A Grateful Heart

Words can be such a comfort and a blessing. They can change a day by being the pivotal moment, bringing light in the darkness, joy in the midst of sorrow, laughter in remembering.

Today a dear friend sent me a picture of her daily calendar. No message, just the photo. The January 15 entry:

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed.

Proverbs 11:25

It moved me to tears. Tears of remembering, of gratitude, of joy.

Today was Mama’s birthday. Our ninth without her here. I didn’t want today to be about being sad about that. She would not like that one bit. When my friend sent me this message, she had no idea it was Mama’s birthday. Or that this verse describes my Mama so well. Mama blessed so many people during her life, and gratitude was her focus. Even after the love of her life passed on, she continued to find things to be grateful for. Every. Single. Day. The last gift she gave me was a gratitude journal. I was not in a place at the time to fully appreciate it, as I missed my Daddy, and just a few short months later, she was gone from this world as well.

But over the years, I remember and I think about how she found things–big and small–to be thankful for. To give thanks and praise for. She never ceased letting others and her Creator know how thankful she was–no gifts or blessings too small.

Time and timing are fascinating to me. And with the message today and another one I received earlier in the week, I was reminded of my Mama, on her birthday, and to be thankful. To my Mama for the blessing she was and continues to be in my life. And I’m thankful for those who have reminded me, without even realizing it, of how she lived her life.

In honor of Mama and Daddy’s anniversary in December (this would have been their 54th), I created a wish list for a young teacher who teaches children for whom books are not always readily available. So many of you reached out and sent gifts to her classroom, and it blessed my heart. Thank you all for taking time to lift up this young teacher, with thoughts, words, prayers, and gifts. For whichever way you blessed her and her students–I am grateful. And so is she. Miss M sent me this note and asked that I pass it along. (Amazon doesn’t always make it easy to thank senders on a wish list, and she didn’t want to miss anyone.)

Dear Friends: As I’ve watched box after box arrive with books and supplies for my classroom, I’m reminded once again of how God works through the hearts of His people. I arranged all of them on their little shelves for them to come back Wednesday, and the first thing they wanted to do was grab them and start flipping through the pages. I don’t know to adequately say thank you enough on behalf of all of them! You’ve blessed a young teacher’s heart. And what is normally a hectic time of coming back to school after Christmas was made a little easier and a little more fun. Thank you all for your generosity to us!

Ms. M and her Kindergarten Class

Gratitude. Mama would have loved Miss M…..and her sweet students.

Today I’m thankful for friends who send photos without really knowing why, for teachers who love and encourage and empower young children each and every day, and for people who send books and supplies for children they will likely never meet. On this day of remembering my Mama, I am thankful for the way she loved books, loved children, and loved sharing books with children. I remember how she so enjoyed giving gifts and how her presence was the greatest gift of all. In a world where things can seem so frightening and chaotic at times, the reminder of what Mama’s last gift to me–that gratitude journal– encourages me to focus on, brings me some comfort and peace.

“Find something, just one thing, anything, to be thankful for, Tara. We are so blessed,” she would say. “The Lord loves a grateful heart.”

Thank you, Mama. Love you. And thank you, friends.

Love to all.

If you would like to send a book or crayons and haven’t had a chance to yet, here is Miss M’s Wishlist . Thank you all again!

The Little Light…..It’s not on, Clark

This is a public service announcement:

Please make sure your children know that any and all light outages should be reported to those in charge–namely, you.

New Year’s Day started off lovely. Miss Sophie and I had a long, pleasant January summer (Georgia–check the calendar please) walk, and the rain didn’t come like we thought it would. When we got back I went to our freezer in the garage, as I was preparing our traditional dinner, and I noticed the things didn’t feel quite so cold or crunchy. They felt wet and soggy. Oh NO! Y’all, at some point the power outlet that the freezer was plugged into had shorted or whatever they do when there’s a storm and it clicks off and has to be reset. I immediately shifted my schedule around in my mind, as I knew that my priority had to be on assessing what had defrosted and what was still frozen.

I went inside to put down a couple of salvageable items and to grab my wits and wherewithal. This was going to require both. I saw Cooter, who had prepared frozen pizzas for him and his sister during our “lit” New Year’s Eve party the night before. Remembering this, I asked him, “Hey bud, was the light off in the freezer when you grabbed your pizzas last night?”

