Oh My Heart

Today I was going over some of his Grammar/Literature work with Cooter.  In one lesson the concept of “cause and effect” was presented, and there were opportunities to talk about it in the context of stories.  Then he was given a situation and he had to think and write about possible causes.

The first one made me sigh and laugh:

Your brother or sister is crying.  Cooter wrote:  because Princess hit her  

(He and his older sister have been at odds lately.)

The next one was very, very true, but it rarely happens (the cause he described, that is):

My mother and father are very happy.  Cooter wrote:  because I cleaned my room

Yeah, buddy.  We sure would be.  *hint hint*

It was the last one that made my heart hurt.

You have a new shirt or dress to wear.  Cooter wrote:  to the feunerlale

translate:  to the funeral

Oh bless.

He didn’t know how to spell it, but he knows what it is.  All too well.  From way too early an age.  New shirt.  New shoes.  More than likely a funeral is happening. Or about to.

Tonight I’m thankful for these insights into my child’s mind.  And heart.  It is a privilege that I don’t take lightly.  But I do wish my children didn’t know so much about pain and loss.  Especially when tonight, just before supper, my little guy looked and me and said, “I want to call Maemae and Cap.”

If only…..

Hug your people.  Tell ’em you love ’em.  Hold on tight for as long as you can.

Love to all.

Turn That Music Down!

This morning Cooter took his math and headed to his room.

Where he started playing one of his CD’s.

At full volume.

And, for the first time with this boy child, I heard myself hollering, “Turn that music down!”

For the love.

He’s eight, y’all.

He really needs to rein it in.  What do I have to look forward to when he’s fifteen if he peaks now?

He says the music helps him do his math quicker.  As I walked in to make sure he heard me over the music, he looked at me and said, “See I’m already done with one page.  It does make me work quicker.  My brain works better with music.”

Oh me.

It’s been one of those kinds of days.  The ones where time is passing by so quickly I feel as though I am on a Merry Go Round, watching the world continuing to go on around me.  And in some respects, without me.

When did the little guy whom I cuddled his first night on this earth and promised all the good things to turn into this music loving, dancing, singing, Star Wars expert, silly joke loving, mischievous, passionate little man?

I don’t even know, y’all.

But I’m going need for time and my children to slow down.

Wishing you all a moment to step off the Merry Go Round or roller coaster or log flumes and just be.  Still.  In the moment.  Stay there for as long as you can.  Because I’m learning we can’t stop it from passing–but maybe in appreciating each moment a little more, we can slow time’s passing down.

Love to all.

My Happy Place

Instagram with all its captured photos is my happy place.  I do not follow many folks, and I rarely post myself.  Most of the people whom I follow are creative and joy-filled.

All the loveliness.

There’s no arguing over what issue is most important or which candidate is going to do what.

There’s no heartbreaking stories or upsetting attitudes.

It’s just lovely.  Because I won’t let it become anything else.

Occasionally a comment, if I let myself slip up and read one (I usually avoid the comments section), will make me a little crazier than normal.  Like one day the brilliant Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery wrote a brave post, baring her soul about brokenness and loving folks through that, and someone commented, “Girl, your arms are rocking!  How do you keep them looking like that?”

I am sure you all heard my eyes roll and my sigh from wherever you were, though you might have wondered what it was.  Seriously, that’s what they got from her beautiful words?  Her arms?

There are a couple of witty folks I follow over there.  One is Pick Your Plum.  It’s a shop with interesting things–the items change on a regular basis, but I mostly follow because the person behind it is very clever.  I love her sense of humor.

Yesterday she posted this.

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It’s funny, right?

But I’ve been thinking on it today, and I realize that yes, sometimes doors close simply because the wind was blowing or someone closed it on their way out or the floor is slanted and gravity pulls it shut on a regular basis.  Or maybe they were raised by someone like my Mama who said, on a regular basis, “Close the door–you’re letting out all the bought air.”  A closed door doesn’t always MEAN something.  Sometimes it’s okay to go over and open it again.  And make it work.

In the words of my folks, time to “keep on keepin’ on.”

And that’s what so many of my days are like sometimes.  Yours too, I imagine.  We just keep on going, pushing through, getting things done the best we can, even though…..

we’re tired.

we’re worn out.

we’re overwhelmed.

we’re sad.

we’re lost.

we’re confused.

we’re broken.

we’re lonely.

we’re just not sure what else to do.

