she is comfort
the sound of rain on the faded tin roof
the hum of the needle making stitch after stitch
the first ice cream of summer, dripping down the cone
the smell of tea olive blossoming beneath the starlit sky

the sound of her voice
on the other end of the line
reassures me
reminds me
rejoices and refreshes
like a balm to my aching soul,
sore from too much too soon

she listens to my stories,
my worries, and my joys
she remembers what I never knew,
and tells of days past, people gone
mending the cracks in my foundation
that come from time and distance and loss

she is the voice of those who can no longer speak
she is the shoulder of those I can no longer lean on
she is the counselor, speaking for those whose wisdom is now a whisper in the wind
she is the love for those who loved us

she is
as she always has been


and as I watch her head bowed closely next to my child,
their voices joining together in lyrical conversation
with notes of laughter for the chorus
I am thankful
thankful for who she was then
and for who she is now
now that they are gone

she can never replace
she would not want to
nor would I ask it
but her stitches
of love, day in day out,
help ease the gaping wounds
her touch brings healing
and her heart brings light

and warmth
as the scent of vanilla and patchouli
waft from her back door, welcoming us
as we climb the steps of the porch

where she is



Cold Sun Landscape

By Emmanuel Huybrechts from Laval, Canada (Cold Sun Landscape) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Little Brothers and Big Surprises

When I was in the third grade, I learned to crochet.  I sat on the playground at recess with my third grade teacher, Mrs. Turner, whose gentle ways and lovely voice (especially when reading Charlotte’s Web aloud) were like a balm to my soul.  I don’t remember how the lessons came about, but at some point I had a crochet hook and some yarn, and she was teaching me how to chain, single crochet, double crochet, and Granny square.  I remember Daddy punching holes in a butter dish, and I crocheted a purse out of it.  That was one of the first things I ever made.

My biggest project I never finished was begun sitting on the catwalk next to Mrs. Turner’s chair.  My Mama was expecting a baby in the fall, and I was making the baby a blanket.  Back in the days before most folks found out what they were having, they made this–ummmm–lovely yarn, a pink, white, and blue blend.  A kind of “cover all your bases,” multi-purpose yarn.

I worked on row after row and somewhere along the way, I lost the energy, resources, drive, I am not really sure what exactly, to continue.  All I know is by the time my baby brother was born, I had a nice blanket for my stuffed animals that sometimes, over the years, doubled as a scarf when we played dress up.

Poor Bubba.

Last week he called me to let me know he’d mailed me a package.  He cautioned me to be careful when I cut the box top open…..it was just a few things, like piano books, and something he thought might belong here that had made it home with them after their latest visit.

We talked again on Monday, and again he mentioned the box.  Which was on my doorstep by the time we got off the phone.

I was curious, as I started to open the box that seemed to be bigger than just a few piano books and a miscellaneous something…..

and then there it was.


My new rescued afghan.  Bubba talks about a place they love to go up there where he lives–the Gift and Thrift.  All the treasures they find there that he tells me about, I get a little jealous, I don’t mind telling you.  He had mentioned a while back about seeing some afghans there on occasion.  When he and his family were visiting right after Christmas, he encouraged me in my goal to make my own Granny square creation.  He’s called a couple of times to get my count…..of how many squares I’ve made so far.

But on one recent special day, he found himself in the Gift and Thrift and there was this afghan, and he thought of me so he got it.

But wait, there’s more.  In a ziploc bag in the box, there was a stack of Granny squares, just waiting to be joined together and made into something magical.



My mind boggled at the color possibilities–and what to create?

As I set the squares aside and looked at the afghan once more and a little more closely, I saw what a treasure it really is.

Twice in the rows on this creation, I spied with my little eyes, the baby blanket pink, white, and blue yarn…..the same yarn I’d started his baby blanket with a little under 39 years ago.

Well if that don’t beat all.

My heart is full.  To be known, understood, and thought of–that is love.  To have him be so excited about sending it and surprising me…..that was the icing on the cake.

Tonight I’m thankful for my Bubba, the little boy who changed my world all those years ago and continues to do so today, and for his wife who pays attention to things like what kind of piano books my littles use and picked out some especially to encourage them in their playing.

And the top piece of the Playmobil circus tent is back, and I never even knew it was missing.

My heart is full to bustin’.  I’ll leave it with y’all tonight.  Off to wrap up in a blanket filled with love and memories and dream about what to make with those squares.  Suggestions welcome.

Love to all.


The Mushrooms Said “I love you”

Today after we wrapped up our morning lessons, the littles flew up the stairs and into their rooms and all around the house in a flurry of activity.  At some point (I’m not sure when) they had consulted and decided what they wanted to do together after they were done with school.

