the swing

I sit outside on the porch
as a warm breeze blows through
and twenty-two years disappear
the sun shines bright, illuminating a golden afternoon, and there you are,
carefully taking one step after another
holding the hand of the one you adored
and who cherished you right back
she leads you to your birthday gift
the swing
built by the man who makes you giggle
and gives you Nilla wafers to clasp
in your tiny hands, never mind the mess
he gently lifts you and places you
with her help into the swing
made especially for you

all the years since have come and gone
as have the ones we love
and I think of the gift they gave you
on the day you turned one

life is much like that swing–
may you always be surrounded by those who love you
like those who created and guided you to
the swing that day
giving you roots to tread on
and wings to fly

some days you will have someone at your back
pushing you higher and higher
up through the things that would pull you down
until you can reach for the stars and clouds and very nearly touch them
with your bare hands

other days, and there will be many, dear one
you will have to pump and point
lifting yourself above the noise and hustle
to reach your dreams and goals and all you want to be,
depending only on your own will and strength and determination

I remember the smile on your face twenty-two years ago
when you sat there in that old tire picked especially for you–
it would have lit up the darkest of nights…..
the sheer joy of the movement
and being surrounded by the ones you loved
brought laughter bubbling up from within
and cries of “again! again!”
as your tiny toes that couldn’t touch the ground kicked at the air excitedly

may you take time everyday to feel the wind in your hair
the exhilaration when you soar
and the beauty of the gentle quiet as you let it all “die down”
may you welcome those who have your back
and let them be a part of your journey, cheering each other on
and when you feel like no one is there,
pump and point, my dear, pump and point
and remember the dreams they dreamed for you,
the ones you’ve tucked away deep in your heart
and aim for the highest point–
and when you get there

grab hold of your faith
let go of the rope

and leap

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For A.A.D. on the night of her 23rd birthday…..keep soaring high, baby girl 

Christmas Eve Light and Love

Twenty-two years ago Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, just like this year.  My baby girl was three months and three days old, and she was being baptized at the morning church service.

Christmas Eves at our church then were quite full.  The church couldn’t be decorated until after service on the fourth Sunday of Advent, which Christmas Eve was that year.  After church, folks ran home, changed clothes, and then came back to decorate or “green the church.”  Another quick trip home and then we were back for a Wassail party (not a fan myself) and Covered Dish Supper.  Caroling was after, and then midnight service began at 11:30.  A beautiful day filled with joy and being together.

Together.

During the morning service, the two dear friends we had asked to be Auburn’s godparents stood up next to us and promised to love her and help teach her right from wrong, kindness from cruelty, caring from apathy.  Auburn’s godfather wasn’t yet married to the woman who had come with him that morning, but I know she must have promised all of those things too, sitting in the pew, watching as these bonds were formed.

I know this because that day she also became Auburn’s godmother.  In every sense of the word.

Over the years she has written notes of encouragement, given hugs of comfort, listened to my girl (and me), and laughed alongside us–often helping us to find the humor in situations.  She loved with a passion that one isn’t always lucky enough to come across.  Bless her, as my sister Mess Cat says, “She was larger than life.”

This past week, this dear soul left this world, ending her fight with cancer.  Amidst people who knew and loved her, her husband, and her son, we said goodbye on Thursday, gathered around the tent as the cold wind whipped around us.  Her husband got up and shared through his tears the joy and love she gave them all these years.  It was a time of celebrating and remembering one who loved and was loved with great adoration.

Last weekend my friend sat and told me and Auburn how when he first met his wife, she had said, moving things out of the seat next to her, “You just come sit right here beside me,” with her lovely Southern drawl.  Bless her, that’s who she has always been–welcoming, comforting, hospitable, and seemingly on the verge of a joy-filled laugh at any given time.

Today, as my littles have the wiggles and giggles and excitement abounds, I remember my friend–this dear woman who never missed an opportunity to make me, Auburn, or anyone else feel welcome and important.  I remember her standing by her husband twenty-two years ago today, holding my baby girl, and smiling with all her heart with joy.  It was a precious day.  I am thankful she was there.

As I am thankful she has been there for so much of our journey.

My heart is mindful of the ones who knew and loved her best–her husband, her son, her sister, her mother–and I know that in great contrast to the holiday music, bright lights, light-hearted movies, and cheerful greetings everywhere we go, they are bathed in the darkness of grief and pain and loss.  I am mindful of others who will spend this holiday missing someone they hold dear, for whom Christmas does not evoke visions of sugarplums dancing.

And I remember my sweet friend’s words, “Come sit here right beside me.”  If you are bathed in darkness just now, I hope that you will hear these words from someone.  I’m here, as are many others who have walked the path you are on, and we understand the darkness.  Come sit by us.

Or perhaps you are like my friend and could welcome someone who needs to hear those words.  They are indeed words that can change a life.

Wishing you all much love and light in the darkness, as the world celebrates glad tidings of Joy and Good News.  As I remember the baby from 22 years ago whom I held close as I sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” walking across the churchyard in the dark, I give thanks for 22 years of wonderful memories.  Time passes way too quickly, so may you all find time to make merry memories to recall and enjoy in the years to come.

Love to all.

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The “M” Birthday

When Aub turned 3, I planned, with the help of my Joyful friend, a party with the theme of “Pink Pigs, Puppets, and Pizza.”  (I do love alliteration!) It was a lot of fun, as all of the parties were back then, and I even had her third birthday picture made in her favorite pink nightgown with all of her pink pigs sitting beside her.  I love that picture.

Tomorrow my girl turns 21.

I don’t know how that happened.  Cliche’ but true.  The days were long and the years were short.

And now–here we are.  21.

Tonight I mentioned to my older friend who is the epitome of wisdom, love, grace, and spryness that I guessed I was done.  Twenty-one equals grown, right?

I was walking behind her, and saw her shoulders shake with her mirth before I heard her laughter.  “Oh me…..okay.  Sure.  We’ll let you think that for now.”

I know better.  I really do.

My girl wanted a very laid back birthday this year.  I was good with that.  It seems like the world right now is a cyclone of chaos and to do’s and needs and what not, so a chance to sit.  And be.  And not much else.  SURE. YES.  The gift that keeps on giving.

We gathered in the backyard with the fire going (I’m getting pretty good at starting them now), and I set out the hot dogs and fixin’s along with the sticks for roasting.  I had a few decorations I’d put together for the day with a small sign with the theme for her 21st birthday “party.”

I returned to alliteration eighteen years later.  (I was in a play in Junior High with Beta Club, and my one line that I still remember was “I just love alliteration.”  I looked up what that was, and you know what?  Turns out I do.  To this day.)  Only the letter has changed.  This year’s theme?

M.

Mason Jars, Mermaids, Makeup, and Monograms.

My baby girl who isn’t a baby anymore loves most things Southern.  Traditions, cornbread, grits, pearls, and Mason Jars for anything from drinking out of them to storing things.  I tried a Pinterest project (ha–close to a fail, I’d say, but since I learned from it, we’re moving it to the WIN column) and “frosted” some jars with mermaids inside.  If you want to know more, let me know.  I’ll do my best to tell you the right way to do it, which the folks on Pinterest most definitely did NOT do.  As for the mermaids,  a dear friend of mine and I talk about them as a symbol of not only adapting but transforming into something beautiful wherever you are.  Aub is about to enter a whole new way of life, with this “official” adulthood thing.  I don’t want her to feel like she’s underwater…..I want her to grow a tail and swim–take off and make the new way of life her own.  As for the makeup, she loves it.  Since she’s 21 and not 11 anymore, I’m okay with that.  She is beautiful inside and out, makeup or no, and as long as she remembers that, I don’t have a problem with her enjoying the world of makeup.  (I do have a problem with the folks who didn’t recognize that her cake, designed and made by her loving Mama, was a compact and NOT a toilet.  We won’t even go there, folks.  I’m about to get sappy, and I can’t if I revisit my emotions attached to that experience.)  Monograms needs no explanation–I’ve written about that before.  She loves ALL THE THINGS monogrammed.  Even her cookies.  Today we were talking about her monogram, and she said, “I do love it.  It’s so asymmetrical.”  You’re welcome, boo.  Of course I thought about that when naming you.  Ahem.

