The One About Shopping Carts and This Season I’m In

I am in a new season of life it would seem.  The one where I am called out on my assumptions and the conclusions I’ve jumped to.  I am fascinated and intrigued by it, because the message to “chill” and “give things a second or third glance” continues to come from the strangest and most unusual of places.

This time it was a parking lot.

And a story.

Yesterday, my sweet friend Miss Carolyn shared about her trip to take some items to our local Hospice Thrift Shop.  She was loaded down, and when she got there she was grateful to find a shopping cart that someone had left in the parking lot.  She started unloading her car and putting things in the shopping cart when someone came up and asked if she needed help.  He not only finished loading the cart, but also helped her get it all inside.  A blessing for sure.

Huh.  How many times have I pulled into a parking lot and seen a stray cart and had some seriously unkind thoughts about the person who made the decision to leave it there?

And here was just such a cart blessing my sweet friend.

Well there you go.

I thought about sharing that story last night, but I didn’t feel like it was quite time.  That happens with the stories sometimes.  They have to ripen, so to speak, so I was content to let it sit.

This evening Cooter and I were on the way home from meeting the Fella at our Princess’ swim practice.  We made a quick stop at the Mart for broccoli and the new Star Wars movie.  You know, the important things.  (I’ll let you guess who was wanting which item.)  It was starting to rain as we pulled into the parking lot.  The closest spot was desirable, seeing as we did not have any rain gear with us.  The only problem was that it was near the Garden Center entrance, and they don’t usually have carts available in that area.  (And yes, it’s the Mart, I was going in for two things, but we all know how that goes in such a situation. I would definitely be needing a cart.)

As I pulled into the very first spot in front of the Garden Center, I saw a break in the clouds to the west on the horizon, and tiny bit of sunlight shone through despite the rain that was starting.  And that was when I noticed my own little blessing.  Two of them.

img_1949 img_1952

And I laughed.  Remembering Miss Carolyn’s angel, I was glad that the angel had visited the Mart parking lot as well.  That cart let us dash in the closest door and not have to go back to the front to get a cart.

I am thankful.

I don’t think I’ll ever look at and judge a stray cart again.

I guess that’s the point though, right?

Tonight I’m thankful for a world of beautiful people sharing stories that can enlighten us and help our eyes be open to so much more good that what is readily apparent at first glance.  Thank you, Miss Carolyn, for letting me tell your story and for helping me to see Good and Light in a misplaced shopping cart.

Love to all.

 

Looking Forward To…..

Such a lovely day today.  The sunshine.  The crisp fall leaves beneath our feet.  The colors of the trees, the faint smell of fall in the air.  The children ran as far as they could until they collapsed in a pile of arms and legs, laughing.  We explored the park, read the historical signs, the children played, and we adults talked about all and none of the important things.  Moments of conversation punctuated by laughter and shared stories and companionable silences, during which all that was unsaid was understood.

A picnic lunch under the trees wrapped up the morning.  The quiet except for the rustling of napkins and children chomping away was a testament to the energy expended and fun had. As goodbyes were said and pictures taken to remember, we all hugged and nodded, “Yes, we will do this again soon.”

After a brief afternoon slumber to recuperate and rejuvenate, we were off again.  To share coffee with friends and do gymnastics and visit with my sister and her family. Again with the storytelling and remembering and catching up.  I think my favorite moments in life will always be the ones where stories are told–whether I’ve heard them ten times before or not.  After a lovely supper and candles and cake and singing and wishing, we were headed for home and closing the house and the day up tight.

Such a lovely day to have a birthday.

Except that none of this is true.

And yet–it was still a day with lovely moments.

Poor Cooter.  He is a sick little fella.  Round two with this cold/allergy/upper respiratory MESS.  We are so over it.  (But not over it, if you get what I’m saying.) Our Princess had two bouts with it and came out a winner, but then she had the help of her inhaler.  Cooter has no such help.  He only has his secret weapon.  Me.

Bless him.

He wound up in the bed with me last night, which suits me fine.  I like to be able to hear them breathing and check for fevers and besides, when they are sick, it’s just so pitiful.  When he woke up this morning, he lay there for a while, looking at the ceiling or a book and then, suddenly, he popped up, “Hey!”  He looked really close into my eyes, “Today is your birthday, isn’t it?”  I nodded.  “Well, happy birthday!” he said, with his croupy little voice.  Then, “I’m sorry I’m messing it up by being sick.”

