Eighty Percent Chance of Rain

This whole past week I have clicked on my Weather app or checked the weather website every day.  Several times a day.

And then some.

We had our family Easter hootenanny planned for today, and so the weather watching was part checking, part praying, and part trying to use sheer WILL to bring good weather into being.

The chances of rain for today have been as high as 80% and as low as 20% for a few short hours this week.  We were real worried about a rain out.

Rain and things like wienie roasts and egg hunts don’t exactly mix too well.

When the percentage dropped down to 20% by Tuesday evening, I could see that downward trend wiping the rain all the way off the map by Saturday.  I sent a celebratory message with a picture of the forecast to the Gracious one who was hosting the whole event.

Yep, called it a win way too early.  The percentage went way back up and then down and then back up.  It’s been a roller coaster this week.  Last night it was still looking really iffy.

Such that I waited until after 9 p.m. to make the potato salad.  You can’t freeze that stuff, y’all.

I woke up this morning, a day that, as of last night still had 45% chance of rain around lunch with the percentage getting higher by afternoon, and my room was brighter than I expected it to be.  I went to the windows, and the sky was blue with white puffy clouds and bright sunlight streamed down from above.

I felt like I was in an alternate universe or something.  This was TOTALLY UNEXPECTED and definitely not predicted.

And the whole day was just like that.


Maybe it’s just me, and if you don’t do this, that’s okay–better than okay, it’s great.  That whole preparing for the worst, and then it turns out no worrying was necessary after all–

yeah.  Where.  I.  Live.

Today was such a gift, a gift wrapped up with a bow of sunshine and good people and hugs and laughter and great food and time together with folks who knew me when and know me now and have my bail money and I have theirs (looking at you, girl–love you) and children running around proving they can look and find things…..

I am thankful.

And it soothed the soul of this Eeyore spirit, who figured that yeah, rain, that sounded about right.  We’d have to change all the plans and “make do,” and then the worst didn’t happen.  In fact, the best did.

I’m not even sure what to do with that.  I’m still beaming, and my mind and heart are still reeling from the shock and surprise of sunshine today.  And all of the wonderful things.

Or maybe the reeling is from the pollen.  It is springtime in Georgia after all.

May your heart be surprised with something fabulous that you never expected today.

Love to all.


a picture perfect day that no one could have predicted


The Sixth Day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas…..


six pairs of little bare feet.

Running through the yard, romping through the house.  Getting them where they wanted to be, catching skinks and lizards and frogs and lovingly creating them wonderful habitats.  Running after each other and riding bikes and scooters.  Wandering all over Blackberry Flats.  Or little bare feet, kicked back, relaxing, just being together.

The cousins are in town, and we are very, very happy.

Love and laughter fills my house and the one at Blackberry Flats, full to bustin’.

Merry memory making has commenced.

And yes, in the photo above, you have counted correctly.  There are only five pairs of feet and fifty toes instead of sixty.  That’s because when you play all day after a long trip from home and you are a little fella of a certain age, you just might not want your feet in a picture.  Even though they are the cutest little feet you ever did see.

You’ll have to take my word for it, because Baby Monkey wasn’t having it.  He had better things to do.

And I’m okay with that.

Thankful for all the sounds of little feet and big, for laughter and stories and make-believe and all the imaginations.  This is the most beautiful sound of the season, and this is what brings Christmas to my heart.

Love to all.



And the Winner Is…..

For whatever reason, this fall our whole family has watched “Dancing With the Stars” together. We recorded it and waited until Aub was home from college and could watch it together. Thank you, DWTS folks, for making the finale this week, when she was home and we could watch it LIVE–something we never do. #wedonotdocommercialswell It has been a joy for many reasons, among them the age of my children, where we all picked our favorites and enjoyed the competition, and the different personalities of the dancers and pros. But the biggest reason we have so loved this season is, I believe, this has been the kindest and most fun cast of celebrity dancers ever. They built relationships with each other that were such a joy to see. As Aub said tonight, “I want to be friends with them.”

So do I.

Since we spent time watching the finale tonight, as I muted the commercials (why can’t they make those family friendly as well?), I composed some haikus about the evening.  As for who won, it was US–my family and all who shared the journey with this fabulous group of people.

