Growing Hope

These are confusing times we are living in.  Things that are unprecedented going on all over while other things that are frighteningly precedented take place close to home and across the world.  Some days, I just want to sit with my book and dog and read and escape with the sounds of the littles playing in the background.

It’s hard to know what is right and wrong, you know?  Hard to know how to make things better…..how to wrong the rights…..how to help the hurting.  And it feels so overwhelming, wondering how the little things I do in my day to dailies could possibly make a difference.

Is it any wonder we are all so tired?

Yesterday for the second time in three months, I found myself sitting next to an elderly woman in her 80’s expressing her thoughts on the world, our country, the situations on her mind.  Different women, different circumstances, but both times I sat trying to find balance in the situation.  Would my firmly stating how much I disagree with her change the world for the better?  Should I speak loudly and strongly what I believe is right and wrong?  Would I make things better by trying to explain how she wasn’t seeing things in what I believed to be the right light, or would I only alienate her and make things worse?

I couldn’t be sure.

Both times, I said something like, “Well, it is hard.”

“People are hurting.”

“I am not sure that everyone sees it that way.”

“It’s hard to know what the right thing is, isn’t it?”

Because it is.  None of what I said was an untruth, but I didn’t come out and say, “I BELIEVE YOU ARE WRONG.”

I just couldn’t.  And both times, I left feeling bad–wondering if I’d let down those who are hurting.

The difference yesterday though was that my littles, Cooter who is now 10 1/2 and our Princess who is almost 13, were there and listening.

*sigh*

As we left and got in our vehicle, I answered questions that Cooter had about what had transpired.  He wanted to know all kinds of things, like what the woman had been referring to and why she believed what she did.  One part I could answer, the other I could only guess.  And I told him that.  Then we talked about how we all see things differently.

And then we moved on to other important subjects–like what was for lunch.  Cooter is very meal-focused these days.  Must be that whole growing boy thing.

Then this morning, Cooter brought his Grammar/Literature book to me.  Some days there are readings that he is asked to read aloud to me.  This morning he came with an urgent need to read it to me NOW.

“Mama,” he said.  “You have to hear this.  It made me think about that lady yesterday.”

And then he read from his text–

Japanese Culture: Part 2

by Jennifer D. Lerud

Family, honor, good manners, and outside appearances are very important to the Japanese people.  They have two forms of behavior: omote, which is the public, formal, and conventional behavior that governs how close they stand to each other and who shakes hands first, for example; and ura, which is their private, informal, “relaxing at home” form of behavior.  They believe it is proper to agree with anyone older than themselves–even if the person is wrong–in order to avoid humiliating or bringing dishonor on an elder person.  The Japanese people display people’s ages in newsletters at work, and school and work desks according to age, and even hand out cups of tea in order of age.  Social ranking and status are important things…..

(from The Good and the Beautiful, Level 4–Book 2 Course Book, p. 11)

“See, Mama? That’s what you did yesterday.”

Bless him.

I’m not writing this to debate about whether I should have stood up yesterday or three months ago and called these women out.  It didn’t happen, and I don’t know if it will happen tomorrow or next week or next year, should such a situation arise again, as it likely will.  I’m writing this because I’m trying to wrap my brain around a child who was paying attention, and a timely lesson that spoke to him, and the fact that he saw the connection and shared it with me.

Most days it’s all little things that are dots that I don’t connect into a big picture until much later–if ever.  It’s reminding Cooter umpteen times to rinse out his oatmeal bowl before it becomes glue in the bowl or listening to our Princess practicing “The Carol of the Bells” for her piano recital.  It’s making sure that swim suits and dance leotards are clean and dry, and that scripts and epi-pens are in hand as we head out the door.  It’s grocery shopping and meal planning and reminding little people to empty the dishwasher.  It’s talking on the phone with our law student and trying not to miss her too much, knowing she’s where she’s supposed to be.  Sometimes it’s even making time to read my new favorite book or watch the newest Hallmark movie.

And most of the time, these little things don’t connect…..

But today, they did.  Today I’m thankful for a perfectly timed (I’m looking at You) Literature passage that gave me grace…..for that same passage that spoke to a little fella and helped him understand the ways of the world a little more.