For the love.  Priceless.  No, buddy, no.

Tonight as I hugged our Princess good night, she said, “I am worried that I messed up your birthday.”

“How?”

“By playing too much Minecraft and not just sitting with you.”

Oh my stars.  Can’t you just picture that?  Let’s all celebrate my birthday by sitting around together.  And hanging out.  And just sitting here.  With folks glancing at their watches (okay, phones) to see how much longer is left in this. very. special. day.  Hoping it will be over soon so we can all return to our regularly scheduled way of living.

Ummm, no.  I assured her that I did not begrudge her the bit of time she had played her game.  No worries.  She smiled and hugged me once more (when did she get to be as tall as I am?) and headed off to bed.

Between the moments of my littles’ worries about my day, there were some very precious moments.  My children’s neighborfriends wishing me a happy birthday because a little birdie had told them it was.  A gift bag on my doorstep from my sweet neighborfriend.  Message after message from all the people from different parts of my story sending well wishes for the day.  Phone calls from people I love, offering to go get Ginger Ale or whatever we might need, offering to tote my non-sick child to her practice, offering best wishes and much love.  Seeing faces I love on the screen, live and recorded, thinking of me on this day of days.  Cards in the mailbox and old pictures coming out of the woodwork. And the laughter.  Yes.  That too.

Mama's Lucia Pepparkakor cookies, using her old birthday cake cookie cutter.

Mama’s Lucia Pepparkakor cookies, using her old birthday cake cookie cutter.

This evening I baked my Mama’s special fall cookies with her birthday cake cookie cutter.  She made those cookies for me so many times over the years.  I love the recipe, I love that cookie cutter, and I love remembering her hands making them.  I can see so clearly what the early morning on my birthday was like all those years ago–walking in to the dining room where my present was sitting in my chair waiting for me.  That is, until the year I told them I really didn’t like getting my present first thing in the morning.  I liked it better after supper–because it gave me something to look forward to all day.

Which is why my cards are sitting right there, waiting on me to finish writing to open them.  I’ve been looking forward to this all day.

So lucky to be so loved.

So lucky to be so loved.

And perhaps that is what I have learned today–that while much of birthdays can be about looking back and remembering those of years past, it is just as much about looking to the future.  Now that I’m a woman “of a certain age,” *ahem* I find myself a little braver, a little louder, a little less serious, and a lot more in touch with where I am right now.  And I’m looking forward to the wheres of tomorrow and a year from now and years beyond that.  Some days I’m just plain looking forward, and while things might be too far in the distance to see them clearly, I do know that I’m heading in the right direction.  Oh I’ll still glance backwards every now and again, there’s nothing wrong and everything right with that.  But I can’t live there, though goodness knows I’ve been tempted.

I am looking forward, because if life has taught me anything, it’s that there is so much waiting there for me at the end of the day.  So much to treasure and unwrap.  So much joy.

Love and happy everyday to all.

Friend is a Verb

For my littles, who are worried about such things as this:

IMG_9382

Friend is a verb.

You know, you’ve learned this in Grammar–a verb is something you do.

I know you think friend’s a noun-an improper one at that, but it is also a verb.

So when I hear you worrying over who your best friend is, or how to answer when someone asks you who it is, I want you to remember–

Friend is a verb.

Go and be your best self and friend some folks.  Good folks, folks who could use someone to stand alongside them.  Folks who are lonely, who are kind, who smile shyly when you ask if you can sit with them.  Folks who sit by their mailbox with their bike, waiting to be asked to join in the fun.  Folks without a bike, wishing they could join in the fun.

Be your very best you, and friend them.

Bring them into the fray, alongside you for the fun, invite them into your heart and to share the path on your journey.

Listen to their stories, hug them when they’re sad, laugh at their silly jokes, offer them a popsicle when it’s hot or your extra hat when it’s not.  Dance together in the rain and keep their secrets about favorite colors and how many times they can burp in a row.

Friend them.

Love them.  You pretty much can’t go wrong with that.

