my household and attempt to put things in order.  (Okay, right, busted–as much order as I can manage, which isn’t much.  I tend to get a bit distracted by the words in my head at times.)

So yesterday evening as we were heading out the door, I was grabbing a pair of shoes from where we pile them by the garage door.  (Yeah, we’re that family–kick our shoes off at the door.)  I noticed that pair of tennis shoes.  As I headed out the door, sliding my shoes on at the same time, I called out to my family–“hey, whose shoes are those?”

We loaded up in the gomobile, and the Fella told me that he found them under Cooter’s bed.  I looked at him over my bifocals.  Do what?

“Really.  Under his bed?”

He nodded.  Well, what on earth.

Y’all these are not Cooter’s shoes.  He doesn’t wear that size shoe yet.  And they are not our Princess’ either.  It’s been a while since she’s worn that size and they are in way too good a shape to ever have been on her foot.  She’s rough on shoes–just sayin’.

So I’ve been speculating.  When Cooter told me they came from his closet I thought, well, maybe they are some the Fella’s sister passed down from her boys.  Except, of course.  For.  The.  Pink.  Stripes.  Ahem.  Not her style or theirs, I’m thinking.

So while I’m not as troubled at finding a pair of girls’ shoes under my little guy’s bed as I could be in the future, still it’s got me befuddled and bamboozled.  Where on earth did these shoes come from?  They’re really nice and in good condition.  Makes me almost wish Cooter were color blind so he’d wear them in the next couple of years.

Ah, but no.

So that’s been my laugh and “head shaker” for the day.  And I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you.  If any of you know whose shoes these are, do tell.  In the meantime, I’m wondering what little girl showed up at home with no shoes and Mama didn’t call me asking why.

And since I promised myself, my people, and all of you that I was cutting back, I’m even going to hit publish without editing and re-reading for the next two hours.

Wishing you all just enough mystery to keep life interesting.  Love to all.

Behind the Blog…..and What Comes Next

We went to our favorite farmer's market and got our Elbertas.  Our yearly trip.....a good day.
We went to our favorite farmer’s market and got our Elbertas. Our yearly trip…..a good day.

So, today, this happened.

Yep.  Seven boxes of peaches.

Peaches to share and peaches to prepare. 

Peaches, peaches everywhere.

It’s what my people do.  Since I was little and we all sat around the table together with bowls and paring knives and more bowls, I have been a part of putting up peaches in the summer.  Peaches played a huge part of my life.  And what a gift to have a taste of summer in the middle of winter–so yes, over the next couple of days, I’ll be peeling, slicing, dicing, and putting them up.  Tucking their secrets and sweetness away for another day–when it’s dark and cold and sunshine and memories of summer are needed.

It’s funny.  After we got home, I sat down with my first peach of the summer (Daddy always said the ones before the 4th of July weren’t worth bothering with anyway).  It was sweet and tangy and filled with the taste of sunshine.   I ate in about five minutes (because I was stretching it out) what it took Farmer Brown a whole year of worrying over to bring to fruition–and that’s not counting the years before the trees were producing.  He pruned his trees in the dead of winter, and when the blossoms started showing, he hoped for no more cold weather for that could damage the blooms and reduce the crop.  After the little baby peaches came out, he and his crews thinned the trees, so that the peaches left would grow bigger and stronger.  And when the time was just right, they picked them, placing them gently in boxes so they wouldn’t bruise.

How do they know?  Which branches to cut?  Which peaches to drop to the ground?  What the right level of ripeness is?

I don’t know, but somehow it all comes together so I can savor the flavor of nature for five minutes.

Yep.  Here we are.
Yep. Here we are.

Another thing is happening today.  As I type.  This is my 500th post.  I wrote a few before I started back last year on April 7th and wrote each and every day.  So…..500.  Here we are.

When I hit the one year mark, I thought I might take a break from blogging.  For just a little bit.  But I wasn’t ready.  My mind and heart were whirling with things I had to write and thoughts I wanted to share.  As I’ve said before I write for me and for my children–so they will know their stories and who their people are, and so they will know who I am and what I believe and why.

And so many of you have joined us for the journey.

I am humbled.

So many kind words, so much encouragement.  I am thankful for all of you who have taken time to read even one word.  And for those of you who have shared your own stories and thoughts, I appreciate it.  You matter to me, and the gift of your time taken to read and to say hello–that means a lot to me.

