The “M” Birthday

When Aub turned 3, I planned, with the help of my Joyful friend, a party with the theme of “Pink Pigs, Puppets, and Pizza.”  (I do love alliteration!) It was a lot of fun, as all of the parties were back then, and I even had her third birthday picture made in her favorite pink nightgown with all of her pink pigs sitting beside her.  I love that picture.

Tomorrow my girl turns 21.

I don’t know how that happened.  Cliche’ but true.  The days were long and the years were short.

And now–here we are.  21.

Tonight I mentioned to my older friend who is the epitome of wisdom, love, grace, and spryness that I guessed I was done.  Twenty-one equals grown, right?

I was walking behind her, and saw her shoulders shake with her mirth before I heard her laughter.  “Oh me…..okay.  Sure.  We’ll let you think that for now.”

I know better.  I really do.

My girl wanted a very laid back birthday this year.  I was good with that.  It seems like the world right now is a cyclone of chaos and to do’s and needs and what not, so a chance to sit.  And be.  And not much else.  SURE. YES.  The gift that keeps on giving.

We gathered in the backyard with the fire going (I’m getting pretty good at starting them now), and I set out the hot dogs and fixin’s along with the sticks for roasting.  I had a few decorations I’d put together for the day with a small sign with the theme for her 21st birthday “party.”

I returned to alliteration eighteen years later.  (I was in a play in Junior High with Beta Club, and my one line that I still remember was “I just love alliteration.”  I looked up what that was, and you know what?  Turns out I do.  To this day.)  Only the letter has changed.  This year’s theme?

M.

Mason Jars, Mermaids, Makeup, and Monograms.

My baby girl who isn’t a baby anymore loves most things Southern.  Traditions, cornbread, grits, pearls, and Mason Jars for anything from drinking out of them to storing things.  I tried a Pinterest project (ha–close to a fail, I’d say, but since I learned from it, we’re moving it to the WIN column) and “frosted” some jars with mermaids inside.  If you want to know more, let me know.  I’ll do my best to tell you the right way to do it, which the folks on Pinterest most definitely did NOT do.  As for the mermaids,  a dear friend of mine and I talk about them as a symbol of not only adapting but transforming into something beautiful wherever you are.  Aub is about to enter a whole new way of life, with this “official” adulthood thing.  I don’t want her to feel like she’s underwater…..I want her to grow a tail and swim–take off and make the new way of life her own.  As for the makeup, she loves it.  Since she’s 21 and not 11 anymore, I’m okay with that.  She is beautiful inside and out, makeup or no, and as long as she remembers that, I don’t have a problem with her enjoying the world of makeup.  (I do have a problem with the folks who didn’t recognize that her cake, designed and made by her loving Mama, was a compact and NOT a toilet.  We won’t even go there, folks.  I’m about to get sappy, and I can’t if I revisit my emotions attached to that experience.)  Monograms needs no explanation–I’ve written about that before.  She loves ALL THE THINGS monogrammed.  Even her cookies.  Today we were talking about her monogram, and she said, “I do love it.  It’s so asymmetrical.”  You’re welcome, boo.  Of course I thought about that when naming you.  Ahem.

Tonight as I remember where I was exactly this moment 21 years ago (calling my parents, his parents, my dear friend, heading to the hospital), I am thinking about that letter M and all of the other things it could have stood for–Mercer (where she might maybe perhaps go to grad school), Mouse (her nickname before she was born), Mama (who loves her dearly), Mic drop (something she does regularly), Mississippi (because she is a really good speller and knew how to spell it almost as soon she knew her alphabet…..and so many others.  But as I sat down by the fire last night, and realized how far she’s come, and yet this is only the beginning, I thought about the things I wish for her in the years to come that start with the M.

*Make time for the things you love.  Don’t toss the things you enjoy doing aside permanently for the sake of your career or even another person. If you love it, make time for it.