As time goes by, friendships evolve.  Some last longer than others, but all of them–every single one of our friends are worthy of our best, aren’t they?

Don’t worry about labelling any one person as your “best” friend.  That sort of limits the possibilities of all the adventures you can have with all of the amazing people who come into your lives.

So maybe the next time someone asks you who your best friend is, smile and tell them you are being the “best friend” you can be to all the people you care about–I don’t know, maybe just look at them and say, “Friend is a verb, and I’m doing it the best I can.”

Or maybe, don’t worry about such silly questions and just go have some fun.  Life is too short to be worrying over things like choosing one person over another.  So many beautiful people, so many folks to love and cherish and enjoy and treasure–why limit your heart to just one?

Friend is a verb.

Now go and friend as best you can, as only you can, my bright and amazing crew.

Love to all.  The very best kind.  Always.

on going back

going back

to the person whose heart you hurt

oh so long ago

and saying “I’m sorry,

it was my brokenness,

not yours”

courage

going back

to the person whom you

might have offended

and saying, “I’m sorry,

for the words that came

without thought”

humility

going back

to the person you’ve

been so angry with,

listening

and then saying, “It’s okay,

it’s over, my heart just let it go”

grace

peace

hope

it is in the going back

that we can move forward

and beyond

lighter

and with a full

and thankful

heart

love

 

 

I Want the Caramel Flavored Fluoride Too!

Whoo.  What a day.

We worked hard to get in as much of our studies as we could before heading out for dentist appointments.  Me and the littles.

I used to love going to the dentist.

That ceased two and a half years ago.

I got my first cavity. Ever.

I was so mad.  I figured it was the fault of the new mouthpiece I wore for TMJ.  I blamed it so hard that I quit wearing it then and there.  And after getting the filling, I definitely was NOT happy.  I remember going back to Mama’s to pick up my littles and almost drooling on Daddy in his hospital bed as we talked.  I felt sure my mouth was sliding off my face.  It took forever to regain feeling.  Have I mentioned that I was NOT happy?  Not one bit.

I tend to stress before the appointments now.  Yeah, Anxiety Girl shows up in all her glory.  Even more so when it’s my children’s appointments.  What they don’t tell you as folks are congratulating you and oohing and ahhing over your sweet new baby is this:  “Congratulations, you have now become responsible for someone else’s teeth.”

Whaaaaaa?

It is hard enough to obsess over my own, but now, I stress over what the dentist or hygienist will tell me about my children’s teeth, which of course is ALL MY FAULT.  It’s enough to make me lose sleep and gain weight.  (Oh if only I could switch those around!)

So of course, it makes sense to schedule all three of us together at the same time in rooms next door to each other just so I can have all the stress and anxiety and worry hit me in the head all at once.  Might as well.

Oh boy.

So today Cooter sat in with me while his sister had her teeth cleaned.  While I was having an x-ray done, he slipped into the other room for his cleaning.  Our Australian dentist came in to check my teeth and gave me the report on the littles.  I held my breath.  Which isn’t easy to do when someone has their hand in your mouth.  Seriously.  Try it.

“No cavities.”  The whoosh of relief might have fogged up his glasses just a little.  “However, you need to help Cooter just a little bit with his flossing maybe if that’s possible.  He has some spots where cavities could develop.”  I sighed.  Yeah, I figured.  Okay, we can do that.

Bad news sounds so much better when delivered with an accent, you know?

I love my hygienist.  We have known each other for years.  And for two people who only see each other about twice a year usually, we keep up with the important stuff in each other’s lives.  No small feat considering I’m rendered unable to speak legibly during much of our time together.

Today we talked about weddings and death, stress, yeast, grandchildren, and the holidays.  When my little guy came in–the same one she guessed the gender of when I was pregnant with him–she smiled.  Since she was giving me my fluoride treatment, the two of them talked.

“Did you get your fluoride treatment?” she asked him.

He nodded.  (Boy, speak up, she can’t hear the rocks in your head.  But I was unable to get the words out.)

“What flavor did you choose?  Strawberry, bubble gum, mint, or our new one–orange crush?”

He looked around for a minute, thinking.  “Ummm, caramel.”

She and I both burst out laughing.  (Mine was through my nose–very attractive.)  “Really?” she asked.  “Are you sure?  Caramel?”

