Shattered and Scattered

I woke up Saturday morning with thoughts about two words and the difference between them.  In my dream I had been writing about them.

Shattered and scattered.

But as the sleep cleared from my brain, so did whatever sleep Tara was writing about them.

I hate it when that happens.

So I’ve spent the past couple of days thinking about those two words and what they look like in our lives.  And what could I possibly have been writing about them?

Things shattered.

Things scattered.

There have been those big moments in my life when dreams, hope, faith were shattered.  The end of a life with someone–losing them through a relationship changing (they never really end, do they?) or by a life being over.  Shattered usually means the end of something that was so much a part of me and who I am that it takes ages to pick myself back up and learn to walk and feel and breathe again.  Shattered means there will always be a crack where the sadness and darkness can seep back in at odd times.  Shattered means an altered life.  Losing something or someone and having no control over it.

But when I think about scattered, it’s different.  It’s really more about things in my control.  My mind is scattered these days.  I try to convince myself that I have grief-induced ADD but in fact, it’s been almost 19 months.  How long can I keep telling myself that?

Not sure.  I’ll keep you posted.

So, scattered.  My thoughts.  My papers.  If someone comes asking me for one more piece of paper (math, spelling words, shopping list, application, social security card *ahem*) I might just lose my cool.  The mind is already gone.  Other things scattered–Legos, memories, charging cords, clean clothes, dirty clothes, books, recycling, dishes, shoes, my thoughts (oh, wait)…..

Yes well.

Scattered is an indicator of where I’m at in the season.  I tend to be more scattered in the school year than in the summer, simply because I add on that other role–teacher–to who I need to be in a day.  Some days during the school year I’m doing good to remember I have two students and what grade each is in.  Other days we’re on it.  Like I hope tomorrow will be.  Already have everything prepped and ready to go. That’s a win right there.  Or at least a good place to start.

Scattered is more about the mind, isn’t it?  What I have in me to make the organization and activities happen.  The funny thing is it seems that the more scattered my life becomes, the less I’m able to tolerate it in things around me.  Weird. I know.  Double standard.  I know.  Just keeping it real and honest here, y’all.

Shattered, I think, is more about the heart.  In each instance that “shattered” sits by a dot on the timeline of my life, it has been my heart.  Aching, continuing to beat against its own will, lost.  Shattered leaves me drained and hollow and broken.  Shattered is slower to come back from. Way slower.

Scattered is fuss and bother, and “I need to get my act together.”  Shattered is there is nothing foreseeable beyond this moment, because I am not sure how to take another breath in this moment right here.

I’m not sure what Dream Tara was writing about these two words the other night.  But it has been interesting to think about them and realize that even though they are very different, they are related.

Each seems to feed the other.  I feel more scattered after each one of those life and heart-shattering events.  Oh I can hold it together for a day or two to get everything on a checklist done, but then after…..I’m done for.  See me, here? Now?  Seriously, eighteen months later.  I’m as scattered as I’ve ever been, only with a fit or two of trying to be organized thrown in there every couple of months or so for good measure.  I wonder how many shattered’s one can take before the scattered is just a given.  Before it becomes the norm.

“Oh look at her, she’s always so lost, I guess this last one finally did her in.”

Oh my, I hope not.

I’ve never been the most organized.  I feel like I should let y’all know this.  Mama would be the first to say so.  I think she even wrote about it in her journal.  You know you’re good *ahem* when it makes the journal, right?  I’ve always had to work to fight clutter and disorganization.  Mama had the organization gene or was really good at faking it.  My sisters have it, and I think my brother might have it too.

What happened there?  Not. Fair.

But in better days, my mind wasn’t nearly as scattered.  I could sit and read for hours without having those “squirrel” moments.  Now my life is constantly “squirrel” this and “squirrel” that.  It is rare for me to be able to sit and focus and read.  Or finish a grocery shopping trip without crossing back and forth through the store three times.

I miss my brain.  If y’all find it, there’s a reward.  Somewhere around here.   If I can find it.

*sigh*

So tonight I ramble.  Blame it on the headache? Sure.  Blame it on being tired?  Yep.  Why not?  But mostly I know it’s that tonight is one of those where the scatteredness takes over because today was one of those days that the shatteredness seeped back in–memories of those I love who are on the other side of the veil.  Whom I would love nothing better than to have a few minutes’ visit with–even if just on the phone.

Tonight I guess I’ll try to be thankful for being shattered.  In my Daddy’s yearbook from his senior year, each senior had a quote next to his or her picture.  My Daddy’s quote was from Alfred Lord Tennyson: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Yes.  I loved.  And I still do.  And I lost them.  All in different ways.  And because of that, I lost a bit of my well-being, my equilibrium, and I became scattered.

