Flying with Fear

We are back home. Back into our day to dailies with full force after a weekend of getting away, literally and figuratively.  A weekend of fun and laughter and reconnecting.

And of facing our fears.

Head on.

This past weekend was the Fella’s family reunion that happens every couple of years.  While I’ve been to a gathering of his aunts and uncles on his Dad’s side of the family, we’ve never been to a gathering of Grampa’s cousins and their children as a family.  It was time to make it happen.

We had a decision to make.  Take a two hour flight from Atlanta to Texas or make the two day drive.  In the end, after lots of thought, the schedule made our decision.

We booked our flights.  Because it was just a few weeks out, the seat availability wasn’t ideal.  No big deal, I thought.  We could just request some seat changes.  I did that all the time when Aub and I flew back and forth from Japan.  TEN YEARS AGO.

Ahem.  Yeah.  Things change.

I called the airline and notified them that we would be flying with my child who has severe nut allergies.  All nuts. She was very understanding and said they could remove the peanuts from the plane but the airline could not guarantee there would be no nuts on the plane.  Okay.  Okay.  Got it.

As the time got closer, I became more anxious, but I also did what I needed to do to be prepared for a worst case scenario.  One of my sisterfriends said, “Be sure to carry an epipen on board with you.” I laughed and replied, “Yeah, or six.”  Can you say “over prepared?”

When we arrived at the gate, I spoke with the agent, and she said there would be no problem–that the flight attendants had it covered.  We hurried on board and got things ready for the flight.

All of the bags we carried on board were wipeable.  I carried wipes to clean her area and a sheet to put over her seat.  I forgot about the seat belt so that made me a bit nervous, but I did the best I could.  My people already knew we would not be eating or drinking on the plane.  I wanted no chance of ANYTHING going in her mouth that could hurt her.  It was a little less than two hours–they’ve done without food and water longer than that by their own choice.

The flight attendant announced there was an allergy on board.  She said they would not be serving peanuts and asked that no one eat any nuts while on board.

Oh my heart.  THANK YOU.

It was an amazing feeling to be heard and validated.  While it didn’t rid me of my anxiety, their kind hearted announcement eased it quite a bit.  My girl sat and played on her device and listened to music like the true preteen she is.  She is growing up before my very eyes.  But that’s another story.

We landed in what seemed like forever and no time at all, all at the same time.  Suffice to say I have no idea how I used to do the 14 hour flights to Japan.

After a long wonderful weekend of family and cousins playing and eating good food together, we got back on the plane yesterday.  We did it all by the book.  Got to the airport two hours early, checked in, and that’s when the magic was broken.  Our seats on Friday were not the ones I’d chosen on-line.  We had wound up all in the space of two rows, which was very doable.  I had assumed the person I called about her allergies had moved our seating around so we would be closer.  And maybe that was the case before, but for this flight, we were ridiculously far apart.  Cooter and Aub towards the back, our Princess and me in the middle on the same side, and the Fella in between us on the opposite side.  When we got to the gate, they acknowledged the food allergies, but they could do nothing about the seating.

Okay.  We can do this.  Breathe.

They made the announcement about not serving nuts and asking people to refrain from eating them while we were still in the terminal.  I was thankful for that.

We were allowed to board early.  I was told by the gate agent that between flights they would clean the tray tables four rows in front of us and four rows behind, so it was important we not change seats.  Okay. That’s great.  Really great.  (But I was thinking, they must be ridiculously fast or have cleaning fairies, because folks had just gotten off the plane.)

Oh, if it were only true.

When we got to our seat, I could see smeared handprints on the back of the seat in front of my girl.

Oh me.

I went to work with my wipes and the sheet and getting her settled.  We were ready when all the others came on board.

Before we were told to put our devices on airplane mode, I got a message from Aub, “Mama, the guy two seats over from us has nuts.”

Welp. Not good.

Because our messages weren’t going through quickly, and I was locked into my row by a passenger on the end who did not speak much English, I was left in limbo.  It was only after we landed that we pieced the whole story together.

So this guy had a big bag of Roaster’s Planted Peanuts.  He pulled them out.  The guy on the other side of him said, “Hey, you can’t eat those on here.”

Mr. Peanut replied, “Why not?”

Other guy said, “There’s someone with a nut allergy on board.  They made an announcement before we boarded asking us not to eat any nuts.”

Mr. Peanut said, “Huh.  Sounds like their problem.”  And laughed.

He LAUGHED.

Y’all, that girl of mine comes from a long line of strong people.  And people who stand up for others.  Some are more tactful than others, so there was no telling how this was going to play out.

