The Question She Always Asked

Tonight I’m sitting with my Mama, as I remember her and struggle to fully grasp how long it has been since I heard her voice aloud.

Three years.

And tonight as I am struggling to let some things go and not put back together pieces from some other things, I can hear her asking the question she always asked us.  Whether it was schoolwork or housework or outside chores or a project or apologizing for a wrongdoing, she would ask,

“Did you do your best?”  

If we were able to honestly answer “Yes ma’am,” grace abounded.  She was okay with almost anything as long as we had no kidding, no holds barred tried our very best.

Mama was all about doing the best we could do in any given situation.  It was something she taught us and expected.

Our best.

Some days that might still look pretty broken, but as long as we had “applied” ourselves (another turn of phrase she liked) and given it our “all,” Mama was pleased.  It might follow that we would still have some work to do towards a resolution, but still.  Our best was all she ever asked.

Not THE best.  Our best.

Tonight I needed that grace.  I’m thankful to Mama for reminding me of it.  I can’t fix all the things I want to.  I don’t have the time to make all the good things happen I’d like to make happen.  I was grumpy a few times today and wish I hadn’t been.  I didn’t get all the clothes folded that are on the couch.  There are a couple of dishes in the sink that will likely stay there until morning.   I cried twice today over things I can’t change.  I forgot to thank my neighbor for driving me this evening.

But I can say, pretty much, that overall, yes ma’am, I tried my best.  And when I came to that realization, I felt a weight lift.  (And I’m pretty sure I felt my Mama patting me on my back, but that’s another story.)  As long as we can end a day by saying we’ve done the best we could do with what we had in front of us–well, then, I’m calling that a win, how about y’all?

Love and grace to all.

 

redemption story

the truth is, we are all living a redemption story–
in any given moment we can change direction
make choices that take us on another path completely
rewrite our story
change up the cast of characters
have a set change and cull the props

at any point on our path
we can chart another course
and turn this life around
such that what was born of the dark times
can shine such beautiful light
eventually,
one day

and what was broken and caused all the pain
can lead others to the light, to beauty
and towards their own redemption story

all of us have that chance
for atonement and healing hearts,
as long we are on this journey
and putting one foot in front of the other
it is not too late

there always exists the choice
for small, great things
that can leave an imprint on the hearts and minds
of history
changing the course for all of us
if only we are strong and speak in truth
with courage
celebrating joy and leaving beauty marks in our wake

we are all living out our stories
it is for us to make it a good one

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be strong, true, joy / Walk in the Light / the story is always redemption

Note:  As I was making this picture with the Latin words, I used an on-line translator, as it’s been just a few years since my last Latin class.  To double check my translation, I reversed the process and learned the truest interpretation of the words here.  The one that made my the most joy-filled, the most hopeful is the last one.  Instead of saying “The redemption story is always possible,” it interpreted it to read, “The story is always redemption.”  So much hope there.  For all of us.  Love to all.  

Me too

Two of the most beautiful words–

wait.

No.  Right now, in this moment right here, they are THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WORDS EVER to hear from the mouth of another.  Or from the keyboard of someone else.

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ME TOO.

About a week ago I shared a meme on Facebook about how you know you’re a Mama if you keep running the same load of laundry for three days because you keep forgetting to move it to the dryer.

I prefaced it with something like “I will neither confirm or deny.  Ahem.”  See?  Even though I was saying THIS IS ME, THIS IS THE CRAZY I AM AND DO ON A REGULAR BASIS, I was leaving a little bit of doubt so maybe folks wouldn’t really know the CRAZY I am.

Yeah.  Right.  They knew.

It’s scary for me to share things like that.  I like my mask.  I like my doors and walls and staying put behind them.  I joke about parading my crazy on the front porch, but other than some cobwebs that need sweeping up and some old Christmas greens that I should move to the fire pit pile, I really DON’T like to share my crazy that openly.

Still, I shared it because on rough weeks (okay, and maybe not so much ONLY the rough weeks), I’ve been guilty of this.  It struck a chord with me.  It made me laugh.  I had to share it.  Because I get it and because as I’m easing closer to the big five-o, I’m hopeful that with that decade I will find grace to be all the CRAZY that I am and not be so guilt-filled or lost or overwhelmed by it.  That’s what I’m hoping for.

In the meantime, I’m leaking little bits of it here and there.

And you know what?

