Learning with my Littles

We have begun week 3 of school here at Zoo Crew Academy.  It’s summer in Georgia, so unless we want to go out and play between 4:23 and 4:32 every morning, it’s just about too hot to do anything but keep ourselves inside.

And so we do.

With our math and writing and books and crafts and piano…..

we are staying busy.

This year, I let them choose what they would like to learn about in science.  I was hoping they would choose the same topic, but that would have been too easy I suppose.  Our Princess chose aquatic animals and Cooter chose those of the land.  I’m okay with it, because I’m hoping that if it’s something they are really interested in, they will learn more.

Today Princess was reading from her book and got quite upset.  “Mama, look at this picture!  It’s a beached whale.  Why did it have to die?”

We talked a little bit about it, and she finished her reading, still sad over what she had seen.

This afternoon as we were on our outsandabouts, the littles were watching Gilligan’s Island.  At one point, I think it was Gilligan who said, “He looks just like a beached whale.”

“Well then, I can assure you he must be dead,” quipped our Princess, without missing a beat.

Bless her.  Yes, she can assure us all of that.  Because she knows that’s what happens in many cases.

Homeschooling win.

I love it when I hear them take something they have learned and apply it later on.  That’s what I want most for them–to be able to take what they’ve learned and use it again in some way.  Some way that matters.  That’s my number one goal and wish for them as their teacher and their Mama.

Tonight I’m thankful for this opportunity to learn alongside them, to watch their eyes open in wonder and amazement, and to help them find the answers to their questions.  After all, thanks to today’s lesson my knowledge about beached whales now extends past the Seinfeld episode “Marine Biologist.”  Yes, this is definitely broadening my horizons–and that is a very good thing.

Love to all.

"Southern right whale10" by Michaël CATANZARITI - by Michaël CATANZARITI. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Southern_right_whale10.jpg#/media/File:Southern_right_whale10.jpg

“Southern right whale10” by Michaël CATANZARITI – by Michaël CATANZARITI. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons    This is NOT a photo of a beached whale. because that would have been way too sad.  And there’s enough sadness in our world, don’tcha think?  

Love Thy Neighbor

You know that whole love your neighbor thing?
Yeah.
That.
There’s all kinds of memes and things written out there pointing out that yeah, he meant what he said. That he meant it about all of our neighbors, not just the ones who are the same color or nationality or believe the same things or share the same values or read the same books or have the same favorite character on TV as we do.
Nope.
All.
And so this occurred to me as one of our neighbors drove by while I was out walking a few days ago. I automatically threw my hand up to wave, and then realized it was THAT neighbor. The one who never waves. Who never acknowledges anyone’s presence when he’s out mowing. The one who simply ignores all of the rest of us.
Ugh.
And then I heard those words echoing in my heart again–because that’s where they are now, I know them by heart–“Love thy neighbor.”
Even him?
Yes. Even him.

Okay then.

The funny thing is that the struggle is real. It’s easy for me to stand to the side and nod and say, “Oh yes. ALL the neighbors. ALL the people. Yes. We should LOVE THEM,” and then stand around for hours and meet and plan and discuss how to do just that. But when it comes to my own little corner of the cosmic neighborhood, I find it a little harder. Yes, all those who are different from me. Absolutely. The ones who are this or that? Sure. LOVE. THEM. But point at the neighbor who never waves back–ummmm, for real?

Yes. For real.

So there’s another neighbor of ours. We have an interesting relationship. We’ve not always seen eye to eye. I am sure I make him as crazy as he makes me sometimes. And it’s nothing big–all little things. And yet. Just the other day, I was thinking that yeah, though we do exasperate each other from time to time, I was sure if I needed help, he’d be there.

I was about to be proved right.

Yesterday evening my neighbor loved us.

He saw something that needed doing, and without blinking, he did it. For us. Without being asked, without asking for recognition or any remuneration, he just did it.

And when I saw, I nearly cried.

Because that’s just one of the many wonderful things that love does–sees something someone needs and takes care of it.
Love thy neighbor.  Every last one of them.

It makes me smile at how clever the One running things is–teaching me to love my neighbor through the one that can make me the craziest. Sounds about right though. Always using the unexpected to teach the most important things…..

for now, I’ll keep working at loving all my neighbors. The ones in our world and the ones down the street. It may not always be easy or even fun, but all means all.

Tonight I’m thankful for good neighbors, especially the one who had every reason to turn a blind eye to our need but didn’t. I’m grateful to the ones who first taught me the words “love thy neighbor” and showed me what that looked like. Most of all, I’m thankful for new chances, each and every day, to be a good neighbor to someone else.

