And the Award Goes To…..

What a beautiful day!

I hope it was a sunshine-filled day where you are too.  We’ve had our fair share of cloudy/cold/gray/rainy days, and I love those too, to be quite honest, but today the sunshine and blue skies just suited.

It’s been a day of taking care of business.  (More cleaning out of things that belonged to those I love.  Today it wasn’t as hard as it has been, and that tells me I can do this.  It’s not easy, it’s not fun, but it’s doable. Which is good, because it has to be done eventually.)

It has also been a day of laughter.

My sister Mess Cat and her little guy Shaker mixed in with this crew?

A blast.

While my Fella and Leroy were hauling the heavy things from over yonder back to the house, we watched the children.

Ahem.

Well, we did.

And we talked about silly things like TV shows and things our children have been up to.  We talked about serious things like worries and the like.  And we talked about books we have been reading.

Mess Cat and I both LOVE books.  We both love to read.  Over the years we’ve shared many a good book back and forth and enjoyed talking about them.  (Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor, I’m especially looking at you. #tearsofsorrowandjoy )

Hey, Mess Cat, I think we’ve had our own little book club going and didn’t even know it.

But that was before.

Before the heartbreak and pain and grief.

It was interesting and somewhat comforting to me today when Mess Cat said that she really hasn’t been reading like she used to.

I was worried it was only me.

And since she’s making a concentrated effort and being intentional about picking up a book and reading it, I am encouraged.  Maybe we will get back to being the avid readers we were before the grief and anxiety took over.

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As we were talking, I hopped up from my Roost and found the book I picked up for a bargain price the other day.  I had to buy it for the blurb on the back alone.  HILARIOUS.  I shared the first chapter with Mess Cat and my oldest, and we were all three laughing until tears were rolling.

Good stuff that.

I’ve missed it.

Aub said that her Psychology professor has used some of this writer’s material in her classes.  I found that fascinating, so I read the author’s biography on the book jacket.

And this grabbed my attention.

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I read it aloud to my sister and my firstborn, and again we laughed.

It felt so good.

Mess Cat said through the laughter, “Self-awarded!”

And then the question came that simply had to be asked.

“So what award would you give yourself if you had that power?”

We laughed some more and batted around ideas.

After much contemplation this evening, I decided I would give myself the “most likely to compliment a stranger in a checkout line, at the grocery store, or anywhere else in the general public.”

In addition to this, I also award myself, “Mama who can frustrate her children in 10 seconds flat using less than fifteen words and no body language.”

I’m just that good, y’all.

Tonight I am thankful for the laughter.  For the feeling of not being alone in this journey of raising children, missing parents, cleaning house, and not reading books, I am especially grateful.  I’m also happy that I could find some things about myself that were “award worthy.”

What about you?  What award would you give yourself if you had that power?

(and here’s the thing–you do have that power)

So go ahead.  What’s your award?

Wishing you a day of appreciating all the wonderful and quirky things about yourself.  Name them.  It’s a good thing to love the person you spend most of your time with.  It just makes you a kinder person with everyone else.

Love to all.

 

Thumbs Up

Yesterday the littles lightened their loads.

By several inches.

Both our Princess and Cooter got haircuts yesterday.  I suppose it was time.  Cooter has been mistaken for a girl more than once in the past couple of weeks, no matter what he was wearing, and lately our Princess has had more rat’s nests than a little bit in her head of hair.  It was just too long for her to brush well on her own.

It was time.

Going to the hair salon was a last-minute decision.  The best kind, if you ask me.  No time to worry or for plans to be derailed by someone being sick or for the universe to otherwise decide it doesn’t need to happen.

Our girl wanted her mid-back length hair cut to her shoulders.  I wasn’t sure how I’d make that work with a swim cap, and I mentioned that to the stylist.  She nodded and went to work.

In the meantime, Cooter was having his hair cut as well.  I think his stylist took four or five inches off the back.  He looks like a little boy now, older, with a neck and eyelashes.  Oh those eyelashes!  I had forgotten, his hair had gotten so long.  I kept watching for a reaction, and he had none until I told him he was looking like our neighbor who is in high school.  He beamed then.  I am not sure I’m okay with him wanting to look that old.  Or looking older.  *sigh*

I looked back over at our Princess, and she had easily had six inches lopped off.  I knew she was hoping for shorter, so I looked over with a big question mark on my face.  She looked at me, grinned her biggest smile, and gave me her best thumbs up.

