Car Trouble

“You got a car, you got car trouble.”

I think it was my Papa who first said that.  But I heard my Daddy say it many, many times over the years.  Usually followed by that sigh of his.  And the acceptance of the inevitable.

And it’s the truth, isn’t it?  Eventually, something will go wrong.  And it’s rarely when you’ve planned for it ahead of time.

This afternoon, following an appointment, the littles and I went to the big craft store to pick up some gift bags and other small things for holiday festivity’ing.  We left in good spirits and headed out into the misting rain and a nip in the air that hadn’t been quite as chilling when we walked into the store.  We got to the vehicle, unlocked it, loaded up, and were ready to head out.  Only the vehicle wasn’t.  I turned the key.  All kinds of blinking lights on the dash and distressing sounds and then…..nothing.

Well, that’s new.

Actually, it was new to this vehicle. But not new to me.

My Daddy knew his way around a vehicle.  He had to, considering we never owned a brand new vehicle.  He could usually diagnose and often fix what ailed a vehicle.  And when he couldn’t he knew a good mechanic whom he trusted.  “I’m bringing it over, so I reckon you can make your next payment on your car,” he’d tell the mechanic.  It usually was something significant if Daddy took it to the mechanic.

In that moment of realizing we were stranded, I became a sixteen year old girl again.  Needing my Daddy to come fix things.  Everything.

And the feeling of missing him was so overwhelming.

Not just for fixing my vehicle, but for fixing me.  He knew how to calm me down.

I used to joke that when things went awry, I did what all good southern girls do, I called my Daddy.  This grief of not being able to do so was not a six year old grief–suddenly it was raw and new.  All over again.

Unable to fix it myself or call my Daddy, I did the next best thing.  I called the Fella, who did what needed to be done to get to us as soon as possible.

Which he did.  But being he was finishing up work and we were all the way across town, it took a little bit.

I took the littles back in the store so we wouldn’t be sitting in a cold vehicle.  We window shopped and then went back to the vehicle when he texted that he’d be there in a few minutes.

Two things went wrong.  First, it hadn’t occurred to me until we were walking out in the parking lot that I have electric locks.  ELECTRIC.  Battery needed.  UGH.  Also I have one of these weird keys now that isn’t really a key so no way it’s going to unlock a door the old-fashioned way.  I looked it over and over as the cold set in and I started shivering, again regretting that I hadn’t gone back in the house when we’d set out and gotten a jacket.  I saw a little piece that could slide from one side to the other.  I figured it was the key (pun intended) to solving my problem, but none of us could figure out how to free the key that I was certain was hidden inside.  I even texted my law student, who is studying for first semester finals (all the good thoughts needed, by the way), who assured me that yes, sliding that thing would reveal the key.  Ummm, okay, sure.  But no.

That was when our Fella pulled up.  Before I could tell him that the slide thingy wasn’t working, he had a key revealed and was unlocking my door.  Okay then.

The rest of the story is long and wears me out thinking about it again–two different jumpstarts, a stalled vehicle in the middle of the road, Leroy bringing tools from his house (which was closer) so he and the Fella could install a new battery, having the alternator checked and cleared, and two hours later…..I was on my way home in my vehicle.

The littles had stayed in the truck with their Daddy, so I had the rare moment of driving by myself.  I belted out music from Cooter’s program that I had enjoyed so much, and I sang, and then a sad one came on, and I realized I was finally just then defrosting, and I bawled at a stop light because Daddy and…..I just miss him.

It was beginning to get dark as we finally headed back home.  Not even 6 pm.  (Whoever’s idea this getting dark early is, you are off my birthday list!) It wasn’t dark dark, but the light was dimming.  I knew my vehicle was running–I was driving it for goodness’ sake, but I had this fear that my headlights weren’t on.  It wasn’t dark enough for me to tell if they were yet, but I knew they needed to be on so others could see me.

Good gravy.  So much to worry over in this life, isn’t there?

It occurred to me as I searched for signs that my lights were on (besides the light on my dash indicating such–it’s been telling me my brake is on for the past several months–sorry–NOT) that this is how it is when things take a turn we weren’t expecting.  When things start to go south, we don’t know, we can’t see that our own light is there.  That we are still shining out for others to see.  We doubt that we are doing any good.  Sometimes it takes pure darkness setting in before we realize that our lights are indeed still shining.

And by then we’re so tired from worrying over it all.

Friends, your lights are shining.  I see them.  If you doubt it, come sit by me, and I’ll hold your hand and tell you stories about the laughter and joy and light that was and will be again.  And I’ll tell you how your light has blessed me.  Encouraged me.  How your light has been what I focused on through the tears, as I cried through the grief and sadness and pain.

Your light is a gift to this world.  And even when you can’t see it, the rest of us can.

May it shine forevermore.

But if your battery ever needs recharging I wish for you to have someone–a Daddy, a Fella, a friend, a sister, a Leroy,  a stranger–there to help bring it back to its beautiful brilliance.

Shine on, friends, it won’t be long and the days will be lighter and brighter again.

Love to all.

headlights in the dark

By Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon (Route 52 Snow Storm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Cooter, Clemson, and Middle C

Earlier this month we enjoyed the Georgia National Fair and all of its splendor.  Rides, exhibits, music, food, friends, fun–every bit of it.  During one of our visits (yep, we went more than once this year–ALL the fun, y’all),  we were wandering through the commercial exhibit hall.  Cooter stopped to look at the piano in one of the booths.

As he looked at the keys, searching for middle C, the owner came up and, noticing Cooter’s baseball cap, spoke to him.  “Hey, are you a Clemson fan?” Then he looked up at me, “Are you a Clemson fan?”

I shrugged and said, “I’m not, not really,” and smiled back.  The good-natured salesman laughed and said, “Then why on earth would you let him wear that hat?”

I laughed.  “That’s just how we roll.”

The truth is that Cooter found the hat at the GW Boutique, and he really liked it.  His friend is a Clemson fan, so he cheers the team along with his friend.  Am I a Clemson fan?  Is the Fella?  Is anyone else in our house?  Not really.  But it doesn’t keep us from loving Cooter in his Clemson fan-dom.  He’s becoming his own person.  He IS his own person.  He is learning and living out his story, and he’s forming his own opinions about sports teams and what books are his favorites to read (biographies and history and oh, Captain Underpants) and what matters most to him.  We’ve been studying the beginning of this country and how the government was formed, and so he’s even been venturing into forming his own political beliefs.

On all of these things–sports teams, books, what matters most, and even political beliefs–there are things we have in common, things we believe the exact same about (Captain Underpants not being one of them, you understand), and there are things we absolutely disagree on.

And yet, just this morning, that little imp told me I was his favorite Mama.  And while, I’m the only nominee in this category–it’s not an award he had to give.  So, despite our lack of commonality on several things (the need for him to do his science lesson being a major one), he loves me.

And I adore him right back.

Perhaps what I should have told the piano man back at the Fair is, that in this family, it’s okay to like and think and believe different things.  That’s why it’s okay that my oldest loves music I don’t really care for, that my middle child loves UGA (though I’m a Tech Fan), and that my baby boy is a huge fan of all things football and enjoys books I am not really interested in.

And it really is all okay.

Because at the end of the day, we are all right here together.  Living in our own little corner of this great big world.  Growing and learning and sometimes changing our thoughts and beliefs and preferences as life takes us on down the road.  And whatever it takes for us to live and love together, that’s what counts the most.  Being okay with our differences and not only allowing but encouraging each other to have them–even if it’s cheering for a team I could care less about–that’s what keeps us going.  That’s what matters most.  In our house, our neighborhood, our town, our country, our world.  For all of us.

I hope you get to wear the hat you want.  Because it’s your head, your journey, your story.  And I hope folks love you just the same.

Love to all.

clemson-hat

 

Spread Your Wings and Soar

This past Saturday many young women walked across the stage I’ve walked across, and they received the piece of paper that is so much more than that–it’s the results of minutes and hours and days and years of listening and learning and writing and critiquing and speaking and sharing and thinking and challenging themselves to do more, do better, be stronger, think harder, and take one step more towards their goal.

And now. They’ve taken one very huge step.

They are college graduates.

One of those young women is my friend whom I had the privilege of sitting with about a month ago.  As we sat in the rocking chairs facing the green of the golf course on my visit “home” for Alumnae Weekend, I had the honor of hearing about her journey.  Some about where she’s been and more about where she hopes to go. What she hopes to do.  I heard her decisions and her questions in her stories and thoughts, and let me tell you this–

We are in good hands.

If.

If we don’t mess this up.

This beautiful soul has, as so many of us have, found out a lot about herself during her years at Wesleyan.  Some surprising, some not so much.  She has gained confidence in her abilities and her voice, as her professors and classmates challenged her to come up with ideas, defend her opinions, and put together words and thoughts in a way that others could learn from her.  And now–

Now she leaves this nest, this safe place, this place of incubation and growing.  It is time, and she is ready.