As it turns out, she turned to him and said, “Actually it’s MY SISTER with the allergy, and if you eat those, I could come in contact with them, and then I have to ride home with her.  If I expose her to nuts, really bad things could happen.”  Her little brother was sitting next to her, so she was careful with her words.

And Mr. Peanut’s response?  “Really?” He scoffed, and he was done.

Later the flight attendant was offering snacks, and she approached Mr. Peanut.  He told her no thank you, that he had those with him and pointed at the unopened bag of peanuts.  “Sir, you can’t eat those on this flight,” she said.

He pointed at my oldest across the aisle.  “Yeah, that girl already chewed me out about it.”

The flight attendant looked over at Aub and smiled.  And she told him Aub was right.

All of this was relayed between us as we hurried along through the Atlanta airport to baggage claim.  I was so angry at the time, I know for sure one thing–that it is good I only caught a glimpse of him as he was getting on the train.  The Fella wisely guided us ahead to walk instead.  As I walked, I calmed down.  You can’t fix broken folks.  You just can’t.  I don’t know why he didn’t care about my child, or any person with food allergies for that matter, but for some reason he just didn’t.  All I know is I am thankful that, for whatever reason, he didn’t eat the nuts on the plane.

“Because if he had,” my oldest told me as we waited for the Fella to bring the car around as dusk settled across the Georgia sky, “I don’t know what I would have done.  But I would have done something. There might have been a ‘domestic incident.'”

“Eh,” I told her.  “Some things are worth creating a domestic incident over.”

I’m proud of her.  Siblings of people with food allergies have to live with the allergy too.  And this one–she’s her sister’s greatest advocate.

Tonight I’m thankful for a wonderful time with family–cherished moments.  I’m glad we didn’t rule the trip out because of the time or distance or our (MY) fears.  I am thankful for good flight attendants who care and make every effort to keep all passengers safe.  I give thanks for a daughter who is strong and can speak up when the need arises.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a safe journey.  And that all of those epipens came home unused.  WIN.

I have learned two things that surprised me though.  That anger and brokenness in people can overrule their compassion–I guess I knew that on some level, but to be reminded of it like this in such a personal way broke my heart and really, really surprised me.  Call me gullible, but yeah–I wasn’t prepared for that.

The other thing that I learned is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t book a seat for Anxiety Girl.  She doesn’t care.  She’d just as soon sit in your lap for the whole ride.  Doesn’t faze her one bit.  She’ll still come.  UNINVITED.

Wishing us all the ability to let our compassion override all the other things we are carrying with us.  Every single day.  And that when we take the chance to fly with our fear, we land in a beautiful place.

Love to all.

auvi q and wings

It’s All Yours, Uncle Willie

So we’ve finished our whirlwind trip from my beloved plains of Georgia to the beautiful hill country of Texas. Before we left, my sweet sisterfriend surprised me by leaving a copy of Willie Nelson’s new book on my front porch–since we were headed to his stomping grounds, it made sense. Ever since, apropos to our journey, I have had “On the Road Again” playing through my mind.   

As I write, we are literally on the road again, heading south on 75 in my home state, having spent four days in Uncle Willie’s neck of the woods. (I grew up thinking he might actually be my Uncle, because that’s how my folks referred to him. Uncle Willie. Aub recently told me she thought the same thing when she was little.)  I’ve been toying around with a couple of verses for a Haiku, but y’all, I’m sorry. The old five-seven-five syllable setup just isn’t enough to fully encapsulate my emotions right now.

So instead I offer you a variation on the Haiku. Perhaps a Willie-ku.

(Y’all, I do apologize for that.  It’s been a long day.)

“On the Road Again” is a great song and all
good job, Uncle Willie, but I will let you have it–
once this road gets me home
I believe I will put up my feet and stay a while  

A Legacy of Loving

Thursday evening as we pulled into the middle school parking lot, arriving for the littles’ gymnastic recital, Cooter piped up from the backseat, “I wish Maemae weren’t dead.”

Oh my heart.  Bless him.  Me too, baby boy.  Me too.

I’m not sure what prompted him to feel that, but maybe it’s because she was there for his very first gymnastics recital in 2012.  Maybe he was seeing her walking down that sidewalk with us after it was all over, her face beaming and telling him how wonderful he was–I know that memory kept playing over and over in my heart as we drove in and parked.

His sister agreed with him.  My Mama had a special gift of making the one she was talking to feel extra special.  Valued. Loved.  Wanted.  A treasure indeed.  And she never accepted you putting yourself or anyone else down.  Not ever.