It’s sort of her thing.

When she catches my eye during swim practice, more often than not, she’ll do just that–look over and grin and give me that big thumbs up.

And relief washes over me every time.

And joy.

My girl’s okay.  Better than. Look at that grin.

Today we had her birthday treasure hunt at Blackberry Flats.  Mama started doing this several years ago.  She wrote out the clues on sticky notes and stuck them around the house.  After Mama died, I put one together for Princess in honor and memory of the tradition. Our girl loved it.  After Mess Cat and Leroy moved in, one of the first things our Princess asked was, “Can we still do the treasure hunt?”

Mess Cat would have it no other way.

And today we went over for a visit with no time restraints requiring us to rush or hurry off.  Right before we left, Mess Cat remembered the hunt and I called out to my girl up in the tree, “Did you forget to do something for your birthday?”

I could see the wheels turning in her mind.  And then, that great big smile.  She came down out of the tree faster than I’ve seen her move in a while.  It was precious.

She bounced around the house with Cooter and her cousin Shaker right beside her.  Shaker had written out hints for each clue in case she got “frustrated.  Are you frustrated yet?”  With everyone working together, she found her surprise–a book picked out especially for her, in honor of the tradition–a book that we felt sure Mama would have chosen herself.

Sweet memories.

As I pocketed the clues–such great rhymes! (way to go, Mess Cat!)–to be tucked away in our Princess’ memory box, our girl hugged her aunt.  I asked, “So did Mess Cat do a good job on the hunt?”

And there it was.  That sweet smile that goes from ear to ear.  And the big ol’ thumbs up.

Well all right then.  I’ll take it.

Tonight I’ve been pondering who gave the first thumbs up and how it came to mean “it’s all good.”  I am thankful for the sign in general and especially when offered by my sweet girl as her way of calming her Mama’s nerves and saying, “Life is just about the best ever, isn’t it?”

I am also thankful for stylists who listen and visit with children and who don’t blink an eye when an excited ten-year old girl wants to hug them in thanks.  I give thanks for sisters who plan special events to keep the traditions going and to celebrate the memory of one we all love and miss, who was all about the fun and loving on folks herself.

May your day be filled with wonderful surprises and quiet moments of joy that have you giving life a great big thumbs up!

 

Love to all.

Mother Nature’s Obituary

What a beautiful day we had today here at the house!

While it started off a bit cold, it warmed up to be glorious and I may or may not have seen two boys (whom I might have been responsible for) running around outside in their bare feet. Sorry, Mess Cat.  (Now I get why Mama and Daddy let my baby brother do that in the winter–they always said he’d come in if his feet got cold.  And you know what? They were right.)

We had a yard full of children again today.  When I started a fire in the pit so Shaker, who was over playing today, could roast marshmallows for his snack, I was once again surrounded by children excited to roast and toast and eat them some marshmallows.

Except for one.

The youngest in the bunch was sitting next to the fire in a chair one of them had pulled up (we ran out of log space), playing on the iPad one of the others had brought with her.

From the moment I spied the thing, I eyed it suspiciously.  I wanted to shake it by the scruff of its neck and say, “Don’t you be messing up my nice day!”   First of all, I was nervous (thank you for showing up, Anxiety Girl) that something would happen to the expensive device while in our yard.  Second, from time to time, different ones were sitting and talking to it and touching it and playing one game or another and not taking in where they were…..what all was around them…..whom they were with.

I forbade mine from playing it.  Yeah, Cooter asked.  He even asked to come inside and get my device so he could “play” with them.

Just no.

Y’all.  Mother Nature is going to die, it’s already happening.  And there will be no one around who can write her obituary because No. One. Will. Notice.

Excuse me.  That was the sound of my heart breaking.

Already we are raising children who would rather watch a movie for the twelfth time than look out the window at scenery they may never have seen before.  We have folks sitting across from each other, never seeing anything other than the screen in front of them.  Young people who would be happy staying inside all day, playing games, listening to music, carrying on “relationships” via messages, texts, and emails–without ever setting a foot outside OR talking to an actual person.

