Thursday Takeout and Year End Musings

Thursday nights are Takeout nights.

Which is short for “Tara has had enough with the cooking of the things and needs a break, it’s almost the weekend, for goodness’ sake.”

Three nights a week our adventures and learning have us getting home later in the evening and one more has us getting home right around a late supper time. So Thursday, the last night each week of those adventures–that’s the night we drive through a drive thru and give thanks for folks who cook the food.

We recently have added a new place we can pick up from that is safe for our food allergies. Any day we can add another restaurant to our safe list, we dance around and celebrate with all the bells and whistles. It’s a very, very good thing.

A few weeks back, on a Thursday night, we went to the drive thru at this new place and ordered a smorgasbord of food to enjoy that night–and perhaps, when all was said and eaten, we’d be really lucky and there would be leftovers to flip for on Friday for lunch. When we pulled up, they asked us to hold for a minute. Gladly. I like to have the orders done and ready to relay, and, with preferences and requests coming from two in the car and one more via text message plus my own, I could use that minute wisely. It was probably a couple of minutes later when the voice asked me to go ahead with my order.

When we got to the window, they asked us to pull up ahead and said they’d bring it out. I think Text Message’s order required extra prep time, so there we were. Still, as I told them, “You’re cooking supper. I’m just really thankful for y’all because that means I don’t have to.” And I meant it. I don’t play with appreciation when I don’t have to cook. When you’ve learned to manipulate around food allergies in meal planning and prepping, there are times and phases and seasons when cooking is less fun and more tiresome.

We pulled ahead and waited only a couple of minutes. They were surprisingly quick. Also surprisingly, they had two young men bring out our food. One could have managed it I feel sure, but they both came out. They delivered our food, and then they thanked me.

They thanked me. Thanked us for being so nice about the delay and just in general, as “we’ve had some folks come through this evening and not be so nice…..so thank you, ma’am.”

That broke me. These two young men explained how they are understaffed and pulling double duty and how good it had been to be greeted with a smile and treated with kind words.

Y’all. I did nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary. My Mama raised me to say thank you to the person who cooked my food. My Fella was raised the same way, because, bless him, no matter what I put on a plate or in a bowl, he always, always thanks me for the meal. It was second nature to me to thank the people behind the glass window and masks. I didn’t even think about it–it just happened.

Sometimes my children call me “extra” when I carry on conversations with clerks and staff in different places we go. (Or should I say “used to go?”) But let me assure you there was nothing “extra” in my tired, worn out, ready to be home, hungry “thank y’all for cooking supper for us tonight.” Not one bit.

And yet–it was seen as such.

I’ve carried this with me for several reasons over the past month or so since it happened. It struck me how an easily spoken kind word can have a huge impact on someone, especially someone who is having a rough moment. In a past year, I’ve chosen the word “intentional” as my New Year’s word. I suppose that’s what I found myself thinking after that interaction with those weather-worn young men. I need to be more intentional with those kind words. Make it second nature to speak kindness into the air to pierce the darkness and heaviness and negativity. The only way that happens is by practice, speaking those words as many times in a day as I can. It might even–ahem–require I speak those kinds of words to the people in my own home–the ones 2020 has found me spending more time with than ever before. Kindness. Kind words. Putting them out there–making it as effortless as breathing. That’s a goal. (And I’m not gonna lie, some days, the struggle can be really real.)

Something else happened that night. We said good night and were humbled by their appreciation for such a simple thing as thank you. We drove off and as we headed back to the main road, my shotgun rider called for me to stop–she saw someone running after us. WHAT?! Sure enough, one of the young men had chased after us, for quite a distance (it was very dark out and I hadn’t noticed him), to ask us to come back for a small portion of the food we had ordered but that hadn’t been put in the bag originally.

That.

My children, 13 and 16, noticed this. They saw him and his persistence in completing his job and doing it well. As I maneuvered the divided highway to turn around and go back to the drive thru, they talked about him and the great service that we had gotten that night. Those young men had been extra EXTRA, and we noticed. It made a lasting mark on my people and their hearts. I am so thankful for that and for those employees and their example.