She also told me when I needed to get off my pity pot.  But that’s a story for another night.

So this is for my children–the ones she loved, the ones she said made her life “grand”–

Maemae loved you.  She still loves you.  You never failed to put a smile on her face and a song in her heart.  She wanted you since the moment she found out you were on your way.  And she never stopped wanting you–as her grandchild, in her home, sitting next to her, in her heart.

She never stopped, and she sure shooting hasn’t stopped now.

There are going to be these moments in your life when the pain of her being gone is going to be a little harder than normal, like these past few days–special events, moments that make you think of her, or sometimes, for no reason at all.

And here’s what I want you to remember.

Maemae left you a legacy.  A legacy of love.  She loved you so strongly that when you sit and think about her and all you did together, I hope it puts a smile on your face.  Because you never failed to put one on hers.

But she also left you a legacy of loving.  She spent years and years building relationships with people who loved her back and who now love you.  Because you are hers and because you are pretty amazing people all on your own.  Look around at who is there when you have special events.  Look at who answers the phone when you have something to share.  Look at who blesses your heart when times are hard.  Look at who comes and moves you out of your dorm room or listens to you play piano over the phone or on a video.  Look at who listens to your stories and plays with you.  Look at who comments on your posts or sits and makes you laugh.  Look at Who. Shows. Up.

You were loved.  And you still are.

None of those who are here loving you now could replace her, and none of them want to.  But what they can do and WANT TO DO is love you and celebrate you and bring you comfort when you are sad.  And remind you that you are a treasure.

How lucky we are that Maemae was so good at loving people that she left us with all of these folks who love us too!

Our Princess’ dance teacher retired last year.  She returned this afternoon to watch “her girls” perform in their recital.  It was a loving gesture, and the girls were so excited to see her and for her to see what they have learned in a year’s time.

As she and I stood backstage watching them perform, it struck me how fortunate we are that Miss B did such a wonderful job of loving and teaching our girls.  These girls love her and were sad when she decided to retire, but because she passed the love of dancing along to them, they had what they needed to continue with dance when she wasn’t there.

See, if she had empowered them only to love her, none of them would have returned.  What a selfless gift she gave them when she made it bigger than her…..these girls’ love of dance is her legacy.

Maemae was like that with love.  She loved us fiercely and taught us to do the same, but instead of always wanting all that love for herself, she taught us to send it flowing outward to others and others and more others.  It didn’t stop with her, and because of how she loved, it never will.

That is her legacy.

Tonight I am thankful for women who teach and love in such a way that their absence doesn’t stop all the good things they have taught us.  I give thanks that my children remember and miss their Maemae, but even more I am thankful for those who continue to love them in the here and now.  I know she would be the last one wanting them sad on special days like these, and I love her so much for building relationships that feed our souls and warm our hearts and celebrate alongside us.  I don’t know what I would do without those smiling faces in the audience, those loving voices on the phone, the laughter and the willingness to step in and help.  I don’t know what I would do without those who show up.

And I’m thankful I don’t have to.

May we all love and teach the ones around us such that we don’t have to be around for the words and lessons to still matter and guide their hearts.

Love to all.

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Summer Applause

It is officially summer.

No matter what the calendar or the thermometer say, in my book, summer has officially begun.

This is the fourth summer I have kicked off in the same way.  Sitting watching girls in leotards and boys in shorts and t-shirts show their gymnastic skills.

And then there’s the drive home at dusk.  With the lightning bugs and the smell of everything summer in the air that envelops me like a warm bath.

Yes. It’s definitely summer.

Tonight’s gymnastic recital brought back memories of the others–the first and only one my Mama attended, the one she enjoyed so much.  The one when my little guy and his buddies did a “Mission Impossible” routine.  The one that I left the kitten I was bottle feeding to attend.  So many memories, and tonight was memory-making all by itself.

Cooter doing synchronized, paired cartwheels with his best bud.  His smile as he worked his way around the horse.  Watching him PLANK.  (He never mentioned he could do any of these things!) Sitting with his friends watching the others perform, singing along to the different songs. Our Princess doing the floor routine with a little dance to it.  Watching her mouth the words to the song playing while she was walking the balance beam, dipping her toes “in chocolate.”  Looking over to see her fanning herself, her sign language that she was nervous–always with the super big smile and that sweet wave.  The moment she went over and told her brother what a great job he did after his performance.  Seeing the joyful and anxious faces in the room, and hoping that each one of them felt good about what they did and happy when the night was over.

