Umbrella and Steagles and 2017

Hard to believe since today has been cold as all get out, but a couple of months ago the littles had a swim meet.  It was one of those Georgia days that started out pleasant–the temperature just right–but rapidly moved into the “I’m sweating an ocean right where I’m sitting” situation.  The Fella was helping as a timer, so he was somewhat in the shade, but Aub and I–not so much.  We sat in our camping chairs (that have never been camping, but they have attended numerous sporting events over the years) and tried not to complain about the heat too much.

Because it was hot as mess.

We were using arms and sunglasses to block the burning glare, but there really was no escape for those of us who were watching the meet.  We were drinking all the water (subtracting out what may or may not have been poured on one or both of us in an effort to cool us off) as we cheered our swimmers on.

Just when we didn’t think we could bear it any longer, a woman came up to us from the pool area.  Separated by the chainlink fence, she hoisted her black umbrella up above her head and over the fence.

“Please take my umbrella.  I’m about to leave, but my son is over there.  He’s staying until the meet is over because his daughter is still swimming.  You can just give it back to him when the meet is over, okay?”

I was stunned.  Not only had this stranger offered us protection from the glaring rays of the sun in the form of her lovely umbrella, but she’d been paying attention.  To us.  Folks she’d never met before.  And she’d noticed our distress.

Of what she had, she was giving.

I’ve thought about her many times over the past few months since.  She touched my heart with her generosity and interruptibility and compassion.  And with her umbrella, which was the embodiment of those three things.  She saw, she noticed, (and those are two very different things), and she gave.  She was the umbrella.

Two days ago Cooter shared with me a story that he read in one of his books of football stories.  In 1943 because so many young men were being drafted for WW II, two teams–the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers–combined the players that each had left, so they’d have enough players to make a team.  Formerly bitter rivals, they worked together and had a winning season.  Though not their official name, the blended team was called the “Steagles.”  During a time of crisis, the ones who were former “enemies” banded together, worked together for the good, and created a winning team.

As 2016 comes to a close, both of these stories are at the forefront of my mind.  While I know my Mama would be fussing at me for disregarding the beauty and joy in everyday, several times over the past month or two, I’ve said along with many–“Good riddance, 2016.”  I know it hasn’t been all bad, but good gravy, we’ve had some doozies this year, haven’t we?

As I turn the page of my calendar tomorrow and greet a new day, a new year, I look for my word–the word to carry with me through the year, to hold close and inspire me, to encourage me, and to challenge me to, as my Mama used to say, “be my best self.”

For 2017, I’ve chosen two words.

umbrella

By Camera: Sternenlaus, Photo: birdy (selfmade by see authors) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 ((http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Umbrella

As I seek to make the coming year a better one, one that welcomes all, encourages all, loves all, I need to be the umbrella.  See, notice, share.  Offer protection, shelter, comfort, love.  And I need to pass along the umbrellas offered to me.  Pay it forward, backwards, upside down–pass it along to whomever, wherever/whenever it is needed.  And the really cool thing about umbrellas is even if you can’t afford to let it go, there’s usually almost always room to invite another soul in out of the rough stuff to stand beside you and be protected alongside you.

steagles-giants

By The original uploader was Coemgenus at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Steagles

This is going to be a year of collaboration, community, teamwork.  It will have to be.  I think great and beautiful things can happen.  But only if we are willing to break through the perceptions that are barriers, the ones that keep us from seeing how alike we are despite the world posting the differences on a lighted marquee sign.  While it will be way out of my comfort zone, I think it’s time to join up with folks from the other teams and see if we can do any better together.

Because better is what we need.

Desperately.

My last umbrella wound up going to someone on an exit ramp during a bad rainstorm.  Which is as it should be.  So I’m out of umbrellas and I doubt I can find a Steagles jersey on Etsy (but you can find Falcons ones, and that’s all I’m going to share about that because birthdays and whatnots are coming up, don’tcha know), but I can carry the spirit of them both with me and share it with folks I come across on the backroads and interstates and sidewalks.

Tonight I’m thankful for old WWII football players and grandmas at swim meets.  They both have taught me a great lesson–one I’m going to try my level best to live out in 2017.

Happy New Year!  But as Mama would say–even more importantly, Happy Everyday!

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.

clemson-hat

 

Working Out

It was June, I think, or maybe July.  I’m not sure.  I know it was very hot.  And that Daddy was still going for treatments at the Cancer Center.

This particular day Daddy’s physical therapist, Miss Ida, whom I loved and adored from my own visit to the PT office where she worked, had helped get Daddy situated in the passenger seat of Mama’s car.  Mama got in the back, and I drove the two of them down and over to Highway 96 where the Center is located about twenty minutes away from the house.

When we got there, I pulled up under the breezeway to let Daddy out as close to the door as possible.  Mama went in and came back with a wheelchair.  I helped Daddy turn his legs around, and then we wrapped his arms around my neck, and I lifted while he tried to help.

At this point the lymphoma was zapping his strength and his broken hip from a few months before, though healing, was hindering his physical abilities as well.  I lifted, but my efforts did little to get him from the car to the chair.  We tried again, and I got him up a few inches.  And then…..

I almost dropped him.

He almost fell onto the edge of the car and to the pavement below.

I was mortified.  Daddy was fine, but still.  WHAT IF?

A kind soul happened upon us then–no coincidence at all–and she came right over, enveloped my Daddy in her arms, gently placed him in the wheelchair, waved off our thanks, and went on her way cheerfully, wishing us a good day.

BLESS.

It was easier getting him into the car on the way home, and somehow we got him from the car to the house without another incident.

But that moment stuck with me.  My upper body strength was sorely lacking.  If I couldn’t take care of my Daddy, something would have to change.  Immediately.  I was broken over the fact that it had been a stranger who had come to his aid–that after all he’d done for me through all the years, I couldn’t help him–unfathomable.

And so I began working out back then.  Nothing too serious, just trying to build up my strength so that I could help lift him.  And when he was bedridden at the end and would slide down in the bed, I was able to move him back up in the bed.  I am thankful for that now.

A couple of days ago, I woke up thinking about how we work to build up muscles.  How we work and push them beyond their limits to be stronger and to be able to do more with them.  Almost completely recovered from a frozen shoulder, I am ready to start rebuilding my core and my ability to “lift and tote.”  Mostly for groceries, but still–it’s a good thing to work on.

Then I started thinking about our hearts.  And how we love.

That’s a good thing to work on too.

We don’t build up our arm muscles by continuing to do the same thing every day–by only lifting the laundry from the dryer or the groceries from the car.  We have to be consistent, and we have to go outside our comfort zones to be strong and stronger.  We have to lift things we wouldn’t normally lift.

I think it’s the same in building up our hearts–and our capacity to love.  We don’t do it by loving the same people all the time.  We do it by loving folks outside our comfort zones.  And by doing it consistently.  That’s the only way to build up our love muscles.  Loving those we wouldn’t normally love.  Going out of our way for them.  For others.

And that’s the only way to build up the kingdom too.

A kingdom where I’d really like to live.

Wishing you all a day of working out–and building up those muscles.  For the good of all of us.

Love to all.

Die_Frau_als_Hausärztin_(1911)_135_Bruststärker

“Die Frau als Hausärztin (1911) 135 Bruststärker” by Anna Fischer-Dückelmann – Die Frau als HausärztinLicensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

The One About Learning to Get Along

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This is Luvvy.  As in Mrs. Howell.  See her fur muff?  So yes, Luvvy.  And she can be a love.  As much as any cat can, I guess.  She came to live with us the third week in August.  She enjoys her outdoor adventures, but she likes coming in out of the weather when it gets cold.  Because of our allergies, she has a special warm spot in the garage.  She is quite happy with it too.  She comes in when she’s ready, and she can check out first thing in the morning.  Or not.  She’s pretty set with all the amenities right there in her cozy home.

Miss Sophie is not quite sure what to do with Mrs. Howell.  She has gone from straining to run after her to barking at her to merely sniffing around her and timidly getting closer and closer each time they are around each other.  It is sweet to see.  Miss Sophie has reached a level of comfort and trust over time. She no longer thinks that this creature who is so different from her and who moved into her “neighborhood” is a threat.  It took time and curiosity and a sweet spirit and, let’s face it, much encouragement for her to accept this feline companion, but it has happened.

Every night, Miss Sophie curls up on the couch against my right thigh–the same one she waddled over to and dropped her head on when I first met her.  She sits and snoozes a little and sometimes watches TV or “helps” me write.  But she is always waiting.  She is the one who lets me know when her friend is ready to come inside.  Luvvy will climb up onto the windowsill outside and wait.  I can’t see her out there in the dark, and I can’t hear her meows.

But Miss Sophie can.

And she won’t settle down her barking and worrying about her friend until I open the door for Luvvy to come in and get in her bed.  Sometimes they even have a moment together at the door–a greeting of sorts with noses and sniffing and and somehow conveying how much they care about each other.  It’s precious.

And it gives me so much hope.  Because if a dog and cat can learn to get past their differences and welcome each other with open…..paws, then maybe just maybe…..

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Mrs. Howell joins us on our evening constitutionals some nights.

I’m hopeful.

Love to all.

another year older

another year older
older but wiser
none the worse for wear

I don’t know about that
I’m older for sure
but not necessarily wiser
I’ve just spent the better part of the past forty-seven years
watching and taking notes
at what happens when certain choices are made
and so if that’s wise, then so be it
but I just call it noticing and paying attention
and listening to what Mama and Daddy said

and I’m for sure worse for the wear
my mirror doesn’t lie and anyone who says
different might need to have their eyes checked
I’ve grown to appreciate the scars though
as they show that I can heal, come back from the wounds
of this life
and the cracks allow the most beautiful light to shine through
and to change how I see things
rose-colored glasses have nothing on a soul that’s been
broken and still carries on

tonight I got a message from a friend in another country
on another continent
that warmed my heart
and made me smile
it’s already the day there
and in other places it won’t be for quite some time

that sort of puts it all into perspective
another year older
but really it’s just another day
another day to get more right than I do wrong
to try once more to put the pieces back together
and paint a beautiful memory for the ones I love to
look back on and remember

another day to act like the person I was raised to be
and honor those who brought me up
all these years
and still surround me with the love they did
from my very first breath and before

another day to breathe out kindness
and banish hate from my vocabulary
and from the tone I use
and the way I see the world

another day to live out my story
intertwined with all of yours
a good story
one that is filled with laughter and love and
meaning and
forgiveness and
grace

another year older
another day to live
“let us rejoice and be glad in it”

“Yes, We Have No Bananas”

We are out of bananas.