As this year comes to a close on this very different sort of day–this morning was our Christmas morning (due to Covid quarantine) and tonight is New Year’s Eve, complete with games (gifts from this morning) and fun snacks–I am thinking about those young men. I think about what made that night memorable, and it boils down to a few things.

Honest. Transparency. Appreciation. Relationship.

When I told them thank you for cooking supper, that I was worn out, I was being honest. My true self. Because Thursday night at the drive thru after a long week is as real as Tara gets. And in return, those young men felt safe being transparent about their evening. We all were appreciative of the other, and that right there set the stage for a good foundation for a relationship. And that relationship just might be why that young man chased me down. I really believe that. We are willing to go the extra mile for people we are in relationship with. Oh sure, I realize he might have been required to find me and ask me to come back, but the smile on his face behind the mask after that long run–that was all about the relationship. If ever so new, it was still there.

Whom can we be honest with about our struggles? Whom can we be transparent with and ask for help? Or offer to help when we see a need? Whom do we appreciate, even for the seemingly smallest of things? How can we let them know that? Let me just say, “I appreciate you,” are precious words to hear, especially on cold, dark nights when one is exhausted from all the day to dailies. They are magic words, because they can build a connection. And connections lead to relationships. And relationships? They are the lyrics to the melody of life, bringing meaning to and enriching our story.

Tonight as we end this year and turn the page on the calendar, I’ve chosen my word for 2021. (And no, the irony is not lost on me that last year’s word was “trash” and this year’s words were “make do.” I’m still shaking my head and laughing over that.)

My word for 2021 is extra.

Extra.

I plan to live it, give it, demand it, respect it, love it, and be it. Being extra has led to some of the most memorable moments of my life–and a Thursday night less than a month ago is one of them. May we be the people throwing out extra praise, running the extra mile to help someone, and may we live and love so extra that we are loved and treasured more than the extra packet of dipping sauce that is always a treat to find!

Much love and wishing you all a good year, one extra good day at the time.

Happy Golden Years

Fifty years ago today, December 17, 1967, the romance that started outside a laundromat in Valdosta, Georgia began a new adventure as my Mama and Daddy said, “I do.”

And they did.  Sickness.  Health.  Laughter.  Pain.  Joy.  Grief.  Children.  Grandchildren.  Other children whom they called their own.  Friends.  Family.  Biscuits. Gravy.  Pound Cake.  Fried Cornbread.  Homemade Pizza.  Cars. Trucks.  Books.  Celebrations.  Mourning.  Everyday Life filled with Extraordinary Moments.

And even though their time together on this earth ended six years ago, I know they are together today, and I hope they are doing what they loved to do most on this day–spending time together, enjoying the journey.  On their anniversaries, Daddy would take the day off from work, and they would go on an adventure of sorts.  Traveling on backroads, eating in diners and restaurants they’d come across along the way.   Meeting interesting folks who would become lifelong friends.

Since 2013 after Mama left this world, I’ve had the joy of continuing their tradition of sharing books with young people we know.  In honor of their anniversary, I’ve chosen different books as our Christmas Book of the Year.  This year, I’ve chosen a very special one that ties an old memory to a new one.

This past summer the littles, the Fella, and I got to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri.   Growing up I read the Little House books and loved my weekly time with Laura and her family on “Little House on the Prairie.”  I was “fangirling” pretty hard.  The. Home.  Of.  Laura.  Ingalls.  Wilder.  Where she lived.  Wrote her books.  Raised Rose.  Oh my stars, I was over the moon.  But as excited as I was, it was wonderful to see that our Princess was even more so.  She had read and reread all of the books in the past year.  She loved them.

