#bethefeather

Tonight I had the honor and privilege of sharing stories and leading our time at our Evening Prayer service.  It was a beautiful evening of folks sharing their thoughts and hearts, and I am grateful for each one there.  We talked about success, both the world’s view and what we believe it looks like.  From there, the conversation shifted gears, and we talked about what we want most in life.  And then what it looks like to comfort and love as the Rabbi did.  As we are fairly certain that is what we need to do.

And the conversation continued from there…..

My Aub posted on Facebook last week this quote from Anne Lamott’s “Help Thanks Wow.”  I have had folks try to comfort me with words such as these, and frankly, there have been times I’ve felt what Ms. Lamott is saying here.   A dear friend of mine told me that she wants to respond to folks who, in passing, pat the hands of those going through hard times, saying, “I’ll pray for you,” with “Were you even listening?  Really?  I need someone, something to hold on to.  Really?”

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They mean no harm really, and I understand.  It’s just that sometimes the pain is so great and the loss so deep (or is it vice versa, never mind, it’s both) that it is hard to find comfort in the words coming out of someone’s mouth.

At one point or another over the past four years, someone quoted this Scripture to me in an effort to bring me peace and comfort.

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This is beautiful.  Is there anything sweeter than a little one huddling close to Mama or Daddy and being protected and safe?  If there is, I can’t think of it right this second.

I love this image.  I do.  However, when I was in the depths of heartbreak and loss and feeling broken, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around the words and grasp the comfort of the idea.  Never mind the thought helping my hurting heart. Not happening.  It was folding its arms and shaking its head no–just not working here.

I began to wonder, is it just a pleasing image?  Is this passage for the birds?  What was I not getting?

Then last week Thom Shuman (who writes beautiful poetry and it an incredible writer of liturgy) shared this video.  Please take three minutes and watch this.  I don’t think you will regret it.

Take a moment to dry your eyes.  Or hang on while I do.  Gets me Every. Single. Time.

Oh my.

The thing is, in my life, there are times I’ve been the person shaking her head at what someone else is doing.  I’ve also been the person a little indignant that someone wasn’t there just a little bit sooner to help.

But the one I want to be?

The guy.  He gets it.  He knows what it’s like to walk in the dust of the Rabbi.  To LIVE like He did.

Y’all, what if WE are the FEATHERS?  What if?  What if our calls and cards and messages and visits and lunches in waiting rooms and bananas hung on doors and cups of coffee on sad afternoons and laughter over silliness and our listening to memories and stories that need sharing—what if we are part of the Wing that shelters and comforts?

What does that look like?

I think we just saw it in that video.  Makes the world a more beautiful place.

Y’all go be the feather.

#bethefeather Go shelter and comfort another.  We can do this.

#bethefeather
Go shelter and comfort and love another. We can do this–change the world.

Love and comfort to all.

#bethefeather

Thrown in the Deep End

This morning didn’t start off so differently than any other day.

I got up, got the littles’ breakfast, and sat down for a few minutes to catch up on my day to dailies and the like.

And I came across this.

“A Declaration of Life – legal document to convey your wishes,

that should you be murdered,

you do not want the perpetrator to receive the death penalty…..”

The original legal document can be found here. 

I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of the death penalty.  I’ve stood on both sides of that fence actually.  It was in 2011 in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, a man not quite a month older than me, that I revisited my stance on the death penalty.  My husband was deployed, my Daddy had just been admitted to Hospice, and a man was on death row with lots of questions still unanswered.  On the night of September 21, 2011, I found myself sitting on the side of my bed, willing that life take priority somewhere in the chaos that my life seemed to be at the time. The execution had been scheduled for 7 p.m. but delayed as the Supreme Court reviewed his case.   As I thought about his family, I felt compassion.  I knew what it was like to watch someone you love die, and I knew what it was like to walk through what seemed to be a hopeless situation.  When word came down that Troy Davis had indeed been executed at 10:53 p.m., my heart broke and I wept.  For someone I’d never met.  For all of us. Hope drained from me that night.

So I guess it was that night that I began to rethink my position.  In reality it is easy for me to say, “Oh yes, I’m against the death penalty.”  Forgiveness, allowing second chances, giving grace, praying for a change of heart–all of those can be wrapped up nice and neat and seem so…..full of grace…..and loving.  And lovely.  What a lovely, non-angry thing to say.  To be for life.

But when I read about this document for the very first time this morning, I felt like I’d been thrown in the deep end of the pool when all I was expecting to do was wade along the edge peacefully. With my clothes on.  I wasn’t prepared. I felt overwhelmed and unsure of myself.  Of what I believe.

If I believe what I say I believe, then it should be a relief to me that a legal document exists that I can print out, sign and have notarized and tuck away with my other important documents, right?  (And I’m not debating the document’s legal merits either–if I were to move forward with this, the first person I’d talk to after my Aunt–oh there’s good news, she’s thinking–would be my attorney.)  Surely if I am against the death penalty now, I should be against it after I am gone.  Even if I am the victim of a murder…..well, huh.  I hadn’t thought of that.  Or what if the victim was someone I loved more than life itself?

I don’t have the answers, but as I’m figuring out, the older I get, life tends to give us more questions than answers, so I will attempt to work through this one just like many others. Maybe without ever finding the “right” answer.  But I have a point that has nothing to do with which side of this fence you are on.

