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.”

Catching Sight of Him

Cooter is enjoying his drama program.  Each week he heads through that door and doesn’t look back.

Well not much anyway.  When he is on stage delivering his lines (yes, he’s already memorized them! what a relief), he will glance over and smile with this “nailed it, did you see that?” look on his face.  I smile and sometimes offer a thumbs up.  He’s in his element, and that is a joy to see.

They’ve progressed to the point in rehearsals that all of the children wait backstage for their scenes.  Once they begin, I don’t see him except on stage until it’s time to leave.

This week there were a group of parents waiting for their children near the front door close to the end of rehearsals.  Since I stick around the whole time, I had already walked over and signed him out.  I stood off to the side, waiting.  As the crowd of children headed our way from the back, I finally saw Cooter.  He was moving with purpose towards our direction, but his eyes were steadily searching…..for me.  Oh my heart.  And then that moment when I moved into his line of sight and he saw me…..

bless.

His eyes lit up and he smiled that smile, and his stride was a little more relaxed.  It warmed my heart and soul and made my life to see the expression on his face.

And then just like that, I was his age–or maybe a year or two younger–again.  I was on the playground right after school was dismissed, and I was carrying something that Mama had sent treats to school in.  I was looking for my someone to find me and take me home.  I can still remember that exact moment the crowd parted, and there he was, that handsome, smiling fella I called Daddy.  In that moment, I was relieved, safe, and home.

So it was a very precious thing, this moment that Cooter and I had, where I got a small taste of what that day was like from Daddy’s perspective.  He found me just as I found him.

March 23 is my Daddy’s birthday.  The day to make a cake, light it up with candles, sing, and have him blow out the candles.  It’s the day I give him way more than one card because there were always several that made me laugh and think of him.  It’s the day that we all try our best to make him feel loved and bigger than life.  Because he was.

This will be the fifth year we celebrate his day without him here to give me a pickle or two off of his cheeseburger pizza.  The fifth year I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time in the card section and perusing ideas of what to give him on Amazon.  The fifth year we don’t hear his laugh or watch the children trying to help him blow out the candles.

But it will still be special.

Tonight I’m thankful for the man who first looked for me and never gave up finding me, no matter how far away I wandered off.  I give thanks for every single year of his life that I got to spend with him, listening to his wisdom, sharing my ups and downs, and swapping stories.  I am especially thankful for that day that I was feeling so lost and there he was.  And I know that’s how it has always been–when I was the most lost, Daddy has always been there to help me find my way back.  And in a way, he still is.

Most of all, I am thankful for my little guy whom my Daddy named Cooter because he loved cars just like that mechanic on that TV show years ago.  Because I was loved and looked for, I can do that now.  Now I get to see what being found looks like from the other side.

And it is beautiful.

May you all have someone to look for and who looks for you.

Love to all.

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My sweet Daddy, at age 26, and me at 9 months old. The man who has always looked for and after me.  Love you, Daddy.  Thanks for everything.

 

 

for all the tables

where does the table go?
he asked
I barely remembered his name,
Joe or John or J-something–
he’d shown up with the others,
the ones they’d sent to do the job

the table? I replied,
stalling for time
wishing for more of it, so much more time

the table whose surface told
our story
the blonde wood glowing in the dimming light of evening

the fork marks from an excited toddler
banging his utensil up and down
overeager for that next bite

the pencil marks that were never quite
completely erased
from one report or another
or perhaps that year of Algebra II

the surface of it still cool to the touch
just as it was all those times
I lay my head on it, my face hot from the tears
I’d cried
I can’t remember all the reasons now

but today I know why they fall,
all the memories etched into its surface
and the time has come to let it go

time to open my fist and stop holding on
to all the things
and find comfort in the memories
playing non-stop inside my head
and heart

and while some of them are muted
and a tad out of focus

I can still feel the cool of the table
long after the the sun has set
and the truck pulls away

and the door is closed one last time

 

table photo

Foto Wolfgang Pehlemann [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

The One About Vocabulary and Book Burning

Some days our homeschooling goes beautifully.  We are on our game, learning all the things, and we stay focused, on track, and we get through everything that we need to do in a timely manner.  Then we are able to move on to other things that we really enjoy.  Or nap.  Naps are good too.

