Spread Your Wings and Soar

This past Saturday many young women walked across the stage I’ve walked across, and they received the piece of paper that is so much more than that–it’s the results of minutes and hours and days and years of listening and learning and writing and critiquing and speaking and sharing and thinking and challenging themselves to do more, do better, be stronger, think harder, and take one step more towards their goal.

And now. They’ve taken one very huge step.

They are college graduates.

One of those young women is my friend whom I had the privilege of sitting with about a month ago.  As we sat in the rocking chairs facing the green of the golf course on my visit “home” for Alumnae Weekend, I had the honor of hearing about her journey.  Some about where she’s been and more about where she hopes to go. What she hopes to do.  I heard her decisions and her questions in her stories and thoughts, and let me tell you this–

We are in good hands.

If.

If we don’t mess this up.

This beautiful soul has, as so many of us have, found out a lot about herself during her years at Wesleyan.  Some surprising, some not so much.  She has gained confidence in her abilities and her voice, as her professors and classmates challenged her to come up with ideas, defend her opinions, and put together words and thoughts in a way that others could learn from her.  And now–

Now she leaves this nest, this safe place, this place of incubation and growing.  It is time, and she is ready.

But–y’all.

I need to ask a favor.

For years, we have been telling this young woman and all the young people her age to “grow up.”  We’ve sighed when they’ve been silly, calling them out to “do better, be more mature, be responsible.”

And now that they are on their way to do this, it is our very important job not to muck it up for them.  It is up to us not to discourage them.  And it happens everyday, doesn’t it?  People groan about the millennials.  I’ve heard comments:  “Oh look at them, they think they are grown.  Who do they think they are?”  Or this:  “Ha.  Did you hear the ideas they’ve come up with to fix this or that?  Right.  Like some young upstart can fix this.  It’s been a mess for years.  Our generation tried, and we couldn’t do a thing about it.  What makes them think they can?”

This is WRONG in every sense of the word.  Because, in the words of the Grinder, “But what if they can?”

We’ve told them to grow up.  They’ve been watching us for years to see what THAT looks like.  Now that they’ve reached this pinnacle, this landmark of “being grown,” how can we be anything but positive and encouraging?

We need their dreams and their hearts.  They are fragile right now.  Fragile, strong, and prepared.  Like a baby bird who is a baby no more and whose wings are ready to take flight.  Instead of letting our words and eye rolls and patronizing tones take them down like a rock from a sling shot, let’s cheer them on.  Just as we did the little blue birds who finally take flight as spring turns into summer and the leaves sway in the breeze and the frogs sing their evening songs.  Let’s let them be who they have been becoming the past four or more years, and let’s watch them and listen to them and treat them with the same respect and love that we show those little birds.

And to my little birds who have flown the nest.  It and all of your sisters will always be there for you.  Years from now, when you most need to feel the safety of the nest, they will take you under their wings and you will be held tightly in their safe embrace, protected, if only for a moment, from life’s greatest storms.  You are going to do small things greatly and great things well.  Your dreams you have right now might not come to fruition, but never stop dreaming.  Never forget the hope you had as you packed up your things to move on to the next part of your journey.  Oh I know, there was trepidation too.  I remember that.  I hate to tell you this, but it never completely goes away.  There’s the next step and the next step and the one after that.  Over twenty-five years since I left the nest, and at times I still feel the uncertainty of what to do next.  But hold on to the woman you have become.  She and all the encouragement and advice you have gotten and all of the things you have learned both in the classroom and outside of it will guide you if you will let it.  Hold on to your dreams and keep growing.

Because that never stops either.  The growing and changing.  You are the beautiful butterfly and metamorphosizing caterpillar all at the same time.  Ever-changing.

And, to be honest, that’s been surprising and pretty cool too.

Here’s to our new graduates.  May we have the wisdom to listen and to encourage them and give them space to try out all the things without fear of what failure would look like.  And may they have the energy and resources and support to envision, create, attempt, dream, and change this world for the better.

Because I’ve met them.  And I know they can.

Love and pomp and circumstance to all.

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By Wesleyan College [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Family Jewels

So this is it.  An ordinary day that has really big things attached to it.

And to be honest, I’m really excited.