Because, you know what?  Much like Farmer Brown, I put a lot of time into what comes into fruition.  (Even those Haikus last month.  I walked around the Mouse House during the day tapping out syllables on my chest as we were standing in line for a ride or the bathroom or whatever.)  Some posts I think about for days or weeks before I write them, and others come together at the last, quickly and sometimes almost seamlessly.  I worry over language, spelling, grammar, and offending folks.  Because no matter how strongly I feel about something, I do not set out to create a me and you.  I much prefer there to be an “us.”

So yes, not that what I write is always a “peach,” but for each thing you have read there is about  two hours of keyboard time behind it.  Writing, rewriting, editing for grammar/spelling, and then rereading.  And making the decision to hit publish.  Do you know what I have to say sometimes to be able to hit that button?  Some nights, when I’m exhausted and my emotions are overwrought over what I’ve put down in words, I say to myself, “Ah, well, no one’s going to read it anyway, so okay…..” and I hit the button.

But rest assured, I know you have been reading.  And I thank you for that.  The gift of your time and allowing me to share my stories with you…..HUGE.   THANK YOU.

And so now, at Post 500, I feel like my little guy Cooter.  Earlier this week as he went through his checklist of what all he wants to be when he grows up, he looked over at me, wiping his hand over his brow, and said, “Whoo.  I’m swamped.”

Oh me.  I hear you, bud.

I have several boxes of peaches to put up.  And peaches wait for no man or woman or blogpost.  They go from zero to ripe pretty doggone fast.  And I have littles to move on to China in our homeschool studies.  AND we have big family fun happening this week–the week in which we celebrate with family who lives far away and finish going through the last of my folks’ things.

Whoo.  I’m swamped, y’all.  Good stuff.  Hard stuff.  Life.

At the one year mark, I was a little afraid that if I missed even one night I wouldn’t keep writing.  And so there was the night I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to finish writing after my brother visiting from out of town stayed up with me until 1, laughing and remembering and talking.  There was the night in September when I witnessed the miracle of my niece’s birth and curled up in a corner of the room after to share about it.  There’s been numerous nights when I sat down at 10 p.m. to think about my day and decide what was “worth writing home about.”  It’s been a good ride.

And now I know the truth.  I won’t stop writing.  If it’s not for the blog, I will work on some other projects.  Because after 500 posts, I think I can say this, if still a bit timidly–

I am a writer.

Because I write.

I’ve not published a book, and I may never do so.

I’ve not won an award for my writing since high school, and I’m okay with that too.

There’s a lot of “never haves” and “not dones,” but the truth is, those can’t happen if I don’t try.  No one’s going to walk up, knock on my door, and say, “Hey we want to publish whatever you are writing right now, doesn’t matter what it is.  Just hand it over.  We already know it’s great.”

Are they?

Nope.  See, I knew that.  And so I am going to take a break from blogging for a little while.  Here’s the deal.  I don’t know if it will be one night or ten.  I may even think of something I have to share and be back tomorrow night.   But I might not.  I might still be peeling peaches and listening to a little read to me, while my oldest goes through the list of what all she needs to head back to college.  Yes, we’ve got big beautiful normal things going on around here.  And as much as I love writing, and as sure as I am that I will continue to write–what a relief it is to know that now–I also know I have a life to live.  With my children, my people, the ones who make me laugh and whom I love.  As my Mama used to say, “There’s a time for all things.  Ecclesiastes 3.”  Yes ma’am.

Balance.

And there’s also this stack of books I’ve not made time to read yet…..some of my favorite author friends are often sharing about things they are reading.  So I know that’s part of being a good writer too.  Reading good writing.

Thanks if you’ve stuck with my ramblings so far.  I am excited to explore writing on some projects I have in mind. (And I’m scared to death, is it okay to tell you that?)  I love sharing my stories with groups, so maybe I will work to make that happen more as well.  I don’t know, but I do know that I feel peace.  I give thanks for all of the nights I’ve sat down and eventually hit publish, and then you all have read it and encouraged and agreed or disagreed respectfully.  Thank you for that.

I’ll see you around here soon.  In the meantime, y’all, I might just go take that nap.

Love to all.  And many, many thanks.

 

It Affects Us All Eventually

This evening a friend of mine posted about a new policy in the school system.  She has made the decision since school got out in May to homeschool her child.  This policy will not affect her child at all, and yet, she is upset about it and is calling the system out for it.

Good for her.

Too often I see people share their feelings of relief about something that has happened–trying to separate themselves from whatever tragedy or incident has happened.

“Thank goodness I homeschool, because of this that happened in such and such school…..”

“I’m so glad I live in this country and not where our daughters are being kidnapped for going to school…..”