Love to all. And your neighbors too.

IMG_9138

created in the Image

let no man put asunder
what God has joined together–
this community,
knitted in the womb of an idea,
and these people
as they work towards
bringing the Kingdom here
and now

this place
where the stranger is welcomed
and made a guest of honor
he whispers as he meets another new face
“I probably won’t remember,
I’m sorry”
“Don’t worry,” they whisper back
and smile,
“there will be plenty of time for that”

where the prodigal returns
and is fed from the bounty
as all smile and remember
how much he loved to eat,
and after the bread is broken
he falls back into
his old ways–
the older ways–
by cleaning and putting away
and helping however he can

where the elders show the younger folks
what hospitality looks like
and generosity
and giving of oneself for others

and what love looks like
in the form of food
and hugs
and words of encouragement
and kindness

and time

where the little ones play
coming unto, dazzling in their joy
and laughter and the getting along
with all who come through the door

this community
where the music is played
and reverberates in the hearts
of those who hear–
like Zacchaeus, they would climb
that sycamore tree if they had to,
to catch a glimpse

only they don’t have to

for as the music plays and eyes meet
across the room
a Breath is drawn
and released with a sigh,
the Soul rests
and all who enter
remove their shoes
and shrug off their heavy bags,
weary

and thankful for this place
where peace is the drink of the day
everyday
and a community is being created
through the hands of those who
Heard

and built the ark
when no rain was in sight

a dove flew to the window,
still for a moment,
then soared toward the stars
well pleased

and as the doors were locked
and the lights turned off
the people dispersed
for the night
but the community
remained

and always will
in the hearts of those
who give it wings
and carry it out into the world

light

Looking for Love

This morning pretty much every single one of us got up on the wrong side of the bed.  You name it, it was frustrating us.  Whine was the flavor of the day for everyone, including me.

I walked outside to take Miss Sophie for her morning walk, and I felt the need to stay out in the heat and the sun a few minutes longer.  I didn’t like anyone, including me.  I found myself looking for someone to be angry with, and my parents came to mind.

Because they aren’t here.

Sometimes emotions make no sense, y’all.

I was immediately ashamed of those emotions and chastised myself for being angry with people I love, who had to leave this world through no fault of their own.  My heart was immediately trying to make up for where my mind had gone, and I was overwhelmed with the love I feel for them–the people who taught me better than to walk around angry like this.

And then I saw it.

A heart with wings on the fence that Miss Sophie and I walked by this morning.

A heart with wings on the fence that Miss Sophie and I walked by this morning.

The heart.  The heart with wings.

This. This was no coincidence.  I was taught to love and carry love with me everywhere.  To give it wings.

The thing is that just because someone does something well, it does not mean that doing it is easy.  Quite the contrary sometimes.  Like my oldest, she is very good at school.  Some parts of it ARE easier for her than for others, but the truth is that she applies herself and she works hard when she needs to.  Her grades and success are because of her efforts.  My Uncle is good at gardening.  He winds up with such a bountiful harvest, and for that we are all very thankful, but it is in NO WAY easy.  He’s good at it–I hope he enjoys it.  But he works very hard at it.  Sowing and reaping and everything in between.  My Cousin makes eating right and taking care of herself and her family a priority.  She does it, and she does it well.  This is not something she learned just through reading books and websites or the backs of essential oil bottles.  She learned it the hard way.  Through living it, because she had to–for the sake of her own health.  Her wisdom and knowledge that she shares is hard come by.  And yet, she’s always gracious and generous and encouraging with all that she knows.

My Mama was good at loving folks.  She could find something lovable in pretty much everybody.

But I am realizing as time passes that it must have been hard at times too.  Just because she made it look so easy, doesn’t it mean that it always was.  I wish I could tell her thank you for loving me all the times when I wasn’t very lovable.

There is grace in knowing it wasn’t easy for her.  That gives me hope.  I want to love like she did.  Each day, though, I find myself struggling.  I am trucking along, all loving and kind and trying to be helpful and then {BAM}, I have this emotion of not liking someone.  The realization eventually comes that the dislike is more about me than them.  I usually need to get my heart in order.  The emotions that are counterproductive in my efforts to love can be anything from jealousy to fear to insecurity to misunderstanding.  Love has so many emotions that are out to get rid of it.

And lots of times they are easier to feel.

Love.  It’s something to work at.  Takes effort.  Focus.  Concentration.  Sure, sometimes the warm fuzzies bubble up and LOVE IS IN THE AIR.  But love was never intended to be fickle.  Or one-dimensional.  Or judgmental.  Love was meant to be all-encompassing.  Through thick and thin.  Good and bad.