When we state what we believe, so adamantly, so full of certainty (as I have on occasion) that this is what we believe and it is right–we might be treading water in the shallow end of the pool.  I think that if we were thrown in the deep end, surrounded by the actual reality of issues that get folks riled up, like the death penalty, abortion, gay marriage, legalization of medical marijuana–oh, the list goes on and on–we might not be so certain of our stance anymore.  When it becomes personal, it might just seem a whole lot different.  When it involves and affects us and the people we love, we might not be so certain anymore.

And so maybe what we are called to do, instead of judging others for where they stand, is to keep a check on our own position.  Keep ourselves educated and always being willing to admit maybe there’s something out there we didn’t know, we hadn’t thought of.  And being open to change.

And perhaps, when it’s all said and done, that’s the most grace-filled and loving position to take after all.

Still figuring things out…..love to all.

Pirates, Pearls, and Open Doors

Yesterday my Wesleyanne, my Pirate 2017–the one almost done with her first year of college–went in to work about an hour before I headed out for our Alumnae weekend festivities.  She told me the night before that she thought she might drive up after work to play in the Alumnae/Student Soccer game.  I was visiting with friends, new and old, when she came walking up on the loggia yesterday afternoon, ready to play.

I drove out to the new soccer field (not sure how long it has been out there, but it will always be the “new” one to me) to cheer a team on.  On the one side my girl and her friends, on the other side friends I’ve had for twenty-eight years.  What. On. Earth.  (And no, I’m not telling who I was cheering for.  There’s some things you get old enough to know better about.)

As the game wrapped up with laughter and hugs and pats on the backs, the Pirates of ’89 gathered on the steps of the covered deck.  With my dear friend Oenone’s camera, I took pictures of this group of women who were such great role models and even better friends for me.  With a lump in my throat, I introduced them to my Pirate, and asked if I could take a picture of her with them.  That moment right there.  And a tradition was passed along.  Oenone put her pearls around Aub’s neck, saying it is a tradition for Pirates to play in pearls.  Moments like this are when I look back at 1986 Tara and whisper in her ear, “That whole college decision thing?  You chose well.”

 

A Pirate in pearls.....perfection.

A Pirate in pearls…..perfection.

As we were all leaving the soccer fields and heading back towards front campus for other events, some of our friends needed rides, as they had walked out to the new field from the old one and it was H.O.T. hot.  I had the privilege of being accompanied by the scarf-maker who could.  In the five minutes it took us to get to front campus, we were deep in conversation.  We found a couple of rockers and commenced to visiting.  Aub joined us a few minutes later and the laughter and near tears that passed among us were the stuff that the best of memories are made of.   My scarf-maker friend, this woman who takes Chances and makes things happen, walked with us over to the loggia overlooking the fountain where we would be eating soon.  She looked down at all below us and then back at Aub.

She motioned for Auburn.  “Come with me.  Mom, you stay here.”

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I saw them go down the marble stairs I’d gone up and down so many times over the years, probably the most significant of which was when I was married by that fountain in 2002.  They seemed lost in conversation as they headed over to the door that opened up to the post office and bookstore.  As she opened the door for Aub, my friend waved up at me.  They smiled, and then they headed back.

The first in a long line of many, I hope.  Thankful for the legacy my friend has passed along.

The first in a long line of many, I hope. Thankful for the legacy my friend has passed along.

I stood and looked out at the preparations for our fiesta by the fountain while I waited.  When they came back up, both were beaming.
“I just passed along a new tradition. You want to hear the story?”

I nodded.  Traditions.  That’s my middle name.  Daddy used to say, Look out, if you do anything more than once, it becomes a tradition with Tara.  So of course I wanted to know this story.

“You remember Rita Delaney Harris?” she asked.  I nodded.  I had seen her name in the Annual Meeting program that morning.  She passed away this past year.  She was a non-traditional older student, who was a senior my freshman year.

“It was my freshman year.  I was walking over to go in that door, and Rita was heading that way too.  I started to open the door for her, but she stopped me, reaching out and opening the door for me.  And she said, ‘No, let me.  And may this be the first of many doors opened for you.'”

Is it okay to say that I was about to cry?

Okay or not, it’s the truth.

What a precious lady.  To think that something that may have seemed so simple and  that happened twenty-nine years ago still touches my friend.  That it made such a lasting impression on her heart.

And now.

Now she has opened a door for my girl, wishing for her many more open doors in her future.

Oh good gravy.

Is there anything more precious that having someone you love and respect sharing love and light with your young’un?

Tonight I am thankful for sisterhood.  But it’s more than that really.  Sisterhood at Wesleyan is like the beautiful handkerchief I got from my Great Aunt.  I always have it.  It’s an heirloom passed down from one generation to the next.  I tuck it in my pocket or my purse or the top drawer of my dresser.  I always feel the comfort of the memories it brings me, and I appreciate that I have it now, after all of these years.  It dries my tears from laughter and from the hard times.  A treasure that is beautiful yet still quite functional.  I don’t tuck it away and never use it again.  Keeping it close only adds to the memories, and that is where so much joy comes from.  Keeping my sisters close, and sharing the memories of yesterday, the joys and sorrows of today, and the dreams for tomorrow.