But if being shattered and scattered is because of the joy and love I shared with them, then yes, it is better.  Far better, and I will wear my heartache and scattered mind like badges of honor.  I loved and was loved.

And this is where I landed.

Awake.  In a dream that I never wanted to come true.

And still, I breathe. And live and love and laugh.

Love and deep breaths of peace to all.

 

 

 

 

From Tranquil Bay to Autumn Moon–and ALL the Colors in Between

So today, this brought me to tears.

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And so did this.

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No you are not looking at the handiwork of one of my littles.

I did that.  All by myself.

After seven years, it is time to paint these walls.  These walls that are that special shade of perfectly neutral beige have been this way for the almost seven years we have lived here.  Stick with me here as I do the math–seven years.  Same number of years that Cooter has been alive.  And only two less than our Princess.

Yep, these walls have seen their share of handprints and pencil marks and knicks from the wooden hammer in the little tool set.  They have spots where tape was stuck and peeled the paint off (lesson learned) and places where I scrubbed too hard to get something off.

Suffice to say, it is time.  Plus this paint is flat, which makes me feel flat.  It’s time to jazz up the color and the finish–time to go with some satin.

I come from a line of women who like their color.  My Granny had some color of peach walls at one point in her house on the farm.  I don’t think I’m misremembering.  Her stool was painted a coordinating color before Daddy stripped the paint and refinished it.  (He left some flecks of that paint, which makes it all the more precious to me.)  My Great Aunt went with seafoam and mauve in her home when that came in style, and that black and white tiled bathroom?  She did all kinds of things with color coordinating in there.  My Mama loved her some avocado and then a light green and a pretty blue.  I’m following a path of bold color choices, and the pressure is on.

I have been picking up samples and trying them out for two weeks at least.  I dreamt of a lovely coral with our white trim and wood ceiling.  I just knew it would pop.  The problem is when I put it on the wall, my Fella said, “Wow, that’s really orange.”  And I realized how dark it would make my kitchen and den.  We don’t get a lot of natural light and I feared that instead of lighting up the room it would make it dim and dark.  So no.

In the meantime I was also choosing colors for the “garage bathroom.”  It’s not actually IN the garage–just near the door to the garage.  It’s where we send folks we like to go.  And it too was suffering from flat paint syndrome.  You just cannot erase water marks from that kind of paint.  I found some blue and green samples, and this is what we went with.  It has turned out beautifully, I’m really so pleased.  This is how I know I haven’t totally lost my mind or my sense of color, but just barely.

The "garage bathroom," freshly painted and beautiful.

The “garage bathroom,” freshly painted and beautiful.

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It’s hard to tell the exact color, I know, but trust me–it is lovely.  Soothing.  I want to put a chair in the corner and work from there.  Really.

Now that the bathroom’s done, I have to choose the color for the kitchen and den.  I want this room to be as perfect as that bathroom.  I want it to be inviting and soothing and for the color to reflect what little light comes in and make it seem brighter.

Is all that too much to ask of a paint color?

Apparently it is.

Tonight was the last straw.  The littles, my Fella, and I went to the getting place and looked at paint colors again.  I went, intent on getting two samples.  The plan was run home, try them on the wall, pick one, and he would run back and get a gallon while I fixed supper.

Problem number one–I have a headache.  I can never think straight when I have one of these.  So there was that.

Problem number two–I’ve lost my mind.  The two colors I brought home to try?  See those two blobs in the second picture that look peachy?  Yeah.  They are the same color as the crayon that had all its papers peeled off  in the book “The Day the Crayons Quit.”  Ahem.  Yeah, growing up I used that crayon for one thing and one thing only.  Coloring skin color sometimes.  How could I possibly have thought it would be a good wall color?  Why didn’t a siren go off when I asked for those samples?

Sigh.

At that point, I was in tears.  Maybe I should just go with the beige.  Maybe it wasn’t so bad.  Maybe I’d feel better about it when it wasn’t a flat paint and it was all clean-looking.  Maybe that blue wouldn’t be bad.  Let’s smear a little more and see if we could stand it.  Because that’s how you want to feel about your wall color–“Oh well, it’s okay, I can stand it.”  I didn’t want beige because when we lived in Japan on the base EVERYTHING was that color–inside and out it seemed, and that blue kept reminding me of my brother’s room growing up.  Tears, people, I was beyond frustrated with myself.