And that takes some doing.

I have often thought that I would like to be thought of as a noted authority.  On something.  I mean, I’ve been on this journey for a while now.  Surely I have learned enough about at least one thing to where I can speak intelligently about it.

Or not.  And so I read.  And listen.  And watch.  And upon reflection, after watching people who are really, really good at loving folks and make it seem so easy–I’ve noticed something.  They also seem to have a peace that passes understanding.  I decided maybe I want to be a master at love.  Like my Mama. And the others who are good at it.

But first I am an apprentice.

And so I look to those around me.  Those who love.  And love well.  Or love hard.  They work at it.  Like with me, some days are better than others.  But each day these folks I look up to make a conscious effort to love, even when every fiber of their body says otherwise.

They love by reaching out.  They send messages or make phone calls.  Just to “see how you are doing.”  And they listen.  Sometimes for hours.  Or they text back and forth until the anxiety eases.  They are patient.

Grandma has been at it again.  This was a total surprise--this beautiful shawl she created for me.  I will be able to literally wrap myself up in love.

Grandma has been at it again. This was a total surprise–this beautiful shawl she created for me. I will literally be able to wrap myself up in love.

They love with gestures.  Of kindness.  Invitations.  Even when they hear “not today,” they ask again.  Until the time is right.  They love with thought-filled gifts.  With things they created.  Or found.  They love by showing they thought about the person and who he or she is before they picked it up or made it.  They love by showing another he or she is KNOWN.

My oldest, Aub, texted me from her latest GW Boutique trip.  She said I was going to love her so much.  Really what she did in finding these treasures and remembering that I LOVE Raggedy Anns is show me how much she loves me.  These girls are a symbol of love for me just like the hearts on their chests.

My oldest, Aub, texted me from her latest GW Boutique trip. She said I was going to love her so much because she had found me a surprise. Really what she did in finding these treasures and remembering that I LOVE Raggedy Anns is show me how much she loves me. These girls are a symbol of love for me just like the hearts on their chests.

They love by remembering.  By giving thanks.  By writing notes and saying words like “You matter” or “Thank you” or “How can I help?”

A thank you and remembrance for something that I enjoyed doing so much I feel like I should be thanking them for letting me do it.  The note that came with it was the real treasure.

A thank you and remembrance for something that I enjoyed doing so much I feel like I should be thanking them for letting me do it. The note that came with it was the real treasure.

They love generously.  By sharing what they have.  Vegetables.  Clothes.  Toys.  Books.  Thoughts.  Ideas.  Wisdom.  Knowledge.  Time.

The love without judging.  These people are the ones someone can tell her deepest and darkest thoughts and feelings to and they don’t blink.  Or they blink and call her out to be her best self.

And these folks who know how to love, they remember how short life is.  And they know how powerful it is to take someone’s hand, look her in the eyes, and say “I love you.”  They love and remind others that they are loved.

I am an apprentice.  But what I finally remembered this morning is that I need always ALWAYS to look for love.  Especially when I am tired.  Angry.  Hurting.  Sad.  Worried.  Stressed.  Overwhelmed.

I need to look for love.

And it was like the scales were removed from my eyes.  And I saw the heart with wings.  And then I looked at the ground.

The second heart I saw after I opened my soul to look for love this morning.

The second heart I saw after I opened my soul to look for love this morning.

And then this one.  Love is there, if only we look for it.  I saw all three of these hearts within the span of about 3 minutes.  And maybe ten steps.  Is it any wonder that I was weeping?

And then this one. Love is there, if only we look for it. I saw all three of these hearts within the span of about 3 minutes. And maybe ten steps. Is it any wonder that I was weeping?

Hearts.

I began crying.  Realizing that just maybe these were messages from my Mama.  Reminding me that love is a process.  A work in progress.  And to always look.  Even underneath the hot Georgia sun, with a hurting spirit, love can be found.

If only we look for it.

May love surprise you today.  Open your eyes.  You are worthy of being loved.

You ARE loved.

Love.  Love to all.

To Think I Was Worried He’d Never Read

This morning my little guy greeted me with a big hug.  He’s not always such a happy riser, so I was surprised and thankful.

When I got back from walking Miss Sophie, he came up to me with a huge smile on his face.  I assumed this was more of his good mood, and then he started to speak.  Excitedly.

“MamacanIpleasehavetheStarWarscerealforbreakfastpleasecanIplease?”

Before my “I’ve been up less than an hour, people” brain could untangle all of the words jumbled together, Cooter took a deep breath and started again.