“Yes ma’am,” he answered, pretty distracted by the pregame show for the upcoming football game. (Are you kidding me right now?!)

“Ummm, buddy, what did you think was going on? Why didn’t you come tell me?” I tried to hide my frustration. I really did, but ummmmm…..

“I just figured the light was out,” he shrugged. Teenage boys, y’all. Check on your friends with them, we might not be okay. (Just kidding–I love him as I love my teenage daughter, but their brains are still figuring out the circuits and sometimes I think they need to be reset.). Also, maybe we should be more attentive to replacing bulbs that are out in our home *try to remember if I’ve shrugged when someone has commented about a bulb being out*–yep, I might have brought this on myself. *sigh*

After educating Cooter on the importance of telling me when said light is out or not coming on or the interior of the freezer is dark for ANY reason, I moved on to my next project–trying to save as much as possible by cooking what was still cold.

Life is so funny. I once heard that what you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll be doing all year long. I take that very seriously. Just as seriously as not doing laundry or sweeping on New Year’s. I even plan out what would be good. Do I want to take a nap–so that hopefully that opportunity will present itself more often in the coming weeks and months? Or do I want to keep on pushing through the day, accomplishing all of the things to set a great precedent for the year? I even sat my people down talking to them about their task of unloading the dishwasher, so I wouldn’t be *nagging* on New Year’s. I definitely don’t want that to be a thing all year long.

So here I was. After planning so carefully, I was having to shift everything around and be a good steward of what we had and try to save as much as possible. In addition to our traditional black-eyed peas and collard greens, for their dining pleasure, I also offered burgers, macaroni and cheese, okra, broccoli, spinach bites, veggie burgers, and French fries. A veritable smorgasbord, not exactly traditional. It was and is laughable.

So if that set precedent for the New Year, here’s how I’m reading it. May 2022 be a year of doing what is needed to be a good steward of what we have, a year of being flexible in the face of a need to change plans, and a year of laughing in the face of adversity. Did it go as I had hoped? No, but my unplanned abundance brought family around the table–including ones who don’t live here, and there was laughter and requests for seconds and mismatched crazy food on plates. And today there were plenty of leftovers, as there are for tomorrow, so as we get back into the swing of things–I don’t have to cook.

Though completely unexpected and in no way wished for, not a bad precedent to set for this year. The year I have deemed as the one where I will figure it all out. Or at least make the effort.

Love to all.

PS–You might all be pleased to know that my putting off defrosting my freezer saved a lot of our food. That piled up ice really kept things cold. (So no, that is not a photo of my actual freezer–bless it.) Procrastinating for the win! *sigh*

s-o-c-k-s ~2022~ socks

It was nineteen years ago that we were preparing to move to Japan. It was a huge change for this Georgia girl who had never lived more than thirty minutes from the home she’d grown up in. Still, it was a wonderful experience, and we came home two and a half years later with another family member–our second daughter, our sweet T.

While living in Japan we adopted the custom of leaving our shoes at the door–something we still do today. As a fan of no shoes and flip flops, my children–two legged and four–know something is up when I put on socks, because, unless it is cold, I’m not wearing them. Socks on is my version of game on–about to take care of some business.

Still, I have a love-hate relationship with socks. Yes, I can even be sentimental about socks. I still have a pair given to me thirty years ago as a Christmas gift. I have a pair of Tigger socks my parents gave me before we moved to Japan. I have some I crocheted beads around when Aub was in second grade. And I have the inevitable, aggravating singles that I hesitate to get rid of because…..you just never know, do you? I used to make it a game for my littles to match up the socks when we’d collect enough to make it worthwhile. As teens, they aren’t really interested in that game much anymore. *sigh*

I was once talking about how I feel about socks with a friend of mine. I suggested (jokingly, because I’d never do that to our environment) that I wish that socks were disposable, so I wouldn’t have to deal with all the lost socks. “Socks are the bane of my existence,” I told her. She was aghast and told me so. She really, really loves her socks.

