“Grandmothers Are Very Good Cooks”

Last Sunday we spent the day at Lake LBJ in Texas.  My Fella’s aunt and uncle have a house there, and his parents, siblings, and their families all joined us there for a day of hanging out, visiting, and having fun.

The day was warm but not too hot.  The water was just right, and wasn’t much over two feet for a good ways out.  A beautiful day of merry memory-making.  Laughter, story-telling, looking through old photographs, good food, and time together.  Priceless.

At one point, Cooter came up and asked me if we would be eating supper there.

“Yes, buddy, we are.”

“Oh YAY!” he all but shouted, complete with fist pump.  I laughed in surprise.

“Why are you so excited?” I had to ask.

“Because I can’t wait to see what we are having.” He looked very serious. “Grandmothers are very good cooks.”

Bless him.  Yes, baby boy, they are.  And yours was one of the best.

I’m so glad he knows and remembers.

I love that he saw his great Aunt and immediately saw a Grandmother.  He was drawn to her and she doted on him too.  A little while after he finished his supper, he came up and asked me if he could please have an ice cream sandwich.  Behind him was his Great Aunt K, standing there with her hands and face begging with a smile to PLEASE let him have one.

And of course he could.  Ice cream sandwiches and grandmothers–those are two of life’s great joys.

This Sunday is a day of remembering and honoring.  Many folks will be feeling the pain of loss on this day.  It will be my fourth one without my Daddy here with us, and just writing that blows my mind.

Instead of being sad though, I’m going to give thanks for the ones who step in when there’s a space.  Who listen and show compassion and offer a smile, a hug, or an ice cream sandwich or strawberry frozen yogurt when there’s someone to love right there in front of them.

Folks like Great Aunt K, my Aunt, my knitting diva friend and her dapper Fella, my sisterfriend’s Grandma and so many others.  They don’t try to fill the shoes of those who are no longer here, but they sure do fill the hearts of those who are.

And for that I give thanks.

For his wisdom and how my little guy sees the world, I am very thankful.  I give thanks for those who love the ones who are theirs and also the ones who aren’t.  Because, in the end, don’t we really all belong to each other?

And in the words of my Mama, “Happy Everyday!”

Love to all.

But It’s Our Mess

We flew out to Texas on a plane.

ON A PLANE.  This was a huge big ol’ deal, since it had been ten years for some of us, never for one of us, and one has severe nut allergies.

We did it.  By grace and about a thousand wipes, we got there with no incident or problem, and we were thankful for it.

When we landed in Austin, we headed to baggage claim and then over to the rental car area.  The Fella had reserved a van, but we weren’t sure if it would have vinyl/leather seats or not.  We approached the agent, and I explained my need to be able to wipe down the seats before we could leave to ensure my child’s safety.  “So I really need for the vehicle to have vinyl or leather seats and NOT fabric ones.”

(I learned a long time ago from watching my Mama that it never hurts to ask.  And to be very specific about your needs.  The worst they can say is no.  It was rare that someone told her no, by the way.)

He heard me.  Which is huge for me.  He nodded.  “Yes, of course, we don’t want you to have any problems.”  He started working on getting us one that would fit the need.

When it was all said and done, the Fella found us over with the luggage and said with a smile, “They’re upgrading us. No extra charge. A Tahoe with leather seats.”

Wow.  Okay.  That really meant nothing to me except that I was thrilled to be able to wipe it clean before we got in.  Aub and my Fella seemed really, really happy though.  (Aub loved it so much she is thinking about naming her firstborn after it.  Ahem.  Please no.)

It was a nice vehicle.  Rode smoothly.  Had a radio and AC.  And IT RAN, so all was good in my book.  We enjoyed having it during our trip for all the to and fros we had to make.

We returned it on Monday and flew back home.  When we arrived at the Atlanta airport, we waited on the sidewalk for the Fella to go to the long-term parking area and get our vehicle.  As he pulled up to the curb and opened the side door, Cooter breathed in and let out a huge sigh of relief.

“Yes!  Our very own messy car!”

