Cooter, Clemson, and Middle C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I adore him right back.

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

And it really is all okay.

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

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

Love to all.

clemson-hat

 

The Heart’s Memory

You know what surprises me?

And you will probably be surprised at this–

My heart.  My mind.  My heart’s memory.

That’s what surprises me.  Big time.

Grief and the paths it takes us on surprises me too.

Saturday we took the whole crew and met Gnomee, Leroy, and Shaker at the Fair.  Rides are not my thing unless it’s the Agri-Lift, which is a very time-consuming, slow, and relaxed ski-lift type ride over half of the Fairgrounds.  I enjoyed watching the children ride and worrying over whether or not Cooter was going to lose his lunch, since the first ride he went on was rather rambunctious.

The last of the tickets were used to ride the Ferris wheel.  We had just enough for everyone to ride except two.  I gladly sat it out with Cooter (who was still a little puny), as I like to be the cheerleader on the sidelines when it comes to these kinds of things.  I also like to people watch, and I welcomed a few moments of downtime.  As I waited for them to come around in sight where I could wave to them, I people watched.

"Great Dads Get Promoted To Grandpa"

“Great Dads Get Promoted To Grandpa”

And when I saw this man and his shirt, my first thought was “Oh, that’s perfect for Daddy.”  They didn’t come any greater than him.  And immediately after that…..

it hit me all over again.

It’s been almost three years since my Daddy went on up to the Big House, and I know this.  Not a day goes by that this doesn’t register in my brain.  But somehow on Saturday afternoon, I relaxed so much that for a nano-second, my heart forgot.

And then I had to feel the pain all over again.

I’ve got no idea how that even happened y’all.

I probably would have gotten him a car, but he would have loved the airplanes too.....

I probably would have gotten him a car, but he would have loved the airplanes too…..

Just an hour later, after we rode the Agri-Lift–such memories we make each year on our leisurely ride–we were in the Commercial Exhibits building, and I found myself admiring the woodcrafts of one of the exhibitors.  I’ll be dog if I didn’t have another one of those moments.

For a second in a surreal moment, I thought what an awesome gift one of these would make for Daddy.  For Christmas.

Oh me.

Of course I’m not losing my mind.  Not really, right?  It seems that Fall is a trigger for me.  I’ve thought more about those last few weeks in 2011 with my Daddy in the past couple of weeks than I have in a long time.  And I’ve discovered something important…..

There is pain, yes, but there is so much beauty in those moments.  The memories of our last weeks and days were not just filled with tears.  There was a lot of laughter and a lot of quiet moments of giving thanks.  For our time together, for the man who raised me, for the grace he always gave, for the stories he told, and for the love I still feel from this gentle giant.

Tonight I’m thankful for the reminders of my Daddy.  For the cardinals that play in my backyard and remind me of our quiet days sitting and watching them through the living room window.  For the woodcrafts that remind me of his carpentry skills and how he loved to create with wood.  For the yellow jackets and wasps that make me laugh as I remember Daddy videotaping the ones that lived in his workshop out back, wanting to observe their behaviors.  For the quiet of a fall sunset that lets me sit and be with my aching heart as I remember all the times I sat in comfortable and peaceful silence with my Daddy.

I’ll always be his girl, and if I think of him sometimes and forget that he’s not here, then maybe it’s because he’s so close, just on the other side of the veil, and I can feel him there.

I hope so.  I sure do miss him and need his wisdom right about now.

Wishing you all a beautiful fall sunset to remember and reminisce and to make precious memories.

Love to all.

 

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.

Sigh.

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.

 

My Favorite Time of Year

Mess Cat predicted this is the one I’d write tonight.  Thanks for the idea, girl.

This afternoon we made our yearly trek down to Perry for the Georgia National Fair.

Just Yes. I love the Fair.

I texted Mess Cat to tell her little guy Shaker that this was ChaCha’s (yes that’s my Aunt name) absolute favorite thing of the whole year and for them to get excited.  They were driving down to meet us.

As we rode down I thought about it.  The Fair really is my very favorite thing to do during the year.  I love it.  LOVE IT.

My boots in their Fall Debut and my Pinterest win.  Jeans from the GW Boutique which were about two miles too long.  Cut them off and hem with a crochet trim.  Fun and functional.  And ready for the Fair!

My boots in their Fall Debut and my Pinterest win. Jeans from the GW Boutique which were about two miles too long. Cut them off and hem with a crochet trim. Fun and functional. And ready for the Fair!

I put on my jeans that were my latest Pinterest win and dusted off my boots.  As much as I love my flip-flops, the Fair just calls for boots, and today was their Fall Debut.

We spent much of the time on the side AWAY from the rides.  I just love the animals and the exhibits.  The rides side not so much.  I think I must have been traumatized as a child.

Mess Cat's crew and ours wandering along on our way to find something to eat.

Mess Cat’s crew and ours wandering along on our way to find something to eat.

I love that you can get so many varieties of food.  We found one place there that we know is safe for our food allergy child, so we are able to relax and eat and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Fair.  Among the supper fare for everyone was gyros, pizza, chicken sandwiches, blooming onion, and roasted ear of corn (mine–look forward to it all year!).  We sat as the sun started settling a bit and the breeze stirred.  Music flowed around us as the same singer that entertained us last year sang oldies but goodies.

During our wandering around we visited the pigs and the cows.   A new feature this year–in the cow barn, the littles and their cousin got to try milking a mechanical goat.  That made them giggle and was really cool.  We love the ice-cold chocolate milk that the Dairy folks give out every day of the Fair each year.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  It always hits the spot.

We love playing on the tractors on display from Walker-Rhodes Tractor Company.  It’s so awesome that they bring these out there to share.  I remember one Christmas during my previous life how excited I was that there was a new tractor on the place.  Playing on my Papa’s tractor when I was little used to be one of my favorite things.  I love that my children enjoy playing on them too.

And y’all!  The modular homes were back.  They used to have several there every year, but they have stopped in the past few.  While there were only two there this year, they were awesome!  Both had been “endorsed” by the Robertsons of “Duck Dynasty,” and you could even order a “Miss Kay” kitchen.  There was “Uncle Si” in one of the homes, and both of my girls had their pictures made with him.  It was so much fun to go through them and imagine living in each one.  Princess even got into it, talking about which room would be hers.  So much fun.

The dads and the littles all rode the paddle boats.  Mess Cat, Aub, and I sat at the picnic table next to the pond and had a good visit.  We sang along to the songs the band was playing–throwing our hands up and everything.  The breeze blew a bit of the spray from the pond over to us.  A perfect day.

Picture of binturong courtesy of Wiki Commons.  Isn't he precious?

Picture of binturong courtesy of Wiki Commons. Isn’t he precious?

The petting zoo was a huge hit.  Shaker especially loved the giraffe, and I picked out my birthday present from him–a binturong.  The sign on her pen said she was easily domesticated and very affectionate.  And she looked like a big fluffy sloth.  Precious.  Shaker said he’d get me one, and I just can’t wait.  Wonder what Miss Sophie will think of him?

Oh all the sights and sounds of the Fair.  And they only get better from the sky.  We rode the Ferris Wheel with Mess Cat and her crew.  I haven’t ridden it in  years.  I think my Fella was most excited that they lit it up just as we were boarding.  There was an awesome view, but it went a bit fast for my taste.  And we had to go over to the Midway to ride it, so I was just a tad out of my comfort zone.  But being with family and laughing and enjoying the sunset from way up high–so worth it.

We finished up our evening doing two things that have quickly become a part of our family traditions at the Fair.  First we rode the Agri-Lift.  It is my happy happy joy joy place.  I love how slow it goes.  It takes a good 20 minutes or longer to ride round trip.  You can ride it from near the clock tower all the way down to the South Gate and back.  It is calming and carries you above the sounds and chaos of what is below.  I remember riding it two years ago on a Friday afternoon.  Mess Cat was coming down from Atlanta to see Daddy, who was not doing well at that time.  We were wrapping up our visit to the Fair with the ride, and then we were headed over to Mama’s to just be with our family.  As I sat high above everything on that sunny clear day, the breeze rocked us ever so slightly and I remember such a feeling of peace.  I held on to that and replayed it in my mind over and over so much that it became worn like the pages in a favorite book.  Daddy left this world for a better one only five weeks later.  I treasure the memory of that peaceful moment before the brokenness.