He nodded again.  “Yes.  It was caramel.”

I reached over and mock-punched my hygienist.  “Girl, you been holding out on me?” I said.  Only I’m pretty sure it came out, “Durrr, uuu biii ooin ow a e?”  Which of course she interpreted (she’s just that good), and she started laughing too, pretending to fend off my blows.  She called out to her friend and co-worker next door and asked.  Turns out he’d had the new one.  (Yeah, there was no caramel.  But what a concept!)

So of course, after my treatment was over, we all taste tested it to see if it did indeed taste like caramel.

I couldn’t tell, I was jazzed up on the mint.  (Never choose anything other than mint.  It just doesn’t feel clean otherwise.  I know this from experience.  Trust me.)

When we left with our “supply” bags in tow, my two proudly showed me their “treats.”  I love this dentist.  They used to give out “toys” from the treasure box.  Now they give out Chick-Fil-A coupons.  THANK YOU, DR. K!   As we left with smiles and good reports and hugs with my friend and hygienist, we all felt pretty good about ourselves.  We were cavity clear, headed to CFA for free food, and full of relief that we’d eked by one more time.

It’s a good feeling.  I intend to enjoy it.  At least for the next five months and twenty-nine days.

Happy Brushing, y’all!

In honor of my hygienist/friend whom I love, here’s a little giggle and a shout out to those great people who help us keep our mouths clean.  😉  Thank you all. 

Turning Over an Old Leaf

A wet leaf with few insects on it

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Tara, I have a mother.  She lives way up north of here,” my brother-in-law Leroy said.  He looked down at me and smiled.Last night at the Fair with Mess Cat and her family, the truth came out.

I try to fix people’s lives.  Way.  Too.  Much.

I don’t even remember what we were talking about that triggered this response from Leroy, but the

truth is it was probably long overdue.  No probably about it.  It was way overdue.

I teased him.  “You’ve never had a little sister before, have you?” I asked, knowing full well he hadn’t.

“No,” he answered.

“Well this is what one looks like.  All this I’ve been saying, it’s how a little sister acts.”

(Like I would know this.  I’ve never been a little sister in my life.  Leroy is the closest thing I have to an older sibling–all of my other in-laws are younger than I am.)

He laughed and I laughed and all was good.  And I really tried not to take care of things for him.  Until.

About five minutes later.  When we were looking for food, he decided he might forego what he had wanted to save a few minutes walk through the crowd of people.

When I started trying to “fix it” again before I could stop myself, Leroy turned to look at me.  I knew I was doing it again.  His look was patient and kind, but I knew.  Stop it, Tara.  Just stop it.

This morning I got a message from a sweet friend about something really bad that has happened in her family and she asked for prayers.  I was thinking about her taking time to let me know about this, and I take it very seriously.  She asked for prayers, and I have tried today to continuously let God know how much she means to me and ask that she have peace and that she not feel alone in this.   I do not take it lightly that she asked me to keep her in my prayers.

Later, as I was pondering her request and the honor and huge deal it was that she asked, my Fabulous Friend messaged me this:

“Sometimes everyone you know has too many opinions and bias when all you really need is an ear.” –Fabulous Friend

Yes.  Truth.

And yet, how can I possibly be this for someone?  I have it in me to try to fix situations/things/whatever for folks.  Is it being the oldest or my personality type that causes this?  Does it come from my fear of losing the people I want to fix things for because I’ve lost the ones I love the most?  I don’t know, but it’s in there.  And I’m having one more hard time trying to break myself of it.

To be an ear.  To just listen and not offer my help or my thoughts on how to fix whatever it is?  To simply be with someone? You’re asking for something mighty big there, my friend.

And yet, I think that is exactly what my sweet friend needs right now.

A week ago the guy who gets our fireplace up and running every year called and came out.  He is a really nice person.  We were catching up and he hesitated.  Then he shared with me that his daughter in her mid-twenties died in a car accident over the summer, leaving her son for them to raise.  Y’all.  Nothing will hush up somebody who’s a fixer faster than this.  There is nothing.  NOTHING.  that can fix bad stuff like this.  Which is a good thing, because that is exactly what I could come up with.  Nothing.  My mind was spinning, and I did wind up telling him about the children’s bereavement camp that the Hospice I worked with holds every year.  Right, wrong, or otherwise I felt the need to share that with him.  Maybe I should have just been quiet and only been an ear, but old habits die hard.  So it goes.