It’s things like this that make me weary and feel “less than” in the parenting department.  My Mama rarely ran out of things.  Though we were on a strict budget growing up (to quote my brother we were “raised on sale…..with a coupon”), I can’t remember us ever running out of anything.

Ever.

And we are out of bananas.  It’s not even like something that you think is in the back of the pantry, and so when you go to look you realize it’s not pushed all the way back to the corner.  You really are out of ketchup or marinara or rice.  (All three of which we have been out of in recent months because of this assumption.)

These are bananas.

For one thing, they are BRIGHT yellow.

For another, they live outside of the pantry.  Except for the month the fruit flies tried to evict us, they live out on the table where everyone can see and enjoy their yellow loveliness.

The dish where my bananas are supposed to live.  Sad.  Just sad.

The dish where my bananas are supposed to live. Sad. Just sad.

And still, somehow, we are out of them.

They are the base for my smoothies and my go to for a quick snack or healthy side to a sandwich for my littles.

Out.

This is new.  Today I was thinking about the fact that we are out, and how I made a vow NEVER EVER to go to the grocery store again on a Saturday, and wondered why this is new.  Why have we never really run out of bananas before the past couple of years?

And it hit me.

My Mama.

Mama loved a good banana as much as the rest of us.  She kept them around on her counter in the bowl there.  She bought them as a bunch and she and Daddy and whichever little might be visiting enjoyed them immensely.

But the one thing Mama could not handle was a banana that was beginning to get spots.

It wasn’t her being picky, they did something to her.  I can’t really remember what now, which is a little sad to me, but for this reason she didn’t eat the ones that were beginning to turn.

At least once every other week, she’d send a banana or three home with me for us to partake in because we will eat the things near about mushy.  Never mind I have that brilliant recipe from my cousin for the best banana bread ever–in that dish, mushy is not a problem.

And so we never ran out.  Even on days I thought we might be out, nope, there was Mama handing me whatever bananas she had that were starting to go.

I miss my Mama.  I miss her because we run out of bananas now and have ever since she left this world two and half years ago.  I also miss her for a million little reasons that I can’t hold in my hand or explain to anyone else.  I miss her showing up.

Because she always did that too.  She never seemed to run out of groceries in her pantry or love in her heart.

I guess I might never be able to claim that first bit, but in memory of the beautiful woman who raised me and shared her bananas, I’m sure trying to be able to say I never run out of the second.

I’m a work in progress, but I’m trying.

And for a banana-less October night, that’ll do.

Love to all.

For the fun of it, and this version of the 1922 song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn because–all those lovely dresses and suits.  Yes.  

Three of My Favorite Words

This past week has been filled with texts, posts, e-mails, phone calls, and face to face expressions of three of the most precious words to hear–

“Are you okay?”

I’ve said ’em, I’ve read ’em, I’ve typed ’em, and I’ve even skyped ’em.

Are. You. Okay?

Aren’t they powerful?  To be in the midst of a hard time and have someone come in, take your hands, and look you in the eye and ask that question.  Someone who really cares about your answer.  Or open up an email notification and those be the introductory words.  Or get a text out of the blue with those words or their very close first cousin words–

“How are you?”

It’s been a hard week in many ways, but it has had its brighter moments.  Most of those involve someone I love and one or the other of these three word questions.  In three words I feel embraced, cared about, and like I matter to someone.  With those three words I am seeking to convey all of those things, but mostly I am saying, “I love you and I really want to know that you are okay.”

Because sometimes okay is good enough, okay is real and raw and honest, acknowledging that while all might not be perfect or pleasant or going the way I’d like for it to, I will go on. I will move forward.  Okay is I might be curled up in a ball right now, but I will eat a bite in a little while and I will get dressed and I will do the next thing.  Okay is hesitantly hopeful–okay says I’m here, I showed up, and I will do it again tomorrow.

And in weeks like this, I’ll take it.

I’m okay.  Thanks for checking.

How are you?

Love to all.

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P.S. Before I hit publish, I was doing the nightly wrapping up around here, and I remembered this that made me smile.  About the time Daddy became bedridden in his fight with lymphoma, I came across a Youtube personality, Glozell. (watch this one or this one if you are curious) She made me laugh, but what I remember the most was her introduction.  “Is you okay?  Is you? Good. ‘Cause I wanted to know.”  I started greeting Daddy that way, and it made him laugh.  And because I really did want to know if he was, contextually speaking, okay.  Okay was a gift in those days.  And some days it still is.  Love to all.