Folks responded.  Folks I’m close to and folks who knew me when and folks from all over–they responded.  You know what they said?  Nary a one said, “Wow, Tara, get it together. That’s very wasteful.  You are really wasting our natural resources, and one day your grandchildren can blame YOU for their water shortage.  And high energy costs.  YOU.  I can’t even believe that you can’t remember to move a load of laundry over to the dryer before it sours.  Really?  I think I might have to unfriend you…..”

No.  Not one.

The ones who responded were filled with grace.  Most said those magic words:

“ME TOO!”

Last night I wrote about Robert Pine being Chris Pine’s father, and how that discovery amazed me.  I figured I was the last person on the planet to learn of this, and everyone else would think–“Okay, Tara, old news.  Move along.”  But they didn’t.  Folks said, “Me too.”  And I didn’t feel quite so out of the loop.

I’m rambling here.  The thing I want you to take away from my true confessions here is that there is magic in the words “Me too.”  Say them to someone.  Listen to their story and when it resonates with you, when you find a kindred spirit, no matter how broken or crazy or silly the thing is, tell them.  Let them know they are not alone.  Tell them “me too” and watch their face change.  Watch them smile or crumple in grateful tears.  Let them know it’s not crazy to love the things they love or do the things they do or eat the things they eat.  If you can own it, do.  Tell them “Me too.”  Shout it.  (Well, okay, maybe not in every case, you don’t want to scare folks.)  It’s good news to let someone know they aren’t alone.  And some good news deserves to be loud and proud.

Here’s my last point, and I hope you will take this one to heart as well.  If something resonates with you, yes, say “Me too.”  That’s beautiful and powerful and healing.  But when it DOES NOT resonate with you, when you have no idea what it’s like or how someone can feel/think/believe that way, don’t turn your back on that person.  Don’t walk away, don’t yell “Not me” or take off to tell everyone else about what you just heard.  Maybe you can’t say “Me too,” but there’s something else that is just as magical.

Listening.

Respecting.

And the words, “It’s okay.  I’m trying to understand.  Tell me more.”

Powerful good magic that.

We don’t have to have all the things in common to be with another person.  To be comforting.  To lift them up.  Sure the “me too” moments are wonderful and reassuring and really, really good.

But so are the “I’m listening, tell me more” moments.  The quiet moments of just sitting in the ditch with someone who is there simply because she loves you.  She might not get it, but she loves you so she’s there.

That’s good stuff too.

You think so?

Me too.

Love to all.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up…..But I Tried

Being the oldest of four siblings in the dark ages before internet access, I got to make up a lot of stuff. Stuff that may or may not have been true.  Stuff that the ones listening to me really couldn’t verify or denounce without going to Mama and Daddy.

Yeah, there were days that I was that sibling.

Summers get long and hot in Georgia, y’all.  Without AC you kind of have to make your own fun.

Mostly I would tell my sisters, especially Mess Cat, about celebrity relationships.  I don’t know why it mattered, but on those hot summer afternoons when we tried to do as little as possible since sitting still you would still sweat puddles, it was Something. To. Do.

It started with true stories.  About who was married to whom, like Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers) and Connie Sellecca.  Or who had been in what movie with whom way back when before they became famous.  Then the imagination would take off and I’d be making up all kinds of stories.  Inevitably, I’d cross a line–it always happened.  That line that would cause Mess Cat to glance at me sideways and cut her eyes just so, squinting, thinking.  I would hold my face still and just about hold my breath, hoping she wouldn’t see through my stories.

But she did.  Some days it took longer than others, but she always did.  Sometimes I’d continue to feign innocence for days, but eventually she found me out.

Oh the fun of the good ol’ days.

So it was that yesterday after the ball game (I watched that whole fourth quarter of the Seahawks/Panthers game–I’m a fourth quarter kind of girl, but that’s a story for another night), the TV was still on, and I was focused on what I had been working on.  I think I was crocheting another  stripe on my temperature blanket.  Whatever it was, my attention was not on what was on TV until I stood up to turn it off and leave the room.  It was then that I saw two men on the screen with the same last name.

My mouth dropped open.

It actually fell open.  I was frozen in place for a moment.  WORLDS COLLIDED.

Growing up we did watch CHIPS.  My favorite was not Erik Estrada’s “Ponch” character or Jon Baker, though they both were entertaining enough.  My favorite was Robert Pine’s character.  For whatever reason, I just really liked him best.  When I looked up at the screen yesterday, Robert Pine was pictured there. But it was the young man next to him that made my mouth drop.

