Football and Other Team Sports

The past few weekends have found me watching a whole lot of football.  Some exciting things were happening for teams down here in our parts.  My little guy is a huge football fan, and I enjoy seeing his joy, so I’ve picked up watching and rooting for teams again.  It brings back happy memories of Sunday afternoons laying on the couch with Daddy kicked back in his recliner, watching the games and not betting on the games because Mama didn’t allow that.  (Okay, there may have been a quarter or two that exchanged hands. Shhhh.)

Saturday we watched the Falcons game over at MessCat’s house.  Leroy had invited us to join them for the Big game.  I’m not sure he knew what he was getting into, because I can get rather vocal in my cheering on of the team of choice.  And with the playoffs on the line, I was pretty…..ummm, into it all.

Y’all, I watched my little guy cry real tears when the Patriots came back in the second half of that Super Bowl last year.  I’d have loved for the Falcons to have another shot.  But they didn’t win on Saturday, so they don’t, and nobody handled it better than my little guy.  He just moved on to the next game…..and cheering on anyone playing the Patriots.  He’s growing up.  And adapting.

I’m a proud Mama.

While we watched the games, I was intrigued by something that seems new to me.  When a player caught the ball and landed on the ground, there were several occasions of it being in question as to whether the player had “control” of the ball when he landed.

Really?

I mean, is this new?

My brother-in-law explained that they were really cracking down on this this season–that if it didn’t appear that the player had control of the ball, the pass was not complete.

Oh.  My.  Stars.

I don’t mean to sound old (I mean, yeah, I’m rapidly approaching that state), but back in my day, if they caught the ball and didn’t drop it when they fell, it was complete.

Or at least that’s the way I understood it.

I cannot tell you how many plays we had to sit and wait after while the folks in New York made the call as to whether a player in Philadelphia or Massachusetts actually had control of the ball.

Never mind that the player did not lose the ball when he landed on the hard ground.

It was really, really annoying.

And while I’m not going to argue about the ins and outs of football–I don’t need to know all the intricate details, I leave that to fans like my little fella–I have been chewing on why maybe this has bothered me so much.

And here it is.  Way too often in this life, we are hit by something from out of the blue.  Something that knocks us for a loop, sends us off track, causes us to lose our way for a moment.  And  way too often, there are those around us all too ready to have us doubt ourselves and how we are handling things.  How well we are hanging on to the good in our life.  They would have us thinking that we don’t have a hold on things, no matter what we know to be true.

We didn’t drop the ball.

We are still hanging on.

And we will get back up and carry on.

No matter what those in New York–or anywhere else for that matter–have to say about us.

The other thing that struck me was that each and every person watching had an opinion as to whether the ball had been properly “caught” or not.  Usually said opinion had a direct relationship to the person watching’s team preference.

And then it was a couple of days later that this hit me.

Life is a team sport, isn’t it?  

For the most part y’all, we don’t do life by ourselves.

We have folks around us, doing this life journey alongside us.  Sometimes folks are cheering for us, and other times, sadly way too often, folks are cheering against us.  There are times when people we have on our side get traded or retire and we are given new team members.  New people to meet and get to know, and soon our stories and journeys are intertwined as we head onto the field together.  Some days we win, some days we lose, and all those days in between…..

we learn.  We try.  We practice.  We rest.  We sit in the stands and cheer others on.  Or help them get down their own field.  We revive and restore and then…..

we try to get down the field a little bit more.  Together.  With the help of those beside us.

A team sport.  Where we learn to trust and share and pass the ball when we need help and block the hard things as best we can.  And when one of us gets knocked down…..

we reach over and give them a hand up.

I think that has been my favorite part of watching the games, and I didn’t even realize it. That hand that goes out to the player on the ground…..and it’s ALWAYS there.  I’ve yet to see someone have to get up off that ground alone.  No matter what the situation was that put them there.

Tonight I’m thankful for the ones running along with me and for those cheering me on.  I’m thankful for the ones up ahead who have made a way and for the ones coming behind.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the ones who sit with me when I’ve been knocked down and offer a hand to pull me back to my feet when I’m ready, all without judging what knocked me down or how I came to be there.

Life is a team sport.  I’m going to hold on to that image.  For the days I’m feeling knocked down, dragged out.  And for the days when those around me need someone to cheer them on or someone to pass the ball to…..or someone to remind them that no ma’am, you did not drop that ball.  You hung on to it.  And you might be on the ground right now, but you’re okay.  And together we’re going to get you back up and on your way.

Look around, y’all.  Give your team people squad posse fans coaches fellow players a big ol’ high five.  Because you’ve got this.  Some days you may run into double overtime and find yourself a touchdown behind, but we’re all going to be okay no matter what the folks in New York say.  Because we are together.  And if you’re sitting on the bench by yourself right now, don’t stay there.  We pick you to be on our team.  Come on over.  Because we can never have too many folks to count on and share the journey with.  There’s no such thing as too many players on the field in this version of the game.

Thanks for playing alongside me.  Love to all.

 

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Delta Dawn and Earworms

Isn’t it interesting to hear songs now that you once sang out loud as a child?  Does it ever make you cringe that you sang it, not knowing what the lyrics meant?

So many songs from all those years ago I can still remember the lyrics to.  One of my favorite radio stations is the 80’s one.  (It makes Cooter crazy, which gets quite comical at times.)  When I hear one of the songs from way back when, and the lyrics all come flooding back without me even thinking, it amazes me.  And sometimes is a little embarrassing.

And then there are the times one comes along and gets stuck.  In my head.  All day long.  I think they call them earworms now, but back then, we’d just walk around complaining, “I have a song STUCK IN MY HEAD, and I can’t get it out.”

I don’t know how old I was when Daddy came up with the solution, but it seems like it’s been a part of our story for as long as I can remember.

“Sing Delta Dawn.  It will break up that song stuck in your head.”

And he was right.

Tonight I was thinking about that, and trying to remember who sang it originally.  After realizing it was not Helen Reddy, I remembered it was a very, very young Tanya Tucker.  I finally decided to look it up, and the cool thing is they both sang it.  (My memory is a little better than I thought, which is very encouraging after the week I’ve had.)  Tanya Tucker had a top ten country hit with it in 1972, and then Helen Reddy had a #1 hit with it in 1973.  And here’s what I found out that I had never known–Bette Midler also recorded it, and she planned to release it, but Helen Reddy’s version came out two days earlier.

Wow.

Bette Midler?  Delta Dawn?

Fascinating, but the truth is I couldn’t get through a whole stanza of her version.  VERY different, and just not the Delta Dawn I grew up with.

Except now I’m afraid the little bit I listened to of her version is my newest ear worm.

“Daddy, what happens if I sing ‘Delta Dawn’ and get rid of the song stuck in my head, but then Delta Dawn gets stuck in there?”

I don’t remember his exact answer, but I think it had something to do with it being a good song, so it would be okay, or it would eventually fade or something like that.

And so now, I guess I’ll do just that.  Go to sleep with a very slow version of ‘Delta Dawn’ in my head.  Unless Tanya and Helen can help me out.

What do you do to get rid of your earworms?

Tonight I’m thankful for this memory of my Daddy that made me smile.  I wonder what he’d think of Bette Midler’s version, but I’m pretty sure I already know.

May we all have a day of only the really good songs getting stuck…..

Love to all.

 

 

Click here for the link to the YouTube video of Helen Reddy’s version

Here for Tanya Tucker’s version

and finally, here for the Bette Midler one

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casserole kindness

the phone call came in the midst of the chaos
and hearts aching and tears
and all of the planning and rushing around
flowers, words written, songs chosen,
people coming and going
and no time to settle down and breathe
or think
or grieve

the phone call saying, “I’ve got this”
and “What time works best for you?”
such a little thing to some, maybe
but for us,
it was everything

supper was coming
and for a few moments
we–the new widow, the children, spouses,
and grands
we all could be together
and gather around the casserole dish
filled with loving goodness
and give thanks for the hands that prepared it
the loving spirit
who stepped outside of her own world
and showed up in ours