Oh buddy.  I get it.

When we got home, things were still in their spots.  No fairies or house elves or displaced princesses had shown up to tidy things up while we were gone.  It was cluttered, a bit messy, and exactly as we had left it in our scurry and hurry to get to the airport on time.

And it was ours.

There’s a huge comfort in that for me.  For all of us, I think.  To be home.

My writerfriend Cynthia at Flotsam of the Mind shared a photo essay over on her photography website called “Who We Are.”  She is a talented photographer, and the thing that I love is that she makes the clutter in her house look like art.

After returning home from our trip, I realize that our clutter and mess is some form of art.  It expresses who we are, what we love, how we live…..it is a canvas of our family.

I’m not saying I wish things weren’t a little neater around here.  Show up at my door and more than likely I will be apologizing for the mess or pulling a door to so you don’t have to get the full on “opening night” art show.  But returning home to it, seeing it with “new” eyes, I realize that the things that our mess says I’m pretty okay with.

We are busy playing, learning, reading.  We cook and we eat.  AT LEAST three meals a day.  Our puppy is happy because she loves her toys.  We love books. And more books.  The phone is off the charger because we just spent an hour talking to someone we love.  The keys are on the chair instead of hanging up because someone just ran out to the store to get something we need and can so thankfully afford.  The clean clothes are there, an amalgamation of the people who live here and wore them and will again.  The mismatched socks in the pile where I was doing a final sort (and then they are out of here)–nope, sorry, they’re not art.  They are still the bane of my existence.  (But I totally had an idea of mounting them on a canvas…..yes, that could be kind of fun.)

My point is, what surrounds us I am thankful for.  Ten years from now when Cooter leaves the house (or doesn’t as he threatens says quite often) for college, I will miss this clutter.  I will miss the scattered cars, Legos, books, pencils, stickers, sequins, clothes, socks, purses and shoes for days…..

So yeah, Cooter had it right.  It might be a mess, but it’s our mess.  And I am thankful for it but even more thankful for those I love who are here to create it.

What a beautiful mess.

Love to all.

I’m not as talented a photographer as Cynthia, and I’m not completely comfortable with our art show just yet, but here are a couple of shots I took after I read “Who We Are.”  These are both from our Back Porch Roost where work, play, and school all happen.  Sometimes all at the same time.  

IMG_8163 IMG_8164

They Are Watching Us

I’ve been cranky this evening.  With my poor family.  And I only threw Miss Sophie’s “baby” for her to retrieve about ten times.  Just sad.

This happens when night comes and I still don’t know what I’m writing about.

And tonight that’s exactly where I’m at.

I don’t know what to write.

It’s not writer’s block, although thank you Facebook ad for the link to find 101 topics to blog about.  Actually, I have to admit that was a little scary.  It’s like you’re listening to my conversations around here or something.

No writer’s block.

No.  What I have is a loss of words.

Two very different things.

My heart is aching.  My mind is almost numb to the news reports and stories shared about the most recent act of violence reported on nationally.  (Because we can all be sure, sadly the shootings in Charleston are not the almost the most recent acts of violence in our world.)

So much pain.  Brokenness.  Fear.  Anger.  Divisiveness.  Distrust.  Hurt.

I sit here contemplating my plans to write about the heat here in Georgia or about what Cooter said the other day that had us all cracking up and saying, Yes. That.

It just all feels wrong tonight.  Each and every day something happens that proves we are not as far from where we once were in this country and world as we would like to be.  Not very far at all.

But for some reason, this incident is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.  I cannot bear to hear one more story of hatred and violence and separation of communities.  I just can’t.  Like so many others have said, “It’s just too much.”

Many years ago I was the director of a not-for-profit childcare center for low-income, working (or in school) families.  Only three of the thirteen staff members were white.  Most of the time our children were all African-American.  One morning four-year old Whitney was in the office with me for a few minutes.  She was a beautiful girl and very sweet.  She looked up through the plate-glass window to the front door.