“Mama, may I please have some of the Star Wars cereal?  It has less sugar than the cereal that she is eating,” he said, pointing to his sister, Princess.

Ummm.  Wait.  What?

Cooter has taken to reading labels.  I’m not sure if it is his interest in being a chef (although the other day he added “drug dog handler” to his list of “what I wanna be’s”) or if it’s because, as a family affected by severe food allergies, that’s what we do. Read labels.  A lot.

“Okay.  Explain.”

“Weeeeeellllll, I read the label on the Star Wars cereal and I read the label on hers…..and mine has less sugar.”

You have got to be kidding me, cereal makers of the world.  The organic stuff has more sugar than “limited time only” Star Wars cereal with marshmallow puffs?

Okay, here’s where I have to apologize.  Yes.  I actually bought that junk.  We usually only have the healthier versions of the cereal in the house.  I won’t even buy the organic cocoa puffs because it’s too much like dessert.  But in a weak moment on a shopping trip which Cooter was helping me make, he saw the Star Wars cereal.  He is the world’s biggest fan, and since he agreed it would be a special treat snack only every so often, I decided to indulge him and bought him the junk.

*hangs head*  I know.  I know.

A little comparison making.....homeschool--check!

A little comparison making…..homeschool–check!

So imagine my surprise when I compared the labels today.  Or rather, when Cooter pointed them out to me.  I taught him to compare the serving size first and then we looked at everything else.   In the face of his logic, I broke down and let him have the Star Wars cereal for breakfast JUST THIS ONCE.  After all, that big smile on his face told me how proud he was of his discovery.  He was beaming.

This one, y’all.  I just might be in trouble.

Cereal labels aren’t the only thing he reads.  A few weeks back, I came in from running errands and he announced quite indignantly–as though I had anything to do with it, “Did you know that there is VEGETABLE OIL in Mountain Dew?”

We had some left over from a thing, and he had read the box.

“No, I had no idea.  I don’t drink the stuff, Buddy.”

“Well neither do I, because you won’t let me, but EWWWWW.  Who wants to drink VEGETABLE OIL?”

Yeah.  I don’t know.  Folks do, though, because the box was nearly empty.

He has told more than a few folks about his discovery, including the nurse at the allergist’s office today.  VEGETABLE OIL, people.  Apparently you don’t have to be ten to realize that stuff was not intended to be a drink.

I have laughed to myself a lot today over my little guy and his label reading.  He becomes downright investigative about it, and it cracks me up.  I expect I’ll get caught in more situations like the one this morning.  He uses his powers to the betterment of the one person he knows best–himself.

And to think I was worried he would never read…..

Yeah.  Not anymore.

Wishing you all “help” reading the labels.

Love to all.

The Bird Who Read the Newspaper

This evening I saw a writing prompt that was one word long.

Newspaper.

An interesting choice of topics, I thought, all while the wheels were turning and one distinct memory came to mind.

Chiefy.

My Mama loved parakeets.  With my sister’s allergies to dogs and cats, we only had them outdoors, and my sister couldn’t really be around them very much.  She fell in love with birds, and so began the parakeet part of our family story.

By Moe Epsilon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Moe Epsilon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The one I remember the most was a beautiful blue and white bird who was named Chief Grey Cloud.  Chief or Chiefy for short.  He had more personality than a little bit.  He thought he was human, and he loved my Mama.  His Mama too, I guess, he would say.  When she went down the hall to her bedroom, he followed her.  Walking and waddling behind her.  He would call for her.  But the funniest thing was he read the newspaper with her.

Mama would sit down in her chair at the end of the table with her glass of tea.  She opened the paper up and started to read.  As happens with newspapers, sometimes there was a lot to read on a double page spread and sometimes very little.  Chiefy would stand there on the paper, waiting for her to turn it.  When she lifted the page, he would chirp and squawk and go running excitedly to the opposite side, eventually stepping off onto the table just in time for the paper to land.  Then he’d hop right back on and wait for her to finish reading that page.  It was their little dance, and it was funny to watch.  She loved reading the paper with him, and the chirps and squawks were of happiness, not fear that he was about to be smothered by the paper.

Silly, precious bird.

Many tears were shed when he left this world.

I’m thankful for the one word prompt that brought back this memory.  I am even more thankful for the picture in my mind and heart of Chiefy chirping happily and waddling/walking very quickly over to Mama to welcome her when she left this world and went on up to The House.  I know that was one happy reunion.  One I have not thought about before.

