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.”

the pen

If I could give you anything,
anything at all, it would be a pen.
One you wouldn’t lose, no matter how hard
you seemingly tried to do so.
I would give you a pen which wrote in any
color you imagined at the moment.
With this pen, with any words you put down on paper,
you would feel heard and understood
and not so alone–
with those words sitting there all lined
up in your favorite color du jour,
reflecting your very thoughts,
you soul would tell its story.

By writing it all down
with this pen
your heart would be glad and
your mind would be eased
and peace would come to you.

That peace that comes from finding another
who says, “me too”
and echoes what weighs on your very being,
baring itself and revealing
your own beauty to you,
shining back in your eyes
and you can’t help but love her
and you

and in that moment
you will be free
and soar above the wreckage that
tries to pull you
down

write your words
and know
you are
never
alone

and
you
are
loved

it is written
and so it is so

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“Italian quill and ink” by Clementina – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

That thing you give others so freely

People.

This one is going to be short and sweet tonight.

 

You can only do the best you can do with what you have at the time.  

Don’t look back and question yourselves.  Don’t give yourself a hard time because, looking back, you can clearly see what you should have done.

I am putting these words on “paper” tonight because I’ve had to speak them to more than one of my sisterfriends this week.

Just as my Mama said them to me numerous times over the years.

She was all about doling out some grace, that one.

And more importantly, she was all about telling me to give myself some grace.  (And ironically, she didn’t cut me any slack or give me any grace when I wasn’t giving myself grace…..if you can follow that train of thought.)

Grace.  I know you can give it.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve been on the receiving end of it.  (Thank you for that, by the way.)

Now how about you give yourself some?

You did the best you could do at the time.

Yay, you!  Well done.

And so now, we move forward.  To tomorrow.

To do the best we can do with what we are given then.

Grace and much love to all.

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Get Your Brave On

When I was at my lowest after first Daddy and then, fifteen months later, Mama passed, my baby sister Mess Cat sent me the song “Brave” Sara Bareilles, and said, “I just want to see you be brave.”

Brave?

BRAVE?!

I love her, but I just couldn’t hear that.  I wasn’t ready to.   Being brave was the furthest thing from my  mind.  Anger?  Yes. Despair?  For sure.  Pain?  Absolutely.  BROKEN and shaken to my core?  One hundred percent YES.

I was fairly for certain sure I had nothing remotely brave left in me.

And yet–

Today the song came on the radio.  I was singing along.  Where I once almost loathed the song because it required something of me that I just didn’t feel prepared to do, I now really, really like the song.  It was uplifting.  I was dancing along as I tidied up around here.

And that’s when it hit me.

All those days that I spent crying as I washed the dishes or stopping in the middle of moving clothes from the washer to the dryer, lost in thought, or the nights that supper was a sandwich and applesauce–all of those days, I was brave.  We all were.  We woke up to the knowledge that things had changed and would never be the same again, and yet–we didn’t run.  I might have stayed in bed a little longer.  Some days I didn’t change out of my hoodie and sweatpants.  Some days I left dishes in the sink until the next day.  (Okay, most days.)  Once I broke down crying in the middle of the grocery store and had to stop and check out and go home without getting most of what I was there for.  And as the years stretch out, the “some days” are farther apart, but they STILL happen.

But I haven’t given up yet.

I might have felt like it, I might have closed my eyes and taken afternoon naps for a week straight, but I never gave up.

And I think maybe that’s what my sister was saying.  She didn’t like seeing me give up.

Today I read the lyrics.  Not all apply to what we have gone through, but these lines stand out for me:

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

I have some dear friends who are going through dark times and hard things–some of the hardest–right now. Today is our first time remembering my sweet friend’s birthday without her here.  I’m thinking about her family and how brave they are today and have been for so long now.  Another sweet friend is remembering her husband she misses with every breath.  She is so very brave. And yet another friend just said goodbye to her sweet Mama.  How brave is she, remembering her Mama with pictures and stories and loving on her children, smiling through her tears.  And then there’s my friend whose son just passed.  I hold him and all of his son’s family in my heart as they are all kinds of brave, doing the unthinkable.