“Oh here comes Miss Dee!” she said happily, seeing the sweet elderly Caucasian Assistant Director come in.  “Here she comes.”  She clapped her hands.  She looked again at Miss Dee and then looked back at me.  “Huh.  Miss Dee is a white lady.”  She stared for a second.  “We have a lot of white people who work here, don’t we?”

Y’all.  It was the first time that sweet child ever saw color.  EVER.  I could see it in her face and hear it in her voice.  The very first time.

Our children are not born with the vision to “see” color.  One day they realize the differences, and what they do with that knowledge has a lot to do with us.  And what we teach them from that moment on.

I am uncomfortable.  As a middle-class white woman, I do not feel like I can speak to the pain and brokenness in the racial divide.

And yet, as a human being born and taught to love others–ALL others, I must speak out.

My Mama and Daddy taught me right from wrong.  We were not allowed to say many words–and “hate” was one of them.  We  were never, ever allowed to leave someone out.  That could get us in more trouble than a little bit.  We were taught that all life is precious.  All life.  No matter the shape, size, color, beliefs, dialect, country of origin, sense of humor, nothing–ALL MATTERED.

And I expect if they were here, they’d be just as torn up over all the goings on in our world today as I am.

Only they’d have wisdom to share to help me process it and figure out what I can do to change things.  I have nothing right now.

Except my words.  And they gave those to me, so I guess this is a start.

I know this has been happening for a long, long time.  This division and pain and fear and pointing fingers and killing of innocent people perceived to be “less than.”  I guess it’s just taken me this long to get fed up enough to say something.

And for that, I am sorry.  I should not have been silent in the face of injustice and hatred.  EVER.

Tonight I’m asking all of you to think of four-year old Whitney.  Think of the little ones around me and you and all of us who are looking to us for love and guidance and examples of how to love.  Knowing that, let’s go out and love others and give the children one heck of an example to follow.  Let’s love the mess out of folks–all folks, those who live next door and those whom we see at the grocery store, and those we come across at the ball park or the restaurant or on our walks into the office building. Those who think or look like us and those who don’t.  Seeing that we love all, that we treat all people as if they matter (BECAUSE. THEY. DO.), the children will begin to do the same.

It’s not a perfect system.  It’s as broken as we all are really.  But if we start showing the little ones how to love and loving their little spirits for the sheer joy of loving*, then one day we might have a violence free day.  One day people of all different backgrounds and beliefs might be able to sit and break bread together with no fear of misunderstandings or acts of hatred.  One day, we might just get this living in community thing right.

But it has to start with each and every one of us.  And it has to start now y’all.  Tonight.

Go surprise someone and tell them you love ’em.  And mean it.

Let’s fight hatred with love.  Darkness with light.  Pain with a healing touch.

Love.  To.  ALL.

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*My oldest was blessed to know Rev. William Hurdle, who served as Chaplain at Wesleyan College for over sixteen years until his death in January of this year.  When I think about loving folks, the line that seemed to be his mantra never fails to come to mind.  “Love for the sheer joy of loving.”  That dear man knew how to love all and love well.  I was watching.  So were many others.  Who’s watching you and your loving ways?  

growing wings

if the words she heard were true
she knew that she would always remember
this day
as the one when it all changed

everything would be different
and she would have to learn
to let out the breath she’d been holding for years

if the words she heard were true
the light she saw in the eyes of the one
she loved
would ignite and that light would pour
from her entire being
and very likely she would dance for days

if the words she heard were true
it would be like winning the lottery
only better
because no amount of money could
make this real

if the words she heard were true
it would be a new beginning
doors opening,
spirits soaring
new adventures ahead

but if they were not
there would still be light
and they would be okay
better than okay, really,
doing what they had always done
loving, protecting, and holding each other close
on the journey

either way,
true or not,
they would make this life the best it could be

together

and, in the end, that’s all that really mattered

Flying with Fear

We are back home. Back into our day to dailies with full force after a weekend of getting away, literally and figuratively.  A weekend of fun and laughter and reconnecting.

And of facing our fears.

Head on.