Today was NOT one of those days.

But it was still beautiful.

Which is one of the main reasons I love homeschooling.  It can be a success without being  a neat and tidy notebooked, paperclipped, stapled, workbook process.  It can be messy and chaotic and loud and scattered and done in fits and starts and still be really good.

Like today.

This morning Cooter started off building with his Legos in his room.  I know this because I could hear the sound of Legos being pushed and stacked and moved around.  That is NOT what reviewing your times tables sounds like.  When we finally sat down together he had his Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary that he got for his birthday on his lap.  As I wrapped up what I was working on, he asked me questions–vocabulary questions–what does “reprisal” mean?  What does “trumps” mean?  I think we went through ten words before I realized that we were indeed “schooling,” only I didn’t tell him.  Sometimes it’s best to let the learning just happen without calling it that.

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Who am I kidding?  With this one, it’s best to do that as much of the time as possible.

This afternoon I left them working on their writing, and I went to attack Mt. Washmore waiting for me on the couch.  I was folding clothes when I heard Cooter call my name.  I turned around to see him standing in the kitchen doorway.

“Well, I have a funeral to go to now.”

Because I know this child well, I didn’t clench or panic as I might have if it were any of my other children.

“Yeah?  Why is that?  Whose funeral?”

(WARNING: SPOILER ALERT FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T READ THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS!)

 

 

 

 

“Sirius.  Sirius Black.”  He paused.  I took in the too bright eyes and the smile that seemed plastered on.  Oh my heart.  “He was my favorite character.”

I rushed over to him.  Yes, he’s nine now.  Yes, he’s rough and tumble and getting too old to hold my hand in parking lots much anymore, but I RUSHED OVER and grabbed hold of him and held him tight.

And he let me.

“Oh, baby, I’m so sorry.  I know.  I know.  It’s hard.  I’m so sorry.”

We’ve been learning a lot about grief over the past four plus years.  When my Daddy died, Cooter wouldn’t have much to do with Mama for a few weeks, and she was so afraid he was mad at her or blamed her.  He didn’t.  He just turned inwards.  He did the same thing when Mama passed.  Our Princess cried her heart out, tears for days, but Cooter just turned inward and was very stoic.

But today, today my little guy looked up at me and said, after I told him it was okay to cry, even if he needed to go to his room and be by himself to do it,  “I’m going to burn this book.  That’s what I’m going to do.  I’ll finish these last few pages, but then I’m going to burn it.”  He choked back the other unsaid things I heard in his voice and walked off.

This evening as he was reading the last of it in the car, he mentioned again his desire to burn the book when he was done.  His sister, who was delighted to find her very own copy at the used bookstore (a copy of her own that wasn’t her big sister’s), begged him not to.  “Do you know how hard it was to find that book?”  Finally, we agreed that might not be the thing to do, and we talked about Sirius and how he had gone just on the other side of the veil.  Just like Maemae and Cap had.  They are still with us, right there, just on the other side.  He nodded.

But still.

I remember when I read that chapter of the book.  I had so hoped Harry’s summer woes were over.  That he was going to finally have a good place, a good person who loved him, to spend his summers with and not the Dursleys.  But instead, life dealt him and all of them another terrible blow, and his life was upended yet again.

Much like real life.  Just when we think things might settle and be okay…..topsy turvy it goes, and we have to learn how to live with the new normal.

And so it would seem that on this day that no math was done (tomorrow will be really fun, y’all) and writing wasn’t finished, and we didn’t discuss the Bill of Rights as planned, that learning happened.  Important and good and hard learning.

And that right there.  That’s why I love homeschooling.  From vocabulary inspired by Star Wars to holding my baby through his book burning thoughts to sharing our thoughts on life and death and grief together, I love it.

It’s not my favorite everyday, and tomorrow I might need to be reminded how much I love it, but right now, I wouldn’t trade it for all the free time in the world.

Love to all.