Mostly I’m thankful for this process of “raising children”–that label is so limiting and not at all what we are doing together, y’all.  Together, all of us, we are growing hope.  As these little people watch and listen and read and begin to understand and teach us through their eyes and with their hearts–we are raising the ones who will carry our stories, our love, our light, and pass it along to the next generation.

And today, that is everything to me.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Cooter, Clemson, and Middle C

Earlier this month we enjoyed the Georgia National Fair and all of its splendor.  Rides, exhibits, music, food, friends, fun–every bit of it.  During one of our visits (yep, we went more than once this year–ALL the fun, y’all),  we were wandering through the commercial exhibit hall.  Cooter stopped to look at the piano in one of the booths.

As he looked at the keys, searching for middle C, the owner came up and, noticing Cooter’s baseball cap, spoke to him.  “Hey, are you a Clemson fan?” Then he looked up at me, “Are you a Clemson fan?”

I shrugged and said, “I’m not, not really,” and smiled back.  The good-natured salesman laughed and said, “Then why on earth would you let him wear that hat?”

I laughed.  “That’s just how we roll.”

The truth is that Cooter found the hat at the GW Boutique, and he really liked it.  His friend is a Clemson fan, so he cheers the team along with his friend.  Am I a Clemson fan?  Is the Fella?  Is anyone else in our house?  Not really.  But it doesn’t keep us from loving Cooter in his Clemson fan-dom.  He’s becoming his own person.  He IS his own person.  He is learning and living out his story, and he’s forming his own opinions about sports teams and what books are his favorites to read (biographies and history and oh, Captain Underpants) and what matters most to him.  We’ve been studying the beginning of this country and how the government was formed, and so he’s even been venturing into forming his own political beliefs.

On all of these things–sports teams, books, what matters most, and even political beliefs–there are things we have in common, things we believe the exact same about (Captain Underpants not being one of them, you understand), and there are things we absolutely disagree on.

And yet, just this morning, that little imp told me I was his favorite Mama.  And while, I’m the only nominee in this category–it’s not an award he had to give.  So, despite our lack of commonality on several things (the need for him to do his science lesson being a major one), he loves me.

And I adore him right back.

Perhaps what I should have told the piano man back at the Fair is, that in this family, it’s okay to like and think and believe different things.  That’s why it’s okay that my oldest loves music I don’t really care for, that my middle child loves UGA (though I’m a Tech Fan), and that my baby boy is a huge fan of all things football and enjoys books I am not really interested in.

And it really is all okay.

Because at the end of the day, we are all right here together.  Living in our own little corner of this great big world.  Growing and learning and sometimes changing our thoughts and beliefs and preferences as life takes us on down the road.  And whatever it takes for us to live and love together, that’s what counts the most.  Being okay with our differences and not only allowing but encouraging each other to have them–even if it’s cheering for a team I could care less about–that’s what keeps us going.  That’s what matters most.  In our house, our neighborhood, our town, our country, our world.  For all of us.

I hope you get to wear the hat you want.  Because it’s your head, your journey, your story.  And I hope folks love you just the same.

Love to all.

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The Summer of Little Knocks

A couple of days ago I walked over to my neighbor’s house to share some of my summer abundance with her.  After debating whether to knock or ring the doorbell, I decided on the doorbell.  I mean, they have one, and so they probably appreciate that it gets used from time to time.  (Ours, on the other hand, went kerplunk a couple of years back.  Knocking suits us just fine, but mostly because we can’t seem to get the wiring right again.)

After a minute or two, their dog came to the door and pushed the curtain aside with her nose.  She stared me down but never barked.  I knew they were home, as their younger little was out playing with all the other children.  After a couple of more minutes, I sat the fruit down and headed back to my house.  About a half hour later my friend came walking down the street, shaking her head embarrassedly and laughing.  “Oh dear,” she said.  “I’m so sorry.  We were eating, and I just knew it was one of the children.  Again.”

She didn’t have to say another word.  I don’t think there’s a parent on this street who hasn’t ignored the summons to the door at one time or another this summer.  Just this evening, we heard a knock and Aub commented, “I’m guessing it’s someone under four feet tall.”

Because it usually is.

And it’s rarely for me.  Or Aub.  Or the Fella.  Our 12 and under residents are quite popular around here.

