“If there’s anything to be amazed at,” said MayDean, holding the toothpick out of the side of her mouth with amazing skill while she talked, “it’s that all of these folks–look around you, ever’ single one of them, they all have fallen at some point or another in their lives.  There’s just no way around it.  There’s no way to know the pitfalls afore you on the path you’ve chosen, the one you’re on right now.  So yeah, they’ve fallen and don’t you believe anyone that tells you diff’rent. You hear me?”

“Yes ma’am.”  There was no sense arguing, and yes, I had actually heard the words she was saying.  Only now I was wondering what else was coming.

“So get ready ’cause this here’s the part I don’t understand.  Ever’ one of ’em have fallen. But ain’t nobody talking about it.  Everybody out here has a story that could help somebody else.  A warning flag for the pitfall or a lesson about how to get out of it.  Or even who to call when it feels like the quicksand is pulling you under.  But nobody’s saying a word.  Zip.  Nada.  Not a blame thing.   And that just feels wrong to me–to hang on to the one thing that could help another person, all to save your own skin from facing truth.” She shook her head.  “I just don’t get it.  But then, me, I’ve gotten old enough that most of the folks are gone who know much of my story, so I can tell what I want.  And I’m telling it.  I don’t want to leave this world holding within my hands and heart something that could save another.”  She looked real thoughtful for a moment.  “Would I hold on to a cure for the cancer if I found it by falling in a mudpit and rolling around with hogs?”

She bounced the toothpick up and down with her teeth, looking out toward the  technicolor painted sunset on the horizon.  “Nope.  I’m here to say I wouldn’t.  I don’t care how I got it.  If it’ll help, it’ll tell.”

And with that she pushed up out of the creaking rocker, made her way off the porch, and headed down the path to home, leaving without another word to those of us whom she called family.

And that was then it occurred to me how much of my childhood I spent terrified of stepping in quicksand, and I wondered why no one ever mentions it anymore.


“Quicksandwarning” by Hughesdarren – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

On Imagination and Familiar Ground–The One with Galileo, DaVinci, John the Baptist, and Emily Dickinson

Today was one of those homeschooling days that puts a smile on the teacher’s face and a song in her heart.  Oh we had some hurdles, sure.  Today’s hurdles were brought you by Long Division and Regrouping.

But we triumphed through sheer determination and doing umpteen problems until our grasp was a little stronger.  We read about Galileo and watched a movie about him–one that had me in tears at the end.  Bless him.  What we people do to each other…..but that’s a story for another day.  We studied Leonardo DaVinci’s “St. John the Baptist,” and read John’s story from the Good Book.  We also read the story about when John’s father was told he was going to be a father, because I really love that one.  We ended our day by reading a poem by Emily Dickinson.  It’s just too good not to share.

I started Early – Took my Dog – 

And visited the Sea – 

The Mermaids in the Basement

Came out to look at me – 

And Frigates – in the Upper Floor 

Extended Hempen Hands – 

Presuming Me to be a Mouse – 

Aground – opon the Sands – 

But no Man moved Me – till the Tide 

Went past my simple Shoe – 

And past my Apron – and my Belt 

And past my Boddice – too – 

And made as He would eat me up – 

As wholly as a Dew 

Opon a Dandelion’s Sleeve – 

And then – I started – too – 

And He – He followed – close behind – 

I felt His Silver Heel 

Opon my Ancle – Then My Shoes 

Would overflow with Pearl – 

Until We met the Solid Town – 

No One He seemed to know – 

And bowing – with a Mighty look – 

At me – The Sea withdrew – 

Isn’t that lovely?  We read it through twice and talked about the images, and I introduced my children to that which I love so much–anthropomorphism.  We talked about the image of the Tide as a person following her.  Our Princess loved the mermaids and Cooter loved the frigates.  And I loved it for so many reasons, not the least of which is that Emily Dickinson is my very favorite poet.

A couple of thoughts occurred to me as the day eased its way into night (seems so much less harsh now that it gets lighter later, all frustrations with the time change aside).

First, Emily Dickinson was something of a recluse.  She never went to the sea.  Yet her imagination was so vivid that she was able to travel there in her mind and take us with her.  It is so beautiful, this picture she paints with her words.  I can smell the salt in the air and feel the wind on my cheeks.  I hope that I can encourage and plant the seeds for that kind of imagination to grow in the minds of my own littles.