And it wasn’t begging to play on electronics or watch a video.  That was a wise decision today.

Princess came out in my eighth grade graduation dress that my Mama made special for the occasion.  Yes, she’s three years younger than I was at the time, and yes, she is as tall or taller than I was at thirteen.  Thank you for asking.  Cooter came out wearing his repurposed and embroidered Chef shirt I made over for him from a GW Boutique purchase Christmas 2012.

They explained to me that they were opening a restaurant, and that I was to come place my order.  This was timely as it was lunch time and I needed to throw something together for their lunch, but their minds were set.  Their restaurant, my order.

Princess had set up a wooden TV tray table at the foot of the stairs complete with a menu and prices (so convenient–don’t you hate it when they don’t have the prices–that never turns out well).  She was a lovely hostess, and as I placed my order for pizza and sushi (hey, I was hungry), she wrote it all down.  She told me it would be ready soon, and I was dismissed.

I heard some hollering back and forth–it was hard to decide if this was fine dining or a diner–and some skerfuffling and a few minutes later, Princess called out that my order was ready.  I was a little taken aback, if I’m being honest here, because I thought she had told me my food would be brought to my “table.”  I expressed my concerns, and the lovely hostess apologized and said it would be brought right out.

I was sitting in my comfortable spot, when Chef Cooter brought out my tray himself.  What a good chef!  He wanted to see the joy on my face himself, I guess, which I thought was sweet until I saw the twinkle in his eyes.



Ah yes.  The pizza.  He had put mushrooms as the topping.  Just for me.  And I realized this, just as he was about to force feed me a “bite” of the pizza, giggling harder and harder as he approached my mouth with it.

Because mushrooms.  Just no.

As I’ve shared before, I did not care for them growing up.  Acting ugly about them or turning my nose up at them was not tolerated.  I was expected to eat them just like everyone else.  Until I was grown.  And then Mama wanted my picked off/picked out mushrooms.  She loved them, you see.  We were a perfect match when it came to eating a veggie pizza.

And Cooter knows all of this.  And he deliberately put the mushrooms on that pizza for me today.


And yet–

I felt loved.  So very loved.

That sounds crazy and counterintuitive, I know.  And I’ve thought about how to write about this so it made sense for hours now, and yet I still don’t know how to do it justice.

But when he teased me like that, with that giggle and twinkle in his eye–I knew three things.

He knows me very well.

He loves me so much to tease me and make me laugh like that.

He is so comfortable with me that he knows I will laugh at this thing he did and not take offense.  And he really wanted me to laugh.

As I pushed the pizza away with all the drama and disgust I could muster, we were all three laughing and Miss Sophie was dancing around, wondering what all the excitement was about.

Mushrooms, Sophie.  And so much more.

Tonight I’m thankful for the love and laughter.  For being known.  For parents who loved me and for the children who continue to make me smile and laugh and give me a reason to look forward to another day.  For their fun and creative spirits and joy-filled hearts, I am grateful.  And most of all, for twinkles in eyes and that the teasing that came with living with my Daddy is carried on, I give thanks.

May you all have someone who teases you with a twinkle in the eye and who makes you laugh and laugh.

Love and laughter to all.



A Glimpse of His Growing Up

On the way home from church tonight, Cooter and I were riding along Hamburger Highway where all the billboards and “big city” lights are.  He was chatting about his visit with his much older and cooler guy friend who was giving him advice on how to deal with our Princess and her friends.  He was happy about those words of wisdom, but even more so, he was happy that he’d had time with his older buddy.

At the stop light, he switched gears from talking about which Star Wars movies his friend said should be okay for him to see to ask me, “Hey, Mama, who is that man you always go to see at Christmas Made in the South?  The artist? What’s his name?”

I had to think for a minute, he’d changed the subject so quickly.  When I realized what he was asking, I told him.

He nodded.  “Yes,  him.  Well, he is going to be at the Peach Blossom Festival at Peachy Peach,” he said, using the nickname he’s always used for the local peach packing shed and market.

“He is?  Well thank you for telling me that.  How do you know?”

“Oh, I saw it on a poster last week at the gym.  It’s hanging up on the board. I thought you might want to know.”

Oh bless him.

When he and his Daddy took our Princess to her dance class while his big sister and I were at the vigil for Kelly Gissendaner, he saw the poster and recognized the face.  He read it, and tonight he remembered to share that with me.  It reminded me of the first time he smiled at me as a baby when we’d been apart for a few minutes–I knew he remembered me and thought of me when I wasn’t around.

That moment when you realize your baby boy isn’t a baby anymore.  That he’s growing up on you and working on being a thoughtful young man.

That moment right there.

