she is comfort
the sound of rain on the faded tin roof
the hum of the needle making stitch after stitch
the first ice cream of summer, dripping down the cone
the smell of tea olive blossoming beneath the starlit sky

the sound of her voice
on the other end of the line
reassures me
reminds me
rejoices and refreshes
like a balm to my aching soul,
sore from too much too soon

she listens to my stories,
my worries, and my joys
she remembers what I never knew,
and tells of days past, people gone
mending the cracks in my foundation
that come from time and distance and loss

she is the voice of those who can no longer speak
she is the shoulder of those I can no longer lean on
she is the counselor, speaking for those whose wisdom is now a whisper in the wind
she is the love for those who loved us

she is
as she always has been


and as I watch her head bowed closely next to my child,
their voices joining together in lyrical conversation
with notes of laughter for the chorus
I am thankful
thankful for who she was then
and for who she is now
now that they are gone

she can never replace
she would not want to
nor would I ask it
but her stitches
of love, day in day out,
help ease the gaping wounds
her touch brings healing
and her heart brings light

and warmth
as the scent of vanilla and patchouli
waft from her back door, welcoming us
as we climb the steps of the porch

where she is



Cold Sun Landscape

By Emmanuel Huybrechts from Laval, Canada (Cold Sun Landscape) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

farewell to a friend

lives joined one October day

so many years ago

with friends gathered round,

smiles on the faces of all

but none bigger than their own


years spent with laughing

and loving and cheering on their

favorite football team

rolling tide every chance they got

and cheering each other on as well–

if there were ever two greater

dream builders

for each other

I cannot imagine


love, laughter, and a whole lot of sass,

teasing and compromising

that’s what I imagine from behind

the closed doors of their life


but I do know what I saw–

a man who loved a woman

and she who reflected it and gave all that love

right back to him


and now the mirror is draped

in darkness

as are our hearts

for this fine man took his last breath

and was healed

as all our hearts broke


so many lives

all the richer

for having known his

gentle, strong spirit


the girls he loved will miss him

all the babies and family he adored

the memory of his laughter and smile

with bring both comfort and tears

and all the stories will be told

and told again

to keep him close


this Gift, the Gift my sisterfriend was given

as she gave him her heart

she deserved the best

and she had him–

only for way too short a while



RIP, BP.  You are loved and missed, and I am better for having known you.  

A Love Story for the everyday

Valentine’s Day.

Yeah.  I don’t really “do” that day so much.  In the words of my Sister Circle friend Miss N, “Why’s it gotta be just one day?”

Why can’t we celebrate and share love everyday?

I know folks who did.  For each other, for their children, for friends and family, and for people they’d never even met.

They lived out a great love story.

Theirs was a story of wrinkled noses saying, “I love you.”  One hand reaching and the other hand finding.  It was of rides on backroads together just to see what was down them.  Lunches at restaurants they’d never heard of.  It was once a week at the pizza buffet with their grandchildren.  It was a love story of quiet moments and loud laughter.  One of choosing the perfect book together for a child they loved. Theirs was one of working computer puzzles together and watching TV just before bed.  They gave quietly and freely and loved without boundaries.  She wrote and illustrated, and he cheered her on.  He designed and built with wood, and she did the trim and accessories.  He pulled down things from up high and opened jars, and she cooked his favorites and mended his jeans.  They were each other’s best friend and somehow they made it through ups, downs, highs, lows, and all the day-to-day stuff in between.

There was a time their relationship frustrated and confused me.

When Aub and I were living there with them, one night I was in the den and Daddy was sitting at his place at the table, having his “bednight snack” of peanut butter and crackers.  He’d finished a sleeve of crackers and just closed the jar of peanut butter, as he read the paper.  Mama came walking through on her way to the laundry room after her shower.  Without looking up from his paper, hearing her footsteps, he held out the jar.  Without missing a step she took it and put it back in the kitchen as she continued on her way.

Wait.  What just happened?

When I said something to them, calling them on it, they just shook their heads.  I don’t even think they were conscious of the motions they made.  I was blown away.

That whole interaction has stayed in my mind for all these years.  And lately as I’ve played it over and over again, I realize that it was not a reflection on either of them individually.  It was who they were together–in sync.  Neither had to think it through.  Neither thought anything about loving and serving each other.  It was a mutual relationship.  Each one did what he or she could for the other.   And it worked.   Because that is what love looks like.  Doing what we can for someone else.  Without stopping to assess what it will do for us.

Recently my sisters and I took on the task of going through Mama’s things in her room.  Yes, it had been almost a year.  Grief doesn’t have an instruction manual, and you just have to do things when you are able.  That time had come for us.  As we went through the closet and then the drawers, we laughed, we remembered, and we made the best of something so very hard.  It was in one of her drawers that I found the folded up papers.

As I pulled the pages out, I glanced and saw my Daddy’s handwriting.  I remembered my Aunt telling me that Mama had mentioned to her that Daddy had written her something very special, words between a husband and a wife, a man and a woman, words that she loved and treasured.  But my Aunt couldn’t be sure if Mama still had them.

She did.

The letter from Bill to Barbara.  Written on her 29th birthday.

The letter from Bill to Barbara. Written on her 29th birthday.

Tucked away safely in the back of a drawer.  Same way I do.  I keep finding out more and more how much alike we are.  Were.  Are.

I put them away to ponder over what to do with them later on.

I kept hearing in my heart my Aunt saying, “Between a husband and a wife.”

Settled.  I talked it over with my siblings, and they agreed.  We would let the letter stay between them.

It was on New Year’s Day that Mess Cat and I carefully put the letter in her woodburning stove and let the words go.  The loving and tender and cherished words.  Ashes to ashes.


It was four pages, written by hand with a pencil.  From my quick glimpse I did know that he wrote it while she was sleeping.  Mama had written the date on the outside.  1-15-75.  Her 29th birthday.  They had three girls under the age of six, and had suffered through at least one miscarriage.  This was less than one month after they celebrated their seventh anniversary.  A love letter.  About what he loved and treasured about her.  It’s all I know about his words, but it’s enough.  Hallmark can’t even begin to touch that.

That my Mama saved this letter, all those years.  That my Daddy, who loved quietly and deeply, sat down and wrote them.  I can hardly fathom it.  That’s a strong love.  A love bigger than just one day.  It was a love made to last the over 16,000 days they spent together on this earth as husband and wife.  That’s over 384,000 hours and over 23,040,000 minutes–all of that time choosing to love.  Choosing a kind word over harsh ones.  Mama and Daddy weren’t perfect, and I won’t say I didn’t hear the door slam that one time, but they chose to love.  Even when things weren’t perfect. Especially then.  I never heard either one of them say anything unkind or harsh about the other one.  In all the days I can remember, they were a team.  When Daddy was so sick and tired and worn out, his only worry was Mama and how she would manage.  And after he was gone, Mama honored his life by trying to put hers back together.  Trying to do the things that would honor the life of the man she loved with all of her being.

The man who wrote his love a letter when he was almost thirty-two.  A letter of a lifetime.

As the flames twisted and turned the pages and swallowed up the words of love, I felt a special warmth from the flame.  And in my head I heard my Mama whisper, “Thank you baby girl.”  Theirs was a love so special, so precious, and while we were fortunate to be the beneficiaries and witness to this love, it was between them.  And so it should stay.

I want my children to learn to love like that. I want each one of them to find the person who feeds their soul, with whom each feels balanced and treasured and respected–the one they call their best friend.  I want them to trust and to defend and to honor and to share, just as my parents did.  I want their homes to be filled with the simple joys that money cannot buy–the laughter, sharing stories, sitting down to a home-cooked meal together.  I want my daughters and my son to love someone so much they simply must put it into words, writing all the wonderful and beautiful thoughts and feelings down.  And I want them to be loved so dearly by that one special person that when they leave this world, there is a letter tucked in the back of their drawer, folded and hidden away.  Yellowed with age and worn with the wear of being read over and over through the years.

A love so great it pours into all the other days of the year…..a love so special it’s for the everyday.

Outside the Box Kind of Mama

or…..I Wish I Were the Kind of Mama She Was

Y’all, confession time:

I need my sleep.