Mostly I give thanks for the little critters in this life who bring us so much happiness.   What wonderful gifts of laughter and joy they bring.

May you all have someone to call for you and follow you down the hall because they love you.  Love to all.

a breath of fresh air

you are welcomed with open arms
and glee
people breathe your name with a sigh of relief
you make all things, all days better
just by showing up

down here where my people are
you are especially appreciated
many add “gentle” before your name,
I’ve never known you to be
anything but–
not like your rough and tumble cousins
who often do damage when they come around

you approach, whispering quietly
playfully teasing
a genteel lady whose eyes twinkle
with merriment

as she lifts her skirts
and dances in time to the melody
only she can hear

########################

Yesterday evening I was outside here in Georgia and I overheard this:
A: Are you coming in?
B: No, it’s all right out here now.
C: But it’s 100 degrees!
D: Yes, but there’s a nice breeze.

I then got to wondering if there is anywhere else on this earth that a breeze is appreciated more than in the summer in Georgia. So much is made bearable, if only there is a breeze.

Wishing you all a good breeze to follow you around today. It’s hot, y’all.

pink tutus and passing years

This afternoon I sat waiting, while first one and then another of my littles attended their gymnastics classes. I was struck not for the first time by the enthusiasm of one particular little girl. These few weeks of the summer session have been her very first ballet classes, and all signs point to her future as a ballerina and someone who loves to dance. It has been a joy watching her. And that big smile on her face always melts my heart.

jumping up and down in your very first tutu
Mama stands beside you as you “perform”
for those who wait for class to begin

she reaches out and brushes a strand of hair from your forehead
smiling her tired smile that says it’s been a long day

you twirl around and around joyfully
watching makes my head spin
just as the quickly passing years do

I sit next to my girl
who is years beyond her first sweet ballet shoes
and I smile too
the weariness I feel as well
but it’s from the knowing

that the years go by too quickly
from the tiny little shoes
that can be held in one hand
to walking through the women’s section
to find the right size for the girl
almost as tall as I am

I miss the pink tutus and feet that can’t be still
and as you bounce down the hall to your classroom
I whisper to the air “dance, baby, dance”

and may you be filled with joy

always

frog music, part 2

the point is not to hear them one night
and realize that they are back
and marvel at their harmony
wondering where they were all winter,
the ones who laid the eggs
which became tadpoles
who then grew into these talented musicians

the point is not to appreciate and move on
to the next thing
or moment

instead it is to sit and listen
each and every night
hearing the different nuances in the notes
from one evening to the next

finding delight in the beauty anew
and feeling the magic
again and again
holding the same hand for all these years

it is not to forget what “at first sight”
or “first listen”
felt like

but instead to hear and see and fall in love
time
after time
each
and
every sunset

By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (Okefenokee Sunset  Uploaded by Dolovis) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (Okefenokee Sunset Uploaded by Dolovis) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Giving Thanks for the Soup Maker

Tonight I sat and listened to the wise words of a woman, my friend, who is moving on to the next chapter in her life in the next few weeks.  As the people around the tables sat and talked about how she had led/let us, as a community, try new things–to work for the benefit of others, she waved us off.  “It was never about me.  This was about all of you and the amazing things you can and will do.”

As she talked, I had a vision of a big pot of soup and a bowl of broth.

When one person handles everything on his or her own, it is like a bowl of broth.  There’s nothing wrong with it, it can be quite good, but in the end the flavor can be a bit one-dimensional.

However, when many are encouraged to take part and contribute, it becomes a richer concoction, much like my Granny’s pot of vegetable soup with all those homegrown goodies from her garden.  Mouth-watering.  Delicious.  Satisfying.  Filling.  Complete.

In this life, there is a place for bowls of broth.  Absolutely.  But when every day, day in and day out, one person is handling everything, broth just doesn’t provide the sustenance and enthusiasm that a pot of soup can.  Broth can be the basis for a delicious pot of soup, but it is not filling on its own.

It takes all of us, y’all.  When each of us puts in what we have to offer, we can change things.  We can make this world, this country, our town, our community a better place–IF we are willing to be a part.

Tonight I’m thankful for walking alongside a fabulous soup-maker.  She could have spent all these years making broth, doing it all on her own, and it would have been incredibly good.  But because she said “yes” or “let’s talk” or “we can give that a try,” so many more good things came to be.  Good things that came from many hands making light work, joyful work, as my Mama used to remind me.

“We” is a beautiful word.  Thankful to be a part of that with her and so many wonderful people.

May you all have the chance to make soup with the good folks around you.

Love to all.

By Michael W. Kolton (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Michael W. Kolton (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons