Grace and Home Improvement

I learned something new today.

They say you should make that your goal each day, you know?  So today I did it, and that makes me glad.   Doesn’t happen every day, so it’s kind of a big deal.

Today Leroy and my Fella were hanging some shades for me.  It was no small task, and I am thankful they were willing to take it on together.

While they worked and Mess Cat and I visited, the thought occurred to me–the thing that Mama often quoted:

“Many hands make for light work.”

Truth.

But that’s nothing new; I already knew that one.

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And I thought about another thing I know from home repairs and home projects–“Measure twice, cut once.”

That one came in handy big time with this project.  We almost made a really big mistake.

It’s a good thing to remember–like “righty tighty, lefty Lucy.”  I use that phrase a lot–especially when I’m outside turning on the water spigot.  I love little memory tricks like that.

But it was when the project hit a snag today that I learned a new and important part of home improvement projects.

Leroy and the Fella were putting their heads together over what would be the best next step to take.  The Fella mentioned our local hardware store not far from here, and Leroy’s face lit up.  “Yeah, I’ve been wanting to go in there.”  They were both smiling at this point.  It was pretty close to precious.

“You know, it’s not a real home project until you have to make at least one trip to the hardware store,” Leroy told me.

Really?  No, I didn’t know.

But I do now.

After they returned and were working on putting holes where holes needed to be and not putting holes where holes didn’t need to be, Leroy put a hole in one of his fingers.  (Well, not a hole exactly, but there was plenty of blood.)  He asked for a paper towel and a band-aid.  As I went to gather them, I thought of another quote of Mama’s: “The right tools make any job easier.”

Leroy quickly cleaned himself up, put on the band-aid, and went back to work, announcing, “A trip to the hardware store and an injury.  That’s how you know we’re almost done.”

Again, good to know.  Duly noted.

Tonight I’m thankful for windows with shades and for the two guys who made that happen.  Isn’t it awesome that we all have different gifts and talents and that we can share those to help others around us?  I give thanks for a job well done and for lessons learned in the midst of it.  All other lessons aside, Leroy taught me once again about the gift of grace.  He set out to do the job, but his game plan allowed for grace.  Grace when all the necessary tools weren’t in place, and grace for when there was a mistake.  He didn’t beat himself or anyone else up and make the whole experience even more difficult than it already was.  He had built-in grace.  We need something we don’t have?  No worries, we can go see what they have at the hardware store that can work.   A slip of the hand and there’s a cut and blood?  No problem, clean it up, slap on a band-aid, and let’s finish this job.  I love it.  Today my brother-in-law and my Fella taught me that even in home projects, in the words of my Bubba, “It’s never that serious.”  It’s all about getting it done.   Doing the best we can with what we have and keeping our wits about us.  Working with others and helping folks out.  With smiles on our faces and grace in our hearts.

Kind of sounds like a good way to go about life too, doesn’t it?

Love to all.

Parking Lot Party

Tonight I had the joy of being with Mess Cat and her family and our Cuz’n.  Mess Cat travelled for business and has been away for a couple of days, so it was good to see her and hers.  Adding in my Cuz’n was icing on the cake.  And not that gross stuff that comes in a can that has no flavor.   The good stuff.

It was a time of togetherness and laughter and just being comfortable with folks who have known you forever and frankly don’t care about your quirks and odd ways anymore.  It’s been so long they’re just a part of who you are and not even noticeable anymore.  There’s real grace in that.

When Mess Cat and her family had to head on home (long flight finally caught up with her), my Cuz’n and I sat visiting a little longer.  Then I gathered my littles and all their paraphernalia and we headed outside towards our vehicles, conversation still going on.  We stood out there and talked and laughed, and he even, with his observant self, prevented an accident from happening in the parking lot.  (Seriously, this driver was not paying attention when he was backing up as a car drove in behind him–watching him back out later, yeah, he needed some refresher lessons.)  The hot sun from earlier in the afternoon had gone behind a cloud and there was a nice breeze.  The weather was perfect for hanging around outside “shooting the breeze.”

