The “M” Birthday

When Aub turned 3, I planned, with the help of my Joyful friend, a party with the theme of “Pink Pigs, Puppets, and Pizza.”  (I do love alliteration!) It was a lot of fun, as all of the parties were back then, and I even had her third birthday picture made in her favorite pink nightgown with all of her pink pigs sitting beside her.  I love that picture.

Tomorrow my girl turns 21.

I don’t know how that happened.  Cliche’ but true.  The days were long and the years were short.

And now–here we are.  21.

Tonight I mentioned to my older friend who is the epitome of wisdom, love, grace, and spryness that I guessed I was done.  Twenty-one equals grown, right?

I was walking behind her, and saw her shoulders shake with her mirth before I heard her laughter.  “Oh me…..okay.  Sure.  We’ll let you think that for now.”

I know better.  I really do.

My girl wanted a very laid back birthday this year.  I was good with that.  It seems like the world right now is a cyclone of chaos and to do’s and needs and what not, so a chance to sit.  And be.  And not much else.  SURE. YES.  The gift that keeps on giving.

We gathered in the backyard with the fire going (I’m getting pretty good at starting them now), and I set out the hot dogs and fixin’s along with the sticks for roasting.  I had a few decorations I’d put together for the day with a small sign with the theme for her 21st birthday “party.”

I returned to alliteration eighteen years later.  (I was in a play in Junior High with Beta Club, and my one line that I still remember was “I just love alliteration.”  I looked up what that was, and you know what?  Turns out I do.  To this day.)  Only the letter has changed.  This year’s theme?

M.

Mason Jars, Mermaids, Makeup, and Monograms.

My baby girl who isn’t a baby anymore loves most things Southern.  Traditions, cornbread, grits, pearls, and Mason Jars for anything from drinking out of them to storing things.  I tried a Pinterest project (ha–close to a fail, I’d say, but since I learned from it, we’re moving it to the WIN column) and “frosted” some jars with mermaids inside.  If you want to know more, let me know.  I’ll do my best to tell you the right way to do it, which the folks on Pinterest most definitely did NOT do.  As for the mermaids,  a dear friend of mine and I talk about them as a symbol of not only adapting but transforming into something beautiful wherever you are.  Aub is about to enter a whole new way of life, with this “official” adulthood thing.  I don’t want her to feel like she’s underwater…..I want her to grow a tail and swim–take off and make the new way of life her own.  As for the makeup, she loves it.  Since she’s 21 and not 11 anymore, I’m okay with that.  She is beautiful inside and out, makeup or no, and as long as she remembers that, I don’t have a problem with her enjoying the world of makeup.  (I do have a problem with the folks who didn’t recognize that her cake, designed and made by her loving Mama, was a compact and NOT a toilet.  We won’t even go there, folks.  I’m about to get sappy, and I can’t if I revisit my emotions attached to that experience.)  Monograms needs no explanation–I’ve written about that before.  She loves ALL THE THINGS monogrammed.  Even her cookies.  Today we were talking about her monogram, and she said, “I do love it.  It’s so asymmetrical.”  You’re welcome, boo.  Of course I thought about that when naming you.  Ahem.

Tonight as I remember where I was exactly this moment 21 years ago (calling my parents, his parents, my dear friend, heading to the hospital), I am thinking about that letter M and all of the other things it could have stood for–Mercer (where she might maybe perhaps go to grad school), Mouse (her nickname before she was born), Mama (who loves her dearly), Mic drop (something she does regularly), Mississippi (because she is a really good speller and knew how to spell it almost as soon she knew her alphabet…..and so many others.  But as I sat down by the fire last night, and realized how far she’s come, and yet this is only the beginning, I thought about the things I wish for her in the years to come that start with the M.

*Make time for the things you love.  Don’t toss the things you enjoy doing aside permanently for the sake of your career or even another person. If you love it, make time for it.

*”Make hay while the sun shines.”  Work hard when the opportunity presents itself.  Never go halfway.  Give it your all.

*Make a difference.  In whatever you do, do it in kindness and with good intent.

*Make someone laugh or smile.  At least once a day.  And it’s okay if that person is you.

*Make other people feel important.  Because they are.

*Meander on the less traveled path.  Learn to love the other way around.

*Mix it up.  Try new things.  Attempt something you never thought possible.  Eat a new food.  Read a different genre.  Take archery lessons.

*Move.  Your arms.  Legs.  Head.  Dance.  Walk.  Run.  When you are moving, it’s harder to sit on your pity pot.  Trust me, I know this.

*Middle.  Sit there every once in a while.  Or more often.  It offers a different perspective, and different perspectives can be very good to try out for size.

*Master something you’re curious about.  Painting.  Knitting.  Piano.  Underwater Basket Weaving.  No one can ever take your skills away from you.

*Music. Listen.  As much as possible to as many kinds as possible.  Music can lift your spirits or rest with them where you are.  Never be without music.

*Make.  Create.  Share.

*Motivation.  Seek it.  Offer it.

*Move on.  Move beyond.  Don’t get stuck in that one bad moment.  Or bad experience.  Or held up by that one person who doesn’t get you and never will.  Let it go.  (Yeah, I said it–I sang it too.)  I feel that it will be okay.  It will be okay.  

*Muse.  Listen to her.  Let her guide your thoughts and your words.  Write.  Please.  The world needs your voice.

