It’s All Yours, Uncle Willie

So we’ve finished our whirlwind trip from my beloved plains of Georgia to the beautiful hill country of Texas. Before we left, my sweet sisterfriend surprised me by leaving a copy of Willie Nelson’s new book on my front porch–since we were headed to his stomping grounds, it made sense. Ever since, apropos to our journey, I have had “On the Road Again” playing through my mind.   

As I write, we are literally on the road again, heading south on 75 in my home state, having spent four days in Uncle Willie’s neck of the woods. (I grew up thinking he might actually be my Uncle, because that’s how my folks referred to him. Uncle Willie. Aub recently told me she thought the same thing when she was little.)  I’ve been toying around with a couple of verses for a Haiku, but y’all, I’m sorry. The old five-seven-five syllable setup just isn’t enough to fully encapsulate my emotions right now.

So instead I offer you a variation on the Haiku. Perhaps a Willie-ku.

(Y’all, I do apologize for that.  It’s been a long day.)

“On the Road Again” is a great song and all
good job, Uncle Willie, but I will let you have it–
once this road gets me home
I believe I will put up my feet and stay a while  

Welcome

The word for today is WELCOME.

Today my sisterfriend Dena, a talented writer and beautiful soul who shares her thoughts over at Centering Down, and I traveled to the big city of Decatur to audition for Listen to Your Mother.

Dena heard about it and shared the event information with me.  Somehow we both garnered enough courage and adventurous spirit and decided to go for it.  We signed up, and this morning we were out the door, in the van, and down the road.

Our families told us we were welcome to go.  They were thrilled to see us set out on this journey, a new one for both of us to be sure.

When I got to Dena’s, I was welcomed by the smells of breakfast and a beautiful smile on the face of my friend’s sweet daughter.  It seemed that the world welcomed this journey, as traffic was clear and easy, and we made the trip in what seemed like no time–good conversations, laughter shared, and stories whispered from our hearts.

When we parked in the public parking lot, we gathered our thoughts, our stories, our bags, and took deep breaths.  We were really there.  We were actually going to do this.

How about that?

A happenin’, as my Mama would say.  All for the fun of it.

And it was fun.

We walked in this small, quaint coffee shop with all the rustic charm it could muster, and we were greeted by a friendly woman who was in the show last year.  She was engaging and welcoming, making me feel like YES, I did belong here.  I wasn’t an impostor.  That was an amazing feeling.  Expected.  Welcomed.

That.  Was.  Huge.

The auditions were around two coffee tables with the two organizers of the Atlanta show, one of whom was a friend from years ago.  An unexpected and welcome surprise.  In the moment where she grabbed me in a big bear hug, almost before I could register whose face I was seeing, my heart leapt.  WELCOMED.  WANTED.  EXPECTED.

Yes.

It was laid back and fun.  Sharing stories and catching up.  Before I knew it, my audition was over, and it was Dena’s turn.  She wrote a fabulous story that I won’t soon forget.  And I’ll leave it at that.  (I’m hoping you will hear it at the show in April–fingers crossed!)

While I waited for my friend, I visited with the one who had greeted us in the beginning.  The organizers had asked some of them from the first show to come and welcome people.  And they chose well.  While I was there, a guy came in who was also in the cast last year.  They were funny as they shared from their experiences from last year.  I love seeing good friends interact and share their stories.  It made me want to pull up a chair and sit for hours, listening.

Soon Dena was done as well.  We thanked those who had welcomed us and headed out into the cool of the gray Sunday morning.  We walked around the charming square, peering in windows, looking at the iron critters that seemed to be so popular, and biding our time until the place we’d chosen to eat was open.

Even the four-legged folk were welcome.

Even the four-legged folk were welcome.

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Lovely, these kinds of creations were a common sight.

Lovely, these kinds of creations were a common sight.

Made me giggle

“Rose are red, Violets are blue, Not sure it’s love, but I really like you”      Made me giggle.

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Delicious!  Until we meet again, my friends.

Delicious! Until we meet again, my friends.

Seats outside the pub welcoming folks to sit a spell.

Seats outside the pub welcoming folks to sit a spell.

The lamp at our table gave off more than light, it offered warmth for the soul.

The lamp at our table gave off more than light, it offered warmth for the soul.

Walking.  With all the others who were enjoying their day.  Runners.  Retired couples with dogs.  Parents with children.  Best friends.  Young couples.  We were a part of the cosmos of this Sunday morning, sharing in each other’s stories if only for a nod or an “awwww” over a cute child or puppy.

We had a delightful lunch where we were welcomed among the first of those hoping to get a bite to eat.  The food, which was surprisingly locally sourced (and they made their own carrot and green bean pickles–OH MY LAND, SO GOOD!), was absolutely delicious.  I made a promise to myself and to Dena that this would not be the last time I sat in one of their booths and ate there.  It was wonderful.  And the glowing light and warmth inside the old English interior soothed my soul.  It took me back to places I haven’t been in so long, and we shared our own stories of our love of that country.

All too soon and yet right on time, we were done and it was time to head home.  Back to our lives as Mamas and wives and people who are needed and loved and welcomed.

Oh, those welcome homes!  The happy text from my oldest that she heard my car outside.  The smiles in the text from Mess Cat asking me how it had gone.  The hugs when the Fella and my two littles finally arrived home.  I missed them all!

“Mama, did you make the show?  Did you make it?”

I told my little guy I wasn’t sure, that we’d find out sometime around his birthday.  He accepted that, but what I didn’t tell him and I probably should have, is that today I won.  I won the jackpot in feeling something so precious–

WELCOMED.

WANTED.

LOVED.

