Little Bits of Green

This afternoon between piano recital and our time at Evening Prayer, I took Miss Sophie for her afternoon constitutional.  We went a little further than we normally do, as there were a lot of children playing near our house, and Miss Sophie is, well, easily distracted from the task at hand.

In the quiet as she sniffed all the things, I took the time to look around and appreciate the fact that I wasn’t freezing standing there.  The blue of the sky was classically beautiful, and the sun shone brightly.  But it was when I looked down that I saw something that surprised me.

Georgia or not, it’s still winter here.  We’ve had a few days that have me crocheting warmer colors on my temperature blanket, but lately we’ve been back into the “my toes are cold and want to go home” kind of weather.  There are hardly any trees other than evergreens with leaves on them, my bulbs aren’t growing yet, and the grass is brown–and dead.

But as I stood there looking and thinking while Miss Sophie did her dog thing, I noticed that the grass wasn’t all brown.

I saw bits–if ever so few and tiny–of green.

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Wow.

It really surprised me.  I stood there, chiding myself, Well, what did you think, Tara?  That the brown grass just one day, blade by blade, would turn green and spring would officially be here?

I suppose not, but I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much attention to the process.  It’s just been brown and dead and then one day, the grass is green, it’s warm, and my flip flops are back where they belong.

On my feet.

But today I realized something.  In the midst of that brown and dying grass, well below what the eye can detect, there is life.  The green is there.  Waiting.  Even when we don’t see it.  Waiting for the right situation, and the right season.

And then I heard my Mama: Ecclesiastes 3.  (her favorite)  To everything there is a season.

The new life is there.  And one day, when the time and season is right, it will choke out all of that death, and all around us there will be rebirth and life and growth.

One day…..

what has been in the works all along will be apparent and shine through the brown grass and darkness.

Wishing you all a glimpse of green grass today and everyday.

Love to all.

Behind the Blog…..and What Comes Next

We went to our favorite farmer's market and got our Elbertas.  Our yearly trip.....a good day.

We went to our favorite farmer’s market and got our Elbertas. Our yearly trip…..a good day.

So, today, this happened.

Yep.  Seven boxes of peaches.

Peaches to share and peaches to prepare. 

Peaches, peaches everywhere.

It’s what my people do.  Since I was little and we all sat around the table together with bowls and paring knives and more bowls, I have been a part of putting up peaches in the summer.  Peaches played a huge part of my life.  And what a gift to have a taste of summer in the middle of winter–so yes, over the next couple of days, I’ll be peeling, slicing, dicing, and putting them up.  Tucking their secrets and sweetness away for another day–when it’s dark and cold and sunshine and memories of summer are needed.

It’s funny.  After we got home, I sat down with my first peach of the summer (Daddy always said the ones before the 4th of July weren’t worth bothering with anyway).  It was sweet and tangy and filled with the taste of sunshine.   I ate in about five minutes (because I was stretching it out) what it took Farmer Brown a whole year of worrying over to bring to fruition–and that’s not counting the years before the trees were producing.  He pruned his trees in the dead of winter, and when the blossoms started showing, he hoped for no more cold weather for that could damage the blooms and reduce the crop.  After the little baby peaches came out, he and his crews thinned the trees, so that the peaches left would grow bigger and stronger.  And when the time was just right, they picked them, placing them gently in boxes so they wouldn’t bruise.

How do they know?  Which branches to cut?  Which peaches to drop to the ground?  What the right level of ripeness is?

I don’t know, but somehow it all comes together so I can savor the flavor of nature for five minutes.

Yep.  Here we are.

Yep. Here we are.

Another thing is happening today.  As I type.  This is my 500th post.  I wrote a few before I started back last year on April 7th and wrote each and every day.  So…..500.  Here we are.

When I hit the one year mark, I thought I might take a break from blogging.  For just a little bit.  But I wasn’t ready.  My mind and heart were whirling with things I had to write and thoughts I wanted to share.  As I’ve said before I write for me and for my children–so they will know their stories and who their people are, and so they will know who I am and what I believe and why.

And so many of you have joined us for the journey.

I am humbled.

So many kind words, so much encouragement.  I am thankful for all of you who have taken time to read even one word.  And for those of you who have shared your own stories and thoughts, I appreciate it.  You matter to me, and the gift of your time taken to read and to say hello–that means a lot to me.