*Metamorphose.  As much as it takes.  Change.  Adapt.  Grow.  Never stop growing.  Adapting.  Becoming.

*Miracle.  You are mine.  Be good to my treasure.  Because I love you.

And I give thanks for you every single day.

May Light shine upon you, today and everyday–chasing the darkness away, so that you can reflect all the good that has gone before you and offer a glimpse of all the good you will bring in the days and years to come.

Happy 21st birthday, Aub!  

You are loved.

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The first pink pig is on the left.  Squealer.  He went everywhere with us way back when.  

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My attempt at a Pinterest project.  Win some, learn some.  Definitely learned some on this one.  

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Monogrammed Mason Jars made by our sweet neighborfriend. As delicious as they are beautiful.

 

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It’s a compact. And completely safe for our food allergies, so this is a definite WIN, and definitely looks like a COMPACT!

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Our girl’s post about one of her gifts.  The one about adapting.  And making this new life work for her.  After all, who doesn’t want a mermaid tail of their own?  Just keep swimming.  

 

 

Turns Out She Knows Best

Where has the time gone?

Not even joking, y’all.  My oldest called me the other day, and she’s about to register for classes for next year.

Her SENIOR year.  Of college.

WHAT ON EARTH?  How did this happen?

I mean, I know, time passes, but I very clearly recall every single emotion I felt the day we moved her into her first dorm room on campus almost three years ago.  It has been a roller coaster ride for sure, but like those rides, it will be over before we’ve even caught our breath good.

Aub is planning on going to law school after graduation.  She has a plan, and she’s making it happen.  Make no mistake, she is the one taking care of all of the things she needs to do and doing them.  She got her internship which turned into a great job.  She read and decided what it will take to be accepted into law school.  She studied for and did well on the LSAT.  She has a notification set on her phone to remind her when to turn in her application to the school of her choice.  She’s even looked at places to live while in law school.

I blinked, y’all.  This is what I get for doing THAT.

When she called me the other day, she discussed that she is going to drop her second major and make it a minor.  The classes she needs aren’t all being offered when she can take them, and she would have to double up and take a lot of hours to make it happen.

As I’ve mentioned before a time or ten, change is not my friend.  So this change made me a little nervous, and I talked with her about all the ways that maybe she could still keep the double major.

I mean, I had to, right?  It’s my job as her parent to tell her what I think is best.

And later that night, after everyone else was asleep, it hit me like a hammer upside the head, that NO.  That is not my job.

It is not my job to tell Aub what the right thing to do is.  It is my job to teach her how to decide the right thing for her.  And then let her do it.

And I recalled her words, “If I drop the second one to a minor, I can continue working, and the work experience will be more valuable in the end than a double major, I think.”

She thinks.

She reads.  She studies.  She researches all the options.

And she thinks some more.

Wow.

All on her own.

And the one thing I’ve watched and been amazed to see is that when she sets her mind or heart on something, I can sit back and watch it happen.  Because it will.  When she believes in something, she will do what it takes to make it happen.

She’s a doer and a go-getter, and she is driven when it matters to her.

Like this.

Tonight I’m thankful for the privilege to be a part of her journey and to see all the amazing things she is already doing in this world.  I am thankful for her strength and drive and passion and heart.  When her heart is set, look out world.  Most of all, I give thanks for this amazing person who is teaching me how to do my job.  By letting her do her life.

May we all be so fortunate as to know what we want and go after it.

Love and best wishes to all.

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My girl, her first month of college. In a few short months, she’ll be a senior. She’s got this. And it’s my job to let her. 

 

 

“Scratch It, You’re Done”

Today the crew and I found ourselves doing an unexpected end of semester move for our college girl.  It was a very good thing, and we rocked it.  We moved her across campus less than 24 hours after she got word she could move, and it took us 2 hours from start to finish.

Yeah, we are feeling pretty sanctimonious right about now.

As I was helping to pack up her room in bags and boxes and whatever I could find, I came across the scratch art set that Mess Cat gave Aub for her birthday.  I hadn’t packed it up yet, when I heard our Princess chastising her brother.

“No, don’t touch that.  You scratch it,  you’re done.  One scratch, it’s a picture.  You can’t undo it.”

Ah.

Much like how when our hearts or souls get scratched.  There’s no undoing that.  It’s done.

I think I’m going to start carrying around one of those black sheets with all the color underneath as an example of how delicately we should treat each other–as though we are all precious (and we are) and the least little scratch could change us forever–of how we should be careful of how we touch each other–with love or anger.  The mark will stay either way.

May we always use our touch to create something beautiful.

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artwork by our Princess

Love to all.

 

Hug ’em, Y’all-And Give ’em Chocolate

Today the littles and I, after a day of decorating, learning how to do new things, and organizing around the house, traveled up to a place I love and saw one of our favorite folks do something new too.

We went up for my Aub’s Washboard Band performance at Wesleyan College.  She has played her guitar in public before, but this was her first time playing the cajon with a group.  She did well, not that I was surprised, I guess, but it was good to see something come out of the year of percussion lessons way back during our first year of homeschooling when she was in the eighth grade.