By my friend.  My family.  Complete strangers.

And if that is all that comes from this adventure today, I can be happy. A good day with a good friend sharing anything and everything and all the important things.  And coming home to people I love and missed who love and missed me.

That’s the best this life of Mama has to offer, and I am thankful for it.

May we all make this week one of welcoming.  With a smile, a laugh, a hug, a handshake, a hello, a story…..who knows, it may catch on and take us through the whole month or even the whole ever-loving year!

I dare to dream…..

Love to all.

 

Counting Syllables

Yesterday we went on a Family Adventure to celebrate the light that is our Princess.  She is about to enter the double digits, and that is worth a special day of happy happy joy joy just for her.

I was eager and excited to make it happen.  And thrilled to plan the surprise.

But when it comes down to leaving home and being okay with it, sometimes I struggle just a little bit.

This coming from the girl who once packed up and moved away to Japan with the Fella and my Aub.

I don’t know if this struggle is in part due to the grief cycle or if it’s just my genetics coming out in me big time.

But leaving home can bring me a little stress.

The day was totally worth working through it though, and then…..we got back in the vehicle and prepared to head home.

Thank goodness the Fella was driving.

Bless him. I’m not a good passenger.  Apparently I have turned into my Mama with my driver’s side brakes and gasps for sound effects that make a trip really fun.

Yeah.  Bless his heart.

Because this happened.  And Anxiety Girl climbed in the vehicle and sat all buckled right there in the front seat with me.

On the way home from Atlanta.  The interstate became a parking lot.

On the way home from Atlanta. The interstate became a parking lot.

That right there.  Parking lots on the interstate.  People merging.  Without turn signals or advance warning.  Brake lights for miles.  A big reason I don’t like leaving home.  Things like that.  And then Anxiety Girl starts thinking about Miss Sophie at the house and worrying about her and what if we had an accident and what would happen and…..

I decided to try to work through some of the stress by counting…..

syllables.

And so this was my haiku for our trip home last night.

ambulance lights pass
all I think is don’t let that
be us, please slow down
This was when the parking lot turned into “stop and go and stop and go fast, wait, no, stop” traffic.
Poor Fella.
But working on the haiku did help, and I’m sure he was relieved that I wasn’t co-driving for those few minutes.
Tonight I’m thankful for adventures (more on that later), and for a little girl who will wake up tomorrow as a pre-teen (!!!!!), and for a mischievous little guy who just came in to say goodnight and said, after he found out his sister is already in the bed, “Maybe I need to go bother her for the last time that’s she still nine.”  Oh me.  I am grateful for the Fella who is willing to drive any distance to make adventures happen and bring joy to his family.  Most of all, I give thanks for a safe journey there and back with all my people from oldest to youngest tucked in close beside me.  Except for Anxiety Girl.  She really wasn’t invited.  I wish her people would talk to her about not just honing in on other folks’ adventures.
Wishing you all a traffic-free day for adventures.
Love to all.

My Day in Pictures…..and a Word or Two

I did a big thing today.

First of all, before I go any further, you need to know that the last time I left my house for anything more than running across town for our daytodailies or escorting our littles to their various activities or running to Macon for an appointment was this past June when we went to the Mouse House for several days.

Gone.  From Home.

Miss Sophie was in the best of hands, and all was well.

Until we got home.

And the smell of things gone sour hit me as soon as we came in.

We lost everything in the freezer and other refrigerator.  EVERYTHING.

I was devastated.

So then I pretty much figured, well, what else do you expect when you are gone from home?

But today.  Today I did a big thing.

I left home.

For an adventure.

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It started a couple of weeks ago when I started thinking about the book release for Renea Winchester that was scheduled for today up near Atlanta.  We have never met in person, but she has become very dear to me and has been a great encourager.  And when people are dear to you and something big is going on in their lives, well, if you can, you step it up and celebrate with them.  It’s just what our people do.

Turns out the Fella came in that night talking about going to a car show.  Up near Atlanta.  Interesting, I said, since I too would like to head out that same day.  Up in that same direction.  Long story short, the two things were a half hour apart which is practically next door in the Atlanta time/space continuum.  So we decided to go up together.  Up until yesterday I was still a little anxious.  What about Miss Sophie?  What if the power went out?  What if it rained?  What if?  What if?

I finally shushed all those voices and decided the joy of meeting my friend and celebrating with her outweighed all those what ifs.  Aub decided to stay home with Miss Sophie and study before heading back to school.  All the stars aligned, and we were off.  (like a herd of turtles, the Fella would say with pinpoint accuracy)

We dropped the Fella off at the British Car Show Fayre in Norcross and headed on our way.  We made the necessary “pit stop” along the road that ran between where he was and where I was heading.  (Did y’all know there are Targets with Starbucks in them?  I’ve never…..I mean, you knew that bathroom was going to clean.)  When we found our destination, a nice young man told us where to park.  This book release celebration was being held at Farmer Billy’s farm and home.  Folks were parked all along the yard and road.  It looked like a fabulous turnout.

Signing the friendship wall.

Signing the friendship wall.

When Cooter, our Princess, and I walked up, we saw the Friendship wall and each of us signed it.  What a neat idea.  (It made me wonder where I can hang a Sharpie for friends and family to sign their well wishes when they come to visit us.)  As we headed around we saw them–Miss Renea and Mr. Billy. They already had quite the crowd lined up to sign their books.  There was someone there selling wonderful smelling tamales, aprons made from feed sacks and old jeans and overalls, and beautifully carved wood figures and walking sticks.  It was my first book release party, but I’m thinking maybe they’re not all like this.  I loved it.