And that’s something, isn’t it? You can tell a lot about a person by their socks–the ones they wear, if they wear any at all. I have a friend who in college always matched her socks to her outfit–I loved all her colorful socks. My Fella enjoys wearing unusual socks. Sweet T delights in picking out socks for her Daddy every year. She has even found some wrapped up like a pizza and some like a burger, each in a special box. Cooter, on the other hand, likes his basic black (last Christmas) or white (this Christmas). My Daddy liked the basic whites too. He even used a Sharpie to label the matching ones–A and A, B and B, 1 and 1, 2 and 2, and so on. Y’all, I love my Daddy, but I’m not exactly sure what good that did except to know which one had mysteriously disappeared. Because that’s what socks do in my house. I think we have one of those special sock eating washing machines. PM me for the brand if you too would like your socks to spontaneously disappear. Truly, this is a great machine for that.

Recently, our sweet T came in and told me she knew how to say “It is what it is” in Spanish. “S-O-C-K-S.” (eso sí que es) Well, what do you know? Pretty cool.

In the past couple of years, I have found myself saying “It is what it is” quite a bit. I think it’s my way of verbal sighing. Or a way of shrugging with words. When things come along that just weigh heavy on my soul, things I don’t have control over…..so much of how I live these days feels out of my control.

And yet…..

I don’t want my children to grow up with S-O-C-K-S being their go to. I don’t want them to shrug or sigh and feel resigned in the midst of all that is going on around them. Are there things they can’t do anything about, things they can’t change? Oh my, yes. But are there things that people want us to believe we can’t change, but maybe just maybe we can? Good gravy, YES! We have to at least TRY.

It’s a fine line to balance–acceptance and advocacy. Some things in this life we have to accept, but some things we never should. I’m reminded of the Serenity Prayer–

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
courage to change the things I can, 
and wisdom to know the difference
Reinhold Niebuhr

As I was thinking about what my word for this coming year should be, I kept hearing my daughter saying S-O-C-K-S in my mind, AND all the while I’ve been moving around a stack of mismatched socks this holiday season as I’ve cleaned and decorated. So I think it is only fitting that I’ve settled on SOCKS for my word for 2022.

Maybe it’s not so important that they match. I remember a company (Little Miss Match?) who deliberately paired together socks that didn’t match, and they were adorable. (I’m sure there’s a lesson in that for making what you have work for you, but that’s a story for another time.) Maybe what I need to focus on this coming year is knowing when to say S-O-C-K-S (eso sí que es) and when to put my socks on, ready to take care of business. Because the world needs us to do both, y’all. May we all have the wisdom and the courage to know which socks to go with when.

Love to all, and may you bless and be blessed in the coming year!

Library Love for Miss M

~a new take on an old tradition~

When my Mama left this world almost nine years ago, I remembered the joy she and Daddy found in sharing their love of reading with the young people in their lives. It started, I believe, when they learned that their favorite book we read as children, “Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm,” was out of print. The story they tell is that they wrote enough letters until it was back in print in paperback. Whether or not they truly caused it to be reprinted doesn’t even matter–it’s just a fun story about determination and asking for what you want. “The worst they can say is no,” Mama used to remind us often.

Mama and Daddy ordered the book by the dozens I think. I know they kept a box of them in their trunk so they could share the book with children they met on their Monday Stevi B’s Pizza lunch dates, or with young parents they came upon in their trips to the dentist, doctor’s office, or Cancer Center. While we were at the hospital with Mama, I was able to grab a copy to take to one of her nurses who had a sweet little girl she went home to each night. It was a tradition and has now become one of mine–so much so that my dear friend suggested, when I was talking to her about a good baby gift–“Well of course you have to give them THE book.” And she was right. Of course I did.

At some point the tradition moved into the holidays. Mama and Daddy started giving special holiday and Christmas books to their grandchildren and great nieces and nephews. Each year they sat and pored over book choices together before choosing the book for that holiday season.   In 2013 it meant so much to me to continue that tradition and choose the special book to share with the young children and friends in my life.  It’s been fun to read different holiday stories before I chose just the right one, and then there was the year that “Wonky Donkey” made the lineup. The only thing was, I realized over the years I was missing one important element. As I remember Mama sitting at the computer at the desk and Daddy on the daybed couch next to the desk comparing notes and making the decision together, I recall the story my friend Hugh shares about what he learned when he asked people to tell him about their best day. In every single one of the stories, they were with someone else. Together. (Well, as Hugh goes on to share–there was that one guy who climbed to a mountain peak alone–but then promptly called his wife to tell her about it, so technically…..yeah. Together.) Mama and Daddy did this together. I found myself running my ideas by someone else, getting another’s thoughts about the choice. It has usually been my Aunt, as it should be. She has shared her love of books with me my whole life.

