Hard Questions over Spilled Milk

Yesterday I was trying to hurry and give my littles snacks.  We were heading out on our activities du jour, and it was going to be a while before they’d get to eat again.  I served up the last of the brownies and a glass of milk.  As I reached across the sink to the counter to place a glass of milk where Cooter was about to sit with his brownie, I turned the whole thing over.

Oh me.  But no crying, right?

I was actually calmer than usual, especially considering that we were running behind and needed to be out the door pretty quick.  And they still had to have a snack.  AND I had to clean up milk for miles–on the counter, under the counter, on the wall under the counter, on the stool, under the stool, on the rungs of the stool, and alllllllll over the floor.  While trying to keep Miss Sophie from getting into it and attempting to appease Cooter’s hurt feelings based on the assumption that he would now get NO milk.

Sigh.

As I was cleaning it up, our Princess, the peacemaker (well unless she’s having it out with her brother–been one of THOSE weeks around here), who was trying to grab up anything she could find to help clean it up, said in her soothing voice to her upset brother, “Don’t be upset, buddy, Mama didn’t mean to do that.  It’s just sometimes, well, God has other plans.”

Huh.  Well then.  Huh.

So I went with it.  Maybe because I was standing on my head cleaning up milk (did I mention FOR MILES?) or maybe because I was just curious to see where she was going.  Probably both.

“So God planned for me to spill this milk?”

Cooter laughed at that idea.

Princess, who had come around to the messy side of the counter, shook her head.  “Well no, see, I mean, God knows everything that’s going to happen.”

“So God knew I was going to spill the milk, then?”  One swipe, two swipe, almost done.  I stood up.

She looked at me, her eyes wide.  She sighed.  “Why do I think I’m saying it all wrong right now?”

I laughed and hugged her and let her know it was okay.  I don’t know, girl, there are no easy answers.

That’s something we talked about on Sunday night in Evening Prayer.  Hard questions.  And that sometimes, just maybe, we won’t get the answers here.  Or now.  If ever.  And one person pointed out something that my Aunt has suggested to me about Heaven, “Maybe, when we do get there, it won’t matter anymore.”  I shudder to think.  As much as I want to know the things I want to know, it pains me to think I will be able to let it go so easily.  I guess that’s the peace that passes all understanding they talk about though, isn’t it?

Hard questions.  From our children.  What do we do with those?

I found out that a family that my oldest and I both know and love lost their youngest son, not even two years old, in a tragic accident.  I told Aub, unsure if she would see it on social media, and I didn’t want her to find out that way.  She was visibly shaken.

“Mama, it’s already been a rough day and now this.  This sends me over the edge.  My heart breaks for them.”

“I know.  I know.  Mine too.  I’m so sorry.  I just didn’t want you to find out another way.”

We were both quiet for a moment.

“You know,” she said. “They packed up everything, sold most of it, and headed out to do what they felt God was calling them to do.  And now this?  What the heck?  It just doesn’t make sense. Why?  Why did this happen?”

Why indeed.   I had nothing to offer her.  But an ear and heart to listen to her questions.  And echo them in my own.

I’ve found that my children’s questions don’t get any easier as they get older, and neither do mine.  We’ve had some doozies in the past three or four years.  And they still remain unanswered.

I got nothing.

Except that I’d rather they stay unanswered than someone give me an answer that they think should make me be okay with everything that has happened.

There are just some things you might have to accept–yes this happened–but there are things that I can never be okay with.  Doesn’t mean I lose my faith completely, just maybe it hits a bump in the road and needs time.  Lots of time.

Hard questions.  How can I be thankful for those?

I guess tonight I’m thankful that my children ask these of me, with me, and that we can sit in the dark together, asking and wondering.  But together.  Always together.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

Why I Don’t Tell My Children to “Be Nice”

Be sure to say thank you.

Share with your sister.

Take turns.

Make wise choices.

Be kind to your brother.

Act like you are somebody.

You don’t always have to be first in line.

Be a good friend.

Let it go.

I say all of these things and many, many more to one or another of my crew at least once a day and then some.  But there’s one thing that I used to say that I found myself almost saying today that I will be very careful about ever saying again.

Be nice.

Cooter had one of his activities today.  After he finished I asked him how it had gone.  He shrugged.  This is one of the very few times he’s not outnumbered by all the estrogen in the room, and I know he can get rowdy along with the best of them–all those boys.  Whew.

“I was good.  I tried.  It was just hard.”

I asked him how.  He proceeded to call one of the others “creepy” and I corrected him.  No name-calling.  That is not okay.

“Well, it is, Mama.  He wants to hug me all the time.  It creeps me out.”

And there it was.  On the tip of my tongue.

Be.  Nice.

Only I caught myself just in time.  A glance in the rearview mirror assured me that he was serious.

Okay.

It’s been a little over a year since I had the conversation with my oldest where she shared what she had read–that we shouldn’t tease anyone about someone being mean because they have a crush on them.  We don’t want anyone to equate meanness or cruel words or hurtful actions with affection.  Not when they’re little.  Not ever.

And this takes it one step further.  If I were to tell Cooter, now be nice, he just wants to hug you, that means he wants to be your friend, imagine how that could mess him up later on.  Sure, this is all innocent–a boy who is younger than him, wanting to hug it out because he wants to be friends.  Just a year ago, that was very likely how Cooter was with his older friend there.  But what if?  What if later on someone else’s “touch” gives him the “creeps,” and I’ve set the precedent of ignoring those feelings, not giving them validation, and told him to “be nice,” that they just want to be his friend. I have to show him I trust him now, that I respect his “creepy” feelings if I want him to continue sharing these things with me and be able to stand up for himself.

It’s a scary and wonderful world we live in.  And as I’ve said before, this raising of the children is not for the faint of heart.  These children with their precious little selves, always listening and watching and paying attention and not always when you really want or need them to, they are so fragile and strong.  So vulnerable and wise.  So innocent and knowing.  All of that.  I don’t want to mess this up.

It’s so hard to know what’s right, you know?  It is so instinctual for me to want my children to be kind, to be polite, and to be respectful.  It was on the very tip of my tongue to correct my boy, to crush any hope of him talking about this kind of thing to me again–all with those two simple words.  Be. Nice.