Because, you know what?  Much like Farmer Brown, I put a lot of time into what comes into fruition.  (Even those Haikus last month.  I walked around the Mouse House during the day tapping out syllables on my chest as we were standing in line for a ride or the bathroom or whatever.)  Some posts I think about for days or weeks before I write them, and others come together at the last, quickly and sometimes almost seamlessly.  I worry over language, spelling, grammar, and offending folks.  Because no matter how strongly I feel about something, I do not set out to create a me and you.  I much prefer there to be an “us.”

So yes, not that what I write is always a “peach,” but for each thing you have read there is about  two hours of keyboard time behind it.  Writing, rewriting, editing for grammar/spelling, and then rereading.  And making the decision to hit publish.  Do you know what I have to say sometimes to be able to hit that button?  Some nights, when I’m exhausted and my emotions are overwrought over what I’ve put down in words, I say to myself, “Ah, well, no one’s going to read it anyway, so okay…..” and I hit the button.

But rest assured, I know you have been reading.  And I thank you for that.  The gift of your time and allowing me to share my stories with you…..HUGE.   THANK YOU.

And so now, at Post 500, I feel like my little guy Cooter.  Earlier this week as he went through his checklist of what all he wants to be when he grows up, he looked over at me, wiping his hand over his brow, and said, “Whoo.  I’m swamped.”

Oh me.  I hear you, bud.

I have several boxes of peaches to put up.  And peaches wait for no man or woman or blogpost.  They go from zero to ripe pretty doggone fast.  And I have littles to move on to China in our homeschool studies.  AND we have big family fun happening this week–the week in which we celebrate with family who lives far away and finish going through the last of my folks’ things.

Whoo.  I’m swamped, y’all.  Good stuff.  Hard stuff.  Life.

At the one year mark, I was a little afraid that if I missed even one night I wouldn’t keep writing.  And so there was the night I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to finish writing after my brother visiting from out of town stayed up with me until 1, laughing and remembering and talking.  There was the night in September when I witnessed the miracle of my niece’s birth and curled up in a corner of the room after to share about it.  There’s been numerous nights when I sat down at 10 p.m. to think about my day and decide what was “worth writing home about.”  It’s been a good ride.

And now I know the truth.  I won’t stop writing.  If it’s not for the blog, I will work on some other projects.  Because after 500 posts, I think I can say this, if still a bit timidly–

I am a writer.

Because I write.

I’ve not published a book, and I may never do so.

I’ve not won an award for my writing since high school, and I’m okay with that too.

There’s a lot of “never haves” and “not dones,” but the truth is, those can’t happen if I don’t try.  No one’s going to walk up, knock on my door, and say, “Hey we want to publish whatever you are writing right now, doesn’t matter what it is.  Just hand it over.  We already know it’s great.”

Are they?

Nope.  See, I knew that.  And so I am going to take a break from blogging for a little while.  Here’s the deal.  I don’t know if it will be one night or ten.  I may even think of something I have to share and be back tomorrow night.   But I might not.  I might still be peeling peaches and listening to a little read to me, while my oldest goes through the list of what all she needs to head back to college.  Yes, we’ve got big beautiful normal things going on around here.  And as much as I love writing, and as sure as I am that I will continue to write–what a relief it is to know that now–I also know I have a life to live.  With my children, my people, the ones who make me laugh and whom I love.  As my Mama used to say, “There’s a time for all things.  Ecclesiastes 3.”  Yes ma’am.

Balance.

And there’s also this stack of books I’ve not made time to read yet…..some of my favorite author friends are often sharing about things they are reading.  So I know that’s part of being a good writer too.  Reading good writing.

Thanks if you’ve stuck with my ramblings so far.  I am excited to explore writing on some projects I have in mind. (And I’m scared to death, is it okay to tell you that?)  I love sharing my stories with groups, so maybe I will work to make that happen more as well.  I don’t know, but I do know that I feel peace.  I give thanks for all of the nights I’ve sat down and eventually hit publish, and then you all have read it and encouraged and agreed or disagreed respectfully.  Thank you for that.

I’ll see you around here soon.  In the meantime, y’all, I might just go take that nap.

Love to all.  And many, many thanks.

 

Ecclesiastes and the Season I’m In Right Now

Ecclesiastes.

That’s what Mama would say about now.

