as the sun paints the leaves a lighter color
in anticipation for the changing of the season,
laying out the fancy fall foliage,
waiting for the summer crowds to head on home
a pot of soup waits on the stove
and in the woods, beneath the fallen logs
and inside the hollowed out trees
await the winter people
those who love the frigid temperatures,
dancing in the air as the snowflakes drift down
to cover the gold and red and brown carpet
that Fall left behind
the winter people politely wait their turn
sending messages that they will be arriving soon
their sentiments echoed in the smoke breathed out into the air
and in the frozen dew crunching beneath steady steps
they bring with them evergreens and white
and berries not for the tasting
and memories made wrapped in warm blankets
created all those years ago by a great-aunt or grandmother
the winter people smell like peppermint
or ginger and cloves
and they delight in mugs of hot chocolate
or apple cider
and roaring fires in the hearth
and at night just before closing their eyes
the winter people tease their hosts with stories of
seasons gone by
and memories of warmth and bare feet and
they come with a jovial spirit
and settle in quite nicely
closing shop early, making the evenings longer
asking us all to slow down and be
in the glow of the fire
their hearts are reflected
and the strength of those who can bear the cold
they have a special gift
these souls who thrive in the coldest of times
they bring peace and comfort
and warm the souls for whom the cold
and for those who think they might never survive
the winter people are there
to say “yes you can,
we can do this,
grace can come in so many ways
on days such as these
much like love
in the reaching of a hand
as the words “I forgive” pour forth
freely and quickly
in the vehemence of a child
who doesn’t understand why killing
would ever be okay
and says that the folks in that big city
must be out of their minds
except for the ones who run that doll store
“because it really is lovely though”
in a cup of coffee and a muffin
gifted over the miles
to lift a spirit and share light
in the darkness
in the signs held by hands
that are weary
from the weight of worry
but still join together
in prayerful petitions and praises
in the messages sent by family
and permission to shed tears
and be angry
and then to move on…..
as on is the only place left to go
and make all of this mean
love and grace can be found
in all of these small moments
and so many more
and when I look back on this day,
I hope that I remember those
that love and grace
and erased the lines between people
and we all held hands and
hoped that love would win
and grace would triumph
and mercy would be granted
They say the way to a Mama’s heart is through her children. Or maybe I’m the only one who says that. Anyway, tonight I’m writing to you because you have made a powerful difference in my daughter’s life.
My oldest, now a junior in college, attended the vigil for your planned execution last March. I’m not sure what either of us were expecting, but we left there changed people. We arrived as people who believe in redemption not revenge, but when we left our stories had intertwined with yours. As I stood under the bright lights out on that cold dark evening, I faced the prison where I had no idea what you were going through. I had no idea what to pray, so I stood watching. Waiting. Letting my heart pour out everything it was feeling and watching. Hoping that you could feel God with you. And know that you are loved. By God and so many of us whom you have never met.
While I stood there, focused, straining to catch a glimpse or an idea of what was going on in the building beyond the trees, my daughter sat in the camp chair we brought and she searched for information on her phone. These smart phones are pretty amazing what they can do. She dug and she was able to tell me what appeals were going on as we stood there. And then…..
she kept clicking.
I asked her what she was doing.
“Looking up law schools.”
That night changed her, Kelly. I saw an adult emerge that night. She was decided as we left the prison grounds and she has not looked back. She did what she had to and changed her majors to what law schools look for and what she is passionate about. Psychology and–you should know–Religious Studies. She is now an intern at a law firm and has been studying for the LSAT much of the summer.
She recently read that a disproportionate number of death penalty cases come from the county where she is in school and where a law school is also located. That decided it. She wants to study law there and then become a defense attorney there as well.
All because of you.
Thank you, Kelly.
Tonight my heart is heavy. You are scheduled to be executed by the state tomorrow evening, September 29, at 7 p.m. The Parole board has agreed to another clemency hearing at 11 in the morning. I pray, I PRAY with my fingers crossed and my eyes closed and brow furrowed and with everything in me that they will commute your sentence to life in prison. That is what I hope will happen. My head and heart hurt too much when I contemplate what it means if they don’t.