*”Make hay while the sun shines.”  Work hard when the opportunity presents itself.  Never go halfway.  Give it your all.

*Make a difference.  In whatever you do, do it in kindness and with good intent.

*Make someone laugh or smile.  At least once a day.  And it’s okay if that person is you.

*Make other people feel important.  Because they are.

*Meander on the less traveled path.  Learn to love the other way around.

*Mix it up.  Try new things.  Attempt something you never thought possible.  Eat a new food.  Read a different genre.  Take archery lessons.

*Move.  Your arms.  Legs.  Head.  Dance.  Walk.  Run.  When you are moving, it’s harder to sit on your pity pot.  Trust me, I know this.

*Middle.  Sit there every once in a while.  Or more often.  It offers a different perspective, and different perspectives can be very good to try out for size.

*Master something you’re curious about.  Painting.  Knitting.  Piano.  Underwater Basket Weaving.  No one can ever take your skills away from you.

*Music. Listen.  As much as possible to as many kinds as possible.  Music can lift your spirits or rest with them where you are.  Never be without music.

*Make.  Create.  Share.

*Motivation.  Seek it.  Offer it.

*Move on.  Move beyond.  Don’t get stuck in that one bad moment.  Or bad experience.  Or held up by that one person who doesn’t get you and never will.  Let it go.  (Yeah, I said it–I sang it too.)  I feel that it will be okay.  It will be okay.  

*Muse.  Listen to her.  Let her guide your thoughts and your words.  Write.  Please.  The world needs your voice.

*Metamorphose.  As much as it takes.  Change.  Adapt.  Grow.  Never stop growing.  Adapting.  Becoming.

*Miracle.  You are mine.  Be good to my treasure.  Because I love you.

And I give thanks for you every single day.

May Light shine upon you, today and everyday–chasing the darkness away, so that you can reflect all the good that has gone before you and offer a glimpse of all the good you will bring in the days and years to come.

Happy 21st birthday, Aub!  

You are loved.

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The first pink pig is on the left.  Squealer.  He went everywhere with us way back when.  

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My attempt at a Pinterest project.  Win some, learn some.  Definitely learned some on this one.  

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Monogrammed Mason Jars made by our sweet neighborfriend. As delicious as they are beautiful.

 

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It’s a compact. And completely safe for our food allergies, so this is a definite WIN, and definitely looks like a COMPACT!

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Our girl’s post about one of her gifts.  The one about adapting.  And making this new life work for her.  After all, who doesn’t want a mermaid tail of their own?  Just keep swimming.  

 

 

Milk Messes and Morning WakeUp Calls

Something I’ve come to enjoy each day I owe to homeschooling.  No, it’s not the audiobooks that we’ve been listening to together lately.  (Though they are quite wonderful–who knew that at my age I’d still love being “read” to?)  And it’s not that I don’t have to go running out for posterboard or glitter or sticks for the glue gun at the last minute because something IS DUE TOMORROW.  (Been there, done that.)  Though there is a long list of things I enjoy about homeschooling, this is the one about how I start my day.

I am usually already awake when I hear footsteps coming in my room. The next thing I know there’s fifty-some odd pounds of grins and joy bounding on my bed.

Cooter.

First thing, he comes and sits on the bed with me.  Sometimes he tells me about his favorite football teams.  Again.  Or he shares the best plays of his favorite players.  Again. Sometimes he shares about the book he’s been reading or something funny his friend said. But a few days ago, it was none of that.

“Mama.  Mama,”  he paused, waiting for me to make eye contact.  His voice was quite serious as was his gaze.  “Mama, I need for you to come fix me breakfast.”

Well, this was new.  Or maybe not so much new as a change.  He used to ask me to do that, but in the past few months, he’s found his way to getting a bowl and the cereal and the milk and fixing his own breakfast.  So, like I said, new.  But not.

I knew he had to be hungry because he hadn’t eaten much the night before.

“Okay, buddy.  But what’s up?  You don’t feel like fixing it yourself this morning?”