Thank you Pirates 1989 for showing my girl what being a Pirate is all about.  “Guidelines only, laughter, pearls, and loving your sisters fiercely.”  And sharing grace and love by opening doors for each other every Chance we get.

Go take a chance and do something great for someone, no matter how small it seems.  I bet you’ll be surprised how far it goes.

 

Love to all.  And pearls.  Always pearls.  😉

 

The Day I Went To Prison

It occurred to me yesterday after my visit with Mac that it has been about two years since he took the first step on his journey to recovery.  Once again. It began with a long ride after being released from prison in Macon to a town about three hours away, to a beautiful rehabilitation facility where he made good choices and friends and dreamed dreams again.

Sigh.

But this story began a few months before.

He had turned himself in to an officer that had stopped by the gas station store that he frequented.  I think that had been in January.  He was tired of running, tired of that way of living, and he knew there were warrants out for him for probation violation.  Probation for things like panhandling, loitering, you know–the major crimes.  Anyway, turning himself in got him a bed and three meals a day.  And had me worried he wasn’t showing up on Sundays until I saw his name on the sheriff’s website.  We started writing letters back and forth.  I loved hearing his stories and dreams and the jokes he liked to tell.  In those letters we got to know each other pretty well.  He knew the way my littles preferred play over learning, that I loved to bake better than cook, and that the Fella loves old classic cars.  He sent notes and drawings to all of us, and we sent back pictures he could draw, stories to read, and letters sharing the ins and outs of our days.

And then, in one letter, he mentioned the visiting hours.  And asked if I could come.

Wow.

I had never been to prison before.  I wanted to see this man whom I grew to call my brother.  I wanted to give him all the support he needed to make wise choices once he took that first step out of his cell as a free man.  He needed a good network of folks to walk with him, and I intended to be one of those folks.  But prison?

At the risk of being redundant, Wow.

As it turns out, different folks are assigned different visiting hours.  His was 1 p.m. on Sunday, along with several others.  He had to put my name and anyone else who might come on a list.  If you weren’t on the list, you weren’t getting in.  We decided that I would visit on this one particular Sunday, barring anything unforeseen happening.  All of this was communicated by letters, so there was a lot of room for miscommunication or total lack of.  That Sunday morning I got up, took care of the tea and coffee for the park’s Sunday night supper, and got ready to go.  What does one wear to visit prison?  A strange question, I know, but I was second guessing EVERYTHING.  I chose regular, casual clothes and worried over the shoes.  I had heard something about not wearing open-toed shoes, but I wasn’t sure.  I wore my flip flops and carried Aub’s boat shoes with me just in case.  I drove to downtown and found the tree-lined street on the back side of the jail where I’d be entering.  I parked the car on the street, and checked my clock.  12:45.  I was early.  I sat and took it all in for a few minutes.  Normal looking brick building with the exception of the painful looking wires at the top of the fence. And across the street?  A convenience store with “Lottery, Beer, Cigarettes” painted on the side.  Oh y’all, I nearly cried.  If Mac were released with no one to pick him up, I could be fairly certain that’s where he’d head.  After all, there was a phone outside there, if it even worked.  And the nearly three months of detoxing and not drinking he’d done would all  be for naught.  My heart broke, and I knew something had to be done.  How many leave that facility with no one to go home to and find themselves over at that store?  Its location was no coincidence, I felt sure.

I took a sip of water, rallied my spirit, grabbed my license and my keys, and headed in.  I had no idea what to do.  Everyone else waiting seemed to know exactly what they were doing.  I realize in hindsight that may not have been true, but at the time, I felt like I had a huge sticker on my head that screamed, “First Timer.”

I approached an officer who, it was obvious, was bored and didn’t have any warm fuzzies about folks coming to visit folks they cared about.  She looked on the card–the one that had my name and Mac’s Mama’s name and one other on it.  I almost wanted his Mama to come, so I could meet her and maybe there wouldn’t be a lull in the conversation.

Because it occurred to me–this would be the first time we’d talk in person with him sober.

I gave her my keys and license and prayed I wouldn’t set off any alarms with my belt or any metal pins I’d forgotten I had.  (One time in an MRI, I had a moment of panic–had nothing to do with claustrophobia and everything to do with worrying whether or not I had a pin put in when I broke my ankle.  In that moment, I forgot.  And I did again at the jail. FYI–No pin.)

At 1 p.m. on the dot, I was told which window to go to.  There were stools of sorts in front of the windows, but someone had blocked the bottom half of the window so you couldn’t see your friend unless you were standing up.  There was a phone to pick up and speak into and that was how we were to communicate.  After a couple of minutes of standing there, I saw a group of men in orange jumpsuits heading towards us.  I scanned the group, and there he was.  He grinned that grin of his, and I grinned back.  It was good to see him.  He had showered and looked well fed and well rested.  I was thankful.  He picked up the phone, and said hello.  Ah.

Only I couldn’t hear him.

At all.

I spoke and looked at him questioningly.  He shrugged and shook his head.  He nodded at the window two spots down.  Someone had come in, said two words to their person and left from that window.  I looked around for someone, anyone, to ask if that was okay.

Because let me tell you this.  If there is a place where one does not want to do ANYTHING wrong or upset ANYONE or cross ANY lines, it would be in prison.  They wouldn’t have far to haul me if they decided they didn’t like what I was doing.  Seriously.  I was worried.

But Mac had already moved down.  Why wasn’t there an officer supervising this?  What was I going to say–He made me do it?

After a moment of hesitation, I moved down and picked up the phone.  We could hear each other.  Finally.

Eventually I relaxed a little, once it became apparent no one cared that we had changed windows.  We visited and caught up from our latest letters.  He told me about his attorney visiting the day before.  About how sometimes he didn’t want to go to the meals, just wanted to rest.  I asked about him working on his novel, a western, and he said, no not right now.  Maybe later on he would.  We passed the time with stories and jokes and I can say for sure, an hour is a long time, when you are speaking into a phone and trying to find a comfortable way to lean/stand and staring through “glass” that has something running through it that makes focusing on the person on the other side really hard.

I loved the visit but as we hit the forty-five and fifty minute mark, I could tell that Mac was getting tired.  He has never had good balance, even stone cold sober, so this was wearing him out too.  We talked for a few more minutes and then said our goodbyes, with promises of writing and wishes for safety and good health.

I gathered my license and keys and thanked the bored officer and headed out into the fresh air of that overcast Sunday.  As I walked down the street to my car, free to drink the water in my own cup waiting for me in the vehicle I owned, I felt like I had a fresh pair of glasses to see through.  I had only spent an hour inside the facility, but it was enough to make me see and appreciate things a little differently.

Little did I know that day where life was taking us. That in less than a month I’d be walking back in that building to speak at Mac’s hearing, a suitcase full of what he needed in my car, waiting to take him to a place where he could heal and be with folks who could put tools in his kit for his journey ahead.  That just over a year later, he’d be sitting at the graduation for my oldest, having gotten permission to come back home for it from his transitional program.  That just two years later, he’d be sitting in almost the exact same spot he was the week before he went to prison, and he’d be grieving over his friend who died after being hit by a car while crossing the street, mad over his tent that was stolen from his “camp,” and worrying over another friend who “drinks 24/7.”

As I left him yesterday, I felt a push to give him two numbers I had in my purse in the car.  Two numbers of possible rehabilitation or transitional places.  I sat in the driver’s seat and copied them down.  When I walked back around to the opening in the gate, he had left his seat outside.  I went in and looked around.  I hoped I could find him.  And there he was.  In the technology room.  He came out when he saw me.

“Here,” I said.  “I think I’m supposed to give you these numbers.  They might not be the right places, but maybe they can lead you to one that is.”

He took the folded paper and started to tuck it in his pocket.  “Thank you.”

I looked him in the eyes. “And it’s okay, you know.  It’s okay.  No pressure.  Just for whenever you want to, you know, take that step.  Your decision.”

He was quiet for a second.  “I’m almost there.”  He nodded and looked at the paper again. “I am.  I called Joe the other day.”  Joe, who had run the transitional home he’d been in until last July.

“Did you?  Was that good?”

He nodded.  And he reached to give me a hug.  “Thank you.  I’ll be calling you.”

Tonight I’m thankful for this life that takes me outside my comfort zones and into places where I have to step up and love someone else.  It’s not easy, and I’m not always a willing participant.  But when I go, the rewards are phenomenal.  I meet folks whom I would never have met otherwise–people who bring richness and laughter into my life and stories that touch my heart.  I am thankful for the folks who raised me to listen and love all–it’s not easy but they set a good example to follow.  And a tough one.

And tonight I ask for us all to keep Mac and all of our brothers and sisters like him in our thoughts, prayers, hearts, and minds.  The ones who need someone to see them and hear them and love them through choices, good and bad. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that what we all need?

 

Love to all.

 

What True Love Looks Like

I was standing in the yard, I think I was at Granny’s.  But the trees were ones Daddy had planted, so they were precious to me.  And as I stood staring at this one tree, it fell over.  Toppled right to the ground.  In that moment, my heart shattered.  I fell to the ground crying.  It was a link to him, and it was gone.  Another connection cut off.  As I wept, my tears falling into the grass beneath me, I wondered if it falling was a sign something bad had happened to Daddy.  I thought about Mama and worried how she was handling it if something had happened. 

Then I woke up and remembered.  Silence.

Oh.  That’s right.

It was just a dream.

Lunch for the little today.  Tortilla pizza.  They love it.

Lunch for the littles today. Tortilla pizza. They love it. Just like their Cap did.

Today for lunch I made two quick tortilla pizzas for my littles.  We hadn’t had them in a while until I whipped them up one last week.  They were so excited and ate every bite, so we’ve had them a couple of more times.  Today as I was using the pizza cutter to slice one up for our Princess, I remembered that Daddy was also fond of this version of pizza in his last couple of years.  After my dream last night, he and Mama were on my mind more than usual.

“Hey y’all, Cap loved this kind of pizza too.  He told me about it after Maemae made it for him the first time.”

They both thought that was pretty cool.

“Mama, let me ask you something.  Did you have to feed Maemae?”

*absolutely out of left field, that was*

I thought for a minute.  “No baby, I didn’t.  Maemae wasn’t really able to eat anything those last few weeks.  They had her using something to help her breathe.”  I held my own breath, fingers crossed there wouldn’t be any more detailed questions.

“Oh.”  She thought for a moment, carrying her plate to the counter. “Did you ever have to feed Cap?”

Oh my.  I did on occasion.  It was mostly helping him get the cup Mama had put a straw in up to his mouth.  Just at the end though.  The last couple of days he wanted nothing.

I remember noticing in those last months when Daddy lost some of his motor skills, that Mama was fixing him sandwiches and then wraps.  She’d put just about anything in a wrap–fried chicken, meatloaf, you name it–if Daddy liked it, it went in a wrap.  At first I thought they had joined the “wrap”apalooza that the restaurants all seemed to be going to at the time, but then Mama commented nonchalantly about how it seemed like it was easier for him to handle a wrap.

Bless her.

Mama’s love language was food.  We’ve laughed and joked about it over the years, and we even teased her unmercifully.  She used to lay out a spread and apologize that it might not be “fancy” or “enough.”  We’d shake our heads and dig in appreciatively.  After Daddy died, and she was so tired from the diseases challenging her own body, she’d put a Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese in the oven, roast some broccoli, fry up some okra, and put out carrots and hummus as a side–and she would APOLOGIZE.  Oh Mama.  Don’t you know all we tasted was love?

Because that’s how she showed her love the best, it was important to her to feed Daddy.  She couldn’t ease his pain, she couldn’t slow down the progression of the cancer, but she could by golly feed him.  And feed him well.  She’d cut up apple slices with at least one meal every day.  He always did love his apples, and if she placed them in a certain bowl, he could get them out and eat them all by himself fairly easily.  And the wraps.  I don’t know if she fed him meals when we weren’t there, but I do know she got very creative when it came to making him good food that he could eat himself.  She preserved his dignity through it all.

Bless her.  I was watching.  And paying attention.

I know that Walt Disney, bless his heart, has created an image of romance surrounded by singing forest animals, dancing and sewing mice, sea creatures, dancing until midnight, book-filled rooms with candlelight, and all kinds of happilyeveraftertheend’s, but for me, I know what true love looks like.

True love looks like hands held across a hospital bed.  True love looks like a smile and a wrinkled nose.  True love looks like tired eyes and vitamins served in a little cup every night.

True love looks like a wrap.  Made special.  For the one you love most.

Love to all.

In the Waiting and Uncertainty

Yesterday I was at the Getting Place getting some “stuff,” and this gave me pause.

Black jelly beans.  They were Daddy's favorites.

Black jelly beans. They were Daddy’s favorites.

And made me a little sad.

The Easter Bunny brought us jelly beans every year, tucked in our green plastic grass that was put away in a bread bag every year for safekeeping until the next Easter.  And every year, I would dig through and pull out the black ones first thing.  And pass them to my right.  Where my Daddy sat at the end of the table.  They were his favorites, and little on Easter morning brought me as much joy as giving him these favorites of his.

This was in the day before they bagged the black ones separately all by themselves. Once they started doing that, I usually picked a bag up for him–sometimes for Easter, sometimes just because.

He’d keep the bag with a twist tie on it, and it would be stored in the little wooden box that sat by his recliner in the living room.  Daddy would pull out the bag, untwist it, pour a few in his palm, and eat the licorice flavored sweets.  Then he’d twist the bag back up, and tuck it away until his sweet tooth called out for them again.

I read something years ago about Holy Saturday, which is upon us now.  That first Saturday–the day after Good Friday.  It was described as a day of waiting, of uncertainty, of in-between.  A day of not knowing.

I think back to the time after Daddy was diagnosed with Lymphoma, his Giant to fight, in 2009.  So much of that time felt just like that–waiting, being uncertain, weeping for what we were most afraid of, feeling in-between, longing for resurrection in the form of good news–remission, a cure, a misdiagnosis, a miracle, something, anything.

What I didn’t know or see at the time is that in those moments of waiting, there were many small moments of redemption and life-affirming joy.  In the midst of the fear, there was faith.  In the grasping for answers, there was hope.  In the moments of worry and sadness, there was laughter and light in his eyes, his voice, his stories, and his words.  In those moments of being in-between, the who we were with conquered where we were.

And that’s as it should be, isn’t it?  Even in the hardest of situations, because of who I was with, I was able to get through the where and the what, and move beyond with a tad bit of hope and a whole lot of love.

Daddy’s jelly beans.  A precious memory.  But what makes it so special is the memory of his hand held out to accept what I offered from mine.  The smile on his face, acting like he was surprised that I didn’t want them myself.  The way his eyes lit up when he bit into the first one every year.  Daddy loved black jelly beans–he loved us even more.  And in the waiting, in the uncertainty, it was that love that conquered all.

May your waiting find you surrounded by those who love you, and may you find the joy and peace of Easter waiting for you on the other side.

Love to all.

 

Knickers in a Twist

Warning:   I’m gonna mention some unmentionables. 

Almost as an afterthought when the littles and I were at the Red Bullseye Marketplace the other day, picking up something to go with our supper and one other thing we needed from there, I ran through the underwear section.  I like their underoos, and it’s been years since I’ve had to buy any.  Those things hold up.