And then there was the whole thing that this is such a first world problem.  And I use the word “problem” very loosely. I’m whining about not being able to find a perfect color, and it made me not even like myself very much in that moment.

My Fella took over supper plans and sent me back to the getting place.  He liked the greens, and the blue–but nothing made him say, “That’s the one!”  At least he didn’t say it out loud.

I looked at him before I left and said, “If I come home with a bright yellow gold, we gonna be okay here?”

He nodded.  “Just find what you like.”

Poor man. I know he loves that blue.

And I’m telling y’all when the time comes to paint our bathroom, by golly, he will have his blue.  Just please, not in my kitchen and den.  Okay?

I called Mess Cat and asked her to talk me off the ledge.  She knew just what to say.  As usual.  And I give thanks for that.

I walked through, fingers crossed that the numerous paint people who have prepared a whole rainbow of samples for me would not be there on my second trip today.

I walked through, willing my headache to go away, and breathed slowly.  I tried looking at totally different paint chips and choosing colors that weren’t so bold.  All the ones I’d chosen before seemed to be too bold for the space.

And then there it was.

Autumn Moon.

Yes, the romantic in me fell in love with the name first.  (And as a sidenote–I would love to be hired as one of the people who names these colors, if anyone hears of an opening–I mean how fun could that be?  Wonder if I’d get free samples–that could be quite helpful. So please, if you hear of anything…..)  Awesome name.  My favorite season.  Yes.

And the color.  It is a lovely golden-yellow that is subtle not bold.  It is my hope that it is the perfect color for the sun to reflect upon and magnify as we enjoy another seven years here in these rooms making memories and hopefully not as many marks on the walls.

So I got a gallon.  It will go down the hall to the bathroom.  If we hate it, we can change the color in the den and kitchen, but I’ve got to tell you.

I sure hope we love it.

Because I found out a few things in this experience.

*What looks great on Pinterest does not always look great in one’s own home.

*Grief has greatly affected my decision-making skills.  Now I understand why Mama had such a hard time deciding on some things after Daddy got sick, and especially after he passed.  Somehow I just felt that if I could ask Mama, it would have all worked out.  Which is funny because we had different tastes in color for the most part, and I probably would have chosen what I wanted anyway, but the point is that grief has taken away much of my ability to figure out what I want.

*Finally I realize that I have very, very varying and eclectic tastes.  Do you see that rainbow on my wall?  I would take any one of those colors in some room or another–well with the exception of the naked crayon color and the funky yellow-green that is not pictured.  Again, why don’t they have an alarm that goes off when you choose something like that?  “THIS IS NOT THE PAINT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR!”

Tonight I give thanks for a skilled painter in my midst who has the patience and the ability to take color and make it look beautiful on my wall.  I appreciate my family who has put up with my dreaming about bold and beautiful colors, and when I was about to have a meltdown *over paint color* (shaking my head ashamedly), they hugged me and took care of things so I could do what I needed to do.  And for the kind paint mixing man who wished me luck and was probably worried I was going to burst into tears at the getting place this evening, bless him.  I appreciate the many good people who have mixed my samples and talked colors with me.  Especially Mess Cat.  And my Fella who has been very patient and my Aub who has dreamed big with me.  I love all of y’all.  And if Autumn Moon doesn’t cut it, y’all will know where to find me.  In my “Tranquil Bay” bathroom, working at my new job of naming colors.  (Seriously y’all, I could be good at that.)

Love and soothing colors to all.

 

 

 

 

 

where you find your treasure…..

This past Saturday was a beautiful day of weather very becoming to the month of March.  Or any month for that matter.  A day like that–we’ll take it any time we can get it.  Temperature in the low 70’s, light breeze, gorgeous sky and shining sun.

But Mess Cat and I were inside for much of the day.  Saturday was the day we loaded up things that had filled our Mama and Daddy’s home–the house we grew up in.  Mess Cat had packed up most of what needed boxing up all on her own.  A gift to the rest of us.  And one that should not be underestimated.  That girl can pack.  She is so organized.  Everything was labeled and taped and ready to go.  As the guys were taking things to the truck, my sister and I sat on the floor in the “big” room and went through the children’s books that had been read and loved and laughed over for many years.

Oh y’all.

For almost eighteen years, my Mama read stories to her grandchildren.  Before that she read to us and to nieces and nephews and neighbors and children in classrooms in school and children at the library storytimes and anyone else who loved to hear a good story.  Reading was one of her most favorite things EVER. And sharing that love with others, especially children, that was her thing.  It’s where she shined brightest.