“No.  It’s not that.” He held his hands out for emphasis.  “The milk jug. Is. FULL.”

I looked at him.

“It’s a new jug.” And what he said next nearly floored me.  I mean, you know, if I hadn’t been already lying in the bed.  “I don’t want to make a mess.”

Wait.  Really?  He didn’t want to make a mess?

Now that really was new.

He’s nine.  And a half tacked on for good measure now.  Nine and a half, and he’s finally reached the phase where he thought it through before doing it.

Wow.

That is pretty exciting to me.  And maybe just a little sad–that whole growing up thing, but since I didn’t have to clean up half a jug of milk from the counter, cabinets, and floor, I’m getting over that sad bit fairly quickly.

It occurred to me later in the day, as I was once again marveling at this new development and how proud I was of him asking or help, that this world would be a different place if folks thought things through and asked for help if it seemed like they couldn’t handle it themselves.  A really different place.

But that whole asking for help is so hard, isn’t it?

This evening as I thought back over that morning’s conversation and the day’s revelation, Cooter was talking about something he was hoping to do.  “I think that will help me a lot because you learn about diffusing bombs.”  That caught my attention.  “I think that could be quite helpful, because I think I might want to do that one day.  Diffuse bombs.  Like on a bomb squad.”

Oh me.  So maybe he hasn’t learned to think through the consequences in every situation.

Oh well.  There’s time.  And until then…..

he still has his Mama.

Who relishes those morning wakeup calls.

Love to all.

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The To and Fro, Then and Now

Some time around the middle of the day, I was exhausted for any number of reasons I could choose from, so I stretched out for a few minutes with Miss Sophie supervising.  She’s really good at that.  The Fella was home, and the littles were working on their lessons, so I had a few minutes to close my eyes.

It was one of those weird, not quite deep, slumbers where I’m aware but also resting.  Hard to explain.  I was dreaming of sorts, I think, when I felt myself being pulled back up to the surface.

In that moment, this thought crossed my mind as the image of our backyard swing came into focus in my head.

It hardly makes sense, does it, as to why change is so hard for one who loved the back and forth and up and down of sitting in a swing?  How is it that so much is terrifying and worrisome when going higher than ever before used to bring such thrills?  Why is a leap into the unknown so frightful at times, when leaping from a moving swing filled all around with laughter and cries for “Again! Again!”?

Turns out my life is so much like being on a swing.  So what is the difference from then when I loved it so much to now?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that on that swing I was controlling the “how high” and most of the time I could stop the swing when I wanted to and come back to stillness–to the balance found exactly in the middle of front and back, to and fro, forwards and backwards.

Balance.

If y’all need me, I’ll be in the backyard.  Looking for some of that.

Love to all.

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By Luke [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

the kudzu patch

from the very first day of school
I can remember the rule sternly set
“no going near the kudzu patch”

it was out back behind the portable buildings
and the monkey bars and swing set
and beyond the patch where we played kickball
back before all of the regulations had
such things padded and fenced in

we were mindful of that
as we played kickball
with the hopes that no ball would go
into the forbidden territory

mindful of the warning to stay away
that is just what we did
until that one day
when you and the others
ran back there
with wild abandon

I stood mortified
of what could happen
to you, to all of you
back there
or later, when you were caught–
if you even survived

(part of me was sure you wouldn’t
for five year olds, kudzu monsters
can be very real)

you had your fun
and later paid the price in the principal’s office
and maybe even with your folks

I’ve always remembered that day–
when I looked on
and worried over what would happen

and now here we stand
talking about where life has taken us
we are the grownups now,
it’s amazing that somehow we made it to this point
despite all the bumps and bruises along the way

you look none the worse for wear, my friend,
a life well done despite your day of infamy
and me,
I wonder what I missed
from not playing in the kudzu patch
all those years ago

 

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By Bubba73 (Jud McCranie) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33772552

Showing Me Their World

I continually find myself amazed by, IN AWE OF these creatures I have been given to raise.