In our house Santa brings underwear.  When one of the children questioned this gift usually stuffed into their stockings, I told them the truth.  “Santa brings you underwear if he really loves you.”

And yet, somehow, I haven’t gotten any in years.

So, yes, some of my undergarments might be starting to show a little wear from all the times I’ve had to put on my big girl panties and pull them up.  Since I rarely go to this store anymore, I decided to take a moment and pick out a couple–just a couple–pair to begin cycling some out.

Sorry to get so personal people, but this is real life.  Perhaps this is the next sign of independent living, right behind buying your own toilet paper–buying your own underwear.  I don’t know.  But stay with me–I’m going somewhere with this.

I brought them home, washed them, and put on one of the brand new pair.  Funny.  No one else has a clue you’ve got them on, and yet, you feel different.  New underwear, fun?  Well, yeah.  So I was getting dressed, and after I put my capris on, well…..how to say…..

Things just didn’t feel right.  I felt as though my pants didn’t fit right.  Were they too small?  Why didn’t my pants fit?

I decided to start back over from “base layer” so to speak.  I pulled out some old, trusted unmentionables and then put my capris back on.

And you know what?

They.  Fit.  Perfectly.

Well.

Picture me rubbing my head as I shook it and tried to figure this out.  Yes, the new underoos were made a little different, but I didn’t think they were THAT different.

And yet they must have been.

Lesson learned.

It’s like that in life too, isn’t it?  If things at our very base level, deep down inside of us are all out of sorts–everything else in our world and life and day to dailies will be too.  If we are sad or lost or broken down in our core, if things are not just right, eventually it will out.  There’s no covering that up completely.  At least not comfortably.

It might make us walk with a hitch in our getalong.

Just like I was when I had on the new underoos.  (Yeah, literally.)

And nobody has time for that.

Tonight I give thanks for old and dependable underwear that gives me the sense of a good foundation and makes for a good fit.  I’m even more thankful for my good foundation, put there by my Mama, my Daddy, and Aunts and uncles and friends and family and people who have loved me “anyway.”

It just makes everything fit better.

Love to all.

 

 

and so I love

I scan the room for him

no sign of his face, those eyes, that smile

I walk to the door and peer outside

someone is lying in the grass, in the sun

napping

or so it seems

It is my friend, my brother

and I am glad he is resting

The rain has poured for days

and his camp was flooded

So now he sleeps

under the sun that for today is a friend

but will soon, in a month or so, become

the enemy

making the out-of-doors unbearable

all over again

I walk over and tease him

He looks up and grins

always in good spirits when he’s had a drink

or a few

He went to church he says

and he is pleased with himself

with the church, the pastor

with the words he heard and sang

They mean something to him

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

these words from Matthew 6:25 he hears and agrees with

“you know,” he says to me, looking me in the eyes, squinting in the sun, ” I am like that.  I don’t worry where my food is coming from”

and then his words break my heart

“I know which dumpsters to look in if I’m hungry”

the pain shows on my face

“Don’t look like that–it’s okay–some friends, they put food there, in separate bags”

the image stops me cold

my friend doesn’t worry

he takes life in stride

he finds his food in bags in dumpsters

put there by friends, by kind souls, who know

who anticipate

someone might come along and need the leftovers

the cast-off food,

what can no longer be served?

“oh ye of little faith” echoes in my head

and volleys back and forth

with “the Lord helps those who help themselves”

I don’t know which says what anymore

about my journey and where I am

I no longer know how to help my friend

and so I listen, and I tell him I’m glad

he can find food so easily

though this is so foreign to me

and just beyond my comprehension

I live in a bubble, I think to myself sometimes

I am not strong or aware or making a difference

and so I listen, and I tell him to take care, be careful

He says he is, asks me the time

the time is 3:30 and that only marks for him how much longer

he will be able to lie in the sun

before the gate will be locked for another day

He tells me he will nap

and then head back into the woods, hoping the sun and wind

have been his friend

and dried his tent and blankets

and other things of his

I wish I could take him home with me, or put him in a room

somewhere dry and safe and warm when the night winds blow

but we tried finding him a place, a place of help and

sanctuary and refuge and challenge

and he did well for a while

but in the end, the wind called him back

the bottle sang her alluring song

and, in the words of my Daddy, who had the same blue eyes

and wrinkles when he laughed

“You can want it for them,

but you can’t make them do it”

I can’t make him want sobriety

or a home or to be any different than he is

and I won’t ask him to be anyway

And so I listen

and I love

I love on days that the laughter is slurred

and on days the words are clear

on days my friend is clean and fresh

and on days he misses the sign up for a shower

or doing laundry

I love my friend when he laughs and I love him

when the sadness rolls in

like a heavy fog following an afternoon storm

I love him when the dreams are big and beautiful

and when the nightmares are scary and dark

I don’t have much left to give him

but love

and hope

and acceptance

and

wonder–wondering about that faith of his, is it strength of faith

or foolhardiness

that gives him peace about food and the next day and life

as he lies in the afternoon sun?

God spoke to my friend, this man I call brother

and brought him peace,

peace for today

and for that

tonight

I give thanks

 

Spring Green

To paraphrase Eddie Rabbitt, “I love a rainy day.”

Today it rained and it poured and it did my soul good.