When the summer vacation for the public schools began, I wondered what this summer would bring.  Some of the children go to day camp, but most don’t–so yes, I wondered just how often the door would be knocked on and how often my children would be in and out and all over their friend’s yards playing back and forth.  As we still had a few days to finish up our school year, I hoped the knocks wouldn’t be too often those first few days of summer break.

It’s been an interesting summer really.  Some days no one knocks until evening.  Other days Cooter is out the door by 9 and he and his buddy play for an hour or so before the heat sends them scampering back indoors for a few hours.  The heat chases them inside more than they chase each other, playing this game or that–the ones we all played as youngsters or the ones they’ve specially designed for themselves.

It’s been actually quite delightful this summer, really, and I shall miss it.

Tonight was the last night of carefree summer fun.  School starts here for our friends on Friday.  Yes.  July.  In camaraderie and for lack of friends to play with once it begins, we too will start our school year then.  Tomorrow night will find all the children around here tucked in bed far earlier than they have been all summer, and they will awaken bright and early Friday morning to begin new adventures.

But tonight–tonight all the good intentions of us Mamas putting them to bed a little earlier all week in anticipation of the big day never even entered our minds.  The crew played and shouted and chased and hid, and I stood inside my front door, listening with my head bowed, close to weeping.  Such a treasured sound.  The sound of joy, of being young and carefree, of having friends and energy and good health, and laughter–oh the laughter.  My heart was full.

So I went to the garage and pulled out a chair.  I plopped it open in the middle of my front yard and set to watching and listening and soaking the last night of summer in–breathing it, savoring it, memorizing its sights and sounds and flavors.  I was soon joined by our Princess and two of her friends.  My Fella even came out and sat for a bit.  It was the best entertainment I’ve had in ages.

And I sat out there with our friends until the stars came out, as we pointed and tried to name them.

It was beautiful.

How is it that summer has flown by so quickly?  How is it that I can’t remember a whole lot of what we’ve done this summer–and yet, I’m thankful for that.

This wasn’t the summer of big trips.

It was the summer of little knocks.

And I give thanks for each one–and every heat-filled, sweat-drenched, lemonade drinking moment filled with water balloon fights, front porch performances and conversations, front yard baseball, football, and basketball games.  And the smiles.  I give thanks for them most of all.

Farewell, summer, and farewell, knocks that had me washing my hands from cooking or stopping whatever else I was doing to come to the door.  May there always be a neighborhood of friends to chase and confide in and dream with–and may we always remember this precious summer.

May we always have someone who knocks on our doors, asking if we can play.

Love to all.

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By Scrypted (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

The One About Vocabulary and Book Burning

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

Today was NOT one of those days.

But it was still beautiful.

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

Like today.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah?  Why is that?  Whose funeral?”

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

And he let me.

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

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

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

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

But still.

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

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

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

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

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

Love to all.

A Dime For My Thoughts

A few days ago the littles and I were watching some videos about the Presidents.  One had a song about who is on this kind or that kind of money.  It was maybe a little beneath my two agewise, but it was a catchy tune, so we watched.

And I sort of sang along in the hopes that they would too.

Who’s on the penny?  Who’s on the penny?

Lincoln.

Who’s on the nickel?  Who’s on the nickel?

Jefferson.

(Did I mention I was rocking it while my two sat staring back and forth in disbelief between me and the screen?)

Who’s on the dime?  Who’s on the dime?

Eise

Wait.  What?

What do you mean–Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

I don’t even think so, people.

I pulled out my trusty friend (my phone) and asked that very question.

Who is on the dime?

And I’m sorry–

NOT Eisenhower?

My whole life has been a lie, y’all.

A LIE.

How did I ever get that confused?

Who was the first one to tell me that?  Or did I just assume and no one ever talked to me about this VERY IMPORTANT FACT, so that on this very day, I totally embarrassed myself in front of my two very impressionable children and had my very world turned topsy turvy, up on its end?

I feel like I should be sarcastically thanking someone, but I can’t figure out who.

I love my children.  I love homeschooling them.  Most of the time.  I love it when I learn new things, like how snails grow their own shells or a quick way to calculate something or the amazing things we have been learning about the Bill of Rights.  I love the great things we read and watch and the awesome conversations we have at times.