Chris Pine.

What the what?

I have loved him since his Princess Diaries 2 days.  That’s one of my go to movies.  Yes.  If it’s on, I’m watching it.  As a matter of fact, it came on one of the channels the other day, and Aub said, “Mama, it’s like they know you.”  And we all sat here and watched it.  Again.

And so you might can understand how surprised I was when it all clicked and I realized that Robert Pine is Chris Pine’s father.

Of course he is.  I can see the resemblance now.

Wow.

For a moment though, I looked around to see if my sister Mess Cat was anywhere around.  She would have loved the poetic justice in that moment, I’m sure.

It’s fascinating when life surprises me with new stories, new things I didn’t know, things I never even considered before.  Even when it’s trivial things like who’s related to whom in the acting world.

Tonight I’m thankful for all the happy and lazy memories that yesterday’s discovery brought back for me. We worked hard, played hard, and lazed around hard all those summers so many years ago.  And we laughed and loved hard.  That’s what brings me the greatest joy.

Love to all.

listening

there are times when the words come easily
and flow quickly,
faster than my fingers can fly across the keyboard

other times I sit and ponder and read
and try to find the words

and perhaps, it has just occurred to me,
that instead of searching for the words
that seem to elude me

those moments could best be spent
embracing the quiet
the stillness

and
just
listening…..

 

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By Sini191 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Watching The Rock Die

So there was this day I found myself sitting at the Emergency Room with my sisterfriend there alongside, and I looked up at the TV right in front of me whose sound was not minimal, and the violence was jarring.

It would have been jarring in any circumstances, but with the background sounds of the young woman in the wheelchair crying out in pain as her husband rubbed her back in gentle circles, and the voices of the nurses insisting that no one else go back to a patient’s room or security would be called, it was dizzying.  Surreal.  Confusing.  Not to mention all the worry and anxiety.

And it was more than I could bear.

When a character on the TV walked into a room and shot The Rock, a man whom I’ve only seen in Disney movies and in brief interviews and that time he lip synced the Taylor Swift song, “Shake It Off,” it sent a shock though my system.  I really like him.  Okay, I’m in the ER, and The Rock is now dead.  Only he isn’t.  But in a room that has seen its fair share of gunshot wounds, it just seemed WRONG.

More than wrong.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve sat here thinking about that day.  And about ERs.  And the thing is, I cannot think of a single reason that wouldn’t be at least somewhat worrisome or troubling that would bring one to the ER.

Let’s face it.  It’s not a happy place.  Somebody is sick or hurt or struggling or something is WRONG and that’s why each and every person is in there.  If it’s not them hurting, they are there because they care about someone who is.

So maybe, could we all agree that these TVs that seem to be in every waiting space there is these days should be tuned to something that would take our minds off of the worry, pain, fear, concern, aches, hurt–or at least attempt to?

Like maybe “I Love Lucy” greatest hits.  Or an “Andy Griffith” marathon.  Or some other show that is devoid of violence or high speed chases or anything else that quickens the pulse and raises the blood pressure.  No more added stress.   I’m sure it would be a different show for all of us, but at this point, I’d take elevator music playing in the background.

Can we just remove the violence, the blood and gore and terror, at the very least?  (There’s enough of that in the world, in that very room, already.)

It seems that the older I get, the more sensitive I am to it.  At this point, I could do without ever seeing anything like that again.

Thanks for listening to my thoughts.  I welcome yours…..what would be your choice to pass the time in a place like the ER?  What do you think is appropriate?

Love to all.

Emergency_room

By Thierry Geoffroy (Thierry Geoffroy) [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

 

Happy Birthday and Being Held Close

A few years back my friend told me about how, in the Celtic culture, the Holy Spirit is symbolized by the wild goose.  Since that time, I’ve found comfort in seeing a flock of them grazing in a field or near a pond and in the sound of them flying overhead in the grey winter skies.

Today was no different.  On a day that was filled with the things that needed to be done and called me here and there, it was a precious day.  My Mama’s birthday.  Since my brother let the cat out of the bag about her age about 35 years ago, I don’t think she’d mind my sharing that this is her 70th birthday.  And our third one without her here.

I held her especially close today as we sat in a class about animal predators and prey and parasitism and other interesting things to know about animals, and as we went from one appointment to another this afternoon.  But it was when I saw the geese today that my spirits lifted just a touch, and I knew that we were also being held close today.