Instead I gathered my thoughts, and told him that I could appreciate how that made him feel uncomfortable.  I suggested that next time, if it happens again, he should step back and put his hand up and say, “Hey, I can be your friend, but I don’t want to be hugged.”  And if the little guy doesn’t stop, he should go and let a grownup know that he doesn’t care to be hugged.

I don’t know.  It’s so hard to know, isn’t it?  All I can do, as my Mama often said, is the best I can do with what I have now.  And right now, I think the most important thing is for each of my children to feel heard and know that they can bring any story, anything at all, home for me to hear.  I can’t promise not to flip out–it’s kind of my thing (yes, another thing)–but I can promise I won’t leave their side.  Not even once.

"Stickered" by my little guy.  Not a prouder Mama anywhere around.  Love that boy.

“Stickered” by my little guy. Not a prouder Mama anywhere around. Love that boy.

I guess I must have done okay because Cooter gave me his sticker from today.  He smiled so brightly (oh how I love that toothless grin) and seemed plum tickled with himself over it.  I wore it proudly all afternoon and evening.  Let folks stare.  My baby boy thinks I’m awesome.

And tonight I’m thankful for that.  And so much more.

Love to all.

 

 

What Babies Do Know That We’ve Forgotten

This morning I was trying to *ahem* encourage Cooter, my seven-year old, to buckle down and get started on his math.  He wasn’t in the mood for math or a pep talk today.  He moaned and went prostrate across the stools at the counter.

“Ohhhh, I wish we knew everything already when we were babies,” he called out, rather dramatically.

Our Princess leaned over and patted him as she picked up her math worksheets and pencil.  “Oh, buddy, but we didn’t.  We have a lot to learn.”

Interesting.  Why is it that I have days when neither of them really want to do their lessons in a timely fashion but I very, very rarely have a day when they are both willing and happy happy happy?  Today was a good one for her.  Not so much for the little fella.

The words from my little guy’s mouth have played back over and over in my head.  I thought about when each of mine were babies and wondered about what exactly they knew.  I remembered the precious babies I’ve held over the years and thought about what they seemed to know as well.

And you know what?  Cooter might have gotten his wish.  Seems like to me babies know an awful lot.

Babies know how to love.  Unconditionally.  They just love being held and doted on and snuggling and they love with abandon.

Babies smile.  They say I love you with their gaze, their smile, and when they learn to control their arms a little better, with their touch.

Babies look people in the eyes.  And they don’t turn away.  My Daddy called it “imprinting.” When he held each one of my three, they would gaze up at him for as long as he was willing to hold them and gaze back.  They imprinted him and stored him up in their memories.

Babies reach out for what they want.  They grab the silverware, newspaper, books, keyboards, hair, hands, and another person. They aren’t afraid of going after something interesting.  And they find the whole world interesting.  Babies are curious and adventurous and can make anything ordinary absolutely extraordinary.  They breathe life into everything around them.

Babies talk.  Sometimes a lot.  But they also listen. They listen so intently they can often repeat the sounds you just made.

Babies can laugh at nothing.  They can cry about anything.  Babies are not ones to hold their emotions in, stuffing them down deep inside so they can wreak all kinds of havoc on their hearts and minds and souls.  Babies let the world know how they feel–whether it’s joy, hunger, happiness, or pain–they let the world know.  And I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.

As Cooter’s words echoed in my mind, I thought about all of these things and realized how important every single one of these things is to a person’s well-being.  To healthy relationships and lives.  And then I realized that we as a society don’t value these things like we should.  We don’t have time for sitting with someone and listening intently or gazing and memorizing precious faces.  We squelch our emotions and tuck them away.  We pine for things (tangible and intangible) without setting goals and working for what we want.  Or we go the immediate gratification route and what we wanted only satisfies until the next want comes along.  We are afraid to look people in the eyes.  We assess the appropriateness of the situation before we let ourselves laugh or cry.  We hold back.

And loving?  We often fail to love unconditionally those who are different, who look different or act different or think differently.  We don’t open up to strangers and give them a friendly smile and a wave from across the room.  It doesn’t seem quite right.

And yet–

I think maybe we have a lot to learn from these wee ones.  And while the point didn’t get Cooter out of his math today and it sure won’t tomorrow either, I think it’s a good one.   (Shhhhh, he doesn’t have to know.) I think we need to look at babies and how they are with people to see how it really should be done.  How we should interact and look and be in this world.  And most of all, how we should love.

Have you ever seen a baby reach out to someone they barely know?  And change the world with their smile?

That right there.

We should do more of that.

We need folks and folks need us.

Love to all.

 

 

 

My Letter to Disney

Dear Disney,

I would like a moment or two of your time, please.

Yesterday in the gomobile, my little guy Cooter announced out of the blue how much he liked the “Thor” ride at Epcot.  He’s referring to “Maelstrom” located in Norway.  His nine-year old sister, our Princess, turned to him and said, “Well you know they’re going to turn it into a ‘Frozen’ ride, right?”

The sound from the back was deafening.  “NOOOOOO.”  He stopped for a second.  “I’ve had enough of that.”

That moment right there.

It got me to thinking, you know?

Sure “Frozen” had the guy with the moose.  And Olaf.  He was cute.  But really it was a movie about sisters.  And it is plastered all over any and every store we go in–including the grocery store.  It’s everywhere.  I was at a birthday party for an eight-year old girl today, and they sang some karaoke.  Guess what the first song sung was?  Yep.  “Let It Go.”  Guess what the second girl wanted to sing?  Yep.  You got it.  Again.

So congratulations.  You made a movie and saturated the market.  Your stuff is everywhere.  Except for Elsa’s dress.  And that’s a serious problem around here, but we can discuss that another time.

Your channel is one that my children are allowed to watch certain shows on.  I really like some of your programming, and your shows are the ones my college daughter remembers and loves the most from her elementary and middle school years.  I especially love that my children aren’t bombarded with commercials or ads for shows not appropriate for them to see.  (Yeah, I’m talking about you, football game broadcasts.)

Or that was the case.

