on your birthday, six years later

I know not how many times
the light had to bend and turn
on its way from the sun
to earth

only that the years that it
spent reflected in your laughter
your smile
and your eyes
blessed me
and so many more besides

each ray that made its trek
across the 93 million miles
and landed on your guiding and comforting hand that held mine
or on your hair that gleamed in its presence

each ray that warmed our toes
and grew the beans you snapped and canned
and the squash you cooked and froze,
ready for the long, cold days of winter

each ray that wove its way–
from the yellow at sunrise
to the pink and blue at dusk

each and every ray of light
was brighter
and more beautiful

because it was reflected by you

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Thumbs Up

Yesterday the littles lightened their loads.

By several inches.

Both our Princess and Cooter got haircuts yesterday.  I suppose it was time.  Cooter has been mistaken for a girl more than once in the past couple of weeks, no matter what he was wearing, and lately our Princess has had more rat’s nests than a little bit in her head of hair.  It was just too long for her to brush well on her own.

It was time.

Going to the hair salon was a last-minute decision.  The best kind, if you ask me.  No time to worry or for plans to be derailed by someone being sick or for the universe to otherwise decide it doesn’t need to happen.

Our girl wanted her mid-back length hair cut to her shoulders.  I wasn’t sure how I’d make that work with a swim cap, and I mentioned that to the stylist.  She nodded and went to work.

In the meantime, Cooter was having his hair cut as well.  I think his stylist took four or five inches off the back.  He looks like a little boy now, older, with a neck and eyelashes.  Oh those eyelashes!  I had forgotten, his hair had gotten so long.  I kept watching for a reaction, and he had none until I told him he was looking like our neighbor who is in high school.  He beamed then.  I am not sure I’m okay with him wanting to look that old.  Or looking older.  *sigh*

I looked back over at our Princess, and she had easily had six inches lopped off.  I knew she was hoping for shorter, so I looked over with a big question mark on my face.  She looked at me, grinned her biggest smile, and gave me her best thumbs up.

It’s sort of her thing.

When she catches my eye during swim practice, more often than not, she’ll do just that–look over and grin and give me that big thumbs up.

And relief washes over me every time.

And joy.

My girl’s okay.  Better than. Look at that grin.

Today we had her birthday treasure hunt at Blackberry Flats.  Mama started doing this several years ago.  She wrote out the clues on sticky notes and stuck them around the house.  After Mama died, I put one together for Princess in honor and memory of the tradition. Our girl loved it.  After Mess Cat and Leroy moved in, one of the first things our Princess asked was, “Can we still do the treasure hunt?”

Mess Cat would have it no other way.

And today we went over for a visit with no time restraints requiring us to rush or hurry off.  Right before we left, Mess Cat remembered the hunt and I called out to my girl up in the tree, “Did you forget to do something for your birthday?”

I could see the wheels turning in her mind.  And then, that great big smile.  She came down out of the tree faster than I’ve seen her move in a while.  It was precious.

She bounced around the house with Cooter and her cousin Shaker right beside her.  Shaker had written out hints for each clue in case she got “frustrated.  Are you frustrated yet?”  With everyone working together, she found her surprise–a book picked out especially for her, in honor of the tradition–a book that we felt sure Mama would have chosen herself.

Sweet memories.

As I pocketed the clues–such great rhymes! (way to go, Mess Cat!)–to be tucked away in our Princess’ memory box, our girl hugged her aunt.  I asked, “So did Mess Cat do a good job on the hunt?”

And there it was.  That sweet smile that goes from ear to ear.  And the big ol’ thumbs up.

Well all right then.  I’ll take it.

Tonight I’ve been pondering who gave the first thumbs up and how it came to mean “it’s all good.”  I am thankful for the sign in general and especially when offered by my sweet girl as her way of calming her Mama’s nerves and saying, “Life is just about the best ever, isn’t it?”

I am also thankful for stylists who listen and visit with children and who don’t blink an eye when an excited ten-year old girl wants to hug them in thanks.  I give thanks for sisters who plan special events to keep the traditions going and to celebrate the memory of one we all love and miss, who was all about the fun and loving on folks herself.

May your day be filled with wonderful surprises and quiet moments of joy that have you giving life a great big thumbs up!

 

Love to all.

The Day My Life Changed Forever

Forty-three years ago today, around 3:30 in the morning, my life changed forever.  I don’t remember what it was like before that day, but on that day, I became a sister.

For Sister, who was the one who made me just that…..for the very first time–

 

When you came into this world,

my life changed

for the better

There are photographs of us, your tiny hand in mine

and it’s as though it’s always been that way

You younger, smaller, and yet

so much stronger than you appeared

You’ve worked harder than most

to take the next step, to keep breathing

to forge your own path

walking to the beat of your own drum

and here we are

Grown.

 

With you I learned to share and play fair,

we learned to do that together,

and I don’t think we’ve really forgotten how,

have we?

