Whoa man!

In August 1994, in my previous life, my sister MessCat joined our family on vacation. We stayed in the little park home at the “campground” in Florida. It was called a campground, but everyone stayed in some kind of mobile/modular home on a little plot of grass across from the canal. Many had boats docked right across from their lot and most were year round residents. My in-laws who owned it were seasonal. We went down for a week each year, usually in August.

We had a great week, filled with cheese grits and fish, boating and gator tail, manatee watching and swimming in the gulf. There were late night UNO games on the screened porch and sleeping in and lots of sun exhaustion-induced afternoon naps. Shampoo and sunscreen were the perfume of the days. I can still smell that and the scent of the canal…..and listening to the sound of boat motors and frogs singing after dark.

On that trip MessCat told me about how college was going for her. It was her last year. She’d come across some interesting information and had been testing it out. Apparently, something she had heard or read said, if you repeat one thing over and over–an exclamation of sorts–others will start repeating it as well. She was well on her way to having, “That’s crunchy!” spoken by half of her campus. She expected the saying to be used by nearly all by the time she returned from vacation. All because one person repeated it over and over. And it stuck.

We decided to try it. She reminded me today that the line came from the poem from “So I Married An Axe Murderer.” (Woman…..Whoa man) We started saying “whoa man” about all kinds of things. Something surprising (whoa man, did you see that?), something good (whoa man, this sandwich is good), something that hurt (whoa man!), when we wanted someone to stop (whoa man *hand up*)…..and so on. If we could find a way, we did. My 8 year old little Bud was an amused observer, I think. MessCat might tell me differently, but I don’t think he ever blinked about it. The other adult though, it was sinking into his brain without him even knowing it. Until one evening, as MessCat, my Bud, and I were Reversing and Skipping Turns and changing colors, he came in from the canal, walked across the porch, and nearly fell off the two steps going into the house. “Whoa man!” he said, as he struggled to regain his balance.

We promptly lost it. MessCat and I nearly fell off our seats laughing so hard. Even my Bud joined in, though I’m not sure if he knew what was so funny or not. Or maybe two adults rolling around with laughing tears is funny enough on its own.

What occurred to me in the wee hours while I was asleep last night, was that this is happening right now. People keep saying things over and over. And then others start to repeat it. And others and still others. More and more. Until everyone is saying it, and very few–as evidenced by my need to call MessCat this morning to ask about the origin of the exclamation–really remember why.

It is not lost on me that the child was the last one to join in with the catchphrase, but eventually he did. Becuase he was hearing it from all of the adults in his life.

It’s odd, isn’t it? I haven’t thought about that trip or that incident in a long, long time. But for some reason it crawled back out last night from where it has been tucked away, interrupted my sleep, and demanded to be revisited and told.

We–me, you, all of us–need to be cautious about what we are speaking and giving life to. Someone is bound to repeat it. For whatever reason. And if that someone is a child…..

we have to be more careful. We…..I…..need to be more focused on speaking light into life. And love. And beauty and joy. And of course, laughter.

And if darkness tries to come creeping in…..

WHOA, MAN.

Love and light to all.

thinking about what we are saying /// watching for who’s listening

Remember the Math

I miss my Mama.

She’s been on my mind and heart so much more than usual in the recent past. I suppose it could be because January is her month. Her birthday is Friday the 15th, forever etched in my mind and soul. The day I give thanks for her presence on this earth and her presence in our hearts since she left this world almost 8 years ago.

I think it also could be because I so miss her words of wisdom, her hugs, her loving my babies through all kinds of things, her being where they could go when they are mad at me. I struggle these days, just as I am sure many of you are. What sense would Mama make of all of this, I wonder. I more than wonder. I yearn for her and her way of looking at life.

I was thinking about this last night when the lights were out and only the whispers of the wind outside and the gentle snoring of my feline and canine babies could be heard. And I heard my Mama, almost as if she were right beside me.

I have two younger sisters and a little brother. My sisters are three and five years younger than me, and my baby brother is almost nine years younger. With all of our personalities and varied interests piled up together in our childhood home, we were bound to get into (ahem) disagreements. It happened. Always certain that we each were RIGHT and the other was WRONG, we toted tales to Mama, who was at home with us the most.

“She did this, he said that, why does she get to, tell him not to, she’s not, he’s bugging me” and so on. You get the idea. Inevitably, when Mama asked one of us about a transgression, the answer would pop out almost without thinking.

(or completely without thinking, because we KNEW what Mama thought of what we were about to say)

“Yes ma’am, I did, but she—“

Oh boy.

That “but” would get Mama’s goat more than anything. Using what someone else did to justify our wrongdoing–whoo whee. Mama had one and only one opinion on that.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

That was how math worked in our house. (That and a null set for leaving folks out, but that’s another story.)

Mama didn’t play when it came to us thinking “but he said, but she did” justified anything we might do. “If you know better, do better.” No matter what someone else did or said. So she nipped that in bud.

Over and over. We were a little slow picking things up sometimes.

One of our family traditions was going to see the children’s plays at Mama’s alma mater (and eventually mine and my daughter’s). It was always in the fall. I have fond memories of Mama and Daddy both loading us up and going to see the young performers who seemed so adult to me at the time. They were STARS, and I was starstruck. I remember one play in particular when a princess came out in a flurry of pink tulle, in the midst of much chaos and unpleasant exchanges between the other characters, exclaiming in her high pitched princessy voice, “I’m sure you’re all really very wonderful.”

Oh my, how Mama loved that line and made it her own.

I loved my siblings then and still do. But we weren’t always on the same page when we were all in the same house. When we were “at cross purposes” as Mama called it and at odds with each other, we weren’t necessarily pleasant about it. Mama would say after encouraging us to bring it down to a “dull roar” those very words–“I’m sure you’re all really very wonderful.”

I remember her tone didn’t always suggest that she was fully one hundred percent committed to her belief in that statement. It was more of a reminder for us to get to wonderful…..in rapid fashion.

Bless her.

So that’s it.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

I’m sure you’re all really very wonderful.

That’s what I heard my Mama whisper that night. The week of her birthday, I got the gift of a reminder of her wisdom. In the dark of night, there was light.

While we are all out here in our day to dailies and posting things and speaking things and getting along (or not) with folks, let’s remember the math.

And please keep it down to a dull roar. I have a headache (and heartache) that won’t go away.

Love to all.

ps. What I’m not saying, because my Daddy had strict rules about what we could talk about in public, is this–bad and hard things have happened. Please don’t make light of them or justify making light of them because you feel that other hard or bad things have happened. We are all hurting. Let’s see if we can get to wonderful. And be light and love to each other. That’s all. Remember the math.

The Season We Are In

“I can’t do this.”

These four words have been rattling around in my head quite a bit lately. As the drops have fallen from the showerhead and my eyes, I have even whispered them aloud. “I. Can’t. Do. This.”

I’m okay. Things are okay. There are people who have more struggles every single day than I do. I don’t take my blessings lightly. And I don’t mean to make light of the very real hard things people around me and around the world are going through.

Still, if I’m keeping it real–and am transparent, I’ve had moments, especially in the past year, month, week, where I feel so blame overwhelmed, I just don’t know how to keep on keepin’ on. To be honest, I keep looking around for the grownup in charge.

Yesterday I decided to go outside and sit on my front steps. My front steps got me through a lot of the days at the beginning of this pandemic. We live on a culdesac, and my porch is surrounded by flora–a loropetalum on one side and a loquat tree on the other–so there is no shortage of sounds, smells, and sights to take in and just sit and be with. During loquat season, I watched one of my feathered friends come over and drink from the fruit and then hop over to another branch and clean his beak on a leaf before flying off. I’m just thankful my tree produces enough fruit for us to enjoy and to share with the squirrels and birds who reside with us in our little corner of our world.

I was taking in the afternoon, breathing in the fresh air and thankful that I could. Suddenly one of our resident bird friends hopped over to the walkway between lorapetalum and loquat. I said hello, and then saw this happen.

This amazing creature who defies logic by taking to the air and FLYING brought her snack over in front of me and proceeded to partake.

Y’all.

She ate a wasp.

A wasp.

And then she turned and looked me straight in the eye before she flew off to continue tending to her business.

I heard you, my winged wonder. I heard you as clearly as I heard the wind gently whispering through the leaves.

“You’ve got this, girl. I promise you this. If I can eat a flippin’ wasp, you’ve got this. It’s okay to be sad or feel overwhelmed, but when it comes down to it, take what you can find in this season and make it work–YOU’VE GOT THIS.”

And then she hopped off.

Because, I mean, she’d had her snack and she had lots more to do before the sun went down. After all, she has the wisdom to get things done while the sun shines and then rest when it doesn’t. Another thing I could learn from her.

It is not lost on me, this message that I so desperately needed to hear. This encouragement that my soul was crying out for. But the messenger is also not lost on me. My Daddy used to sit in his recliner by the window in our living room and watch the birds live out their stories in the arbor vitae along our dirt and gravel driveway. I wonder what lessons and messages he got from them over the years, especially his last one where that window was literally his window to the world as the hospice bed replaced the recliner. I can’t help but wonder if my bird friend was sent by my Daddy, as I have so wished he were here to ask for answers that would guide me and bring me some peace.

Take courage, my friends. As numbers and words and thoughts and opinions tend to divide and separate and cause doubt or pain or uncertainty or loss, know that you’ve got this. There are things out there that might seek to harm us, to sting us and take us down. But it’s important to remember, as the tears threaten to take over or emotions come wave after wave, that sting can be taken down. Literally and figuratively.

If you’re feeling like you can’t do this, know you are not alone. Take heart and remember our feathered friend. It was going to be cold that night. There’s no fruit on the loquat tree for her to munch on–that was a different season. The season we are in right now provided no sweetness for her; instead it offered her a wasp. And instead of giving up, she kept at it until she conquered it and made it work for her.

In this season we are in, let’s do that, y’all. Maybe together it will be easier. The season of sweetness will surely return, but for now, instead let’s take what we can find and make it work. Even that which would harm or divide us can serve a purpose, if only we stand together.

You are not alone. Love to all.