I enjoyed every moment.  The rewrite of the Twelve Days of Christmas, Wesleyan style, was hilarious and yet it rang so true.  It reminded me of the stress and anxiety of this time of year for students.  If you know one, especially a college student, hug them. And then feed them copious amounts of chocolate and put a fiver in their hands just in case they need a little more later.  Bless them.  My college student alone has two finals, a big paper, and a presentation all coming due in the next week, and she’s not even done attending classes, not to mention her job.  And this is NORMAL for a college student.

Hug ’em, y’all.  It’s hard.

They can do it and do it well, but when you’re in the midst of it, it can make you crazy and make you doubt yourself.

NOTE TO ALL MY COLLEGE FRIENDS:  You’ve got this.  Breathe.  Go watch the sunset (which was fabulous tonight, by the way).  I believe in you.  And I’m here if you need a reminder of how wonderful you are and that this too shall pass.  (And so will you, you’ve been working hard.  Yeah, I’ve noticed.)  

As we were leaving, we drove the long way to leave campus, and this stopped me in my tracks.

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The famous Wesleyan geese…..

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…..heading towards the pond. 

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…..almost…..

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There they go.  “Merry Christmas, geese!” 

And made me smile.  I love the geese.  I mean, I always leave a respectable distance between them and me, but I do love them.  Our Princess  rolled down her window and wished them a Merry Christmas, which was–well, so her.  Precious.

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Yes.  Those are the ginkgoes I love so much.  A beautiful sight.  

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My future Golden Heart said, “Oh look, that’s Golden Heart snow!”  A Wesleyanne through and through.   

As we were about to leave, Princess asked out of the blue:  “Mama, when you go here, is there a curfew or do you just have to put yourself to bed on your own?”

I laughed to myself.  She is a special bird, and I love her for it.  “No, you’re on your own.”

“Oh, okay, so you just go to bed by 9 pm, and it’s okay. Or maybe a little later as long as you get up for class the next morning?”

Oh me.  Bless her.

I don’t think she’s quite ready for college yet.  But that’s okay.  She’s got years to go yet.

And I’m sure they will fly by.

Tonight I’m thankful for my alma mater, which isn’t too far away and always welcomes me with her beauty and laughter and sisterhood across the ages. When I saw one of Aub’s classmates–one whom I adore– heading into a final, I stopped my car at the same time that she did a double take.  That’s what being a part of this community is about–and I love the young women who are a part of my girl’s posse.  Her people.  I am thankful for them.  I am also thankful that Aub shares the journey with us, and that we were able to be there and hear her perform.  I give thanks for the love our Princess has for Wesleyan, but I’m also glad it’s not quite time to send her off with suitcase and dorm fridge in hand.  (And I’m thinking, where on earth did she get 9 p.m.? That girl is a NIGHT OWL in every sense of the word. Good gravy!)

Wishing you all a moment or twelve of peace in the midst of the chaos, no matter what your chaos might be.  And if that can’t be found–chocolate.  And lots of it.

Love to all.

 

Here

Our oldest came home from college for a short visit yesterday afternoon to spend some time celebrating fall and all of its goodness with us.  She wound up spending the night and driving back for class this morning.

There is a feeling I get in the middle of the night when all of my people are here.  Safe and sound and tucked away–all of them.  That’s a powerful good feeling, especially since it’s not a common occurrence so much anymore.

As my girl pulled out in the same little car I asked for angels to watch over my Mama driving, I reminded her to call me when she got back to campus.  Knowing that she’d be in class almost as soon as she got there, I didn’t want to have to worry if she forgot and was in class or if something had actually happened to delay her.

In her true typical “shorthand,” Aub texted me about forty minutes later.

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Again, here.

I love that word.

It’s a word of comfort.  It means that folks are safe.  Where they should be.  And that means so much, especially considering how things are playing out all around us right now.

The other day I got a message from a sweet friend–“Let me know if you need anything.  I’m here if you need me.”

Here.

The gift of presence–of her being here–oh me.  Yes, please.  A priceless gift to be treasured indeed.

Tonight I’m thankful for safe journeys for my Aub and for the one word message that lets me breathe again, giving thanks with a peace-filled heart:  Here.  I’m thankful for the special occasions that find us all here under the same roof.  And I give thanks for the ones in my life who offer me their love, their shoulder, their presence–and make themselves “here,” wherever that may be.

Wishing you all safe journeys and someone whose shoulder never tires of being leaned on a bit.

Love to all.

The Sound of Music

My heart rejoices.  My girl is playing her guitar again.

After a couple of years on the oboe (and a minor fortune spent on those reeds!) and a couple of years on percussion, my oldest Aub asked for a new instrument.  She wanted to try her hand and skills on the guitar.

My girl's beautiful, treasured guitar.  Where it belongs, with her, at college, foraging a new path on the journey.

My girl’s beautiful, treasured guitar. Where it belongs, with her, at college, making a new path on the journey.

We got her a beautiful guitar and found an even more beautiful soul to teach her how to play.  I knew we’d found the right teacher when at Aub’s first lesson the teacher asked her, “Who’s your favorite artist?” and taught her to play a Taylor Swift song that very day.  The lessons continued just like that.  They eagerly shared songs they had heard with each other and they played and played and played together.  Eventually they began singing together too.

While it made her nervous for us to sit and listen, Aub would play her music in her room.  While I cooked supper in the kitchen, I could hear the tunes coming from her bedroom, and I LOVED it.  It sounded perfect to me.  It may or may not have been, but it didn’t matter.  It was beautiful, and my girl had found her instrument.  The one that touches her soul and brings her joy.

A woman who brought her nephew to swim practice last week pointed him out to me as they were all jumping in the chilly water.  “That’s him,” she said.  She told me that he’s had some hard things in his young life, but he told her, “When I swim, I’m free.”

Tears.  Yes.

And that’s how I think music makes my Aub feel.  Free.  To be happy, to be sad, to be pensive, to be angsty, strong, bluesy, joyful, silly–goodness knows there’s a song to fit any one of those emotions and more.  Free.  To feel.  To be.  Whatever.

My two favorite memories of Aub’s playing each involve my parents–the two people who loved and continue to love her so much.  In May less than a year before Mama passed, Aub had a recital with all of the students of her music teacher.  She played a beautiful song while another young woman sang.  It was amazing.  I looked over at my Mama, who was so happy to be there with her neighbor friend, and saw tears of joy in her eyes.  There wasn’t a lot that could do that since Daddy’s passing seven months prior, but her grandchildren could.  And this one, playing the guitar, an instrument Mama used to play herself–that brought her great joy.  A precious memory.

About a month or two before Daddy left this world, he was in his hospital bed in the living room, and I was sitting with him, talking and not talking.  Just being together.  Aub was in the “big room,” practicing her guitar before her lesson later that day.

Daddy cocked his head and looked at me.  “What is that?”

“The music?  That’s Aub practicing on her guitar.  Do you want me to ask her to close the door or stop for a bit?”  I wondered if the sound was keeping him from resting.

He shook his head slowly.  “No.  No, don’t make her stop.”  He paused.  “I thought it was the radio.  She’s really good.”

Y’all.  My Daddy never gave praise lightly.  If he praised you, he meant it and you had earned it, no two ways about it.

That moment right there–my Daddy made me cry.

Yessir, she is good.

For a while, the music has been quiet.  I don’t know why.  I don’t ask.  But I have missed it.

So you can imagine my joy when she said she needed her capo from home, that she was going to play at the Chapel Service on Sunday night.

We made sure she got it, that’s for sure.

When I asked her last night if she had played during the service, she said yes.  I could hear something in her voice, and while I couldn’t pinpoint it exactly, I gave thanks for it.  I was sad that I wasn’t there, but she hadn’t been sure if she would play or not, and I think she needed to do this on her own for the first time.

As I curled up to go to sleep last night, I gave thanks.  I might not have been there watching my baby take another huge step on her journey, but I know that her biggest fans were.  They were there listening with tears of joy and in amazement–thinking, “That sounds like the radio.”  I know they were there.

Tonight I’m thankful for the music in our lives and for the ones who share it with us.  I give thanks for a special music teacher who shared the joy and wonder of learning and performing music with my girl.  And I am grateful that those who are on the other side of the veil are still helping me raise this beautiful soul, with their love and encouragement that knows no boundaries.

Most of all, I’m glad that there is the sound of music in her heart again.  Music is a balm to the soul like no other, and I’m glad my girl is free again, free to feel and play and sing and to find a peace within that makes its own beautiful melody.

May you hear music in your heart today too.

Love to all.

Her Biggest Fan

I got this text message this morning from my oldest, my college girl, my Aub.

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Where did the time go?  It seems like just yesterday this girl was prancing around Blackberry Flats, such a cutie patootie.  Full of vim and vinegar that one.

My girl in one of my favorite outfits from the consignment sale.  She could always make me laugh--still can.

My girl in one of the favorite outfits from the consignment sale. She could always make me laugh–still can.

I think about how just a few years after this picture was taken, she was at Yokota East Elementary school, a DODDS school on base in Japan.  I walked her to school in the mornings.  After a few weeks she asked me to start picking her up in the van (we lived five minutes away) because, she said, the school days just “wear me out.”  And so I did.  Many afternoons we stayed and she and friends played on the playground until they were ready to lock the gates.  Such beautiful days, much like this one, days filled with classes and art projects and Japanese culture class and book sales in the library.  I helped with class parties and was the assistant in her art classes.  If she had something going on, I was there.

Aub on a field trip with her Yokota East Elementary classmates and friends in a shirt my Mama and Daddy decorated for her.

Aub on a field trip with her Yokota East Elementary classmates and friends in a shirt my Mama and Daddy decorated for her.

And now, somehow time has slipped by, and I’m not.  There.  Physically.  But yes, I was still cheering her on today.  Even if she didn’t see my face going all goofy with pride over a job well done.

Today as I was cleaning out some drawers, I found a note tucked away that I had written her.  “Keep smiling.  You did great.”  And on the other side, “What’s for supper?”  When?  Ah yes, the county spelling bee in elementary school.  We went through several of those in her time.  I had written the note before we left that morning.  Because I knew that her just being up there was “great,” even if she were to go out on the first word she tried to spell.  And no matter how she did, she got to pick out what to have for supper.  Precious memories.

Later on this afternoon Aub and I were texting again and I suggested she could run an errand she needed to take care of this afternoon.

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And she sent me this back.  Another moment in my girl’s life that I’m not there as I used to be–snapping pictures, giving a thumbs up, cheering her on.  I was teasing her with that “comment o’ guilt” and she knew it.  But still, it hit me full force today that she has definitely moved on from the “Mama in the audience” phase of life.

Wow.

Wasn’t it yesterday that she was graduating from kindergarten?