Second, I really do appreciate the imagery of the tide as he follows and threatens to overtake her.  He has her on the run as he rises higher and higher, about to eat her up.  As she moves to get away, he follows until they meet “the solid town.”  Familiar ground for Emily Dickinson.

Fear is like that, isn’t it?  When I am in unfamiliar surroundings, a new place or situation, it is easy to be frightened and feel overwhelmed…..and perceive nearly everything as a threat.  And yet, once I reach my comfort zone once again, I realize, upon reflection, that it really wasn’t something to be all that afraid of after all.  I made it.  I survived.

Tonight I’m thankful (again/still) for the opportunity to learn alongside my littles and watch their minds absorb, grasp, wrestle, learn, and formulate new thoughts.  I love that they are interested in so many different things that sometimes my mind spins.  I beam with joy when one or the other or both tell me about something they already know, something I was about to teach them.  They have so many wonderful folks sharing stories and wisdom with them.  I shouldn’t be surprised that when I mentioned John the Baptist, they piped up with, “He ate bugs!” or that when Galileo’s name came up, our Princess shared that he was the one who proved that things of different weights travel at the same speed when dropped.  I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am, and pleasantly and thankfully so.  We have our “off” days, our “hard” days, so when a day like today comes along, I want to shout my gratitude from the rooftops.  (Where we could also do some birdwatching so it could count for school, along with all the hollering.)

I’d love to hear what this poem says to you.

Wishing you all a delightful imagination and the ability to get back to your comfort zone and realize what had you running wasn’t quite as scary as you thought.

Love to all.

This lovely illustrated book of Emily Dickinson's poetry can be ordered at your local bookstore or purchased here.

This lovely illustrated book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry can be ordered at your local bookstore or purchased here.

Identity Theft and Taking Life by the Tail

Just another Cooter story to share a smile with you this weekend.

We watch some cooking shows together as a family.  These are usually recorded so we can zip through commercials.  Yeah, our time is that precious.  (And yeah, the commercials are usually that bad.)

Sometimes one of the remote controller people (read me or the Fella) will have gotten up for a minute and miss fast forwarding quite as quickly as we would like.  Sometimes (movie/tv show previews) this results in someone (me) hollering, “Noo, close your eyes! Plug your ears! Nononononono!”


A couple of nights ago, we were watching and the beginning bits of a commercial came on that was about identity theft.  Well, the prevention of it.  You know, one of those services.  To protect you.

As we fast forwarded, I caught some curious glances from the littles.  Sure enough, our Princess couldn’t sleep. She came in after 10:30 that night and said she couldn’t sleep.

“Mama, can someone steal my identity?”

“Well, you’re not on-line, so I’m going to go with no.  Nope.  They can’t.”

She nodded.  This seemed to comfort her, which I was glad about.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized it was on Cooter’s mind more than him repeating the words “identity theft” over and over and over the night before.

He came and found me still in my bed underneath my pile of covers including the huge handmade afghan I rescued from the GW Boutique.  It was cold and I was reticent to get out and face it.  He gave me a big hug good morning.  He rooted around in some things next to his Daddy’s nightstand and brought up the Star Wars window decals his Daddy got for Christmas.  We talked about putting them on Daddy’s car and mine.  And then he dropped the bomb, “Daddy wants to park his Z in the garage when it gets fixed.”

He looked sideways at me, awaiting my reaction.  The Z is his Daddy’s “baby.”  She’s getting some long-awaited engine work done, so she’s not here right now.  I caught the glint in his eye, so I decided to play it up.

“Nooooo!  Once we finish cleaning out the garage, I’m parking my car in the garage!  If anybody’s parking in there, I am!”  I really put it on thick.

That boy laughed.  Oh my heart.

“Yeah, if he parks the Z in there, I’m going to go out there and push it back out!”

Oh me.

“No buddy, that won’t be cool.  I’m just teasing.  But it is nice to know you’re looking after me.”  I paused. “Are you going to take care of me one day when I get old?”

He was looking at his book.  He shrugged.

“C’mon bud, I don’t know if I can count on the girls.  Will you take care of me?”