Sometimes I’m amazed that they can eat so much or what they won’t eat or how much of a mess they can make or how long they can put off doing something I’ve asked, but mostly–mostly I’m amazed at watching them become their own people.

As my oldest writes her own story at my alma mater, doing things I never dreamed of doing, I’m amazed.  I watch her and think, She’s the cool one I always wanted to be friends with.  And I’m lucky enough that we’re even better than friends.

For the past eighteen months, I’ve watched our Princess swim and swim well.  I can hold my own in the water, but she knows strokes and dives and turns and the ins and outs and it just makes me wonder, where on earth did all that come from?  She is something to see.

Cooter is figuring out who he is and what his thing is.  Poor guy, he often gets stuck doing whatever his sister is doing.  He enjoys it but still.  He plays piano, does gymnastics, and after working really hard last summer, he also made the swim team.

But recently I saw him step out on his own to do something, and it took my breath away.  In that moment I realized I was watching him move one step closer to figuring out and becoming who he is.

We watched a youth performance during Christmas, and it was wonderful.  Cooter loved it, and I saw a spark in his eyes when they showed previews for their spring performances.  He was intrigued.  I mentioned to him that he could maybe try out, and he alternated between nervous and interested.  Aub helped him pick out his audition lines and memorize them.  Those lines stayed on our refrigerator where he could stand and practice them for over a week.

When the day came, he woke up excited.  I suppose there were some nerves in there, but my little ham was ready.  We dropped his sister off, and we were on our way.  He was #2 in line.  We walked to the back of the theater to the entrance to the back where he would be auditioning in front of two of the adult directors.  The helper asked him if he was nervous.  He shrugged and grinned.  He didn’t seem to be very upset that I wasn’t supposed to go back with him.

I, on the other hand, was a mess.  I held it in, but inside I was a rumbly tumbly tee-total mess.  That was my baby back there…..

He went back for a few minutes.  When he came out, he had a grin on his face and walked right past me, not even seeing me.

He’s been excited ever since.  No question, no turning back, no second thoughts.  He’s all about this play.  He’s also had this day, TODAY, in his head as THE DAY for two weeks.  It was two weeks ago that he auditioned, and today was his first rehearsal.  He woke up reminding me of what day it was.

As if I could forget.

What a cool kid, y’all.

He found people he knows to sit with and never looked back.  He clapped for others as their parts were announced and the look on his face when he found out his part was priceless.  At least it seemed to be.  I was all the way across the room with the parents.

Because he’s almost grown now, you know.  He’ll be 9 very soon–or “hitting the double digits next year,” as he likes to rush things and remind me.

It was a lovely afternoon.  The program is organized and fun and a really, really good place for these young people.  The playwright, bless him, didn’t finish writing the play until he found out how many cast members he was going to have.

46.

So he wrote a play with forty-six different characters.

That made me smile almost as big as Cooter when I learned that.

What a beautiful thing for these children.  Each and every one of them matter.  Each and every one important.  I’m so thankful that we happened upon this theater program.  Or, you know, were led there.

Tonight I’m thankful for the experiences I get to have because of these unique people I’m blessed to know and raise.  My Mama used to say, “You brought them into the world, now let them show it to you.”  Maybe she was quoting someone, I don’t know.  But beautiful words all the same.  And they’ve really hit home with me lately.  I love the world my children show me.  One full of love, laughter, justice, mercy, grace, teasing, storytelling, and joy.  Sure, it’s a messy world much most of the time.  But I will tell you this, I wouldn’t trade anything for it.

Love to all.

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By 76slideytrumpets (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up…..But I Tried

Being the oldest of four siblings in the dark ages before internet access, I got to make up a lot of stuff. Stuff that may or may not have been true.  Stuff that the ones listening to me really couldn’t verify or denounce without going to Mama and Daddy.

Yeah, there were days that I was that sibling.