 

My girl in her cap and gown graduating from kindergarten.

My girl in her cap and gown graduating from kindergarten.

Okay, maybe not.  Well then surely it was yesterday she graduated from high school, right?  Maybe last week?

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Almost a year, you say?  Do what?  I cannot believe it.  But there it is.  The calendar doesn’t lie, I guess.

 

I am so proud of my “sophomore.”  (Well, that is hard to say.)  She has worked hard, played hard, and found a new life in a new place to call home.  And the fact that I have great memories of the same place as my home brings me a special kind of joy.  In fact, we’ve just about determined that next year she will be living in the same room I lived in my freshman year.  That is just downright cool.

Aub and her alma mater

Aub and her alma mater

My girl knows how to stick to it.  :)

My girl knows how to stick to it. 🙂

For my girl, who “stuck” to it this year and did a great job, even when things got just about as hard as they could get–a big wink and thumbs up and “Whoo hoo” and all of those other things I’ve done to embarrass you as I sat in the crowd.  I’m always in the crowd, baby girl, and I’ll always be your biggest fan.  I learned from my biggest fan, you know.  Maemae never let me forget how much she loved me, and I hope you will always know how much I love you.

Way to go, boo–keep it up like this and you’ll be graduating before I know it.  *sigh*

Love this girl.

Love this girl.

 

Y’all, if you’ve got littles, go hug them.  I’m off to hug mine.  Before we know it, they’ll be graduating and doing their own thing, just like this one.

 

Love to all.

 

A Dented Door and An Empty Journal–On Gratitude and Grace

Tonight I had the privilege of going home–to my alma mater Wesleyan College–again and sharing in their chapel service.  It gave me such joy to be with those young women.  Tonight’s post is what I shared with them.  Thank you for the honor, my sisters. 

My Daddy used to say I would go around my elbow to get to my thumb when I told a story or tried to make a point. One of my favorite bosses told me my writing was too flowery. So if you’re up for a little bit of elbow floral-scented travelling, let’s go.

About a year ago, my oldest, Aub, went to grab a bite to eat with two of her friends from school after class. As they were leaving the parking lot, one motioned for her to back out. With a quick glance back she did—and backed into the other friend’s car. The first I knew of it was when she came in the front door in tears. I was upset—frightened that she’d driven home upset, worried that they hadn’t called the police to get a report, and concerned at how bad the damage was on her friend’s car. She had been driving my Mama’s car, left to my brother in Mama’s will. He later gave it to her for graduation, but this was before that happened. So that was another concern. She called her Uncle who was very gracious and kind. I tried to call her friend’s parents but was only able to leave a message. I was sick with anxiety over how to make this right.

The next day I was on campus, and I saw Aub’s friend’s Dad. Ollie Horne. I took a deep breath, told my littles to sit still, and I opened the door and walked toward where he was heading.

“Mr. Horne. Mr. Horne!” I called, trying to get his attention.

He turned, and had a welcoming smile that extended from his eyebrows to his chin. This was a man who enjoyed meeting new people and soon put everyone who crossed his path at ease.

“I’m Tara. Auburn’s Mama,” I started rambling. “I am so sorry about the car.” I looked back toward it. I had parked next to it and saw his dented back door. It was bad. BAD.

He walked toward the car with his hand extended. “Yes. Have you seen his car, Tara?”

Gulp. I was mortified. He was right.

“Yes, yes I did. I am soooo sorry. We will make this right. If you will get an estimate—“

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I mean, Tara, have you really looked at this car?” He laughed as he pointed and waved his hand at the whole length of the car. “It’s a dent magnet, isn’t it? This is certainly not the first dent he’s gotten in it.”

He turned to face me. “Now I won’t have you or Auburn worrying another second about this car. It’s a CAR, for goodness’ sake. Promise me you’ll let this go.”

Y’all. I was practically in tears. Bless him. This was a man who gets what and WHO is important in life.

In that moment, Ollie Horne preached a sermon on grace to me. And I held on to every word and smiled for dear life. And I give thanks for being the recipient of that gift.

Last Tuesday Ollie Horne left this world for a better one after fighting brain cancer for over two years. He was in remission when this happened last year I think. After he was diagnosed, he did not mope, he did not worry—that any of us knew. He had a motto: “Watch me live.” This is a man who decided to become a flight attendant so he could continue traveling, touching lives as he did when he was a missionary.

One of his friends quoted him:

“just love…it’s my answer to depression, bitterness, suicide…I sincerely believe there is a such thing as “following Christ” that isn’t built on religion, judgment and finger-pointing but on living life and changing the world.” -Ollie Horne, January 25, 2011

Watch me live.

My Mama lived that way too. She had every excuse in the book to let her life go down a different path than the one she chose. She was from a broken family, a broken home, full of addictions and hurt and few good examples. But she sought those examples out and lived and loved as they did. She married her best friend—oh I know some people say that’s who they are marrying, but she really did. She and Daddy were not just alike—actually they were quite different, and yet they admired and appreciated those things about each other. They were in sync. And it worked. When Daddy got sick, Mama didn’t give up. Each day he lived to fight the Giant that was Lymphoma, she fought right alongside him. And when he didn’t overcome it and could only be healed by heading on up to the Big House, she didn’t become angry or bitter. Like I did. She wanted me to find peace and love and have faith in things as they were.

