That’s Hilarious…..and Important

A few days ago I had the privilege of speaking with a most delightful fellow on the phone.  My little nephew, who just turned four, woke up from his nap and came in the room where my brother was on the phone with me.  The miles divide, but the heart does not.  Thankfully so.  When his Papa told him who he was talking to, the little guy got on the phone and said hello.

My brother was suffering with a pretty bad cold.  After we said our hey, how are you’s I asked my little friend about his father.  “So are you taking good care of Papa?  Since he’s sick?”

“Uh huh,” he said.  I could almost see his head nodding over the phone.

“Oh good,” I replied.  “I need you to take very good care of him, because I love him.  He’s my baby brother.”

“What?!” he exclaimed in disbelief.  He turned to my brother. “Papa, Aunt Tara says you are her baby brother!” He giggled as he relayed this silly idea.

“That’s right.  I am.  She’s my big sister,” I heard my brother say on the other end of the phone.

“What?!” my nephew repeated through his giggles.  “THAT’S HILARIOUS!!!!!”

Oh, the joy in hearing him erupt with laughter on the other end of the line!  Bless him, I miss my brother and his family.  The laughter was like a balm to my soul.

I’ve been thinking about that little guy and his shock and disbelief about our connectedness.  It was as though something like that had never even entered his mind.  About how we are joined together.  The string that connects us.

I am thankful for my nephew, his laughter, his joy, and his reminder that sometimes we might not know or remember just how much we are all–every single one of us–connected.  And oh–the joy and laughter that knowledge should bring.

Sometimes I think it’s easy to remember the things that divide us–those things tend to be so much easier to focus on, don’t they?

But wouldn’t it be nice if we had someone to remind us of that connectedness and laugh like a child with joy over that knowledge?

Hilarious.  And fabulous.

And one of the most important things to remember.

Love to all.

 

Little Brothers and Big Surprises

When I was in the third grade, I learned to crochet.  I sat on the playground at recess with my third grade teacher, Mrs. Turner, whose gentle ways and lovely voice (especially when reading Charlotte’s Web aloud) were like a balm to my soul.  I don’t remember how the lessons came about, but at some point I had a crochet hook and some yarn, and she was teaching me how to chain, single crochet, double crochet, and Granny square.  I remember Daddy punching holes in a butter dish, and I crocheted a purse out of it.  That was one of the first things I ever made.

My biggest project I never finished was begun sitting on the catwalk next to Mrs. Turner’s chair.  My Mama was expecting a baby in the fall, and I was making the baby a blanket.  Back in the days before most folks found out what they were having, they made this–ummmm–lovely yarn, a pink, white, and blue blend.  A kind of “cover all your bases,” multi-purpose yarn.

I worked on row after row and somewhere along the way, I lost the energy, resources, drive, I am not really sure what exactly, to continue.  All I know is by the time my baby brother was born, I had a nice blanket for my stuffed animals that sometimes, over the years, doubled as a scarf when we played dress up.

Poor Bubba.

Last week he called me to let me know he’d mailed me a package.  He cautioned me to be careful when I cut the box top open…..it was just a few things, like piano books, and something he thought might belong here that had made it home with them after their latest visit.

We talked again on Monday, and again he mentioned the box.  Which was on my doorstep by the time we got off the phone.

I was curious, as I started to open the box that seemed to be bigger than just a few piano books and a miscellaneous something…..

and then there it was.

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My new rescued afghan.  Bubba talks about a place they love to go up there where he lives–the Gift and Thrift.  All the treasures they find there that he tells me about, I get a little jealous, I don’t mind telling you.  He had mentioned a while back about seeing some afghans there on occasion.  When he and his family were visiting right after Christmas, he encouraged me in my goal to make my own Granny square creation.  He’s called a couple of times to get my count…..of how many squares I’ve made so far.

But on one recent special day, he found himself in the Gift and Thrift and there was this afghan, and he thought of me so he got it.

But wait, there’s more.  In a ziploc bag in the box, there was a stack of Granny squares, just waiting to be joined together and made into something magical.

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Wow.

My mind boggled at the color possibilities–and what to create?