Oh Disney, you have done me wrong.  For weeks and weeks you advertised “Guardians of the Galaxy.”  It looked great.  My little guy was thrilled and actually laughed out loud and said “cool” numerous times each and every time the trailer was shown.  You played interviews with cast and staff from the movie.  Can you say saturated?  Yes, we were all primed for that movie.

And then–

the rating was released.

PG-13.

Are you kidding me?  Do you even know the average age of your viewers?

I am disappointed in your discernment on this.  My little guy was beside himself, and since a Mama can only be as happy as her least happy child AND since, if Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy–I think you can see where I’m going with this.

What the heck, Disney?

After my son’s comments yesterday made me realize he hasn’t been over the moon about a movie like our Princess has “Frozen” (Star Wars doesn’t count–they were made in 1977 on and you had nothing to do with THOSE), I took a survey on Facebook today.  I asked my friends to name movies with strong male characters made by you in the past 10-15 years.

I also did some research on the internet.

In case you didn’t already know this, there are none.  Not made by you.  Not any one that has been invested in the way that “Frozen” or “Tangled” have.  The ones my friends listed were either NOT yours or pre-2007 when my little guy entered this world.  (There’s Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, but they both are a little intense for a seven-year old–and Harry gets into that PG13 range. Sigh.) And I’m sorry, I figure you are trying to aim the Cars series and the Planes movies at ones such as he, but honestly he can’t identify with being a car or a plane or a rat or monsters.  I’m just looking for a movie about a real boy (or a prince–that could be okay, I guess, I mean our Princess isn’t really one and she identifies with these young women so…..okay).

Is that so hard?

At the very least please stop promoting your movies on your very PG/G channel that aren’t appropriate for the younger set.  I have had it, and I won’t be seeing “Guardians of the Galaxy.”  That’s right, you won’t be getting my money for that one anytime soon.  (I can hear you crying, and I’m sorry I had to go there.) I promised Cooter we would see it together when he’s old enough.  He’s already had me pencil in a date with him to do just that in early 2020.  That’s the year he turns 13.  Sigh.

And finally, here’s the thing.  So help me, if you mess up this Star Wars thing, I will come after you with every bit of Mama madness and all my posse along with me. (And one of them calls herself Batgirl, because she comes out with her bat swinging, wanting to know who’s messed with me–you’ve been warned, Disney.)  This is my boy’s THING.  He loves all things Star Wars.  He knows the history inside and out even though he’s only been allowed to watch the first three that were made (again due to ratings and age appropriateness)–Episodes IV, V, and VI.  Yours will follow right behind these in the storyline.  I repeat, do NOT mess this up.  Do whatever you have to do, but you can tell a story without all that blood and gore and suggestiveness and the like.  TELL THE STORY.  And make it a good one.  This is your best shot to make it up to my little guy and all those like him who are looking for someone to identify with, to recognize, and get excited about seeing.  Someone maybe even to emulate as they realize so much of life is about making wise choices and choosing good over evil.  You can do this, I know you can.  I’ve seen it.  “Brave” and “Frozen” are really great because you changed it up on us–the focus moved from being rescued by the Prince to other relationships also being important and females being strong and I LOVE IT.  Thank you.  (Although you have yet to really reach the stars again like “Mary Poppins” did–great story, Julie Andrews, and Dick Vandyke–win.win.WIN.  Yeah, I’m seriously “old school.”)

If you don’t get it right, I’m forever moving my fanship over to that other film company–and theme park, and I promise to make you cry again.

Really and truly, all I’m asking you is to please remember our sons.  We have become so focused in raising strong girls that I really am starting to feel like our boys are getting pushed to the side.  And that is not okay.  Seriously, the highlight of our day at Epcot in my little guy’s mind was the “Thor” ride.  I’m not saying don’t have a Frozen ride, I’m just saying, please remember that not all of our boys love the Moose and Olaf THAT much.  They need songs to sing and people to dress up like and aspire to be like too.

Best wishes to you all.  I’ve read that the upcoming movie “Big Hero 6” has a fourteen year old boy as the main character.  I am hopeful that you might redeem yourself, but the really true test will be Star Wars VII set to be released (at this time) in December of 2015.  My son will be 8.  I mean it, make it awesome and make it appropriate. We’re talking keep it PG.  Or else.

Sincerely,

Mama Who Wants Good Movies for Her Son Too

And she ain’t playing

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Day in Pictures…..and a Word or Two

I did a big thing today.

First of all, before I go any further, you need to know that the last time I left my house for anything more than running across town for our daytodailies or escorting our littles to their various activities or running to Macon for an appointment was this past June when we went to the Mouse House for several days.

Gone.  From Home.

Miss Sophie was in the best of hands, and all was well.

Until we got home.

And the smell of things gone sour hit me as soon as we came in.

We lost everything in the freezer and other refrigerator.  EVERYTHING.

I was devastated.

So then I pretty much figured, well, what else do you expect when you are gone from home?

But today.  Today I did a big thing.

I left home.

For an adventure.

IMG_4417

It started a couple of weeks ago when I started thinking about the book release for Renea Winchester that was scheduled for today up near Atlanta.  We have never met in person, but she has become very dear to me and has been a great encourager.  And when people are dear to you and something big is going on in their lives, well, if you can, you step it up and celebrate with them.  It’s just what our people do.

Turns out the Fella came in that night talking about going to a car show.  Up near Atlanta.  Interesting, I said, since I too would like to head out that same day.  Up in that same direction.  Long story short, the two things were a half hour apart which is practically next door in the Atlanta time/space continuum.  So we decided to go up together.  Up until yesterday I was still a little anxious.  What about Miss Sophie?  What if the power went out?  What if it rained?  What if?  What if?

I finally shushed all those voices and decided the joy of meeting my friend and celebrating with her outweighed all those what ifs.  Aub decided to stay home with Miss Sophie and study before heading back to school.  All the stars aligned, and we were off.  (like a herd of turtles, the Fella would say with pinpoint accuracy)

We dropped the Fella off at the British Car Show Fayre in Norcross and headed on our way.  We made the necessary “pit stop” along the road that ran between where he was and where I was heading.  (Did y’all know there are Targets with Starbucks in them?  I’ve never…..I mean, you knew that bathroom was going to clean.)  When we found our destination, a nice young man told us where to park.  This book release celebration was being held at Farmer Billy’s farm and home.  Folks were parked all along the yard and road.  It looked like a fabulous turnout.