“Well, it’s a good thing I never go to Wal-Mart, after what happened at that one in such and such a town…..”

Y’all.

For the love.

This way of thinking really gets me riled up.  Because you know what?

It affects us all eventually.  We’re in this together.  The world is small.  Our lives are just blips on the screen as we pass through on our way to the next Destination.  And what happens to each one of us while we are here affects every other person on this planet.  There is no us and them.  There is no being safe from something because we aren’t in the “same boat/town/country/situation.”  What affects one, affects us all.

As we raise our children, do we really think they won’t be affected by all that is happening all over this world?  I homeschool my children for many reasons, but keeping them in a bubble is not one of them.  Even if it were, one day they’d have to step out of it.  There’s a whole world out there I hope they’re going to change for the better by working hard and loving on folks.  All kinds of folks.  No matter how they live, what they believe, where they shop, what they drive, or how often they are able to shower.  I want them to learn to love all.

And I just don’t see how it can happen if we don’t teach them to care about all folks in all situations, not just the ones that affect us and are right there in front of us.  If we don’t teach them to care about people and circumstances beyond where they live, we have failed them.

Y’all, we are the Body.  We are the world.  We are one.  Whatever angle you look at it from, we are in this together.  And as scary as some things are, and what a comfort it is to say, well that can never happen to me, so I’ll just move beyond it…..that’s wrong.  Folks are hurting and broken all over, and while that is happening, there can be no moving beyond.  For any of us.  Not really.

Just a thought.

Love to all.

 

Don’t Miss the Dance or Flip to the End

Yesterday, in the midst of the madness around here, I looked over at the couch and saw Cooter, head on the seat, feet up the back of it, reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  He has seen the first Harry Potter movie.  His older sister has read all of the books.  His middle sister has just finished the sixth book. Both of them refuse to give away any of the details in the storyline, no matter how hard he begs or how persistent his questioning is.  Me, I’ve forgotten so much, he doesn’t bother asking anymore.

When I asked him what he was doing, he said, “I’m reading the second book.  Baba (big sister) said since I’d seen the first movie, I could start with the second book.”  He turned back to his book.  Upside down and everything.

I struggled with the need to tell him to put the book down and come work on handwriting or math, but this is my child who, up until five months ago, was NOT reading.  Ahem.  I let him be.

For a while.

Today I saw him reading again.  And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him flipping pages.  Toward the end.

“What are you doing, buddy?” I asked him.

He looked up, grinned that sheepish one tooth grin, and said, “Well, I was just thinking I might see what happens later.  You know…..”

*sigh*  Yes, I do.

But I am very much against it.  Fight the urge, little man.

“Hey, don’t do that, okay?  If you do, you are going to spoil what happens at the end.  More importantly, you’ll spoil all that happens before that–you will miss the story, bud.  The journey.  And that’s what makes it.  The story of getting there.”

He nodded.  Did he get my meaning?  Will he quit trying to jump ahead to find out what happens, or will he enjoy the ride as he reads page by page?

I have no idea.  As my Daddy often said, “I can want it for him, but I can’t make him do it.”

Years and years ago, at the very beginning of another lifetime, I had gotten a new cassette tape by a new artist–Garth Brooks.  I loved most all of the songs on it, but my favorite at one time was “The Dance.”  I guess that’s why Cooter wanting to flip to the end of the book to see what happens hit me so hard.  The lyrics of that song, written by Tony Arata, are etched on my heart.  So many endings that if I’d known about them…..well, I would have missed out.  Because I don’t know if I would have thought I could handle the pain.

And now, I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance 

So my dear ones, I know there’s always going to be the curiosity and the desire to know how it turns out.  What happens to Harry?  To Hermione?  Is Dumbledore hiding something?  Who is Tom Riddle?  There are those questions in real life too.  How will this homeschooling thing turn out?  Am I doing the right thing?  Will she graduate and go straight through her post-graduate work?  Will truth and good triumph over evil in this battle for what’s right that we are in the midst of?  How old do I have to be before Mama will let me get a cell phone?  Or go places without texting her I’m there safely? (FYI, never)

All of those questions, the uncertainty, the wondering–it’s all part of the amazing journey and adventure we call life.  It’s not always comfortable, but it will always be a part of our life.  So best to make peace with it and enjoy the dance.

Because life’s too precious not to.

Love to all.

If you’d like to hear the song, here’s a version by Westlife–a recent favorite group of mine.  Because well, you know, there’s nothing of Garth on Youtube or iTunes.  Heard a rumor that could be changing.  Fingers crossed.  Until then, these boys do it justice.