A Grace Filled Eve

Tonight I will gather with little folks (and a few big) whom I love right here in my living room, and we’ll debate about staying up to see the New Year in.  We may or may not watch some form of something dropping to beckon in 2018, and then the laughter will turn into sighs and we’ll gather up the remnants and used cups and crumpled napkins of 2017 and go to bed.

This is as good as I can do.  I don’t have big plans and schemes for this New Year.  If I start thinking of tomorrow as a day THAT ALL BIG THINGS MUST BEGIN, I kind of sort of start breathing a little funny and want to go crawl in Miss Sophie’s crate with her and wait for spring and for this “all great ideas and good intentions” phase to pass.

Because, see, my feet are cold, and most days I have to take it one day at a time.

My Mama said that is okay.

She said do your best, that’s all your Daddy and I ask of you.

And that I can try to do.  Moment by moment, minute by minute, hour by hour, and sometimes day by day.

But a whole year?  In one big gulp?

I’m happy for folks who are excited about the newness of tomorrow and the 364 days to follow.  But for many of us, 2017 and 2015 and 2013 and 2011 were really really hard, and we’re still learning a new way to breathe because of what happened when the clock turned over to November 13 and 17 and December 18 and February 10 and September 26 and May 12 and January 11 and all of the other days of the year when we had hard things happen.  For some of us, each day is a new challenge, filled with moments of learning new ways to live.

Grace.

If you are of the mind of taking on new ways of living and find tomorrow a good day to start, maybe grace could be a good one to add to the list.  Most of all, be kind to yourself.  And others.  When days are hard–for you or someone you know and those you don’t, offer grace and kindness.  Grace that it’s okay to say it’s hard and stay in bed for the day, literally or figuratively, and kindness in the midst of the struggles.  A smile, a listening ear, a hand to hold, patience, empathy.

Tomorrow we will have the traditional greens, peas, cornbread, and such.  I’ll try not to do anything I don’t want to be doing the rest of the year (though I’ve found reframing certain things has helped me in this old tradition), and I won’t be doing any laundry out of respect for the ones who’ve gone before me.  We will spend time sharing stories and laughing and remembering.

And I will do my best to rejoice and be glad in the day, as my Mama reminded me I am called to do everyday.

But for now, I just can’t take on the chunk of a year all at once.  If you are struggling with another day of celebrating and being surrounded by festive spirits, know you are not alone. We are all doing the best we can and walking each other home, as Ram Dass wrote.  Come sit with me, Miss Sophie will make room, and we’ll warm our toes by the fire and sit quietly and we will be okay.  And if tomorrow is a day of new beginnings for you, I wish you all the best. Some of us will be celebrating the dawning of a New Year and some will be thankful for making it another day and some folks will be somewhere in between.  AND ALL OF THAT IS OKAY.

Grace.

Wishing you all a good night’s rest, the energy to get up tomorrow, and the still quiet of peace settled in your heart today and in all the days to come.

Love to all.

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May we all take the words to my much loved and missed friend Denise to heart today and every day–“What people in our community need the most is for us to slow down and love each other.”

Happy Golden Years

Fifty years ago today, December 17, 1967, the romance that started outside a laundromat in Valdosta, Georgia began a new adventure as my Mama and Daddy said, “I do.”

And they did.  Sickness.  Health.  Laughter.  Pain.  Joy.  Grief.  Children.  Grandchildren.  Other children whom they called their own.  Friends.  Family.  Biscuits. Gravy.  Pound Cake.  Fried Cornbread.  Homemade Pizza.  Cars. Trucks.  Books.  Celebrations.  Mourning.  Everyday Life filled with Extraordinary Moments.

And even though their time together on this earth ended six years ago, I know they are together today, and I hope they are doing what they loved to do most on this day–spending time together, enjoying the journey.  On their anniversaries, Daddy would take the day off from work, and they would go on an adventure of sorts.  Traveling on backroads, eating in diners and restaurants they’d come across along the way.   Meeting interesting folks who would become lifelong friends.