Signing the friendship wall.

Signing the friendship wall.

When Cooter, our Princess, and I walked up, we saw the Friendship wall and each of us signed it.  What a neat idea.  (It made me wonder where I can hang a Sharpie for friends and family to sign their well wishes when they come to visit us.)  As we headed around we saw them–Miss Renea and Mr. Billy. They already had quite the crowd lined up to sign their books.  There was someone there selling wonderful smelling tamales, aprons made from feed sacks and old jeans and overalls, and beautifully carved wood figures and walking sticks.  It was my first book release party, but I’m thinking maybe they’re not all like this.  I loved it.

The trap that caught Cooter's eye sitting on top of the rain barrels

The trap that caught Cooter’s eye sitting on top of the rain barrels

In the midst of all of this what caught Cooter’s eye as we stood in line for the signing was a trap sitting up near the house.  “Look, he has one like we do.”

I laughed.  He was right.  (We’ve had some rascally raccoons coming up and eating the cats’ food.  They have now been safely and kindly rehomed.)  We wondered what kind of critters Mr. Billy has had to use his trap for.

The closer we got the more excited I was.

The closer we got the more excited I was.

We got closer in line and it was about to be our turn.  We were so excited.  We found out there was another author there whose book release was later on today.  He was moved to the front of the line so he could get to his own on time.

Renea Winchester and Raymond Atkins celebrating together on a day that was special for both of them.  I love the bond between writers.

Renea Winchester and Raymond Atkins celebrating together on a day that is special for both of them. I love the bond between writers.

How much do you love this?  Each author celebrating with the other even on his and her own special day.  When Miss Renea brought the author forward, apologizing for going out of order, I was starstruck yet again.  Mr. Raymond Atkins.  His very first book (“Front Porch Prophet”) just arrived on my doorstep three days ago.  Really?  I have never been so tickled to let someone ahead of me.  And to see the two authors together–really.  good.  stuff.

A moment worth waiting for (but I'm glad I didn't wait any longer!)

A moment worth waiting for (but I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer!)

Then it was us.  I introduced myself, so excited that we were finally meeting face to face, after months of messages and emails.  The moment did not disappoint.  What a beautiful soul she is, inside and out.   Our Princess leaned in to me and said, “She looks just like Princess Anna.” (from Frozen for anyone who hasn’t been on any kind of media for the past year)   When I told my writerfriend, she brushed it off, attempting to point out nonexistent wrinkles.  Please, she’s every bit as beautiful as Anna and then some.

We had a wonderful few minutes meeting Renea Winchester and Mr. Billy Albertson.  Moments I will treasure.  Moments I would not have had if I hadn’t stepped way outside my comfort zone and headed out this morning ready for adventure.

 

Cooter, ever the mischief maker, with the bunny ears--watching the goats.

Cooter, ever the mischief maker, with the bunny ears–watching the goats.

 

Now. That made it all worthwhile.  Every minute of it.

Now. That made it all worthwhile. Every minute of it.

We continued our visit around the farm, peeking from a distance at the baby goat who has been under the weather, standing next to cool tractors, looking at the chickens and the goats.

And before I left, I got to sniff Farmer Billy’s fig tree.  It’s okay, I asked him first.  Y’all.  That’s the smell of my childhood there.  The one in the yard at my Granny’s–the one she hung the pie tins in to keep the birds from eating them all.  Oh that heavenly smell.  (Okay, that’s it–somebody tell me the right time of year to plant a fig tree and where I can find the biggest one still able to be transferred.  This has got to happen.  Soon.)

On our way back to get the Fella, we stopped to get a bite as we were all feeling a little peckish.  We made another pit stop.  (I’m sorry, y’all, but these are of the utmost importance for the under 10 and over 40 crowd–which was pretty much all of us.)  We admired the cleverly made door handles

IMG_4541

and were thoroughly confused by the sign in the bathroom placed OVER the hand dryer.

Ahem.  Wait, what?

Ahem. Wait, what?

Thanks to Cooter, who hit the air dryer button, we used all options available for drying our hands.  After he hit it, I kept waiting for the bathroom police to jump out of hiding and give us the boot.  Didn’t happen, but I’m still troubled by that sign.  What do they want from me?

We headed back down the connecting road to pick up the Fella.  We had a wonderful surprise visit with his cousin and family.  Love these folks.  Wherever they are, it’s a party.  Just is.  They are so full of laughter and joy and good hearts, it can’t be anything else but all good.  The children even got to drive off on their own for a little bit.

There they go.

There they go.

Just kidding.  But at one point when a few raindrops came down, and they flipped the top up for a little protection, we could see their heads bobbing and the car rocking and they were moving to some kind of beat.  Only the radio wasn’t on.  Ah, to be young on a Saturday afternoon again!

All too soon we were on our way.  We are very fortunate that we have a DVD player in the Gomobile.  They don’t usually get to watch it, but for long trips, yes please.  This was the choice of the day.  Is it okay that I love that my children are every bit as much the nerds that I am?

One of their all-time favorite shows.....time to pull out Season 2, I think.

One of their all-time favorite shows…..time to pull out Season 2, I think.

Today was such a special day of surprises and spending time with people I love and call my own.  I am thankful that I found the get up and go to get up…..and well, go.  I am very thankful that the trip that the Fella wanted to make was just down the road from where I wanted to go.  And that my oldest was willing to hang out with Miss Sophie.  I appreciate the gift of her time and love so much.

As the Fella drove this morning, I read for a bit.  And this part struck me and stuck with me throughout the day. In the very first chapter of “Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches,” Renea Winchester writes, “After growing up surrounded by people who knew me, I struggled with the aloneness that comes from living outside your raising.”