This past weekend was the Fella’s family reunion that happens every couple of years.  While I’ve been to a gathering of his aunts and uncles on his Dad’s side of the family, we’ve never been to a gathering of Grampa’s cousins and their children as a family.  It was time to make it happen.

We had a decision to make.  Take a two hour flight from Atlanta to Texas or make the two day drive.  In the end, after lots of thought, the schedule made our decision.

We booked our flights.  Because it was just a few weeks out, the seat availability wasn’t ideal.  No big deal, I thought.  We could just request some seat changes.  I did that all the time when Aub and I flew back and forth from Japan.  TEN YEARS AGO.

Ahem.  Yeah.  Things change.

I called the airline and notified them that we would be flying with my child who has severe nut allergies.  All nuts. She was very understanding and said they could remove the peanuts from the plane but the airline could not guarantee there would be no nuts on the plane.  Okay.  Okay.  Got it.

As the time got closer, I became more anxious, but I also did what I needed to do to be prepared for a worst case scenario.  One of my sisterfriends said, “Be sure to carry an epipen on board with you.” I laughed and replied, “Yeah, or six.”  Can you say “over prepared?”

When we arrived at the gate, I spoke with the agent, and she said there would be no problem–that the flight attendants had it covered.  We hurried on board and got things ready for the flight.

All of the bags we carried on board were wipeable.  I carried wipes to clean her area and a sheet to put over her seat.  I forgot about the seat belt so that made me a bit nervous, but I did the best I could.  My people already knew we would not be eating or drinking on the plane.  I wanted no chance of ANYTHING going in her mouth that could hurt her.  It was a little less than two hours–they’ve done without food and water longer than that by their own choice.

The flight attendant announced there was an allergy on board.  She said they would not be serving peanuts and asked that no one eat any nuts while on board.

Oh my heart.  THANK YOU.

It was an amazing feeling to be heard and validated.  While it didn’t rid me of my anxiety, their kind hearted announcement eased it quite a bit.  My girl sat and played on her device and listened to music like the true preteen she is.  She is growing up before my very eyes.  But that’s another story.

We landed in what seemed like forever and no time at all, all at the same time.  Suffice to say I have no idea how I used to do the 14 hour flights to Japan.

After a long wonderful weekend of family and cousins playing and eating good food together, we got back on the plane yesterday.  We did it all by the book.  Got to the airport two hours early, checked in, and that’s when the magic was broken.  Our seats on Friday were not the ones I’d chosen on-line.  We had wound up all in the space of two rows, which was very doable.  I had assumed the person I called about her allergies had moved our seating around so we would be closer.  And maybe that was the case before, but for this flight, we were ridiculously far apart.  Cooter and Aub towards the back, our Princess and me in the middle on the same side, and the Fella in between us on the opposite side.  When we got to the gate, they acknowledged the food allergies, but they could do nothing about the seating.

Okay.  We can do this.  Breathe.

They made the announcement about not serving nuts and asking people to refrain from eating them while we were still in the terminal.  I was thankful for that.

We were allowed to board early.  I was told by the gate agent that between flights they would clean the tray tables four rows in front of us and four rows behind, so it was important we not change seats.  Okay. That’s great.  Really great.  (But I was thinking, they must be ridiculously fast or have cleaning fairies, because folks had just gotten off the plane.)

Oh, if it were only true.

When we got to our seat, I could see smeared handprints on the back of the seat in front of my girl.

Oh me.

I went to work with my wipes and the sheet and getting her settled.  We were ready when all the others came on board.

Before we were told to put our devices on airplane mode, I got a message from Aub, “Mama, the guy two seats over from us has nuts.”

Welp. Not good.

Because our messages weren’t going through quickly, and I was locked into my row by a passenger on the end who did not speak much English, I was left in limbo.  It was only after we landed that we pieced the whole story together.

So this guy had a big bag of Roaster’s Planted Peanuts.  He pulled them out.  The guy on the other side of him said, “Hey, you can’t eat those on here.”

Mr. Peanut replied, “Why not?”

Other guy said, “There’s someone with a nut allergy on board.  They made an announcement before we boarded asking us not to eat any nuts.”