As I was looking at possible choices for this year, I learned of a young first year teacher who is teaching kindergarten in the elementary school in the county where my Granny was raised.  She was asking for books and blankets as gifts for her children for Christmas, as many of her students come from homes where books are not plentiful.  I found out from her sister that this teacher, Miss M, is borrowing books from their Mama to read in the classroom.  It broke my heart that she is having to build her library on her own, on her first year teacher’s salary.  Her school is in a rural area, and for many of her children in the classroom, these books are opening the doors to worlds they have never even imagined.  I felt a nudge, and I knew it was time to change the tradition for this year.  (And if you know me, you know that change is hard and traditions are written in stone around here, so this was a very strong nudge.) 

So instead of sending a special book to my friends and family this year, I will be sending books to Miss M’s class in honor of these young people I love and in memory of the two people who planted and cultivated and fed my love of books and reading.  In case you feel a nudge like I did, I have created an Amazon wish list, “Library Love,” of books and things that would bless these children and their sweet teacher.  If there is a book you dearly loved as a child (and still do) that you’d like to share with them, but you don’t see it on the list, reach out to me and I’ll add it so you can send it directly to Miss M and her children. But there is no pressure or expectations.  All I ask is for you all to think of this teacher, whose light is shining brightly in the lives of so many, and offer prayers and good thoughts for them as they begin 2022, ready to learn and laugh and dream.  

Wishing you all a grand holiday season filled with delicious treats and all your favorite books, those read and those yet to be discovered, stacked up close by.  

Love to all. 

What Would Be Your Superpower?

Is there anything more magical than listening to two young people talking about the world and listening to their points of view?

It was the end of the day for classes. Two students sat at the table after class ended, both waiting on their dads to pick them up. They are in class together, so their conversation was easy and affable. They compared their thoughts about driving one day (at least four years away), and then talked about how old exactly you have to be. They talked about where their dads might be, since they hadn’t arrived on the dot when class was over. I was tidying up, and I assured them not to worry. As we looked out through the glass pane into the now dark parking lot, I told them about my friend’s question that helps so much when we don’t understand what or why something is happening–“What does this make possible?”

I asked them what they thought that might be. They giggled over some silly thoughts, and then we decided that this allowed us to have a good conversation together.

Immediately one piped up with, “If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be?”

Y’all she was so quick with that question, I feel like it’s one that she thinks about a lot, bless her. Her friend sat for a minute and said, “All of them.”

I silently applauded her–okay, girl, you go ahead and ask for the world, dream that dream supersized–and then was brought back into the conversation by the inquisitor–“Did you hear what she said? She’d want all of them.” She laughed good naturedly.

“Yeah, that’s a pretty good idea,” I replied. “For your superpower to be all of them…..”

The one who had answered shook her head. With big eyes and the most sincere tone, she answered, “Oh no. Not all at once. You know, if I needed to fly somewhere…..then I’d have that ability. Or if I needed to do something else, I’d have that superpower. Just one at the time, you know?”

Bless her. I remember the Genie telling Aladdin he couldn’t make wishing for more wishes one of his three wishes. I guess that’s kind of what I thought my young friend was doing. Instead she was being really quite reasonable. Her superpower would be to be able to do whatever was most needed in any situation.

Wise beyond her years.

This day’s magical moment was me being allowed into the precious world and mind of preteen girls. Allowed to listen and talk with them and explore the world through their eyes. I’m thankful for their joyful embrace of the opportunity to just sit and chat for a few minutes in this oh so busy world during an oh so busy season. I’m thankful for the question that stirred the conversation and for the mind that genuinely wanted to know the answer. I am also grateful for a young person who saw the magic of superpowers quite logically. May we all take the time to assess what is going on, figure out what is needed, take care of it, and then let it go–and move on.