Tonight as I remember where I was exactly this moment 21 years ago (calling my parents, his parents, my dear friend, heading to the hospital), I am thinking about that letter M and all of the other things it could have stood for–Mercer (where she might maybe perhaps go to grad school), Mouse (her nickname before she was born), Mama (who loves her dearly), Mic drop (something she does regularly), Mississippi (because she is a really good speller and knew how to spell it almost as soon she knew her alphabet…..and so many others.  But as I sat down by the fire last night, and realized how far she’s come, and yet this is only the beginning, I thought about the things I wish for her in the years to come that start with the M.

*Make time for the things you love.  Don’t toss the things you enjoy doing aside permanently for the sake of your career or even another person. If you love it, make time for it.

*”Make hay while the sun shines.”  Work hard when the opportunity presents itself.  Never go halfway.  Give it your all.

*Make a difference.  In whatever you do, do it in kindness and with good intent.

*Make someone laugh or smile.  At least once a day.  And it’s okay if that person is you.

*Make other people feel important.  Because they are.

*Meander on the less traveled path.  Learn to love the other way around.

*Mix it up.  Try new things.  Attempt something you never thought possible.  Eat a new food.  Read a different genre.  Take archery lessons.

*Move.  Your arms.  Legs.  Head.  Dance.  Walk.  Run.  When you are moving, it’s harder to sit on your pity pot.  Trust me, I know this.

*Middle.  Sit there every once in a while.  Or more often.  It offers a different perspective, and different perspectives can be very good to try out for size.

*Master something you’re curious about.  Painting.  Knitting.  Piano.  Underwater Basket Weaving.  No one can ever take your skills away from you.

*Music. Listen.  As much as possible to as many kinds as possible.  Music can lift your spirits or rest with them where you are.  Never be without music.

*Make.  Create.  Share.

*Motivation.  Seek it.  Offer it.

*Move on.  Move beyond.  Don’t get stuck in that one bad moment.  Or bad experience.  Or held up by that one person who doesn’t get you and never will.  Let it go.  (Yeah, I said it–I sang it too.)  I feel that it will be okay.  It will be okay.  

*Muse.  Listen to her.  Let her guide your thoughts and your words.  Write.  Please.  The world needs your voice.

*Metamorphose.  As much as it takes.  Change.  Adapt.  Grow.  Never stop growing.  Adapting.  Becoming.

*Miracle.  You are mine.  Be good to my treasure.  Because I love you.

And I give thanks for you every single day.

May Light shine upon you, today and everyday–chasing the darkness away, so that you can reflect all the good that has gone before you and offer a glimpse of all the good you will bring in the days and years to come.

Happy 21st birthday, Aub!  

You are loved.

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The first pink pig is on the left.  Squealer.  He went everywhere with us way back when.  

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My attempt at a Pinterest project.  Win some, learn some.  Definitely learned some on this one.  

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Monogrammed Mason Jars made by our sweet neighborfriend. As delicious as they are beautiful.

 

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It’s a compact. And completely safe for our food allergies, so this is a definite WIN, and definitely looks like a COMPACT!

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Our girl’s post about one of her gifts.  The one about adapting.  And making this new life work for her.  After all, who doesn’t want a mermaid tail of their own?  Just keep swimming.  

 

 

Turns Out She Knows Best

Where has the time gone?

Not even joking, y’all.  My oldest called me the other day, and she’s about to register for classes for next year.

Her SENIOR year.  Of college.

WHAT ON EARTH?  How did this happen?

I mean, I know, time passes, but I very clearly recall every single emotion I felt the day we moved her into her first dorm room on campus almost three years ago.  It has been a roller coaster ride for sure, but like those rides, it will be over before we’ve even caught our breath good.

Aub is planning on going to law school after graduation.  She has a plan, and she’s making it happen.  Make no mistake, she is the one taking care of all of the things she needs to do and doing them.  She got her internship which turned into a great job.  She read and decided what it will take to be accepted into law school.  She studied for and did well on the LSAT.  She has a notification set on her phone to remind her when to turn in her application to the school of her choice.  She’s even looked at places to live while in law school.

I blinked, y’all.  This is what I get for doing THAT.