Wishing you all something joyful or a good song (might I recommend one from the Back Street Boys?) to get your feet tapping. And if you missed this season, check out some of the showstopping dances on YouTube.


whole season of dance
laughter, tears, and all the feels
mirrorball trophy

Paris train hero
danced his way into our hearts
and learned to love dance

Back Street Boy came back
with steps both strong and graceful
he can sing AND dance

beautiful daughter
of the Crocodile Hunter
her smile is pure joy

now it is over
only memories remain
thankful for YouTube

Love to all.



the best kind of tired

dear one, the best kind of tired
is the one that comes from bare feet racing across the green grass of summer
smelling faintly of the fish that swam in the lake next to you
as you splashed and played
and jumped in from the dock with your cousins
trying to see how far out you could reach
or if you could ring the intertube
that came from a tire on the farm
just as your Mamas and Daddies did years before you
in that very same spot

the best kind of tired comes from quiet drives home well after dark
each one smiling at the memories that were made
still hearing the hum of the boat or the roar of the jet ski
tummies full of the hotdogs and hamburgers Grampa cooked on the grill

the best kind of tired is crawling between the crisp white sheets
hair still wet from the quick shower you took as soon as you got home,
eyes barely able to stay open
or to whisper back when your Mama peeks in and says,
“good night sweet dreams I love you”

the best kind of tired is where the sweetest
and most treasured memories come from
the ones that keep you going back
wanting to give the same adventures to your own little ones

the best kind of tired
exhausts the body
but rejuvenates the soul

it comes from dreams coming true
and being loved

and the best kind of tired
is one of the best gifts we can ever give our children


The Struggle Bus is Real

The Fair is in town.

I do not think you can fully fathom the level of excitement that exists here at our abode when the Fair is coming to town.  My crew loves them some fair time.

When the littles had it on their radar, we began Fair Day countdown.  We decided to go today with Mess Cat, Leroy, and Shaker, so the children could play together, maybe ride some rides, and we could visit together and dream big as we walked through really expensive RV’s on display.  Oh, and you know, cows.

It takes us a little while to get out the door.  The Fella likes to say, here we go, “like a herd of turtles.”  Some days it’s like that.  Today came close to being exactly that.  But we did get out the door and into the GoMobile with snacks, headache remedies, wipes (for little hands), and other essentials tucked away in my bag.  I wasn’t going to tote a backpack this year.  I had this.  (Note to self:  Take a backpack next year–there’s all those things folks are handing out that the littles love and then you are left carrying them in your hands.  Ahem.  Backpacks are cool.)

Our first roadblock on this journey was literally a blocked road.  We got down to where we usually cross over the railroad tracks to head south, and there were two trains, traveling in opposite directions, facing each other, ON THE SAME TRACK.  That was a tore up mess right there.  I had no idea how they were going to fix that, but I knew we didn’t want to wait around and find out.  The Fella turned around and tried to use the GPS to redirect us, but it became quite clear that “she” was going to send us back to the railroad tracks not much further south of where we’d been-which still would have been a problem.

He turned around and found a road to cross over just a little north of where the trains sat.  Whew.  Okay.  Moving along.  We arrived in town, so close to the Fairgrounds on the outskirts of town when we saw another line of backed up traffic.  Are you kidding me?

It was the parade.

The Fair parade.

The irony that the parade for the Fair was making us late getting to the Fair was not lost on me.  It wasn’t lost on our oldest Aub either.  From her seat in the very back, I heard her comment, “We are on the struggle bus for real, people.”

You got that right.  It was one of those times when you started to question if we were really supposed to be going at all today.

Not to be outdone or to give up very easily, the Fella talked with his GPS again and figured out the back way to the Fairgrounds.  We were on our way and about to pull in where we needed to park to meet my sister when we realized the Georgia State Patrol folks sitting there were not letting anyone turn left to go in at that gate.

And no traffic in sight from either direction.


Why was there no traffic?  Because we were at the other end of that parade…..they were about to block the road off completely.  So the Fella went down as quickly as he legally could, trying to find a place to make a u-turn.

Again from the backseat, my droll girl:  “We are officially on the deluxe version of the struggle bus now, y’all.”

Yep.  Sounds about right.

But still.  The u-turn worked.  Just in time.