though she was plenty busy herself

because that’s what love does
it shows up
in the midst of sorrow and joy
and it sits with folks where they are
and takes their hands and holds on tight

the dumplings were so good
and gone way too fast
but the memory of that meal,
of the love from someone who didn’t have to,
who had many excuses not to,
that radical hospitality
and loving on folks
will never be forgotten

casseroles and covered dishes
speak a love language all their own,
healing hearts and
lifting spirits,
if only for a moment or two,
filling the darkness with a light
that feeds our souls

thankful
for that casserole
and the hands that made it
four years later
remembering

with a grateful heart

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the rest of October

October comes blazing in
with orange and pumpkins and bales of hay
everywhere

mums adorn porches and storefronts
and the smell of funnel cakes and
barbecue is in the air

and then suddenly the month is two-thirds gone
and the caravan of trucks move down the interstate
taking away the sights and sounds that had folks
talking and riding and laughing and screaming
with delight

ribbons are won and the quilts are folded
and put away
the cows go back to the barn
and the newly hatched chicks find their new homes

and suddenly, I’m tired
and worn out
like the leaves on the peach trees,
spent
and drifting

with the first chill that seeps into my bones
I am reminded of that October
when every moment was so very precious
and I sat by his bed and hoped–
I was still hoping in October

how could I not with the calliope music
and the lights
and the pony rides and rock walls
and the laughter he still shared when we spoke of such things

but then November came
and I knew,
I knew it would not be long
before this world would change forever
leaves would fall
as would the tears
and the days would grow shorter
and the shadows longer
and our hearts would be broken in bits

because he would leave us

and now when October is two-thirds over
and the Fair folk pack up and leave
a part of my heart goes with them
as I turn to face the
October that is left,
pregnant with sad anticipation

of all the remembering
November brings

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Stories for Daddy with a Brownie on the Side

Today is my Daddy’s birthday.  March 23.  Another one.  Without him.  This is the fourth without him here with us.  The third since we gathered with Mama and planted the tea olive at the foot of his grave.

How is that even possible?  Time is an elusive creature.

The pan of brownies to celebrate Daddy's birthday.  Unfortunately the littles were there before me and the camera were.

The pan of brownies to celebrate Daddy’s birthday. Unfortunately the littles were there before me and the camera were.

Today we made a small pan of brownies to celebrate the day and remember.  That’s a change from what I would normally make for his birthday, but that is the way the wind blows.  Changes keep coming, carrying us further and further away from the birthdays we celebrated with him.

Brownies?  Why not.  The littles were thrilled, and as my Aunt pointed out, Daddy would have been the first to say, “Just make something those children will enjoy.”  And I expect he could have been convinced to have one or two himself.

I get my sweet tooth from my Daddy, I think.

I’ve thought about him a little bit more than I normally do, and I would venture a guess that it’s a normal thing to do, considering.  And what kept coming to mind are the things I would tell him, as though he were here, and I were gathering my crew to head over and celebrate with him.

Since that’s not something I can make happen, no matter how much I wish I could, I decided to write him a letter.  He loved hearing the stories about the littles in the family.  About his grandchildren, his grand nieces and nephews.  They made him smile and laugh and he loved to share them with others.  And so I have saved a few just for him that I think he would enjoy.

 

Dear Daddy,

Happy Birthday.  Not a day goes by that I don’t reflect upon your words of wisdom or wish you were here so I could glean more.  Lord knows and you do too that I need all the help I can get.  I miss you.  I miss you for so many reasons, but mostly because you were my comfort, my safe place to land.  You didn’t always make it easy, but you always made it okay.

Things are changing around here.  You’d be so proud of your first, your oldest grandchild.  She is looking at making changes of her own, all toward the end of reaching her future goals.  She has her heart set on graduate school, and she’s going to see it through, I’m pretty sure.  She’s about to take some classes that you would have enjoyed talking with her about and hearing her thoughts.  And vice versa.  I am looking forward to the conversations myself, but I know I won’t be the partner you were for me.  Thank you for that.  Letting me talk things out.  And think them through in our talks.  Thank you.

