“Be Faithful to the Truth”

Tonight, thanks to my Fella and the littles and to the universe lining up such that no one was sick or upset or in desperate need, I was able to go to a meeting about life.  And how all life is valuable.  And precious.

Aub and I met some fascinating people, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this journey takes us.  Right now I’m still soaking it all in, so forgive me if I’m not forthcoming about it all.  Perhaps another night.

Tonight I just want to share three thoughts with you.  A man who works in a residential community shared these two quotes from Dorothy Day, a journalist, social activist, and Catholic convert.


At one point in the evening, a gentleman who spent half of his 29 years in prison on death row shared how he begins his day each morning.  He wakes up and gives thanks for a forgiving God.  And then he strives to live and treat others so that each morning he can dare to ask God to treat him the way he treated others the day before.

Oh, y’all.

I can’t even.

My heart is full.  And my mind is spent.

So I’ll just leave y’all with that for tonight.

Love to all.

If You Need a Timeturner…..

Last week Cooter hit another milestone.  He has been reading this same book off and on for a couple of months.  A little bit at the time, minus the several days in there when he thought he had lost the book.  (I believe it was found in his abandoned “Indiana Jones” backpack.)

Cooter finished reading “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Cooter's very own copy from our favorite local used bookstore.

Cooter’s very own copy from our favorite local used bookstore.

Y’all.  The excitement in our house when he finished–it was palpable.

His oldest sister grew up with the books and movies.  She was able to watch the movies as they came out because she grew up with the characters.  Her siblings do not have that luxury, because all the movies were made long before they had even heard of Harry Potter.

To slow down the requests of the littles to watch the movies, I’ve invoked the rule as Headmaster of Zoo Crew Academy that one must read the book in full before watching the movie.  (Being Headmaster is cool like that.)

So you can see why he was so excited.  He was ready to watch that movie.

I am excited because he is reading so well.  His handwriting might still look like chicken scratch that only he and I can interpret, but by golly, my boy can read.

I’ll take it.

He had to wait a day for his big sister to come home from college.  They had agreed to watch it together.  I’m glad it was only a day.  As it was the littles were just about camped out at the end of the road, waiting for her arrival.  When she got here, they were thrilled.

It was everything they had imagined and then some.  They loved it.  And it was so rewarding for them to know they’d earned it by reading the books first.  I love hearing their conversations comparing the book and movie.  It was hilarious when our Princess got frustrated with me because I forgot something that had happened.  It’s been a few years since I’ve read the book and seen the movie.

At the first of this week, I was discussing scheduling of a couple of potential summer activities.  Our Princess was standing there, and she heard me trying to figure out if two things would be at the same time.

“Oh that’s no problem, Mama. I can just get a timeturner and use it.”

Bless her.  She’s still waiting on her letter from Hogwart’s too.  She will, after all, be eleven this year.

A timeturner is a device used in the third book by one of the main characters who has more than one class scheduled at the same time.  With this necklace she is able to go back in time and take the classes at the same time.  So to speak.

When my girl suggested that she might need one (and was totally okay with that, I might add), it hit me like a cold, wet rag in the face.

Wait.

I turned to her.  “Baby girl, if we need a timeturner to get it all done, we have too much on our schedule.”

I think I was telling this to myself too.

As the excitement of wrapping up the school year grows and my oldest moves back home for the summer, I see all of these wonderful options and projects and things that would be great popping up–on newsfeeds, in emails, on flyers.  And while I don’t intend to hole up all summer in my Roost with a stack of books close by (oh my, give me just a minute–I went to another place for a moment *sigh*), I don’t think we need to sign up for all the things this summer.  So many good things out there, but so many good things can turn into a stress-filled summer of staying in the road and on the go.  While I’m proud our Princess is a problem solver, I am not happy that she thinks running hither and yon is the norm.

Oh me.  I think we all need a stay-cation.

As we all come upon the good things out there, let us remember it’s only good if we still have some empty space in our day to dailies. To breathe.  To visit.  To simply be.  There might just be such as thing as too much good.

And may we, none of us, ever need a timeturner to do the things that fill our hearts and feed our souls.

Love to all.

Cooter's motto most days, I'm pretty sure.  :)

Cooter’s motto most days, I’m pretty sure, that little mischief maker. 🙂

It Was a “Pink Toilet on the Side of the Road” Kind of Day

The littles and I were riding down the road one day last week, and I saw this.

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There is no filter.  That is indeed a pink toilet sitting on the side of the road.

A rose commode.

A throne.  The can.

Whatever you want to call it, it’s still there.  And still pink.

I was thinking about it tonight.  When I first saw it, it made me laugh.  And the song, “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong” immediately started playing through my head.

Tonight it occurred to me that this is the perfect picture to describe my day.

Joyful–seeing this on the side of the road filled me with laughter and delight.  It’s whimsical.  Sticking a toilet there like that.  And a pink toilet makes me happy.  This is not the first one I have ever seen.  My Great Aunt had one in the master bedroom of her fine home.  It was color coordinated with the tile walls.  Ahem.  I had joy in my busy day with my sisterfriend, as we had fun sharing the joy and cookiebombing our sisters at our alma mater who are getting ready for finals and graduation and the next step on their journeys.  We laughed and laughed.  (Laughter’s my favorite pastime.)

Perplexed–what on earth is going on here?  This goes for the toilet on the side of the road and the state of affairs all around me.  As Niecy Nash said when she’d walk into a home on the show, Clean House, “Whose foolishness is this?”

Sad–What happened that this individual or family found it necessary to place this there?  It doesn’t make sense, and that makes me sad.  So many things I heard today just don’t make sense to me.  Things sure do seem broken right now–and all out of place.  Like that pink toilet.

Curious–There’s a story there.  (I came across more than one of those today)  And I want to know it.

Ah well, maybe that will have to be next on my agenda.  Writing a story about the pink toilet and why it sat on the side of the road for days.  Not joking, that first day, traffic moved a little slower as we were all rubbernecking for a better look.  I was in such a shock that I didn’t immediately think to stop and snap the pictures–it was our Princess who woke me from my mind’s meanderings and hollered, “Mama, take a picture!”

She has always been partial to pink, that one.

Tonight I’m thankful for the unexpected things that brighten my days–like a pink toilet sitting on the side of the road and all of the memories it brings back.  Or a visit and time spent with a dear friend.  The privilege of hearing about another’s passion and dreams.  Or a cool breeze that brings one more evening of reprieve from the gnats.  Or a little boy who still wants to hold my hand.

Despite all of the hard things and things that bamboozle me, and all of the brokenness folks are sitting on the side of the road, I am glad for the whimsy and surprises that make my heart smile.

Hoping you find a pink toilet to make you smile.

Love to all.

The One About a Phone Call, Cardboard, and Loving While Letting Go

The number wasn’t one I recognized.  It was a local number so there were any number of folks it could have been.

When I answered and heard that voice, oh my heart.  Relief flooded in.  A smile covered my face.  I do love that voice.

And the one it belongs to.

Mac.

My friend.  I haven’t heard from him in several months.  The last I knew he was in a transitional home, sober for a few months, doing what it took to stay there and work the program.  To keep a roof over his head.  And then the communication stopped.

I feared then what I now know happened.

Mac got fed up.  He was tired of following the rules.  This is not the first time he’s left this home or another like it.  But it might be the last.  I don’t know where else there is for him to go if he wants to get off the streets again and fight the disease of addiction that is wearing him down.

But for today, hearing his voice was wonderful.  He was calling to check in.  To see how we were doing.  We talked about piano lessons and math books–he guessed correctly which of the littles wasn’t happy with their math today.  The rain has run him off from his usual “camp.”  We talked about how nice the weather was today and how his best friend JJ is doing.

But there was more.

“I just wanted you to know that wasn’t me they pulled out of the river yesterday.”

ummmmm, what?

“Yeah, they pulled some guy out of the river, and I didn’t want you worrying.”

I don’t keep up with the news as much as I should, so I hadn’t heard about this.  Mac went on to say that yeah, he was some white guy and none of them knew who he was.

Bless him.  Bless all of them.

Mac confirmed what I thought, that he had left the home back in August, and that he was sticking close to one particular area of his hometown.  He isn’t able to get around as easily as he did before, and even back then he was very limited.

Now he has a walker.  It’s one that someone donated.  He can take breaks, walking, and sit on this walker he has, and that makes getting around a little better.  He still isn’t able to make the long trek to the church where lunch is served on weekdays very easily.  Most days not at all.  So he sticks close to the convenience store.

“Yeah, a few days ago, the cops come along, and I was panhandling there.  I told ’em just go ahead and arrest me.  But they didn’t.”  He told me this very matter of factly.

“Did you want to be arrested?”  He’s wanted it before.  To get out of the weather and fight his addiction.

“No, not really. But I figured they were there, they saw me doing it. Might as well.”

Ah.

“But they didn’t.  They went and pulled some cardboard out of the dumpster and made a bed for me to lay on behind the store.  I’d had a little bit to drink, so they walked me around there and told me to go rest.”

I listened, waiting.  He laughed.
I finally asked my question–“Well was that a good thing?  I mean, you were glad?”

“Heck, yeah!” he said, laughing again.  “I mean they went digging in the dumpster for that cardboard for me.  They didn’t have to do that.”

No.  No, they didn’t.  Bless them too.

Tonight I am thankful for a phone call that reconnected me with my friend, my brother.  I am learning how to do this thing called life just as he is–as we go along.  One day, one moment at the time.  And I’m learning it’s not about helping him get where I want him to be, but more about loving him right where he is and not asking him to be any different.  It’s hard, but I know now it’s what I’m supposed to do.

Just love him.

I think it’s okay for me to want something better for him, but it’s not okay for me to define what that is for him.

I can’t help but worry though.  Convenience stores are high on temptations and low on nutrition.  There’s him falling down and breaking something.  Falling down and no one knowing.  All of this rain.  Mosquitoes.  Unkind people.  Hunger.  Addiction.

But for tonight I turn to the warmth in my heart of knowing where he is, and that for this moment, he is okay.  He is my brother, and I love him.

And for a Monday, as hard as it is to leave it there, that will have to be enough.

Love to all.

When a Stick is So Much More Than a Stick

A few months back I wrote about Cooter wanting real estate.  “Real estate’s where it’s at, Mama.”

One of my dear friends, Renea Winchester, decided to send him just that.  She boxed up some special dirt and other treasures and sent them down the road to us.

Bless her.

He was so excited to have a package WITH HIS NAME ON IT and then to open it and find “land”–he was beside himself.

I’ve always said, if you want to win me over, love on my children.  If I didn’t already love Renea, that surely would have sealed the deal.  As it was, I teared up and gave thanks for such a special friend that modern technology and social media has allowed me to have.  We have only met face to face once, but I adore that sweet woman.

Cooter, happy to have his land, left me to go through the rest of the box.  And in it, I found a stick.  A stick with a really long root and a wet paper wrapped around it.  When I unwrapped the stick, there was even a little worm that had hitchhiked along.

I. Love. It.

As recommended I prepared to plant him (yeah, anthropomorphism strikes again–it’s a boy).  I found an old pot that had belonged to Mama.  I added some soil, gingerly placed my stick in the “ground” and then finished covering with more soil.  I watered, and I watched.  My friend wrote that she had been praying over that stick.  So I knew he was special.  Just standing there over him, having given him a new home, I had a sense that this stick was precious.

But I had no idea how much.

I started calling it my Hope Plant.  Every morning Cooter and I went out to my roost on the back porch and checked, hoping to see some sign of growth on the little guy.  I thought I saw tiny green buds coming up, but then it could have been my imagination.  Until one morning when this welcomed us.

IMG_7527

IMG_7528Have you ever seen such a lovely shade of green?

My friend assured me that my hope plant loves the sun.  So I made sure that either he was sitting in the sun in my roost or out on the deck bannister, enjoying all the sunshine.  Each day we became more excited about his growth.  I shared these pictures on Facebook and Instagram, and folks were guessing what kind of plant it was.  Renea commented and said it would soon make its identity apparent.