All those years it made me smile

when folks realized you were mine

and I would have taken any one of them out

had they hurt you or said anything untoward

It is still that way,

but the lines

are blurred

between good guys and bad guys

and so it’s harder for me to know

how to make it all okay anymore

 

The words over the years,

some kind, some not

the laughter, the whispered secrets

the dreams shared and the sorrows as well

Your voice is a balm to my soul

and your laughter takes me to a place

where no pain can come

And yet we are so far from where we’ve been

The absence of those who held us together

makes it all so hard

Words, Weeping, Worries, Woes,

and yet, in my heart,

you are still the little one whom I threw up on when I was five,

who helped me up when I fell down,

and you are the one who packed my dorm room the

night before graduation

you are the sister I held in my arms

when the baby was coming

and when the baby didn’t

You gave me the gift of watching birth

and I hope always to remember

that precious moment,

all the precious moments

 

Over the years you have given me strength and love

and challenged me to stand up and say something

when it all was on the line

The grief has aged us both, weathered our faces

and our souls

One day, when all the rocky road of this journey is behind us,

I hope we find ourselves sitting together,

once again,

with your tiny hand in mine

 

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.

Comfort in a Cup

We have a few traditions when it comes to birthdays in our family.

First of all, we celebrate for more than a day–we have birthday weeks and sometimes happenings for our birthday month.  It’s all about the celebrating the lives of those we hold near and dear.

You get to pick what kind of cake (or pie or big cookie or whatever) you want for your birthday.  I spent years asking my Mama for a red velvet cake.  Only it was a brown velvet because she wouldn’t use all that red dye.  I think there was a study or something…..anyway, never mind the color, it was delicious.  For years she made me that.  In more recent years, I chose a Texas sheet cake.  Ooey, gooey chocolate goodness.  My mouth is watering as I type.

The birthday supper is a big deal.  The honoree gets to choose anything he or she wants.  And if you’re lucky enough to have your birthday on a weekend, you get to choose two meals.

And so it was for my girl.  She came home from college the day after her birthday, so we celebrated all of Saturday.  I knew she wanted Mexican food, so I had that planned for supper.  But for her birthday lunch, she asked for something I haven’t made in years.  Something my Mama used to make, and my new 19-year-old grew to love it sitting around the table with Mama and Daddy and whoever else happened to be at their house.  Easily among the best comfort foods ever.  The smell of it cooking.  I mean, y’all.  For real.  I was in memory heaven.

Mama was a good steward of what was in her pantry and refrigerator.  She rarely threw anything out.  Over the years she learned great ways to recycle leftovers in a new dish.  Her way of using leftover mashed potatoes might just be her most creative and best tasting effort of all times.

Baloney cups.

Pan number one of baloney cups....oh the smell of them cooking.....

Pan number one of baloney cups….oh the smell of them cooking…..

I grew up on bologna sandwiches.  I can remember being in my bed, waiting for sleep to come, and singing the O-S-C-A-R  M-A-Y-E-R song.  We loved our B-O-L-O-G-N-A.  I loved taking the red rind off and then making sure I had gotten every bit of goodness off it before throwing it away.  Delicious.

When Mama had leftover mashed potatoes to use, she used to pull out her biscuit baking pan and lay bologna slices out on it.  She’d put a scoop of mashed potatoes on top, and add a slice of cheese.  She put it in a hot oven to broil, and voila’ the house smelled amazing, and our taste buds were in for such a treat!  She served it with some fruit and we had a meal.

One of our favorites, though we didn’t get it very often.

I was surprised when my baby girl asked for this for her birthday.  Surprised and delighted.

Pan #2--who decided that 11 slices makes a pack?  Interesting choice, don't you think?  I mean a dozen or a baker's dozen, but 11?  Is that an Oscar's dozen?  :)

Pan #2–who decided that 11 slices makes a pack? Interesting choice, don’t you think? I mean a dozen or a baker’s dozen, but 11? Is that an Oscar’s dozen? 🙂

It was a special treat for all.  The Fella loved it and had memories of when we made this years ago.  I don’t think the littles had ever had it, and they were intrigued and not a bit shy about digging in.  (Suffice to say we went through a whole pack of bologna for the just the four of them.)

The way the house smelled took me back to a safe and happy place, and for a little bit I was home again and my parents were close, and oh–I think I might have gotten the greatest nourishment from those baloney cups, and I never took a bite–my soul was fed and my heart was full.

The only problem is I made the mashed potatoes from scratch.  And only used about half of them.  So now, I have leftover mashed potatoes…..and if a Mama has leftover mashed potatoes, chances are, she’s going to need some baloney to go with it.

 

Love and the comforts of home to all.

He’s One of the Good Guys

You know, you have family you are born into, and then you have family that comes up on the porch, opens the screen door and walks right in, sits down, and enters into the story seamlessly.  You kind of have a hard time remembering when they weren’t there.

My brother-in-law is one of those folks.

I like to call him Leroy.