My Cuz’n is a good storyteller.  He puts me in mind of my Daddy and my Granny, both of whom could tell good stories.  They’d always leave you wanting to hear more.  I remember many an afternoon, sitting on that brown couch at my Granny’s, listening to Daddy and Granny tell stories of family lore and the “old folks” and things that had happened in town.  I guess it’s probably a “thing” in our family, as a big part of our family get-togethers is the sharing of our stories.  We have quite a few who are talented when it comes to entertaining with stories of their day to days.

In the midst of our postprandial visit tonight, I thought about a country song called “Parking Lot Party.”  I’m not sure of all the lyrics but the chorus goes something like this:

Cause there ain’t no party like the pre-party
and after the party is the after-party
At the parking lot party

It has a great beat, okay?  Don’t judge.

I know that anyone who knows me well is shaking their head at this point…..You?  Party?  Ha.  But I like the song, and laughing and telling stories and just visiting with folks you enjoy being with–that’s a party for me right there.  The best kind of party.

That’s how I like to leave a good gathering too.  Not “load ’em up, move ’em out, we got to go now” kind of thing–I just don’t have that in me.  (Truth? I’m not that organized.)  Daddy used to shake his head at how long it would take me to head out of the house and get in my car when the crew and I would visit.  “Like a herd of turtles,” it has been said.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There’s something to be said for those parking lot or backdoor or backyard “parties.”  We just move the visit out the door, slowly step by step, until we get to the car, get in, and eventually crank up and actually leave.  (Unless of course, we forgot something, and then we start all over again…..)

Yesterday the littles and I went to visit our girl at her higher institution of choice.  She’s doing pretty good, really good actually.  We had promised we would pop in on Tuesday and bring her a couple of things she needed.  Because of a mixup and miscommunication about required meetings, our anticipated hour and a half visit turned into a twenty-minute one.  With a hurried exit and no parking lot party in sight.  It was a so long, see ya, we GOT TO GO.

And it felt all wrong.  I think that might be why she and I both felt a little broken after that.  She’s been raised on parking lot/backdoor/backyard party goodbyes, full of stories that just came to mind and laughter and making plans to do it again and when.  This hurried, harried, rather sterile goodbye was not the stuff that satisfies an aching soul by any means.  Thank goodness for phone calls later in the day.  (Yes, we talk a lot.  It’s what we DO.)

Tonight I’m thankful for family who loves me anyway, and for the laughter and storytelling that brings comfort and joy.  I give thanks for my Cuz’n and Mess Cat and Leroy who made time to be together, and for an awesome parking lot after party–at which the sense of going hunting in 32 degree weather in the dark of early morning when you pass by 3 grocery stores on the way was discussed.  Among many other things.  It was awesome.  And I’m also thankful for who wasn’t there.  My oldest, my college student.  I missed her like crazy.  She would have enjoyed the stories too, but I am thankful she wasn’t there because she is right where she is supposed to be.  Having dorm “parking lot” parties, getting to know new fascinating people and hear their stories, and getting to know herself.   Now that I’ve figured out we are a people of slow and gradual goodbyes, we will make time for that at our next visit.

‘Cause nothing good can come from being in a hurry.  Especially when it comes to saying ‘bye.  There’s too much fun and joy to be had by dawdling and taking your time.

My Heart Overflows

This afternoon a dear friend told me I seemed happier than I had in a long time.  And that made me even happier.  I showed her pictures of where my day had taken me so far and she agreed–stuff worth being happy about.

Leroy, my big brother, invited my crew to come over to the new house and play today.  And he told me to go do “whatever.”  Whatever?  I thought through the possibilities and then picked up the phone to call my Aunt.  I asked if I could come and pick beans, as we’d been talking about this for a couple of weeks.  After questioning my thought processes that led me to decide to pick beans in my “time off,” she said well sure.  I guess it might seem an odd choice to some.  This is my first “free without plans or a doctor’s appointment” time in a very long, long time.  I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.  Picking beans without folks with me who might whine about the heat?  Bring it.

I can’t remember my first time in a garden.  I just remember always picking with my Daddy.  My Granddaddy planted quite the garden at Granny’s when I was small.  I can remember sitting on the edge of the bucket picking butterbeans, trying to be so careful not to pull up the whole plant.  Later when we moved to Blackberry Flats Daddy planted and we all picked and snapped and shelled and Mama canned.  I remember helping him plant as recently as just a few years ago.  Using the bricks with a string tied between to line up the row, and then dropping the seeds along every so often.  Oh I miss it.