Today.  Today I was not alone.  Even at the book release party where I didn’t really know anyone exactly, I felt at home.  The farm, the tractors, the garden, that fig tree, the smiles and welcoming faces…..that’s home.  Sitting with the Fella’s cousins (shoot, they’re my people too, right, and I aim to claim ’em), swapping stories, sharing my heart, and hearing this cousinfriend say, “Let me just take a moment,” in empathy for what had been shared–that. right. there.  That was home. Being with folks who are good and kind people, who were raised just like we were–there’s a comfort there that can’t be replicated no matter how hard one tries.

Being with good folks–and enjoying the day that’s been given to us.  Maybe that’s our calling.

I’m thankful it was mine–at least for today.  And so thankful that I answered it.

Love to all.

 #######################

If you are interested in books by either of these authors, you can click here or here to order Raymond Atkins’ latest novel, “Sweetwater Blues”  or–

here or here to order “Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches” by Renea Winchester.

Enjoy!

Pep Talks

There’s a moment I look forward to every day in our homeschooling adventures.

It’s that moment when Cooter finally decides to buckle down and get his work done.

Finally.

He sits with his pencil gripped so tight, his head bowed close to his papers, and works so intensely I can just about hear the wheels turning in his head.

And that’s when he starts.

The pep talks.

For himself.

I took notes this last time just so I could tell y’all word for word.

Because, really, pep talks.

It’s when he finally hits the point that he realizes I’m not backing down and it has to be done if  he wants to continue a life with any privileges at all.  And he gets real forceful with himself.

“Okay.  You can do this, Cooter.  Come on.  You got this.  You can’t let fear rule your life forever.  You can do it.  That’s it, Cooter…..”

and so on.

Wow.

I mean, I feel like I can do it for him after that, don’t you?

And that’s usually when he gets it done.  Usually.

What is it with my children and pep talks?  I mean, I’m choosing to find it pretty cool and a bit amusing.  But there’s a wee part in the back of my mind that asks, Are they doing this because I’m not cheering them on enough? 

I don’t even know.  I hope not.

Remember back during the summer when our Princess left herself a note to cheer herself on for her last day of swim lessons in the hope that she’d get tapped to audition for the team?  It said, “It’s the last day.  Make it big.”

This evening was her very first swim meet.  She was so nervous and excited and it was downright precious.  She has spent all week working through those feelings and getting herself ready for this ‘big day.’

This is the sign of a true swimmer.  Their event/heat/lane lists on their arms or legs.  I think she's a little sad that it has started to fade.

This, I’ve learned, is the sign of a true swimmer. Their event/heat/lane lists on their arms or legs. I think she’s a little sad that it has started to fade.

My version of pep talk for her was keep smiling, do your best, have fun, be a good sport, and remember to say thank you.

And she did, each and every one, I’m fairly certain.  She did very well, especially considering this is the first time she’s done anything like this.

Tonight I’m thankful for children who teach me what it looks like to love and speak kindly to oneself.  I am thankful for a friend who taught me what I needed to know in my new role as “swim mama.”  And I give thanks for her teenage daughter who took the time to mentor our Princess and be a guide and encourager for her in this new experience.  Not everyone is able to give themselves pep talks in every situation.  That’s where we come in, y’all.  To be encouragers and give folks the pep talks they need to let their lights shine.

Take time today for a pep talk–either for yourself or someone you know who needs one.  C’mon, you’ve got this.

Love to all.

#whyteal…..the one where we need to get LOUD

I first met her twenty-eight years ago last month.  We were all just getting to know each other, and I remember thinking how lovely and graceful and grace-filled this dear lady was.

She was my roommate’s mother.  I met her at the beginning of our freshman year.  She was beautiful inside and out.

And she fought a battle no one should have to fight.

Ovarian cancer.

Last night my dear friend shared this information on her Facebook page.  This month is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

pic of ovarian cancer info

After I posted this on my own page, another friend shared that her Mama had also battled this giant.  She too fought a valiant fight, only it wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t detected early enough in either case.

My friend, in describing her mother’s experience, called ovarian cancer, “the silent cancer.”

Really?

How many women, do you think, go in for their annual physicals right on schedule, put their feet in the stirrups, do what we do, get the call a few days later that all is clear, and think “Well, everything’s all right then”?

(It’s okay.  Stick around, fellas.  You need to know this too.  Whether it’s your Mama, your sister, your best friend, your girlfriend, your wife, your daughter–you need to know too.)

Note to self.  Pap smears test for cervical cancer.  Not ovarian.  Not uterine.  Cervical–that’s it.  It is my understanding that there’s not really a test to detect ovarian cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society, “The 2 tests used most often to screen for ovarian cancer are transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) and the CA-125 blood test,” but no medical professionals recommend routine use of these tests for screening.  They are not definitive enough apparently.

Really?

Do we have people working on this?  Please tell me yes.

As I thought about this today, I remembered a book I read years ago.  “Cancer Schmancer” by Fran Drescher.  I loved her in “The Nanny” and thought she was a comic genius–her timing and facial expressions and that accent.  Love her.  I read the book because of her, not because it was about her battle with uterine cancer.  But it struck such a chord in me that it is still in my library.  Without pulling it down to quote her, I can tell you the one thing that has stuck with me all these years–

Take care of you.

Be a good advocate.

You know your body.  Don’t take “no” for an answer.  Or “it will be okay.”  Or “you’re just…..”

You know when something’s off.  Push until someone hears you.

She so believes in empowering women to educate themselves and be good advocates for their health that she started the Cancer Schmancer Movement, whose mission is to “…..shift the nation’s focus from just searching for a cure to prevention and early detection of cancer in order to save lives.”  You can read her story here.  It took two years and eight doctors before she was finally diagnosed.  She is thankful to be a survivor and wants there to be more.

Shortly after our Princess was born almost ten years ago, I could tell something was wrong.  I wasn’t sure what, but I just knew.  I went to the doctor where we were stationed at the time.  I remember going in, worried, anxious, hoping he could tell me something–anything–that would let me know it was going to be okay.

Which he did. Tell me something, that is.  This doctor and his wife had six children.  (It was a small community–you knew things.)  I had just given birth to my second child a few months earlier.  He listened, looked at my chart, and turned to me and said, “Oh now, you’re just new Mama tired.  It will pass.  You’ll see.”

Patronize me, will you?

I pity his wife, I’ll just tell you that right now.