During our time there, we saw Pa’s fiddle and photos and letters from Laura’s sisters.  There were letters schoolchildren had written to Mrs. Wilder, asking about the people she wrote about or thanking her for writing them.  The museum part was fascinating, as we took our time wandering around, reading and looking and soaking it all in.  But it was when we went to her home, the one that Almanzo built by hand, one room at a time, that I felt the spirit of the place.  Neither of them were very tall, so the home suited me and my short height just fine.  I loved that she continued using her old stove, even after Rose had an electric one put in.  Sometimes change is hard, y’all, and just not worth the bother.  As a child I had fallen in love with the young Laura.  This past summer, standing in her home, surrounded by her things, I fell in love and in awe of the grown Laura, the strong woman who didn’t want anyone to know she loved to read Westerns, and whose last birthday cards were still sitting on the table in her kitchen, as she passed on right around her birthday.  That was my favorite part of the whole adventure.  Soaking in her world in her little farmhouse.  The other house we visited that Rose had built for her parents as a gift when she was an adult did not compare.  It was lovely, but it just didn’t have the same feel, the same homeyness, the same spirit.

As I wandered through the farmhouse, enjoying the stories that our tour guide shared, I was reminded of a Christmas in my own home, many years ago.

I believe it was Christmas 1989, my senior year in college.  My dear friend had come home with me for a day or two before heading home to Alabama.  We had slept through the night to be awakened early the next morning by the ringing of jingle bells.  My friend, my siblings, and I all went to the living room where we found a sock for each one of us.  A long knee high sock I believe, filled with good things–like an orange, a giant peppermint stick, a penny, an orange in the toe, and the matching sock balled up inside as well.  It was left there by, as the note said, “The Christmas Spirit of 1889.”

I probably laughed it off as my parents and their whimsical ways in the moment, but inside I loved it.  I love all things old and traditional, and as far as I was concerned, this was perfect.  Everything about it.  I’m not really sure what prompted my Mama and Daddy to keep Christmas like that that year.  Maybe they wanted to remind us that simple joy is at the heart of Christmas–that the simple joys are the treasured memories we will carry in our hearts for a long, long time.

Just as I have the memory of the sock filled with goodies, nearly 30 years ago.

So when I sat down to choose a book to share this holiday season, I found it almost instantly.  In memory of that Christmas 28 years ago and our adventure “home” this past summer, our family Christmas book this year is “Christmas in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The illustrator, Renee’ Graef, shared that her artwork was inspired by the work of the talented Garth Williams with his permission.  It’s a sweet story about the excitement of the holiday season and the greatest joy of all–being together.

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Tonight I’m thankful for the love of two people that grew to touch so many–our family and friends and folks they met along the way.  A love that was joined together forever fifty years ago tonight.  I’m thankful for their quirkiness and how they reminded us of what is really important all those Christmases ago.  And I’m thankful for the privilege and thrill of standing where some of the world’s favorite stories–I know they are some of mine–were put on paper for all of us to enjoy.

May the simple joys of this Christmas season bring you grand memories that you will treasure for years to come.  Love to all.

 

 

The Chaos After

We’ve been cleaning and sorting and breaking down Christmas this past week, like you do.  Epiphany is my self-imposed start date (not deadline–that’s an ugly word, people) for putting away the decorations.  We play treasure hunt on the tree for the ornaments and put them back in boxes for another eleven months.  The boxes stay in the house for a few days, which is a very good thing, since today I found yet another decoration on a shelf that had been forgotten.

I know.  January 10th.

It’s whatever, y’all.  I refuse to stress about this.

Much.  I refuse to stress much about it.

Because until it’s all stacked and stored away, yeah, I’m gonna stress a little bit.

Yesterday I was putting some of my heirloom Christmas decorations up in my closet, as well as tucking a couple of 2016 presents (yes, already, because sales, people!) away, and what to my wondering eyes should appear?

Presents.  Christmas presents.

For the folks I love who live right here under the same roof with me.

This.  This is why “What you didn’t get for Christmas” Day was born.  Well this and delayed deliveries.  But just as often it’s this at the root of it.  I hide it so well that…..well, yes, even I can’t find it.

So today became an unofficial WYDGFC Day celebration.  I had said we weren’t doing it this year because I don’t want my people focusing on the getting.  They were quite surprised and full of smiles when I came out of my closet and interrupted their lunch with the little treats.

I guess now Christmas 2015 is officially over.  Gifts have all been given, and all the decorations are tucked in their tubs and ready for storing.  Oh wait…..what is that over there?  How did we not notice that one before?

*sigh* Back to it.

Somebody please tell me I’m not the only one.  Even if you’re just humoring me.  Please tell me I’m not alone in this, the chaos that comes after the holidays.

Love and happy putting away to all.

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The Fifth Day of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas…..

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…..fi-ive things that sing.

For the second year, we have the droids you may or may not be looking for along with Merry Darth and Yoda Claus, singing joyfully in the front yard.  On the front porch our little snow friend is singing a familiar tune.

Better than gold rings.  Every single day.

When the sun goes down and they come back to life with the flip of a switch, they bring me joy, and that makes one more thing sing–

my heart.

But we won’t count that tonight.

Five is a good number for Christmas.  It’s a number that brings me joy.

Love to all.

The Fourth Day of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas…..

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“Happy new year 06463” by © Nevit Dilmen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

four haikus for the season.

 

To Hallmark Channel and all your movies–

Hallmark, what you’ve done
is fill my heart with joy and
keep me up all night

I love getting all of the pretty Christmas cards from friends and family near and far every year.  But the unusual “card” from my sisterfriend stood out and warmed my heart.  Giving thanks for the gift of time.

The best Christmas card
Never came through the mailbox
A call from my friend

Just in case we tossed something not wrapping paper out after unwrapping our presents, I always wait to toss the bag.  At least 24 hours.  I know–Anxiety Girl and Justin Case work overtime on the “what ifs” as to what exactly we threw away.  

The wrapping paper
in a ball in the trash bag
Wait! Don’t toss it yet!

And this happened.  It was a fun and funny Christmas.  

Someone’s fav’rite gift
was in “Squatty Potty” box
I’ll leave it at that

Merry Merriment and Love to all!

 

The Third Day of Christmas

On the third day of Christmas…..

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Sweet ornaments made by my sweet friend that remind of the way the sounds of the season resonate with my soul and what a treasure friendships are.

Tonight I sat listening to the carols being played and sung by people who have come to be a part of my family.  As they sang and played the guitar and the flute and the drum box, I was, once again, moved to tears in the midst of “Silent Night.”  As I wondered why, the image of women singing this to themselves in the midst of waiting for news from the war came to my mind and heart.  I wondered what it was like for my Granny singing this back then.  Or my great-grandmother before her.

And then it hit me what a precious thing it is that they did.  They sang these same carols that I sang as a child and sang tonight.  The same ones, I’d venture a guess, that my grandchildren will sing along to one day.

Then I thought about three different Christmases and how dear they all are and how they connect me to my story–

Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future.

And for all of the new ways of doing things like tracking Santa with an app on our phones or sending Christmas cards through email or social media or going to the movies on Christmas day–all of which are wonderful in their own way–the old traditions that connect us to those who have gone before us are truly beautiful.  Decorating the Christmas tree, making homemade Christmas ornaments, baking cookies and other treats, singing Christmas carols, caroling, making time to visit with family and friends, reading the Christmas story together, sitting out milk and cookies for Santa…..

priceless.

Tonight I’m thankful for the traditions that have and will last through all three Christmases.  It is a good feeling to be a part of something that has come before and will last long after I leave this world.

Silent night, Holy Night…..

Love to all.

Christmas Creating

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This.

This beautiful piece.

Someone I love is very clever, and she created this beautiful wreath all by herself–bow included. (I know–I was VERY impressed.)  She told me about finding the pan on sale a while back and waiting for the right time to make gingerbread in this pan.

But the time didn’t come.

And so she recreated it.  She repurposed it.  She thought outside the box and figured out a way it could work for her.  And what a lovely thing she made when she did.  I adore this wreath.  Almost as much as I love the one who made it.

I think of how my Daddy talked about us owning our things, not letting them own us–making them work for us and not the other way around.

And this is a lovely example of doing just that.

Wishing you all the inspiration to think outside the box, to recreate and repurpose, and to make spirits bright!

‘Tis the season.

Love to all.

 

Rockin’ Around the Tree

Sharing just a few of the precious memories hanging on our tree…..

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A little porcelain doll that has hung on our trees for over fifteen years

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A snowman from my Aunt D I got so many years ago…..I’ve always loved him.  He spins!

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A gift from one of our favorite organizations doing amazing things–Bead for Life

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This little sweetheart was a wedding gift thirteen years ago from a very precious family.

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We have a few from our favorite movies.  Thankful we are.

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Hallelujah–the lights are all on! My decorating can’t hold a candle to Clark Griswold’s.

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There are ornaments reminding us of big moments or favorite things from that year.  (Marilyn and guitar–guess which one of my people these belong to?)

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There are ornaments to remind us of big life events….

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and ever so adorably small.

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We have ones that remind us of places we have lived.  (Yes, we have cute little sumo wrestlers from Japan on our tree.) 

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And we have ones that remind us of happy days with people we love and miss.  We gave this ornament to my Mama many years ago.  She loved Winnie the Pooh.  Now it hangs on our tree, and we find joy in the memories.  

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And we have sweet homemade ornaments that remind us of the Love and Light of the season. 

Tonight as I gaze at the lights and memories on our tree, I give thanks for the quiet and all of the memories that come flooding back in a rush.  So much love on one precious tree.

Love to all.

Joy After the Door is Closed

Today I found unexpected joy in rebirth and re-creating.  Thanks to an event shared on Facebook by a friend, we were able to see a play today.

I love plays.  I love live theater.

I absolutely adore holiday plays.

We attended a revision of “White Christmas,” performed by young people in our community.

It was different and well-done and completely fabulous.

Looking at all of those faces and their eagerness and thinking about how much of their wonderful lives they have ahead of them, I got teary-eyed.  When I saw a young teenage girl at the curtain call eyeing her parents who were sitting behind us and noticed that she was getting teary-eyed, I started to lose it.  When I leaned over and hugged my dear One who had joined us, I was undone.  The tears came, and I didn’t care.

Sheer joy.

The way the play was worked, all of the children who wanted to participate were able to.  They danced and they laughed and they delivered their lines and they told a story.  An important one about holding others above self.

The whole afternoon was joy-filled.

It was held in  a building that used to house a Family Dollar.  Since this was our first time attending a play there (not my first time in the building), I didn’t know what to expect.

What a lovely surprise!

New life was breathed back into that building and a theater was born.

From Family Dollar’s ending, something truly beautiful came to be.

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, change is very, very hard for me.  I do not like it at all, it’s not my friend, and it will never be on my birthday list.

And yet–

I think there was a lesson in what I felt today.

Things can end.  The darkness can come.  And yet,

joy shall rise again.  New life will come.

The light will shine again.

And I give thanks for that–for all of the lights that shine, from spotlights to tree lights to the bright, warm sun that kissed our faces as we left with our souls touched and spirits lifted.

A day of merry and magnificent memory-making!  I’m thankful.

Love to all.

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The Family Dollar never looked so lovely…..

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so homey…..

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or so completely wonderful.  Scenes from the back of the theater.  

 

Making It the Norm

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Ever have one of those days?

Often, my friends, often.

And then it occurs to me, that if “free time” is so “not the norm” that the potential of having it causes me to question my own sanity, there might be a problem.

If my schedule is so packed that finding an hour here or a morning there with “nothing,” makes me wonder what I’ve forgotten–well, it’s a shame.  A crying shame.

We deserve better.

Just like when we’ve carried a weight or burden for so long, and we finally decide or reach a point where we are able to let it go.  Suddenly we’re so unfettered that we are nearly light-headed and hardly know how to live without that weight.

Or when we’ve felt bad physically for a while, and after making deliberate choices or seeing a good professional who can help, suddenly we feel so much better we don’t even know that what we are feeling is better.  We can’t trust it.

It’s too much.

Feeling good physically and not weighted down with worries and woes should be the norm, not an anomaly.

As we head into the holidays, let’s all make a pact not to over schedule ourselves or our families.  Let’s have all kinds of moments and days where “nothing” is the norm, and we have all this time to be with the folks we love.  Let’s aim to let go of the worries of the season and focus instead on the warmth and fellowship of the last days of this year.

Wishing you all a day of “free time”–one where you can go and make all the memories.

Love to all.