You are brave too.  All those things that might have taken you down, but didn’t take you out–BRAVE.  There’s a meme going around about how you’ve made it through all of your hard times 100% of the time so far–YES.  YOU.  THAT.

BRAVE.

Mess Cat, I’m sorry I didn’t hear what you were saying back then, and that it has taken me three years for it to sink in.  But thank you.  It has indeed sunk in.

Listen, y’all.  We have all made it through 100% of the hard things–the broken and sad and devastating ones.  We are all still on the journey.  Even if you are sitting on the bench taking a break, YOU ARE DOING LIFE.  Let the light in.  We all have earned the right to wear this badge.

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Go forth and get your brave on.  You are amazing.

Love to all.

Second Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas…..

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two Mock Pecan pies.

Christmas Eve was my baking day.  I love baking as a general rule.  Our family has decided you either have the baking gene or the cooking gene.  Sister claims I got the baking one, while she got the cooking one.  “But your children are luckier than mine,” she said.  “It’s not like you won’t cook just because you like to bake–you’re going to feed them.  But me, it’s rare that I bake treats for mine.  Yours get the food and the treats.”

What I don’t tell her is sometimes, just ever so occasionally, the treats are the food.

The Fella asked for a Buttermilk Custard pie, and Aub wanted the Mock Pecan Pie.  I wanted to do some baking for other folks as well, and I wanted to get in one more batch of Mama’s Lucia Pepparkakor cookies (Swedish Ginger Cookies), so I knew I’d be in the kitchen for a while.

I have my Great Aunt Maye’s Buttermilk Custard recipe.  It makes two pies, so I started to work mixing and pouring and blending.  I preheated the oven, poured the mixture into the crusts, and placed them in the oven.  Then I was off on the next round of baking.  As I watched the pies, I noticed they weren’t behaving as per usual, but I shrugged.  I could taste test one and send the other as a gift IF the first tasted okay.

About the time I was pulling the pies out of the oven, I noticed the message on the microwave, alerting me to the fact that something was ready inside, and would I please remove it.

Huh.  I wondered who had prepared something and left it sitting there.  Seriously, people?  I went over and popped the door open and uh-oh.

I looked back at my pies.  And then at the butter sitting in the bowl all nice and melted. Sigh.

Okay.  So I had butterless buttermilk custard pies now.  Two of them.

Double sigh.

After Aub did a taste test and reassured me that the pies still tasted good–(yes, they had enough sugar, but they were missing the required butter portion of my Daddy’s test of something being good)–I went ahead and made a second batch of Aunt Maye’s Buttermilk Custard pies to have for gifts.  The first two would not be leaving this house.

As I poured the mixture into the pie crusts for the second time that day, Aub said, “Ummm, Mama?”

“Yes?!” I was more than a tad short with her.

“Ummm, shouldn’t the buttermilk be in those as well?”

I looked over and sure enough, there sat my buttermilk.  In the measuring cup on the counter, just as pretty as you please.

Y’all, I’m not sure I was meant to make those pies that day.

Still, I poured the mixture BACK into the bowl and stirred in the buttermilk and tried again.  They came out looking beautiful and just as they should.

It was after that fiasco that I made the two beautiful Mock Pecan Pies for Aub.  She says they taste really good, and I may or may not *ahem* be able to confirm that statement.

I also made two small pound cakes that day, but that hardly bears mentioning.  After years and years of making those, I can just about make them in my sleep.  Well, at least, let’s just say I have yet to leave anything more serious than the vanilla out of that recipe.

Two is a good number for Christmas.  Two batches of two Buttermilk Custard Pies.  Two Mock Pecan Pies.  Two times forgetting an ingredient and twice the fun and laughter over my mishaps now that it’s all behind me and I’ve gotten some good sleep.

There’s nothing like the good sleep of the night after all  the Christmas fun, is there?