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For every single day, three years in a row, I’ve sat down at some point during my day, usually after all have gone to bed and the house is quiet, and I’ve shared a little bit of my day or my story or my heart right here.

And you’ve read these tidbits from my life.

Thank you.

With all my heart, I thank you.  I know what it’s like to have all the things to do and little time to click on a link or pull something up on a screen and commit to reading it, especially when I get a little wordy–yes, I’ve been called out on this, you know who you are, and I love ya.  And still, you’ve done this.  You’ve listened to my stories about growing up, raising children, being married, struggling through food allergies, letting my oldest grow up and leave the nest.  You’ve multiplied my joys and divided my sorrows, and you’ve raised your fist at injustices right alongside me.

Thank you.

You’ve read the goofy and the serious.  The mundane and the meaningful.  The poetry and the prose.  You’ve sat on my front porch and watched the delight and joy of children and heard the beauty in the songs of the birds and the frogs and watched the sun go down as we sipped the perfect cup of coffee.  You’ve laughed with me and wept with me.

You’ve given me the gift of your time and your presence, and as long as I have my memory, I will treasure this gift.

This week, anticipating this day coming, I’ve thought about what I’ve learned in the past three years, and if you will allow me, I’d like to share them with you.

*Sometimes you can put your whole being–heart, mind, soul–into something, and it doesn’t resonate with a single soul.  Speak it anyway.  You need to let that light shine, y’all.  Just because someone doesn’t notice it doesn’t mean it’s not making the world a brighter place.  Shine on.

*People can be beautiful, broken, hard, kind, mean, intense, easy-going, light-hearted, broken-hearted, funny, somber, sarcastic, caring, compassionate, salty, loving, oblivious, and we need to love them all.  It’s basically our most important job and really, it’s what we were created for.

* My family–every last one of them–are incredible people.  They might not set world records in things that will get them in that book that was the most checked out one in our school library, but they set the world record at loving me and supporting and encouraging and taking my phone calls even though they have all the things to do.  My children and the Fella have put up with my glazed stares when they’ve caught me mid-writing or mind-writing, and they’ve supported my writing by giving me space and time to do it.  They’ve read my stories and they’ve proofed my writing and they’ve given me permission to share our life with others.  I’m getting way more love and good stuff than I could ever deserve in this life, y’all.  When I sit and ponder on it all, in the words of my oldest, Aub, “I. Can’t. Even.”

*I set out writing this in 2013 in the midst of the grief of having said goodbye to my Mama suddenly and way too soon less than two months before.  Mama told me a lot of things–two of which were “You might need a nap, go lie down, and you’ll feel better” (she was always right) and “Go write your story, tell all of this in a book somewhere.”  (Turns out she was right about that too.)  Writing has and continues to heal me.  The words that I’m able to pick out and put on paper take a confusing, wonderful journey and make a little bit of sense out of it.  For that I am thankful.  Every single day of it.

*The ones who have already left this world and headed on up to the House left me a few things.  Even some that could be loosely called “family jewels.”  What I have discovered for the past three years is that the most precious things my Granny, my Great Aunts, my Mama, my Daddy, and the others I love, who are gone from my sight, have left me are the stories.  The memories.  The joy, the laughter, the shared tears, the tiny little moments and the big ones–all which led me to this place right here in this place right now.  THOSE are the jewels they left me that I treasure the most.

And I hope that’s what these stories, these three years of writing will be for my own people one day.  The ones in my family now, and those who will be.  Because my family is not complete.  We’ve all kinds of branches and leaves yet to grow…..we’ve got strong roots to grow from, and that’s a precious thing.  I hope that all of them will find something here in the meanderings I’ve shared to lift them in the dark days and something to laugh about on the joyful ones.

*Finally, I’ve learned that there is something worth writing home about in every single day…..if only you are willing to look for it.  (And believe me, some days I was turning over rocks to look, but there was never a day without something, some thoughts or words or stories to share.)  This is a journey made of many footsteps and many stories.  One day, one moment at a time.  The truth is that February 29th comes around once every four years.  It is special.  But if we are looking for it, March 29th can be just as amazing.  As can September 19th or March 3rd or November 16th or February 10th or December 14th or the twelfth of Everyday.  Each and every day can have a bit of light in it, if we stop searching for the big and amazing and star-studded.  The journey of an earthworm can be just as fascinating as the snow that falls from the sky, if we open our eyes to the beauty embedded in all aspects of the journey.

