Full of Hope and Possibilities

Yesterday my BIL Leroy called and asked what I was up to.  “Cleaning up areas and stuff that no one will notice at all.  And it’s looking worse before it can possibly look better,” I sighed. Leroy replied, “Well as long as you notice that’s what counts, right?”

True.

Still, it’d be nice if SOMEONE would say, oh wow, the way stuff’s not pouring out from under the desk–yeah that–that’s pretty awesome.

Not meant to be though.

So as I was wrangling dust bunnies big enough to choke a horse out from under my desk, I found this little guy.

Rescued this little guy from the attack of the dust bunnies under my desk

Rescued this little guy from the attack of the dust bunnies under my desk

He really doesn’t have much left in him, poor thing.  Once you start sharpening the labelled part, well, it’s getting close to time to start scrambling for a new pencil. It reminded me a of a boy I went to school with–we’ll call him Buck.  We were in school together all twelve years.  In the early years, we had all our classes together.  I remember him writing with pencils just like this one more often than not.  How he did it, I do not know.  But he did.

I thought about the short pencil, wondering if Buck always had to use the short ones or if it was his preference.  I knew children who often seemed to be short on school supplies.  At the time I took it for granted that I never lacked the pencils and notebooks and paper and other supplies required by my teachers. If I had to borrow paper or a pencil it was because of my lack of planning, not because we didn’t have it.   Today I realize that my parents made our education a priority, and though we didn’t have a lot of extras, they did make sure we had what we needed.

The end of summer meant picking up packs of paper and pencils.  I even remember the year I got to pick out a Trapper Keeper because it was there was a big sale at the KMart.  It had a horse on the cover.  I was on Cloud Nine.  Decisions were made about whether a new lunchbox or lunchbag was needed each year.  We made trips up to my aunt’s in Griffin, so Mama and my aunt could go to the Sock Shoppe.  New underwear and socks also marked the beginning of the school year, because well, you know.  No I’m not really sure, but why not?  It was as good a time as any, I guess. I loved the shopping trips because it meant playing with my cousins at the house while the shopping was done.  (And yes, I loved my new aforementioned items too.)

We got new bookbags as needed, but the one I remember most was one Mama sewed for me–two-tone blue denim with all kinds of pockets.  Mama did not find much pleasure in sewing but she was an excellent seamstress.  That bag held up for quite a while.

Today I am thankful for my parents who made choices that assured I was never without what I needed for my education.  That was a precious gift because I know there were times that were hard, and they had to cut corners.  I am lucky that I never had to worry about how I would get the posterboard for my projects or if I had enough notebook paper to finish the school year.

The public schools here start in the next couple of weeks.   After finding the pencil yesterday and thinking back over how fortunate I was, I have been thinking about the children who won’t have it so good.  Those who will start the school year without the things they need.  They start their year already two steps behind.  That breaks my heart–the children whose families are affected by the furloughs or whose breadwinners have lost their jobs or who are moving from place to place without a real place to call home.  We have the power to change at least this need for them.

Many stores have dropboxes for supplies that will be distributed to children in need.  Local programs that work with homeless families or spouse abuse shelters, Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Rescue Missions–all of these have children in their midst who could use a hand up as school starts.  If you were lucky enough to have what you needed or if you remember what it was like not to have those things readily available, and you are able to pick up a few extra things in the next couple of weeks, will you join me in helping change their future?  Let them know someone cares, and send them off on their big day with all the things they need.

Nothing opens up possibilities like a fresh box of crayons–so much one can create and do–so full of hope.  (And remember the boxes with the sharpener built in?  Fabulous!) Let’s show them they’re loved.  I know it’s a cliché, but these young people whom we have a chance to help today are our future. Let’s make it a bright and hopeful one.  We can do it.  One pack of paper or box of pencils at a time.

Full of hope and potential, just like the children who need our help.

Full of hope and potential, just like the children who need our help.

If You Were Ever A Child…..

The homeschool curriculum I use with my littles is literature based. There is a list of books for “required” reading and then another list of “suggested” books if you have the time and your child loves to read.

Which mine does.

It was touch and go her kindergarten and first grade year. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. I gave her a copy of “Old Hat, New Hat” in November of her first grade year. Hoping she could read it. Eventually. Less than five months later she was reading Magic Tree House books. Something finally clicked. Now her favorites are the Rainbow Magic Fairy books by Daisy Meadows. I’m thinking that’s a pen name–you?

As we are looking at wrapping up the school year, I went through the suggested book list and put in many hold requests at the library. (Can I just say I LOVE Interlibrary loans?) We are running a bit behind this year because of the January/February HospitalStay, but reading will be a wonderful pastime for our summer break as well.

Yesterday the first of our hold requests came through, and we ran by and picked it up. Last night my second grader, who loves to read all the time, asked if I would come and read her a story. This was a special treat for me, as she enjoys being an independent reader. I picked up our library book, and we began reading.

Roxaboxen by Alice McLernan, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Oh my, bless it. Precious.

If you have a child or know a child or were ever a child, you should find this book. And read it. Right now. It’s a story of children playing, imaginations taking flight, and the memories we carry with us into adulthood.

Yes, I cried. It was that good.

It reminded me of our little brick house on Old Boy Scout Road. The little two bedroom house where, when she brought home my baby brother, child number four, Mama told Daddy, “I don’t think another thing will fit in here.” And so we moved to Blackberry Flats. But before I was nine, we lived in that little brick house. There was a spot under the pines between our house and the one next door that was perfect for sweeping out and using the pine needles to mark off rooms and houses. At one point, two young girls lived next door and we would play out there for hours, sweeping and building and playing.

It also reminded me of playing at my Granny’s, where we built toadhouses along the banks between her yard and the peach orchard right next to her. We created whole villages and were allowed to bring cars out (“be particular”) to drive in and out of them. My cousins and I used to play “Cowboys and Indians” at their old house on Rabbit Road, where the deep slope of the yard made for some great chases and use of imagination.

When we moved to Blackberry Flats, we had a horse, Betsy. Each fall Daddy would go and get a load of hay to put back for the winter. I can remember the smell of the sweet hay and the feeling of hefting up a bale and handing it down off the truck to him. He stacked it up in the side area of his building. (I guess it was a workshop, but all we ever called it was “Daddy’s building.”) I remember crawling up to the top of the stack of hay in that little shed and reading. Mama let us have the boxes their checkbooks came in, and we created a post office, each of us having our own “mailbox.” We made up our “names,” and we spent lots of time writing letters and “mailing” them.

Creating. Dreaming. Playing. Imagining. Only it all seemed so real.

Just like in Roxaboxen.

I’ve driven by the old home place on Old Boy Scout Road since I was grown. It seems so much smaller now, like the woods crept up towards the house. The old sand pile is still visible at my Granny’s old house. And while there is no hay, the shed at Daddy’s is still standing, stock full of memories that bring a smile and a tear.

I am thankful for those happy memories of a carefree childhood and for my own “Roxaboxen” places. I give thanks for my girls who love to read and dream, and hang onto the hope that my little guy will also find a love of reading one day. As I write this I look out my front window where my two little ones are playing with their friends, and soon they will come in all breathless, eager to tell me about their latest “adventures.” I love that they too have their own “Roxaboxen” right here on our little cul-de-sac. And I give thanks for those who have gone before, sharing stories and reading books with us, helping us to dream and play and imagine. Right now, I can’t think of a better gift that’s ever been given.

Where is the Grownup?

Some days.....

Some days…..

Some days I feel like this.  Today has been one of them.

I am sitting at the Med Stop with my middle one. She has been running fever since Friday night. I guess this is Round 2 of what the littles had two weeks ago. Waiting on the results from the strep swab now.
It is moments like this one tonight, when I saw that her temp had gone into a very worrisome range, that I look around, wondering where the grownup is.  The One Who Makes the Decision.  So often I feel like I am just filling in until he or she shows up.  I wish they would hurry it up.

I know there were several times with my firstborn that I felt that way, ill-equipped to handle the situation. The one that sticks out the most is the time we were stationed in Japan and Aub came home from school with a high fever. She threw up her medication for the fever, and I was very worried. And very pregnant with this one I am with tonight.  So we went to the ER at the base hospital. A very overzealous first time ER doc came in and wanted to do a spinal tap. (I’m sorry, WHAT did you say?!  You want to do what, and the risks are what?!!)  I was scared senseless. I was far from Mama, it was the middle of the night where she was, and I didn’t have a way to call her from the hospital anyway. I felt helpless and lost. After a call to a local friend who was a nurse, I felt a little better. But it was Dr. Elnicky who came in when the shift changed and apologized for the previous doctor’s recommendation. “Overzealous” was her term. She brought Aub’s fever down and sent us home.  (I loved Dr. E.  She had such a quiet competence. When I went in with severe cramping about midway through my pregnancy with this girl, she was the one who calmly said, after many tests, “I think you have a case of bad” lowered to a whisper, “gas.” Oh my.)  Thank you Dr. E for being the adult at those times when I was very afraid.

When Daddy was diagnosed three and half years ago and things became dire, Mama was right there. And even when we were all frightened or sad, she was the grownup who loved us through it.

So last August when Mama went in for the first HospitalStay, it was very frightening. I drove my grownup to the ER as she shivered violently under several blankets. When we got there a half hour later, thanks to a detour, she could not walk on her own into the ER. I tried to hold it together as I went inside and asked for a wheelchair. A sweet nurse came out and helped me move Mama to the chair. They moved her through pretty quickly, thank goodness. When they checked her temperature and found it was 105.3, they rushed her back to a room and left me to give her information to the intake nurse. This was when the terrible fear kicked in. 105.3? That was a radio station. Not someone’s temperature. Not my Mama’s.

I anxiously gave the nurse Mama’s allergies and insurance and medical history. Finally they let me back. Mama was so pale and weak. And not able to be the grownup at all in that moment. It was a paradigm shift. One that never really returned to an even keel.
I called my Aunt to give her an update. I whispered from the corner of the tiny room on the wall phone in the room. Cell phone reception was next to nothing in there. I told her all I knew and then tearfully said, “I feel like I’m just waiting on the grownup to show up and take over.”
She chuckled softly, and then said sweetly and clearly, “Oh Tara, I hate to tell you this, but you ARE the grownup.”
Oh. No.

We were talking yesterday morning and I teased her, saying that she was lucky I spoke to her at all after she broke that little bit of bad news to me.

It’s nights like this one, when worry creeps in and my ineptitude becomes painfully obvious, that I find myself still looking. Really I’m just filling in until She gets here. You know, the grownup.  I am sure she’s quite lovely, but I do wish she’d hurry up. It gets tiresome playing grownup. Especially when one of mine gets sick or there is drama and heartbreak behind their tears. Incompetent doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.

Tonight I am thankful for my family and friends who walk with me as I try my grownup feet out. For their patience and guidance I give thanks. I also appreciate those who fill in as the grownup from time to time. Like Miss D who, two weeks ago, when telling me what to do, pointed her finger at me and said, “Now I ain’t your Mama and I can’t take her place, but I reckon I can look after you and keep you straight since she can’t right now.” And my Aunt. Who answers my calls and listens, when she must have a hundred things to do instead. And Mama’s sweet neighbor. Who is always there to help with things.  And so many others. Bless ’em.

Because of the reprieves they give me, I am able to get through the times when it’s the hardest to be the grownup. Like tonight. We are home now, and the strep test was negative. The doctor said this just has to take its course. Kind of like life. We have to watch it and respond accordingly.

So I get it, I’m the grownup. *yawn* And as the grownup, I do believe it’s time to call it a night.  Being a grownup is exhausting sometimes.  So I’m off to Neverland and a good night’s sleep.  I hope.  Someone has to be rested to be the grownup again tomorrow…..

pic of peter pan quote

With all respect, to the adults in my child’s life

Disclaimer: I have had a headache today, and I really did need a nap.  Alas, it did not happen.  So I apologize for the following.  Maybe. NOTE: Filter broken.

Dear Adults in my child’s life,

Here lately I’ve been thinking on some situations that have left me shaking my head.  As I listen to my teenager tell me what’s happened, and she asks, “Why?” or “How?” I struggle to find an answer to give her about these folks who are grownup and making these choices.

Fo the times you let things get out of hand when you are in charge, let her peers rattle her cage and wait to stop it, thank you.  She now knows where you stand, as do I.  We know better now.

Thank you for saying, “Well she never calls me.”  YOU never call her.  And who is the grownup here?  (Oh, that’s right, it may very well be her. Hmmmm.) The same goes with complaining that she never comes to see you.  Do you come see her?

And to the grownups that see her and then ignore her, but make sure you each see her–yes, there have been awkward moments in your relationship, but sitting and whispering and pointing and NEVER speaking? Yeah, that didn’t make things more awkward at all.

If you promise to do something, I’d suggest you do it.  Or have a phenomenal reason why you didn’t. She’s written folks off for less than that.  Just FYI.

And finally to those who label today’s teenagers the “instant gratification” generation while complaining that the wifi is too slow or that the drive-thru line is too long, ummm, well, you’re on your own.

Here’s the thing, I am tired of people knocking teenagers and complaining about how they are.  I know quite a few, and most of them I think pretty highly of.  I know young adults with integrity and a great sense of humor, who take time to serve and help others; not because their schools require a paper signed saying they’ve “served” so many hours, but because they really, genuinely care.  I know teenagers who choose to spend their time with people who are homeless, with young children in need, who travel on their school breaks to serve folks in another country.  These “kids” don’t need role models.  They ARE role models.

But for those who could use someone to watch, someone to guide them, here’s a thought.  Could we, AS ADULTS, check our behavior and make sure it’s role model worthy?  I’m looking in the mirror as I say this as well.  I need some polishing, quite a bit actually.   I just think we are all a bit hypocritical when we say, “I wish they’d act more adult-like…..I wish he’d grow up…..Why isn’t she being more mature?”  From what I’ve seen up close and personal and in the media, I think that young people may be out of luck.  We’re bickering over who’s right, who’s wrong, what other people should do or say and how they should live.  We tell young people to get things done, and then we spend hours in front of all kinds of foolishness on the computer, our laptops, our smart phones.  (Oh boy, that one hurt, Tara! I say to myself. I know, I know) We are so busy pointing fingers or staring at screens that we forget who is watching us.

In the past few weeks, I have seen more behavior from ADULTS that I don’t want my children emulating.  I don’t want my children to judge others.  I want them to be okay with being the first to forgive and offer grace.  I want them to have their priorities straight.  I want them to continue to grow and learn.  I want them to love all, and do love.  That’s the bottom line–I want them to grow and to love.

The irises brightening our days and our spirits

The irises brightening our days and our spirits

This week our yard has been graced by these beautiful irises.  These are from some bulbs I found on clearance at Wal-Mart at the end of the season a few years back, and I let my little bitty ones plant them.  Pretty much, they dug, and they threw them in some not very deep holes.  The whole thing was, quite honestly, not very intentional.  However, look at them!  Each year, just when I’ve almost forgotten about them, they burst out with the most beautiful blossoms.  And what a sight to behold!

I think that it is important for me to remember that my behavior and attitude are like those bulbs.  I may not be putting an example out there intentionally, but I am planting a bulb.  It may stay in the ground for quite a while, but eventually, that thing’s gonna grow.  And because I want to grow beauty and grace in the world, I’d better be real careful about what I’m dropping into the soil of their souls.  Because whether I intend to plant it or not, if I drop it, eventually it will grow.

Thank you for sticking with me through my headache-induced rant.  Tonight I give thanks for those adults who ARE planting beautiful bulbs of love and grace with my children.  Those who are careful with their words, those who encourage and empower our children to help and to shine brighter.  I am thankful for those who are patient and listen, and who give the most precious gifts of time and respect.  You may not see the beauty come to full fruition any time in the near future, but know that one day, it will, and I thank you for that.

Who Told You Who You Are?

I had the great joy of taking my littles to the Grand Opera House in Macon yesterday to see Rainbow Fish.  Field trip! I LOVE live theater.  I give thanks for parents who, while they didn’t have much extra, made sure we saw live plays and classical concerts.  Love love love it.  It is so fun for me to see the love of it growing in all of my children.

My 8 year old daughter loves to read.  Over doing ANYTHING else, except maybe playing outside with her friends.  (And in response to my family here, yes, it’s payback–she comes by it honestly.)  She has recently picked up her children’s Bible and is reading through it for a second time.  If she doesn’t become a minister, I will be quite surprised.  The questions she comes up with floor me sometimes.  Over the weekend she asked, “So Mama, is Jesus and all of his family, like Mary and Joseph, living up in Heaven too?”  She’s quite taken with the idea of who all is there now that she has folks she treasures there.

So yesterday morning as we were waiting for the play to begin, she leaned over and whispered, “Mama, who told Jesus he was God’s son?”  Um, what?  “Was it his Mama and Daddy? Joseph and Mary?”

Wow.  Just wow.  Without getting into a theological discussion here, as I’m not a good enough Biblical scholar for that, I had no idea how to properly her.  After doing a little searching, I don’t know that there is a set answer.  So.  Yeah.  Maybe?

The lights dimmed, and the play began.  My littles and I were entranced with the great performance of four fabulous actors telling the story of someone becoming happy when she shared her gifts.  Throughout I found myself thinking about that question.  And then this:  who told me who I was?  My parents.  They not only told me who I was, they gave me the gift of KNOWING I could do anything I chose to set my mind and abilities to.  (Yeah, I know, except for putting that toothpaste back in the tube.  But I am working on it.)  They empowered me to set out on my dreams.  You want to get a job? Okay, we’ll get you there and back, as I couldn’t drive yet.  You want to go to Wesleyan? Okay, we’ll help you do the things you need to do to make that happen.  More than things like that, they told me what I was.  They told me I was smart.  That I was capable.  That I could do great things.  Mama told me often I was beautiful, and while I think she was quite biased, it made me feel good.  They gave me the confidence to step out in this world and try to do the great things, big or small,  they raised me to do.  And when the world hit back, really, really hard?  They opened their door as sanctuary once again, and helped me put the pieces back together.  Yes, it was Mama and Daddy who told me who I was and then gave me the strength, encouragement, and resources to keep on becoming more.

This month is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  It was a year ago that A Silence of Mockingbirds by Karen Spears Zacharias was released.  If you haven’t read anything by her, you really, really should.  Great writer and fantastic soul.  In all honesty, if someone else had written this story, I would not have read it.  I knew the story would be hard, but I trusted Karen that this was a story that needed telling.  And it is.  I had the book in hand by Friday afternoon, and I was finished reading it by Saturday afternoon–AND no one had to wear dirty clothes or go without a meal.  It was a compelling read…..which is hard to believe, considering I already knew the ending.

The story that rocked my world.....holding me accountable for working to change things for these children. When I met Karen Spears Zacharias for the first time last May, she asked, "What are you going to do to change things?"

The story that rocked my world…..holding me accountable for working to change things for these children. When I met Karen Spears Zacharias for the first time last May, she asked, “What are you going to do to change things?”

The thing is, child abuse is something that is hard to think about.  We want to believe that the system is in place to protect children.  Friends, it is not, as Karen shares in her story.  There are holes in the system and WE must be the fillers.  We have to be a part of the system that fights for them.  We as individuals, we as community, we as church, we as the world, MUST be defenders of those who cannot defend themselves.  I could make all kinds of suggestions here on how to get involved, but one the best things to do is read this book.  Karen has taken time to do the right research and tells us what we can do to make a difference.   If you can’t handle reading it, I get it, really I do.  Please contact your local child abuse prevention organization and educate yourself.  There’s great information on the internet too.  If we are educated, we know what to look for and who to call and how to help.  It is imperative that we are prepared.  I don’t know how to say this any stronger.  IT IS UP TO US.  WE HAVE TO ACT.

My parents told me who I was.  Somebody.  And many times, they had to remind me to “Act like you are somebody.”  I knew I was loved and treasured and when they disciplined me, it was because they knew I had better in me.  WE have to be the ones to tell these little ones and big ones, who are trapped in brokenness and who are hearing all the wrong messages, who they are.  They are loved.  They are treasured.  They are capable, and this is not their fault.  They are worth our time and effort and love.  They are worth our getting involved.

Who told Jesus he was God’s son?  I’m not sure.  But I am sure what he told us.  To take care of those who need help–the children.  Today I am thankful for my little minister who made me think about this, so I would re-commit myself to telling the little ones who they are.

For more information about Karen’s book and Karly’s story, go to http://karenzach.com/meet-karly-sheehan/