And still he grew.  He is the happiest of fellows to be around really.  That green.  From a stick.  A miracle.

Then last night, my friend Renea surprised me by writing the story of the Stick–“Sprouting Mr. Coleman’s Stick.”

Oh y’all.  It’s the story of my Stick and his people.  So to speak.

I went out and sat with my stick, which isn’t a stick so much anymore and I wept over the beauty of friendship and loving old people and old things and coffee can planters and older gentlemen who carry their writings everywhere they go.  And I gave thanks for all of those things and for a friend who paid attention and knew that a stick would be a most treasured gift.

To know and be known.

My heart is full.

Here is my stick, my precious gift from Renea, a hand-me-down from Mr. Coleman, resting and relaxing and doing all the hard work of growing out in the beautiful, much-loved sun today.

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Both the “stick” in the foreground and all in the background speak to community and friendships and tradition and love. Both were gifts to me, and both bring me immeasurable joy.

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Glowing in the sunlight in my Mama’s old pot sitting on a new bannister. My heart is full.

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Perfectly beautiful green leaves where once there was only a stick…..such a miracle and such handiwork by our Creator.

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The place where the first bud we saw grew. Amazing!

I love this Hope Plant so very much.  Because of who gave him, because of his story, and because I love baby plants and green was my Mama's favorite color.  She loved all the little things too.

I love this Hope Plant so very much. Because of who gave him, because of his story, and because I love baby plants and green was my Mama’s favorite color. She loved all the little things too.

Tonight I’m thankful for my friend Karen Spears Zacharias who “introduced” Renea and me one day on Facebook.  I’m thankful for Renea and her stories and her heart that is bigger than the whole outdoors–a place she loves to spend her time the most.  Please go read her story about the stick and where he came from here.  She is my kindred spirit, loving the old ways and the old things.  You can find more of her wonderful writing and stories of how it used to be here or ask for one of her books at your local independent bookstore.

Because I love Renea and I think everyone should read her books and in honor of Earth Day, I will be giving away a copy of her latest book, Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches here on the blog.  All you have to do is comment here with your favorite plant, and if you feel like it, share why it makes you smile.   Also be sure to like her Facebook page here.  She shares all kinds of stories and wisdom and pictures of baby goats.  I KNOW, RIGHT?  BABY GOATS, ’nuff said.  I will most likely have Cooter or our Princess randomly choose a winner Wednesday morning, since we’ll have a little time then.  So we’ll close the entries at 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, April 28.

May you all find someone to share the gift of friendship with today and tomorrow and all the days after that.

Love you Renea, and love to all.

Me and my sisterfriend Renea at her book launch last fall. She's the adorable one with the heart of gold and the green thumb.

Me and my sisterfriend Renea at her book launch last fall. She’s the adorable one with the heart of gold and the green thumb.

the ice

the rain poured down
swelling and flowing beyond the paths already etched in the ground
by the storms and rain of days recently passed

rushing
hurriedly as though in fear of being caught
by what was coming

the ice

it pelted down in the darkest moments of the storm
the pounding sounds said this was not one to be taken lightly
it insisted on getting the attention of all around
as first just a few pebbles hit the windows and bounced to the ground

and then it was as though Heaven itself
was throwing out the last of the ice after a family gathering

a few minutes of the downpour
and it was over
the steam rose from the puddles now filled with the coldest of water
bare feet dared to venture out and immediately retreated
as the ice reminded them of the cold of winter days not long enough gone

the ice came and left its mark
tearing down leaves and dinging fruit and cars and turning the world white again
for a moment
and then left stealthily, one drop at a time
until the only proof that it had come was the evidence of what it did
while it was here

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backstage

This weekend my sisterfriend has a story to share, as do so many of the beautiful, strong women I know.  For all of you who are taking the brave step of sharing your stories out loud for others to hear, have courage.  You are stronger than you know.  You lived it, now go and share it.  You may never know the lives you will change, but just know–you will. Go shine like the light you are.   Love to all.  

as you stand in the wings
watching the one sharing before you
all of your focus on the effort to breathe,
remember
why you are there

you have a story to tell
one from your heart
one that you wrote on the tear-stained paper
word by word
thought by thought
painting the picture
that was etched in your mind

there in the darkness
smile
you are about to reveal your soul
share your story
toss a cord out into the audience
know that it will be caught
as your words stir the hearts
of those listening
and you will draw them closer to you
with each pause, each spoken word
and in the end
you will step back into the wings
with a fuller heart
and a room full of friends
whose hearts will forever be changed
because of you

But First, A Selfie

After playing with her brother and Daddy one evening, our Princess came in and sat on the couch with a big smile on her face.  “Everyone should have a fun, silly, and clumsy person in their lives.  And a Mama too.”

Oh me.  Ouch.

Mayhaps I should be more in touch with my silly and fun side.  Clumsy–I’m okay with letting someone else fill that spot.

Last weekend I saw a phenomenon take place.  And I laughed harder than I have in a long time.  I even got a little silly.  Being with folks who knew you when you were young will do that for a person.  As we visited and sang and yelled our class cheers, I noticed one thing that put smiles on people’s faces faster than anything.

Selfies.

My oldest who is a sophomore at Wesleyan, my alma mater, is double majoring in Psychology and Religious Studies, but I am pretty sure she is getting her doctorate in Selfies.  She takes a lot of them.  She’s even taken one with the President…..of Wesleyan, which was a dream of hers.  She has the whole holding the phone just so and the photo ready smile/expression thing down pat.  Mine wind up fuzzy or with someone’s head cut off or eyes closed.  I long to reach her level of perfection.

The first selfie of the weekend surfaced on Facebook shortly after our Reunion Class picture was taken.  My girl was taking pictures of us, and then she decided to jazz it up a little.  She took a selfie with us in the background.

My sophomore with my graduating class at our 25 Year Reunion.  #selfiewithAub

My sophomore with my graduating class at our 25 Year Reunion. #selfiewithAub

Too much fun.

As the day progressed, she took selfies with different members of my class.  She even gave “lessons” on the perfect pose and the way to smile.  It was hilarious to watch all the action.

Aub and one of my favorite Purple Knight sisters taking a selfie with the President of the college in the background.  I love the sisterhood that spans the generations at our alma mater.

Aub and one of my favorite Purple Knight sisters taking a selfie with the President of the college in the background. I love the sisterhood that spans the generations at our alma mater.

And I noticed something.

Whether it was my Aub or one of my Purple Knight sisters taking the selfie with others on the front porch of Porter, they all had one thing in common.

The biggest smiles ever.

Aub and our sweet "little" Green Knight sister taking a selfie with a few from our Purple Knight class.  Double selfie! #selfiewithAub

Aub and our sweet “little” Green Knight sister taking a selfie with a few from our Purple Knight class and a Pirate or two thrown in for good measure. Double selfie! #selfiewithAub

Fun.  Silly.

That right there.

When someone came up and asked to take a “selfie” with another person, there were no frowns or waves of the hands as if to say, “No, I don’t want my picture taken.”  There was only laughter and then looking at the camera with a great big smile.  Or a funny face.

But no matter the pose, there was joy.  Laughter.  Fun.  You could see it in their eyes.

I like it.

So be forewarned.  I frankly think the world can use more joy and laughter and silliness.  I think we need more smiles and togetherness.  So know that if we are together, I’m very likely to pull out my phone and say, “Hey, let’s take a selfie!” because I love the joy I see in all the ones taken last weekend.  AND because the next time our Princess walks in here talking about silliness and fun, I want her to say, “Everyone should have someone silly and fun in their lives, just like my Mama.”

May you all find someone to laugh and be silly with today.  Maybe even take a selfie–

Spread the joy.

Love to all.

Truth and Stories and the Dear Friends Who Tell Them

Last weekend at my college reunion I had the privilege of sitting next to not one, but two of the women who not only knew me when but who also lived with me, bless ’em.  As we sat and remembered and laughed and longed for more time to talk, a couple of moments stood out that reminded me why they are my friends.

Because they are–no matter how much time or distance is between us–these women will always be my treasured sisterfriends.