Mr. Peanut said, “Huh.  Sounds like their problem.”  And laughed.

He LAUGHED.

Y’all, that girl of mine comes from a long line of strong people.  And people who stand up for others.  Some are more tactful than others, so there was no telling how this was going to play out.

As it turns out, she turned to him and said, “Actually it’s MY SISTER with the allergy, and if you eat those, I could come in contact with them, and then I have to ride home with her.  If I expose her to nuts, really bad things could happen.”  Her little brother was sitting next to her, so she was careful with her words.

And Mr. Peanut’s response?  “Really?” He scoffed, and he was done.

Later the flight attendant was offering snacks, and she approached Mr. Peanut.  He told her no thank you, that he had those with him and pointed at the unopened bag of peanuts.  “Sir, you can’t eat those on this flight,” she said.

He pointed at my oldest across the aisle.  “Yeah, that girl already chewed me out about it.”

The flight attendant looked over at Aub and smiled.  And she told him Aub was right.

All of this was relayed between us as we hurried along through the Atlanta airport to baggage claim.  I was so angry at the time, I know for sure one thing–that it is good I only caught a glimpse of him as he was getting on the train.  The Fella wisely guided us ahead to walk instead.  As I walked, I calmed down.  You can’t fix broken folks.  You just can’t.  I don’t know why he didn’t care about my child, or any person with food allergies for that matter, but for some reason he just didn’t.  All I know is I am thankful that, for whatever reason, he didn’t eat the nuts on the plane.

“Because if he had,” my oldest told me as we waited for the Fella to bring the car around as dusk settled across the Georgia sky, “I don’t know what I would have done.  But I would have done something. There might have been a ‘domestic incident.'”

“Eh,” I told her.  “Some things are worth creating a domestic incident over.”

I’m proud of her.  Siblings of people with food allergies have to live with the allergy too.  And this one–she’s her sister’s greatest advocate.

Tonight I’m thankful for a wonderful time with family–cherished moments.  I’m glad we didn’t rule the trip out because of the time or distance or our (MY) fears.  I am thankful for good flight attendants who care and make every effort to keep all passengers safe.  I give thanks for a daughter who is strong and can speak up when the need arises.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a safe journey.  And that all of those epipens came home unused.  WIN.

I have learned two things that surprised me though.  That anger and brokenness in people can overrule their compassion–I guess I knew that on some level, but to be reminded of it like this in such a personal way broke my heart and really, really surprised me.  Call me gullible, but yeah–I wasn’t prepared for that.

The other thing that I learned is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t book a seat for Anxiety Girl.  She doesn’t care.  She’d just as soon sit in your lap for the whole ride.  Doesn’t faze her one bit.  She’ll still come.  UNINVITED.

Wishing us all the ability to let our compassion override all the other things we are carrying with us.  Every single day.  And that when we take the chance to fly with our fear, we land in a beautiful place.

Love to all.

auvi q and wings

It’s All Yours, Uncle Willie

So we’ve finished our whirlwind trip from my beloved plains of Georgia to the beautiful hill country of Texas. Before we left, my sweet sisterfriend surprised me by leaving a copy of Willie Nelson’s new book on my front porch–since we were headed to his stomping grounds, it made sense. Ever since, apropos to our journey, I have had “On the Road Again” playing through my mind.   

As I write, we are literally on the road again, heading south on 75 in my home state, having spent four days in Uncle Willie’s neck of the woods. (I grew up thinking he might actually be my Uncle, because that’s how my folks referred to him. Uncle Willie. Aub recently told me she thought the same thing when she was little.)  I’ve been toying around with a couple of verses for a Haiku, but y’all, I’m sorry. The old five-seven-five syllable setup just isn’t enough to fully encapsulate my emotions right now.

So instead I offer you a variation on the Haiku. Perhaps a Willie-ku.

(Y’all, I do apologize for that.  It’s been a long day.)