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May you find just what you need to bring you comfort right when you need it most.

Love to all.

Always

The world has lost another beautiful soul.

Tonight I give thanks for this talented actor whose portrayal of Severus Snape as written by JK Rowling in the Harry Potter novels taught some, reminded others, that there is more to people than what meets the eye.  Professor Snape reaffirmed for us the truth in Mary Lou Kownacki’s words:

Engrave this upon your heart: there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you heard their story.

Many of us spent years until the release of the seventh book in the summer of 2007 disliking this man and his ways, distrusting him.   And then, in that book, the details of his loyalties are revealed, and we learn the story of who he was and how he was treated before and whom he really loved, and what he did for that love. And then…..we realized…..

this is not a world of easy black and white.  There is no all good or all bad.

It’s all grey.  The good with the bad.  The broken with the beautiful.  The light and the dark.

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So can a talented artist like yourself.  Well done, sir.  

Thank you, Alan Rickman, for bringing this to life for us–for your part in teaching us to look beyond the story we see–to listen and hear what is not always easily seen or shared.  You shall be missed.

Always.

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It Wasn’t About the Hoodie–Not Really

I grew up not a UGA fan.  One of my earliest memories involves a vinyl covered stool that my Aunt and Uncle had in their home when we were visiting.  It had a Yellow Jacket on it.  My Uncle graduated from Georgia Tech.  From then on, I understood us to be a Tech family.

Because in Georgia–those are pretty much your choices.  Georgia or Georgia Tech.  There are other colleges, but that’s the big state rivalry.

It didn’t make me popular.  Still doesn’t.  When I wear my GT hoodie out, there are times when another Tech fan speaks up, not too loud of course, excited to find “another” outsider.

Bulldawg fans are serious, y’all.  But so are we.  I was right.  We are a Tech family.  When I was at Wesleyan, we as a student body voted Georgia Tech to be our brother school.  (I think this was so we could cheer for a football team or invite them to our socials…..right now the exact reason eludes me.)  A few years later Sister graduated from Tech, marrying a boy she met there.  After that my Cousin and my brother both graduated from there.  (I’m not mentioning the two cousins who went to UGA–we still shake our heads over that.) Mess Cat married Leroy, who also came from a diehard Tech family.  Only they were a bit more serious–they had actually been to games.  Live.  In person.

Yes.  Go Tech!

So you can understand why I was a bit perplexed, befuddled, if you will, that our Princess announced at a very young age that she is a Bulldog fan.

Where on earth did she pick up such language?

When she was smaller, it was cute.  Oh look at the little one, she thinks she knows what she’s talking about.  Okay.  Whatever.  We patronizingly indulged her little game, knowing  full well it would. not. last.

Only it did.

A couple of years ago she found a UGA top that she liked at the GW Boutique.  I got it for her, struck with bewilderment and wondering who had switched my child at the hospital in Japan, and where on earth was my little Buzz-loving child?   She wore it often, and I would feign shock and displeasure when she did.  We both wound up laughing before the day was over.  She loved reminding us where her allegiance stood by calling out, “Go Dawgs!” quite a bit during football season.

She eventually outgrew that top.  She does not, thankfully, have a replacement.  So be it.  (She does have an Auburn top, and I believe I tried to sneak a GT one in on her to no avail.)

Today we dashed in at the GW Boutique on our Outs and Abouts. I was looking at blazers for my future law school student, when I came across a red hoodie.  I’m a lover of all things hoodie-fied, if you will recall, so I flipped it around, fingers crossed, hoping it would not be…..

but it was…..

Georgia.

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Now in this state, “Georgia” on a hoodie does not mean what you think it means.  Georgia on a hoodie–a red hoodie with black writing–means only one thing.  U. G. A.

Ughhhh.  Uhhh.

This was not the hoodie I was looking for.

Still, in the interest of full disclosure, and because it was a hoodie and most of hers are getting too short on her, I lifted it up and showed it to our Princess as she walked over to where I was.

She smiled.  Really big.

That touched my heart and almost made me feel bad about not being all gung ho about this hoodie.

“So do you want it?” I asked her.

She looked at it, smiled again, and shook her head.

Wait.  What?

“No.  I mean, it’s nice, but I don’t want it.”

“What?  Why?”

“Well, I can just think about how it will bother you if I wear it.”  She giggled and then looked a little serious.  “I know how you feel about it, and I don’t want to make you feel all that every time I wear it.”