It reminds me of one of my Mama’s favorite lines. It was from the TV show M*A*S*H–Charles Emerson Winchester the Third said it on more than one occasion if I’m not mistaken. “I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on.”

Bless inquisitive minds, sensible superheroes, and precious preteens.

May the magic of the season be memorable and long lasting!

Love to all.

Itta Be Fine

Have you ever had one of those days that left you feeling down, really truly bogged down in the mire of what we people can be and do when we are not at our best? A day of seeing how folks can bring each other down with their words and their actions and their lack of both? How the brokenness of the past can come to the surface years later?

Last Thursday was one such day for me. The details aren’t important to anyone but me, but what happened next is something I hope to always remember.

My little fella, who at some point during this pandemic grew to be taller than me (one of his goals, by the way), has a habit of coming up to hug me. At first I thought he was doing it to measure his height against mine–and I don’t doubt that sometimes that’s what it was. But now that there is no doubt that he has SEVERAL inches on me, he still comes up and hugs me and gives me a peck on my forehead. PRECIOUS. I think he might still love me despite us both going through age appropriate changes *ahem* at the same time and both of us having many “not likable” moments, sometimes side by side. *sigh*

So last Thursday, he came up in the middle of “one of those days” and hugged me and said, “Mama, in the words you say a lot–‘Itta be fine.'”

BLESS.

I came home and cried that night. I say a lot of things, many not so grace filled, much to my chagrin. The fact that this is what he has heard me say and that it has stuck with him such that he brought it back to me…..I am filled with thankful tears.

It will be fine.

And somehow in that moment, I believed him. Because despite the best efforts of the world (and myself too sometimes), he sees the good. The positive. The potential. The settling down and cream rising to the top.

It will be fine.

I hear my Mama sometimes when I’m talking to my children. Sometimes that made me cringe to realize it, but now I smile. She gave me good words to soak in and say {mostly}. That this is what he has taken away from all the many things that I have said–good and not so good–I am so thankful.

They are listening, y’all. And it’s not just the toddlers and preschoolers who listen and delightfully, embarrassingly, amusingly, innocently repeat what they hear us adults saying. It’s our preteens, our teens, and even our young adults. They hear us. They repeat it. Sometimes without even processing what they are saying. And sometimes it’s more harmful than good. It’s not fine.

Tonight I’m thankful for a reminder that, despite having teenagers, I need to be mindful of the words I put out into the world. I don’t get to speak my mind freely without the consequences and potential of those thoughts being expressed by those whom I am raising. With every thought I share, I’m loading up a weapon or a lantern. These words can and usually are repeated–and they can tear down or build up.

May I remember that when strife was in our midst, my little fella chose the lantern instead of the weapon. I give thanks for that and for the example he has set for me. Challenge accepted, buddy. I will do better with my words, so that it will be fine.

Love to all.

#88

#88.

(That’s the number sign, not a hashtag.)

That was my Daddy’s jersey number when he played football. He played on his high school team. He was a Green Wave. (Not sure the story behind that mascot name, but I’m sure there are those who do know. I hope to find them and get to hear that story.) I have his letterman jacket hanging up in my closet. I was tickled to wear it every year for 50’s day–some years with a “poodle skirt,” others with rolled up jeans and a button down shirt. It was one of my favorite days of the year. Because I felt close to my Daddy.

Over the years, Mama found shirts and sweatshirts with those numbers and wore them proudly. She’d never seen him play, but 88 was his number and he was her love, so she loved wearing it.

When the pandemic started last year, I spent much time in worry, despite my Daddy’s words running through my mind, “Let’s not go borrowing trouble.” Finally, the words of a friend came to mind, “What does this make possible?”

There has been a lot of loss during the pandemic. I do not make light of that at all. My heart breaks for so many and for those still grieving during this season. It’s been hard, y’all. And it still is. It’s not over yet.

But there have been things, little things, that have brought me joy. Long walks with my little fella. Long phone call visits with far away friends. Finding light in the darkness. Listening to my brother’s sermons recorded from his church several states away. Watching my nephew play the sports.

There is a streaming service that I’ve learned of that allows you to subscribe and watch high school sports from all over the country. My nephew’s high school is one of these. In January of this year, they started their truncated basketball season. The county mandated specific things to keep everyone safe. Limited viewers, distanced seating, masks for everyone. Those boys played the game in masks. Impressive. They wanted to play, and they followed the rules. It was amazing. And most exciting of all, I got to cheer my nephew Z-man on, from all the way down here in Georgia. It made my January!