Wishing you all at least two chances to get things right and twice the fun during this beautiful season.

Love to all.

 

 

Absolutely Worthless, My Foot!

“I’ve been absolutely worthless today,” my oldest commented from her position on the couch, wrapped snugly in one of my rescued afghans.   “Folks are going to say, ‘What did you do all weekend?’ and I’m going to have to reply, ‘Oh I don’t know, slept in, took a nap, watched Netflix, pretty much nothing worth anything at all.'”

Oh my heart.

My oldest and I had plans for Saturday.  Big plans.  Big girl, driving out of town a far piece and spending the day listening to important things and then coming back home changed and awesome people kind of plans.  (Well, that was the plan–if you’re going to dream, dream big, y’all.)

Instead we were grounded.  Both of the littles fell victim to some kind of vicious bug that had Cooter not able to eat anything and our Princess the same, only with a big ol’ fever to go along with it.  No one needed to come in here and be exposed to that, even if I had been able to muster the wherewithal to leave my sick babies.  Which I couldn’t.

So we were home.  A day that we had prepped for by tidying up a bit and trying to get organized somewhat (y’all who know me well can stop laughing now, I said tried).  Our Princess stayed in her bed and slept most of the day, while Cooter slowly came back from an exhausting night of not being able to stomach anything.  He watched movies and played games and rested.

While I alternated between caring for the two, I also took a breather and had some quiet time during the day.  My oldest though?  She sat in her sister’s room at our Princess’ request, so she’d have company and wouldn’t feel quite so lonely.  She sat and watched videos with her brother.  She made a Ginger Ale/Sprite/Noodles/Frozen Waffle run (like you do) as we were out of all of those healing things.  She picked up magical healing serum in the form of Chick-Fil-A Sprites-to-go for her siblings, and she listened to my worrying over what was best to do for our Princess.  She reminds me of my Mama the way she can ease my concerns with compassion and commonsense.

And so her words broke my heart.  Yes, she relaxed and watched a couple of her favorite shows.  She took a nap.  She didn’t work on her paper or clean her room.  But that she didn’t see the value of what she did, the love she shared, the help she was in all the little moments all day long?

I need to take her to the eye doctor.  Or soul doctor or something.  I think she needs a new pair of lenses.  A kinder, gentler pair.  Ones filled with grace, which can see the little details for what they are.   The million ways she blessed all of us all day long.

She might not have changed the world yesterday, but she changed our world.  She made things better just by showing up.  By her willingness to sit and be.  By her willingness to go and do.  By being her.

The one we love.  And sharing that special person with us for the day.

Baby girl, if ever you doubt the value of what you do, I want you to remember your brother’s face as he grabbed you this morning and exclaimed, “You’re the second person I hugged today!”  Or the way each of your siblings told you with their weak little voices very early yesterday morning, “Go.  I’ll be okay.  I don’t want to ruin your day.”  Or me.  As you changed out the lightbulbs in my closet today.  You couldn’t see my face while you were up on the ladder, and that’s probably a good thing.  As I was teasing you and trying to take your picture, I was teary-eyed.  This little one whom I fell in love with from the first moment I saw her twenty years ago, is making a difference in our world.  One hug, one smile, one teasing gesture, one CFA drive thru trip, and one moment at a time.  Never doubt that.  Thanks for lighting up our world, literally and figuratively.

Love and light to all.

My girl helping shine light in our world.....and my closet.

My girl helping shine light in our world…..and my closet.

You Are More

Cooter has become fascinated with stories of things people got in trouble for when they were his age.  He has had many conversations with his Daddy about his.  Recently he asked Leroy if he got in trouble at school.  Leroy told him he couldn’t tell them what all he did when he was younger.  I think Cooter was a little scared and a whole lot in awe of his uncle.

He asked me the same question recently.  I decided to tell him the truth.  Something I’ve been carrying around for a long time.  Something I’m not proud of, and I still hang my head when I tell it.