When she called me the other day, she discussed that she is going to drop her second major and make it a minor.  The classes she needs aren’t all being offered when she can take them, and she would have to double up and take a lot of hours to make it happen.

As I’ve mentioned before a time or ten, change is not my friend.  So this change made me a little nervous, and I talked with her about all the ways that maybe she could still keep the double major.

I mean, I had to, right?  It’s my job as her parent to tell her what I think is best.

And later that night, after everyone else was asleep, it hit me like a hammer upside the head, that NO.  That is not my job.

It is not my job to tell Aub what the right thing to do is.  It is my job to teach her how to decide the right thing for her.  And then let her do it.

And I recalled her words, “If I drop the second one to a minor, I can continue working, and the work experience will be more valuable in the end than a double major, I think.”

She thinks.

She reads.  She studies.  She researches all the options.

And she thinks some more.

Wow.

All on her own.

And the one thing I’ve watched and been amazed to see is that when she sets her mind or heart on something, I can sit back and watch it happen.  Because it will.  When she believes in something, she will do what it takes to make it happen.

She’s a doer and a go-getter, and she is driven when it matters to her.

Like this.

Tonight I’m thankful for the privilege to be a part of her journey and to see all the amazing things she is already doing in this world.  I am thankful for her strength and drive and passion and heart.  When her heart is set, look out world.  Most of all, I give thanks for this amazing person who is teaching me how to do my job.  By letting her do her life.

May we all be so fortunate as to know what we want and go after it.

Love and best wishes to all.

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My girl, her first month of college. In a few short months, she’ll be a senior. She’s got this. And it’s my job to let her. 

 

 

the petals on the ground

on this first day of spring
I remember vividly another beautiful spring day
walking beneath the towering cherry blossom trees
dressed up in their pink finery
so full that they blocked out most of the sky
that was a brilliant blue with only
a few of the fluffiest clouds

I held the hand of the girl who walked
and he carried on his shoulders
the girl who was quite new
in six short months she’d filled our hearts with joy
and our lives with stories

these two girls who were and are my world

the little one looked up at the blooms above her and laughed
that deep gurgly laugh of the very small ones
and to this day I wonder
if that is why she so loves the pink

this one born in the land of the rising sun
all those years ago
as she rode on her Daddy’s shoulders
smiling down at the one whose hand I held

and our feet landed on the petals on the ground
as step by step we made our way to this spring day
half a world away

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By THOR (Cherry Blossom) [CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

Sardines and Food Allergies

This past weekend I took our Princess up to my alma mater where her sister is also a student for their annual event, where alumnae are encouraged to bring young women of all ages to visit as prospective students.  I enjoy it immensely as it has become something of a mini-reunion with fellow classmates, and it culminates in a scholarship fund-raising theater event–STUNT–which I loved when I was there and still love now.

Our Princess has enjoyed going for the past two years, and this year was no exception.  She had her “bag” packed by the middle of last week and woke up on Saturday SO excited.  She knows her way around campus very well, and she has the routine of the day down by now.  However, they did something new this year as an icebreaker.  The younger set of students played a game of “Sardines,” which has best been explained to me as a game of reverse hide and seek.  One person hides, and as you find her, you join her in her hiding spot, until there is one person left seeking all of you.

My girl ditched me and her bags faster than you can say “Golden Heart” (the class she will be at Wesleyan) and headed out for the game.  I was tempted to follow her out into the hall, but I didn’t.  I let her play and found myself holding my breath.  Worrying about how close she could potentially be with others who might have just eaten some of her allergens made me nervous.  I sat there, worrying and yet amazed at how eager she was to go play with these other girls, some of whom she sees once a year and some whom she had never met.  She had a great time, and all was well.  Then it was on to the mini-STUNT scripting activity, and after we took a break during the campus tours.  Later we joined all the others by the fountain for supper (we always brown bag these events), and then it was time for a pep rally and off to the main event in the auditorium.

A great night.  Aub was a part of the team who put the whole thing together, and they did a fantastic job.

On our way home after 11 p.m. that night, I asked our Princess what her favorite part of the day had been. I was sure it was going to be our visit to the campus store or her beloved Golden Hearts winning the STUNT Cup, but no.