Since 2013 after Mama left this world, I’ve had the joy of continuing their tradition of sharing books with young people we know.  In honor of their anniversary, I’ve chosen different books as our Christmas Book of the Year.  This year, I’ve chosen a very special one that ties an old memory to a new one.

This past summer the littles, the Fella, and I got to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri.   Growing up I read the Little House books and loved my weekly time with Laura and her family on “Little House on the Prairie.”  I was “fangirling” pretty hard.  The. Home.  Of.  Laura.  Ingalls.  Wilder.  Where she lived.  Wrote her books.  Raised Rose.  Oh my stars, I was over the moon.  But as excited as I was, it was wonderful to see that our Princess was even more so.  She had read and reread all of the books in the past year.  She loved them.

During our time there, we saw Pa’s fiddle and photos and letters from Laura’s sisters.  There were letters schoolchildren had written to Mrs. Wilder, asking about the people she wrote about or thanking her for writing them.  The museum part was fascinating, as we took our time wandering around, reading and looking and soaking it all in.  But it was when we went to her home, the one that Almanzo built by hand, one room at a time, that I felt the spirit of the place.  Neither of them were very tall, so the home suited me and my short height just fine.  I loved that she continued using her old stove, even after Rose had an electric one put in.  Sometimes change is hard, y’all, and just not worth the bother.  As a child I had fallen in love with the young Laura.  This past summer, standing in her home, surrounded by her things, I fell in love and in awe of the grown Laura, the strong woman who didn’t want anyone to know she loved to read Westerns, and whose last birthday cards were still sitting on the table in her kitchen, as she passed on right around her birthday.  That was my favorite part of the whole adventure.  Soaking in her world in her little farmhouse.  The other house we visited that Rose had built for her parents as a gift when she was an adult did not compare.  It was lovely, but it just didn’t have the same feel, the same homeyness, the same spirit.

As I wandered through the farmhouse, enjoying the stories that our tour guide shared, I was reminded of a Christmas in my own home, many years ago.

I believe it was Christmas 1989, my senior year in college.  My dear friend had come home with me for a day or two before heading home to Alabama.  We had slept through the night to be awakened early the next morning by the ringing of jingle bells.  My friend, my siblings, and I all went to the living room where we found a sock for each one of us.  A long knee high sock I believe, filled with good things–like an orange, a giant peppermint stick, a penny, an orange in the toe, and the matching sock balled up inside as well.  It was left there by, as the note said, “The Christmas Spirit of 1889.”

I probably laughed it off as my parents and their whimsical ways in the moment, but inside I loved it.  I love all things old and traditional, and as far as I was concerned, this was perfect.  Everything about it.  I’m not really sure what prompted my Mama and Daddy to keep Christmas like that that year.  Maybe they wanted to remind us that simple joy is at the heart of Christmas–that the simple joys are the treasured memories we will carry in our hearts for a long, long time.

Just as I have the memory of the sock filled with goodies, nearly 30 years ago.

So when I sat down to choose a book to share this holiday season, I found it almost instantly.  In memory of that Christmas 28 years ago and our adventure “home” this past summer, our family Christmas book this year is “Christmas in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The illustrator, Renee’ Graef, shared that her artwork was inspired by the work of the talented Garth Williams with his permission.  It’s a sweet story about the excitement of the holiday season and the greatest joy of all–being together.

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Tonight I’m thankful for the love of two people that grew to touch so many–our family and friends and folks they met along the way.  A love that was joined together forever fifty years ago tonight.  I’m thankful for their quirkiness and how they reminded us of what is really important all those Christmases ago.  And I’m thankful for the privilege and thrill of standing where some of the world’s favorite stories–I know they are some of mine–were put on paper for all of us to enjoy.

May the simple joys of this Christmas season bring you grand memories that you will treasure for years to come.  Love to all.

