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.

 

Umbrella and Steagles and 2017

Hard to believe since today has been cold as all get out, but a couple of months ago the littles had a swim meet.  It was one of those Georgia days that started out pleasant–the temperature just right–but rapidly moved into the “I’m sweating an ocean right where I’m sitting” situation.  The Fella was helping as a timer, so he was somewhat in the shade, but Aub and I–not so much.  We sat in our camping chairs (that have never been camping, but they have attended numerous sporting events over the years) and tried not to complain about the heat too much.

Because it was hot as mess.

We were using arms and sunglasses to block the burning glare, but there really was no escape for those of us who were watching the meet.  We were drinking all the water (subtracting out what may or may not have been poured on one or both of us in an effort to cool us off) as we cheered our swimmers on.

Just when we didn’t think we could bear it any longer, a woman came up to us from the pool area.  Separated by the chainlink fence, she hoisted her black umbrella up above her head and over the fence.

“Please take my umbrella.  I’m about to leave, but my son is over there.  He’s staying until the meet is over because his daughter is still swimming.  You can just give it back to him when the meet is over, okay?”

I was stunned.  Not only had this stranger offered us protection from the glaring rays of the sun in the form of her lovely umbrella, but she’d been paying attention.  To us.  Folks she’d never met before.  And she’d noticed our distress.

Of what she had, she was giving.

I’ve thought about her many times over the past few months since.  She touched my heart with her generosity and interruptibility and compassion.  And with her umbrella, which was the embodiment of those three things.  She saw, she noticed, (and those are two very different things), and she gave.  She was the umbrella.

Two days ago Cooter shared with me a story that he read in one of his books of football stories.  In 1943 because so many young men were being drafted for WW II, two teams–the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers–combined the players that each had left, so they’d have enough players to make a team.  Formerly bitter rivals, they worked together and had a winning season.  Though not their official name, the blended team was called the “Steagles.”  During a time of crisis, the ones who were former “enemies” banded together, worked together for the good, and created a winning team.

As 2016 comes to a close, both of these stories are at the forefront of my mind.  While I know my Mama would be fussing at me for disregarding the beauty and joy in everyday, several times over the past month or two, I’ve said along with many–“Good riddance, 2016.”  I know it hasn’t been all bad, but good gravy, we’ve had some doozies this year, haven’t we?

As I turn the page of my calendar tomorrow and greet a new day, a new year, I look for my word–the word to carry with me through the year, to hold close and inspire me, to encourage me, and to challenge me to, as my Mama used to say, “be my best self.”

For 2017, I’ve chosen two words.

umbrella

By Camera: Sternenlaus, Photo: birdy (selfmade by see authors) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 ((http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Umbrella

As I seek to make the coming year a better one, one that welcomes all, encourages all, loves all, I need to be the umbrella.  See, notice, share.  Offer protection, shelter, comfort, love.  And I need to pass along the umbrellas offered to me.  Pay it forward, backwards, upside down–pass it along to whomever, wherever/whenever it is needed.  And the really cool thing about umbrellas is even if you can’t afford to let it go, there’s usually almost always room to invite another soul in out of the rough stuff to stand beside you and be protected alongside you.

steagles-giants

By The original uploader was Coemgenus at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Steagles

This is going to be a year of collaboration, community, teamwork.  It will have to be.  I think great and beautiful things can happen.  But only if we are willing to break through the perceptions that are barriers, the ones that keep us from seeing how alike we are despite the world posting the differences on a lighted marquee sign.  While it will be way out of my comfort zone, I think it’s time to join up with folks from the other teams and see if we can do any better together.

Because better is what we need.

Desperately.

My last umbrella wound up going to someone on an exit ramp during a bad rainstorm.  Which is as it should be.  So I’m out of umbrellas and I doubt I can find a Steagles jersey on Etsy (but you can find Falcons ones, and that’s all I’m going to share about that because birthdays and whatnots are coming up, don’tcha know), but I can carry the spirit of them both with me and share it with folks I come across on the backroads and interstates and sidewalks.

Tonight I’m thankful for old WWII football players and grandmas at swim meets.  They both have taught me a great lesson–one I’m going to try my level best to live out in 2017.

Happy New Year!  But as Mama would say–even more importantly, Happy Everyday!

Love to all.

 

 

Popsicle Sticks and Provoking Posts

Summer is here.

School is out.

But lest you think it’s been a free for all around here–as was hoped for by my crew–let me reassure you.  No.

It has not.

I could see the gleam  in their eyes.  They were hopeful.  Then they planned.  And tried to manipulate and work the system.