We found a pretty decent parking spot.  And we made our way in and met Mess Cat and family at the RV’s.  Each one we looked at the littles wanted us to buy.  My sister told her son what the man who worked for the RV folks told us, “Imma need you to sign some paperwork.”  Yeah.  And get a job.  Shaker just laughed.  Precious.

Coming home this afternoon as the fall shadows began to lengthen on this cool day, reminding of us the beauty of this season, I thought over our time together as a family.  And two thoughts came to mind.

First, sometimes roadblocks are just that.  They aren’t always signs we should turn around and go back home.  Sometimes they are just roadblocks.  As we say around the house every now and again, “Sometimes it just be’s like that.”  Nothing more, nothing less.  Just keep on pressing through.  It’s a pain in the neck and frustrating as all get out, but most of the time, the end result is worth it.

The other thing is about being with family.  If I have to ride the struggle bus from time to time or, you know, several times a day, I am glad I have this assembly of “peoples” and personalities to ride on down the road with.  Today we laughed so hard about the roadblocks, and when I used the “j” word I really should not have said, my crew lovingly reminded me that maybe my attitude could be a little better.  Ahem.  (I was mad and I thought those directing traffic were being jerks not to let us turn in.  I know, a little extreme.  But considering it was the third time we’d been waylaid…..I did apologize to my crew though.)  That’s what we have each other for–to love us through the hard times, the crazy times, and the good times, and to remind us of who our best selves are and empower us to be just that–our best selves.

Tonight I’m thankful for a great day, right down to my *surprise* sunburned cheeks and wind-chapped lips.  It was a wonderful time of being together–of smiles, of laughter, and of teasing that brought on even more precious laughter.

And if I had to ride the struggle bus to get there, well, it was all the more worth it.  I love the Fair, and I love my people.  A good day all around.


Wishing you all good company on your struggle bus rides.

Love to all.


Why I’m Lord Business and Other Lessons from The Lego Movie

The rule in our family is we celebrate birthdays for more than just the one day.  So Happy Birthday Weekend to my baby boy!

Today we went to Lego Building School with Bricks 4 Kidz.  After we went to lunch at his favorite pizza place.  He loves him some pizza, and we ALWAYS get our money’s worth with him.  The last of the fun planned was going to the movie theatre to see “The Lego Movie.”

But you probably saw that one coming, didn’t you?

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone in case you haven’t been able to rush out and see it in the two days it’s been released.  I think Cooter is fairly certain that this movie was released at this time JUST FOR HIM.  Well, why not?  I’m not telling him otherwise.

It was an interesting movie.  If your life has been inundated by Legos, Lego movies on-line, dreaming about Lego sets, and constantly hearing the newest set to make the wish list, then you will definitely get the little hidden bits of humor.  When one of the characters was looking around the area trying to build something, and she kept seeing set numbers next to different parts, that was hilarious.  Lego Star Wars made an appearance which thrilled all three of my children, and Billy Dee Williams played Lando, which I thought was really cool.

It was a little disconcerting during the violent parts, when I thought about how I would NOT be letting my littles watch such violence were it not just Lego parts flying around in the aftermath of one of the many attacks that were waged on the main characters.

The ending has a twist that surprised me, and without revealing too much, I felt very guilty over my claim that if I EVER lost my mind and bought Cooter one of the big (read expensive and MANY parts) Legos Star Wars sets, I would be supergluing it to keep him from tearing it apart.  I mean, all that time and energy–woe be the child who takes it apart, right?  Wrong, apparently.  Yes, I did feel guilty, like someone had been watching and listening to my thoughts on the subject.  I am Lord Business, and I don’t even have to take one of those “What character are you in The Lego Movie?” quizzes to see it.

The best part was a very small side story.  One of the main characters was a Legos 80’s astronaut named Benny.  A little scuffed but very enthusiastic guy.  Whenever the good guys needed something to get away in, he started building a spaceship.  Of course.  It’s just that the heroes were always looking for something else.  Benny would be so dejected.  Until the time finally comes.  He offers half-heartedly to build a spaceship, and after a moment of quiet, they all give him a definite YES!  He can hardly believe it, and he immediately gets to work.  In the span of ten seconds it’s built and they are soaring away to safety, with Benny calling out as incessantly as the seagulls in “Finding Nemo” (“mine” “mine” “mine”):  “Spaceship.”  “Spaceship.”  “Spaceship.”  “Spaceship.”  He is so excited it’s downright endearing.  We were all laughing gleefully with him.