For, you see, when it rains like this, it seems as though things slow down.  My soul quiets, and I take a deep breath.  I even let myself pick up a book in the middle of the day on rainy days every now and then.

Besides they say the sun will be out tomorrow, so I know it’s not an indefinite flooding going on here.  I can enjoy a rainy day or two every now and then.  Especially on those rainy days where I don’t have to be anywhere or meet a deadline or anything like that.

This afternoon I walked by the window in the living room a few times and had to do a double take.  The new green leaves on the tree right outside the window are such a bright green that they almost glow.  They made me think the sun was shining they were so vivid.

Bright green.

Spring green.

Ah.  I love that book.

Years ago I put together storytimes for the local library system and I traveled to different child care centers and read and shared stories, poems, and rhymes there and at the libraries.  One of my favorite books to share in March or April was “Spring Green” by Valrie M. Selkowe and Jeni Bassett.  It’s a simple and delightful story about Danny and his animal friends who are all invited to a party and need to bring something green with them.  Danny looks and looks and has such a hard time.

And in the end, it turns out it’s not so much what you have but who you have in your life that matters the most.

Amen.

It didn’t occur to me until tonight that this is why I love this story so much.  I expect that is why Mama loved having it on her shelf all those years–it’s something she’s known all along.

I’m a bit of a slow learner, but I know that truth now.

It’s all about the relationships.

If you have a few extra dollars and can order yourself a copy of this book or can find it at the library, I highly recommend it.  A sweet and quick read.  And the message can’t be beat.

All about the who, not the what.

Tonight I’m thankful for all of my who’s out there.  And for the us that the who’s in my life put time and love and energy into growing.

Love to all.  Wishing you all a day full of light tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

On Kicking Rocks and Using My Words

When I was younger and I took my little brother on walks down our dirt road and then down the paved road and back, we came across rocks in our path.  Sometimes we picked them up for his rock collection.  Other times I would kick the rock.  I liked to watch it skitter across the road and come to a halt.  If it didn’t go too far toward the middle, I would kick it along, again and again.  Until it ventured too far away from the grass we tried to stay close to or I grew tired and Bubba was ready to be home.  Those times with him seemed so ordinary then.  And so precious now.

I’ve been thinking about kicking those rocks.  It’s harder to find a rock in the middle of our streets in our neighborhood  or on the sidewalks, so it happens less and less that I get to kick rocks.  I miss it.

When I kicked the rock, it responded.  It moved.  And then when the energy I had put behind it wore out, it stopped.  But in those moments of movement, my existence and my strength were validated.  I walk this earth and I made that happen.

My parents were both wordsmiths, craftsmen, if you will, with letters and words put together to express thoughts and ideas and entertain and tell stories.  Mama wrote children’s stories and songs.  She wrote down memorable moments in her marriage in one book, and in the year after Daddy died, she journaled on the computer.  She did this almost nightly until she got so sick and had her first HospitalStay in late summer 2012.  Daddy wrote poetry, waxed philosophic about life, and wrote letters that were made to be kept, simply because of their entertainment value and meaning. I don’t know that he considered himself a writer, but he was.

I miss them.  I miss their stories.  And so it was that one year ago tomorrow I sat down to write.  To write our people’s stories.  To get down in words what it was like those long twenty-five days in the hospital, watching Mama fight for her life and trying to care for her the way she had for me for over forty-four years.  To work out some of my grief and tears and fears through writing and processing with words.

“Use your words,” Mama would often tell us, growing up.  This was usually when we were so angry with one or another of our siblings that we were about to use our hands or feet for purposes that were less than desirable.  Instead of using violence, she wanted us to use our words.  Talk about what we were feeling.  Tell the other person how we felt and why.  And work through it with anything other than violence.  That’s how she raised us.

So it was only natural, I guess, that I turned to words to work through my raw grief and brokenness over losing my two best friends less than fifteen months apart.  That I used the beauty of words instead of lashing out at doctors and hospital staff that I was so angry with.  To write instead of wrong.

At times during Daddy’s three years of fighting the Giant of lymphoma, we thought things would get better.  When he was in remission, things were so good.  We thought we had that joker beat.  Daddy was nearly his old self.  Laughing and telling stories.  Washing his truck out in the yard.  Sitting on the brown couch, reading or watching the littles play.  All those times I should have asked him to tell the stories of our people again.  Stories he took time to dig and research and track down.  And tell.  But I didn’t.  It wasn’t until he was bedbound that I sat down across from him with this same laptop and asked him if he felt like telling one or two, one more time.  I was ready.  But he shook his head and looked out his window.  Oh, the tears I have wept over that.  All those stories.  Gone.  So many questions I’ve had since then.  For both of them.

So now I also write to share our stories.  To get them down for my children and grandchildren and anyone beyond that who might be sentimental enough to care that we had a great-Granddaddy who always started the meal with a blessing and mid-way through would urge, “Take out and help yourselves.  You ain’t et hardly nothin’.”  Or that my Granny cooked and cooked and never sat down for a meal.  She always stood at the counter in the little house where my Papa had made the wooden stools for all of us to sit on.  The same counter with the storage built in the back where the Mercurochrome was kept.  I tell the stories so that when they get to wondering why I have so many books, they can read the story of how my beautiful Aunt took me to my very first Old Book Sale ever and started an obsession.  I write, hoping that when my people cannot hear my voice with their ears anymore, they will find comfort and joy and maybe a guffaw or two in the words I leave for them.  Just as I have in those we’ve found of Mama’s and Daddy’s.