This was not new Mama tired, and my body kept telling me that.  I pushed through and we moved and shortly after we got settled, I scheduled another appointment.  Again, I told my story. A new doctor.  A young one.  I don’t know how many children he had, if any, but he didn’t say I was new mama tired.  (Smart man, I’d had enough by this time.)  After running different tests-he was more persistent, thank goodness–he discovered I had a thyroid issue.  He prescribed some medication, and I was on my way to feeling better.  That part was almost immediate–I had been heard and I wasn’t crazy.  There was something wrong.  It had just taken several months and me being “pushy” to find that out.

Something beautiful happened when my friend shared the information above last night.  I shared it on my Facebook page in memory of her sweet Mom, not knowing if anyone would even read it.  It was late, and you just never know who reads what.  Today some of my friends–none of whom know each other–commented, encouraging each other to take care of themselves…..to seek information and push until they get it.  Friends reached out with loving sympathy and with gratitude for facts and stories shared.

That right there.  That’s what we need more of in this world.  Sisters looking after sisters (because we all are, you know–color and class and nationality and religion and state of our kitchen sinks all aside–we are all sisters).  Sisters empowering each other.  Holding each other accountable to take care of ourselves.  To celebrate with when the numbers come back really good, and to hold hands or offer a shoulder or listen and make soup or milkshakes or cry with when the numbers are not.

Tonight I’m thankful for brave women who gave it their all in the face of giants like ovarian cancer.  I’m thankful for their daughters, who carry their stories and encourage others by educating and listening.  I give thanks for women like Fran Drescher who pave the way for us to have the courage to speak and not worry about being called “pushy” or “bothersome” or whatever.  Speak out.  Be loud.  Take care of you.  If you even think something is off or wrong, get thee to a medical professional.  Now.  Keep going until you find one you trust.  Who listens and hears you.  And stand tight and strong with your sisters.

Most of all, tonight I am thankful for all of my sisters.  Who are always there when they are needed most.

Y’all take care of yourselves.  You men too.  And take care of each other.

Love to all.

 

 

 

On Sacred Ground

Today I walked on sacred ground.

I do that more often than one might think, but I find sacred ground in some of the oddest places–once I stop and really consider where I am.

A writerfriend, whose first book I was introduced to by Karen Spears Zacharias, released her new book yesterday.  It’s been exciting watching her share the process on Facebook and on her blog.  (Social media does have its upsides, doesn’t it?)  And yesterday was the day.  I was out running errands with crew in tow yesterday afternoon, so we stopped at the big box bookstore, just in case.

Sure enough, they shook their heads and did their standard, “But we can order it for you” dance.

Umm, no thank you.

When it comes to books I want, I got skills.  I got this.

I had an appointment in Macon this afternoon that would put me within fifteen minutes of Mercer University Press, the company that published my friend’s new book.  On a whim (and hearing my Mama in my head–“What’s the worst that can happen?  They say no?  Well you’re no worse off then, are you?”) I called up to Macon, and a very sweet person told me that sure, she had four copies not spoken for and she’d be happy to set one aside for me.

And that’s how we get things done around here.  If you don’t ask, you just don’t know.  They might even say yes.

After my appointment, I followed the directions given to me over the phone and stored in my head.  I only had to turn around once.  Turns out I was right around the corner from my Great Great Aunt’s old house on Coleman Hill. I just love old historic neighborhoods, y’all.  I was in my element.  I walked up on the front porch of this old home with a humble sign informing me that I was indeed at “Mercer University Press.”

As I’d been told, I rang the bell.  It was an old-fashioned twist kind.  I was enchanted.  And also, I want one.  (As if the whole “old-fashioned” bit hadn’t already told you that.)  Another nice woman came to the door and let me in.

Oh y’all.

I caught a glimpse of stacks of books in the adjoining room.  I didn’t want to gape and stare but in the few moments I was there, it gave me the impression of a very old and dignified old gent, sitting in his leather chair with dark wood everywhere and beautiful carpets at his feet.  I don’t know if that’s what was actually there, but that was the impression I left with.  I’d been in the presence of greatness.  I mean these people choose other people’s words to immortalize in print.  I am amazed and enamored with it all, and I stood in. that. place.  That place that makes writers’ dreams come true.

It was a sacred moment in a sacred space.

As I handed over the exact amount I had scraped together when sitting in the gomobile in the parking lot (if you believe in “signs” surely that would have to be one, right–I didn’t know what they would charge), the person who had welcomed me in handed me the book that had been set aside for me on the chair by the door.  Oh y’all.  The feel of a new book.  The anticipation.  The excitement.  And to know about the excitement that the person who wrote it is going through–priceless.

I think I remembered to say thank you–I was that distracted–and I took my leave.  I walked back down the steps and turned.  What a neat little adventure I’d had, all because I took Mama’s advice and asked.  I wanted to mark the adventure somehow, so I did what most of us do in such a case.

Pulled out my phone and took a picture.  And then came home to write about it.

My thumb showing off my new book written by someone I've grown to love, posing in front of Mercer University Press in Macon.

My thumb, showing off my new book written by someone I’ve grown to love, posing in front of Mercer University Press in Macon.

And now you know why it’s a must read.  That title alone, right?  The really good things in life.  I cannot wait to sit down and curl up with it.

Tonight I’m thankful for Karen, whose book “Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ‘Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV” rocked my world and introduced me to ideas and challenged my beliefs and priorities six ways to Sunday.  She is a great writer, and I love her dearly.  I’m also thankful for the people she has introduced me to, one of whom is Renea Winchester, the reason for my adventure today.

I don’t know if I would have gone on such a trek if it hadn’t mattered to me that my friend had released her new book, an effort of love and much hard work. She has shared her journey and done a great job of making all who followed feel a part of it.  That is why, after I have read her stories and shared it with my Aunt, this new gem will go on this shelf in my library–

My library shelf with books written by my writerfriends--talented women who work hard to share their gifts with all of us--all of them now Mercer University Press authors.

My library shelf with books written by my writerfriends–talented women who work hard to share their gifts with all of us–all of them currently Mercer University Press authors. (I was going to retake, but my thumb is enjoying its moments of fame, so…..)