“On the Road Again” is a great song and all
good job, Uncle Willie, but I will let you have it–
once this road gets me home
I believe I will put up my feet and stay a while  

the best kind of tired

dear one, the best kind of tired
is the one that comes from bare feet racing across the green grass of summer
smelling faintly of the fish that swam in the lake next to you
as you splashed and played
and jumped in from the dock with your cousins
trying to see how far out you could reach
or if you could ring the intertube
that came from a tire on the farm
just as your Mamas and Daddies did years before you
in that very same spot

the best kind of tired comes from quiet drives home well after dark
each one smiling at the memories that were made
still hearing the hum of the boat or the roar of the jet ski
tummies full of the hotdogs and hamburgers Grampa cooked on the grill

the best kind of tired is crawling between the crisp white sheets
hair still wet from the quick shower you took as soon as you got home,
eyes barely able to stay open
or to whisper back when your Mama peeks in and says,
“good night sweet dreams I love you”

the best kind of tired is where the sweetest
and most treasured memories come from
the ones that keep you going back
wanting to give the same adventures to your own little ones

the best kind of tired
exhausts the body
but rejuvenates the soul

it comes from dreams coming true
and being loved

and the best kind of tired
is one of the best gifts we can ever give our children

  

And So It Begins

When we came back from running errands, there was a piece of paper tucked in the door.  Our Princess grabbed it and read it out loud incredulously:  “We’ve been invited to a Wine and Cheese Tasting?” She ended it as if asking a question and with a puzzled look on her face.  

About the same time as her brother Cooter jumped up and yelled, “Cheese!  Yes!!!!!” she said, “Well this is just AWKWARD.”  

She’s not my little girl anymore.  

Yesterday I sat next to her for quite some time, waiting.  The wait never bothered her, and she said very little.  Instead she sat there with her headphones stuck in her ears, listening to music on the old iPod her sister had lovingly passed down to her just the other day, already set up with her favorite songs and games.  

The fact that music will only play through one speaker on this iPod never fazed her for a moment. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now approaching the teenage years with this one.  Please buckle up and get ready.  She’ll be 13 in two and half years…..otherwise known as “before we know it.”  

While she said very little, her eyes and smile said it all.  She bobbed her head along to the music, sometimes mouthing words and occasionally showing me the album cover of the song she was listening to–Taylor Swift and Sabrina Carpenter are her two favorites if the number of times I saw their faces on her screen is any indication.  

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy and awe I feel watching her become more vocal about her opinions.  I cannot believe she’s reached that “I can’t hear you because I have my headphones in and I’m listening to this song that says PERFECTLY what I am feeling about life” phase.  At least we’re not to the “The music understands, but you never will” stage. I’m not prepared for that one yet.  If one ever can be. 

There will be no cheese and wine tasting for us, but I am thankful for the glimpse of where my children are that the invitation gave us.  I’ve got one who basically said, “You had me at cheese” and one who is entering the time of life when everything is embarrassing–especially parents.  

As a matter of fact, I do recall her asking me not to sing and dance to my “jam” today.  

Sigh.  

And so it begins.  

Love to all.  

rest for the day

dusk comes and takes day by the hand
gradually easing her into slumber
so night can come and stand watch

peering into her dim light
strained eyes seek to see
but she shoos them away
as she sweeps the dust
of all the dones and left undones
out the door for another day
and meticulously locks up tight

she whispers as her face disappears
behind the knotted wooden door
“go, rest, there’s nothing further
for you to do this day
tomorrow we begin again”
and she turns the key in the rusty lock
putting day to bed
and letting go all of that cannot be seen
in the dark of night

  

the edge of never

their life began with the cherished words
“I will always”
and time swept them along, transforming them
until eventually they became “I will never”
still full of the promise, but with the
contemplation of the darkness that threatened to close in

then the weight of the world pressed upon them
and they became “I would never”
as if in protest of the very idea

when finally it turned into denial
“I never”
for a while she tried to believe
the words
and hold at bay what lay beyond the never

they went right up to the edge of that darkened precipice,
peering over and seeing what lay in the valley beyond
she turned away
and burned the bridge
so she could never be taken along that path again