There was one little girl, maybe five, who was in a class of girls who took turns doing their stunts on the mini-trampoline.  Each time she came up and finished, she threw her arms up as they had all been instructed.  And she waited.

For the applause.

Sooooo cute.

And of course the applause came.  It came for each one who took the time to stop for a minute. And for those who just finished and ran back to their spot.  But this little girl.  She stood and soaked it in with her big ol’ smile and sweet spirit.

That right there.

What a precious thing to see, this little one who was loving every minute of her life and KNEW she’d just done something fabulous and let all the rest of us celebrate that with her.

Because that’s what it seemed like.  Our applause was a part of her celebration, her victory, her accomplishing something really, really BIG.

And she had done just that.

The applause tonight did other things too–it encouraged each child.  Each turn the gymnasts came back more ready and excited than the last–encouraged by the applause from the previous round.  And it served as a balm to the souls of the ones who hadn’t made the perfect landing. Or done the best cartwheel.  It celebrated showing up.  And that’s always worth honoring.

Tonight I’m thankful for another year of growth and learning and good health with great gymnastics teachers who make it fun and safe for my children.  I am thankful for the ones who came out and made my littles feel celebrated and loved tonight–for them showing up.   I give thanks for the friends my children and I have made over the course of their years in this fabulous program.  I am grateful for the memories I have and the memories we made tonight of this special culmination of hard work, dedication, and fun.  And finally, my heart is filled with appreciation for the frog music, lightning bugs, and summer night sky that serenaded us home tonight.

May we all find someone to applaud and celebrate with–and when we do something absolutely fabulous, may there be someone there to celebrate us.  Most of all, may we all make the effort to show up…..and celebrate those who do.

Happy Summer, y’all!  Merry memory making!

Love to all.

My Heart in Pictures

This morning before I got out of bed our sweet Princess walked in with my Daddy’s tray that she dug out of who knows where.

“Mama I’ve been paying attention to what you eat, and so I made you breakfast.”

Y’all.  On an episode of a comedy show I was watching recently, the son used the “breakfast in bed” ploy to try to get his way with his Mama.  Time after time.  Once he brought in a bunch of bananas and a box of pop tarts.  Another time the tray he carried in had a carton of eggs and a package of bacon on it.

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Not my girl.  She’s been watching.  My crackers with No Nut Butter and pumpkin seeds.  She even found one of the extra smoothies I had put in the freezer.  And a spoon on a leftover fancy napkin from her sister’s birthday party last fall.

To be known.  And loved.  And thought to be worth the effort.  A gift to be sure.

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This sweet face in the sunshine.  Both gifts.  She follows me around and never seems to tire of finding me wherever I go.  That’s love.  And this is her sleepy face.

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Aub and her Pirate sister playing and singing music on the back porch.  Hearing that sweet voice and guitar filled my heart and soul, full to bustin’.  I love these two girls.  What they can do when they put their hearts and talents together is beautiful.

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This smile.  It usually means mischief is going on.  And yet it still tickles me to see it.  And when he laughs…..you just can’t help but laugh along, I don’t care who you are.

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The grace of new beginnings and ever blooming friendships and the beauty of this time of year all overwhelmed me today.  And made my heart glad.

My Mama started many a day off reminding me, “This is the day that the Lord hath made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Yes ma’am.  Today was such a day of rejoicing.

Love and rejoicing to all.

The Day My Life Changed Forever

Forty-three years ago today, around 3:30 in the morning, my life changed forever.  I don’t remember what it was like before that day, but on that day, I became a sister.

For Sister, who was the one who made me just that…..for the very first time–

 

When you came into this world,

my life changed

for the better

There are photographs of us, your tiny hand in mine

and it’s as though it’s always been that way

You younger, smaller, and yet

so much stronger than you appeared

You’ve worked harder than most

to take the next step, to keep breathing

to forge your own path

walking to the beat of your own drum

and here we are

Grown.

 

With you I learned to share and play fair,

we learned to do that together,

and I don’t think we’ve really forgotten how,

have we?