But this–

This I did not enjoy.  AT. ALL.

And it’s such a little thing, isn’t it?  I mean, I’ve spent more dimes than I would ever care to count or admit, and ALL THIS TIME I thought I was handing over Dwight D. Eisenhower, only I wasn’t, and so my world is a bit off balance right now.

What else have I assumed I KNEW AND WAS TOTALLY CORRECT in my way of thinking about–only wasn’t?

What else am I wrong about–in my thoughts, my understanding, my beliefs?

It’s scary, this thing of assuming what we know or understand is RIGHT.

Which is why, maybe, just maybe we should every now and then take a step back and listen to what others know and understand.  We don’t have to take those things on or accept them as true, but who knows what we might learn if we are open to hearing it.

Just a thought.  That’s my FDR coin’s worth, anyway.

……still shaking my head…..

Love to all.

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And so now, looking at it up close, OF COURSE I CAN SEE THAT THIS IS FDR. How have I been getting this wrong all these many years?

 

It Wasn’t About the Hoodie–Not Really

I grew up not a UGA fan.  One of my earliest memories involves a vinyl covered stool that my Aunt and Uncle had in their home when we were visiting.  It had a Yellow Jacket on it.  My Uncle graduated from Georgia Tech.  From then on, I understood us to be a Tech family.

Because in Georgia–those are pretty much your choices.  Georgia or Georgia Tech.  There are other colleges, but that’s the big state rivalry.

It didn’t make me popular.  Still doesn’t.  When I wear my GT hoodie out, there are times when another Tech fan speaks up, not too loud of course, excited to find “another” outsider.

Bulldawg fans are serious, y’all.  But so are we.  I was right.  We are a Tech family.  When I was at Wesleyan, we as a student body voted Georgia Tech to be our brother school.  (I think this was so we could cheer for a football team or invite them to our socials…..right now the exact reason eludes me.)  A few years later Sister graduated from Tech, marrying a boy she met there.  After that my Cousin and my brother both graduated from there.  (I’m not mentioning the two cousins who went to UGA–we still shake our heads over that.) Mess Cat married Leroy, who also came from a diehard Tech family.  Only they were a bit more serious–they had actually been to games.  Live.  In person.

Yes.  Go Tech!

So you can understand why I was a bit perplexed, befuddled, if you will, that our Princess announced at a very young age that she is a Bulldog fan.

Where on earth did she pick up such language?

When she was smaller, it was cute.  Oh look at the little one, she thinks she knows what she’s talking about.  Okay.  Whatever.  We patronizingly indulged her little game, knowing  full well it would. not. last.

Only it did.

A couple of years ago she found a UGA top that she liked at the GW Boutique.  I got it for her, struck with bewilderment and wondering who had switched my child at the hospital in Japan, and where on earth was my little Buzz-loving child?   She wore it often, and I would feign shock and displeasure when she did.  We both wound up laughing before the day was over.  She loved reminding us where her allegiance stood by calling out, “Go Dawgs!” quite a bit during football season.

She eventually outgrew that top.  She does not, thankfully, have a replacement.  So be it.  (She does have an Auburn top, and I believe I tried to sneak a GT one in on her to no avail.)

Today we dashed in at the GW Boutique on our Outs and Abouts. I was looking at blazers for my future law school student, when I came across a red hoodie.  I’m a lover of all things hoodie-fied, if you will recall, so I flipped it around, fingers crossed, hoping it would not be…..

but it was…..

Georgia.

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Now in this state, “Georgia” on a hoodie does not mean what you think it means.  Georgia on a hoodie–a red hoodie with black writing–means only one thing.  U. G. A.

Ughhhh.  Uhhh.

This was not the hoodie I was looking for.

Still, in the interest of full disclosure, and because it was a hoodie and most of hers are getting too short on her, I lifted it up and showed it to our Princess as she walked over to where I was.

She smiled.  Really big.

That touched my heart and almost made me feel bad about not being all gung ho about this hoodie.

“So do you want it?” I asked her.

She looked at it, smiled again, and shook her head.

Wait.  What?

“No.  I mean, it’s nice, but I don’t want it.”