 

 

A Little Golden Kind of Christmas Story

Forty-nine years ago today my parents said “I do” because they did and that was the beginning of a fantastic journey full of brilliant, simple moments and more love than one house could hold.  Forty-nine years ago right now, I believe they were warming up some Pepsi or some such because they’d heard that it was delicious.  I tried to wrap my brain around the idea of them, newlyweds, in the kitchen in their little rented home in Valdosta, Georgia standing over the stove with grins they couldn’t wipe off their faces (at least I would imagine so), and I never thought to ask if it was any good.

I would think probably not, since they never made it in the years that I can recall.

Still.

That love.  Those two people who loved each other, loved others–

I miss them.

They especially loved little ones.  And books.  I’ve shared before how in the later years they’d choose a special book or two to share around the holidays.  As a comfort and way to connect with them after Mama passed on in 2013, I attempted to continue the tradition.  Some years it’s been easy to find a book right off.  Others it took longer.  This year was the latter.  Most definitely the latter.  I tested some, read lots, but none felt completely right.  And again, I found myself drawn to books about trees.  Which makes sense really, since going out to Granny’s farm, traipsing through the woods, and finding our very own Christmas tree all those years are some of my favorite holiday memories.

So this year I tried not to pick out a Christmas tree story.  That was proving difficult, and I had set this past Wednesday as my personal deadline.  Wednesday morning Aub and I sat with a stack of Christmas books and looked through them.  Then…..I found it.

I vaguely remembered Mama’s excitement at finding this book a few years back.  I thought and dug through my memory banks that I expect are getting to be like what my Granddaddy described as Fibber McGee’s closet, and I kept coming up with my sweet cousin for some reason.  So while Aub looked up my Mama’s Amazon account record, I texted my cousin.  Sure enough, she’d given it to my cousin a few years ago.  Appropriate.  Perfect for her actually.  However, I was sad.  I really love this book!

So I continued searching.  Aub left for work, and I started to read on my own.  I found two I liked, but I still couldn’t choose.  Then it hit me–maybe I should bring my littles in on this year’s choice.  They know about the tradition, and as it turns out, they were tickled to help choose.

I think they chose well.

So our Princess, Cooter, and I are thrilled to announce this year’s choice for Maemae’s Christmas book.

It really is perfect.  I have such happy memories of Little Golden Books growing up.  Those gold edges and perfectly same-sized books–hard covers and beautiful, colorful illustrations–we had quite a few sitting on our book shelf…..waiting to be taken down and read again and again.  Some of those same ones grace my shelves now.  But not this one.  I was thrilled to find it, as I’d not read it before.  I love the sweet stories and poems, especially the one about the animals and people’s reactions to “no snow.”  But what tickled me the most was Cooter’s reaction to the story about the little squirrel.  Read it.  See if you can figure out at what moment he said, “UH OH” out loud–concerned that things were about to go awry.  I don’t want to spoil it, but that was Cooter’s favorite part of the book.

I highly recommend both of these books.  I also recommend the other book (which our Princess especially loved).  It is a sweet story of a strong woman who makes a difference in our world with her caring, strength, and ingenuity.  A great story not just for the holidays but everyday, right?


What are your favorite holiday and Christmas stories?  I would love to hear about them.

I hope your holidays are filled with hours and hours of enjoyment and good books to read, but most importantly, I hope these days are filled with the living out of your own great story.

Merry memory-making!

Love to all.

 

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.

BEAUTIFUL.

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.

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a picture perfect day that no one could have predicted

 

A Sucker for Love

Way back when, when my oldest was quite a small girl, we often found ourselves over at my dear Joyful friend’s house.  She and her girls were our lifeline, our fun, and our safe place to land.  They were my girl’s sisters for that time and for life, and I am always thankful for them.