I took her by the shoulders and looked her straight in her eyes with fierce love.  “Baby girl, NO MA’AM.  You are a Georgia fan.  I can’t explain why, but you are.  Must have been something in the water or something.  Either way, you are a Georgia fan.  That’s how you feel, you chose it.  Do not–DO NOT EVER–change what you love or how you believe or what you want in life because you are limiting yourself to others’ expectations and preferences.  YOU DO YOU.  YOU BE YOU.  As long as you’re not physically hurting anyone else or being intentionally unkind, you don’t change who you are one bit.  Be loving, be kind, but BE YOU.  Every bit of your beautiful self.”

*sigh*

Okay, so that’s what I should have said.  Only I didn’t.  It didn’t occur to me until we were almost home WITHOUT the hoodie that I had missed a teachable moment.

*sigh* It could have been so beautiful too.  And then we would have gone arm in arm to the check out to buy the hoodie.  And instead of being (mock) frustrated every time she wore it, I would have seen it as my child expressing herself and comfortable doing so–even when she is the only one who feels the way she does.  I would have seen my child comfortable and okay with who she is and what she embraces.

Instead I was so wrapped up with how much she cared about my feelings that I totally blanked on what could have been a powerful lesson.

Man.  I really messed up.

I have put my request in with my people who are in that area that if they happen back by that GW Boutique and “iffen” that hoodie is still there, please get it for my baby.  I want to be able to tell her those things.  And hand her the hoodie and apologize.  It might not be a big deal for her now, but one day, I want her to remember it and be encouraged when life has her feeling on the outside because she believes differently than others do.

Because it’s bound to happen.  Eventually.

I’m reminded of the story of my cousin’s oldest child (who married a month ago–oh my, the time has flown) when he was very young.  He adored his grandmother, my aunt, and he was talking to her about a movie he loved.  I can’t remember which one it was, but he was so happy about it, and he asked her if didn’t she love it too.  She was honest about it and told him she really didn’t care for it much.  He was sad, and then she told him that it was okay.  That people who love each other can like different things and it still be okay.

I love that so much.  It has stuck with me for probably twenty years.  I want my children to take that story to heart.

It’s okay to like different things and still be okay with other people.

Better than okay.

May you have the courage to be you–today and everyday.

Love to all.

 

The Secret to Making Biscuits

One of my favorite memories from this past holiday season happened less than two weeks ago.  On the day after New Year’s my brother Bubba taught my oldest, Aub, how to make Maemae’s biscuits.

She even stood on a stool beside him, just like she used to with her Maemae.

Bubba told us the story of how he learned. Years ago he went to Mama in the kitchen and told her he’d like to learn how to make her biscuits.  She said, “Well, go ask your Daddy.  He taught me how to make them.”

So he went and found Daddy.  He made his request of Daddy, who asked him if he knew what the ingredients were.  Bubba replied, “Buttermilk, flour, and shortening.”

Daddy nodded.

Then he shared the most important part of biscuit making there is.

“The thing you need to know, the secret to making biscuits, is to remember that any biscuit is better than no biscuits at all.  Because you are going to make some bad ones.  It will happen, before you can get good at it.  But any biscuit is better than none.”  Daddy paused for a second.  “Now go on in the kitchen and let your Mama show you how to make them.”

And so he did.

Bubba was known for his cathead biscuits when he was in college.  Apparently grad school too, as his sweet wife whom he met there shared that she might have had her head turned by his biscuit making abilities.

I don’t blame her.

That boy can flat out make some biscuits.

Well, now.

It wasn’t always the case, but remember, any biscuit is better than…..

well, you know.  It’s the secret to making biscuits.  But let’s keep it amongst ourselves, shall we?

Tonight I’m thankful for the passing along of this family legacy–the biscuit making.  I’m thankful for a brother who makes time to share the stories and the gifts that he was given, and I’m thankful for our time together over the holidays.  It was far too short and more precious than all the gold or winning that big ol’ jackpot folks keep talking about right now.

Family, stories, and biscuits.  It’s hard to have a bad day when you’ve got all three of those treasures.

Love to all.

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Bubba’s biscuits as he rolled them out on the pan.

 

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I tried to get a photo of the whole pan, but someone was too quick for me to do it.  They were that good!

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Cooter’s biscuit with honey.  Mmmmm mmmmm.  That’s good eatin’ right there.