Since I heard from my sweet friend this morning about her family’s heartbreak, I have found out about another friend’s family member who died tragically, and about our Dear Lady friend whom my family loves and who is about to leave this world because of the cancer.  Cancer comes real close to making me cuss.  It makes me so mad whom it takes from us.  And so tonight I am sad.  For both of my friends and their losses and for this dear lady’s family and friends as they prepare to say “Bye for now.”  And what tears me up most is that there isn’t anything I can do to fix any of it.  Not a blame thing.

And so I look back to what my Fabulous Friend said.  I will try to be an ear and just listen and not try to fix it or suggest options or carry on about what I did in a similar situation.  I’m not promising anything, but I’m going to try.  You hear that, Leroy?

Tonight I will lay my head down on my pillow with a heavy heart, filled with love and peace-filled thoughts for my friends and our Dear Lady’s family.  I give thanks for friends who entrust me with their stories and who ask for my ear and my heart and my prayers.  And I am especially grateful for a brother-in-law who will call me on my stuff and still love me,  and for a wise Fabulous Friend who serves as a compass for me on my journey of letting go. I wish change weren’t so hard.

Cold Drinks and Warm Hearts, Friends Old and New

The coolers of tea and lemonade we took to Daybreak for supper tonight.  (yes the van needs vacuuming out--thanks for noticing)

The coolers of tea and lemonade we took to Daybreak for supper tonight. (yes the van needs vacuuming out–thanks for noticing)

Tonight my heart was as full as my coolers were this afternoon.

And my spirit was a light as the puppy bouncing across our front yard this evening, frolicking with joy.

I am joyful too.

This evening we had a group come serve supper at Daybreak.  My crew and I took ten gallons of sweet tea and five of lemonade.  I could easily have served ten more of lemonade alone, and we only had a gallon or two left of sweet tea.  It was a good and busy evening.

Though I’ve been going up each week for our Sister Circle, I saw some of our friends tonight that I haven’t seen in two months.  Seeing them, the tight and tender hugs, and the stories to catch up on…..it filled my heart to bustin’.

Miss D came in, her usual spunky self.  She has taken it on herself to love me a little extra since February.  And she doesn’t take any sass either.  Just like Mama.  Robert was there, and things seem to be picking up for him.  I have always loved how he keeps up with all of us and takes the time to hear our stories as well as sharing his.  He has a new son whom he adores.  If only every Daddy’s eyes lit up like that when they talked about their children.  He teased our Princess about how she convinced her own Daddy to say yes to a puppy.  He knows how we do.  And I love him for it.  Another friend of ours was there, and when he realized we were leaving he came running over and assured me I’d see him on Tuesday.  He keeps threatening to get some blonde weave and wear heels so he can come into our Sister Circle.  I laugh every time he says that.  So does he.  Several of our friends talked about seeing Mac and told me how he’s doing.  It’s not great news, but I know he has a community of people who love him and care for him as best they can.  And I’m so thankful for that.

I’m like a football fan when Sunday Night Football returns. Or College GameDay.  I am thrilled!  Even if it was only a special occasion visit, it meant the world to me to return to some sort of routine.  It’s a comforting one and a worshipful one as well.  As strange as it may sound, it was a spiritual thing for me, washing and prepping the coolers and then preparing the drinks to take.  I’ve never made the lemonade before, but Aub did a great job in shopping for supplies and getting ice this morning. The lemonade was actually quite popular.  I think we’ve got it down if we should ever need five gallons of lemonade again. (or ten or fifteen…..)

This place, this serving, this laughter and joy and fellowship.  Someone once referred to this meal, this time together as their church.  I agree.  Especially after tonight.  The loving on old friends, showing hospitality to new friends, serving all, listening to stories shared, and sharing what we have together in fellowship–all of that is the best stuff that I can think of from church.

So tonight I had that.  We may not do a Sunday supper again for a while.  But for today I am thankful for the chance to see and hug my old friends, to get to know new folks, and for a chance to serve each person who came through that door.   That’s what we were called to do, right?  Love and serve all.  Amen.