Friday evening my Deer friend came into the concert after the lights had been lowered.  I hadn’t seen her in over 20 years I guess, but in that moment it was like no time had passed.  I went over to her and led her to where I was sitting, giving her no choice but to follow, bless her heart.

In a break in the performances, I leaned over and whispered, asking her a question about how something had come about, and she nodded and started to say something.  Then she shook her head, shrugged, and said, “No.  I mean, I could make something up to tell you, but no, I really don’t know.”

I am still laughing over that one.  I don’t think she has it in her to tell anything but the truth.  I love that about her.

The next morning she and I were standing outside with our Rosie friend waiting for the processional into the beautiful and touching Candlelight service which would induct the seniors at our alma mater into the Alumnae Association.  We were catching up and all when she said, “Oooh!  I think a bug just flew in my eye.”

Y’all.  Spring in Georgia sure was lovely.  All fifteen minutes of it before the gnats came back–bringing reinforcements.

Sure enough, a gnat had flown into her eye.  She blinked and rubbed for a minute or two.  “Just my luck,” she laughed.

Our Rosie friend nodded and said authoritatively, “Yes.  Actually, that’s right.  A bug flying into your eye IS lucky.  Kind of like a bird when a bird poops on you.  Only not as messy.”

Chuckling, our Deer friend agreed that she’d rather have the bug than the poop.  At the luncheon after the meeting this same sweet girl (she hasn’t aged a bit in 25 years, I’d hate her if I didn’t love her so much) had an extra sweet tea in front of her place setting.

“See?” said our Rosie friend knowingly.  “I told you.  It’s your lucky day.  You are ON.”

I just love her.  She has all the grace and beauty of her mother, and all of the wit and laughter that I love and miss so much.

Tonight I give thanks for all of my beautiful and sassy and smart and funny sisterfriends.  Most of all I am thankful for a friend who tells the truth and whose sweet spirit makes me smile, and I give thanks for a friend who can make up something that helps make all right in the world for that moment.

Kind of contradictory, right?  Gratitude for the truth and for a story. All in the same breath.

And yet.  It all makes sense.  Surround yourself with folks who love you–folks who will tell you the truth when you need to hear it and will tell a story that will bring you comfort when you don’t.

Find friends like that and they will be yours for life.

Wishing you all will be so fortunate–

Love to all.

A Little Writing Assignment

Yesterday after our Princess finished her math and spelling exercises, I asked her to work on her creative writing.  Rather than giving her a prompt as I usually do, I told her she could write about anything she would like.

A few minutes later, I heard piano music.  The littles have been taking lessons since January.  Our Princess has really taken to it.  Cooter will practice when I remind him, but she will sit down and play a tune several, SEVERAL times a day.  And the tune is usually Alouette or Yankee Doodle.  She knows them by heart.

So when I heard the music flowing, I knew it was her playing.  I left what I was working on, and went into the room where she was playing.

“Ummm, hello ma’am, what are you doing?  I believe you are supposed to be writing something?”

She looked up from her music and seemed shocked.  “But Mama, I AM writing.  See?”

And there on her plain robin’s egg blue paper, she had drawn lines and was writing notes on the lines.

Musical notes.

Composing.  My baby girl was composing.  Writing a song.

After I leaned over and picked my jaw up off the floor, I nodded.

She grinned.  “I’m writing though, right, Mama?”

I nodded again.  Satisfied, she turned back to the piano and continued to plunk out a tune and make a note of it on her paper.

Bless it.

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Tonight I’m thankful for the joy of homeschooling.  There are days (like today) when Cooter seems to misplace his math every five minutes, and we are still working on it at nightfall.  But then there are days like yesterday when I see the passion for a subject or activity, and I can help them grow wings and fly.  Or, you know, compose.  I’m also thankful for the way music seems to soothe our Princess’ soul.  When she was frustrated with an assignment earlier today, she asked if she could get up and practice one of her songs for a few minutes.  After she played through it a couple of times, she came back to her work with a clearer mind and a can do attitude.

I love that.

May we all find something that we love so fiercely that it soothes our soul and gives us peace.

Love to all.