Gearing Up for the Storm

Today the littles and I went to their class at the Go Fish Education Center and learned a lot about the weather.  One of the things they made there was a “foldable” with four different categories–they wrote the pertinent information for each one on the inside.

When discussing thunderstorms, the teacher shared about things we can do to be safe in the midst of one.  Things like don’t stay in the pool or in a boat, get inside, and…..

unplug important things around the house.

Then the young woman teaching the class shared that we probably don’t do that as much as we used to, what with having surge protectors and all.

But it was too late.  That image, all those memories, they came flooding back, quick and hard.  The unplugging when we first heard the thunder…..yep.  Praying we’d caught it in time and not lost the TV…..or the phone…..or, in later years, the computer or the VCR.

When we got home, the littles questioned me about this.  “Do we not care if our things get struck by lightning?  Is that why we don’t unplug our things?”

Ummmm.  Well.  We do care.  But…..surge protectors, right?

At least I hope they’ll do the job.

When I was growing up, as soon as we heard the first rumble of thunder, we all scrambled like we were on a top secret mission pertinent to national security.  Some grabbed the laundry basket and clothespin bucket and ran out to get the clothes in off the line–fingers crossed they were dry.  Others ran around unplugging things.  I can remember many a time being in the middle of a TV show and having to turn it off and unplug the TV until the storm passed.  This was in the day way back before we ever dreamed of DVR’s and the like.  So we were…..out of luck.  Until rerun season at least.  No Netflix to catch up on what we’d missed either.  But that’s another story for another night.

As I was remembering all of this, I think the fact that this has become something of the past is indicative of where we are in general.  Growing up, we respected storms.  We gave them the space to do what they had to do while trying our best to protect ourselves. I don’t necessarily mean that we are foolish now when it comes to storms, but we seem to push the limits and push past them.  Used to be if the weather was stormy we didn’t get out much.  Now we keep on keepin’ on, and just drive right through it, with our wipers blazing.  Rarely do we unplug in the face of a storm anymore.  We usually continue on as usual, barely giving the storm much notice.  At least until it wreaks serious havoc.  And then we surely do notice, don’t we?

Sometimes I think we miss a chance to refuel and regroup when a storm is approaching.  We are becoming an intense, “WE GOT THIS” “NEVER SAY DIE” sort of people, and so storm shmorm, no problem, CARRY ON, PEOPLE, DON’T LET IT GET YOU DOWN.

Until it’s too late, and the damage is done.

Maybe when the storms of life are approaching, it would be good to unplug for a little while.  To sit and be still and do all we can to protect ourselves.  Not all storms give a heads up, that’s true.  But for the ones that do, what would it be like if we circled the wagons, held each other close, and held on to something that gives us comfort?  (That was another suggestion of things to do in preparing for a major weather event.)

What would that do for our souls?

Take care of you.  We don’t want to lose you to the storm.

Love to all.

Lightning3

“Lightning3” by U.S. Air Force photo by Edward Aspera Jr. – United States Air Force, VIRIN 040304-F-0000S-002 or unbroken-link (or VIRIN 060822-F-1111A-001). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – File:Lightning3.jpg

The Question She Always Asked

Tonight I’m sitting with my Mama, as I remember her and struggle to fully grasp how long it has been since I heard her voice aloud.

Three years.

And tonight as I am struggling to let some things go and not put back together pieces from some other things, I can hear her asking the question she always asked us.  Whether it was schoolwork or housework or outside chores or a project or apologizing for a wrongdoing, she would ask,

“Did you do your best?”  

If we were able to honestly answer “Yes ma’am,” grace abounded.  She was okay with almost anything as long as we had no kidding, no holds barred tried our very best.

Mama was all about doing the best we could do in any given situation.  It was something she taught us and expected.

Our best.

Some days that might still look pretty broken, but as long as we had “applied” ourselves (another turn of phrase she liked) and given it our “all,” Mama was pleased.  It might follow that we would still have some work to do towards a resolution, but still.  Our best was all she ever asked.

Not THE best.  Our best.