“What?  Why?”

“Well, I can just think about how it will bother you if I wear it.”  She giggled and then looked a little serious.  “I know how you feel about it, and I don’t want to make you feel all that every time I wear it.”

I took her by the shoulders and looked her straight in her eyes with fierce love.  “Baby girl, NO MA’AM.  You are a Georgia fan.  I can’t explain why, but you are.  Must have been something in the water or something.  Either way, you are a Georgia fan.  That’s how you feel, you chose it.  Do not–DO NOT EVER–change what you love or how you believe or what you want in life because you are limiting yourself to others’ expectations and preferences.  YOU DO YOU.  YOU BE YOU.  As long as you’re not physically hurting anyone else or being intentionally unkind, you don’t change who you are one bit.  Be loving, be kind, but BE YOU.  Every bit of your beautiful self.”

*sigh*

Okay, so that’s what I should have said.  Only I didn’t.  It didn’t occur to me until we were almost home WITHOUT the hoodie that I had missed a teachable moment.

*sigh* It could have been so beautiful too.  And then we would have gone arm in arm to the check out to buy the hoodie.  And instead of being (mock) frustrated every time she wore it, I would have seen it as my child expressing herself and comfortable doing so–even when she is the only one who feels the way she does.  I would have seen my child comfortable and okay with who she is and what she embraces.

Instead I was so wrapped up with how much she cared about my feelings that I totally blanked on what could have been a powerful lesson.

Man.  I really messed up.

I have put my request in with my people who are in that area that if they happen back by that GW Boutique and “iffen” that hoodie is still there, please get it for my baby.  I want to be able to tell her those things.  And hand her the hoodie and apologize.  It might not be a big deal for her now, but one day, I want her to remember it and be encouraged when life has her feeling on the outside because she believes differently than others do.

Because it’s bound to happen.  Eventually.

I’m reminded of the story of my cousin’s oldest child (who married a month ago–oh my, the time has flown) when he was very young.  He adored his grandmother, my aunt, and he was talking to her about a movie he loved.  I can’t remember which one it was, but he was so happy about it, and he asked her if didn’t she love it too.  She was honest about it and told him she really didn’t care for it much.  He was sad, and then she told him that it was okay.  That people who love each other can like different things and it still be okay.

I love that so much.  It has stuck with me for probably twenty years.  I want my children to take that story to heart.

It’s okay to like different things and still be okay with other people.

Better than okay.

May you have the courage to be you–today and everyday.

Love to all.

 

The Children and the Hand Washing

Tuesday evening when we visited Pierce Chapel at Wesleyan College for a service, we sat together as a family as the Director of Campus Ministries gave the homily.  She talked about how we are called to serve each other, to be the hands and feet and eyes and ears of the One who came to teach us how to love.

An empty bowl and a pitcher of water and towels sat at each end of the altar.  In the same way that Jesus washed the feet of those who traveled with him, she called us to go up two by two and wash the hands of the one we were with.

Serving.

Giving.

Loving.

Caring.

I watched as my two littles grabbed a hand of one they loved, excited, eager to go up and wash the hands they were holding.

My little guy’s mouth was pursed as he focused on picking up the nearly full pitcher and pouring it carefully over his big sister’s hands.  He smiled as he “got it right.”  He looked up at her and she nodded.  He took the towel and helped her dry her hands.

I saw the light in our Princess’ eyes and the joy in her smile as she lifted the pitcher and poured the water over my hands in front of her.

I think of all who attended the service, the two of them–the only two in the under 18 crowd–were the most enthusiastic and serious all at the same time.

But that might just be because I was watching them so intently.

The light that came into my baby girl’s eyes when she got to serve, the intensity and focus that my little guy had as he made every effort to serve as called…..

I could learn a lot from them.

That eagerness, the excitement, the joy, the sheer love and light–

I want all of that.

I want to be the hands and feet and not be afraid of getting dirty in my efforts to follow the path of the Rabbi.

“…..and a little child shall lead them.”  Isaiah 11:6

As I make my way through this week, I am trying to keep my eyes and heart open and learn anew through my children’s eyes and what they see and feel.  And how they love.

May we all learn to love and serve eagerly with a light in our eyes and joy in our hearts.

Love to all.

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