Summers get long and hot in Georgia, y’all.  Without AC you kind of have to make your own fun.

Mostly I would tell my sisters, especially Mess Cat, about celebrity relationships.  I don’t know why it mattered, but on those hot summer afternoons when we tried to do as little as possible since sitting still you would still sweat puddles, it was Something. To. Do.

It started with true stories.  About who was married to whom, like Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers) and Connie Sellecca.  Or who had been in what movie with whom way back when before they became famous.  Then the imagination would take off and I’d be making up all kinds of stories.  Inevitably, I’d cross a line–it always happened.  That line that would cause Mess Cat to glance at me sideways and cut her eyes just so, squinting, thinking.  I would hold my face still and just about hold my breath, hoping she wouldn’t see through my stories.

But she did.  Some days it took longer than others, but she always did.  Sometimes I’d continue to feign innocence for days, but eventually she found me out.

Oh the fun of the good ol’ days.

So it was that yesterday after the ball game (I watched that whole fourth quarter of the Seahawks/Panthers game–I’m a fourth quarter kind of girl, but that’s a story for another night), the TV was still on, and I was focused on what I had been working on.  I think I was crocheting another  stripe on my temperature blanket.  Whatever it was, my attention was not on what was on TV until I stood up to turn it off and leave the room.  It was then that I saw two men on the screen with the same last name.

My mouth dropped open.

It actually fell open.  I was frozen in place for a moment.  WORLDS COLLIDED.

Growing up we did watch CHIPS.  My favorite was not Erik Estrada’s “Ponch” character or Jon Baker, though they both were entertaining enough.  My favorite was Robert Pine’s character.  For whatever reason, I just really liked him best.  When I looked up at the screen yesterday, Robert Pine was pictured there. But it was the young man next to him that made my mouth drop.

Chris Pine.

What the what?

I have loved him since his Princess Diaries 2 days.  That’s one of my go to movies.  Yes.  If it’s on, I’m watching it.  As a matter of fact, it came on one of the channels the other day, and Aub said, “Mama, it’s like they know you.”  And we all sat here and watched it.  Again.

And so you might can understand how surprised I was when it all clicked and I realized that Robert Pine is Chris Pine’s father.

Of course he is.  I can see the resemblance now.

Wow.

For a moment though, I looked around to see if my sister Mess Cat was anywhere around.  She would have loved the poetic justice in that moment, I’m sure.

It’s fascinating when life surprises me with new stories, new things I didn’t know, things I never even considered before.  Even when it’s trivial things like who’s related to whom in the acting world.

Tonight I’m thankful for all the happy and lazy memories that yesterday’s discovery brought back for me. We worked hard, played hard, and lazed around hard all those summers so many years ago.  And we laughed and loved hard.  That’s what brings me the greatest joy.

Love to all.

The One About What Really Matters

All last weekend I could hear the joyful sounds of laughter and conversation as all the girls from our street and one who used to live here gathered on our front porch, making “potions” and “perfumes” and all kinds of things.  Using wood, old chimes from a wind chime, baskets, all kinds of leaves and holly berries, and very active imaginations, the girls went at it as though they had mortar and pestle.  Mashing and grinding and laughing and singing and concocting.  They were having all the fun.

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I stepped outside to say hello at one point, and the youngest girl on our street was holding a big ol’ basket in her arms.  Her smile though–that and her blue eyes would warm anyone’s heart.  She set it down and went back to work with the others.  I turned to go back inside when the basket’s contents caught my eye.

Oh.  No.

It was filled–FILLED–with buds.  Beautiful closed buds from my camellia.

Oh my heart.  I guess I made a sound, probably a distressed one, and that sweet girl looked up at me with her blue eyes.

“Where did y’all get those?” I asked, when I finally found my voice.

“Over there,” she said, pointing at–yes–my camellia.