Two weeks before Daddy died, Mama gave me this journal for my birthday. I didn’t say anything to her then, she raised me better than that, but all I could think of was, WHAT? Are you kidding me? A gratitude journal? My Daddy, one of my best friends in this world, is not getting better, no matter how many people are praying that he will, and you want me to be thankful? For What?

No, I never said that to her. But after Daddy died, and I was still hurting, she saw it and knew. And she pleaded with me to find something to be thankful for. To let some light in.

Mama spent the fifteen months after Daddy died, a time when she could have crawled in her bed and never gotten up—we all would have understood that—LIVING. She loved and she shared and she embraced what she had left in her life, and she reckoned, even without Daddy, she still had a whole lot. She gave thanks for her new grandson and then her grandson who was real close to arriving. She thought all of her grandchildren were the grandest gifts God ever gave her.

It wasn’t until she got sick and went in the hospital January of last year, that I found a little of what she was talking about. Each night I started posting little updates for friends and family who wanted to be kept apprised of how she was doing. She spent most of the 25 days in the hospital unconscious. I could still hear her voice though. I talked to her and could almost hear what she would reply. And each night, almost without thought, I found myself typing “Tonight I am thankful for—“ Some days it was a nurse. Others it was the good veggie burger in the cafeteria. My Fella taking care of home. My sister Mess Cat working from the hospital (sitting on a closed toilet) to stay there with us. My siblings. My children.  My Aunt. Mama smiling with her eyes as she did.

I finally got it. Just in time for Mama to leave and finally be with Daddy again.

It was almost two months after Mama died that I started writing. I sort of challenged myself to write something every day. To see something through. Everyday I was looking for a story, for something from my journey to share. Whether it was a silly thing my baby boy said or observing an earthworm crawling along the sidewalk and finding a lesson in it. Each day. The journal remains empty–I type faster than I can write by hand, but my heart is full, and I continue to find something to share everyday.

Last May I visited a church home of some dear friends. When it came time for the children’s sermon, the pastor asked someone to bring “the” box up. They did. Apparently each week someone took the box home, put something in it, and brought it back. When the time came he opened the box, and shared an impromptu lesson on whatever was in there.

Oh. My. Land.

That made such an impression on me. So much so that I can’t remember what his sermon was about that day, but I sure remember the tie-dyed paper napkins and his lesson he shared about them still to this day.

Y’all. Think about that for a minute. Isn’t that what we are called to do? Each day? Every day?

Take what comes along on this journey and make our life an example of love and light in the midst of it?

Today in the Christian tradition it is Palm Sunday. Which is in part, among other things, about a journey. A journey that leads to life and redemption and resurrection.

That’s what I want my journey to be about too. It’s about taking time to look in the rearview mirror at the stories from before—remembering and revisiting and loving and learning from our people in the past. It’s about looking ahead with hope in our hearts and kindness in our plans. And it’s about the now. The road we are on this very minute—and making time to appreciate, to share, to listen, and to help.

To give grace to strangers and kin alike.

And have gratitude in all of our days.

My Mama used to say to us quite often—“The Lord loves a cheerful giver, and so do I.”

I want to give grace and gratitude with a cheerful heart—just as Ollie and my Mama did. I think that’s what we are all here for. To love. Others.

Always.

 

Going Home Again

You can, you know?

Go home again.

I know because today I did.

I went back to the place I loved when I was growing up.  Wesleyan College.  When my Mama was in school there, finishing a degree that I had unintentionally and in utero interrupted, I visited and fell in love with it.  Mama spent two years in classes there to change majors and finish a degree she had only been two quarters shy of twelve years earlier.

She took us to campus when we were out of school and she had classes.  I sat in the solid wood desks in Taylor Hall and wrote stories while she learned Psychology.  I had no clue that six years later I’d be sitting in those same desks, fascinated by the same course of study Mama loved.

She and Daddy took us to plays and concerts and performances by the Naiads (the synchronized swimmers) on a regular basis.

It already felt like home before I set foot on the campus in fall of ’86 as a full-fledged Wesleyanne.

And so it has ever since.

My four years there gave me memories and friends I’ll treasure forever.

I married there twelve years after graduation.  Right there around the same fountain I was thrown in on my birthday every year.  ‘Cause that’s what we do–throw you in the fountain on your birthday and when you get engaged.  It’s called love, people.  And tradition.

And about that.  The tradition continues.  Aub began her Wesleyan journey officially on August 17, 2013.  What an amazing journey hers has been.  Despite a hard semester emotionally, she did well academically. She too has made friends whom she will love forever.  And she made another tradition a huge part of her life.

118 years.....wow.

118 years…..wow.

STUNT.

The Pirate STUNT committee--y'all did a great job!

The Pirate STUNT committee–y’all did a great job!

In a nutshell, each class elects a committee who writes and directs their class’ thirty minute comedy-musical.  Aub was elected to be on her class, the Pirates, committee.  Since last fall, she and four other wonderful women from her class wrote and edited and dreamed and spent many hours creating their class STUNT.  Three weeks ago they read the STUNT to their class for the very first time.  Yes, it’s been kept a secret that long.  And until three nights ago, the other classes had no clue what the other STUNTS were about.  It all culminated in tonight.  STUNT night.  The big competition for the STUNT cup.  Ticket sales from the event raise money for scholarships for rising seniors.  This is the 118th year.  That’s a lot of helping out your sister.  And I was one of the beneficiaries many moons ago.  Thankful.