He knew I was messing with him.  He nodded, “Yeah, because they’re boring.”

Then he said, “I will but you have to come live in CooterLand with me.”

Ah yes.  CooterLand.* (And that’s the correct spelling. I just asked.  But he says it more like Koo-ter-len.)  This is all a part of his real estate he’s hoping to accrue.  He wants to build his own country.  It sounds like a peaceful place, but everyone will have Nerf guns, so I’m really not sure.

“And in CooterLand, no one can steal your identity or your money, because I have a plan.”

And there it is.  He was concerned.

“Yeah, you do?  What is it?”

“Well, they can’t get your money because in Cooterland, you have points you can spend, and they’re all stored inside your phone.”

“Interesting.  So you just use your phone to get what you need?”

“Yep.  And you don’t have to worry about someone stealing your phone because it knows who you are and no one else can use it.”

Huh.  Where was this going?

“See, it uses technology and it scans your eye.  And it will only open up for that one person because of their eyescan.”


I have to say, I’m impressed.

When I was his age, I was afraid of the dark.  And death.  And that ghost story where the line goes, “I’m on the first step…..I’m on the second step…..”

Yeah.  Terrified.

And here he is, just turned eight.  He heard something that gave him pause.  He asked what it was, and he came up with a solution.

That right there.

I am a little excited to see where life is going to take him.

No.  Wait.

I’m excited to see where he’s going to take life.

Because he’s already taking life by the tail and giving it what for.


May we all find the courage to face our fears and turn them upside down.

Love to all.



*CooterLand–name has been changed, well, obviously.  But when it’s open, you will know it, because it will be the most awesome country around.  And well, there’ll be all those Nerf guns.  🙂


Throw Your Arms Around the World

Today I sat next to my friend as she told me how discouraged she was.  She is in school and taking care of her family and other people, and she’s doing an amazing job at all of that–I have no idea how.  She’s just that determined and amazing.

As she is so busy her time on Facebook and other social media is limited, but today she told me that when she has had a break to “hop on,” her heart has been heavy and troubled.   So much going on in the world that suits the mood of this dark time of year.  Darkness.  Death.  Violence.  Protests. Anger.  Hatred.  Murder.  Brokenness.

I could see it in her eyes that she is exhausted.  This is really where so many of us live, isn’t it?  Exhausted before we can even begin to think of what we can do to change things.  Worn out from taking it all in–never mind trying to make anything better.

I just wanted to hug her and tell her it’s all going to be okay.

But I need someone to do that for me first.

So we sat and drank our coffee and talked about other things.

Though our minds never left the troubles.

Not really.

I found a new “old” treasure a few days ago.  It’s an old globe on a stand.  Because I don’t have the floor space, I want to put it up on a cabinet, so I need it to be shortened.  I found it and decided to bring it home because I have seen some really beautiful displays of great words to think upon inscribed on old globes.  I didn’t know what words I would write on the globe or if I’d have the nerve to do it at all, but still, home it came.

Or rather, it rode around in the vehicle until I had the time and nerve to bother my Uncle and ask if he would be willing to cut off the legs.  I was over in his garden this evening, partaking of his delicious cabbage–I’m not sure what he’s putting in the soil, but suffice to say I cooked some last week and I’m back for more already!  Before I left I asked him if he would be willing to help me, and he kindly agreed.  He sent the globe home with me, and when I brought her inside I asked the Fella to examine her a little more thoroughly.  She’s a little faded.  Old but not precious old.  So I won’t feel quite so bad writing over an ocean.  Good.

Because on the way home I figured out what words I’d write on her when the time comes to do so.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid (the original 1984 version) played on the radio tonight.  Words were leaping from my ears to my mind and then to my heart.  Yes.

“We let in light and we banish shade…..”

Yes.  Light.  Banish what hovers over us creating doubt and fear and darkness.

And then–the perfect ones for my globe–

“Throw your arms around the world…..”

Yes.  You know those hugs–the ones that when the arms envelop you, they help ease a lot of pain.  And heartache.  If only for a moment.