So we keep on going.

Good for you.  And me.

When that door shuts, let’s open that sucker back up and keep on as planned.  Doing the best we can.

I guess if it shuts again, then maybe I’ll take it as a sign.  But sometimes it just means we need to go about opening it a different way.

May we all find something that makes us laugh and a friend to hold the door open for us today.

That’s the thing about doors, isn’t it?  They’re a little easier to go through when there’s more than one of us heading that way.  We can help each other through.

Love and laughter to all.

falling in love again

I love waking up to the bright light of early morning
and walking outside to an already hot day
and smelling the smells of cut grass or water from
rain or sprinklers, evaporating in the sun.

I love sandwiches for lunch
with a side of pineapple
or fresh peaches,
pimento cheese has grown on me over the years.

I love the look and glorious smell
of fresh-picked squash cooking
in the cast iron skillet on the stove.
Or the sound of peas cooking in the bubbling water,
bouncing them around, tossing them to and fro
until they are tender and done.

I love afternoon naps in the heat of the day
and damp towels left over from water play
or dips in friends’ pools.

I love the angle of the sun through the windows
at 4:30 in the afternoon. That’s the time my Daddy
always came home, the same time he went Home.
That light is spectacular.

I love the way children emerge from their homes
to play and ride bikes and run up and down the sidewalk,
their little legs pumping and jumping,
when the sun starts its journey downwards behind the trees.

I love the way the frogs start to come out
and sing their songs as evening comes to visit. Their songs
a serenade the breeze dances along to, teasing all around
with moments of believing it might one day be cool again.

I love the bathwater warm muggy nights, when sweat collects
and drips on little heads and big
and how, even though we are all hot and sweaty, we are loathe
to climb off the back of the pickup trucks where we sit and visit
to go inside.

I love the cool air that hits my face and the comfort of a warm shower
to wash the day away.
Or a cool one, the boy says that helps when he’s itchy from
rolling in the grass and talking with the bugs
as they crawl back home to rest.

I love all the hot and humid days and evenings and nights that
barely relieve us from the heat of noon. I love bare feet on warm
grass and the smell of sunshine on puppies and tomatoes off the vine.
I love sweating as I stand and laugh with friends, passing the evening sharing
stories and recounting adventures of days gone by.

It was as though I had forgotten all of this,
grumbling, staring wide-eyed at the dashboard thermometer, until–
this evening as I carried out the trash, I took a deep breath
of heavy summer air,
and I remembered my love
for Georgia summers
and all the stories she has shared with us.

I looked up at the stars, nearly visible,
and I remembered–people and stories–hot summers
spent with people I love.

They are gone,
but she remains with me
and holds me close
as I stand with her and
remember.

earthworms on the sidewalk

one foot in front of the other
as the sun rises
and the steam does too
up from the paved sidewalks
winding along as
the road’s amenable companion

there are worms all over
and I step around them
respectfully
avoiding the carcasses
as most are already dead
though it’s not even nine

occasionally I come across one
still wiggling
trying to escape the heat
that attempts to take its life
I feel pity and if there is a stick
or leaf
around
I will lift it up and toss it in the grass
in the hopes that it will live another day

but if there is no stick
or leaf
I leave them to their fate
their life dependent on nothing more
than a speedy belly crawl
and a good sense of direction

why do I do that?

is a slimy hand too much to pay
to save a life?

I feel for them
winding their way in the darkness
the feel of the pavement cool and different
than the grass of home
seemingly a harmless, adventurous choice

and yet
in the light of day
the truth comes out
as does the heat
and lives are lost

some days I am like the worm
and I give thanks for those
who take a stick
or a leaf
and lift me out of the mess
I’ve crawled into

and some even use their hands
taking mine into their own
leading me safely home

By Elizabeth Ann Colette (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Ann Colette (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Payphone–the Song and the Questions

This evening on the way home, this song came on the radio.  My little guy can read the title and artist of songs from way back where he sits in the vehicle.  When he saw this one, the conversation that ensued–well, I suppose I should have been prepared for it to come up eventually, but I was not.

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Nevertheless, it made me laugh.