At the same time the young one with the iPad was sitting in front of a fire I built all by my big girl self (okay it took me a while, but I’m getting there) surrounded by trees and birds and squirrels and bugs and all kinds of things to see–and her friends, I caught a glimpse of our Princess who had pulled a chair down to the corner of the yard.  She had in her lap a notepad.  I squinted in the sunlight to see what she was lifting up, and I realized she had a set of binoculars that had come in a kids’ meal.  She was making notes of what she saw in the woods behind us.  She was playing “Girl Scouts” with her friends and she decided today was Nature Day.

Ironic, isn’t it?

I blame us, the parents.  I’m not perfect.  While I am thrilled at what my girl was up to today, it’s not a given.  She and her brother ask to play on electronics quite frequently.  But it seems that the longer the time since they last played, the less frequently they ask.  It’s kind of like an addiction in a sense.  They have to work it out of their system, and then they seem a little better.  I’ve been known to call the devices in our house the “grumpy screens,” because folks sure can get grumpy when the battery gets low/it’s someone else’s turn/it’s not working fast enough/they are losing the game/I say no to purchasing add-ons, and so much more.  Definitely grumpy.

I remember what Daddy told me when I was thinking about signing up for Facebook: “Well as long as you make it work for you and you don’t work for it, you’ll be all right.”

Amen.

I’ve heard his words in my head today, and I think that truth applies to so many things, and today, especially electronics.

I’m afraid we are all doing more work for those devices than they are for us.

Speaking for my own family, of course.

And that is why I’m doing some serious soul-searching.  I don’t want the flowers and trees to fall to their knees and return to the earth which gives them life.  To ponder a life with no frogs hopping across the yard, no squirrels scampering along the back fence, NO BIRDS SINGING–FORTHELOVE.  I can’t even fathom it.

And I don’t want to.

I think it’s time we need to be showing Mother Nature a little more love.  Beg her not to give up, to hang in there.  We need to start paying more attention to her, getting to know her better.  Have a real relationship with her.

If we don’t, I’m afraid she and all of her kin will perish, with no one left who remembers what she was like, because no one took the time to look and see what she has to offer.  All too busy with eyes on screens and ears plugged with sounds that are all man-made.

Tonight I’m thankful for this wake up call.  I give thanks for a beautiful day with friends that reminded me who Mother Nature is, and what all she and Creation have to offer all of us.  I am better for the time I spent tanning my soul today.  My boys got along like a house on fire and weren’t ready to stop playing when it was time to go.  I am so happy that my Princess sees the beauty around her, and I hope to borrow her “glasses” one day and see what she sees.  My Mama once told a young mother watching her son play outside, “You brought him into this world, now let him show it to you.”

Amen.

In the meantime I will put down the phone, the laptop, the distractions, and take at least a few moments each day to sit with the Artist and Mother Nature and soak it all in, like art skillfully created and hung on the wall in a gallery.  Appreciate, compliment, and leave a richer, fuller, better person.

It’s a start.

Love to all.

 

Looking for the Great–Shaker’s Story

Today went pretty well, despite its little quirks here and there.  Then this afternoon, I guess someone flipped a switch, and I was ill.  As a hornet.  I’ve spent the week with things and situations weighing on my heart and making me sad, and this afternoon, I got mad.

Mad that there are children and families being persecuted for what they believe.  Chased out of their homes and villages or murdered where they stood.  All in the name of religion.  I’m mad that I don’t hear about the missing Nigerian girls who were kidnapped at the end of April anymore.  The fact that a young woman with a unique disease that alters how she looks has been bullied and labeled “the ugliest person on earth” raised my ire a point or ten.  If one of mine ever…..well, you know.  I worry over the lonely people I see at the grocery store, seeking even there to find a connection, someone who will listen.  The families who are trying to hold it together and do the right thing by their children, with little to no support from their community–I am mad for them.  I am angry that there are people starving in our own community and half a world away.  I am mad that one of our cats not showing up this morning has broken our Princess’ heart.  Most of all, I’m mad that I cannot do a blame thing about any one of the things that makes me so mad.  That is what hurts most of all.

It’s as though my hands are tied and I just have to sit back and watch all of the pain and suffering.  And do…..nothing.