Today was also Welcome to Wesleyan Weekend.  The day Wesleyannes bring young women–daughters, nieces, friends–to campus to attend mock classes, listen to the story of STUNT, eat in the dining hall, see dorm rooms, and attend STUNT.

I took our Princess, my Golden Heart 2027.  She has been so excited about this for weeks.  She planned her outfit–jeans and her Golden Heart Wesleyan shirt that her big sister got her last fall.  And a red sweater to support Aub’s class, the Pirates, in their effort to win the STUNT cup.

A precious day full of more moments to treasure.

Being with women whom I lived with for four years.  Before we entered the “Real World.”  I had promised to giggle the first time one of us had to use her “Mama” voice.   And I did.  But then I was the second–it was inevitable with my crew.

The beautiful dining hall at Wesleyan.  As our Princess said, "It's more beautiful than I thought it would be."

The beautiful dining hall at Wesleyan. As our Princess said, “It’s more beautiful than I thought it would be.”

I sat in the dining hall and ate supper with friends I’ve known for a long, long time.  Almost thirty years–what?!  How did that even happen?  And I had a wonderful visit with someone whom I had seen in plays there before my freshman year who became a dear friend.  I adored her then and I still do.  She’s just that fabulous.

One of the women from the class ahead of us led us in the singing of the Doxology.  I don’t think I will ever hear the beauty of voices raised in song in this room and not get chills.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Funny thing is we only ever sang it on Thursday nights before Family Style Supper, and yet, when I went to sit down tonight, it was the first thing I remembered from my years there in that beautiful room.

Our children played together around the fountain, and we reminisced.  So much to remember, so much forgotten, but one thing stood out. Sisterhood.  It does last a lifetime.

We went to see the model room for one of the dorms.  My room from my Senior year.  Remodeled, but same room still.  Then we went across the way to view a room in another dorm.  The dorm that we weren’t allowed in while I lived there.  Except for that one time.  The irony is that the same women who let me in that one time also let me in tonight.  I love them, but I might just hear that drum banging in my sleep.  If I can even sleep tonight.  Fortunately they were much friendlier this time around.  😉

Heading to the fountain for our Pep rally.

Heading to the fountain for our Pep rally.

As we stood around the fountain and sang our class songs, I looked across the way to my independent Princess who had found her way to stand with other Golden Hearts.  She was not looking back once.  Tears.  Gratitude.  A smile.  She has found her way home too.  She used those exact words tonight when we were walking back to our car, “Mama, it feels like Wesleyan is home.”

It is, baby girl, it is.  And so another Wesleyanne is born.

I love this place and the things that never change.  Familiar.  That is home for me.

I love this place and the things that never change. Familiar. That is home for me.

While sitting in Porter Auditorium tonight watching the classes put on an awesome show, I moved in my seat.  Without thinking, I reached down and felt the velvety sides to the leather seat.  I knew without consciously remembering that’s how they were made.  I’ve sat and touched the velvet during plays, concerts, convocations, meetings, STUNT rehearsals (so many of those), Alumnae meetings, and graduations.  It’s like going in a house you haven’t been in for years and you just KNOW where everything is.  Because it’s home.

Tonight I give thanks for folks who have known me forever it seems.  For the ones who listen to old stories and new, for the laughter–oh thank you for the laughter, for little girls and big ones bonding together where their Mamas learned to begin growing up.  For memories rising up and causing your heart to skip a beat because they are so vivid.  For the whispered words of my roommate when I was climbing over a chair, “I’ve got you,” and the realization that yes, she always has.  I’m thankful that my girl gets to create her own memories in the same place where her Mama and Maemae did so many years ago.  I’m thankful that I left her tonight with a smile on her face and joy in her heart.  Her class didn’t win the coveted STUNT cup, but they won something much better–a bonding experience and story after story that I hope one day they will share together on a sunny afternoon sitting around the fountain remembering with those they grew to love.

I’m also thankful for all who have supported her journey.  Godparents and Aunts and family and friends who were sitting in the audience, cheering my Pirate on, I love and appreciate more than they can know.  For folks who wore red or sent her encouraging words, it meant so much.  And to my Wesleyan sisters who sat and watched and cheered for a class different from their own (and even brought her cookies), simply because she was mine and therefore theirs, my heart is full to bustin’.

Tonight I’ll be dreaming sweet dreams of home.  Love to all.

On journeys, memories, and finding peace

Journeys.

We begin them.  We come to the end of them.

One year ago tonight, the Fella was flying a night sortie.  He wouldn’t be home until after midnight.  I had a sick young’un who was on the upswing of the bug, and my oldest was supposed to go to a Wesleyan College information night at Bare Bulb Coffee.  It had been a week of rearranging plans and cancelling get-togethers.  Like you do when one of your babies is sick.

It wasn’t ideal, but we made it work.  Aub and I took turns watching the littles in the Blazer in the Bare Bulb Coffee parking lot, sitting and playing games on my cell phone with the heat on.  Somehow we got questions answered, met the Provost, found out about Scholarship weekend, and made a refundable deposit to hold her spot in the Class of 2017.  When we were all back in the car together, I took my phone back from the littles, and prepared to drive us home.  A notification on my phone caught my eye.

A missed call.