But–y’all.

I need to ask a favor.

For years, we have been telling this young woman and all the young people her age to “grow up.”  We’ve sighed when they’ve been silly, calling them out to “do better, be more mature, be responsible.”

And now that they are on their way to do this, it is our very important job not to muck it up for them.  It is up to us not to discourage them.  And it happens everyday, doesn’t it?  People groan about the millennials.  I’ve heard comments:  “Oh look at them, they think they are grown.  Who do they think they are?”  Or this:  “Ha.  Did you hear the ideas they’ve come up with to fix this or that?  Right.  Like some young upstart can fix this.  It’s been a mess for years.  Our generation tried, and we couldn’t do a thing about it.  What makes them think they can?”

This is WRONG in every sense of the word.  Because, in the words of the Grinder, “But what if they can?”

We’ve told them to grow up.  They’ve been watching us for years to see what THAT looks like.  Now that they’ve reached this pinnacle, this landmark of “being grown,” how can we be anything but positive and encouraging?

We need their dreams and their hearts.  They are fragile right now.  Fragile, strong, and prepared.  Like a baby bird who is a baby no more and whose wings are ready to take flight.  Instead of letting our words and eye rolls and patronizing tones take them down like a rock from a sling shot, let’s cheer them on.  Just as we did the little blue birds who finally take flight as spring turns into summer and the leaves sway in the breeze and the frogs sing their evening songs.  Let’s let them be who they have been becoming the past four or more years, and let’s watch them and listen to them and treat them with the same respect and love that we show those little birds.

And to my little birds who have flown the nest.  It and all of your sisters will always be there for you.  Years from now, when you most need to feel the safety of the nest, they will take you under their wings and you will be held tightly in their safe embrace, protected, if only for a moment, from life’s greatest storms.  You are going to do small things greatly and great things well.  Your dreams you have right now might not come to fruition, but never stop dreaming.  Never forget the hope you had as you packed up your things to move on to the next part of your journey.  Oh I know, there was trepidation too.  I remember that.  I hate to tell you this, but it never completely goes away.  There’s the next step and the next step and the one after that.  Over twenty-five years since I left the nest, and at times I still feel the uncertainty of what to do next.  But hold on to the woman you have become.  She and all the encouragement and advice you have gotten and all of the things you have learned both in the classroom and outside of it will guide you if you will let it.  Hold on to your dreams and keep growing.

Because that never stops either.  The growing and changing.  You are the beautiful butterfly and metamorphosizing caterpillar all at the same time.  Ever-changing.

And, to be honest, that’s been surprising and pretty cool too.

Here’s to our new graduates.  May we have the wisdom to listen and to encourage them and give them space to try out all the things without fear of what failure would look like.  And may they have the energy and resources and support to envision, create, attempt, dream, and change this world for the better.

Because I’ve met them.  And I know they can.

Love and pomp and circumstance to all.

Soong_Ching-ling_diploma

By Wesleyan College [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Your Magic Power

You have a magic power.

Did you know that?

Within you lies the power to change the world, to change the lives of those around you, one smile at a time.

Today I saw this video, and it amazed me.  Each one of these precious souls is beautiful in his or her own way.  But after being told he or she was beautiful, can you see what happens?

Go ahead.  Watch the video.  I’ll wait.

*elevator music playing here*

Do you see it?  Do you see what happened?

Yep, each one of them became even more beautiful.  Their lights shone brightly!

All because of kind words from a stranger behind a camera.

We can do this for each other.  We have that power.  We can speak the truth and light into each other’s eyes and hearts.  With a sincere and kind word that encourages.  When we are brave enough to reach out to another with a gentle touch, the possibility of good grows exponentially.

How will you use your magic power today?  Start by telling the person in the mirror how beautiful he or she is, and then carry on from there.

Because you are.  Really.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Creature of Habit

Isn’t it funny what we become accustomed to?

And what we don’t?

I am a creature of habit.  So is Cooter.  This morning I needed to head out the door and run over to the hardware store to get something notarized (yeah, I know, I love that place), and I didn’t have time for dillydallying.  Cooter had been more worried about Legos and the like this morning, so I was lucky he was even dressed.  He didn’t accept the cup of yogurt I offered, so it was almost lunchtime by the time it occurred to him that he was hungry.

“Okay, we’re about to have lunch.  Just give me a few minutes.”