Haven’t you ever had a moment like that?  When you’ve found something that you were good at, and you finally have your shot, and you do a great job with it?  Don’t you want to just shout it loudly and often what you have done?  Yeah, I have.  There’s nothing like that feeling, is there?

One other moment in the movie touched my heart and empowered me.  Poor UniKitty.  She was all about being positive and chipper and not letting all that was going on wrong around her bring her down.  She was the Pollyanna of the group.  I mean, she holds it together, stuffing all those emotions down inside, through some pretty harsh stuff.  (Good thing it was all Legos, because it got pretty intense.)  And finally, she is giving herself a pep talk at a point when all seems to be falling apart, and something clicks.  Gone are the rainbows and sparkles–it is time for “fight back with all you got and stand up for yourself and your friends” kickin’ attitude.  I cheered inside and clapped.  Good for her.  There comes a time, you know, even with the nicest of folks–a time to say, no more.  Enough.  I was glad to see her go there, to stand strong in the face of adversity.

Tonight I am thankful for the gift of spending time with family and enjoying special outings for a very special occasion.  Good stuff that.  I’m thankful for the privilege of going to the movies, and for entertainment that is creative and thought-provoking.  Most of all, I appreciate the good company we had today.  There is nothing like a good old family happening to celebrate the good things in life.

Love to all.

I Love a Parade

Today was the day for parades.  The town closest to us and those all around us had their parades today.  It made me smile to see several of my non-local friends talking on Facebook about their local parades today too.  I wonder if there is a National Christmas Parade Day in the works.  If so, I think the first Saturday in December is it.

This wasn’t something we planned ahead.  Actually we waited until the last minute to decide to go.  We left our house several minutes after it started, arrived towards the end of the route thirty minutes after it began, and still had a few minutes before the beginning of the parade was in sight.  I like it.

My crew headed to our spot towards the end of the parade.  Love watching it from this spot.

My crew headed to our spot towards the end of the parade route. Love watching it from this spot.

How fun it was to see the faces of the children in the parade–some of them experiencing it for the very first time!  The little elementary school Snowball Queen waving her hand like a Princess is taught to was just too precious.  The two boy dance team inspired me with their bravery and confidence.  Aub’s friend who continued keeping time marching with his ROTC group though we were waving and taking pictures the whole time his group went by.  The people on both sides of the road waving and clapping with respect as the members of the USAF marched by.  The young man who teaches at Cherished Children singing as he walked alongside their float.  I think theirs was my favorite float of all.

I worried over the little ones who were a part of their school’s group and had to walk when other schools had floats for their groups.  I worried about fairness and financing and wanted those children to be okay walking that whole long route.  Aub worried about all of those folks having a ride back to their cars parked way back at the beginning point.  My littles loved waving at the people walking and on floats and cars.  It was a virtual waving fest. Anyone not knowing what was happening would have thought we were all quite friendly.  And for a brief time we all were.  Aub and Cooter, my little guy, hid when the Shriner clown and Ronald McDonald went by.  Coulrophobics.  But everyone’s day was made, especially my littles’, when the guy in the red suit came walking up and high-fived the two of them.  They were both starstruck and speechless.


Darth Vader.

In his red mask and cape for the holiday.

Yes y’all, the legend from the Dark Side took top billing with my little people.

At a Christmas parade.

And I’m okay with that.  I am thankful that someone (who knows if he was even an official part of the parade) decided to show up, dressed in red and delighted the children who waited to catch a glimpse of the other guy in a red suit riding on the back of a truck.  That was very cool.  The littles are still talking about him.  And wondering who will show up next year.  Cooter hopes it’s Han.  I think Aub might hope so too–just for different reasons.

I am glad I decided to go.  I didn’t have it in my heart to go two years ago, still reeling from Daddy’s absence.  Last year I was involved in a Fair Trade day so I didn’t get to go then either.  It was time for me to go, and I was happy myself to stand out in the cold on this dreary, not quite raining day and watch and wait to see the guy in the red suit.  And that fabulous woman sitting beside him.