The trap that caught Cooter's eye sitting on top of the rain barrels

The trap that caught Cooter’s eye sitting on top of the rain barrels

In the midst of all of this what caught Cooter’s eye as we stood in line for the signing was a trap sitting up near the house.  “Look, he has one like we do.”

I laughed.  He was right.  (We’ve had some rascally raccoons coming up and eating the cats’ food.  They have now been safely and kindly rehomed.)  We wondered what kind of critters Mr. Billy has had to use his trap for.

The closer we got the more excited I was.

The closer we got the more excited I was.

We got closer in line and it was about to be our turn.  We were so excited.  We found out there was another author there whose book release was later on today.  He was moved to the front of the line so he could get to his own on time.

Renea Winchester and Raymond Atkins celebrating together on a day that was special for both of them.  I love the bond between writers.

Renea Winchester and Raymond Atkins celebrating together on a day that is special for both of them. I love the bond between writers.

How much do you love this?  Each author celebrating with the other even on his and her own special day.  When Miss Renea brought the author forward, apologizing for going out of order, I was starstruck yet again.  Mr. Raymond Atkins.  His very first book (“Front Porch Prophet”) just arrived on my doorstep three days ago.  Really?  I have never been so tickled to let someone ahead of me.  And to see the two authors together–really.  good.  stuff.

A moment worth waiting for (but I'm glad I didn't wait any longer!)

A moment worth waiting for (but I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer!)

Then it was us.  I introduced myself, so excited that we were finally meeting face to face, after months of messages and emails.  The moment did not disappoint.  What a beautiful soul she is, inside and out.   Our Princess leaned in to me and said, “She looks just like Princess Anna.” (from Frozen for anyone who hasn’t been on any kind of media for the past year)   When I told my writerfriend, she brushed it off, attempting to point out nonexistent wrinkles.  Please, she’s every bit as beautiful as Anna and then some.

We had a wonderful few minutes meeting Renea Winchester and Mr. Billy Albertson.  Moments I will treasure.  Moments I would not have had if I hadn’t stepped way outside my comfort zone and headed out this morning ready for adventure.

 

Cooter, ever the mischief maker, with the bunny ears--watching the goats.

Cooter, ever the mischief maker, with the bunny ears–watching the goats.

 

Now. That made it all worthwhile.  Every minute of it.

Now. That made it all worthwhile. Every minute of it.

We continued our visit around the farm, peeking from a distance at the baby goat who has been under the weather, standing next to cool tractors, looking at the chickens and the goats.

And before I left, I got to sniff Farmer Billy’s fig tree.  It’s okay, I asked him first.  Y’all.  That’s the smell of my childhood there.  The one in the yard at my Granny’s–the one she hung the pie tins in to keep the birds from eating them all.  Oh that heavenly smell.  (Okay, that’s it–somebody tell me the right time of year to plant a fig tree and where I can find the biggest one still able to be transferred.  This has got to happen.  Soon.)

On our way back to get the Fella, we stopped to get a bite as we were all feeling a little peckish.  We made another pit stop.  (I’m sorry, y’all, but these are of the utmost importance for the under 10 and over 40 crowd–which was pretty much all of us.)  We admired the cleverly made door handles

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and were thoroughly confused by the sign in the bathroom placed OVER the hand dryer.

Ahem.  Wait, what?

Ahem. Wait, what?

Thanks to Cooter, who hit the air dryer button, we used all options available for drying our hands.  After he hit it, I kept waiting for the bathroom police to jump out of hiding and give us the boot.  Didn’t happen, but I’m still troubled by that sign.  What do they want from me?

We headed back down the connecting road to pick up the Fella.  We had a wonderful surprise visit with his cousin and family.  Love these folks.  Wherever they are, it’s a party.  Just is.  They are so full of laughter and joy and good hearts, it can’t be anything else but all good.  The children even got to drive off on their own for a little bit.

There they go.

There they go.

Just kidding.  But at one point when a few raindrops came down, and they flipped the top up for a little protection, we could see their heads bobbing and the car rocking and they were moving to some kind of beat.  Only the radio wasn’t on.  Ah, to be young on a Saturday afternoon again!

All too soon we were on our way.  We are very fortunate that we have a DVD player in the Gomobile.  They don’t usually get to watch it, but for long trips, yes please.  This was the choice of the day.  Is it okay that I love that my children are every bit as much the nerds that I am?

One of their all-time favorite shows.....time to pull out Season 2, I think.

One of their all-time favorite shows…..time to pull out Season 2, I think.

Today was such a special day of surprises and spending time with people I love and call my own.  I am thankful that I found the get up and go to get up…..and well, go.  I am very thankful that the trip that the Fella wanted to make was just down the road from where I wanted to go.  And that my oldest was willing to hang out with Miss Sophie.  I appreciate the gift of her time and love so much.

As the Fella drove this morning, I read for a bit.  And this part struck me and stuck with me throughout the day. In the very first chapter of “Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches,” Renea Winchester writes, “After growing up surrounded by people who knew me, I struggled with the aloneness that comes from living outside your raising.”

Today.  Today I was not alone.  Even at the book release party where I didn’t really know anyone exactly, I felt at home.  The farm, the tractors, the garden, that fig tree, the smiles and welcoming faces…..that’s home.  Sitting with the Fella’s cousins (shoot, they’re my people too, right, and I aim to claim ’em), swapping stories, sharing my heart, and hearing this cousinfriend say, “Let me just take a moment,” in empathy for what had been shared–that. right. there.  That was home. Being with folks who are good and kind people, who were raised just like we were–there’s a comfort there that can’t be replicated no matter how hard one tries.