As I set the squares aside and looked at the afghan once more and a little more closely, I saw what a treasure it really is.

Twice in the rows on this creation, I spied with my little eyes, the baby blanket pink, white, and blue yarn…..the same yarn I’d started his baby blanket with a little under 39 years ago.

Well if that don’t beat all.

My heart is full.  To be known, understood, and thought of–that is love.  To have him be so excited about sending it and surprising me…..that was the icing on the cake.

Tonight I’m thankful for my Bubba, the little boy who changed my world all those years ago and continues to do so today, and for his wife who pays attention to things like what kind of piano books my littles use and picked out some especially to encourage them in their playing.

And the top piece of the Playmobil circus tent is back, and I never even knew it was missing.

My heart is full to bustin’.  I’ll leave it with y’all tonight.  Off to wrap up in a blanket filled with love and memories and dream about what to make with those squares.  Suggestions welcome.

Love to all.

 

The Secret to Making Biscuits

One of my favorite memories from this past holiday season happened less than two weeks ago.  On the day after New Year’s my brother Bubba taught my oldest, Aub, how to make Maemae’s biscuits.

She even stood on a stool beside him, just like she used to with her Maemae.

Bubba told us the story of how he learned. Years ago he went to Mama in the kitchen and told her he’d like to learn how to make her biscuits.  She said, “Well, go ask your Daddy.  He taught me how to make them.”

So he went and found Daddy.  He made his request of Daddy, who asked him if he knew what the ingredients were.  Bubba replied, “Buttermilk, flour, and shortening.”

Daddy nodded.

Then he shared the most important part of biscuit making there is.

“The thing you need to know, the secret to making biscuits, is to remember that any biscuit is better than no biscuits at all.  Because you are going to make some bad ones.  It will happen, before you can get good at it.  But any biscuit is better than none.”  Daddy paused for a second.  “Now go on in the kitchen and let your Mama show you how to make them.”

And so he did.

Bubba was known for his cathead biscuits when he was in college.  Apparently grad school too, as his sweet wife whom he met there shared that she might have had her head turned by his biscuit making abilities.

I don’t blame her.

That boy can flat out make some biscuits.

Well, now.

It wasn’t always the case, but remember, any biscuit is better than…..

well, you know.  It’s the secret to making biscuits.  But let’s keep it amongst ourselves, shall we?

Tonight I’m thankful for the passing along of this family legacy–the biscuit making.  I’m thankful for a brother who makes time to share the stories and the gifts that he was given, and I’m thankful for our time together over the holidays.  It was far too short and more precious than all the gold or winning that big ol’ jackpot folks keep talking about right now.

Family, stories, and biscuits.  It’s hard to have a bad day when you’ve got all three of those treasures.

Love to all.

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Bubba’s biscuits as he rolled them out on the pan.

 

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I tried to get a photo of the whole pan, but someone was too quick for me to do it.  They were that good!

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Cooter’s biscuit with honey.  Mmmmm mmmmm.  That’s good eatin’ right there.  

The Tenth Day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas…..

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My Frigidaire runneth over, and I am very thankful.

ten dishes of leftovers in the fridge.

I love leftovers.  I really do.  They are the best.  I love having food already prepared, easily warmed and served–especially during the week when our schedules tend to get a little busier.

Over the holidays I did more cooking than usual.  Today it caught up with us, and oh the joy of having leftovers to pull from to feed folks after a busy evening away from home!

And in a timely coincidence, there were ten different dishes of leftovers to choose from.

Potato salad
Chili
Sweet potatoes with apples and cranberries
Black-eyed Peas
Rice
Ham
Squash
Lasagna
Chicken Sloppy Joes
My Brother’s Biscuits which taste so much like Mama’s (enough to bring a tear to my eye, thankful he left us the rest of them left over from our supper last night)

We have enjoyed our mix-matched suppers, and I’m pretty sure we have one or two more left in there. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I wouldn’t be better off to spend my weekend cooking, so every night of the week could look like tonight. Something to ponder anyway.