No, not Darth and daughter Leia.

Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Santa and Mrs. Claus with all the reindeer.  Cooter asked where the real reindeer were, including Rudolph.  Resting up for their long trip in two and a half weeks of course!

Santa and Mrs. Claus with all the reindeer. Cooter asked where the real reindeer were, including Rudolph. Resting up for their long trip in two and a half weeks of course!

Taking the lead from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the arrival of Santa signified the end of the parade and the beginning of the holiday season.

The littles were almost as excited to see Santa as they had been to see the red-caped Darth Vader.  It's where we live folks.  Star Wars-ville.

The littles were almost as excited to see Santa as they had been to see the red-caped Darth Vader. It’s where we live folks. Star Wars-ville.

While I don’t know what this Christmas will look like for all of us–we are still figuring it out–I am thankful for the parade and the simple joy of being there.  I found myself humming along to the Christmas tunes on the radio and looking forward to getting the tree up and decorated.  (It’s a slow process around here–this whole decorating thing.)  And then the whole afternoon, the song kept going through my head–well, to be honest, it was just the one line–I don’t know the rest of the words.  “I…..love a parade!”

A New Tradition, FunGiving

English: Advent wreath, First Advent Sunday

English: Advent wreath, First Advent Sunday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today was the first Sunday in Advent.  Advent means “coming,” and this season is for quiet reflection and waiting for what is to come–the birth of Jesus.

I have decided to try and enjoy this season.  This time of year when the days are the shortest and the darkest of the whole year could be the hardest yet.  However, as a wise one told me today, “If you don’t have enough fun in your life, you’ve got to go out and make your own.”

It seems like the children started talking about Christmas early this year.  Maybe it started after Aub’s birthday in September.  I can’t remember exactly, but it for sure started in earnest after our Princess’ birthday two weeks ago.  I know it’s part of being a child, dreaming and wishing, but I could only take so much.  I don’t like all the “I want” talk.  I especially cannot handle the lists changing ten days out.  Enough is enough.  And we have enough.  So I started a “new tradition” last week.  On Wednesday I told my crew to write their letters, finalize their lists, whatever it took.  Wednesday was the last day to pick their three things to ask for.  They are allowed to put three things on their lists.  They might get other things, they might not, but the three is a good guide to let them dream and not go too crazy.

Wednesday.  Now there will be no more talking of wish lists and “what I want for Christmas.” That’s the new rule.  Shhh.  Tight lipped.  Tick-a-lock.  My thinking was get it out of the way and then let’s enter the Thanksgiving season, with an emphasis on Thanks as well as Giving.  So now we are in the waiting period of Advent in our home, but I’m also going to challenge us to celebrate a time of Giving.  Each day I want us to think of something to do or give (not necessarily bought–we’re gonna get creative here) to surprise someone.  How much fun could that be?

Yes, I know, it could be stressful, but I’m going to do my best not to let it become so.  As Mama would say, “It’s all for the fun of it.”  And it’s time to make our own fun.  Because you are never too old to run and hide and play games with your siblings or your children or surprise someone out of the blue.

Tonight after I talked with the littles about our plan for GivingFun, I heard Cooter as he walked out of the room, sharing his thoughts in the only way he knows how to–loudly.  “I think we should go out and sing Christmas songs and raise money to help our friends who are homeless.”

For the love.

So if you see us standing around somewhere singing Christmas songs with a baseball hat on the ground in front of us, “Will you please put a penny in the old man’s hat?”**  We may be out of tune, most likely will, but just know we are having a blast and it will go to a good cause.  It’s the season for waiting and quiet reflection and, as our family’s new tradition dictates, a time of having fun with the Giving of the season.  (So it might not be so quiet around here.)

It’s all about sharing the Love and Light and Hope in the darkness.  Wanna join us?  It’s bound to be an Adventure for sure.

**from the song “Christmas is Coming” Here.  Take a peek.  And yes, it’s the Muppets version.   Focusing on fun here, remember?

disorienting days of darkness

We had the great fun and adventure of making a road trip from middle Georgia to Alabama today to be with folks we love, friends and family, to celebrate new life and a birthday.  Cooter was very excited because he has never been out of state.  At least that I can recall.  I haven’t slept nearly enough in his almost seven years to be able to keep up with it all, but yes, pretty sure–he’s never been out of Georgia.