Today was Shaker’s first day of school.  I texted both Leroy and Mess Cat this morning, excited for them as their boy makes his way on the path of learning once again.  The past two years the first days have been hard, so I was eager to hear how it went.  I called and left a message, and then I got the call.

“Hello?”

“Hey,” I knew his voice immediately.

“Hey!  How was your first day?  Was it good?”

“It was great,” he replied, emphasizing the GREAT.

He talked about seeing two of his friends in his classroom, his new teacher, his new friend he made, and how he saw his first grade teacher three times.

“Did she say ‘hey’?” I asked.

“Yes.  THREE times.”  The happiness in his voice caused my eyes to well up.  Precious.

He even got to play with his best friend at recess, even though she’s in a different class this year.

Joy.  Sheer joy.  That’s what I heard in his voice.  And in his Mama’s, who was relieved and thankful that today was good.

Wait.  Make that great.  There’s a difference, you know.

And just like that.  My anger dissipated.

Do I have the answers now?  Did the things that upset me just disappear?  Did I stop caring about them?  No, no, and definitely not.

But I think Shaker helped me figure something out.

In the face of things I cannot change in the here and now, I can do something.

I can love.  Every single chance I get.  As hard and as much as I can.

And I can look for the great in every good thing and sing a song of thanksgiving for each one.

‘Cause when you’re joyful, everything’s better with music, right?

It’s not that I’ve forgotten or let go of the things that upset me, but I figured out the anger isn’t going to do anyone any good.  But love?   In the absence of knowing anything else to do at this point, it’s a pretty good backup plan.  Don’t you think?

Tonight I’m thankful for a phone call from my favorite almost seven-year old, who set me straight by focusing on the joy-filled things in our lives.  Like seeing someone who cares about you and saying hey.  Three times.

That’s the good GREAT stuff right there.

Love to all.

With Great Power…..

My nephew Shaker is spending the night with us.  At least so far.  I am sitting on one end of Cap’s couch as he tries to fall asleep.  This is exactly where he wanted to camp out.  It’s a big deal, those first-time sleepovers.  I’m honored to be a part of it.  But it sure is hard to fall asleep in a different place, especially the first time, isn’t it?

Earlier today he and Cooter were playing.  I told them what I expected before I left them to it.  When I saw them again a little later, I asked them how things were going.  They both said Good.

“Yeah, I thought about not doing right, but then I remembered what they said in my Spiderman book, ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ and I decided I’d do better,”  Cooter said.

Wow.  My boy is reading and he is excited that a book exists THAT HE CAN READ BY HIMSELF about one of his favorite subjects–superheroes.   He has read it several times and that one line has stuck with him.

This is NOT Cooter's Spiderman book. This is his other favorite right now.  I can't find Spiderman--I'm thinking it's tucked in bed with him.

This is NOT Cooter’s Spiderman book. This is his other favorite right now. I can’t find Spiderman–I’m thinking it’s tucked in bed with him.

And I sure am thankful for it.

That’s a line Mama and Daddy preached to us many times over the years.  They lived it, they preached it.  Practically the same thing, isn’t it?  If it’s done right.

I was full to bustin’ in the moment that Cooter said that this afternoon.  Of course then he and Shaker got into a heated discussion about if you can believe anything you read in books and how superheroes, and thus super powers, do not exist.  Maybe not, the other said, but one can have great power.  *sigh* One on one side, one on the other.  Par for the course with them.  They are those kinds of best buds–the ones who have some crazy arguments.

Tonight I am thankful for children running up and down stairs, in and out of doors, playing and imagining and dreaming big dreams together.  I give thanks for Cooter’s new love of reading and for our Princess’ love for her cousin (she read him and Cooter a bedtime story and keeps checking on him, that old mother hen–she’s making ME crazy, I can’t imagine how he feels about it.)  I have a child in every bed, including my big girl whose last exam for her freshman year is on Monday.  And for–well, what do you know–a nephew who has fallen asleep. For the first time at my house.

 

Shaker's best buddy is spending the night too.  Sweet dreams to all.

Shaker’s best buddy is spending the night too. Sweet dreams to all.

It’s the little things, y’all.  And the stuff the little things are learning.  And thinking through for themselves.  And teaching me, if I’ll listen up and pay attention.

Sweet dreams and love to all.