“Oh.  Ummm.  Okay.” I paused.  Hold it together, hold it together.  “Well, could y’all not pick anymore of those please,” I said to all the girls.  “They won’t bloom if they’re not on the bush. I mean, it’s fine and all,” I hurriedly said, as eyes got bigger, “but just maybe not anymore?”

“Oh, don’t worry, Mama,” our Princess said.  “We left the ones at the top that we couldn’t reach.”

Oh.  Well.  In that case.

*sigh*

So my poor taller than I am camellia with just a few buds left at head height was on my mind and heart all that evening.  I could hear my Mama’s voice, gently reminding me over the years.  People are what count.  Not things.  And I’m certain she would add, not flowers.

Eh.  I would likely have lost a lot of them in a good freeze anyway.

Tuesday I had a busy day, and my Fella took the helm.  While I went from an appointment to a meeting, he hung out with the littles and had them helping him take care of some much needed yard work.  I had started trimming our Lora Pedlum in the front flowerbed two months ago while the Fella was gone for work, but I could only get so high using my pruning shears without a ladder.  And I refused to get on a ladder without an adult close by to call 911 when I fell.  (Because yeah, it was bound to happen.)  So it was in desperate need of trimming all around, especially on top, as were some other shrubs.  There was also an invader in the middle of my camellia bush.  Some tall singular strand of an interesting weed/plant that had reached at least three feet taller than the camellia around it.

Since he had all of this in front of him, my Fella had picked up a cordless hedge trimmer.  (More power, more power) As I left for my day to dailies, he was setting out, trimmer in hand.

When I dashed back home between obligations for just a few minutes, he pulled me to the side.

“You want the good news or the bad news?”  he asked.

I immediately jumped to the bad news.  Was it Miss Sophie, who had felt puny a few days before?  Was it one of the children?  I couldn’t even wrap my brain around what all the bad could be, but YES TELL ME ALL THE BAD THINGS NOW BEFORE I PASS OUT FROM HYPERVENTILATING.

“It’s your plant.  I cut it down.  By accident.  I’m sorry.  Our Princess said it was your favorite.  I’m really sorry.  I couldn’t see that’s what I was cutting down under there.”

My–favorite?

“The one with the buds on it.”

Ah.  Oh y’all.  Yeah.  That sounds about right.

I went to the front door and looked out.

Yep.  Camellia.  Gone.

And all I could do was laugh.

Right?

I mean, last weekend I was trying to hold it together because most of the buds were gone.  I sure am glad I didn’t give the girls a hard time about that–would have been really silly, considering, huh?

I think that my Fella might have been a bit concerned that I was delirious, laughing and all.  After all, just over two years ago I lost it because he chopped up my fuzzy Wandering Jew plants in the flower bed thinking they were weeds.  I mean, LIFE WAS OVER AS I KNEW IT when those plants were chopped up.

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Only of course it wasn’t.

And they grew back healthier and in greater number than ever.

So yeah.  I’m in a much better place now, and really–I think maybe, in the words of my folks, I’m finally “getting it.”

People.  Their feelings.  They matter so much more.

My Fella seemed relieved that Hurricane Tara wasn’t about to hit land.  He took me out and showed me what he had done in the hopes of saving something.

Bless him, he had take two of the bigger branches from the bush and planted one on either side of the other shrubs in the hopes of them somehow taking root and growing and blooming and all the beautiful things.

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He’s been watering them everyday.

Bless him.

How could I not love someone with that much hope and faith?

Maybe it will happen.  Maybe those stalks will take root.  Or maybe they will become very important ingredients in the very busy and intense potions factory I host on my front porch.  Either way, all will be well.

I can always get another camellia.  I mean, I was hoping for a ginkgo for Christmas, but camellias are good too.

But precious little ones sharing their imaginations and picking buds and dreaming and folks who love me and go to such lengths to show it–I wouldn’t take a whole tea garden of camellias for that.  Or all the money in the world.

Wishing you all a sense of joy and laughter in the midst of the unexpected.

Love to all.