Being with good folks–and enjoying the day that’s been given to us.  Maybe that’s our calling.

I’m thankful it was mine–at least for today.  And so thankful that I answered it.

Love to all.

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If you are interested in books by either of these authors, you can click here or here to order Raymond Atkins’ latest novel, “Sweetwater Blues”  or–

here or here to order “Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches” by Renea Winchester.

Enjoy!

On Sacred Ground

Today I walked on sacred ground.

I do that more often than one might think, but I find sacred ground in some of the oddest places–once I stop and really consider where I am.

A writerfriend, whose first book I was introduced to by Karen Spears Zacharias, released her new book yesterday.  It’s been exciting watching her share the process on Facebook and on her blog.  (Social media does have its upsides, doesn’t it?)  And yesterday was the day.  I was out running errands with crew in tow yesterday afternoon, so we stopped at the big box bookstore, just in case.

Sure enough, they shook their heads and did their standard, “But we can order it for you” dance.

Umm, no thank you.

When it comes to books I want, I got skills.  I got this.

I had an appointment in Macon this afternoon that would put me within fifteen minutes of Mercer University Press, the company that published my friend’s new book.  On a whim (and hearing my Mama in my head–“What’s the worst that can happen?  They say no?  Well you’re no worse off then, are you?”) I called up to Macon, and a very sweet person told me that sure, she had four copies not spoken for and she’d be happy to set one aside for me.

And that’s how we get things done around here.  If you don’t ask, you just don’t know.  They might even say yes.

After my appointment, I followed the directions given to me over the phone and stored in my head.  I only had to turn around once.  Turns out I was right around the corner from my Great Great Aunt’s old house on Coleman Hill. I just love old historic neighborhoods, y’all.  I was in my element.  I walked up on the front porch of this old home with a humble sign informing me that I was indeed at “Mercer University Press.”

As I’d been told, I rang the bell.  It was an old-fashioned twist kind.  I was enchanted.  And also, I want one.  (As if the whole “old-fashioned” bit hadn’t already told you that.)  Another nice woman came to the door and let me in.

Oh y’all.

I caught a glimpse of stacks of books in the adjoining room.  I didn’t want to gape and stare but in the few moments I was there, it gave me the impression of a very old and dignified old gent, sitting in his leather chair with dark wood everywhere and beautiful carpets at his feet.  I don’t know if that’s what was actually there, but that was the impression I left with.  I’d been in the presence of greatness.  I mean these people choose other people’s words to immortalize in print.  I am amazed and enamored with it all, and I stood in. that. place.  That place that makes writers’ dreams come true.

It was a sacred moment in a sacred space.

As I handed over the exact amount I had scraped together when sitting in the gomobile in the parking lot (if you believe in “signs” surely that would have to be one, right–I didn’t know what they would charge), the person who had welcomed me in handed me the book that had been set aside for me on the chair by the door.  Oh y’all.  The feel of a new book.  The anticipation.  The excitement.  And to know about the excitement that the person who wrote it is going through–priceless.

I think I remembered to say thank you–I was that distracted–and I took my leave.  I walked back down the steps and turned.  What a neat little adventure I’d had, all because I took Mama’s advice and asked.  I wanted to mark the adventure somehow, so I did what most of us do in such a case.

Pulled out my phone and took a picture.  And then came home to write about it.

My thumb showing off my new book written by someone I've grown to love, posing in front of Mercer University Press in Macon.

My thumb, showing off my new book written by someone I’ve grown to love, posing in front of Mercer University Press in Macon.

And now you know why it’s a must read.  That title alone, right?  The really good things in life.  I cannot wait to sit down and curl up with it.

Tonight I’m thankful for Karen, whose book “Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ‘Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV” rocked my world and introduced me to ideas and challenged my beliefs and priorities six ways to Sunday.  She is a great writer, and I love her dearly.  I’m also thankful for the people she has introduced me to, one of whom is Renea Winchester, the reason for my adventure today.

I don’t know if I would have gone on such a trek if it hadn’t mattered to me that my friend had released her new book, an effort of love and much hard work. She has shared her journey and done a great job of making all who followed feel a part of it.  That is why, after I have read her stories and shared it with my Aunt, this new gem will go on this shelf in my library–

My library shelf with books written by my writerfriends--talented women who work hard to share their gifts with all of us--all of them now Mercer University Press authors.

My library shelf with books written by my writerfriends–talented women who work hard to share their gifts with all of us–all of them currently Mercer University Press authors. (I was going to retake, but my thumb is enjoying its moments of fame, so…..)

As I was toting my book back out to my gomobile, ready to head out on the next errand, I crossed paths with students–probably from the law school there at Mercer.  I stopped for a moment.  As dear as Wesleyan College is to me, Mercer also holds a place in my heart.  That is where I did my postgraduate studies.  And my own Wesleyanne is considering doing her postgraduate work there too.  I imagined her walking amongst this group of young people, and it warmed my heart.  If it is right for her, may it be so.

I took one more look back at the old home that houses Mercer University Press.  Sacred ground.  And maybe more sacred because one day, good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, maybe one day I will find my way back there.  Only maybe, just maybe, I will have my own stack of papers in hand.  And a dream in my heart.

If it is right, may it be so.

Here’s hoping you can find yourself walking on sacred ground and the place of your dreams too.

Love to all.

 

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If any of you want to have your own copy of this wonderful book, go here and order directly from the old house on Orange Street in Macon.  You don’t have to ring the doorbell or anything.  They make it really easy for you.  Y’all take care.

A Place to Turn Around

Being in a new place can be confusing.  The roads are all different.  It’s easy to get disoriented.  North.  South.  Left.  Right.  This road is a dead-end.  This one doesn’t lead to where you thought it did.  LOST.