To no avail.

Because I was one step ahead of them, you see.  I’ve been at this job for over 20 years.  Experience has to count for something.

So I took a cue from something that was being shared and shared again on the social media.  Using popsicle sticks to earn rewards.

I sat down with my sticks and sharpies and created one for each task/opportunity and the minutes associated with it.

Because, let’s face it, time with electronic devices trumps money around here.  These people love their Minecraft, Madden 13 or 15 or whatever, movies, music, etc etc etc.  Oftentimes, I refer to it as the Grumpy Screen, as it seems that staring at it for vast amounts of time makes folks grumpy.  Sometimes it’s them because of disagreements (“he took my pickaxe” “she burned my house down” “but I don’t want to play that football game with him” “we’ve already watched that episode–six times”), and sometimes it’s me because I want them off.

Why in the world do we have all these Legos and dolls and cars and whatnot anyway?

So yes, things like unloading the dishwasher and folding/putting away clothes and math practice and so on can earn time with their favorite games.

It’s not been foolproof, but it’s worked pretty well–that whole knowing what is expected of  them has helped folks know how to get on and behave and the like.

Yep.  That right there.  Knowing what’s expected.

It has cut down on a lot of misunderstandings around here.

So, in the spirit of that concept and how well it has worked, I’d like to share this for the world of social media–especially as it has grown to exist in the past six months.

If you want me to read all the things you are concerned about, things you want to complain about–first you have to earn my attention.

In the same way that my children have to earn their screen time, you have to earn my time by first expressing things worth reading–positive, encouraging, empowering, caring, compassionate words and thoughts and stories.  Shoot, some days kittens jumping at cucumbers will suffice.  I’m not hard to please.

Except that all the negativity and hate…..I’m over it.  I’m tired of all the finger pointing and accusations and hate speech and fear-mongering.  The fear-mongering may be the worst of all (in my opinion) because it tends to lead to the other three and all kinds of deterioration happens from there.

My Daddy used to tease Mama about the right hand ledger and the left hand ledger.  Things she did for the betterment of those around her “went” on one side, but if she bemoaned one bit about the time it took or how tired she was from her efforts, he teased her that it negated what she’d done because it had to go on the other side of the “page.”

There’s a bit of truth in that.  (Well, not about you, Mama.)

If we are always negative and sharing all of the angry, ugly memes and thoughts and quoting folks who are stirring up things just for the sake of dividing folks, then I expect few people are going to pay attention when we find something really good and want to share it.

And somehow when I thought about this, I thought about my children having to earn their time on the devices.

It’s all about balance, isn’t it?  Not all play without some effort put forth…..and not all the anger without some efforts to make good changes in our world.

I wonder if maybe we could use the popsicle sticks for Facebook and other outlets– we’d have to post so many good, inspiring, helpful things before we are allowed to post ones that complain or accuse.

It’s a thought.

Wishing you all a good balanced day and a dishwasher that needs unloading for an easy way to earn minutes for playing on your devices….. 🙂

Love to all.

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Our buckets–when something is done, the stick gets moved to the other side…..

 

Chasing the Darkness With a Big Ol’ Broom

So today I heard the Story of the Chicken.

I have a friend, an amazing young woman in her last year of college who shared it on Facebook, and that chicken is what I’ve thought about much of today.

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Sweet chicken has no idea all the good in store for her. Photo courtesy of my talented photographer friend https://www.facebook.com/sunshinephotography2012

Apparently this poor chicken fell off of a “chicken truck,” and my friend and her friends saw it.  When questioned about the fate of the chicken, she shared that the bus driver for their apartment area was going to come back and get the fallen bird.

The bus driver has a farm.

This chicken is on her way to be a pet.

Oh bless.  That makes my heart so happy!

I’ve thought about that poor chicken and how she must have figured, riding on that truck, that the worst had pretty much happened and her fate was sealed.  Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, she falls off that truck.

Which wound up being a wonderful turning point in her life instead of the great tragedy it could have been.

Thanks to the kind soul of the bus driver.

I do this, do you?  I ride along thinking things are really bad and then something happens and I think OH NO COULD THIS GET ANY WORSE? and it turns out that, no actually, what I thought was going to be even worse is really quite wonderful.

Not always.  But enough times that I find myself having hope even in the hardest of situations, when it just makes no sense.

Sometimes we’re the chicken, y’all–in a real predicament.

But sometimes, we get the opportunity to be the bus driver.

And when we do, we should take it.  We really, really should.

The bus drivers of the world, the ones willing to take another in and give them comfort–they are the folks who are chasing the darkness into a corner with a big ol’ broom and making this world a much better place.

One little soul at a time.

Love to all.

The One About My Dog’s Business and An Email from Pinterest

A couple of things that happened today–

Miss Sophie is a picky pooper.  I don’t mean to offend, but there’s just no other way to put it.  She will not go in our yard.  And she is very sensitive about where she will go.  It takes quite a bit of sniffing and turning around and sniffing some more and sometimes, even when you think “YES! Finally!” she turns around and walks away from that very spot that once seemed so perfect.

Some days it takes a really long time.

(Yeah, she’s quirky like the rest of the folks around here.  We’ve decided to find it endearing.)

Some time around the middle of the day, I got an email from Pinterest.  From PINTEREST.  Writing to me.  I just knew it was to congratulate me for pinning all the things, and that although my pins were the most fabulous, I had exceeded the limit of pinning without actually attempting to do/make/create one of them.

Thankfully, no.

It was to let me know that they’d had to delete one of my pins.  It had to do with the creator of the picture not wanting it pinned again and again and again.  It was a recipe for a special blend of essential oils to help with injuries.

Eh. *shrugs* Okay.

I was afraid it was one of the one of a kind crochet patterns I pinned that I am sure I will BEGIN WORKING ON TOMORROW forthwith.

The nice thing was how kind the email was.  Pinterest kept assuring me that it had nothing to do with me or anything I’d done.  It was all about the originator deciding they didn’t want their information out there.  But they wanted me to know in no uncertain terms that I had done NOTHING wrong.

Well, that’s a huge relief.

And it really was.  It was so nice to be assured that while something I did had to be affected, it wasn’t my fault.  And they went to such trouble and used such nice words to make sure I knew that.

These two totally unrelated stories have come together for me tonight to remind me of this–

We all have things–anger, impatience, frustration, sadness, pain, anxiety, fear among others–that needs to come out or we will go mad and become ill.  It just has to.  But instead of letting it fall wherever, we need to be deliberate about who we share it with and how.  All of our woes and worries matter, but we don’t need to let them fester to the point of blowing up and out at folks.  Be particular, find a good friend or trusted family member and share your stuff.  Perhaps sharing with a compassionate soul and getting it out in the open will help.  But if it should happen that you carry it too long, and you blow up at someone, take a lesson from Pinterest.  Tell them kindly it had nothing to do with them.  Apologize. And use kind words.  It does a world of wonders, y’all.

We all have messes and issues and troubles and woes.  May we all be as particular as Miss Sophie and as kind as Pinterest when we become overwhelmed by our own troubles and that stuff starts coming out.

Love to all.

Q-Tips, Art, and How the Little Moments Matter

A couple of weeks ago at Evening Prayer we talked about the little moments.  The little moments of kindness, of opening a door, offering a smile, saying hello, picking up a piece of trash and disposing of it, giving a hug, carrying a sack of groceries for someone, calling a friend–all of these little moments add up to one good story.  Sarah Thebarge compared the idea to pointillism–all those little moments create something beautiful.

So to bring the idea home with our folks there that night, we painted.

Pointillism.

My artist friend recommended we use q-tips.  I love q-tips–so versatile and easy to find at the store.  And I love my artist friend for suggesting them, because I had the paints and the canvas, but I hadn’t been able to find the right sort of brushes.

BINGO.

One of my samples--idea from Pinterest

One of my samples–idea from Pinterest

I enjoyed this one. Just colors all over the place.

I enjoyed this one. Just colors all over the place.

This was Aub's somewhat abstract turtles. One of my favorites of the night.

This was Aub’s somewhat abstract turtles. One of my favorites of the night.

And so we painted.  There were all kinds of wonderful variations on the ones that I showed as examples.  (Hello, Pinterest, you are my friend.)  Not one single person complained or threw their hands up in frustration.  There was good conversation and laughter and I heard more than one person say how much fun it was.

Must have been the q-tips.  They do make a party fun.

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I had bought some paper shapes for the children to paint, if they wanted, or if they finished a canvas and wanted to continue creating.  It was Cooter who came over and asked to paint, sitting in my lap.  He is eight, and I know this won’t last much longer.  Sure, buddy, pull up a q-tip.

I pulled out a paper cutout of a person.  He went to town on it.  Painting with many q-tips and all kinds of colors, I think he had finished three people by the time we left.

And since then?  When I can’t find him during our school days or on the weekends, I can usually go to the back porch and find him painting away.

How many characters can you spot?  There's Harry, Fred and George (see their "sweaters"), He Who Must Not Be Named, and SOOOO many others.