That little girl you called “Princess” is growing up too.  She is becoming a thinker, a problem solver.  I know you’d be impressed, as you and Mama tried to raise us to think things through and not to let anything stop us from reaching our goals–to be problem solvers.

Last week the littles and I went over to Aunt’s house, and their second cousins were there.  They were tickled and had a ball playing.  As always happens in the first warm days around here, the children gathered and decided the only way to get relief from the heat was to play with water–in this case, with water guns.  Cooter had his gym class later on, so he couldn’t get wet.  I apologized but said we’d have to let that idea go for this visit.  Cooter was devastated, as he can get when he is disappointed.  But Princess and the three cousins weren’t giving up yet.  A few minutes later they came in, and Princess shared that they had a new plan–Cooter would shoot everyone else with the water, and when he got someone wet, they’d get a gun and join him in getting the others wet.

Well.

Um.

What was I supposed to do with that?  Aunt, Cousin, and I laughed.  What else could we do?  And since Cooter was good with this version of the game, I had to say yes.  I was actually pretty impressed.  And yessir, she got wetter than anyone else.  You know how she’s always loved the water.

She came in a few days ago, after walking our pup Miss Sophie, and I asked if all went well.  “Oh yes ma’am, she went.”  Oh good.  I asked her if she had picked it up with a bag.  She knows to do this, but sometimes I feel the need to followup.

“I sure did.  Did you know if you put the bag behind her when she’s going, she’ll go in the bag and everything’s all taken care of?  All you have to do is tie up the bag?”  She was quite pleased with herself.

“Wait.  What? That works?”  It was one of those kind of “mind blown” moments, and I wondered how she’d come up with that to begin with.

And I guess it does, because our Princess says she’s done it that way more than once.

Okay then.  Whatever works, right?

Left it set up and on going from Friday night until this morning.  Marathon Monopoly--too much fun.

Left it set up and on going from Friday night until this morning. Marathon Monopoly–too much fun.

We found a Star Wars Monopoly game at the GW Boutique Friday.  Brand new, never opened.  We picked it up, because Cooter is the biggest Star Wars fan ever.  And Aub likes to play monopoly.  She’s really good about playing games with the littles.  I know, she gets that from Mama.  So they had a marathon game going all weekend, reminiscent of the games we used to have going at Granny’s–me and the cousins way so long ago.

They were all really pretty good sports through it all.  Occasionally I’d hear voices get a little louder and I’d call out, “Hey, y’all be kind!”

Yesterday morning, I thought I heard them getting after each other.  I was about to remind them again, when I heard Cooter laughing.  “Ha.  Dirty napkin.  Dirty paper towel.”  He fell into fits of laughter again.  When he came up for air, he said, “I’m just trash talking, that’s all.  Dirty paper plate.”  And this time I joined him in the laughter.

That boy.  He’s quite the character.  He reminds me of you in that respect.

They all love and miss you, but the tears have given way to laughter for the most part.  They love talking about what they remember.  How you reacted to cricket sounds in the Eric Carle book.  Every.  Single. Time.  Your playing soccer with them.  Your Matchbox cars.  Watching Cats with you.  Eating pizza with you.  How you made them laugh.  The books you read to them.  So many precious moments, tucked away in their hearts to pull out and look at again and again when they need a smile and to know that they are loved.

I don’t know what else to say, except the same thing I said each evening of those last weeks when I was leaving out to head back home.

Bye Daddy.  Thanks for everything.  Love you.

t

 

 

The Heart’s Memory

You know what surprises me?

And you will probably be surprised at this–

My heart.  My mind.  My heart’s memory.

That’s what surprises me.  Big time.

Grief and the paths it takes us on surprises me too.

Saturday we took the whole crew and met Gnomee, Leroy, and Shaker at the Fair.  Rides are not my thing unless it’s the Agri-Lift, which is a very time-consuming, slow, and relaxed ski-lift type ride over half of the Fairgrounds.  I enjoyed watching the children ride and worrying over whether or not Cooter was going to lose his lunch, since the first ride he went on was rather rambunctious.