As I was toting my book back out to my gomobile, ready to head out on the next errand, I crossed paths with students–probably from the law school there at Mercer.  I stopped for a moment.  As dear as Wesleyan College is to me, Mercer also holds a place in my heart.  That is where I did my postgraduate studies.  And my own Wesleyanne is considering doing her postgraduate work there too.  I imagined her walking amongst this group of young people, and it warmed my heart.  If it is right for her, may it be so.

I took one more look back at the old home that houses Mercer University Press.  Sacred ground.  And maybe more sacred because one day, good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, maybe one day I will find my way back there.  Only maybe, just maybe, I will have my own stack of papers in hand.  And a dream in my heart.

If it is right, may it be so.

Here’s hoping you can find yourself walking on sacred ground and the place of your dreams too.

Love to all.

 

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If any of you want to have your own copy of this wonderful book, go here and order directly from the old house on Orange Street in Macon.  You don’t have to ring the doorbell or anything.  They make it really easy for you.  Y’all take care.

The Legacy of Leftovers

I cook like my Mama y’all.

Well almost.

She was an incredible cook.  She could whip up something out of nothing it seemed.  She knew what went with what and there were only two times I questioned her cooking sensibilities.

Chicken Chow Mein.   (Seriously, whoever thought that eating bamboo and those worm-like sprout things should be taken out behind the woodshed and given a good *ahem* talking to.)

Easter Egg Casserole.  (Y’all ever have this?  No?  That’s what I thought.  Mama used the leftover boiled/decorated eggs from Easter and put it with the Easter ham and cream of something soup and cheese and English peas and I’m pretty sure baked it with those fried onions on top.  The funny thing is that after ALL those many years of complaining about this thing that turned up EACH AND EVERY YEAR on or after Easter, the first year I found myself away from home living in Japan, I craved the blasted thing.  And so yes, I had to try to make it myself.  Sigh.  Isn’t it crazy what food can do as far as taking us home again?)

And–oh wait.  There were three times.

Each and every time she insisted on putting mushrooms in something.  Ugh.  Mushrooms.

Just say no, people.

And I’m not talking about the little squares that “occur” occasionally in the cream of something soups.  I’m talking she bought the cans of the really big ones.  Seems like they got bigger every year.  And when we all got out of the house, she started spending a little more and getting the fresh mushrooms and cooking them herself.

In chili.  Spaghetti.  On pizza.  In snap beans for goodness’ sake.  Why would anyone want to ruin a perfectly good cooking of those?

She and I resolved our issues in recent years though.  Every Monday was our crash hers and Daddy’s date at the pizza buffet day.  Mama and I would ask for a veggie with pizza spice.  We’d each eat several slices.  And my Mama let me pick off my mushrooms and give them to her.  Something that was never allowed growing up.  She wanted me to learn to eat what was put before me and be thankful.  And once I did that, I was allowed–no–encouraged to give her my mushrooms.  “Why do I want to waste good mushrooms on you?” she’d ask with a wrinkle of her nose.

All righty then.  I love you too, Mama.

But I digress.  So yes, I cook like her but not quite up to her caliber yet.

I cook like her in quantity.

She had a joke with my Fella–“Well,” she’d say, leaning closer, as if to share a confidence with him, “it might not be good but there sure is enough of it.”

Silly woman.  Of course it was good.  She’d given up making that chicken chow mein mess by then, and I was allowed to pick out my mushrooms.  It was ALWAYS good.

Quantity.  I have a family of five to cook for, and much of the time now, we’re down to four *sniff* with my oldest off at the Oldest and the Best–and I still cook like my whole extended family is coming over.  Most nights.  And most nights I have leftovers.  Lots of leftovers.

Can I just tell you how much I love leftovers?

A whole bunch.

And do you know that I’ve only in recent years discovered that there are folks who don’t “do” leftovers?

Y’all.  I’m for real.  I know, I was shocked too.  We were raised on sale with a coupon eating leftovers.  And I loved it.

(Except for those chicken chow mein leftover nights.  Okay, letting that go now.)

My Fella loves them too.  He is willing to eat “whatever’s oldest in the fridge and can still be eaten” on those nights when we’re cleaning out the Frigidaire .  I appreciate that so much.  I can’t imagine if he weren’t okay with them.

Leftovers do a couple of things for me.

First, they save me time and thought and preparation–it’s easy, we’re going to have this leftover with this leftover for supper for tomorrow night, done.  I do try not to serve something two nights in a row, but nobody really seems to mind or notice.  Except for my picky eater Cooter.  If it’s something he doesn’t like, then well, two nights in a row is borderline abuse in his book.

Second, I feel like I’m saving money.  I don’t mind paying a little more for the good beef if I know we’ll get two meals out of it.  It doesn’t always happen, but if I can have even just enough for the Fella to take for lunch the next day, I’m happy.  All about the bargains.

But there’s a downside to leftovers y’all, and please tell me I’m not the only one.

I get a case of LOSS every night when it’s time to put the food away.

Leftovers Storage Syndrome.

The struggle is real, y’all.

I have the hardest time deciding what to put my leftovers in.  I used to be really good at this when I lived with my folks.  I could nail what size dish down to the last drop of the leftovers.  It was rare that I’d misjudge and we’d have to wash a dish unnecessarily because something didn’t fit.  Very rare. It was kind of my thing.

Only now I don’t live with my folks.  And I stress each and every time I have to search for the right container.

It’s almost enough to make me stop cooking enough to have leftovers.

(Hush my mouth!  Did I just say that?)

Remember last night how I talked about my scatteredness?  It’s affecting my kitchen cabinets too, I’m ashamed to tell you.  I have dishes in this one and this one and that one, and something for real sho ’nuff is eating LIDS around here.  I will find the dish but no lid.  Time and again.  What is that about?  I think maybe the socks that keep leaving their mates behind are ganging up and kidnapping lids.  For what I have no idea.  But it’s the only explanation I’ve been able to come up with so far.

I have nice storage stuff too.  I just can’t get it together for storing.  So yes, I’m also embarrassed to tell you, that the other day when I had sloppy joes leftover, I grabbed what I could find because I was so tired of looking for the “right dish” and threw it in, snapped the lid and put it in the fridge. Done.