Tonight I needed that grace.  I’m thankful to Mama for reminding me of it.  I can’t fix all the things I want to.  I don’t have the time to make all the good things happen I’d like to make happen.  I was grumpy a few times today and wish I hadn’t been.  I didn’t get all the clothes folded that are on the couch.  There are a couple of dishes in the sink that will likely stay there until morning.   I cried twice today over things I can’t change.  I forgot to thank my neighbor for driving me this evening.

But I can say, pretty much, that overall, yes ma’am, I tried my best.  And when I came to that realization, I felt a weight lift.  (And I’m pretty sure I felt my Mama patting me on my back, but that’s another story.)  As long as we can end a day by saying we’ve done the best we could do with what we had in front of us–well, then, I’m calling that a win, how about y’all?

Love and grace to all.

 

the days of my life

there have been days on this journey that were very well suited for an Afterschool Special,
complete with lesson and resolution in thirty minutes or less
with ALL the awkward moments

other chapters of my story would have won awards as a Lifetime movie,
with drama and suspense and betrayal and hurt and good versus evil

and then there are the bits that would require lots of tissues and
leave one feeling as good as those movies Hallmark makes,
all the warm fuzzies and love and twinkly lights

I’ve lived through my own versions of “What Not to Wear” and “Chopped”
and there’ve been days of being voted off my very own island
but I’ve always been a Survivor

much of the time it’s been a sitcom though–
“I might have said that. I say a lot of things.”
“People aren’t mail.”
“…..but look how nice you made yourself look for me.”
“Couldn’t even if I wanted to.”
with all the laughter or conversations over coffee
and life with the fun and zany

from the days like those on the soaps that seem to go on forever
to the moments that, like sand in an hourglass, pass all too quickly–
some relationships get cancelled quickly for good reason and I have to move beyond
while still others are rivaling Frasier for longevity of character and winning awards left and right

in the end, this story I live has its mundane moments seemingly more about nothing than an episode of Seinfeld
and yet so many over the years
have been more educational than Schoolhouse rock
and near about as memorable as Linus’ monologue
in the Peanuts’ Halloween special

as I reflect back over the years
and I watch the world today,
I realize that maybe we spend too much time
worrying over things like “Who shot JR?”
and not enough on why Oscar is so grouchy

and if we could help him by listening

all these years, all the years to come–
through all the hills, streets, blues, and joys,
it’s been one Amazing Race

and I am thankful

1950's_television

“1950’s television”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1950%27s_television.jpg#/media/File:1950%27s_television.jpg

 

The Grace of the Dead-End Path

Today I took the crew out for a walk right before lunch.  In all honesty, it was because I had a smoothie for breakfast, and it made me very, very cold.  But it didn’t hurt that we could all use a break from the math and grammar and reading and all.  It was a beautiful fall day here, and it would have seemed almost sinful to stay inside all day and not appreciate it at all.

Cooter hopped on his bike, our Princess on her scooter, and Miss Sophie on her leash.  We walked up to the end of our street and turned left, something we don’t usually do when we take our quick morning or evening constitutionals.  I told the littles they could go ahead of me down the next cul-de-sac.  They were thrilled.  With no traffic around here in the middle of the day, they felt free as they soared down the street and almost out of sight.

As I watched them happily speeding away from me, I gave thanks for the dead-end street.

And then I paused.

Isn’t that interesting?  How many times in my life have I heard the warnings against wasting time and energy on “dead ends?”  And yet, if it weren’t for dead ends, my children wouldn’t be learning how to be safe and preparing to have adventures all on their own.

These dead ends are great practice for when they head out on the main highway on their own paths and stories.

I thought back over my own story.  If it weren’t for our dead-end road growing up, I would never have learned to drive.  It served its purpose.  Of course I soon grew comfortable enough to leave the dead-end and head out on all kinds of roads and highways.  But without that dead-end to begin with, I wouldn’t be on this road I’m on now.

On this journey I’m rather enjoying.  That would be very sad.

Tonight I’m thankful for the dead ends in our lives.  For the ways they teach us and prepare us for life out on the open roads.  Our time on the dead ends in life are NOT wasted, as long as we don’t set up camp right there in the midst of it.  As long as we take what we learn on them and get back out on the main road, those dead-end experiences are worth far more than gold.