All this leads me to this.  I am taking a break from writing for I Might Need a Nap for a while.  It might be a week (I have folks enforcing this, so yeah, it will be at least a week), a month, or maybe even longer.  I will come back and write here when the story is there.  But I am not going to stop writing.  It would be like no longer breathing to stop writing at this point in my life.

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One of my people sent me this. She will remain nameless but she can bake her own cookies and I’m pretty much almost done raising her, so there’s that.

I have a project I’m working on which I am very excited about.  It’s coming together nicely, but it requires more attention from me, and since that means letting go of the blog or my family…..well, in a saner moment, I made my choice.  I am looking forward to sharing more details when the time comes.

I’ve also had someone come round who wants me to tell her story.  I tried to explain real kindly that her timing wasn’t ideal.  That made her harrumph.  (That’s a real thing.  If you’ve seen it, you  know it.)  She crossed her arms and stared me down over her glasses and just nodded and kept on rocking.  That worried me more than the harrumph.  I have tried to placate her, but she looks up at the clock and back at me from time to time, and I realize our time to tell her story is dwindling, so that’s on my agenda next as well.  Helping her tell her story.  She’s a character for sure, and I love her.  So I’m going to spend some time with her.  Because that’s what we do for folks we love.

Unlike other times when I’ve contemplated stepping away for a little bit, I’m excited.  That’s how I know the time is right.  I will be back, as there are more stories to come.  But for now, I’m going to go to bed before the chickens are waking up, I’m going to read good books, I’m going to take long walks in the evening, and if anyone asks, I’ll visit and tell my stories in person.  Because that’s something I want to pursue as well.  (So yeah, holler, and I’ll come spin a tale or two–bring the back porch to y’all, so to speak.  Turns out I get a kick out of that too.)

Thank you for sharing the journey.  If you have a moment to click the follow button over there and sign up with your email, you’ll be sure not to miss any future stories.  No worries if that’s not your thing.  Just please come back to visit from time to time.  Like I said, all kinds of good things going on over here at the house.

But first, I might need a nap.

I’ll catch y’all later.  Make ’em be good to you.

Love to all.

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scatter seeds of kindness

spring breezes
sunshine
planting and tilling the soil

and the thought washes over me
like the rain pouring on the dark, rich soil

all those years, each one of them,
Daddy planted the seeds
always dropping more than one in each space
patiently, gently, with his weathered, worn hands

in all those years
he harvested what grew from the seeds
he’d sown

with gratitude he gathered and picked
and cut and dug

and never once did he waste a breath
or a moment’s worry
over the seeds that did not grow

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A Little Writing Assignment

Yesterday after our Princess finished her math and spelling exercises, I asked her to work on her creative writing.  Rather than giving her a prompt as I usually do, I told her she could write about anything she would like.

A few minutes later, I heard piano music.  The littles have been taking lessons since January.  Our Princess has really taken to it.  Cooter will practice when I remind him, but she will sit down and play a tune several, SEVERAL times a day.  And the tune is usually Alouette or Yankee Doodle.  She knows them by heart.

So when I heard the music flowing, I knew it was her playing.  I left what I was working on, and went into the room where she was playing.

“Ummm, hello ma’am, what are you doing?  I believe you are supposed to be writing something?”

She looked up from her music and seemed shocked.  “But Mama, I AM writing.  See?”

And there on her plain robin’s egg blue paper, she had drawn lines and was writing notes on the lines.

Musical notes.

Composing.  My baby girl was composing.  Writing a song.

After I leaned over and picked my jaw up off the floor, I nodded.

She grinned.  “I’m writing though, right, Mama?”

I nodded again.  Satisfied, she turned back to the piano and continued to plunk out a tune and make a note of it on her paper.

Bless it.

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Tonight I’m thankful for the joy of homeschooling.  There are days (like today) when Cooter seems to misplace his math every five minutes, and we are still working on it at nightfall.  But then there are days like yesterday when I see the passion for a subject or activity, and I can help them grow wings and fly.  Or, you know, compose.  I’m also thankful for the way music seems to soothe our Princess’ soul.  When she was frustrated with an assignment earlier today, she asked if she could get up and practice one of her songs for a few minutes.  After she played through it a couple of times, she came back to her work with a clearer mind and a can do attitude.