As we sat and looked through book after book–Little Golden books, Eric Carle, books by the Provensens, Little Critter and Pooh and Peanuts books, Choose Your Own Adventure books, stories about Cinderella from all over the world, books we grew up with and books that were acquired especially for the grands–memory after memory washed over us.  We sat quietly, each lost in her own memory of a story or the pictures that took us back thirty-five or forty years.  Ahem.  At other times, we laughed over a story that triggered a particular memory of Mama reading it.

And then there were the tears.

I held them back as long as I could, but they really had to come.

Because, in the midst of all that we have packed (okay mostly Mess Cat) and decided what to do about, the place where I felt my Mama the most–

it was in these books.

Tonight as I pulled my pan of baking sweet potatoes out of the oven, a smell wafted up to my nose and I was overwhelmed with the memory of coming into the house at Blackberry Flats years ago when I was only a little older than our Princess is now.  It was dark early and cold–the sun had set in true Wonderful World of Disney Technicolor fashion and all that was left to do was go in for the night.  Supper was in the oven, and coming in from outside, the heat of the oven enveloped me as I closed the door to the laundry room where the back door was.  In that moment tonight, I was home and eleven or twelve and all was safe and warm and right again.

And yes, there are tears.

But as much time as Mama spent in the kitchen, taking care of us and making us special treats–brownies or cookies or chewy bars (oh my gracious goodness)–I did not sense her as much there as I did in her books.

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It made me wonder where my people will “find” me one day.  Will it be in the kitchen?  Will it be as they go through my yarn stash? (ummm yeah, there’s some in the closet too–sorry y’all) Will it be in my books?  Or will it be when they close this laptop for the last time?

I find my greatest joy in my people and words.  The folks who are mine.  The words in books and the words I piece together to share my thoughts and stories.  Is that where they will feel me close?

Tonight I am thankful for the time with my sister.  For the joy of sharing memories and laughter and the times we had to look away to keep from falling into each other’s arms, crying the tears that have threatened to surface since we told Mama goodbye.  I give thanks for the grace and love of a sister.  One who loves you even when you’re being a jerk and always shows up.  No matter what.  One who loves you so much she gives you the gift of her time and energy and effort.  Because she knows you can’t anymore.

I am most thankful for the books that Mama held close that now hold her close and share her memory with anyone who reads them.  The sweet pictures, the funny stories, the great way Mama made a book come to life with her voice and intonations and peeking over her glasses.  I miss that so much.  She gave a love of reading to each one of my children and to so many others.  That’s a legacy that is priceless.

Just like her.

Love to all.  May you find your day filled with a great story.

this too shall pass

It’s a little hard to explain.  But here goes.

The tasks that are before me, the ones that take up so many “just a few minutes” in my day-to-day–the ones that are mine because she asked me if I would and I said yes–I do not regret having them to do.  I am honored that she asked and humbled by her choice.  And determined to do it right and make her proud.

So I do not begrudge the time it takes.  Or the energy.  Or the emotions.

I just get overwhelmed sometimes.  It’s a little bit here and a little more there.  Wait on this to happen, but I have to make that happen.

It seems like I might never have a conversation that doesn’t involve numbers or papers or decisions.  An irrational thought, but it feels that way nonetheless.

And then today…..in a conversation with a very wise and dear soul, I heard these words that give me hope.  I did hear them.  But it wasn’t until I was stirring the pot on the stove that I heard them replay in my mind, and they floated down to my heart and started soaking in.

“One day…..one day you will look back on all of this

and it will be behind you.” 

Oh, my aching heart!  Yes.  This.  Please.

And tonight, as supper was finishing itself up and I stood lost in thought, I saw that as a possibility for the first time ever.  There WILL be a time when I won’t be handling all of these details and bills and making all of these decisions.  It.  Will.  Come.  One day we might all get to sit and talk and remember and laugh together, without the decisions that need to be made rushing to the forefront, spoiling the stories that beg to be remembered and told just one more time.  We can remember without deciding.  Laugh without returning to the somber job of putting a life to rest.

After the sweet, quiet, wise words of this one who has guided me through so much of this journey, I heard another’s words, the words of the one who didn’t want to leave and leave all this to be done, but who had no choice.  I heard her wisdom too.  In words she said many times over the years.

“This too shall pass, Sugar Tag.”

Oh, Mama.  It’s okay that it hasn’t, but thank you, thank you for those words tonight.  And thank you for helping me really hear what the other one I love was saying today.  I’m hardheaded (yes, I’m admitting it) and I don’t always listen like I should.  But tonight, I hear you both.  And I give thanks for the hope that opened up and let a little light into my heart.