Road trip adventure.  Cooter's first time out of state.

Road trip adventure. Cooter’s first time out of state.

He found a friend at the party right off the bat.  He and Ryan ran around and played with all the girls that were there.  But mostly they played just the two of them.  As they took time out from playing to sit at the little table and visit and have a bite to eat, I heard Cooter talking with Ryan.  “We’re in Alabama right now, but we live in America.”

Oh good gravy.

(Note to self: Add US geography to the curriculum.  ASAP!)

As I thought about what he shared with his new friend, it occurred to me how disorienting a change of position, of place can be.  Even if it’s just for a day.  Life is always throwing us curveballs that require us to change.  Doctor retires, we have to find a new one.  Grocery store totally reorganizes, and it takes us a lot longer to get everything on the list.  A family member moves and we no longer have them to lean on in the same way.  The change can be disorienting, and much like Cooter, we’re not even sure where we are anymore.  Or where we came from.

On the way home this afternoon, I was all discombulated.  Alabama is on Central time, so they are an hour behind us.  This served us well on the way over, but on the way home I had to keep thinking it’s an hour later than my phone says it is.  My phone automatically knew which time zone it was in, but the car clock stayed on Eastern time.  And I’m not even sure what time the GPS was on.  It wasn’t much help anyway because this morning it led us to a cow pasture in the middle of nowhere and clapped and waved the checkered flag and said, “Congratulations, you made it!”  Do what?!

When we left our people in Alabama, it was still sunny and bright.  Within an hour the sun began its rather rapid descent.  It was as though gravity started pulling it a little faster down towards the horizon, leaving behind its memories of the day in pink and orange and purple hues.  I looked at the time on my phone, and it occurred to me that in Alabama, at least in the eastern part of the state, the sun sets around five at this time of year.

Oh my, that’s early.

The darkness of winter, on an old state highway.....looking for the hope in midnight and the turning to face a new day.

The darkness of winter, on an old state highway…..looking for the hope in midnight and the turning to face a new day.

The sky was almost completely dark by the time we crossed over the Georgia line.  There is no dark quite like the dark of being the only car in sight on a back road or state highway.  Pitch black except for the lights beaming from the front of my vehicle.  Our Princess had been very quiet in the very back, as “Leave it to Beaver” had us laughing across the state line.  She piped up right after it got dark.

“What time is it?”  She paused only a moment before asking, “Is it midnight?”

This reminded me of Cooter’s thinking it was much later than it was a couple of weeks ago, when I picked him up from Mess Cat’s because he wasn’t up for a sleepover.  The time change and the early darkness and the especially dark darkness that seems reserved for this time of year–it can also be disorienting.  Have us feeling lost and uncertain and have our senses all confused.  We were quite nearly home, and a sleepy voice came from the back, once again asking, “Is it midnight now?”

When we are disoriented, all we can do is go with what we feel.  When we feel tired and very small and overwhelmed by all the darkness that seems to go on forever, feeling like it is the end of the day is really quite logical, I think.

My friend Dena, who writes at Centering Down, talks a lot about darkness and fear holding hands.  She writes, “Yes, our times can be dark in many ways.  The close of fall and beginning of winter reflect difficulties that so many of us face in our lives.”**  She also writes about fear of darkness and how it can come from us not being able to see in the dark and how the dark can make us feel so vulnerable.  Oh yes, my dear friend, it certainly can.  I’ve heard it in the wee, small voices of each of my littles.  Bless them, the dark makes them FEEL wee and small.  Vulnerability is not anywhere anyone of us wants to live.  So we seek answers and we ask what time it is, for in the turning of this day’s page to the next one, there is hope.  And hope–some days that’s all that gets me up in the morning.