I remember when I first heard of him, but I don’t remember when he walked in and I met him.  My sister had been staying with me and my girls over the Christmas holidays in 2005, while my husband was deployed.  My BIL worked with my sister in Atlanta, and they were just friends.  He had called her and said he was coming down to Macon for New Year’s Eve, that he wanted to get out of Atlanta.  She started to go meet him but decided not to enter into the crazy foolishness that can be New Year’s Eve in the “big city.”   When she called him and said basically, hey, just kidding, I’m not coming, his reply was that’s okay, I’ll be in town through tomorrow.  They had a New Year’s morning breakfast the next day.  I guess the old saying about what you do on New Year’s Day you’ll do all year long is true, because after that breakfast I just don’t remember Leroy not being a part of our lives.

This man is somebody really special, though if he sits down to read this, he’ll probably say, oh please, and push it to the side because something needs doing.  That’s one of the things I really respect about him.  He’s a guy who gets things D-O-N-E–done.  In looking back through my old photos, I don’t have very many, because he’s rarely still long enough for one to be taken.

See, he's hardly ever NOT doing something--my awesome BIL taking care of the yard at Mama's a couple of years ago.  Love.  Him.

See, he’s hardly ever NOT doing something–my awesome BIL taking care of the yard at Mama’s a couple of years ago. Love. Him.

He’s a great Daddy.  My sister stayed at home with their son for a year.  After that time, with many factors playing into the decision, my brother-in-law left his job to stay at home with their son.  He sacrificed five years of his career to be a big part of his son’s life in a society–let’s face it–that doesn’t always know what to do with that choice.  He gives his love and affection so freely with his words and actions that it moves me to tears.  He’s a tough guy, but not always.

Leroy’s an awesome uncle too.  Two years ago my oldest was away in north Georgia on a youth trip.  She had some health issues come up and needed to come home.  It was this guy who drove and picked her up since he was closer.   I drove and picked my girl up from their house in Duluth, and we had a nice unexpected day with him and my nephew before heading back.

It was in 2009 that he truly shined.  And has since then.  When Daddy was admitted to the hospital in town on August 24 and transferred to Emory five days later, it was the beginning of a period in our lives of exhaustion, worry, frustration, and coping.  Daddy was sent home after about a month at Emory.  It was Leroy who drove Mama and Daddy home.  He had been so good about checking on them at the hospital or holding down the home front so my sister could be there as much as possible.  When Daddy came in the door at home that night, it was Leroy in the background, making sure everything was going smoothly, toting bags, making a pit stop, grabbing a slice of pizza and driving back to Atlanta that same night.  He made so many of those trips.  He got up at oh-dark-thirty, drove the two and half hours to my parents’ house, arriving soon in the morning, helping them into the van, and taking them up to Emory for Daddy’s treatment.  Later that day he made the trek back down to bring them home before he headed all the way back to his house.  When things needed doing, he was the one who talked it over with Daddy, such a gracious respect, and then he did them.  He and Daddy had something special.  It was Leroy who went with me over to the cemetery to pick out Daddy’s plot on what turned out to be one week before the funeral, five days before Daddy left this world.  He was patient as I wandered somewhat aimlessly around the old country churchyard, reading gravestones and calling him over to see them too.  It’s the quiet moments like this that truly make me appreciate all he is.

For the fifteen months that Mama lived without Daddy, this man was right there to help with things as Mama needed.  She respected and appreciated his opinion and would often ask him what he thought.  He always had her best interests in mind.  He’s a good guy like that.  And when she went in for her HospitalStay, he never blinked an eye at my sister staying indefinitely down here.  He came down as often as he could.  He took that time to make things better for Mama around the house, straightening up some things–for example, getting and putting together a shoe organizer for the back door–he wanted things to be just right when she came home.  Which, unfortunately, never happened.  And his heart broke too.

Mama loved all of her children’s spouses like they were her own.  And Leroy was special to her for sure.   She fussed at me or my sister when we would tease him–you leave him alone, she’d say.  I accused him of trying to be her favorite.  She’d grin really big at me and say, “Trying nothing.”  And he’d laugh.  Yeah, he was her oldest.  And seeing as how that used to be my spot, I think I’m okay with that.  And sometimes, just maybe, he was her favorite too.

Mama and her "favorite" cogitating on things back in 2011.  Love those two.

Mama and her “favorite” cogitating on things back in 2011. Love those two.

I always wanted an older brother.  I thought it would be cool.  And what do you know, I was right!  Because my BIL, whom I will henceforth call my big brother is giving us all a great gift–that of togetherness.  He and my sister are moving back to our hometown.  I’m so thankful for that gift, and I won’t let them forget it.

Today is my big brother’s birthday.  In honor of him and his special day, I won’t tell how old he really is (but yeah, older than me!) and I share this video.  Because he’s who they’re talking about in this video.  He is that friend.  He’s one of those legendary good guys.  I’m lucky he walked through that door and joined us.  (And didn’t run away hollerin’.)  Seamlessly.  Love you Leroy.  Happy Birthday!