That’s why Mama told me I might need a nap.  Often.  If I don’t get enough sleep, I just can’t function properly.  “Properly” meaning up to and including not snapping at people or being downright rude.

I am reminded of this as I haven’t been getting enough sleep at night lately.  When one of the first thoughts you have when you wake up in the morning is whether or not you will be able to get a nap….you might have a sleeping problem.

It was the same when I was young.  I had an early bedtime.  I can remember it being as early as 8 p.m. and then 8:30 and finally 9 before it was up to me to set my bedtime.  As the oldest I was the first to have an advanced bedtime, and when I hit that 9 p.m. I thought I had arrived.

The problem with any and all of these bedtimes was that I couldn’t get up in the mornings.  At least the way Mama preferred.  Cheerfully.  That whole “Rise and shine and give God the glory glory” song?  Yeah, Mama could have written that.  That was her morning attitude–just all “isn’t this a wonderful day?” and “I can hardly wait to get started on all this awesomeness I have ahead of me.”


Don’t get me wrong.  I loved my Mama then and I still do today.  I miss that cheerfulness and sassiness that she would use to make me do right in any given situation.  (She loved me but she flat called me out on some stuff.)  But that early morning, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed…..let’s leave that to the squirrels, shall we?  I heard my oldest describe herself recently–she said that she wasn’t a night owl or a morning person…..more of a 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. kind of gal.  I’m thinking she comes by it honest.

When I was in second grade, I just couldn’t get up on my own very well.  Mama would try and try with all her cheery might, and I was still a grump.  Back then Mama sewed a lot of our clothes.  I remember the jeans with the contrasting denim pockets that I wore on the kaolin mines field trip and watched the blue get lighter as the day progressed.  And the bandana shirts.  I loved those.  She even made me a bathing suit.  It was a lovely 70’s shade of orangey-yellow.  But looking back I think the most precious thing she made that year was my nightgown.

I added the nightgown so lovingly made for me when Mess Cat and I were painting together on Saturday.  Happy memories.....

I added the nightgown so lovingly made for me when Mess Cat and I were painting together on Saturday. Happy memories…..

As I recall it was peach in color which could have been my favorite color at the time.  I’m not sure.  I loved it in the eighth grade when she made my graduation dress from the Oscar DeLaRenta pattern in a peach colored fabric with white ruffle trim.  It was my favorite again in college, when she made us curtains in a yellow gingham complete with tiebacks. I loved yellow too and somehow it coordinated with the yellow bedspreads and peach sheets…..my roommate and I were going for a pastel theme, okay?

The color and style of the sleeveless gown were not what made it so special.  What made it special was what Mama embroidered by hand on it.

A smiley face.

Mama was not only a problem solver, but she was a creative, outside of the box kind of thinker.  She was likely very frustrated with me for not cooperating and getting up.  At the time she had two little ones behind me to care for as well.  The last thing she needed was me, dragging and whining every morning.

So she gave me this gown.  I remember her pointing to the smiley face and saying, “I want you to look down and remember to be happy every morning.”  Later that would be her thing to say, “Happy Everyday!”

She was such a good Mama.

I’m so not her.

I wish I could remember to be a creative thinker and do things like this instead of losing my mind and my temper.

Her creativity came to the rescue more times than a few.  I remember when I broke my ankle and she came up with a great way for me to shower without getting my “boot” wet.  She covered it with a garbage bag and put me in the shower on her vinyl covered kitchen stool.  After each shower she would dry the stool off and put it away until the next day.

She could organize like nobody’s business and said that loading the dishwasher was like a different but fun version of the game Tetris.  Family lore has it that she fit a five foot swimming pool in a little bitty Falcon.  (She’d always say that when we said there wasn’t room for anything else in the dishwasher, “Sure there is.  I once fit a five foot swimming pool….” Or we’d say, “Ask Mama how to get all this organized, she once fit a…..”)

But most of all, loved ruled with her.

That’s why, instead of punishing me for not getting up like I should or chewing me up one side and down the other, she sat down and lovingly and cleverly made me a peach nightgown with a smiley face on it.