Cooter (as soon as the name came on the screen): What’s a payphone?

Huh.  Now why didn’t I see that one coming?  So obvious, right?

Me:  Well, what do you think it sounds like it is?

Cooter: A phone.  You have to pay to use.

Me:  Yes.  Exactly.

Cooter:  How long could you talk when you paid?

Me (using words I haven’t used in a long time): Well, it depends if you were calling long-distance or not.

Cooter:  What’s long distance?

Ha.  Yep.  Here we go. He can be a question machine sometimes.  

Me: It’s when you call someone outside your calling area.

Cooter: So how long could you talk when you called long distance?

Me:  You know, I’m not really sure.  Not for very long anyway.  And you had to stand in one place when you were talking on a payphone.  There was no walking around.  No going wherever you wanted while you were talking.

And that’s when it hit me.  How far we have come.  How very, very far. My children have no idea what it’s like to have to plan a call around when you had time to sit in one place.  They live in a world of smart and smarter phones and devices and asking for wifi passwords, for goodness’ sake.

I remember calling my folks from a payphone at the movie theater to ask if we could see a second movie before coming home.  I remember calling from one to let them know we had arrived safely at our destination.  I remember scrounging for quarters to make a call, and then hearing the dreaded voice telling me how much time I had left in the conversation. No such thing as unlimited minutes back then.

Tonight I’m thankful for a world where communication is so much easier.  And yet it frightens me as well.  With great privilege comes great responsibility.  With all this communicating at my children’s fingertips, there’s also great potential for miscommunication.  I hope they strive to rise above that, and that they use all this potential for interaction for the good.  Of their relationships, community, and our world.

Interesting that a trip down Memory Lane can come simply from the chance playing of a song on the radio.

Love to all.

“Pay phone”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pay_phone.jpg#/media/File:Pay_phone.jpg

peeling peaches at the kitchen sink

we went “a fur piece” to get the peaches piled in their half bushel boxes
just a little ways down the road from where they’d been picked just hours before

the whole way home the car smelled like peaches, real peaches
not that artificial scent that just misses its mark
bringing back memories of sitting with folks I love under the fan
peeling peaches and telling stories and crying out over discovering a worm
or a split pit

we loaded up the table and began the job of putting them up for winter
when there will be no peaches
except those shipped from foreign lands
I once met a peach in Japan that was three dollars
all by himself
and I left him there

I stood in the street as the sun made its way up from the horizon
and heard her sadness, the pain
of not being able to heal her sister
whose life is being stripped away, one muscle at a time
and the heartbreak in her eyes was too much
all I could do was take her a basket of peaches later on and leave
all the words unsaid
for no amount of “I’m sorry’s” or “what can I do?”
can fix her heart or cure her sister

as I stood at the sink I remembered my last trip for peaches
with Mama
and that she drove herself back down there a few days later
all by herself
I marveled at that and now that road brings bittersweet
tears
remembering
and still I stand at the sink and peel the peaches,
rinsing off the remaining fuzz,
and cutting them up
for winter bites of summer sunshine
or cobblers
whenever the children ask

and they always do
that boy won’t touch a bought canned peach
oh, he did that one time
and said, with his mouth full, turned up in disgust
“what on earth is this? this is NOT a peach!”
no, it’s what they call a California cling
nowhere near the Georgia delicacy that grows on trees
after the 4th

of July, that is

we never really put much stock in the ones before that
at least none of us raised around them

as I was

I miss watching my Daddy’s hands deftly peeling the big peaches he brought home
and Mama cutting them up and putting them in the freezer,
that woman’s freezer was always so organized
she used to mark how many dozens of quarts she’d put up that summer
on the slip of paper by the Frigidaire
of snap beans, squash, peaches, and so much more

and oh, she made pickles too

but my favorite were the pickled peaches my Granny made
the sweet and sour and cloves and vinegar
were the fireworks of summer dining
as the juice dripped down my chin
a smile always came

I miss her pickled peaches
and her

and since I can’t do a thing about all the missing and sadness
and sorrow in the world and on my street
I stand at the sink, peeling peaches
putting them up for winter
as I’ve done every summer for so many years

stocking up the
peaches

and
the light
and warmth

for when the world grows cold again

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For the Love of Kindness, PLEASE

Y’all.