How many characters can you spot? There’s Harry, Fred and George (see their “sweaters”), He Who Must Not Be Named, and SOOOO many others.

You see, he’s working on painting all of the characters from the Harry Potter books. I think he’s up to Book 4.

All the characters, y’all.  Some obscure, some not so much.  But for painting with a q-tip, I think he’s doing quite well.  It’s been funny to me that he has yet to ask to use one of the brushes sitting back there, right there with the paints.

This is a child who doesn’t see himself as an artist or artistic at all.  Yet this project has struck a chord with him.  He enjoys it, and I love that it resets his brain–he comes away from painting with paint all over all the things *sigh*, his hands included, and with a smile on his face and a lift in his spirit.

I love that so much.  Who would’ve thought it?

Best purchase ever.  So much so, that yes, when I get back over to that store, we are picking up more of those.

After all, he has three more books to get through.

I’ve told him that I thought we would string them up across his wall or something to display them.  He’s thinking about putting them in a book.  We really haven’t decided, but whatever we do, I hope they always bring a smile to his face as much as they do now.

May we all find something that brings us so much joy.  And may we do all the little things we can to live a good story and paint a lovely picture.

Love to all.

Absolutely Worthless, My Foot!

“I’ve been absolutely worthless today,” my oldest commented from her position on the couch, wrapped snugly in one of my rescued afghans.   “Folks are going to say, ‘What did you do all weekend?’ and I’m going to have to reply, ‘Oh I don’t know, slept in, took a nap, watched Netflix, pretty much nothing worth anything at all.'”

Oh my heart.

My oldest and I had plans for Saturday.  Big plans.  Big girl, driving out of town a far piece and spending the day listening to important things and then coming back home changed and awesome people kind of plans.  (Well, that was the plan–if you’re going to dream, dream big, y’all.)

Instead we were grounded.  Both of the littles fell victim to some kind of vicious bug that had Cooter not able to eat anything and our Princess the same, only with a big ol’ fever to go along with it.  No one needed to come in here and be exposed to that, even if I had been able to muster the wherewithal to leave my sick babies.  Which I couldn’t.

So we were home.  A day that we had prepped for by tidying up a bit and trying to get organized somewhat (y’all who know me well can stop laughing now, I said tried).  Our Princess stayed in her bed and slept most of the day, while Cooter slowly came back from an exhausting night of not being able to stomach anything.  He watched movies and played games and rested.

While I alternated between caring for the two, I also took a breather and had some quiet time during the day.  My oldest though?  She sat in her sister’s room at our Princess’ request, so she’d have company and wouldn’t feel quite so lonely.  She sat and watched videos with her brother.  She made a Ginger Ale/Sprite/Noodles/Frozen Waffle run (like you do) as we were out of all of those healing things.  She picked up magical healing serum in the form of Chick-Fil-A Sprites-to-go for her siblings, and she listened to my worrying over what was best to do for our Princess.  She reminds me of my Mama the way she can ease my concerns with compassion and commonsense.

And so her words broke my heart.  Yes, she relaxed and watched a couple of her favorite shows.  She took a nap.  She didn’t work on her paper or clean her room.  But that she didn’t see the value of what she did, the love she shared, the help she was in all the little moments all day long?

I need to take her to the eye doctor.  Or soul doctor or something.  I think she needs a new pair of lenses.  A kinder, gentler pair.  Ones filled with grace, which can see the little details for what they are.   The million ways she blessed all of us all day long.

She might not have changed the world yesterday, but she changed our world.  She made things better just by showing up.  By her willingness to sit and be.  By her willingness to go and do.  By being her.

The one we love.  And sharing that special person with us for the day.

Baby girl, if ever you doubt the value of what you do, I want you to remember your brother’s face as he grabbed you this morning and exclaimed, “You’re the second person I hugged today!”  Or the way each of your siblings told you with their weak little voices very early yesterday morning, “Go.  I’ll be okay.  I don’t want to ruin your day.”  Or me.  As you changed out the lightbulbs in my closet today.  You couldn’t see my face while you were up on the ladder, and that’s probably a good thing.  As I was teasing you and trying to take your picture, I was teary-eyed.  This little one whom I fell in love with from the first moment I saw her twenty years ago, is making a difference in our world.  One hug, one smile, one teasing gesture, one CFA drive thru trip, and one moment at a time.  Never doubt that.  Thanks for lighting up our world, literally and figuratively.

Love and light to all.

My girl helping shine light in our world.....and my closet.

My girl helping shine light in our world…..and my closet.