So it isn’t surprising, I guess, that when it came time for us to leave their house, my girl would balk.  Balk might be understating it a bit for some occasions.  Flat out, she didn’t want to leave.  I remember my Joyful friend bringing Aub a Blow pop and telling her if she’d mind her manners and her Mama, she could have that sucker.

It worked.

Every single time.

Later, when the time came for us to venture out on our own, and we left the nest of Blackberry Flats, Mama liked to ease the transition of leaving each afternoon or evening with a Bob’s soft peppermint or caramel cream.  And then, eventually, a Dum Dum sucker.  I’m not sure if she changed her offering because she was out of the peppermints at one point or because of our food allergies or what, but the Dum Dums became the most desired treat.  We found an old style candy jar to put on Mama’s counter, and that’s what she would let little hands reach in to so as to find a favorite flavor.  And on rare occasions, when one had been quite good, he or she could–in the difficulty of deciding between two favorites–have both.  “One for now, and one for later,” Mama would say.  Now that I think about it, that wasn’t so occasional–it was more the rule.

I fondly remember Daddy pulling out my favorite flavor and handing it to me.  In that gesture, he was telling me he loved me.  I needed no words.  The lot of us had great conversations about the “Mystery” flavored ones and exactly how they came about.  The extra special ones, like the Savannah blueberry I think it was, brought about as much excitement as a Santa sighting in July.  Too much fun.

I miss those goodbyes.  Those sendoffs and waves and “see you soons.”  And all the hugs.

Today I dropped by Aunt’s to pick up a book and some special bookstore coupons she’d offered us (yes, because we do NOT have enough books–anyone that says different is off my “birfday list”).  She’d called and told me where I could find it as she wouldn’t be home.  We swung by in the midst of today’s adventures, and sure enough, the bag she’d tucked the things in was right where she’d said it would be.

I grabbed the bag and started off the porch, and then I was stopped still by what else was in the bag.

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Four Dum Dums.  For my two littles.

“One for now, and one for later.”

It took me a minute to start the car and get going again.  My eyes were flooded and my heart was full.

Tonight I’m thankful for stories that bind us together and for treasured memories.  I give thanks for traditions that get passed along and continue to warm hearts and bring immediate smiles to all of our faces.  I’m a sucker for tradition, and I’m an even bigger one for things that show us how loved we are.  I’m most thankful for my sisterfriend who knew that a spoonful of sugar is sometimes the “best encouragement,” for my Mama whose head I can still see bent conspiratorially over the candy jar with her grands, and for my Aunt.  Who never fails to remember and reminds me of that in so many precious ways.  The ones we love live on because of moments like this today.

Wishing you all a sweet to remind you that you are so very loved.

Love to all.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas…..

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By Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland (Christmas is almost over) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

as I prepare to break down Christmas and pack away the ornaments, I sift through the memories made this Christmas season, and my heart is full to bustin’.

There are so many precious moments, big and small, that I have tucked away to keep me warm this winter and in the ones to come, but these twelve stand out for me tonight:

1–The first night that we were all under the same roof for the first time in several months, and I took that sweet, deep breath of thankfulness.

2–Listening to Christmas music while baking Mama’s cookies in the kitchen, using her very own cookie cutters.

3–Taking the Zoo Crew up to Wesleyan on a cold, wet afternoon to hear the Washboard Band play and hear Aub in her percussion debut.

4–The joy of sharing St. Lucia Day festivities with friends and family at Evening Prayer as my writerfriend D and I shared our stories of light for the second year in a row.  It’s a tradition now, y’all.

5–Attending “White Christmas” at a local theater with youth actors and actresses.  Seeing their beaming faces at the end for the curtain call–they were so pleased with the job they had done.  As well they should be. I fell in love with the place, the young people, and the story all over again.

6–The joy of sitting next to One I Hold Dear as I watched my littles perform for their Christmas programs.  When folks do things they don’t have to do out of love and just because they want to, that is a beautiful gift.