Tonight I’m thankful for leftovers and for a family who enjoys eating them. I shudder to think what life would be like if they didn’t love them. I’m thankful for the dishes that taste better the second and third time around, but most of all, I’m thankful for my brother and the biscuits he made before he and his family headed out. They taste like home and family. Now there’s something I could enjoy every single day.

Love to all.

The Sixth Day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas…..

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six pairs of little bare feet.

Running through the yard, romping through the house.  Getting them where they wanted to be, catching skinks and lizards and frogs and lovingly creating them wonderful habitats.  Running after each other and riding bikes and scooters.  Wandering all over Blackberry Flats.  Or little bare feet, kicked back, relaxing, just being together.

The cousins are in town, and we are very, very happy.

Love and laughter fills my house and the one at Blackberry Flats, full to bustin’.

Merry memory making has commenced.

And yes, in the photo above, you have counted correctly.  There are only five pairs of feet and fifty toes instead of sixty.  That’s because when you play all day after a long trip from home and you are a little fella of a certain age, you just might not want your feet in a picture.  Even though they are the cutest little feet you ever did see.

You’ll have to take my word for it, because Baby Monkey wasn’t having it.  He had better things to do.

And I’m okay with that.

Thankful for all the sounds of little feet and big, for laughter and stories and make-believe and all the imaginations.  This is the most beautiful sound of the season, and this is what brings Christmas to my heart.

Love to all.

 

 

Bubba, the Lamb, and the Raspberries

A week or so ago I promised a story about my lamb Raspberry.  And so, true to my word, here it is.

Years ago, when I was 12 or so, I was in 4-H.  One of the activities we could participate in was raising a sheep for show.  I was all for it, and my Daddy was willing to help me, so we went to the auction.  The lamb I got had an 8 painted on his back, so I thought about calling him Eight Ball.  (My only friend with a two-story house also had a pool table, so I knew stuff–yessiree.)

After getting him home and in the pen Daddy had fashioned for him, my siblings were introduced.  My little brother Bubba, who was maybe 3 or 4, was fascinated with the gentle creature.  He helped me bathe him and lead him around with the rope.

One day Bubba came in the house with a couple of raspberries in his sweaty little hand.  He had picked them from the bushes out in the side yard–another 4-H project I think.  He offered them to Mama as a gift.  As she plucked them from his hand, she gushed with appreciation.  “Aren’t you kind to pick these and bring them to me?  What a sweet gift from a sweet boy.”  And then she popped them in her mouth and ate them with exaggeration, oohing and mmmmming.

“Oh good,” Bubba said, “’cause the lamb didn’t want them.”

Yep, turned out he’d offered those same berries to my lamb, who sniffed and mouthed at them but decided better of it.

And then my sweet Mama took my little brother in her arms, hid her disgusted face, hugged him and said, “Thank you very much for thinking of me.”

Ahem.

Bless her.

And from that moment on that story became part of our family lore, and the lamb who wanted none of the red jeweled berries earned that as his moniker.

Raspberry.

I miss my Mama.  You could give her a rock (and we often did), and she’d act like it was the greatest treasure on earth.  And no telling how many bookmarks I made her over the years, and she loved–and used–every single one of them.

Because she loved me.

That’s a big legacy to live up to.

May we all have someone who finds delight in whatever we have to offer, no matter how big or small, beautiful or not, previously “nibbled” or whatever–just loves it because they love us.

Love to all.

Raspberry and me--after he became Raspberry.

Raspberry and me–after he became Raspberry.

oh, brother

It’s quite late, really, and I’m sure you’re already sleeping.
Worn out, tired, the good kind
that comes from chasing your three boys
and all the memory making you do together.

And so I will tiptoe down the hall
and just leave this outside your door
much as I did when you were new to us,
sleeping in the room with the door cracked
and I’d peep in to see your eyes closed
and watch you breathe.

Standing here in the dark
I wonder where the years have gone
from the moment I first saw your eyes so blue,
unblinking as we memorized each other’s hearts.

You, so tiny and frail,
with the strength of a little giant
have become a rock for me–
a safe place to lean when the journey
is hard
and too much to bear alone.

Your laughter echoes in my heart,
stirring up memories from days before it was cracked
by the pain of losing the ones we love–
memories of the days when we took long walks looking for rocks,
holding hands and waving at folks in cars
as they passed by
like the years,
way too fast.

I was walking at sunset this evening,
watching the shadows get longer,
and your words from this afternoon came to me
again
and I smiled.

It is good to be known
and loved
and to know that someone
has my heart surrounded, holding the
hounds of darkness and hurt at bay.

Your voice holds a thousand memories,
and I smile at the memory of when I used to chase
the dark away for you.
Hours spent up late talking, whispering long after
all the others had fallen asleep.
The wee hours are sometimes the best.

And so are the wee ones
who grow up
and become the greatest of people.

Sleep well,
for dawn will stir your boys
and you will be off again.

But for now,
thank you.

For–
everything.

The Question That Will Keep Me Up Tonight

So this evening as I was putting supper onto plates after swim practice and swim lessons, Aub came into the kitchen and asked: “So would you give Bubba part of your liver if he needed it?”

I dropped the spoon in the pasta salad.

Wait.  What now?

Apparently she’s watching a show where this is a thing.  Someone who is a recovering alcoholic has liver cancer and needs a liver transplant.  His relative decides to give him part of hers.

Because that can happen.  Live liver donors have become more common in recent years.

The liver regenerates itself, within a week sometimes but for sure within eight weeks.

First of all, how amazing is THAT?!  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that–I mean, I remember the lizards and their tails when I was growing up, but for real–a liver can do that?

“Fearfully and wonderfully made…..” y’all.  No doubt.

But back to my daughter’s question?  Would I give part of my liver to my brother?

Ummmm, well, of course.  Right?  He’s a good guy.  The youth at his church were raising money for “Malaria No More.”  He promised them that if they met their goal, he would let them “Pie the Pastor.”  They raised more than they had hoped, so yesterday, he got a lot of pie smeared on his face.

And he never lost his smile.

Yes.  He can have my liver.  What else you need, Bubba?

But then the questions got tricky.  Would I give it to so and so?  Would she?

To whom on this earth would we say no way, no how–you’re not getting any of my liver at all?

Whom, in essence, would we be wiling to give a death sentence to?  I know that may seem overdramatic, but isn’t that kind of what it would be if we said no?

Yeah, somehow I don’t think I’m going to get much sleep tonight.  I’m working through all of the darkness this question has brought up for me.  Making me examine my own heart.  And relationships.  And wonder, who would say no to me if I needed part of their liver?  And what have I done that would lead them to that decision?

I’ve got the working out of so many things to do for sure.

Tonight I’m thankful for deep conversations and for a child who is a thinker.  She can make me laugh in a heartbeat, but she’s also willing to do the hard work of sorting through all sides of a difficult question.  I give thanks for family and friends who love me despite my attitude and the shadows of my soul.  I am amazed and grateful for the beautiful mysteries that our bodies are–regeneration–I can’t even.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the people in my life for whom there is no question that I would do anything and everything to make life better for them.  Because they unselfishly make my life better.  And they challenge me to be a better person.  Maybe even one who would not question giving her liver to anyone–but I’m not quite there yet.

May we all have someone to work through the difficult questions with–someone who challenges us and loves us despite our shortcomings.

Love to all.

Running for Love

From rising before the crack of dawn to walking with Miss Sophie this evening, from the icy chill of early morning to the warmth of the afternoon sun, today has brought a plethora of images of new life and sweet life.

The last of the blooms on a Japanese magnolia at my favorite campus.

The last of the blooms on what I believe is a Japanese magnolia at my favorite campus.

These sweet yellow flowers remind me of my Granny's farm.  I love them and all the warm fuzzies they bring.

These sweet yellow flowers remind me of my Granny’s farm. I love them and all the warm fuzzies they bring.

 

This tree has been bare all winter.  Look at that beautiful green!

This tree has been bare all winter. Look at that beautiful green!

 

Each of these leaves was smaller than the tip of my pinky.  I love to see some baby goats and baby puppies and babies of all sorts and kinds, but baby leaves are pretty cute too I think.

Each of these leaves was smaller than the tip of my pinky. I love to see some baby goats and baby puppies and babies of all sorts and kinds, but baby leaves are pretty cute too I think.

 

And for the sweet.  Cinnamon rolls thrown in the oven when we got back home, and our Princess decided to top hers with her all-natural gummy bears.  It's Easter, why not?

And for the sweet. Cinnamon rolls thrown in the oven when we got back home, and our Princess decided to top hers with her all-natural gummy bears. It’s Easter, why not?

 

But the sweetest image I can only picture in my head.

My brother, who is a minister, called me after church today.  He was, in his own words, honored to be the one to give the sermon at their Community Sunrise service this morning.  When he told me what he talked about, my heart was full, and I wanted to give him the biggest hug.

But it’s not geographically possible right now.

He talked about the story found in the Good Book in John 20–the story of John running for the tomb.  My brother pointed out how grownups don’t run toward something like that very often, so filled with love and passion.  He’s right, isn’t he?  Children seem to have cornered the market for running with joyful abandon, but not us adults.

Except for my brother.  He runs and chases his children. And mine.  And Mess Cat’s little guy.  He’s good at that.  So much so that his presence is requested outside at least once every day when they are here.

Children like to run towards someone or something they are excited about, something or someone who fills them with joy.  Children also like to be chased.  Pursued.

I love this story, and what it challenges me to do.

I need to seek joy.  Pursue it.  Run towards it.  Run towards the new life that can come from loving all and from caring and showing compassion.  Forgetting what I look like while I’m doing it, I need to run hard and catch that joy.

Who in your world needs someone running towards them?  Who needs someone in pursuit of them because they are loved and cared about, so they can see and feel that?

May we all find what makes us run with joyful abandon towards it.

Love to all.

Looking Up

This evening as I took Miss Sophie out for her evening constitutional, all was quiet except for the artisans finishing up the bricks on the new house.  (I am intrigued by their artwork and skills–I could stand and watch for hours, but I worry about being labeled a stalker in my own neighborhood, so I refrain.)

As I gazed up, breathing in the cold, crisp air, what I saw took my breath away.

The river of birds at sunset.  I tried to capture it, but this was a good as it got.  The birds are the tiny specks you might think are bits of dust on your screen.  I gave up trying to get a great shot and just watched, soaking it all in.

The river of birds at sunset. I tried to capture it, but this was a good as it got. The birds are the tiny specks you might think are bits of dust on your screen. I gave up trying to get a great shot and just watched, soaking it all in.

Oh bless it.

A river of birds.

Those blackbirds flying over in a pattern that was beautiful.  They waved and wound their way through the skies overhead, their darkness in striking contrast to the brilliance of the soft and lovely sunset.

And I remembered.

I remembered the first time I heard about the river of birds–the first time I’d heard it called that.  Pastor Bill talked about them as he shared stories with all of us at Miss B’s memorial service.

Miss B, our elderly cousin, who passed away two years ago today.  One week after Mama left this world.  Such a gentle soul, who is now dancing in a beautiful bright pink housecoat with no halt in her step and whose speech is now clearer than it’s ever been.  I know this with all my heart; I saw it all in a dream.  And I am thankful.

I am also thankful for this day two years ago, because hope was born.  Again.  Bubba’s new baby was born.  The one so loved and anticipated by us all.  He was born and we all fell in love.  And fell to our knees in thanks.  He had a hard start, but he’s a strong little guy, and he is a delight in our world.

Two years ago today.  A day that began with saying goodbye brought a beautiful hello by the time the sun set.

That’s what life does.  It’s never a straight cut path.  It waves and winds through joy and sorrow, good times and sad.  The most important thing about the journey, just as it is for our feathered friends, are the ones who travel alongside us, helping us to navigate the path.  Staying beside us and moving to lead the way when we need them to.

Tonight I’m thankful for the life of Miss B, who shared her love of beautiful things with us all and didn’t let what she “should” be able to do stop her from trying to defy the odds.  And I give thanks for my nephew, our Deer one.  He’s a sport, and his love and those eyes and when he says, “Oh sure…..”

Good job, God.  Thank You.

And happy birthday, little one!

Love to all.