I have no idea what happened to the gown.  Maybe it made its way down through my two sisters–most likely, but it doesn’t matter.  I can still see it the way it looked in the light from the kitchen in our little five-room house on Boy Scout Road.  The silky thread of the smiley face shimmering in the light.  With color.  With happiness.  With love.

I was so lucky to have her.  And to be loved by her.

Mama Read Books and Daddy Listened

My brother is working on a special project, and he mentioned something that has me thinking about Mama and her books.  Mama loved books.  She read a lot of different kinds, but mysteries were among her favorites.  She also liked novels like “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt” and “Salvation at the Dairy Queen”–novels about people and their “real life” struggles and how they worked through them.

But Mama’s very favorite books?

The ones written for children.

Mama loved reading aloud to us as we were growing up.  And for the past almost eighteen years, she loved reading to her grandchildren.  For my oldest’s first birthday, she got a tire swing in the yard from Daddy and a book and little stuffed kitten from Mama.  It’s always been about the books.  Mama loved picking out books for different children of the family.  It was like a treasure hunt to find just the perfect book for each child.  She and Daddy always kept copies of “Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm” in the trunk of their car.  We loved it growing up, and they loved sharing it with children they came across on their day to day journeys.

Our family favorite growing up--Mama and Daddy loved sharing it with children they met

Our family favorite growing up–Mama and Daddy loved sharing it with children they met

One of my happiest “Mama reading” memories is her reading “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” aloud.  Her voice was so animated.  The best sound was the hippo chewing gum “Grum, grum, grum.”  Mama would work her jaw and you just knew that was exactly how it sounded.  I also loved hearing her read aloud, “Listen Buddy.”  She brought Buddy to life in such a way that you just couldn’t forget the story.  And there were so many more.

Mama brought just such books to life for her children and grandchildren and hundreds of elementary schoolchildren over the years.  She loved reading aloud at Byron Elementary to many children in grades kindergarten through third.  I recently found her storytime plans, complete with booklists and the fun experiments from  “Apples, Bubbles, and Crystals: Your Science ABC’s” that she shared each week with the children.  It was something she and Daddy enjoyed planning together.

Daddy supported Mama and her love of reading to children.  (It’s funny to think that he and I heard her reading out loud to children the same number of years.)  He helped her plan her storytimes for the children at the schools by going shopping with her for just the right treats, science experiment materials, and helping her come up with themes and ideas.  He even asked me to embroider “Lady Reads-a-lot” on a shirt for her.   There was one time when Mama was reading aloud that I really realized the abundance of love Daddy felt for Mama.  Daddy wasn’t always vocal about his emotions, but his actions more than let you know how he felt.

One of Maemae's more recent favorites--"Counting Crocodiles"

One of Maemae’s more recent favorites–“Counting Crocodiles”

One afternoon in October of 2011 I was sitting in the living room with Daddy, who was resting in his hospital bed set up in there.  My brother and his family were visiting, so my littles and his were in the “big room” with Mama.  She was reading aloud to them.  We could hear her voice but not necessarily the words as she read.  Daddy was talking and then he grew quiet.  He closed his eyes and smiled so big.  He opened them and looked at me with so much love on his face it took my breath away.  “You hear her?  There she goes.”  He chuckled softly.  He turned his head towards the window and listened.  And Mama was off, reading another story with her animated voice.  I think it was “Little Red Cowboy Hat,” another family favorite and one that Daddy also loved to read.

I remember that look on his face, and I am thankful for it.   Daddy loved Mama with all his heart, and in that moment it shone through every fiber of his being.  He was an encourager and pushed Mama to chase her dreams.  He knew she was talented and believed in her even when she couldn’t believe in herself.  We all should have at least one person like that in our lives, someone whose love for us shines through and who runs alongside us, cheering for us as we go, believing that we can…..and helping us see it through.   That’s the best stuff there is–having a cheerleader when you are going for it, a party-thrower when you make it, and a shoulder to cry on and arms to hug you when you don’t.

If you have someone like that, go now and tell ’em you love ’em or give them a big hug or write them a note.  Whatever.  Just appreciate them and love them right back.  Know you are one of the lucky ones.  Because you really are.