Their football season, put off from last fall, started not long after the last basketball game. It was a shortened season as well. Because of pandemic concerns, Z’s team played other schools in the county that were of higher divisions than his rather than their regular district teams. It was a hard season from a W-L column standpoint, but it was a great one as far as experience and teamwork and sportsmanship.

My nephew is a receiver. Not far off from his Cap’s number, he’s #81. At 6’3″ he wasn’t hard for me to pick out on the field, even when I couldn’t see his number. He’s known for how he runs, and it delighted my soul to see him running across that field and then when he caught pass after pass, I came up off my couch, cheering as though I was in the stands and he could hear me.

Not that every game yielded catch after catch. Not for lack of trying, but the catches and plays weren’t always made. Snaps from the center weren’t always caught, and their regular quarterback was out the last two games due to an injury. Still, they persevered. So impressive.

During the last game this past Friday night, the freshman quarterback who had to step in when the former one was sidelined got in a groove with Z. They had some completions, and even if the scoreboard didn’t reflect it, the mood of the home team was good. Even the announcers, one of whom was tangibly tickled by the actual appearance of “Friday night lights,” were in good spirits, singing praises of all those out there giving it their all.

Towards the end of the game in which Z had caught and run in the only touchdown, a pass was made, aimed at him. He jumped up with two opposing players right on him. He caught it in the air, held on to it (a skill not to be taken lightly, I’m learning), and fell flat on his back. Completion for first down. The crowd was yelling. I was yelling. Miss Sophie was barking. The feline family members were nonplussed, but still. It was amazing. And then…..

He got up. Tossed the ball to a ref. And went back into formation.

I watched in awe. First of all, getting up after falling flat on my back is not in my skillset. (That’s a story for another night.) Secondly, that he could and then moved along to do what came next blew me away.

As it did the announcers. But for a different reason.

“Wow. Amazing catch! Look at that. Class act, *Zman*. Great catch, no showboating, and then getting right back into it. That’s a class act.”

Oh my heart, guys. Agreed.

At the end of the game, where our team suffered a considerable loss, spirits were higher than could be explained. At least mine were. As were the announcer’s. They talked about how this team would really shine in the fall, because of having this season to learn and grow. They talked about the players who are graduating soon and the players who are not. And they praised my nephew.

Hearing them refer to him by my last name, the same last name that was on the back of Daddy’s jersey, just touched my heart. The words they said over him and his career–may they come to be. That they can see a light and energy, drive and passion, in this young man whom I love and am so proud of for many reasons just about made me weep.

On Saturday (I gave him a day to recuperate) I called him. I told him how proud I am of him.

Not for the catches. (Though those were pretty cool.)

Not for following the rules. (Though I know how hard that is, especially when it’s going against the grain of so many others.)

Not for taking my call. (Though at almost 16, it makes me happy that he will still talk to his Aunt T.)

But for those two words I heard the announcer use.

Class. Act.

He was showing good sportsmanship. He didn’t get a big head over making a phenomenal catch. He didn’t do an “in your face” dance when he got around the two opposing players to still make the catch. Every single time he left the field or went on it, he was making an encouraging gesture to his teammates. Even when he was disappointed over how the game was going, he was still a light.

That right there.

Tomorrow is #88’s birthday. It’s been 78 years since he entered this world. And over nine since he left it. But I know this–he is proud of #81. That legacy of humility, good sportsmanship, being a good teammate–those are the things he left with us, and I know he and Maemae were watching that game on Friday night–I felt it. And I know that they are proud that those words used to describe their grandson are accurate.

I am thankful for the lessons Daddy taught us. That life is hard. That doing the right thing very often goes against what (it seems to be) everyone else is doing. But you still do it. He expected it. Insisted upon it. Because in the end, your name and what you become known for are all you have.

My Daddy was a good man. One of the best. And #81 is on his way to be one too. It has nothing to do with how the play goes. It’s what he does after the play that makes him so.

Happy birthday, Daddy. Thanks for everything. Love you.

And love to all.

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.