From my Aunt’s cell phone.

This did not bode well.

I called her back.  And my churning guts were right.  Mama was at the ER.  In severe pain.  In her quiet way, made even quieter by Mama’s presence, my Aunt shared with me that Mama had called her and asked her to take her to the hospital late that afternoon.

If Mama was hurting badly enough to return to the hospital, she was not doing well at all.  She had been in the hospital for eight days the previous August, and she did not ever want to return.  But nobody really does, do they?

I was thinking about all of this today, and I thought about my Aunt and how it seems like she’s always been there for us whenever Mama was in the hospital.  All the way back to when we were all young.  I remember us staying with her family when Mama was in for several days (I think) following surgery.   If I remember correctly, she took us back to our house to shower and change for bed, and then we went back to her house for the night.  I don’t have all that real clear, but what I do remember clearly is knowing it would all be okay.  Because of her.  My Aunt has a way of making me feel that way.  Even when the world is falling apart.

On the phone that night, January 17, 2013, I asked her if she wanted me to come on to the hospital so she could go home.  She hadn’t planned on them admitting Mama when she left her home, but it certainly looked like that was what was going to happen then.  We talked about options, and she finally said, “No, I’m fine.  Even if we stay the night, I’ll be okay.  You stay there with the children tonight.  In the morning will be soon enough, and I’ll head on home when you can get here.  Get some sleep tonight.  We don’t know how long it will be before you can again.”

What wasn’t said.  That.

I love her so much for that conversation right there.  For two reasons.

She knew I needed my sleep, and she gave me the gift of one more night at home in my bed.  Neither of us were to know it, but the next night I would spend sitting up in a brightly lit ICU waiting room with the TV blaring TNT “car chase” movies, getting exactly twenty minutes of shut-eye.  I am thankful for that gift.

But even more so, I am thankful that it just went without saying that we, none of us, would be leaving Mama by herself.  There was no discussion to be had.  It was an assumption, and I love her for that.  She stayed until I arrived the next morning, having gotten things in some semblance of order (such as it is around here) at my house and having packed a bag.  Just in case.  A good thing, it turns out.

One year ago tonight, my Wesleyan Pirate began her journey towards attending Wesleyan.  And we began the journey of–well, how do I phrase that–“losing Mama?” No I know where she is.  She’s still very much with me.  “Letting go?”  We didn’t.  I hung on tooth and nail, worrying every doctor I knew in that hospital right up until one finally said, “It’s time.”  I don’t know what that night began except that I can tell folks that it was as close to hell as I ever want to be.  It was hard.  And for now that’s enough said about that.

I’m trying to make the point of remembering over the next few weeks to be one of redemption, of finding what I can be thankful for in the middle of all of this.  Each night that I sent out an update from the hospital last year, I tried to end with “Tonight I am thankful for…..”

I think Mama would have liked that.  I also wrote things I wanted to remember to share with her, things I thought she’d laugh at.  Like the time she was still sedated but bit the doctor when he put his finger in her mouth.  After letting her be shocked and feel bad for a minute, I was going to tell her that he deserved it. (He did.) Oh, and the story about one nurse’s little baby and how I took her a copy of Mama’s favorite book from the trunk of the car (where she kept extras) for the baby.  Mess Cat and I were going to share a veggie burger with her from the cafeteria–it was so delicious!  So many stories not shared or told.

After Daddy died, Mama told me something that was hard for me to hear.

“Tara,” she said, on the phone late one night. “If you call over here and you don’t get an answer, and you find that I’ve left this world in my sleep one night, I don’t want you worrying over it.  I’ve had a good life.  And I’ll be okay.”

“Mama it sounds like you want to go.  I don’t want to talk about this.”

“No, I don’t.  I’ve got a lot of things left to do.  But if I go, I just want you to know that I’m at peace. And I want you to be too.  You got that?”  For a person of such diminutive stature, she could sound quite forceful at times.

She did have things that she still wanted to do.  She told her pastor and sweet friend the afternoon after she was admitted, “I have to get well.  I want to come work in the food pantry at the church as soon as I get out of here.”  She had plans to go see her new grandson after he was born.  As they wheeled her down to surgery, she told her nurse who was assuring her everything would be okay, “It has to be.  I’ve got a new grandson coming any day now.”  And she smiled a big ol’ beautiful smile through all that pain and discomfort and fear.

And that’s what I want to do.  Throughout the next few weeks, through the pain of remembering and grief, I want to find and remember something to be thankful for in our days and weeks on the journey, some form of joy to be found.  I don’t want to just plant a smile on my face, I want it to radiate from my whole being.

Because Mama told me she would be at peace, and I think she’s telling me it’s time I found myself at peace too.

Tonight I’m thankful to be the Mama of a Wesleyanne.  When I was a student there, just yesterday I think it was, I never imagined the joy it would give me to be a part of the traditions with my own daughter.  I give thanks for my Aunt who has been with us every step of the way ever since we were little.  And that she still lets me walk with her today, that I can pick up a phone, just as I used to reach up my hand on our walks, and find her there.  I’m thankful for the gift of being on the journey with my Mama, for the gift of seeing that smile and hearing the hope she had.  I don’t understand, but that’s where that peace that Mama talked about, the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7) comes in.  As I journey through the memories of the past and press forward to the future, that’s what I seek and hope to find.  Peace.

Love to all.