“It was when we played Sardines in Taylor Hall, and then later when we played a modified version around the fountain after supper.”

Bless.

Y’all.

Of course.  Her two favorite times were when I wasn’t hovering.  Obsessing over clean hands and what she might be exposed to in the midst of a day outside our norm.

Bless her.  Her two favorite times were both when she had handed me the epipen case she wears cross body style whenever we leave home.  The two times when she let loose and was just another kid running around with friends and some who will be.

It’s hard, isn’t it?  This whole parenting thing and knowing when to let go and when to be on guard.  Add in a life-threatening allergy (or any number of other health issues), and the difficulty level in being a good, balanced parent grows exponentially.

I’m glad she had a great time.  I’m thankful she was safe.  I don’t know what the answer is, from one situation to the next–how vigilant to be without being obsessed and way overprotective.  There’s no precedent here for me, and I’m just doing the best I can in any situation we find ourselves in.  It was bittersweet to be reminded that she only wants what the rest of us want–to fit in and be a part of a good time and not be reminded of what weighs us down.

May we all have those precious moments.

Love to all.

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For more information about food allergies and research, go to http://www.foodallergy.org

 

 

A Sucker for Love

Way back when, when my oldest was quite a small girl, we often found ourselves over at my dear Joyful friend’s house.  She and her girls were our lifeline, our fun, and our safe place to land.  They were my girl’s sisters for that time and for life, and I am always thankful for them.

So it isn’t surprising, I guess, that when it came time for us to leave their house, my girl would balk.  Balk might be understating it a bit for some occasions.  Flat out, she didn’t want to leave.  I remember my Joyful friend bringing Aub a Blow pop and telling her if she’d mind her manners and her Mama, she could have that sucker.

It worked.

Every single time.

Later, when the time came for us to venture out on our own, and we left the nest of Blackberry Flats, Mama liked to ease the transition of leaving each afternoon or evening with a Bob’s soft peppermint or caramel cream.  And then, eventually, a Dum Dum sucker.  I’m not sure if she changed her offering because she was out of the peppermints at one point or because of our food allergies or what, but the Dum Dums became the most desired treat.  We found an old style candy jar to put on Mama’s counter, and that’s what she would let little hands reach in to so as to find a favorite flavor.  And on rare occasions, when one had been quite good, he or she could–in the difficulty of deciding between two favorites–have both.  “One for now, and one for later,” Mama would say.  Now that I think about it, that wasn’t so occasional–it was more the rule.

I fondly remember Daddy pulling out my favorite flavor and handing it to me.  In that gesture, he was telling me he loved me.  I needed no words.  The lot of us had great conversations about the “Mystery” flavored ones and exactly how they came about.  The extra special ones, like the Savannah blueberry I think it was, brought about as much excitement as a Santa sighting in July.  Too much fun.

I miss those goodbyes.  Those sendoffs and waves and “see you soons.”  And all the hugs.

Today I dropped by Aunt’s to pick up a book and some special bookstore coupons she’d offered us (yes, because we do NOT have enough books–anyone that says different is off my “birfday list”).  She’d called and told me where I could find it as she wouldn’t be home.  We swung by in the midst of today’s adventures, and sure enough, the bag she’d tucked the things in was right where she’d said it would be.

I grabbed the bag and started off the porch, and then I was stopped still by what else was in the bag.

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Four Dum Dums.  For my two littles.

“One for now, and one for later.”

It took me a minute to start the car and get going again.  My eyes were flooded and my heart was full.

Tonight I’m thankful for stories that bind us together and for treasured memories.  I give thanks for traditions that get passed along and continue to warm hearts and bring immediate smiles to all of our faces.  I’m a sucker for tradition, and I’m an even bigger one for things that show us how loved we are.  I’m most thankful for my sisterfriend who knew that a spoonful of sugar is sometimes the “best encouragement,” for my Mama whose head I can still see bent conspiratorially over the candy jar with her grands, and for my Aunt.  Who never fails to remember and reminds me of that in so many precious ways.  The ones we love live on because of moments like this today.

Wishing you all a sweet to remind you that you are so very loved.

Love to all.