I’m done.  I am worn out.  I am so tired to seeing folks hurting others with their comments and freely shared views on social media and other outlets.

The thing is, they don’t mean to, I’m sure.  These are good people.  And just like me, they hurt other people without even realizing it.  Still…..

This past week there has been a story that has gone viral.  The one about a restaurant owner/manager who yelled at a toddler to stop crying.

And even with those words, my words trying to sum it up in a nutshell, I’ve done what so many of us do–ignored that there is another side to the story.

Two sides, a crying baby, parents who may or may not have tried to calm the child, maybe some frustrated clientele, maybe not, and a frustrated restaurant owner who yelled because she had had enough.  They all agree that she yelled at the child.  She admitted as much.

What has made me the saddest are the people who have come out on the side of the restaurant owner–as if it is EVER okay to yell at a child like that.

Just to be clear with my stance–

In my opinion, that is NOT okay.

Children, as is their nature, are going to have “melk-downs,” as our Princess used to call them.  It’s inevitable.  What happens after those breakdowns is in large part determined by the adults around them.  And when those adults are overwhelmed, things can get ugly very quickly.

My friend, Karen Spears Zacharias, wrote A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder.  That book changed me.  It made me aware of what role we all play in the prevention of child abuse.  With a kind word, offering support, encouragement, offering a helping hand–we can often diffuse a volatile situation and maybe even change a life.

Yes, naive or not, I do believe that.

In response to the story of the child in the restaurant, one of my aunts wondered why the manager didn’t try to distract the child.  With a straw, a plastic spoon, something, saying that this was something a good manager would do.

Exactly.

We’ve been to restaurants where the waitress pulled out packs of saltines from her pocket to give to the little ones.  Then there’s the crayon and paper menu go-to for distractions.  Over the years I’ve learned to keep someTHING in my purse for just such occasions.  Markers, paper, pencil, something to keep them occupied.  But when I was starting out with my first little one, I had no idea.  I had to learn from others how to handle those moments.

And yelling doesn’t cut it.

My parents in their last years carried around copies of their favorite children’s book in the trunk of their car.  Daddy was known to head back out to the car from the pizza place or a doctor’s appointment to get a copy for a child they met.  He also loved perusing the Matchbox cars section of stores.  He picked up interesting and different ones, in addition to the ones he collected as special.  He usually had one or two with him or in Mama’s purse at doctor’s appointments.  To share with whatever children they might meet.

You don’t get much better than a new little car for a distraction.

Notice, I said–in their later years.  After all of us were grown and they had learned what worked and what didn’t.

This young couple in the restaurant–I’m thinking they are just learning too.  I’m sad that there is so little grace for them, and yet grace is being given to the woman who chose to yell AT A CHILD instead of handling it in a manner that would be kinder.

And that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

Nanea Hoffman of Sweatpants and Coffee, whom I introduced you to last night, is a wise woman.  My guess is she gets it from her Daddy.  Yesterday she shared this, in response to the story:

“I don’t care who is right or who is wrong. I care who is being KIND.”

– Nanea Hoffman’s daddy

Amen.

Sounds a lot like my Mama, who would often add–“I’m sure you’re all really very wonderful.”

I’m trying, Mama.  I’m trying.

Y’all, we can do better.  We can step outside our judgments of who is right and who is wrong and BE KIND.

And maybe tote a little Matchbox car around in our pocket for good measure.

.....or you know, Hot Wheels.....

…..or you know, Hot Wheels…..

So many folks say, “I wouldn’t want to be raising children in this day and age.”  I get it.  It’s not easy.  That’s why those of us doing it right now sure could use the encouragement and support and KINDNESS of those around us.

Let’s forget about who is right or wrong and Just. Be. Kind.  That’s everything.

Love to all.

Following Through

It’s been a long summer, y’all.

Yes, I realize it’s not exactly over, but since we are on week 3 of school and the schools around here are starting in a week and a half, there is something of a farewell feel in the air.

And then there are the farewells themselves, of course, but that’s for another night.

Tonight was the last night of swim lessons for the summer for my little guy Cooter.  This is his third summer of taking lessons.  He enjoys his time in the water, and since his sister made the swim team at the end of last summer’s lessons, he’s had his eye guardedly on the prize.