It’s just hard.

When we were on our Adventure to the Mouse House (I refuse to call it a vacation, people–vacations are about naps and books and time on your hands), it was very easy to get off track.  Each morning we set out to visit a different park.  We’d think we knew which way to turn based on directions given at the place we were staying or by the phone GPS or mostly by what we remembered from the day before.  We were on a mission–cram in as much fun as we possibly could in the hours we were at the parks.  This required us to get to each park as quickly as we could.  So we could start having Much.  Fun.  We had no time for directions really.  Let’s just wing it.  And GO.

Ahem.

Every single time.  Not kidding.  Every single time it turned out we had turned the wrong way.  Magic Kingdom was in the opposite direction of Epcot and Animal Kingdom was not the same direction as Hollywood Studios (just giving an example here folks, still not sure which was where).  Sometimes we realized it as soon as we committed to the turn.  But it was too late.   And they don’t like U-turns down there either.  So each time we would have to find a spot to turn around in, get back to the light and correct our way.

The fire station that was our safe place to regroup and get turned in the right direction

The fire station that was our safe place to regroup and get turned in the right direction

And just about every single time–well every time that I can recall–this was our safe place.  Our place to regroup and get turned around.  The fire station.

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Such a cute place too.  Look at it all painted with its Dalmatian spots all over it.

It got to be laughable.  When my awesome sister-in-law talked about her family following us to Land o’ Legos, Aub’s clever friend said, “Okay, but we have to make a stop first.”

I looked at her, puzzled for a moment.  She continued. “You know.  The fire station.”

Y’all.  I nearly busted my seams laughing.  Out.  Loud.

That was a good one right there, I tell you what.  And true.

I was thinking about this as I drove home in the suffocating heat this afternoon.  We all get off on the wrong foot sometimes.  Headed in the wrong direction.  Sometimes that’s just what we need.  A place, a safe place, to collect ourselves, redirect, and set off again on the right path–in the right direction.  As I drove, I was thinking about where that place is for me, metaphorically speaking, where I go to regroup and redirect when I find myself headed down a dead-end road or feel like I’m lost.  For me it’s a person.  One whom I love and trust who will listen and help me find my way again–who will help me get better directions that I can follow this next time.

Any idea where or who that is for you?  I’d love to hear.

Wishing you all good directions and a place to go when you need to turn around.  Love to all.

The Word That Punched Me in the Stomach

I was grown before I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

It was eighteen months ago in fact.  I think Daddy had suggested that Aub read it, so I had gotten it and had it around the house.  After Daddy passed in November 2011, I found it hard to concentrate and read any book.  But I pulled it out in the summer of 2012 and I opened the pages of a book that I will forever and always treasure.

So many lines that touched my heart.  If I put them all down here for you, then well, I’d practically have the whole book written out for you to read.  If you haven’t read it or you only read it as a young person for a school requirement, I highly recommend your making time to read it now.

Because it’s important.  It is an important story whose lessons we must never forget.  We cannot afford to forget them, for to do so would send us back in time to a place that was hard and ugly and broken.  More so than things are today.

Several weeks ago Aub found out that “To Kill a Mockingbird” was coming to one of the local theaters in Macon. She could attend with fellow students as part of a community enrichment program.  She was thrilled and so was I.  I was excited when she made the list to attend.  The performance was set this past Friday.  All of the tickets were sold out, so I was satisfied to enjoy it vicariously through her.  However, she called me in the middle of the day and said the program had an extra ticket and I was going.  What a wonderful gift!  To see one of my favorite books performed in live theater, and that my oldest wanted me to join her.

The playbill from the performance we attended Friday night.  It was phenomenal!

The playbill from the performance we attended Friday night. It was phenomenal!

When we arrived in downtown Macon, it was already dark and the town had a festive feel to it.  The theater was full by the time the lights went down and the play started.  Oh how I do love live theater!  Before the play began, we looked through the playbill to see that we recognized a couple of names.  We knew that one of Aub’s high school classmates was playing Mayella Ewell.  I knit with the stage director, and I had taken a directing class from the director back when I was in college.  What a small world.

I was immediately taken in with the story and the way it was presented.  The choir added a spiritual feel that set the whole story in motion.  The adult Scout as narrator was a talented actress whose voice carried you back in time as young Scout came onto the stage.

It was absolutely wonderful, and I loved every minute of it.  Except.  I’ve read the book.  I know the word is in there.  Much of the book deals with prejudices and the idea of fairness and justice and the goings-on surrounding a trial for a young black man who was accused of behaving inappropriately toward with a young white girl.  So I knew to expect it.

Only I didn’t.

The first time the “n” word echoed across the theater, I sucked in my breath.  I felt as though I’d been kicked in the stomach.  I haven’t heard that word for at least fifteen years.  In my previous life I heard it all too often.  What the use of the word represented is one of the reasons that is my previous life.  I could not and would not raise a child in such prejudice.  And so I didn’t.

Each time during the play the word was said, and it was never whispered, I nervously looked around.  I was surrounded by Wesleyannes, students from Wesleyan College, many of whom were international students.  What must they be thinking, I worried.  Are they offended?  Upset?  Growing up, I knew we weren’t allowed to “cuss.”  But I also knew we were NOT allowed to say that word.  Cussing reflected poorly on you and might could offend someone, but saying that word only served to hurt people.  And we were not ever to do that knowingly.