I love that.

May we all find something that we love so fiercely that it soothes our soul and gives us peace.

Love to all.

pack up the moon

when you were very small

and the world seemed so big

I held your tiny hand with the perfect pink fingernails

no bigger than a pencil top

and whispered in your sweet little ear,

“I love you to the moon and back”

when you started dreaming 

of who and what you wanted to be,

big dreams and small about 

your name in lights

or with letters behind it

I sat you down, looked you in the eyes,

told you I believed in you and said, 

“Shoot for the moon baby girl, you’ve got this”

when a smile turned your heart

and you dreamed of what might be,

could be

I wished for one who would

never hurt you or betray your trust,

for the one who would love you

as you should be loved

and send you over the moon

and now as the time is passing

more quickly, as it picks up the pace

and the days and the years speed by–

because of all you have put into 

your life and your story, 

you are not far off from those hopes 

and dreams coming true

I watch as you begin to pack your bags

for the next leg of your journey,

the next chapter in your story

which is not so far away anymore

and I remember so many of the joys and sorrows

and tender moments

in the quiet of the night as you lay sleeping

worn out from all there is to do

I pack up the moon and tuck it into a corner 

of your bag

carefully wrapped in the fabric of my love 

and my hopes and dreams for you

so that you will always have light in the darkness

and no matter how far apart this life takes us

I will always love you to the 

moon

and 

back

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A Weekend With the Gardeners

Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.  –Anthony J. D’Angelo

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One is not done growing or grown “up” when she leaves Wesleyan College as a young woman.  When she returns “home,” Wesleyan and all her sisters will continue to feed her soul and empower her to bloom and to continue becoming more–more of whom she was created to be–with love, laughter, and shared stories.  Tonight I am thankful for those gardeners who came into my life almost 29 years ago.

I love you, and I treasure you–your laughter, your hugs, your compassion, your frivolity, and your hearts.  I love that the women whom I started growing up with will snap pictures of you up to mischief one minute and then help you put things right in another.  They laugh over silly and joyful things, they tear up over injustices and hurt, they stand together and are strong.

May you each find yourself blessed with a charming gardener.  It’s planting season, y’all.  Let’s go love on some folks and grow some blooms.

Love to all.

The Night the Tree Fell

Tonight I sat and watched an old tree being felled.  It was dead, I was told, and could have damaged something or hurt someone, so I understand.  In my mind, I get it.  But my heart was breaking.

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Death and endings make me sad.

And I was thinking about this–

If we don’t plant more trees than we cut down,

if we don’t praise more than we criticize, listen more than we speak,

if we don’t hug more than we point fingers, create more than we destroy,

if we don’t stand up for what we believe to be right more than we stand back and watch things happen,

 

we have done our children, our world, and indeed ourselves a great disservice.

 

I have a sweet friend who rescues daffodils from construction sites.

Think about that for a second.

Some might say, Oh they’re just flowers.  You can always plant some more.

But not her.

And I think that’s such a precious story–her love for things that grow is akin to sacred to me.  She is a good steward of the land.  And people.  She sure knows how to love on folks too.  It’s her gift.

She’s a gift.

 

I guess that’s what I was thinking about while I sat in my roost watching the tree that wasn’t mine being prepped to fall to the ground with a mighty crack and thud.  The gift of life.  The tenderness of it.  How frail it is.

Tonight I’m thankful for those, like my friend, who care so much for all life that they go the extra mile to protect it.  For those who plant more than they destroy, for those who share kind words easily, I give thanks.  And I’m also thankful for some precious little baby trees my Uncle gave me.   When he gave them to me, I had no idea how much they would soothe my soul, knowing they would be in the ground as the mighty tree fell not far from their new home.  New life is always filled with hope, isn’t it?

And tonight I’m most thankful for that.

May we all find a way to leave the world a better place when we lay down our heads to sleep than it was when we awoke that morning.

Love and happy planting season to all.

 

 

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You can read more about my sweet friend and her adventures in loving living things here.  Y’all go say hello.  She’s good people.