See, I became complacent. Right before your scheduled execution in March, I made calls and sent emails and shared posts and tweeted articles, and I was so overjoyed that the drugs were cloudy and there was an anti-death penalty movement growing very strong across our nation that I let it slide. I shared a story or two every now and then. I paid attention when there was an article about the cloudy drugs. I listened and I read, but spring and then summer came and went, and I was not prepared for the news of your new execution date.
Kelly, I hope you can feel the energy from where you are–the furor and the drive of all the people who care for you and about you. Those of us whom you’ve met and touched directly and those whom you have not.
It is my belief that one day we will see an end to the killing as punishment. That the death penalty will be abolished for always.
I just hope I am right.
The thing that I remember so strongly from that day in March, your second execution date as the snow prevented your first one from happening as scheduled, was that the day held the promise of spring. I had so hoped you were able to go out and feel the warm sun and the gentle breeze on your face. That you knew that winter was fading and spring was coming.
And here we are again, on the precipice of seasons changing. Only I hope that summer is not the only season ending. I hope that the season of government executions and hatred and people standing divided will end as well. I hope that you will be here to see the leaves change, to hear the Christmas carols sung by those with great voices and those with great spirit. I hope you will ring in the New Year, knowing your season of fear and worry and time on death row is over.
I hope for all of the good things.
And I hope that one year in the near future, my daughter’s wish will come true. That she will be able to meet you face to face and tell you about how you changed her life. How your story being intertwined with hers for a moment set her on the path of fighting for fair trials and justice for all. But mostly so she can smile and tell you, “Thank you.” And you can see the light in her eyes that you helped put there.
Redemption is a beautiful story, Kelly. And our people are fighting to choose redemption over revenge.
I can only imagine what tonight is like for you. For your children. This is inhumane, in my opinion, this torture of not knowing.
Oh, all the not knowing. Neither you nor the people who love you deserve the reality and fear and worry and waiting of this night.
I’m sorry, Kelly. I became complacent. I’ve spent the past ten days trying to remedy that, and make up for all the days I didn’t speak up and say, “This is NOT okay. Not in my name.”
I am asking God once again to be with you this night. That perhaps you will get some rest and have peace in your heart. And the same for your children and your Sisters and all of those who care. May the peace that passes all understanding be with all of you and all of us, who join you in the worry and the waiting.
Thank you, Kelly. For not letting who you were define who you were to become. For letting your story bring so much hope and heart to all of us.
And for reminding us that grace abounds and love ultimately wins.
Holding you in the light,
If anyone would like to speak out against the scheduled execution, please read below about the ways you can still make a difference:
(from the #Kellyonmymind Facebook page)
CALL the GA Board of Pardons and Paroles and ask for mercy for Kelly. They’re considering Kelly’s petition and a call will make a big difference. Call, tweet, post. please! Less than 20 hours to save Kelly’s life so please call and ask others to call. Then tweet and post them too! Let’s do whatever we can to stand with Kelly!
GA Board of Pardons & Paroles CALL TODAY (404) 656-4661 (press “0” then “4”)
out in the middle of the oceans
there exists a turtle,
the leatherback turtle,
a grand creature
who can grow as tall as a man
and weigh nearly a ton
and who dives deeper and
migrates further than any other
sea turtle in the world
this turtle which has seen the mysteries
of the dark, murky waters
that I will never witness
can live to be the age I am
but for many that never happens
the lovely, gentle giants of the water
have a favorite treat–
and they swim looking for the delicacy
all too often
a leatherback will come upon
a plastic bag floating in the water
and, trusting, mistake it for his favorite
is the last thing he will do
a rainy Sunday evening in September finds
me weeping in the dark
over the fate of a turtle
and all of us
who seek the good
only to be mistaken
and taken in by what can
ultimately cause our demise
and break our hearts in two
Some days a moment stays with me to the point where I need to write about it, even when I had my thoughts all set to share about something else.
Tonight is just such a night.
This evening I took Miss Sophie out for a walk. Cooter joined us on his bike, since he’s still grounded but needed to stretch his legs. As we wandered around the corner and one street over, I crossed paths with a young man who was continuously dribbling a basketball. Up down up down up down, pass to the other hand, and then up down up down up down again. He was good. And he kept walking the whole time. (I wish I were that coordinated.)
Cooter and I went down a dead-end street and back up, with all the stopping and smelling that Miss Sophie wanted to do. She was in her happy zone. Cooter pushed with his little legs and made it up the sloped street, pumping as hard as he could. As we got to the top of the street, there was the young man with the basketball again, heading back in the opposite direction. We crossed paths again.
Something or Someone prompted me to speak. (My daughter says I am channeling my Mama when I do this.) “Hey, you’re really good! You play on a team?”
He turned back to me, and his whole countenance had changed. Because of THAT smile. His eyes lit up, and I was blown away for a moment.
“Not yet,” he said, quietly. And then with a little more confidence, “But I’m going to try out.”
I asked if it were for the local high school team, and he nodded yes. “Well, best of luck to you! You are really, really talented.”
He smiled, ducked his head, and we each headed in our own direction back to our homes.
I can’t seem to get the image of his face all lit up out of my head or heart. What had looked like a young man meandering along on an early fall evening was actually a young man focused on his dreams. Working intently on making them happen.
I am glad I stopped and noticed. That was a Gift for me to see. That light though. A precious treasure.
We all have a light of sorts inside of us, don’t we? We just need someone to notice that thing about us that makes our heart and soul shine, and then…..
Look out, world. You’re going to need sunglasses, we are so bright.
Tonight I’m thankful for the reminder that people are always more than what we see. There are so many stories in each one of us, and if we take time and are open, we might even be blessed enough to see one. I’m grateful for the chance to see that light in the young man, and for The One who helped me to speak up to begin with. I am inspired by this young man’s intensity and focus. I am also thankful for the reminder that things are not always what they seem. All I saw at first was a young man playing around with a basketball, when what I was really seeing was dream-making in progress.
It felt almost sacred, being a witness to that moment, all that effort.
May we all have someone who will see the light in us and remind us that it is there, and may our hearts be glad and filled with the drive to keep trying until we make our dreams happen and our light shine even brighter.
Many days I am a walking billboard for “What Not to Wear.”
I know this. I accept it.
The way I know this is because apparently I gave birth to a fashion expert. She KNOWS what is fashionable and what looks good, and what DOESN’T.
And she loves me enough to tell me. Each and every time. Quickly. Without hesitation.
And with, at times, extreme disgust.
Like today we were shopping at the GW Boutique where Cooter found a Halloween costume (already, yes, he’s only been talking about it for a month). It’s just about hoodie weather here now (any day now, please), and I like to look and see what fantastic hoodies they might have. It’s like a game. A treasure hunt.
We were walking through the men’s section (you can find the best hoodies there), and I saw an Oxford shirt that reminded me of one I used to sleep in–it had belonged to one of Mess Cat’s old boyfriends and thus, she had passed it along to me. (Hand-me-downs for the win.) I wore that thing until it fell to pieces. Literally.
When I pulled the shirt out to show Aub and see what she thought of it, she got “the” look on her face and said, “Why you want to go around looking like Bill Cosby?” referring to his unique tastes in clothes on the Cosby show. Y’all remember the “Cosby sweaters?”
I laughed. She was right. But I still got the shirt. It was on sale (hello!) and I think it will be comfortable to sleep in. And it might just be fun to get “the look” from her every now and then.
So yes, I love my clothing bargains. I found a cool website, ThredUp, which is an online clothing consignment store. We found Aub several dresses at very good prices for her law internship. One day on a whim I typed crocheted top or something like that in the search box, as I found myself in something of a bohemian style mood.
And I found this top.
I was in love. The color, a light cream, and the crocheted details and the asymmetry of it. LOVE. Because, if you haven’t picked up on it before, I’m a bit wonky and asymmetrical myself.
I wore it last Sunday to Evening Prayer with jean capris and a coral colored tank underneath. Most days I dress for myself. I don’t mean that I dress myself (which I do) but, barring a glare from my girl, I wear what I enjoy.
And I really enjoy that top.
As we were setting up and milling about, talking and catching up before the service started, one of my friends came up and said, “Hey! I made it tonight!” I was so glad she did. Her spirit is fun and sweet and calming, a really rare and welcome combination. I smiled. Then she continued, “And you are really rocking that tablecloth you are wearing, I have to tell ya.”
For the love.
I burst out laughing. My friend totally caught me off guard. But she was so right. It did look like one of those doily type tablecloths from way back when. And with the asymmetry making it rounded, if it hadn’t had a brand tag at the back of the neck, I might have thought it was the best repurposed sweater EVER.
Alas, though, it was just made that way.
My sweet sisterfriend immediately backpedaled because she’s sweet like that and started apologizing. But I reassured her then and I am reassuring you now, girl, I love you. Thank you for that belly-busting laugh. The kind that erupts from you before you even know it’s happening. I LOVE THOSE KINDS OF LAUGHS. And I’m thankful when they happen and for the person who inspired them.
The thing about my daughter and my friend commenting on my fashion choices is this. It doesn’t bother me that they had something less than flattering (I don’t know, could being compared to a tablecloth be considered flattering? Mayhap) to say about my clothing, because their commenting means they noticed. Me. They saw me, and they noticed what I had on. It also means they care enough and are comfortable enough in our relationship to say what’s on their minds. They aren’t being unkind pointing out my fashion faux pas–their sharing comes from love.
And that’s a gift to be sure. To be known, to be loved anyway, and to be close enough that someone is comfortable sharing their truest thoughts.
A gift I am so thankful for.
Later last Sunday evening, the fact that I’ve been known to pick up one or ten crocheted or knitted afghans from the GW came up. As we were talking, it was as though a lightbulb came on over my head. “Y’all. I have passed by a round blanket or two at the GW, simply because it didn’t really appeal to me. But now, NOW, I know what I can do with one. I’ll repurpose it and make one of these tops!”
Now that will be something worth talking about, don’t you think?
May we all have someone who loves us and loves us well and keeps us on our toes, with sharing ideas, opinions, and lots of laughter. Because laughter really is the best.
This afternoon was one of those hazy, gray days with just enough drizzle that you were never quite sure if it was raining or not. There was a little bit of a chill in the air, and it was very quiet in our neighborhood. The streets usually overrun with children after school were empty.
My littles were working on their lessons. I was taking care of my day to dailies when our Princess came in and asked me if she could go outside. I looked out the windows to my right just in case I was wrong and the skies had turned blue and sunny in the last thirty seconds.
“But Cooter’s out there,” she said, just enough above a whine not to get called out for it but close enough that her message got through.
“No, he’s not supposed to be,” I told her, as I remembered him commenting on his buddies being outside. (To which I had said, No, you’re not going out there.)
We started searching the house, calling his name. Nothing. Miss Sophie followed us around, and I headed straight for the front door.
Only I saw no one. “I’m going outside,” I called out, and I took off across the yard, hollering his name like I was back home in the country again.
I didn’t care.
The street was so quiet, it was almost unbearable. The silence was tangible, and it wrapped around my throat and heart, nearly choking me.
I looked back at the house and realized the garage was open, so he most likely had his bike. Only it wasn’t flung down in someone’s front yard like it normally is, a surefire clue to where he could be.
The silence was suffocating me. I kept walking. One foot in front of the other.
In that moment, all I could picture was trying to tell the Fella that I’d lost our boy. And what on earth I would say to the 911 operator.
Thankfully in the next moment, as I got about 2/3 of the way up the street, I saw a glint of yellow. His bike?
And then his face.
I nearly wept right then as ALL THE FEELS washed over me. You name it, I felt it.
Mostly I was exhausted. That had been the longest walk down our little street that I’ve ever had.
From where he was, he saw my face and said nothing. As I couldn’t speak, I pointed at our house. He all but flew past me on his bike and into the garage out of sight. I slowly turned around and started back toward the house. One foot in front of the other.
I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew he was in big trouble. Possibly the biggest he’s ever been in.
When I got in the house, I was all prepared to light into him, but I did take a moment. And I breathed.
He looked so small and uncertain and maybe a little scared sitting on the couch across from me. All of the anger melted away for a second. I or Someone reminded me that the worst hadn’t happened. I had my child right here with me. He was okay.
“Come here, buddy,” I choked out. And he knew exactly what I wanted. We hugged for a long minute. And then I started crying, telling him how scared I had been.
I started fussing. One more fit. I named the rules he had broken–one, leaving the house without asking, two, riding his bike up the street without asking, and three, going in someone else’s yard where he would be out of eyesight from ours. Our rule is if you can’t see our house, I can’t see you–so only go where you can.
He listened and tears crept into his eyes. I was rational but I laid it out for him–how scared I’d been, how disobedient he’d been, how I was thankful, and that he was OH SO VERY MUCH FOR A LONG, LONG TIME grounded. I didn’t explain it in exactly a calm voice either. And I might have been loud.
I hugged him one more time, and then I sat him down in front of his lessons as he wondered aloud what exactly being grounded looked like. He was contrite but curious.
I walked away.
Later this evening I thought about the Prodigal Son story found in the Good Book. The one where a man has two sons, and one chooses to take his inheritance early and goes off and squanders it, and then winds up working feeding pigs for a farmer. He finally decides to swallow his pride and go back home and ask his father to take him on as a hired servant. As he heads towards home, his father sees him, and goes running to greet him. The father plans a big ol’ hootenanny to welcome him home, which doesn’t exactly sit well with the son who has stayed home and spent all this time doing his father’s bidding. I get it, and that’s a story for another night–but what made me go back and reread it tonight is I was wondering if the father had advance notice the son was coming home. That he was alive–and okay.
I read it over three times. I don’t think he did.
So there the father was–all this time gone by where he’d likely heard about the partying and then nothing. He didn’t know if his son was dead or alive or what, and then one day the son comes home.
And the father greets him. With open arms. He ranto his son.
And I just have one question, one little thought rattling around in my mind–
After you hugged your son, so thankful and relieved that he was alive and in front of you and seemingly okay, did you then take a moment to impress upon him all the worrying you had done in all that time and how irresponsible and inconsiderate he had been not to at least communicate better with you, because after all you are his father and you love him, but there are rules and stuff as to how to be kind and respectful to those you love?
Did you ground him?
I can understand what that hug was like for you–you had this lost child in your arms. You could touch him, breathe him in, hold him in your arms. But can you identify with my frustrations and anger and pain and fear that followed the hug?
I mean, I think it would have been okay to do all that and then move on to the feast. It seemed to flow that way around here. After the dust settled, I made them a pot of “sort of from scratch” chicken noodle soup, and it was good and comforting and just what we all needed after the emotional upheaval of the afternoon. I even served the pears my Prodigal asked for.
But his sister sure got some too. Because I appreciate that she hung around like she was supposed to.
Tonight I’m thankful that my children are tucked in bed safe and sound, and that none of the horrible things going through my head about 5:30 this afternoon came to fruition. I give thanks for the “intervention” in my heart that had me hug my son with gratitude before letting him know exactly where he had gone wrong. I don’t know if I was right or wrong in raising my voice and calling him out, but what’s done is done now. I just know that this world we live in can be a scary place, and I walk a fine line between not wanting to scare my children and trying to impress upon them the importance of being smart and staying safe.
May we all have someone happy to see us when we return back to where we came from, running to us with open arms that wrap us up in love–and may we recognize that sometimes the heart behind the fussing and correcting really, really does love us.