Another song played shortly after that.  One that I don’t hear very often at all.  “Belleau Wood,” written by Garth Brooks and Joe Henry, tells the story of a truce at Christmas in World War I.  The line that touched my heart and had tears rolling silently down my face were–

“And he raised his hand and smiled at me
As if he seemed to say
Here’s hoping we both live
To see us find a better way”

The song ends with the storyteller saying just this, something I believe with my whole heart–

“But for just one fleeting moment
The answer seemed so clear
Heaven’s not beyond the clouds
It’s just beyond the fear

No, heaven’s not beyond the clouds
It’s for us to find it here…..”


I wish I’d had all of these words with me when I sat next to my friend today.

All of the brokenness?  The anger?  The fighting and choosing sides and battling against each other–on Facebook, in letters to editors, in phone calls, text messages, in person…..? The pointing fingers and claiming innocence and pain and loss?  The pictures of everything from abandoned animals to tortured human beings?

It’s all too much.

I don’t know how to fix it.

Shoot, I didn’t even know how to reach out and hug my friend when she most needed it today.

But what I do know is that we can try.

When there is darkness,

throw our arms around the world.


When we see violence and hatred,

throw our arms around the world.


When folks are angry and can’t see light for all the pain and betrayal,

we can throw our arms around this world.

And love.



And here’s the thing–


We have to move beyond the fear.

Of others.

Of those who are different.

Of ones who believe differently, talk differently, speak differently.

We have to move beyond the fear.

It’s imperative.

There are no guarantees.  When we go to love somebody, it might not fix much.  It might not fix anything.  But if we keep trying, here’s hoping we will live to find a better way.  And to see a better day.

For all of the hell that this life is filled with, it is up to us to find and share the Heaven that love and patience and kindness and listening can bring.  Right.  Here.

Tonight I give thanks for good cabbage and old globes, for old songs and for Garth Brooks’ storytelling.   I’m thankful for those whom I get to sit by, sharing stories and worries and joys and sorrows.  I am thankful for them sharing the journey and sharing light when I need it most.  For when there is light, the shade of troubles seems to dissipate a little more…..

Go throw your arms around the world and bring Heaven right here.  Banish shade.  Share light.

It can start with two people.  You.

And the person sitting next to you.

Go say hello.

And then listen.

It’s a start.

Love to all.




Going Down the Fireman Pole–It’s a Big Deal

My little guy popped up out of the bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning.  As in, one second his eyes were completely closed and he was asleep, and the next he was sitting up and telling me his story.

“So I conquered one of my greatest fears…..I slid down the fireman pole.”

Sometimes I feel like I’ve walked in midway through a conversation he’s been having with me before I arrived.  Fireman pole?  He’d been having some kind of dream was all I could figure.  He continued on while I was trying to place what he was talking about.

“Wait, buddy, when was this? Did you dream it?”

He blew out an exasperated breath.

“No ma’am, see it was on the fireman pole.  Last night.”

Ummm?  Oh.  Yes.  The playground.

Last night was the last time for swim practice out in the open air. They are putting up the bubble to keep the swimmers a little warmer as the chilly air is going to hit us this weekend.  The pool where our Princess practices is at a park with a really nice playground.  Cooter likes to go over and play, but I am very overprotective about keeping an eye on him and telling him he can only go so far and never out of my sight.  Since it was a nice evening and the playground wasn’t crowded and it was the last night, I let him go over and play.

“Okay, the playground.  I gotcha.  Go ahead.”

“Well, see I faced my fear.  I went down the fireman pole for the first time, and I did it better than another boy who had been going down it over and over.”  I nodded.  “It was because he holds on too tight.  I let go a little bit, and that makes it work just right.”


I guess it does.

Another life lesson out of the mouths of babes.

When we hold on too tight, it’s really hard for things to work just right.  For us to move in the right direction.


Tonight I’m thankful for bright and cheery faces full of stories to share, even if it is first thing in the morning.  I’m thankful for the bravery of this one who faced his fears, all by himself.  And I give thanks for that smile.  The smile so full of joy over succeeding.  He’s learned something very important–the first step to any and every success is trying.  You can’t move anywhere–even down a fireman pole–if you don’t climb up there and take that first step.  Tonight I’m proud of my little guy’s 374th first step.  And that he wanted to share it with me?  Priceless.

Off to think about what first step I need to take–what I need to let go of just enough so I can move…..you?

Love to all.