It gives me just enough strength to think about what comes next.  What I need to do to finish this up, so we can move on to the celebrating of your life.  Because that is what you deserve.  To be celebrated.  And loved. Always.

Love you both.  Thanks for everything.

Overwhelmed by Question Marks

This morning at the grocery store, I worked my way through, thankful that they have restocked the shelves since the rush on groceries earlier this week before the snow hit.  I was standing in front of the Chobani Greek yogurt cups that I get for my crew, when I realized that a quiet, elderly woman was waiting patiently for me to make my selections.

“Oh! I’m so sorry,” I said, moving my cart to one side.  “I am sorry for holding you up.”

“You didn’t,” she said, staying in the same spot.  She was holding a tub of plain Greek yogurt, seemingly mesmerized by it.  “I’m just trying to figure out if this is the right kind to get or not.”  She held it up to show me.  “I found a recipe for a smoothie that uses frozen cherries and Greek yogurt.  It’s supposed to help with pain. I don’t know.  I wish I could remember which kind they used.”

I looked at the yogurt she had.  A different brand from the tub I had just put in my cart, but how different could it really be?  Her bag of frozen cherries was starting to form those white ice crystals on its surface.  She’d been at this for more than a few minutes.

She pointed at the lid, “This one says it’s probiotic.  That’s good, right?”  I told her I thought so (but then I thought all yogurt was probiotic, and I just read that they’re not, so, ummm, maybe I shouldn’t have been standing there giving this sweet lady advice).  We compared the labels between the two tubs.  Hers had more sugars and calories, which we finally figured out was due to the difference in the milks used–hers was from whole milk and mine was made from skim milk.

She shook her head.  I could tell it was overwhelming her.  She put the yogurt back into the refrigerator case on the bottom shelf.  “I’m just going to wait and see which one is the right one.  I know it said, I just can’t remember.”

Oh bless her.  But seriously?

We have recently gotten “into” smoothies around here.  I so wanted to tell her it wouldn’t matter that much.  That she could use the one in her hands, and it would be okay.  Better than okay.  She was so overwhelmed by this one decision, it made me want to cry.  I wanted to hug her and tell her to take this yogurt, that it didn’t matter, that she should trust herself.

But I didn’t.

Who am I to question her questioning?

I haven’t made a decision without struggling over it for a long, long time.  It started a year ago.  I haven’t been able to make a clear-cut decision since I had to make the hard decision about life support for my Mama…..and then again, for our cousin one week later.

I’m not offering excuses or seeking sympathy.  It’s just that it hit me today when I was willing with all of my heart for this sweet lady to realize that it was okay to make a decision, choose a yogurt, and take her defrosting cherries home and make that healing smoothie she has so many hopes pinned on.  It hit me that I AM JUST LIKE HER.  I must look just like this to a casual observer.   The least little decisions wear me out.  It took me quite a while to decide to even go to the grocery store this morning.  Fortunately, the decision kind of made itself since we were out of so many things.  It became a necessity.

Yesterday I made simple decisions like scheduling eye appointments, checkups, and paying a bill or two.

And I was exhausted.

Some days the decision of what to feed folks around here is almost more than I can bear.  I am thankful for the one night a week that we know what we are having.  Every single week.  It takes such a weight off.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But it is very real.  And don’t get me started on getting dressed.  This morning I actually went and found Aub so she could tell me what I was wearing looked okay, that it matched.  Some days I struggle to trust my choices, just as my new friend did this morning.

This is one of those side effects of grief that I don’t remember many folks talking about.  Or maybe they did, and I just didn’t grasp the reality of it.  Until now.

As she pushed her cart on past the yogurt, this sweet lady said, “I will just check the recipe and get the yogurt another time.  I really want to make it.  It’s supposed to help with back pain.  And I have that pretty bad.  But I’d rather try this than…..” she looked back at me, “…..a pill.”  She made a face.  “Anything rather than a pill.”

Bless her.  I understand that feeling too.  I don’t know whom she has lost, but I think it must be someone real special to her.  It’s written all over her walk and her face and the way she is thinking.  Tonight I’m holding her in my heart.  I hope she finds her recipe and that she can find the yogurt straightaway.  And more than anything, I hope the smoothie does help with her pain.

Grief is such a roller coaster of emotions, isn’t it?  Some days are like this.  Hard.  And some days are not quite so much.  But the important thing to remember as we walk through this is no matter how “off” our decision-making may seem to those around us, sometimes it’s okay to put the yogurt back in the bin and say, “Maybe another day.”  Some days that’s the best we can do.  And you know what?  It is.  It’s okay.