Tonight I am thankful for the joy of watching all of my children having fun and enjoying themselves.  I give thanks for hospitality so sweet–I asked what I could do and I was told, “Make yourself at home”–it nearly moved me to tears.  And made me want to find an extra bed and take a nap in that comfortable and comforting home.  All of the stories shared and laughter that came from the sharing warmed my heart and tanned my soul.  For a safe journey and a road trip on which the loudest sounds that were heard were not voices rising in anger or disappointment but the laughter of my Fella as he listened to the “Leave it to Beaver” episodes being watched from the back seats.  For deer that turned around and ran back into the woods and not in front of my vehicle, I am very grateful.  For Mess Cat and crew coming to play with Miss Sophie in our absence so we could relax and enjoy our day, I send out a huge “thank you ma’am.”  Most of all I’m so glad for a day filled with love and grace and community.  There is nothing like being with folks who love to hear children in church and who love to let children be children.  In the disorienting days of darkness, it is healing and helps get me back rightside up to surround myself with good folks and good times.

**My friend Dena Douglas Hobbs has written an Advent devotional, called “Lighten the Darkness: An Advent Journey Through Hope.”  You can find a link to it here on Amazon.  It is a gift for all during this special time of the year, Advent.  It is especially moving for those who know the darkness of which she writes. And she knows of the hope that can be found as well.  I have found comfort in her words.  Tonight I am thankful for her and her gift of writing which she shares with all of us.  ❤

Hootenannies, Turkey Eggs, and Treasures from the Past

Today was our Annual Fall Family Hootenanny.  My Daddy’s side of the family has been doing this for many years.  In the spring we have an Easter Egg Hunt and Wiener Roast.  In the fall it’s soup and Brunswick stew and barbecue.  And desserts at both.  Lots of desserts.  Our people can straight cook, y’all.

I don’t remember how many years ago it was, but my Aunt Bea–my Aunt’s older sister–who hosts the fall gathering decided to add an egg hunt.  A turkey egg hunt.  Yes, it’s a real thing, people.  The eggs are bigger, and there are not as many, but turkeys lay eggs.  And we hide them.

It was a delicious day.  The weather was fall perfect.  In Georgia that means highs in the low 70’s–we started off in jackets and eventually shed ourselves of them.  There were all kinds of foods–the Brunswick stew and the soup were two of my favorites.  The broccoli salad was also delicious, and I think it was new this year.  (Never did find out who made it, but if you’re reading this and you did, can you please send me the recipe?)

The dessert table overflowed.  So many good things, that Cooter said never mind about the stuff in the kitchen, he’d just start with the dessert.  I know what he meant. There was a genuine fear of getting too full to be able to sample all the goodies.  What I love so much are the things that show up at every gathering.  Traditions.  Like the mint chocolate chip cookies, the muffins, the lemon lavender cookies, the rice krispie treats, and the beet chocolate cake.  Y’all have no idea.  When I found out my Baking Cousin was bringing the beet cake, I immediately started craving it.  And that slice I had today was very good.  So good that I’m going to have to pull out that recipe this week and a can of beets (sorry girl) and try my hand at it again.  That sweet girl also offered to make the rice krispie treats–those were Mama’s things and bless my Cousin’s heart.  She also made the lemon lavender cookies just because my Aub shared on her blog how much she loved them.  That’s love right there, y’all, and we have it full to bustin’.  And if you could have seen the youngest great-grand of my Granny’s running around with a mint chocolate chip cookie his Mama made, he was just too cute.  That chocolate around his mouth let you know how good it was.

The "Katie cabinet" from my Granny's--oh the memories of reaching in there and getting out the Honeycomb cereal!

The “Katie cabinet” from my Granny’s–oh the memories of reaching in there and getting out the Honeycomb cereal!

When I first went up to the house and walked in the kitchen, this surprised me.  Granted it’s been a while since I was at my Aunt Bea’s house, but it wasn’t there the last time I was.  I asked about it, and as she began to tell me about what she’d done, the color went from black to yellow in my mind and I was back in my Granny’s kitchen.  This was the cabinet that Granny kept the cereal in, inside of those big plastic cereal containers that you could pour from.  I seem to remember Honeycombs a lot, but maybe there were other ones too.  I loved the Honeycomb cereal at Granny’s.  Eating it from the glass bowls with the daisies around the border.  That was happiness in a nutshell back then my friends.  As she told me about painting it, my aunt mentioned that it had always been called the Katie cabinet because it had come from my Great Aunt Katie’s.  She’s the one who cut our hair when we were little.  How one piece of furniture can trigger so many memories and so much history, I don’t know, but it did.

After the meal had wrapped up and we were outside visiting and watching the young’uns run around and play, my Aunt Bea called me inside.  She stood close beside me in the kitchen and showed me a true treasure.