And I’d nod my head and say, “Yes ma’am.  I know.  You’re right.”

It was her way of saying, “There’s a time and a place for everything.”

Referring to the verses from Ecclesiastes 3.  Mama loved that passage.  She even wrote it down on one of her recycled Mary Engelbreit calendar pages as a reminder to remember where I am–what season, what place.

Mama wrote this on the back of her Mary Engelbreit Page a Day calendar pages she used for note paper.  She handed it to me to remind me to read it.  I carry it with me in my wallet always.  I am finally starting to get what she was trying to tell me.  Thank you, Mama. <3

Mama wrote this on the back of her Mary Engelbreit Page a Day calendar pages she used for note paper. She handed it to me to remind me to read it. I carry it with me in my wallet always. I am finally starting to get what she was trying to tell me. Thank you, Mama. ❤

The season I have been in this week has been a busy one.  Saying goodbye to another family of neighborfriends.  This is the life in a military community.  Folks move into your neighborhoods, into your hearts, and then they must move on.

It’s been a week of endings.  The end of our year of dance and gymnastics for our Princess and Cooter.  And for me, who has usually been the one making the trek twice a week in my “taxi-mobile” to and from.  And for our family who has suffered through eating takeout on Tuesday nights (ha, who am I kidding–I can name at least four of the five who look forward to that night).  Yes, it’s been a good year.

Rocking the Ninja moves to the theme from Mission Impossible.

Rocking the Ninja moves to the theme from Mission Impossible.

Thursday evening, we attended their gymnastics program.  It was fabulous.  From listening to children singing along with the song that Princess’ class did their routine to–“The Best Day of My Life”–to watching Cooter and his male counterparts do a ninja-like routine to the theme from Mission Impossible–it was AWESOME.  Top it off with folks who know my children and love them anyway showing up to sit on the bleachers and clap and give hugs and high fives after. We giggled watching Princess walk across the gym on her tiptoes (it’s what she does) and nodded together that the song she performed to suits her well.  We watched in awe as Cooter did cartwheel after cartwheel. Well.  Just full to bustin’, y’all.  I can’t even put all that good stuff into words.  Except to say.  It was good.

The costume for my girl's dance recital.  Snazzy, right?  Even more so with the bowtie!

The costume for my girl’s dance recital. Snazzy, right? Even more so with the bowtie!

Last night was dress rehearsal for the dance recital.  As we got our Princess together–hair, makeup (oh my stars–only light stuff for our girl, I just can’t), and costume, we realized she did not have a bowtie.  Her costume was adorable.  All tux with bowtie look on top with red sparkly fabric–sharp and cute all at the same time.  But no bowtie?  Sigh.  Yeah.  Sounds about right.  I was convinced it had fallen into the abyss that is our laundry room–where I’d had it hanging waiting for the big day.  I spent a lot of time searching and digging to no avail.  Finally it was time to leave.  Well, it’s dress rehearsal for a reason.  I’d figure out something by recital time.

Which brings me to the season for today.  Today was the season for travelling across town to the craft store to search for black velvet ribbon so I could figure out how to make a bowtie. (I’m sure there’s an instructional video somewhere, right?) When that was a fail, I went to the party store, where “if we had them, they’d be right here.” *points* Well thanks.  I’ve enjoyed staring at this spot in your store where you have no bowties.  But it’s good to know where they would be, for, you know, the next time we misplace a bowtie.  Yes.

Thankful for my Fella's resourcefulness.  This bowtie looks great I think.

Thankful for my Fella’s resourcefulness. This bowtie looks great I think.

After a major shopping trip to the grocery store (on a Saturday morning, good gravy, why do I do this to myself?), I headed home to do what came next.  Figure out how to “make do.”  My Fella came to the rescue, with a black clip-on bowtie from his mess dress uniform.  Excellent.  It was black and from a distance, it looked no different from the others.  Three safety pins and voila!  Win.  Yes.  Hair.  Makeup.  Check.  And we were off.

I've been up and down the staircase in Porter Auditorium at my alma mater several times the past two days.  For those of you who KNOW, I was glad that this one I was only in once.

I’ve been up and down the staircase in Porter Auditorium at my alma mater several times the past two days. For those of you who KNOW, I was glad that this one I was only in once.

Today was also a season for revisiting my past.   Back home to Wesleyan.  The recital was on the stage that I walked across so many times, and now my oldest has too.   Such a precious thing to me.  I helped downstairs and backstage, something I have enjoyed doing each year.  I love the excitement in the air, the girls’ stomachs full of butterflies and hair full of hairspray.  They giggle and help each other straighten out skirts.  They share things forgotten and whisper encouraging words.  They talk a bit too loud in the stairwell and tap their shoes when they are supposed to be quiet, but I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.  Because I got at least four extra hugs from my Princess today–one from excitement, one just because, one when she heard who was in the audience, and one–“Thank you for being my Mama.”  Ahem.  Nothing to see here folks–keep on moving.  Just a Mama bawling her eyes out.  No big.

Tonight I am thankful for Team Zoo Crew–who pulled it together and got our littles where they were supposed to be this week, dressed and ready. Well mostly.  I am thankful for loving family who step outside their comfort zones and show up, which is one of the most precious things we can ever do for someone.  Ever.  I give thanks for dance teachers who brush off lost costume pieces, and say, “Don’t stress, if need be, get some black ribbon and tie in a bow and pin it on.  No one’s going to notice.”  Love that grace-filled woman.  I am thankful that she loves the hugs from my girl just about as much as I do.  And accepts them every time they are offered, which is often. I love that I have a ninja boy who rocked his performance and, with his one-toothed grin, told me he wants to do gymnastics again next year.  Thankful for his teacher who puts up with all those boys every week and says she enjoys it.  I’ll take it.

Our sweet dance school director encourages her students to let their true colors shine through always.  What a powerful song.

Our sweet dance school director encourages her students to let their true colors shine through always. What a powerful song.

It’s the big moments like these that I miss my Mama and Daddy even more than usual.  I remember with a warm heart the dance recital two years ago.  It was the first time I’d seen my Mama light up since my Daddy had died six months before.  She was beaming and couldn’t stop talking about all of the performances, but especially those of her grands.  And during both the gymnastics program and recital today, our dance studio director incorporated Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” It was played for the last dance today.  I’ve never heard this song before the way I did today.  Daddy really liked it.  I know because he asked me if Cyndi Lauper had gotten an award for it.  He only did that with songs he thought were really good.  So of course I thought of him.  But as I watched the final performance today from backstage, and I noticed the director/teacher guiding her students from off-stage, I saw she was mouthing the words.  Her face was lit up with something that had nothing to do with the stage lights.  I thought of Daddy and realized whatever she was hearing was what he heard too.  And then I heard the words differently myself.

So today was also a season of change.  Which I don’t do well.  But I’m trying.  Goodbyes, scheduled big events, heading up and down the massive staircases in Porter Auditorium several times with excited seven- to nine-year olds two days in a row, and missing my parents more than usual–it’s been a whirlwind.  But mostly a good one.  Yes, this season is a busy one.  But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world.

Love and a wishes for a good season to all.

 

Oh Good Grief

Grief.  There’s an odd duck, right?  It’s like that friend you had in school you weren’t quite sure why you were friends, but he was always around, so you had to put up with him.  And he was so unpredictable.  Today you might get along okay, but then tomorrow…..who knows?

Well, thank you, Agent Obvious, for scoping out and sharing that in-depth insight.  Yes, I know, it is obvious.  You’d think none of this would surprise me since I worked with Hospice for over two years, and I learned so much from the precious families I was lucky enough to work with.

And yet, yes, I have been surprised.

Like when I bought this last week at the GW Boutique–

If she were here, Mama would have already washed, ironed, and worn this shirt at least twice since I bought it last week.

If she were here, Mama would have already washed, ironed, and worn this shirt at least twice since I bought it last week.

I bought my Mama a shirt.  Is that crazy?  It’s even her favorite brand.  The thing is, when I was buying it, I thought I was getting it for me.  A navy linen shirt for wearing over a sleeveless top or something like that.  It was after I washed it and was putting it away that it hit me.  If Mama were here, I would have delighted in surprising her with it.  She would have loved it.  The three-quarter length sleeves were her favorites.  I expect she would have worn it with a white top and khaki slacks to the two services and the Sunday School Class she attended at her church each Sunday.  And then she would have called to tell me that she’d worn it and how much she’d enjoyed it.  She was like that.  She loved to tell you when she enjoyed something you’d given her. Don’t get me wrong–if she didn’t care for it, I knew that too.  But over the years, especially in the past four since Daddy got so sick, I’ve gotten better at shopping for her.  And now less so for myself, I guess.  I look at this shirt and wonder if I’ll ever wear it.  And yet, I don’t think I can get give it away just yet.