7–Hearing Christmas songs played live in my own home. As we wrap up our first year of piano lessons, it has been so much fun to hear the littles playing Christmas carols for us.  I am anticipating even more songs in the coming year to brighten our holidays.

8–The musical offerings talented and beautiful folks shared at Evening Prayer both before and after Christmas.  So much time, talent, and dedication went into those evenings.  I love each and every one of them for making my holidays truly special with their music, smiles, and laughter.

9–Seeing the faces of children, young and old, as they saw Santa Claus when he visited us at Bare Bulb Coffee.  So many precious secrets whispered in Santa’s ear.  The smiles were bright and everlasting.  My heart will never quite be the same again.

10–Hearing “Silent Night” in the candlelit church on Christmas Eve.  I choked up and couldn’t sing all the words.  I felt so connected to the ones who are no longer with us who also sang those words on so many Christmas Eve nights over the years.  I felt surrounded by a host of those I love.

11–Those precious, quiet moments in the wee hours of Christmas morning, when I sat there by myself in the midst of gifts and love, and I was excited, worn out, relieved, happy, and filled with wonder and peace.  And as I sat there, loathe to leave the sweet twinkle lights and their golden glow and the love that filled the room, I thought about how all of those emotions were probably present that very first Christmas morning.  That’s when my heart filled with gratitude, and I found myself weeping as I headed to bed for a few hours of slumber.

12–One of the very best moments was seeing the excitement in my children’s eyes and hearing the anticipation in their voices as they wrapped and then gave their Christmas gifts on Christmas morning. They were more excited to give the gifts they’d chosen than they were to open up the ones with their names on them.  That was a huge gift to me, and I am so thankful for their giving hearts.

Y’all, I was just kidding.  Twelve?  All the little moments.  Cups of coffee with friends.  Surprise visits with folks I haven’t seen for far too long.  Painting with my little friends and watching them focus and work so hard to create their own masterpieces.  Sitting around a fire with precious people as the sun went down and the stars came out.  Watching the children play with their friends as the excitement of Christmas came closer and closer.  Wrapping up in warm, colorful afghans and talking late into the night.  Hallmark Christmas movies.  Watching my brother teach my Aub how to make “Maemae’s” biscuits.  Phone calls and Christmas cards.  Hugs galore.  Cousins who make me smile and laugh.  Oh the joy and peace that passes all understanding!

All of that.

May each and every day of this New Year be filled with just such gifts for all of us.

Love to all.  Merry Twelfth Day of Christmas!

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By Grover cleveland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Seventh Day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas…..

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seven loads of laundry…..

or at least that many.  I kind of stopped counting in the midst of the Great New Year’s Eve Lego Challenge and Kids’ Only Dance Party and the Minions Movie and the Keeping Calm of the Dog During the Everlasting Fireworks.  A busy day, but the laundry HAD to be done.

Today.

Because I don’t do laundry on New Year’s Day.

It’s not so much about superstition as it is about tradition.

My Mama honored this tradition in memory of her Grandmother.  Her sweet red-headed Grandmama Eulalia, who let my Mama help her cook and made her feel so loved, never washed clothes on New Year’s Day because of the old saying, “When you wash somebody’s clothes on New Year’s Day, you wash ’em out of your life.”

I don’t have any desire to wash anyone out of my life.

And because I won’t do laundry on New Year’s Day, New Year’s Eve becomes a busy day of getting all of the things that we might possibly need the next two days washed, dried, folded, and put away.  It sounds a lot less involved than it really is.

Seven loads, y’all.

At least.

Present Me is really asking Me from the Past Couple of Days why on earth I didn’t do any laundry before now.  It piles up fast with all these folks around here.

So tonight I am celebrating the number 7 and the people behind it.  They bring me much joy, and so, by extension, does their laundry.  Their clothes in the laundry mean that they are here and doing well and that they have clothes to wear and to stay warm and dry and clean and comfortable.

And for that I am very, very thankful.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, and in the words of my Mama, “Happy Everyday!”

Love to all.