The challenge that began when Mama and I were sitting down to order Daddy’s gravestone came to fruition last year on April 7.  My oldest, my awesome and smart and funny girl who is also my IT specialist, had already transferred things I had written on a different site in 2011 and 2012.  I wrote a post on the 5th about the scarf I started while Mama was in the hospital.  But it was on April 7th that I sat down and wrote and kept on keeping on.  I so wanted to be able to see something through to its finish, to commit and stay with a project. (Unlike that scarf.  Sadly, I still have not picked it back up.) When I wrote that day, I told myself I wanted to see if I could write something every day.  Every single day for a year.

And here it is.  It hit me about two months ago how close I was to reaching that goal.  And then one month.  And last week, as it grew closer, I started getting something akin to stage fright.  This is a big hulking deal for me.  It’s been so hard to stay focused for years now, at least since 2009 when Daddy was diagnosed.  So much rolling around up there, but difficult to stay focused.  I wasn’t sure I could do it.

And here I am.  Barring anything unforeseen happening between now and when I hit the “publish” button tonight, I’ve done it.  There were times my days were so full, it almost didn’t happen.  Like the day and night I spent with Sister, being given the gift of being present for my niece’s birth.  There were nights I didn’t publish until after midnight, so it looks as though I published twice on one day, and none on another, but I know the truth.  Like the night my Bubba was here and we stood in the kitchen whisper-talking until after 1 in the morning.  People and relationships take priority always.  My Mama taught me that.  And I almost didn’t publish before falling asleep at 2:45 a.m. but I thought about those precious to me who said they read my thoughts first thing in the morning.  I didn’t want them to worry, so I wrote.

I’ve been thinking all day about those rocks.  The thing about kicking them is that when they stopped, that was it.  They moved no more unless someone else came along to push them a little further.  But words, words are different.  They can’t be completely taken back. You never know the full circle of who they touch, where they go, and how long they will be heard.  I am inspired by one of my favorite writers whom I am privileged to also call my friend.  Karen Spears Zacharias.  She knows the path of grief and loss all too well.  And she is a writer.  Her words touch people all over for days and weeks and months and years after she crafts them together into a story or a message or a thought that is too important not to share.  She touches lives and makes a difference.  With her words.  And her heart.

Besides using this writing thing of mine to work through my pain and weariness of grief and to record our stories, I wanted this too.  I wanted my words to make a difference, to change a life.

And you know what?

After a year of sitting down to write as my house settles down and eyes, little and big, close, and sleep wafts through like a gentle summer breeze, I can say that these words I’ve written, these thoughts I’ve shared, these tears I’ve cried as my fingers hit the keys, these stories I’ve shared, the times I’ve laughed out loud about where a story was heading…..they have changed a life.

Mine.

And for a one year mark, that’ll do.  I can’t ask for any better than that.

Love to all.  Sweet dreams, dear readers and friends.  Thanks for hanging out and listening.  Always.

 #############

Many thanks to those who have made this year of writing possible.  My friends who have encouraged me, especially Baddest Mother Ever, who pretty much threw the gauntlet down and challenged me to do this to begin with, thank you.  I am grateful to all of you who take time from your own stories to read mine–whether one time or every day or anything in between.  And to my friends and family who have taken time to comment here or on Facebook, thank you!  Hearing your thoughts in return is a precious gift, and it means the world to me.  Thanks to my family for putting up with me crashing in the brown chair or propped up in the bed late at night, clicking away. (Or worse, putting up with me on the nights the Muse was a bit elusive. Ahem.) Thanks to my author friends who have called me the “w” word (writer).  You humble me and I hope to one day to deserve that label.  To my Aunt who listens and reads and listens a whole lot more, there are no words to fully say thank you–but yes ma’am, thank you.  And I’m sorry I wore out that old phone battery.  😉  To my sisters and brothers and cousins and friends and family and children and my Fella and my Mess Cat, who love me and put up with me, knowing their story is only a few clicks away from being told right here, I love you all so much.  Thank you, my big girl, who is not only my IT specialist but also my editor sometimes and always one of my treasured friends.  The one who lets me tell my stories and her stories and the stories from our before, and who never fails to encourage me and is never surprised when something goes well.  She shrugs as if to say, “Well duh, ‘Dre, I knew you had it.”  I love you baby girl. To you, Princess, Cooter and my Fella, I am deeply indebted for the gift you give me of time and encouragement and putting up with me when I am “in the zone.” 

And finally, to my Daddy who challenged me to write oh so many years ago, and to my Mama who told me to write it all down in a book, I owe my world to.  I am who I am because of them on so many levels.  My Mama gave me a journal for my birthday two years ago, when Daddy was so gravely ill.  She talked to me non-stop about being thankful and finding something to give thanks for everyday for the fifteen months she lived here without my Daddy, her best friend and true love.  Mama, that journal is still empty, but my heart is full.  Thank you for encouraging me and pushing me to do this.  Even from beyond the veil, your voice is strong and your love is stronger.  Love you both.  Always, T. Annie