I’m also thankful for the joy of laughter and the exclamation of “whee” in the sunshine of a fall day.  For racing children and bouncing puppies and all the blue sky and gentle breezes of this journey, I am grateful.  And for the grace of dead ends and those who took me down them, I am most thankful.

Love to all.

By Marcus Quigmire from Florida, USA (Dead End  Uploaded by Princess Mérida) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Marcus Quigmire from Florida, USA (Dead End Uploaded by Princess Mérida) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Time to Close a Tab

The first time I figured out how to open more than one tab on my computer I thought that was pretty much amazing.  That I could jump back and forth between two things or two screens was mind-boggling.  Keep in mind that in college I did my research from real books and periodicals, and we had microfiche machines, and I printed my papers out on a dot-matrix printer and tore the edges off after.

Multiple tabs.  Yes.

It has come in handy when I’m writing.  I wonder about a detail or something, jump to the top, click new tab, look it up and come right back to writing.  No saving, closing, switching, closing, reopening…..EASY.  FAST.  EFFICIENT.

However, I have noticed that when I get slack about closing out all the tabs (confession, I have ten open right now–true story, I’m not proud of it, don’t judge), my computer gets sluggish.  Sometimes a little spinning wheel comes out, and my IT specialist aka college junior tells me that. Is. Not. Good.

And so I usually will close a tab or two to see if it appeases the little spinny wheel.  But it is rare that I close out of all of them deliberately.  I am loath to give up all that information.  All that ease and all of those tabs.

Tonight it occurred to me as the wheel started spinning again (yes, okay, I’ll close a couple of more), that this is my life.  Maybe it’s yours too.  I open up way too many tabs–I have too many irons in the fire–too many things going on, and I start spinning my wheels.  And I’m good at none of them.  If I focus on this one, I am distracted by that one, or something comes through on another one that I need to address.

It’s all just too much.

One of my Mama’s favorite lines to quote to us growing up was from M*A*S*H.  Charles Emerson Winchester the Third, who was played by David Ogden Stiers, told Hawkeye and BJ in one episode, “Gentlemen.  I do one thing at a time.  I do it very well.  And then I move on.”

Yeah, she loved to quote that one.  Most of the time it had to with our chores–dusting, cleaning the bathroom, folding clothes.  Focus.  One thing at a time.

But it holds true for me today.  With too many tabs open.  With too many things I’ve said yes to.  It is impossible to do any of it very well if we’ve taken on all the things.

And unfortunately, in real life, there is no spinning wheel with all its pretty colors to warn us to let go of something.  We often don’t find out until it’s too late.

Tonight I’m thankful for the wheel and for my Mama’s words.  Tonight as I watched that wheel spinning, it felt like Mama was speaking those words all over again. To me.  Right now.  I’m going to take that to heart.  I’m no good to anybody if I can’t move for being overwhelmed.  Because that’s pretty much what happens when that wheel starts spinning.  You can’t do anything.  Frozen.  Paralyzed.  No good to anybody.

Let’s make this a day of letting go.  Of something.  Of closing some tabs or even just one.  Of creating margins in our life, so that good things can come and land.  A day of letting go so we can just be and watch the sun set or listen to the birds (“They sound like the jungle now that Fall is here,” Cooter says)…..or share a cup of coffee with a friend.

Go ahead.  Consider me to be your spinning wheel.  Close a tab.

And may all the good things follow.

Love to all.

You Are More

Cooter has become fascinated with stories of things people got in trouble for when they were his age.  He has had many conversations with his Daddy about his.  Recently he asked Leroy if he got in trouble at school.  Leroy told him he couldn’t tell them what all he did when he was younger.  I think Cooter was a little scared and a whole lot in awe of his uncle.

He asked me the same question recently.  I decided to tell him the truth.  Something I’ve been carrying around for a long time.  Something I’m not proud of, and I still hang my head when I tell it.

And so I confessed to my eight year old son.  When I was not much older than him, I was sitting in the lunchroom in between my friend and LP (the one who had bullied me the year before and had pulled my thumb back over and over and my parents had told me to kick him in the shin).  I always took my lunch, but the two of them had each bought their lunches.  I don’t know what else was on the menu that day but for sure there was cornbread and something that ketchup could complement.  Everyone was done eating, and we were just waiting to be told to line up to head back to the classroom.  My friend nudged me, handed me her ketchup, and whispered for me to pour it over LP’s uneaten cornbread.  We both knew he was done eating, but she thought it would be funny, and in the moment, I thought she was funny and while something was rippling in the back of my brain, I took the little paper cup of ketchup and squeezed it out over his cornbread while he was turned talking to the person on his left.  And we waited.

We could hardly stand it.  When he turned back around and saw the ketchup, his face turned nearly as red as the condiment.  We giggled behind our hands and between each other.  He was mad.  And so he did what most fourth graders do when they are mad–he told the teacher on us.

Oh me.  This was a joke gone horribly wrong.  One that gave us two or three days sitting out at recess.  This was back before PE, back when we could talk amongst ourselves and play near about anything we wanted to.  So missing any recess was a huge loss. To add insult to injury this teacher had taught my Uncle and my Daddy, and I felt like I had let her and pretty much the whole world down with my poor judgment and horribleness.  My heart was broken over what I was sure was absolutely my worst day ever.  At least the worst thing I had ever done.

Cooter laughed.  He barely squeaked out, “Ketchup?  Really?”  Yes, and don’t make light of it, buddy.  I learned that lesson. Not my plate.  Not my cornbread.  Doesn’t matter if he wasn’t going to eat it.  Doesn’t matter if someone else “told” me to do it.   I have my own brain, and I didn’t use it that day.  I was all about the fitting in and giggles and all the feel good of that moment.  And the truth that I now realize as an adult is that the reason LP told on us was probably because he saw us giggling together and he didn’t feel like he fit in.  It wasn’t about the ketchup on the cornbread, it was about our singling him out.

I’m so sorry, LP.

The thing is, whenever I do something that is less than my best or I make a mistake or I inadvertently do or say the wrong thing, I’m in fourth grade again.  I’m nine and my face is beet red and I’m looking Mrs. W in the eyes as she looks at me and my friend with disappointment and tell us we can’t play at recess.  I’m sitting next to her or whatever teacher is out there and trying to explain my embarrassing predicament to those who want to know why we aren’t playing.

Life is hard, y’all.

But here’s the good news.

I am more than that mistake.

I am more than the wrong I inflicted upon LP and his cornbread.

I am bigger than the poor choice I made.

I am more than my worst day.

And so, my friend, are you.

My beautiful friend Marilyn and I were talking about this earlier.  She gave me the grace and encouragement I needed today.  That I need everyday. We all make mistakes.  None of us have lived a flaw-free life, one where we have never, ever crossed a line or hurt anyone.  We all have stories we’d rather not have to share.

Let ’em go.

We are more.

We are the love we share.  The hugs we give.  The light that shines from who we have become and what we do–and who we are becoming.  We are all the right choices we have made over the years as well.

Do not let your one ketchup-pouring moment define you.

Because there is grace.  There is redemption.  There are second and third and twenty-twelfth chances.  You can do this.  You can turn it around.  As long as you have breath, the possibility exists–you can do better.  And become more.

More than those poor choices.  Those bad moments.  Those mistakes that you really didn’t set out to make.

And to be honest, this was not my only non-stellar moment from my life–it’s not even my only non-stellar moment from that year.  But it is the one that sticks out, as I was so grieved over all those I’d disappointed.  I had to look them in the eyes and face what I’d done.

And you know what?  A few days later, grace won.  Love won.  My time “sitting out” was done, and the slate was clean.

Redemption is real.  And attainable.  And free.

May we all let go of our worst moments.  And allow others to let go of theirs.  Our most painful mistakes.  And may we look in the mirror and offer the grace we so freely give to others to the one looking back at us.

Love and grace to all.

scatter seeds of kindness

spring breezes
sunshine
planting and tilling the soil

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

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

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

with gratitude he gathered and picked
and cut and dug

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

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