My Granny's recipes for Brunswick stew--the real one AND the fake one.....but both are real good!

My Granny’s recipes for Brunswick stew–the real one AND the fake one…..but both are real good!

The recipe for Brunswick Stew.  Handwritten by my Granny.  At the top was the original recipe.  It began with “1 hog head (clean)” and “4 feet (clean).”  I think I remember this being cooked way back when I was little, and that is why I wouldn’t eat Brunswick stew for many, many years.  But my Aunt Bea’s Brunswick stew recipe came from the one written below, also in Granny’s handwriting.  It’s labeled “good” but also “fake.”  That made me laugh.  Granny knew what was real and what wasn’t.  But she’s right about another thing–it is GOOD.  I wanted to eat some of my Aunt’s soup, which was really good, but I also wanted to have seconds of the Brunswick stew.  Decisions, decisions.  These recipes were hand-written in a cookbook that had been Granny’s.  That is a real treasure to see.  I am so thankful that my Aunt Bea shared that with me today.  I look forward to wandering through the cookbook again.

Yesterday was All Saint’s Day.  Last night at our supper table, we lit a candle to remember Mama and Daddy and so many more who aren’t with us physically anymore.  Today was about remembering in a different way.  It is a celebration of my Granny and all of our people who have passed every time we get together.  I love it because we laugh and share stories and spend time just listening and being together.  It makes me sad because of the ones who are no longer with us–Mama and Daddy among many others.  Too many others. I found myself standing back and just watching and listening and soaking it all in.  It’s all just to precious and dear.

On the ride home I figured out why I write.  Finally, right?  These are the stories I would share with Mama during our phone calls.  Or with Daddy as I sat with him in the living room, as he told me the goings on of folks as they drove past his window.  I miss sharing my stories with them.  Daddy loved hearing about the great grands’ antics and Mama loved getting hugs more than anything in this world.  They would have loved being there today.  My guess is they probably did.

When I tried the broccoli salad today, I could hear Mama asking me as she would, “Did you try this?  Isn’t it wondah-ful?”  And when my Uncle, Daddy’s older brother, spoke, his voice had the same intonations as my Daddy’s, and it broke my heart.  In a good way.  Sometimes our hearts need a crack or two so the light can get in there.  And mine has been in darkness for a long, long time.

These family friends I was with today have surrounded me in love for my whole life.  They are the ones who say my name better than anyone else in the world.  There’s no explaining how to pronounce it to them, nor is there any apologizing for why I am the way I am.  They just know.  And love.  Oh, how they love.

What a surprise it was to see the Katie cabinet and Granny’s recipe and remember the dear person who raised my Daddy and let me sit and talk with her for hours, the one who would ask me before I left her house, “Do you want a pie?” or “How ’bout a jar of pickled peaches?”  Then she’d go on the back porch and pull a sweet potato pie out of the freezer or a jar of pickled peaches off the shelf.  It was a joy to remember her today.

Tomorrow I will gather with another group of people who loved my Mama, as we light a candle and remember her.  It will be an honor to remember the dear, sweet woman who gave me life this very weekend all those many years ago (yes, she was already in labor on November 1–she let me know that OFTEN).  And isn’t it funny that it falls on the same day this year?  I can’t think of a better thing to do in celebration of all she and Daddy went through to get me here.  Take time to remember and maybe this time, I’ll say “thank you.”  Because I’m pretty sure that I didn’t tell her that. Ever.  When she’d tease me about a weekend of labor, I’d always say, “And wasn’t I worth every bit of it?”  And my Mama, being my dear sweet and sassy Mama, would say, “Well I reckon so.”  Then she’d peer over her glasses at me.  “Most days.”

There have been years I was all about the celebrating, but this year I think remembering will suit me just fine.  And the candles that are lit will linger a little longer before they are blown out. They will be for remembering this year.  Remembering all the lights in my life that were blown out way too soon.  I miss them all so much.

Love to all.

My Cocoa Apple Cake this year.....recipe from my Baking Cousin's Best Cookbook Ever.  Just out of the oven.

My Cocoa Apple Cake this year…..recipe from my Baking Cousin’s Best Cookbook Ever. Just out of the oven.