So, time in a garden today?  Yes please.

My destination today

My destination today

My Uncle pulled corn, and he, my Aunt, and I sat and shucked and silked it under the shade of the trees in no time.  My heart was full.   So often I spend my time with my children trying to make a good moment that will become a precious memory.  Today was for me.  I will treasure the memory of how it felt, sitting there with them, shucking and visiting and smelling the smell of summer.  A treasure.

Summer sunshine growing on a stalk

Summer sunshine growing on a stalk

After we finished with the corn, my Aunt and I headed out to pick beans.  What a treat a pot of fresh beans and cornbread is for supper.  Throw some onion and a few new potatoes in the pot and it’s a veritable summer FEAST.  And now I have corn as a side dish.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

The beans that will be my supper tomorrow night

The beans that will be my supper tomorrow night

We picked a mess pretty quickly, sharing stories and visiting the whole while, which made it seem like it took no time at all.  After that it was time to take off my garden boots and head off for the next adventure.

I was rockin' the garden boots, right?

I was rockin’ the garden boots, right?

But first I wanted to say goodbye to this glorious place that turns water and light into food for the body and this land that was food for my soul.  There’s something about being outside that does that for me.  And being with family.  I was hot and had sweat running down my face, but oh boy, were my spirits lifted.

A beautiful day

A beautiful day

Next I picked up our Princess from Leroy’s and took her to an art class at our favorite coffeehouse.  It was a surprise for her.  She was a bit nervous because the last time she did this over a year ago, she didn’t think her picture turned out so well.  I hugged her and told her no matter how she thought it looked, I would love it.  I left her to her class, had a quick impromptu visit with friends at the coffeehouse, and then headed next door to the GW Boutique for a quick once-over.

When I returned our Princess had finished her painting, and it was FABULOUS.  She even used my favorite colors.

The puppy's name is Teresa, according to our Princess.....that's a "t" on her collar

The puppy’s name is Teresa, according to our Princess…..that’s a “t” on her collar

I loved that when we were helping clean up, she pointed out what was left where she’d been working her artistic magic.

What was left around where she created her work of art

What was left around where she created her work of art

It occurred to me that we should do that in whatever we do.  Be so enthusiastic and thorough that we overflow–with light, with love, with compassion, with grace. We shouldn’t be so cautious in any of those things that there isn’t overflow.  Makes me kind of wish I had kept that tablecloth.  Maybe my word for next year will be “overflow.”  It sure was my word for today–my heart overflowed.  So much so that my friend saw the joy in my face.

And on the way home, after the littles had their summer gymnastics class this evening (yes it was a VERY full day), when my spirits were sinking over something that happened late in the day and my heart felt very fragile, my littles pointed this out to me.

I kind of have the feeling this was my Mama's way of letting me know she's around

I kind of have the feeling this was my Mama’s way of letting me know she’s around

My Mama showed me the rainbows in the midst of the storms of life.  And tonight, when I felt like one was blowing in, this rainbow caught the eyes of my precious gifts who still get excited over rainbows and bugs and tadpoles and good stories.  When I saw it, my heart knew and I felt some peace.  I am pretty sure Mama was saying, “Don’t let anyone take the joy of this day from you.”

Tonight I am thankful for family who loves me despite all my craziness; for the generosity of my family with their time, their love, their listening, and their vegetables.  I am thankful for friends who pay attention and who know me and are happy when they see me happy.  And for the same friends who walk the path of brokenness and heartbreak with me.  I am thankful for a little girl who loves bright colors and tells everyone, “Mama couldn’t quit smiling when she saw my picture.”  I am thankful for loud cousins playing and growing up together and for their parents who make that possible.  I am thankful for the bounty of the sun and rain this summer and for my Aunt and Uncle who share it.  And I’m thankful for my Mama who hasn’t stopped talking to me just because we are separated by that thin veil.  I needed that rainbow tonight, to remember the joy of today, and not let it slip away. Joy.  Overflow.  Yes.