Wrong thing to say, Mama, wrong thing to say.

He was devastated.  Cue the meltdown.

“But I haven’t had breakfasssstttttt!” he wailed.

Oh me.

I somehow pacified him with something halfway healthy to munch on before I got lunch together.  I only wish he would be as rigid about the order of math before playing.  Maybe one day…..hey, I can dream, right?

Yes, so I’m a creature of habit.  Not quite as much as my little guy, but yes.

It takes me a little while to get in the habit though.  I think the studies say 2 weeks?  Maybe 3, is it?  I don’t know, I just know some things fall into place easier than others.

Like something that began last fall.

I don’t know which of my friends commented on or a liked a post by this gentleman, but that little “stalker” box that tells what your friends are up to, in the upper right corner on Facebook?  That’s probably how I first came across the writer I have come to appreciate so much.

Mr. John Paul Schulz.

I won’t tell his story–he does an entertaining job of that himself. (Now you know you have to go read his blog, right?)  But what first caught my eye is that he has a book coming out called, “Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days.”  After our long journey with Daddy‘s fight with lymphoma, I was intrigued.  I “friended” Mr. Schulz, and he kindly welcomed me, a stranger, into his fold.

I’m a lucky girl.

I asked questions when he described treatments similar to Daddy’s.  He was patient and answered them.  When I first stumbled upon his page last October he was sharing a quote or two from his upcoming book each day.  They brightened my mornings and many I shared with my Aunt or others I thought would enjoy them.   In recent weeks, he has started numbering these thoughts.  Today was number #102.

One hundred and two days of sharing a laughter, a smile, and an encouraging word.  And 102 days of Mr. Schulz reminding us “Everything is going to be all right.”  That’s his mantra, I think.

Some days that’s mine too.  That’s what gets me through the day.  The words straight from the page to my heart.  Yes.

It was over the weekend when it hit me what a habit this has become for me.  Reading and thinking on these words shared by a wise man who was born two years after my Daddy.  Over the weekend, I missed him sharing his thoughts as he was out of town watching the sunset with his mother.

Of course I forgave him.  And crossed my fingers he’d be back safe and sound and sharing wisdom again soon.

He was.

And it was on February 11, #101, that it hit me that I was being downright selfish not sharing this Georgia gem with y’all.

He started off quoting Robert Frost:

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Mr. Schulz follows the quotes each day with his own thoughts on the matter.  On the 11th, he continued with:

“Every day somebody gets another chance to get it right—or keep it right. That person may as well be you…..”

I won’t spoil the rest of it for you, but to read the whole post,  you can click here.  While you are there, treat yourself, and sign up to follow his blog.  You deserve it.

I can’t tell you really how much those words meant to me.  The day after the second anniversary of Mama leaving this earth.   It may sound cold, but the one thing I’ve learned in all of this is indeed, thank you Mr. Frost and Mr. Schulz, that life goes on.  I remember Mess Cat and me sharing with each other, somewhat in shock, that even though our world was tumbling down around us with the deaths of the ones who raised us and loved us, the laundry still needed doing.  Meals still needed preparing.

What is that even about?

Life.  Goes.  On.

And what John Paul Schulz says about second chances–oh me.  I need those all the time.  I never deserve ’em, but I do get them.  And I’m so thankful when I do.

Tonight I’m thankful for the words of others which make me laugh, make me cry, make me think.  And tonight I’m thankful for whichever one of my friends who was commenting or liking on a post, and yes, I’m even thankful for that Facebook stalker box.  Because now I have a habit that I enjoy–one that starts my day off right.  Reading the “Quotes and Notes” by John Paul Schulz every single morning that he writes one.

If you are on Facebook, pop on over and say hello.  Just for fun, I’ll leave you with another story from this man who shines such light into the world and makes me laugh.  I’m always thankful for the laughter.  It helps me to remember and to appreciate–Life goes on.

 

 

Today on the job one of the guys asked, “John, what’s so funny?”
I was surprised, “Nothing special, why?”
“Well,” he said, “You’ve been grinning all morning.”
I said, “Oh–I see–today I realized that a couple of years ago I thought I was going to die and everyone who knew me thought I was going to die.”
He looked at me quizzically–
I continued, “And I didn’t. Ain’t that something to grin about?”

–John Paul Schulz

Love and laughter to all.

The Journey Home

It’s funny what folks call home, isn’t it?  I live here at “Buckingham Bottom” as Daddy named it, but I will always call Blackberry Flats home.  Our Princess considers Japan home when she talks about it sometimes because she was born there.  Just as my sweet little neighbor friend is happy in his new place in another state–“This is my home.  I was born here.”  Mac, my friend who is once again on the streets, calls the city of Macon in general his home.  He is at home by the river, on the streets, sitting by the convenience store.  Many of our friends without a roof over their heads call Daybreak home.

Home.

Some folks are still searching.  Some feel lost and alone sitting where they have always been, surrounded by people they know.

Tonight I share with you this quote from the book “Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart” by the Women of Magdalene and Becca Stevens.  It touched all of us on Tuesday during our Sister Circle.  Each of us from different walks of life, along different paths on our journey–it spoke to each one of us.  And I hope it will speak to your heart as well.

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Tonight I ask God to sit with those who feel lost and don’t know how to begin the journey back home.  And with those who don’t even know what home looks like.  Also with those who are on the journey home through this cool, dark night.  And those who have no one else to tell them they love them or that they are enough or that they will be right there until everything is okay.  Home.

Each time Mac calls, albeit sporadically, before he gets off the phone he says, “If no one else has told you they love you today, well, Mac Carlton loves you.”

I know it’s silly, but that makes me smile and warms my heart.  He can worry me and even frustrate me, but hearing I am loved and knowing I am–that helps me feel a little less lost in the moments when everything going on gets overwhelming and hard.

May we seek to be the instruments of peace and encouragement and compassion, the compasses for those who are lost–so they can believe the trip home is possible and find their way home to love and acceptance and warmth.  Wherever that may be.

Amen.

She Showed Me the Rainbows

It sure has been raining a lot this summer. I’m not complaining. It’s been nice, keeping things green and not as hot as usual. It reminds me of my summer in Valdosta in 1985 when it seemed to rain around the same time every afternoon, leaving the evenings unbearably humid when the sun would come out again. I am grateful it’s not imitating the summer of 1994–the one when it started raining and didn’t stop until we had all kinds of flood damage around here.

Yesterday evening we were at Daybreak up in Macon. The meal was over and folks were heading out, trying to find cover before the impending storm hit. I kept watching out the back window of the building as the dark clouds came closer and closer. I wondered if it would hit before we left. I used to love rainy weather and all that it entailed until I started going up to Come to the Fountain and Daybreak and getting to know our friends who have no place to call home. Now it comes with worry–where will our friends go? How will they weather yet one more downpour?

As I was gathering my thoughts and the discarded plates and soupbowls, one of our friends and fellow volunteers tapped me on my arm–“Hey look, a rainbow!” He pointed out the side window. The whole time I’d been watching through the back windows, focused on the storm approaching, there through the side window a beautiful rainbow could be seen.

My littles gazing out at the rainbow through the side window at Daybreak

My littles gazing out at the rainbow through the side window at Daybreak

Well, the picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was there.  I gathered my littles and took them over to the window for a closer look.  As it seemed to be fading, it was harder for them to see it, but once they did, oh the joy on their sweet faces!

Today I’ve had my Mama on my heart more than usual.  I miss her so much.  She was good at that, you know.  In the storms of life, instead of watching the storm approach or cowering in the midst of it, she was always looking for that rainbow.  Some days feel a little stormier than others.  I sure could use her here to help me look at things from a different point of view and see the rainbow, instead of panicking about the storm.  She was someone who saw many storms, bad ones, from a very young age.  Yet she worked to prevent storms from hitting us, her babies (always her babies, she’d say), head-on.  When one inevitably did, she was there with open arms–to gather us close, to dry our tears, and to help us seek the rainbow–a sign of hope.  And if we were headstrong and just wouldn’t look, so bogged down in our own misery, she was the first one to call us out, and say, “Get up! Look around.  There’s a whole world of good out there.  Don’t let this define you.”

I am thankful for the time I had with my Mama.  Is it okay to say it wasn’t enough?  I am so thankful that today when my Aub and I were talking about what Mama would have said about something, we were both quoting her back and forth verbatim.  Because she’s in our hearts, we know what she’d say most of the time.  It’s just we miss having her say it, hearing the love in her voice and seeing the light in her eyes as she did.  I really appreciate that my friend, who had no idea the turbulence in my heart right now, was looking out for the rainbow and took the time to share it.  I think that’s what we are called to do–show each other encouragement.  And hope.  And point out the rainbows even as the storm clouds gather.  Sometimes, when there’s just no words to fix it, that’s the best we can do.