All those years it made me smile

when folks realized you were mine

and I would have taken any one of them out

had they hurt you or said anything untoward

It is still that way,

but the lines

are blurred

between good guys and bad guys

and so it’s harder for me to know

how to make it all okay anymore

 

The words over the years,

some kind, some not

the laughter, the whispered secrets

the dreams shared and the sorrows as well

Your voice is a balm to my soul

and your laughter takes me to a place

where no pain can come

And yet we are so far from where we’ve been

The absence of those who held us together

makes it all so hard

Words, Weeping, Worries, Woes,

and yet, in my heart,

you are still the little one whom I threw up on when I was five,

who helped me up when I fell down,

and you are the one who packed my dorm room the

night before graduation

you are the sister I held in my arms

when the baby was coming

and when the baby didn’t

You gave me the gift of watching birth

and I hope always to remember

that precious moment,

all the precious moments

 

Over the years you have given me strength and love

and challenged me to stand up and say something

when it all was on the line

The grief has aged us both, weathered our faces

and our souls

One day, when all the rocky road of this journey is behind us,

I hope we find ourselves sitting together,

once again,

with your tiny hand in mine

 

If a Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words…..

A week or so ago, I was “running my mouth” and said something about a picture not taken being worth zero words.  And then I paused and questioned that almost immediately.
Is it?

I’m all about taking the pictures.  (Rarely in them, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)  I take them in important moments, whimsical moments, “make me laugh so hard I’ve got to get this shot right now” moments, and in moments that hardly seem special at the time at all.

Miss Sophie pulled the empty water bottle out of her sock monkey toy.  This made us laugh.  So glad I was able to get this shot.

Miss Sophie pulled the empty water bottle out of her sock monkey toy. This made us laugh. So glad I was able to get this shot.

Here’s one of those “laughing so hard, oh please let me get it” moments, just for the fun of it.

An old fashioned microphone for your home decor.  Oh-kay.....interesting, considering our conversation.

An old-fashioned microphone for your home decor. Oh-kay…..interesting, considering our earlier conversation.

I also take pictures of things I want to remember.  Like an item in a store.  About thirty minutes before I saw this in the store, we had just been talking about the old-fashioned microphones with our Princess.  I wanted to remember that they had them if I decided we really “needed” one.

 

Cooter picked up the empty tissue box and said, "Mama if you pull out all of the plastic it makes a great cup holder."  Then he proceeded to pick up the whole box and drink from it.  That boy.....

Cooter picked up the empty tissue box and said, “Mama if you pull out all of the plastic it makes a great cup holder.” Then he proceeded to pick up the whole box and drink from it. That boy…..

And then there are the pictures I take for posterity, because I never will remember such as this, but isn’t it something worth remembering?  The time that my 7 yo made a cup holder out of the empty tissue box and then picked up the whole box so he could drink his water.  That boy’s a mess, I tell you what.  And now I can remember what a mess he was at age 7.  (And far beyond, I’m sure.)

 

Once upon a time in my previous life, we were on a trip to Disney and I found myself lugging around a big video camera and trying to document each precious moment.  And you’re at Disney, for goodness’ sake–so each moment is precious if for no other reason than the average price per moment, right?

Yes.

But I got to the point where I realized I was spending a majority of my time watching everything from behind the lens, and I wasn’t really living in the moment.  I was going to go back later and enjoy watching the videos over and over.  Big fun.

So I stopped.  I took a few pictures that were treasures, but I stopped taking pictures of every little thing.

And I enjoyed things more.

I had kind of forgotten my resolution.  Our trip to the Mouse House this past summer went okay, but I probably did take more pictures than I needed to.  It was last Tuesday evening at the Fair that it came back to me.

Sometimes a picture not taken is worth a whole lot of words too.

I was sitting with my family watching Robinson’s Racing Pigs.  (These are the same pigs that led me to meet Phil Keoghan–yep, the guy from the Amazing Race–but you’ll have to wait on that story too.)  It was a beautiful night and the stars were out.  After dark the Fair seems even more magical.  As the pigs came out and began to race, I thought, oh, let me take a picture, let me get shots of my babies cheering on their favorites.

Wait.  A bystander? Watching from the sidelines–behind the lens again?

Cheering them on as they cheered pigs on?

No.

I decided to put my camera (okay, phone) away and get in there and cheer alongside them.  So no, we don’t have pictures of the little piggies waiting for someone to be the first one to jump in and swim across the waterway to get to the Oreo at the finish line.

But what we do have might just be a little more precious.

We have the stories from the night that both of the littles were selected to be the main cheerleader for his/her pig, how our Princess handed me her drink cup so she could throw both hands in the air to cheer her pig on.  How we oohed and ahhed when those little cuties didn’t want to get in the water, and laughed out loud when they eagerly swam across and gobbled up their cookie treats.

And we all did it together.  No side-lining it or staying behind the lens to be ready for the next perfect shot.

I love great pictures as much as anyone, but sometimes, sometimes I like being a part of the memory-making and not just the recorder of it.

And that’s when no pictures make for some fabulous stories.

Love to all.