And tonight it was just as peaceful.  The sun had set and we watched all the lights shining from way up high.  It was an especially long ride tonight as they had to stop it twice for a few minutes.  I just sat with my girls and soaked it all in.  I turned and waved at my Fella and Cooter who were in the seat behind us.  Have I mentioned I love the Fair?

A few pictures from our ride:

A view of our Ferris Wheel from the Agri-Lift.  Such a glorious sunset.

A view of our Ferris Wheel from the Agri-Lift. Such a glorious sunset.

The modular homes we walked through.  Amazing how spacious and fun they were inside.

The modular homes we walked through. Amazing how spacious and fun they were inside.

We didn't to see this show, but I am betting it is a humdinger.  The Hatfields and McCoys High Dive Show.  Because I always think of high dives when I think of feuding family stories.  Aub and I were wondering what they will do with all that water when they take the set down.....

We didn’t to see this show, but I am betting it is a humdinger. The Hatfields and McCoys High Dive Show. Because I always think of high dives when I think of feuding family stories. Aub and I were wondering what they will do with all that water when they take the set down…..

The tractors we played on.  One of our favorite things to visit each year.

The tractors we played on. One of our favorite things to visit each year.

One of the many bands performing on the free stages.  As we were leaving, she was singing, "Don't Stop Believing."  This may be a song that truly transcends all ages.  There were people much older than I am singing along in the audience, and as we passed by, a boy who looked about seven was singing his heart out.  It's a good one.

One of the many bands performing on the free stages. As we were leaving, she was singing, “Don’t Stop Believing.” This may be a song that truly transcends all ages. There were people much older than I am singing along in the audience, and as we passed by, a boy who looked about seven was singing his heart out. It’s a good one.

The clock tower which welcomes you to the Fair.  It is a great compass for how to find things.

The clock tower which welcomes you to the Fair. It is a great compass for how to find things.

Last but not least we watched the Wild West Show.  Those guys are so talented.  We found them last year, but they made such an impression, they were on several of our “Must Do” lists.  We arrived a few minutes after it began, but I was excited to learn it was a different storyline from last year.  If you enjoy plays on words and slapstick humor, this is the show for you.  My favorite part though was watching my littles’ faces.  They loved it.  Every minute of it.  The sound of their laughter warms my heart.  Always.

So the things I love most about the Fair?  The people I’m with.  Family.  Friends.  Aub even ran into her best friend from Middle School.  That hug.  It brought tears to my eyes.  Have you ever seen two people hug and you just know, from the length and the intensity that those two matter to each other?  Yes.  That.

Aub and her best friend from Middle School catching up.  Facebook is great, but there's nothing like a hug and talking in person to reconnect.

Aub and her best friend from Middle School catching up. Facebook is great, but there’s nothing like a hug and talking in person to reconnect.

I also love that everything is pretty much in the same spot every year.  Consistency is so comforting.  The Dole Whip and Chick-Fil-A and the Gyro place always the same.  The Chick-Fil-A Scavenger Hunt is always a fun thing to do.  The tractors and the RV’s and the petting zoo–always there to enjoy.  You can depend on them.

But here’s why the Fair is my favorite thing to do all year.  Unlike birthdays, there’s no pressure.  Unlike Halloween or Thanksgiving, there’s no preparation.  And Christmas–I love it, but the Fair still wins.  Why?  Because all you have to do is Show Up.  Show up and enjoy.  What you partake in is up to you.  How much you do–all up to you.  How much fun–again, pretty much up to you.  It’s a great place to just be and relax and enjoy.

There’s two days left.  Wonder if I can work in one more trip.  Yeah, I love it just that much.