Such a beautiful and thought-provoking performance.  I mean, it was fantastic.  At the end when the young man belted out a solo of “I’ll Fly Away” and was then joined by the choir and then the entire cast–TEARS.  Streaming down my face.  I really was trying not to embarrass my oldest in front of her fellow classmates, but there was no helping it.  I love that song.  And I thought of Mama and Daddy and so many others.  That song.  Beautiful.

On the way home we were talking about the play, and I shared how hearing that word had impacted me.  “Oh Mama,” Aub said. “Folks say it all the time now.  Like instead of brother or sister or dude.  It’s just what they say.”

That made me sad.  And mad.  “I better not hear you saying it.  Ever.”  And I meant it.

In the past couple of months, I’ve read Ann Hite’s three books, but Low Country Spirit dealt with what happened during the Civil War in the south from the perspective of different slave women.  I know she researched it thoroughly, and there were no exaggerations.  I went from there to reading Whistling Past the Graveyard, which is about nine-year old Starla, a young white girl in Mississippi who winds up travelling from there to Nashville with Eula, a black woman, and a white baby she found on the church steps in 1963.  After finishing that book (an excellent story by the way), I started “Silver Sparrow” by Tayari Jones, which is the story of two young African-American girls living in Georgia in the 1970s and 1980s.  I was nearly finished with that book when I saw the play Friday night.

So much hurt has happened in our country, especially this part of the country, in the name of race and judging others about their outward appearance.

Weighs heavy on my heart.

I believe, as it was said in To Kill a Mockingbird:

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The adult Scout kept talking about something that Atticus wanted her to do.  And that was it.  To stand in someone else’s shoes and walk around a bit.  It’s not an easy thing to do by any means, but it is where grace comes from, and it can make us better people and the world a better place to live.  I now realize this is what my Mama lived by.  Daddy too.

There are so many beautiful words arranged in thought that beg to be heard and lived out.  Like this one:

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The hard truth.  Live it now in this world.  Try bringing a little of the next world into the here and now.  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?

As I heard the closing lines of the play, I thought of another line which brought to mind a song sung by Miranda Lambert and written by Phillip Coleman and Don Henry:

Ever since the beginning to keep the world spinning
It takes all kinds of kinds.

Indeed it does.  Or, in the words of Harper Lee…..

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The final lines of the play were Atticus and Scout talking after the night when Scout finally figured out about standing in someone’s skin.

“Atticus, he was real nice.”

“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?  It takes all kinds of kinds, but in the end, there’s only one kind.  Us.  More alike than different.  If only we could make it a habit of stepping in the other’s skin for a few minutes, I bet we’d be surprised.  To really see the other person.  No it won’t be easy, and yes, my whole being is bucking me on this.  I don’t want to know what they’re like on the inside, I’d rather just keep on not liking them. I’ve seen enough from the outside looking in.  If I take a minute to think about what it’s like to be them, then I might change my mind and my hard heart might soften and I might have to change my thoughts about who they are…..and oh, yeah, we might actually get along.  And my children, who are always watching, will see it too.  What I do counts four times–once for me, and then once for each time it imprints on my children who see my actions and hear my words.  I have to remember that.  It touched me when Atticus Finch talked about how what he did he had to do or he couldn’t raise his children, couldn’t have them watching him do the easy thing, it had to be the right thing.  It’s true.  They’re watching.

And so I re-commit myself to the idea of acceptance and tolerance and most likely I will get my copy of this book back from my oldest and settle in to re-read it for a spell.  It’s one of those timely stories full of good wisdom and I expect I’ll likely find something new every time I revisit Maycomb, Alabama.  In the meantime, if you haven’t already read it, join me.  If you have, I’d love to hear your favorite parts.  And if you are local, good news–the play has been held over and there will be shows on November 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. each night.  You can find out more and order tickets here.

Love to all.

At Least They Are Getting Along

English: A Nintendo DS Lite, shown with stylus.

English: A Nintendo DS Lite, shown with stylus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, truth?  I didn’t want to write this post.  There are others bumping around in my noggin, jockeying for a chance to come to the forefront and have their stories told.  But this one?  I just had no choice.  Why?

Because It’s All My Children Have Been Talking About.  For Days.

During our summer adventures we had weekly trips to run errands with a huge side helping of fun with friends of ours.  As this was not our average “run to the grocery store” trip in length, my crew was very happy that their friends brought along their electronic game players and two to share.  They could all play the same game together (I have no idea how), which made it really fun.  So much so that my oldest pulled her game player out for the first time in a long time so she could play along.  That was lots of fun to listen to from the driver’s seat.  The laughter was near about intoxicating.  Happy children often makes for a happy Mama.

So I guess it’s only natural that the littles have decided that they want game players of their own.  They have gone through every possible scenario in their minds–big sister will give us hers and she will buy herself a new and better one, we will each get one for our birthdays, we will each get one for Christmas.  And then being assured Aub wasn’t letting go of hers, and deciding that Christmas was too far away, they decided to save money for it.

They’ve asked me if they can do things for pay.  Our Princess carries her change pouch EVERYWHERE just in case we are somewhere that she could purchase this name brand electronic contraption for a song and a dance and probably $2.52, all in pennies and dimes.  But mostly pennies.  It has been interesting to hear the planning and plotting of my two littles.  For one thing they are getting along.  That has been REALLY nice.  They are problem solving and working together.

A snippet of tonight’s conversation:

“Mama she (Princess) said she’d buy the games and cases if I (Cooter) buy the devices.  Isn’t that a good idea?”

“Well, buddy, sure, but where are y’all getting money from?  You have no money.”

Princess piped in. “Yes we do.  I have my purse and I have been saving money FOR THREE YEARS.  And he has his school bus bank.”

“Yeah,” said Cooter proudly. “I have about one hundred and three cents!”