And then yesterday at our favorite Used Bookstore, I picked up this book.

Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz.  I think Daddy might have enjoyed reading this.

Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. I think Daddy might have enjoyed reading this.

I did stop short of buying it after it hit me that I was looking at it with Daddy in mind.  He was an eclectic reader; he liked different sorts of books, and this one for sure sounded like an interesting read.  I put it back gingerly, almost patting it in place.  Maybe one day I will read it, but without Daddy to talk about it with, I just don’t know.

I’ve been surprised on this journey of loss and grief on more than one occasion.  Like my first time at the grocery store after Daddy died.  I wandered through somewhat aimlessly and then, going down the sugar aisle, saw some candy that I knew he would love.  I reached for it and then I remembered.  Or my first time in Target after Mama passed.  I had been on a mission to find her a new pair of khaki slacks for quite a while.  As I headed back to pick up what I had come for, I found myself detouring to look for the pants.  And again, I remembered.  Surprised.  I don’t know why our hearts and brains work the way they do, but I find it fascinating that they both can be taken by surprise regarding something I KNOW.

But I’ve also been surprised in good ways.  Surprised by how close I feel to them at times.  Like they are right there in the moment.  Usually it’s when I’m in my car by myself, which is not often.  Once I found myself replying to what I knew Mama had/would have said in that moment.  (That was interesting for anyone around, I’m sure–it was quite an animated conversation, as I recall.)  I also feel close to Daddy when I’m planting or with one of the animals or just outside at all.  I feel close to Mama at her kitchen table.  Or when I’m reading.  Sometimes *whispering* it feels like they aren’t even gone at all.

I’ve been surprised by laughter.  When my Daddy first went in the hospital I told my brother that I would not be able to breathe if anything happened to Daddy.  Some days it’s hard to take one breath after another, but then others, the laughter comes easily.  And hard.  And often.  And I know he would like that.

I’ve been surprised that I can function.  That I can cook the meals and wash the clothes.  TCB’ing, Mama called it, short for taking care of business.  It is when I actually finish doing something, like getting all the clothes washed and put away (before the ones they’re wearing are ready for washing), that I think YES! and know she would be cheering alongside me.  When I actually clean the floors and mop, and I would have called her to hear her say, “Well don’t you feel sanctimonious!”, that’s when I smile.  I know she’s still cheering me on.  I can feel it.

Last summer one of my aunts asked me how I was doing.  I was going out to the cemetery once or twice a week to water the tea olive we’d planted on Daddy’s birthday the previous March.   I told her that when I went out there by myself I felt like laying down next to Daddy’s headstone and just staying put.  She replied, almost immediately:

P.S.  If you want to lie down beside your daddy’s headstone, go for it.  Just be careful of the fire ants.

I love her and her wisdom, this aunt of mine, who has had more to mourn than most.  She made me laugh.  On my very next trip to the quiet little country church cemetery, as I was standing there talking to Daddy and crying and pouring the eight gallons of water from Blackberry Flats over the little tree, I felt a bite.  On my toe.  Great.  I stopped crying long enough to check for more ants.  Seeing none, I went back to my emotional breakdown, talking and crying and pouring, letting out all of the storm raging within.  Then *ouch* a second bite.

I laughed.

How could I not?

I am reminded of Mama’s favorite verses from the Good Book.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:  

 a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 (RSV)

I guess what my aunt and those ants (the irony here is not lost on me) were trying to tell me is there is a time to grieve and break down, and a time to build yourself up, move through it, and take care of business.

Now I just have to work on figuring out which is when.  Preferably without any help from those ants.

Mama wrote this on the back of her Mary Engelbreit Page a Day calendar pages she used for note paper.  She handed it to me to remind me to read it.  I carry it with me in my wallet always.  I am finally starting to get what she was trying to tell me.  Thank you, Mama. <3

Mama wrote this on the back of one of her Mary Engelbreit Page a Day calendar pages she used for note paper. She handed it to me to remind me to read it. I carry it with me in my wallet always. I am finally starting to get what she was trying to tell me. Thank you, Mama.