Oh my heart’s not ready for him to grow up yet.  But since he seems bound and determined to, I’m thankful for his little loving heart.  He can be full of the mischief and is most of the time.  But tonight I saw glimpses into the one who is going to hold my hand when I get old and tell me how much he loves me and tease me about the wrinkles on my face.  It was only a glimpse as he immediately lapsed into a conversation about the two dirtiest men on earth (a video he saw thanks to his oldest sister being home on spring break-seriously one hasn’t bathed in sixty years and one in twenty, and do NOT get them mixed up) and proceeded to tell me all about them.  The little boy who doesn’t always want to shower came back full force then, and I was able to breathe a little sigh of relief.  Yes, he’s growing up, but maybe it won’t be too fast.

Tonight I’m thankful for being known and loved and important enough for my little guy to notice something and think about how his Mama would like to know that.

Wishing you all someone who knows and loves you, and who remembers to share important and not so important things with you, just because you matter.


Love to all.

Chocolate. And Love. And Chocolate.

My Awesome Cousin has a shirt that I first saw over six years ago.  Her Mama made it for her I think.  It says, “Save our planet: It’s the only one with chocolate.”

I remember thinking that was brilliant.  I even embroidered that quote on a tote bag to share at our family reunion that year.

I got it, but I didn’t really get it.

I have always been a vanilla over chocolate kind of girl.  At least where ice cream is concerned.  And milkshakes.  And milk.  So yeah, vanilla over chocolate.  Until just a few years ago.

Maybe I can blame it on Mama’s Texas Brownies that I fell in love with.  Yes, IN LOVE.  They were the best.  But since they had coffee in them too, the results might be skewed.  I suppose I could blame it on my Joyful friend who makes brownies with a layer of Hershey bars baked right in the middle.  Oh my.  Hang on, I need to clean the drool off the keyboard.

Wherever the blame lies, I have only just in the past few years become the kind of person who needs (not craves, there is a difference) chocolate on a regular basis.  I think it might have something to do with the discovery of the deliciousness of dark chocolate.

Sure, growing up I loved Mama’s chocolate chip cookies.  She would call us into the kitchen and have us each test a  semi-sweet chocolate chip from the bag before she poured them in.  I never turned her down. It was for the good of the family after all.  When I was in Japan, around the time I gave birth to our Princess, one of the women in my Fella’s flight baked me “The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever.”  (Seriously, that was the name of the recipe.)  Oh my word, were they ever good.  The best.

But my need for chocolate did not arrive until that first bite of dark chocolate.

Before, I only enjoyed chocolate.  Now I was savoring it and thinking about it and well, needing it.

So I started buying it.  And then the trouble began.

There is a great appreciation for dark chocolate with the 18-65 year old members of this household.  So much so that it gets real at Christmas when Santa puts the dark chocolate kisses in folks’ stockings.  Rest assured there will be no sharing.  To each his or her own.  And woe be the person who dives into someone else’s stash without asking.

We’ve finally reached a compromise, it would seem.  The Fella likes his frozen, so he keeps a bag tucked up high in the freezer door.  He learned to move it up there after we started finding colorful foil pieces all over the house in little corners or tucked in a planter or between the pages of a book. (Ahem, caught you Cooter!) Aub does not care for hers frozen, so she stashes hers elsewhere.  And they are off limits for me for a while (yes, condolences are appropriate here), so I’m coping.  And not digging into the stashes I know exist.  Some days it’s a moment by moment decision, but I’m doing the best I can, and it only makes me “slightly” grumpy.  (My family might say this is an understatement.)

Just before I had to cut out the chocolate, Cooter saw me grabbing a dark chocolate kiss (or two) on my way out of the house.  As we headed to the vehicle, he asked, “Mama, why are you eating chocolate?”

Without blinking, I replied, “Because I don’t drink.”

Okay, it was more to myself under my breath than out loud where he could hear me, but I think that just might be the truth.  Some days are like that.

I do miss my chocolate.  I look forward to the day I can have it again, and in the meantime, I find myself walking down the candy aisles that aren’t on the way to what I need in the store.  I find it fascinating that after all of the years of being a vanilla girl, I have developed an appreciation and affinity for chocolate.

Maybe the Peanuts cartoon was accurate all those years ago after all.


Tonight I am thankful for the discovery of something new that brings me joy.  I give thanks for the willpower to give it up for a bit so my body can do what it needs to do.  And most of all, I am grateful for those close to me, both near and far, who share their love.  This might sound cheesy (adding in another favorite food I’m avoiding right now), but–as good as dark chocolate is, love is the sweetest thing of all.

Love to all.

Because She Told Me To

One of my dear friends decided to “be Mama” last night and told me to go write. I laughed as I replied, “You know, she’s the one who originally told me to do this. And that’s a story in itself.” So here it is.