Yeah.  That sounds about right.  Don’t judge, people, money skills are next semester.

After explaining to him that the total was only about a dollar,  I found myself looking at an undaunted child.  They are determined.  Another snippet:

Princess: “Hey Cooter, if you come keep me company, I will buy the devices and let you buy the games and cases.”

“Okay.” And off he went.  Happily.

Oh my.  I got no idea y’all.

But it works.  They haven’t fought about anything really since joining forces.  Well except for him taking apart a Lego minifigure that she’d built.  But that is so minor it hardly counts.  It has been really nice.  And when they put their heads together and come up with what they think is the perfect plan, they clap and get so excited.  I confess I look forward to hearing each new plan.

So what do I do?  Should I be upset that they are pretty close to obsessing over these things or should I admire their dogged determination? I don’t want my children to become electronics junkies.  We’re already headed towards that path.  (But is it really a problem if they are begging to watch Gilligan’s Island in the car? Really?)  I have to limit their screentime and then work on not sitting in front of one of my own so much.  Easier said than done.

On the other hand, I know part of the reason they want their own is that they want to capture some of the fun and adventure of the time they spent with their friends this summer.  Riding up and down Highway 247 in the van, playing all kinds of games.  Together.  And that’s the other thing.  Their greatest excitement about getting these devices is that they can play the games together.  And that does make me happy.  That my children want to be together, play together.  That is huge.  The fact that they are all piled up in here with me right now, snuggled together looking at a book, talking about their favorite movies, and laughing together…..that is more than I hoped for.  Getting along, yes.  Wanting to be and do things with each other, priceless.

I don’t know whether they will wind up getting their devices, and if they do, I don’t know when.  But I do know that I will savor every minute of listening to them all planning and talking and having fun together.  The joy of just being together.  The gift that lasts a lifetime.

 

Running Lines

This evening as I was doing the “finishing up the day” tasks, I was running back over lines from today.  And giggling.  And that’s a good thing.  Laughter over misread words and losing track of time and general silliness–I’ll take it.

This morning the littles and I were out together.  Cooter, my little guy, was taking the few minutes we were waiting on his sister to play with a new friend of his.  As they climbed in and out and under, Cooter’s friend’s Dad called out to his son, “Hey, be careful, know where your head is.”

That. Right. There.

I think that’s good advice for all of us.  Know where your head is before you take your next step.  You really don’t want to get bonked in the head.  That hurts.  Bad.  And sometimes worse than others.

Later in the day, after taking care of business with the crew Plus Three, I completely lost track of time.  I am usually so time conscious, so that was a very strange sensation.  I decided I could stress over it or laugh over it.  Taking my friend’s lead, I decided to laugh it off.  Stress wouldn’t have turned back time, but it could take minutes off my clock.  Laughter it is.

The discount movie theater was showing “Epic” this afternoon.  Throwing our fun meter into high gear, we Plus Three decided it was just the thing to do after an afternoon of taking care of business.  We crept into the dark theater (the results of losing track of time) and found some seats.  The movie had a really interesting premise.  The fact that the daughter and her father found a way to communicate despite being in different “worlds”–well I liked that just fine.  It warmed my heart and made me smile.  If only.  One of the most beautiful and poignant lines in the movie was, “Many leaves, one tree.”  The idea that no one is ever alone.  I like that too.  I couldn’t help but think of our friends who have no roof over their head, no way of knowing for sure where their next meal will come from.  I especially thought about my friend Mac, who often panhandles with his buddies to get enough to eat.  What would happen if the next person they asked went and bought four burgers and sat and ate with them?  Just pondering on that this evening too.

Another version of the "Many leaves, one tree" line that's been running through my mind.  So true--we're all in this together, aren't we?

Another version of the “Many leaves, one tree” line that’s been running through my mind. So true–we’re all in this together, aren’t we?

Another line from the day came from Cooter Himself.  He told me this evening, as I was stirring the homemade vegetable soup (thank you summer), “Mama, you know what the only good thing about Darth Maul getting cut in half is?”  Wait. What?  “No, what Buddy?”  (It’s been nothing but Star Wars around here for days, my friends.)  “That he was a bad guy.  And that’s the only good thing.”  I breathed a sigh of relief.  There for a while I thought we were going to be in big trouble because his favorites in any story were the “bad” guys.  Now I’m seeing a turn.  Thank you Star Wars.  And our friends who loaned us Episodes 4 and 5.  Apparently you’ll get no sympathy for being cut in half from my guy if you have been up to no good.  I’m just sayin’.

Today was a good one.  A busy one.  And in true typical Tara fashion I closed out our adventures by thinking I had misplaced my keys.  Perception is everything, so I headed back into the empty theater with my cell phone lit up to search the floor for them.  (Oh people, please don’t throw that stuff on the floor–act like you are somebody!) I kept hitting the “wake up” button on my phone for light and searching under the four or five rows I figured were probably ours.  (I had already lost my bearings on where we sat.)  When it was painfully obvious that they weren’t there, I went back out to my friend whom I’d left holding my bag.  And then it hit me, the outside pockets.  About the same time my friend pointed and asked, “Outside pockets maybe?”  She’s a genius and she was right.  And she laughed with me over my forgetfulness, and for that–that grace–I am thankful.

Laughter and lines echoing in my head tonight.  I’m thinking I shall sleep quite well.

The Memory of Yesterday, The Legacy of Tomorrow

This weekend marks 23 years since I graduated from college.  I don’t think of it every year, but for many reasons, this year it’s been on my mind.