The last of the tickets were used to ride the Ferris wheel.  We had just enough for everyone to ride except two.  I gladly sat it out with Cooter (who was still a little puny), as I like to be the cheerleader on the sidelines when it comes to these kinds of things.  I also like to people watch, and I welcomed a few moments of downtime.  As I waited for them to come around in sight where I could wave to them, I people watched.

"Great Dads Get Promoted To Grandpa"

“Great Dads Get Promoted To Grandpa”

And when I saw this man and his shirt, my first thought was “Oh, that’s perfect for Daddy.”  They didn’t come any greater than him.  And immediately after that…..

it hit me all over again.

It’s been almost three years since my Daddy went on up to the Big House, and I know this.  Not a day goes by that this doesn’t register in my brain.  But somehow on Saturday afternoon, I relaxed so much that for a nano-second, my heart forgot.

And then I had to feel the pain all over again.

I’ve got no idea how that even happened y’all.

I probably would have gotten him a car, but he would have loved the airplanes too.....

I probably would have gotten him a car, but he would have loved the airplanes too…..

Just an hour later, after we rode the Agri-Lift–such memories we make each year on our leisurely ride–we were in the Commercial Exhibits building, and I found myself admiring the woodcrafts of one of the exhibitors.  I’ll be dog if I didn’t have another one of those moments.

For a second in a surreal moment, I thought what an awesome gift one of these would make for Daddy.  For Christmas.

Oh me.

Of course I’m not losing my mind.  Not really, right?  It seems that Fall is a trigger for me.  I’ve thought more about those last few weeks in 2011 with my Daddy in the past couple of weeks than I have in a long time.  And I’ve discovered something important…..

There is pain, yes, but there is so much beauty in those moments.  The memories of our last weeks and days were not just filled with tears.  There was a lot of laughter and a lot of quiet moments of giving thanks.  For our time together, for the man who raised me, for the grace he always gave, for the stories he told, and for the love I still feel from this gentle giant.

Tonight I’m thankful for the reminders of my Daddy.  For the cardinals that play in my backyard and remind me of our quiet days sitting and watching them through the living room window.  For the woodcrafts that remind me of his carpentry skills and how he loved to create with wood.  For the yellow jackets and wasps that make me laugh as I remember Daddy videotaping the ones that lived in his workshop out back, wanting to observe their behaviors.  For the quiet of a fall sunset that lets me sit and be with my aching heart as I remember all the times I sat in comfortable and peaceful silence with my Daddy.

I’ll always be his girl, and if I think of him sometimes and forget that he’s not here, then maybe it’s because he’s so close, just on the other side of the veil, and I can feel him there.

I hope so.  I sure do miss him and need his wisdom right about now.

Wishing you all a beautiful fall sunset to remember and reminisce and to make precious memories.

Love to all.

 

The Teacher I Never Had

Yesterday, my friend Baddest Mother Ever asked the question, “Who was your favorite teacher and why?”

I started to respond, but then my mind ran around and around in circles.  Whom would I choose?  I mean, really–ONE?  I’m the girl who always made my Daddy laugh by giving him 2 or 3 cards on Father’s Day and birthdays because I could never choose just ONE.

I started thinking through them.  Those who were not in the running were painfully obvious.  Moving on…..

My favorite?  Favorites?  My very first teacher, Mrs. Partain?  The one who gave me a “B” in conduct the second six weeks because I only quit talking when she asked me to–for a few minutes anyway.  The same one who laughed when I finally told her what Daddy had been saying all year–that he wasn’t old enough to have a daughter in the first grade?  Or Mrs. Crouch? She and Mama became such good friends that Mess Cat was the flower girl in her daughter’s wedding.  What about Mrs. Turner in third grade? The one who read aloud “Charlotte’s Web” in the dark during quiet time and knew I was crying with my head folded down on my desk.  She’s also the one who let me sit next to her chair on the playground as she taught me to crochet.  What a gift that was.   There were many other good ones in elementary and junior high.  I dearly loved Mrs. Scott who had gone to school with Aunt and my Uncle.  Such a sweet spirit.  Mrs. Watson was an awesome pre-algebra teacher.  Turned out she’d been teaching us Algebra 1 all along, so ninth grade was a breeze.  And speaking of math, there was Miss Bell.