And so I confessed to my eight year old son.  When I was not much older than him, I was sitting in the lunchroom in between my friend and LP (the one who had bullied me the year before and had pulled my thumb back over and over and my parents had told me to kick him in the shin).  I always took my lunch, but the two of them had each bought their lunches.  I don’t know what else was on the menu that day but for sure there was cornbread and something that ketchup could complement.  Everyone was done eating, and we were just waiting to be told to line up to head back to the classroom.  My friend nudged me, handed me her ketchup, and whispered for me to pour it over LP’s uneaten cornbread.  We both knew he was done eating, but she thought it would be funny, and in the moment, I thought she was funny and while something was rippling in the back of my brain, I took the little paper cup of ketchup and squeezed it out over his cornbread while he was turned talking to the person on his left.  And we waited.

We could hardly stand it.  When he turned back around and saw the ketchup, his face turned nearly as red as the condiment.  We giggled behind our hands and between each other.  He was mad.  And so he did what most fourth graders do when they are mad–he told the teacher on us.

Oh me.  This was a joke gone horribly wrong.  One that gave us two or three days sitting out at recess.  This was back before PE, back when we could talk amongst ourselves and play near about anything we wanted to.  So missing any recess was a huge loss. To add insult to injury this teacher had taught my Uncle and my Daddy, and I felt like I had let her and pretty much the whole world down with my poor judgment and horribleness.  My heart was broken over what I was sure was absolutely my worst day ever.  At least the worst thing I had ever done.

Cooter laughed.  He barely squeaked out, “Ketchup?  Really?”  Yes, and don’t make light of it, buddy.  I learned that lesson. Not my plate.  Not my cornbread.  Doesn’t matter if he wasn’t going to eat it.  Doesn’t matter if someone else “told” me to do it.   I have my own brain, and I didn’t use it that day.  I was all about the fitting in and giggles and all the feel good of that moment.  And the truth that I now realize as an adult is that the reason LP told on us was probably because he saw us giggling together and he didn’t feel like he fit in.  It wasn’t about the ketchup on the cornbread, it was about our singling him out.

I’m so sorry, LP.

The thing is, whenever I do something that is less than my best or I make a mistake or I inadvertently do or say the wrong thing, I’m in fourth grade again.  I’m nine and my face is beet red and I’m looking Mrs. W in the eyes as she looks at me and my friend with disappointment and tell us we can’t play at recess.  I’m sitting next to her or whatever teacher is out there and trying to explain my embarrassing predicament to those who want to know why we aren’t playing.

Life is hard, y’all.

But here’s the good news.

I am more than that mistake.

I am more than the wrong I inflicted upon LP and his cornbread.

I am bigger than the poor choice I made.

I am more than my worst day.

And so, my friend, are you.

My beautiful friend Marilyn and I were talking about this earlier.  She gave me the grace and encouragement I needed today.  That I need everyday. We all make mistakes.  None of us have lived a flaw-free life, one where we have never, ever crossed a line or hurt anyone.  We all have stories we’d rather not have to share.

Let ’em go.

We are more.

We are the love we share.  The hugs we give.  The light that shines from who we have become and what we do–and who we are becoming.  We are all the right choices we have made over the years as well.

Do not let your one ketchup-pouring moment define you.

Because there is grace.  There is redemption.  There are second and third and twenty-twelfth chances.  You can do this.  You can turn it around.  As long as you have breath, the possibility exists–you can do better.  And become more.

More than those poor choices.  Those bad moments.  Those mistakes that you really didn’t set out to make.

And to be honest, this was not my only non-stellar moment from my life–it’s not even my only non-stellar moment from that year.  But it is the one that sticks out, as I was so grieved over all those I’d disappointed.  I had to look them in the eyes and face what I’d done.

And you know what?  A few days later, grace won.  Love won.  My time “sitting out” was done, and the slate was clean.

Redemption is real.  And attainable.  And free.

May we all let go of our worst moments.  And allow others to let go of theirs.  Our most painful mistakes.  And may we look in the mirror and offer the grace we so freely give to others to the one looking back at us.

Love and grace to all.