It was four years before that I spent a week choosing between Wesleyan and Georgia Southern.  Yeah, you don’t get much more polar opposites that those two, do you?  Coed vs. all women, small vs. large, close to home vs. a few hours away, and so on.  I had a leaning towards Wesleyan because it was closer (seriously, that long drive with Daddy for Scholarship Interviews at Southern was very possibly a deal breaker–there was nothing on I-16!), and because Mama had graduated from there four years earlier.

Mama only had two quarters left in college as a Chemistry major at Valdosta State when, as a first year bride and newly pregnant,  she was told by doctors it was either the degree or me.  She chose me.  With only two quarters left.  I am humbled and thankful.  So in 1980, she transferred her credits to Wesleyan and changed to a Psychology major.  I remember her music class with Dr. Herrington.  She came up with neat mnemonic devices to remember the composers–“Mozart’s in the closet! Let him out! Let him out! Let him out!”  My brother went to the little preschool at the edge of campus while she was in class, and when we were out of school, we would go and sit in an empty classroom across the hall from hers.  I remember sitting in the brown desks, dreaming of the day I would go to college.  It seemed so far away then.

Because Mama was on campus regularly, she learned of things like the children’s plays and the Naiads–the synchronized swimming team.  We went to the theater for the plays and for concerts.  We watched the swimmers in their beautiful suits dancing in the water.  I suppose it was only inevitable that Wesleyan won in the choice of college; she had already won my heart.  I was home.

I made great friends during my years at Wesleyan, and I figured out what I believed.  I loved the classes and assignments that made me stretch myself and explain what I believed and why, especially the papers for Dr. Ledbetter’s classes (my favorite may have been on the spirituality of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”).  Because I attended only four years after Mama, I had Dr. Curry for Psychology just as she had.  My freshman roommate helped me bind my children’s book  for Miss Munck the night before it was due.  (I still have it.) We had a gummy bear throwing “thing” going on with our across the hall neighbor.  (Some things you don’t ask about, people.)  I may or may not know something about a vehicle driving across the sidewalk to get its occupants to Physical Science on time, because they had been watching the last few minutes of Y and the R.  As a Resident Assistant, I found great friends in the classes behind ours.  And I collected a great deal of purple paraphernalia over the years, as I was a Purple Knight.  Wesleyan was where I learned to accept others, no matter our differences, and to accept myself.  This is also where I fell in love with the theater, and I was thrilled when Sir cast me as the lead in the children’s play my junior year.  I was going to be on stage performing for excited children, just as those actresses had when I was younger.  What a blast I had!

I learned that time management was important (we don’t talk about Calculus II–EVER), and that laughter truly is the best medicine.  I was thrown in the fountain for my birthday each year, and twelve years after graduation, I was married around the fountain which has the words “We Live For One Other” etched in the marble.

The fountain at Wesleyan--so many memories.

The fountain at Wesleyan–so many memories.

This year I suppose the memories of my years–was it only four?–at Wesleyan are especially poignant, as this is the year of the passing of the torch.  As I sat with my older daughter on Scholarship Day, I wondered if she would choose my alma mater.  I only wanted it for her if she felt like I had–that it was home.

I had my answer very soon.  Scholarship Day was Saturday, February 9th.  It was the evening of the 10th that my dear friend, minister, and sister Wesleyanne brought Aub to the hospital to say goodbye to Mama.  Aub walked in, went straight to her bedside, and said, in a voice that was somewhat tremulous and strong at the same time, “Maemae, I decided about college.  I’m going to Wesleyan.”  I was in tears (and yet I thought–wait–we haven’t heard about the scholarship yet!).  It was the day after Mama’s funeral that Auburn’s Admissions Rep, also a Wesleyanne and a fabulous woman, called her and gave her the good news.  Auburn is the newest recipient of the Mary Knox McNeill Faith and Service Scholarship, and a member of the Pirate Class of 2017.

My Pirate, Class of 2017!

My Pirate, Class of 2017!

My girl has embraced her choice and never looked back.  (As she was born on National Talk Like a Pirate Day, I suppose it was inevitable.)  She is a strong woman, that one.  I give thanks for that.  She joined every Wesleyan related Facebook page she could.  She has friended former and current Wesleyannes.  She talked me into going back for STUNT–the awesome production that took up much of my life my junior and senior years.   She even participated in a contest to design the t-shirt for the incoming freshman–and her design was chosen. Not too shabby for our future Graphic Design/Psychology major.

So as I remember my graduation, I wonder where we all will be four years from today, watching as this young woman sets out on the next step in her journey (which WILL be graduate school…..ahem).  I am thankful for the strong women, some of whom are Wesleyannes, who strengthened her through their love and guidance and laughter.  I am thankful for the men who encouraged her to speak her mind and taught her she can be anything she sets her mind to.  And I’m thankful for her spirit–she has weathered many a storm, but like the Pirate she is, she has stayed afloat and is sailing afar, up for a new adventure at her new home, my alma mater and my Mama’s–

Hail Wesleyan, thou emblem of all that is grand;

The noblest, the greatest, in all this fair land.

Thine ideals are honored, thy name always blest;

A fountain of knowledge, the oldest and best.

A star in the dark is thy glorious past,

Forever and ever thy glory shall last.

Upholding thine ideals, thy daughters shall be

True, faithful, and loyal, dear Wesleyan to thee.

As she stands around the fountain under a star-filled sky, arms joined with her Pirate sisters, the sound of their voices raised in song filling the night air–for just a moment, I hope she will look up and think of those who have gone before, and all that lies ahead of her.  And I hope, in that moment, she will smile.  And dream big dreams.  Like I did 23 years ago.  Go get ’em girl.  Pirates, all the way!