Daddy shared a story with me over twelve years ago. I was struggling at work with new tasks that were being added that had nothing to do with taking care of our clients. I called him, frustrated. He told me the story about the founder of the Salvation Army, General Booth, who, in 1910, had failing health and would be unable to attend the convention. Someone suggested he send a telegram to be read to encourage all those who had helped people during the busy holiday season. Knowing funds were limited but wanting to encourage, General Booth sent the following telegram to be read at the convention:
pic of othersI think it was effective. I know it stuck with my Daddy over the years, and it was how he and Mama lived.  I scrawled it boldly on a piece of scrap paper and taped it over my desk. It stayed there until we moved.

Last January when Mama visited the monument business to pick out a headstone for Daddy, I went with her.  We sat with the son of our funeral home directors who ran the monument side, a young man the age of my little brother, and looked through book after book.  It was overwhelming.  Mama knew she wanted something simple, that Daddy would have preferred that.  She found one she liked, and we started talking about what to put on it.

“Just his name and the dates,” she said.  Quite firmly, I might add.

“But, Mama, that’s all?” I was not happy.  “Can’t we put a word on there that means something?  Can we at least put ‘Cap’ on there?  That’s what most of us called him anyway.”

“No, I’ve talked with your sisters and your brother and they’re all okay with just name and date.”

Well I declare.  I started fuming.  Traitors.  I tried again. I might have whined. Maybe.

“Mama, do you remember that story Daddy told me?  I would really like to put ‘others’ on his stone somewhere.”  I was thinking of how many markers have “Daddy” or “Beloved” on the stones.  “Others” would have been perfect for Daddy.

Mama shook her head.  She might have been diminutive in stature, but she made up for it in willpower and strength of spirit.

“But Mama, I have a word picked out for you too.  It’s a good one.”

Again, a head shake.  Definitely NOT.

So the business of payment and font choices and abbreviating vs. not abbreviating (guess which one I was for) ensued.  The young man asked Mama if she would like to go ahead and purchase her marker.  She looked over at me.

I shrugged.  “Go ahead if you want.”

“Well that way you won’t have to worry about it,” she said, wanting affirmation that I was okay with it.

“No, that way you will have what you want on it and won’t worry that I’m going to put something else on it,” I said.  Okay, I huffed.  I may or may not have had my arms folded across my chest.  Just sayin’.

The young man laughed.  Mama signed the paperwork.  He told us that her marker would be placed out there at the same time as Daddy’s.  It seems that they have a blaster of some sort that they take to the cemetery to add the death date when it needs adding.  He chuckled, “And anything else you’d like.  There’s a spot down here that would be perfect for another line…..” He looked over with a teasing grin.

I laughed out loud.  Mama did her exaggerated sigh and eye roll.  “Tara, just tell your stories in a book.  You write your book and leave these markers alone.  No need to tell them on a headstone.”

I am sure we were entertaining for the young man whose hard job it was to help us honor Daddy and to talk with Mama about her own immortality and need for a marker.  I am also sure he’s seen all sorts sitting across the desk from him.  He probably thought our relationship was a bit contentious, as I sat there hard-headed, trying every which way to convince Mama to add “others” to Daddy’s marker.  And her, just as hard-headed, wanting to keep it simple.  But he wouldn’t have been more wrong.  That’s what dear friends do–call each other on stuff.  And we were good at it.  But we loved each other fiercely.

Dec-April 2012 424

So when we visited Daddy’s grave just two months later on his birthday, our first without him, it was surreal to see Mama’s marker there as well.  We planted a tea olive to honor him.  (“Daddy, what’s the name of that tree out there that smells so good?”  “It’s a tea olive.”  “Well, Daddy, all I know is I hope Heaven smells like that.” I reckon he knows now…..) My three each attached notes to balloons and let them go.  In the midst of the planting, Mama got tired and had to sit down.  She sat down on her marker.  It might have seemed irreverent if it had been any of the rest of us.  My oldest, Aub, said, “Maemae, that’s the only way I want you using that thing for a good long time.”  If only…..

So now it’s time to have the date added to her stone.  And I guess for now, I will hold off on adding their special words.  I am doing what she said, telling our stories through another venue.

But I hope folks won’t be surprised if one day my stubborn streak kicks in (wonder where I got it from?), and they see me at the country cemetery out at Little Union in Crawford County with a hammer and a chisel.  Working on the two stones by themselves over by the woods.  Because the stories behind the names and dates are good ones.  And I think a good story needs to be shared.  Everywhere.

Dec-April 2012 430

And Mama’s word?  Loved.  Because she was.  And still is.

And I thank her for telling me to write.  Love you Mama.