 

There was more in there, but yeah, it was an oversized choice.  I've lost my touch.

There was more in there, but yeah, it was an oversized choice. I’ve lost my touch.

And so every night when I go to have my yogurt, I have to double-check that it’s not my sloppy joes waiting to be eaten again.

Ah well, I’m grateful for clear lids.

Tonight I’m thankful for memories of my Mama in the kitchen.  She could work magic in there.  She showed us how much she loved us in that room.  So much laughter and teasing and  teamwork and storytelling went on in that kitchen, and it was all because of her.

I’m also thankful for the gift of leftovers. And folks who will gladly eat them.  That I even have dishes to put them in at all is also a gift, and I appreciate that.  I know how lucky I am, I do.  But I am also grateful for the ability to laugh at myself and shake my head and look at my chaos and shrug.  It’s just the season.  Fingers crossed “this too shall pass,” as my Mama used to say so often, and I will get organized, I won’t have LOSS anymore, and I will once again be the Queen of Sizing Up the Right Dish.

Until then.  Ah well, better to keep laughing, right?

Wishing you all just enough leftovers and love to all.

 

Shattered and Scattered

I woke up Saturday morning with thoughts about two words and the difference between them.  In my dream I had been writing about them.

Shattered and scattered.

But as the sleep cleared from my brain, so did whatever sleep Tara was writing about them.

I hate it when that happens.

So I’ve spent the past couple of days thinking about those two words and what they look like in our lives.  And what could I possibly have been writing about them?

Things shattered.

Things scattered.

There have been those big moments in my life when dreams, hope, faith were shattered.  The end of a life with someone–losing them through a relationship changing (they never really end, do they?) or by a life being over.  Shattered usually means the end of something that was so much a part of me and who I am that it takes ages to pick myself back up and learn to walk and feel and breathe again.  Shattered means there will always be a crack where the sadness and darkness can seep back in at odd times.  Shattered means an altered life.  Losing something or someone and having no control over it.

But when I think about scattered, it’s different.  It’s really more about things in my control.  My mind is scattered these days.  I try to convince myself that I have grief-induced ADD but in fact, it’s been almost 19 months.  How long can I keep telling myself that?

Not sure.  I’ll keep you posted.

So, scattered.  My thoughts.  My papers.  If someone comes asking me for one more piece of paper (math, spelling words, shopping list, application, social security card *ahem*) I might just lose my cool.  The mind is already gone.  Other things scattered–Legos, memories, charging cords, clean clothes, dirty clothes, books, recycling, dishes, shoes, my thoughts (oh, wait)…..

Yes well.

Scattered is an indicator of where I’m at in the season.  I tend to be more scattered in the school year than in the summer, simply because I add on that other role–teacher–to who I need to be in a day.  Some days during the school year I’m doing good to remember I have two students and what grade each is in.  Other days we’re on it.  Like I hope tomorrow will be.  Already have everything prepped and ready to go. That’s a win right there.  Or at least a good place to start.

Scattered is more about the mind, isn’t it?  What I have in me to make the organization and activities happen.  The funny thing is it seems that the more scattered my life becomes, the less I’m able to tolerate it in things around me.  Weird. I know.  Double standard.  I know.  Just keeping it real and honest here, y’all.

Shattered, I think, is more about the heart.  In each instance that “shattered” sits by a dot on the timeline of my life, it has been my heart.  Aching, continuing to beat against its own will, lost.  Shattered leaves me drained and hollow and broken.  Shattered is slower to come back from. Way slower.

Scattered is fuss and bother, and “I need to get my act together.”  Shattered is there is nothing foreseeable beyond this moment, because I am not sure how to take another breath in this moment right here.

I’m not sure what Dream Tara was writing about these two words the other night.  But it has been interesting to think about them and realize that even though they are very different, they are related.

Each seems to feed the other.  I feel more scattered after each one of those life and heart-shattering events.  Oh I can hold it together for a day or two to get everything on a checklist done, but then after…..I’m done for.  See me, here? Now?  Seriously, eighteen months later.  I’m as scattered as I’ve ever been, only with a fit or two of trying to be organized thrown in there every couple of months or so for good measure.  I wonder how many shattered’s one can take before the scattered is just a given.  Before it becomes the norm.

“Oh look at her, she’s always so lost, I guess this last one finally did her in.”

Oh my, I hope not.

I’ve never been the most organized.  I feel like I should let y’all know this.  Mama would be the first to say so.  I think she even wrote about it in her journal.  You know you’re good *ahem* when it makes the journal, right?  I’ve always had to work to fight clutter and disorganization.  Mama had the organization gene or was really good at faking it.  My sisters have it, and I think my brother might have it too.

What happened there?  Not. Fair.

But in better days, my mind wasn’t nearly as scattered.  I could sit and read for hours without having those “squirrel” moments.  Now my life is constantly “squirrel” this and “squirrel” that.  It is rare for me to be able to sit and focus and read.  Or finish a grocery shopping trip without crossing back and forth through the store three times.

I miss my brain.  If y’all find it, there’s a reward.  Somewhere around here.   If I can find it.

*sigh*

So tonight I ramble.  Blame it on the headache? Sure.  Blame it on being tired?  Yep.  Why not?  But mostly I know it’s that tonight is one of those where the scatteredness takes over because today was one of those days that the shatteredness seeped back in–memories of those I love who are on the other side of the veil.  Whom I would love nothing better than to have a few minutes’ visit with–even if just on the phone.

Tonight I guess I’ll try to be thankful for being shattered.  In my Daddy’s yearbook from his senior year, each senior had a quote next to his or her picture.  My Daddy’s quote was from Alfred Lord Tennyson: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Yes.  I loved.  And I still do.  And I lost them.  All in different ways.  And because of that, I lost a bit of my well-being, my equilibrium, and I became scattered.

But if being shattered and scattered is because of the joy and love I shared with them, then yes, it is better.  Far better, and I will wear my heartache and scattered mind like badges of honor.  I loved and was loved.

And this is where I landed.

Awake.  In a dream that I never wanted to come true.

And still, I breathe. And live and love and laugh.

Love and deep breaths of peace to all.