Guardedly as in he wanted it but he didn’t want anyone to know he wanted it.  *sigh* Only eight years old and already worried about how he’s being perceived.  I’m not even sure what to do with that.

So he took lessons.  All summer.

This round Cooter was finally able to swim his twenty-five freestyle and twenty-five backstroke.  Without stopping.  He’s had moments before this summer when he was just about able to, but he wasn’t consistent.  And this week he was.  I saw a smile on his face and a light in his eyes that had been missing–he was back on his game.  And I was thankful.

Still, I didn’t want him to get his hopes up. There will be another round of lessons in a few weeks, and I figured one more round would do the trick.  Help him build up his stamina and be more consistent in his strokes.

Then last night he did really well.  That smile though, y’all.  He knew it.

Last night I saw this on one of my favorite Facebook pages–Sweatpants and Coffee.  Nanea Hoffman is a very wise woman.  The two words jumped out at me.  Follow through.

YES.

That’s what I wanted for my little guy.  For him to follow through.  Follow through on his strokes.  On his practice.  On his focus, his mindset.  On respecting his coaches.  And on his dream.  Follow through on making it happen.  With hard work and lots of practice.

So we talked.  I don’t know how much sank in, but we talked about how he might feel if he wasn’t invited to try out for swim team this time around.  How he might feel and what our game plan would be–which had a lot to do with practicing and continuing to work hard towards his goal.

But following through.

And with a good attitude.

Because, in the words of my Mama, this is “all for the fun of it.”

Tonight when lessons ended under a cloudy sky leftover from the earlier storms, with rain threatening to fall on all of us, the coaches gathered up all the children and their families.  They handed out certificates to all the students and added a check mark for those who had completed the lessons and were ready to try out for the team.

Cooter’s teacher went last.  She handed out two certificates and then said she had two who were ready to try out.  Oh my heart.  Cooter looked around and I could see the wheels turning in his head.  There were only two others in the class, and he was one of them.  With a look of wonderment mixed with joy on his face, he turned to the teacher and walked up to get his certificate.

Well done, little man, well done.

Tonight I’m thankful for the words of Nanea Hoffman that gave me what I needed to tell my son that no matter what, if this was something he wanted, he needed to continue to follow through.  Right to the end.  Which is now a new beginning.  I give thanks for young people who dedicate their time, energy, compassion, and encouragement into making swimming a good experience for these little ones. (When one of his coaches from last summer and the first of this one came up and high fived him, I was undone–love these teachers!) And yes, I’m even thankful that swim lessons are over for the summer, and that, in a few weeks, after a lot of practice between now and then, we will have another swim team member in the house.  Most of all, I give thanks for the joy that spread through all of our hearts tonight–we did this as a family, and that is priceless.  From his oldest sister videoing the awarding of certificates “just in case” to his middle sister whom you can hear in the background squealing “I knew it, I told y’all he would get it, I knew it!” to us proud parents, holding our breath, hoping for the best but ready to catch him if it didn’t happen…..family.

Let today be a day of following through.  On anything.  But something.  You can do it.

Love to all.

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Cooter making his way down the lane encouraged by his swim coach/teacher.

shelling peas

sitting down with a bowl full of unshelled peas
still warm from the sun
the white enamel pan cool
on my lap
filled to the brim with a whole mess of them

my fingers move with the same motions
memorized by the hands of my people
zipping them open
and dropping the peas down into the pan

the plink plink plink plays the background tune
to the stories shared or watched
as we sit under the fan
thankful for a reason to sit
out of the hot summer sun for a while

we gather and
many hands make light work,
as my Mama used to say

as the pile of purple goes down
with the sun
the peas collect and promise
a good meal soon

the feel of summer
pea hulls in the hands
the smell of summer
their earthiness full of the gift of the land

and the one who grew them
and picked them
sharing his bounty

I smile, remembering precious moments
shelling peas with the ones I love
who taught me how

and now I take the little fingers entrusted to me
and I show them how to unzip
and shell
and look
just in case there’s a bad one in the bunch

they laugh and giggle
and I hope it will always be so
folks shelling peas
and giving thanks for what they have

and laughter
on porches
and summer sunsets
kissed by an evening breeze

and a pot of fresh-picked peas on the stove

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