*moment of silence here please*

She was just that good.  She taught my Daddy and his siblings and my siblings and cousins after me.  I had her for three years, and I loved her.  From the beginning perhaps it was only because of that link to the past.  But she was an awesome teacher who commanded the classroom in her quiet way.  You did your homework or you wiggled through the whole class because she KNEW.  I don’t know how, but she did.  One time a classmate who hadn’t done his assignment was asked what answer he got for an algebra problem.  He tossed something out there.  Standing next to his desk, she looked down at him and raised her glasses as she did and said her signature line, “Do wha-uut?”  Before she could say her next line, “Go to the board” (oh the fear that could put into you–working the problem in front of the whole class and HER), he looked up and said,  pointing at the board in the front of the room, “Well Miss Bell if you go up to the board, I can tell you what I did to get it.”  He was buying time and she knew it.  She called his full name–“I can walk faster than you can think.”  Ha.  That was classic.  She knew how to laugh when things were funny, and she cared that you learned it.  That was it.  She wanted to impart knowledge.  I loved her dearly.

But was she my favorite?  Close.  But no.  I don’t think so.

My favorite teacher is one I never had a class with.  I never sat and called her by the name that she went by then.  I knew her many years later, when I was grown, sitting a few pews over from her in church.  I recognized her name, and she asked me if I was his daughter.  I beamed.  “Yes ma’am.  Yes I am.”

She was my Daddy’s third grade teacher.  Miss Ann.

Daddy didn’t care much for school before that.  He didn’t apply himself.  He told me this.  My Daddy used to say to us children we couldn’t complain about anything, because at least we weren’t hoeing cotton.  I think he did a lot of that.  Shoes weren’t a given year round for him.  He came from hard-working, good people.  But school?  It just wasn’t for him.

Until that year.  Miss Ann saw something in him and brought it out.  She asked him to clean the chalkboard, dust the erasers.  She encouraged him.  He learned to love learning.  He became enraptured with words and knowledge and books and writing.  He once told me she changed his life.

And bless her, she changed so many after that, simply because she took time with one little boy whom she thought could do better.

He passed on his love of reading to his little sister with a trip to the used bookstore, who later took a little girl in the third grade to her very first used book sale.  That little sister loves books to this day, as does that little girl, whose library overfloweth.  (literally) He held us all to high standards in the field of learning.  There might be things we couldn’t do, but we could apply ourselves and try our best, and that’s what he expected of all of us.  From his oldest child to his youngest grandchild.  He knew an education was something that couldn’t be taken away from us by anyone.

When my old life fell apart, he sat me down and encouraged me to get my Master’s, “so you can take care of you and that baby.”  And he was right.  He made that possible because he believed in education.  And the power it has to make lives better.  He was a lifelong learner, constantly reading books that imparted knowledge–about all kinds of things from quantum physics to theology to children’s books that he held in highest regard.

All because of Miss Ann.

We, each one of us, have the power to change lives like that.  It’s a bit scary, isn’t it?  I don’t know if Miss Ann ever realized what she did, but I know.  And the best way I can thank her is by doing what my Daddy did–pass it on–this love of learning, this encouraging someone to be their very best.  Listening, sharing, letting curiosity grow.  And being present.  It all comes back to #bethefeather, it seems, doesn’t it?  Being kind, caring about another, taking care of those around us……doing unto others, as Mama was always preaching.

Do me a favor.  Please.  If you get the chance to encourage someone tomorrow or the next day or next month, will you take a moment and do so?  You don’t have to be in charge of a classroom to do it.  In honor of a great teacher, Miss Ann, and all those teachers who step outside the box and change a child’s life and the lives of future generations all down the line, let’s make a difference by caring. And doing.

Thanks.  That is huge.  Love to all.