In This Moment

Today I stood with friends I first met in first grade, fifth grade, ninth grade…..and as we stood reminiscing and talking about the nows of our lives, for about five minutes I wished we were standing around at recess again.  Hearing their voices was like coming home, and I remembered what that other life, that younger me was like.  Just hanging out at age five, ten, fifteen–worrying about things that now seem so small.

But then I’d have to relive 1998, 2009, 2011, 2013…..

and those were pretty hard years.

And so in the moment of accepting that now is the place where I’m meant to be, I realized there’s a reason clocks don’t run backwards.

And so we press forward.  Holding close the ones we have and loving them.

Making that a priority.  Now.  In this moment.

Love to all.

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“Double face” by Pierre EmD – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

playing make believe

when I was little
you sat down and played with me
in the midst of all the grownup stuff
you stepped away into my world
and we played
all the things
we were adventurers
royalty
bandits
horses
chefs
store clerks
teachers
and what I imagined
you made into reality
with a nod of your head
and your willingness to join in the story

and now
as you see things
and tell me of them
does the fact I can’t see them
make them any less real?
and so I join in
with you now
as your story is winding down
just as you did at the beginning of mine
and we play together
just as we once did
looking for the keys
to the Penguin
so we can get out of here

Keys

By Dirk Kohlmann (094 Uploaded by Anne-Sophie Ofrim), via Wikimedia Commons

The Empty Chairs

Thanksgiving.

It will be different this year.  Again.  The empty chairs, the ones not there, it all affects the spirit of the day.  The memories both lift us and bring us down.  Joy that they were, sadness that they are never to be again.

Sometimes the best way to get through it is to “act as if.”  Act as if it’s just another day.  Another day to be with each other.  To lower the expectations.  The demands of our time and energies.  To look at the substance over the form.

I am thankful for Leroy, who made the call to cut back on the preparation and dishes served this year.  I guess he could tell I didn’t have it in me.  Maybe he doesn’t either.  No matter.

So this year we won’t have the Norman Rockwell laden table with all of the kinfolk circled round, heads bowed, and everyone sharing a perfectly lovely sentiment about what each is most thankful for.  The rosy cheeked cherubs won’t clean their plates, clear their dishes, express extreme gratitude, and then head out to play in the absolutely perfect weather.  I mean, they might, but I’m certainly not expecting it.  Expectation management, as my Fella would say.

I was raised with my Mama reminding us quite often, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.”  She also ended many a blessing with, “Lord, grant us a grateful heart.”  Living with my Mama, almost everyday was Thanksgiving day.  She wanted us to find something to be thankful for in the midst of each and every day.

Her and Paul.

We are called by Paul, in the Good Book, to give thanks in all things.  On the eve of tomorrow, I look around and I give thanks for the empty chairs–that they matter so much.  For all the years they weren’t empty.  For all the years I could depend on the ones I love to be sitting right there, no doubt about it.  I was loved.  I still am, and I give thanks for that too.  I give thanks for the empty chairs that are that way only this year.  Only tomorrow.  The ones that will be filled again soon, once folks return from where they are.

My Aunt and I agreed on this today, when she said, “Our time to celebrate is when we are all together.”  It doesn’t have to be a legal holiday, y’all.  Celebrate the ones you are with when you are with them.  Don’t wait for the calendar to tell you it’s time.

Remember that story about using the fancy china on a regular basis instead of saving it for a “special occasion?”  Because everyday is a special occasion of one sort or another.  I’m thinking maybe we need to serve turkey and dressing more often.  It has made me laugh how when I’ve opened up a can of cranberry sauce throughout the year, my people’s eyes light up, and they automatically think the supper is extra special.  (And yes, the stores carry the sauce year round.)

Let’s do that, y’all.  Let’s practice giving thanks everyday.  And keep a can of cranberry sauce in the refrigerator.  At all times.  Ready to go.  To remind folks that every day is Giving Thanks Day.

May you all fill the empty seats with precious memories and light.  Today.  And Everyday.

Love to all.

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“Paul Gaugin’s Armchair” by Vincent Van Gogh [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons