on your birthday, six years later

I know not how many times
the light had to bend and turn
on its way from the sun
to earth

only that the years that it
spent reflected in your laughter
your smile
and your eyes
blessed me
and so many more besides

each ray that made its trek
across the 93 million miles
and landed on your guiding and comforting hand that held mine
or on your hair that gleamed in its presence

each ray that warmed our toes
and grew the beans you snapped and canned
and the squash you cooked and froze,
ready for the long, cold days of winter

each ray that wove its way–
from the yellow at sunrise
to the pink and blue at dusk

each and every ray of light
was brighter
and more beautiful

because it was reflected by you

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The Question She Always Asked

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

Three years.

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

“Did you do your best?”  

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

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

Our best.

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

Not THE best.  Our best.

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

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

Love and grace to all.

 

Happy Birthday and Being Held Close

A few years back my friend told me about how, in the Celtic culture, the Holy Spirit is symbolized by the wild goose.  Since that time, I’ve found comfort in seeing a flock of them grazing in a field or near a pond and in the sound of them flying overhead in the grey winter skies.

Today was no different.  On a day that was filled with the things that needed to be done and called me here and there, it was a precious day.  My Mama’s birthday.  Since my brother let the cat out of the bag about her age about 35 years ago, I don’t think she’d mind my sharing that this is her 70th birthday.  And our third one without her here.

I held her especially close today as we sat in a class about animal predators and prey and parasitism and other interesting things to know about animals, and as we went from one appointment to another this afternoon.  But it was when I saw the geese today that my spirits lifted just a touch, and I knew that we were also being held close today.

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May you find just what you need to bring you comfort right when you need it most.

Love to all.

where it hurts

when my children were little
I could ask them
“where does it hurt?”
and they would point or nod
or tell me
and I would doctor it up,
cleaning it,
putting on the ever-magical
bandaid

and kiss it all better

which would usually end in giggles and
all would be fixed

but now, as they grow,
when they come to me with
pain in their eyes
and hearts on their sleeves,
sadness weighing them down,
and I ask where it hurts
it breaks my heart when they shrug

unable to pinpoint the source

of the aching pain
that has them curled up in a ball
forlorn, in tears,
and lost

no amount of bandaids or kisses
can fix some of the hurts
of goodbyes or harsh words
or not knowing

and so I sit and clench my fists,
angry that there is so much broken in our world
and that little ones, young and old
have to feel all the things
that are hard

I hope for comfort and peace
when all I can do is tell them to breathe
and rest
and hang in there

and gently rub their backs

because there’s no bandaid big enough
to cover
where it hurts now

Bandaids_closeup

By DedeBandaid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“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.  

Looking for Love

This morning pretty much every single one of us got up on the wrong side of the bed.  You name it, it was frustrating us.  Whine was the flavor of the day for everyone, including me.

I walked outside to take Miss Sophie for her morning walk, and I felt the need to stay out in the heat and the sun a few minutes longer.  I didn’t like anyone, including me.  I found myself looking for someone to be angry with, and my parents came to mind.

Because they aren’t here.

Sometimes emotions make no sense, y’all.

I was immediately ashamed of those emotions and chastised myself for being angry with people I love, who had to leave this world through no fault of their own.  My heart was immediately trying to make up for where my mind had gone, and I was overwhelmed with the love I feel for them–the people who taught me better than to walk around angry like this.

And then I saw it.

A heart with wings on the fence that Miss Sophie and I walked by this morning.

A heart with wings on the fence that Miss Sophie and I walked by this morning.

The heart.  The heart with wings.

This. This was no coincidence.  I was taught to love and carry love with me everywhere.  To give it wings.

The thing is that just because someone does something well, it does not mean that doing it is easy.  Quite the contrary sometimes.  Like my oldest, she is very good at school.  Some parts of it ARE easier for her than for others, but the truth is that she applies herself and she works hard when she needs to.  Her grades and success are because of her efforts.  My Uncle is good at gardening.  He winds up with such a bountiful harvest, and for that we are all very thankful, but it is in NO WAY easy.  He’s good at it–I hope he enjoys it.  But he works very hard at it.  Sowing and reaping and everything in between.  My Cousin makes eating right and taking care of herself and her family a priority.  She does it, and she does it well.  This is not something she learned just through reading books and websites or the backs of essential oil bottles.  She learned it the hard way.  Through living it, because she had to–for the sake of her own health.  Her wisdom and knowledge that she shares is hard come by.  And yet, she’s always gracious and generous and encouraging with all that she knows.

My Mama was good at loving folks.  She could find something lovable in pretty much everybody.

But I am realizing as time passes that it must have been hard at times too.  Just because she made it look so easy, doesn’t it mean that it always was.  I wish I could tell her thank you for loving me all the times when I wasn’t very lovable.

There is grace in knowing it wasn’t easy for her.  That gives me hope.  I want to love like she did.  Each day, though, I find myself struggling.  I am trucking along, all loving and kind and trying to be helpful and then {BAM}, I have this emotion of not liking someone.  The realization eventually comes that the dislike is more about me than them.  I usually need to get my heart in order.  The emotions that are counterproductive in my efforts to love can be anything from jealousy to fear to insecurity to misunderstanding.  Love has so many emotions that are out to get rid of it.

And lots of times they are easier to feel.

Love.  It’s something to work at.  Takes effort.  Focus.  Concentration.  Sure, sometimes the warm fuzzies bubble up and LOVE IS IN THE AIR.  But love was never intended to be fickle.  Or one-dimensional.  Or judgmental.  Love was meant to be all-encompassing.  Through thick and thin.  Good and bad.

And that takes some doing.

I have often thought that I would like to be thought of as a noted authority.  On something.  I mean, I’ve been on this journey for a while now.  Surely I have learned enough about at least one thing to where I can speak intelligently about it.

Or not.  And so I read.  And listen.  And watch.  And upon reflection, after watching people who are really, really good at loving folks and make it seem so easy–I’ve noticed something.  They also seem to have a peace that passes understanding.  I decided maybe I want to be a master at love.  Like my Mama. And the others who are good at it.

But first I am an apprentice.

And so I look to those around me.  Those who love.  And love well.  Or love hard.  They work at it.  Like with me, some days are better than others.  But each day these folks I look up to make a conscious effort to love, even when every fiber of their body says otherwise.

They love by reaching out.  They send messages or make phone calls.  Just to “see how you are doing.”  And they listen.  Sometimes for hours.  Or they text back and forth until the anxiety eases.  They are patient.

Grandma has been at it again.  This was a total surprise--this beautiful shawl she created for me.  I will be able to literally wrap myself up in love.

Grandma has been at it again. This was a total surprise–this beautiful shawl she created for me. I will literally be able to wrap myself up in love.

They love with gestures.  Of kindness.  Invitations.  Even when they hear “not today,” they ask again.  Until the time is right.  They love with thought-filled gifts.  With things they created.  Or found.  They love by showing they thought about the person and who he or she is before they picked it up or made it.  They love by showing another he or she is KNOWN.

My oldest, Aub, texted me from her latest GW Boutique trip.  She said I was going to love her so much.  Really what she did in finding these treasures and remembering that I LOVE Raggedy Anns is show me how much she loves me.  These girls are a symbol of love for me just like the hearts on their chests.

My oldest, Aub, texted me from her latest GW Boutique trip. She said I was going to love her so much because she had found me a surprise. Really what she did in finding these treasures and remembering that I LOVE Raggedy Anns is show me how much she loves me. These girls are a symbol of love for me just like the hearts on their chests.

They love by remembering.  By giving thanks.  By writing notes and saying words like “You matter” or “Thank you” or “How can I help?”

A thank you and remembrance for something that I enjoyed doing so much I feel like I should be thanking them for letting me do it.  The note that came with it was the real treasure.

A thank you and remembrance for something that I enjoyed doing so much I feel like I should be thanking them for letting me do it. The note that came with it was the real treasure.

They love generously.  By sharing what they have.  Vegetables.  Clothes.  Toys.  Books.  Thoughts.  Ideas.  Wisdom.  Knowledge.  Time.

The love without judging.  These people are the ones someone can tell her deepest and darkest thoughts and feelings to and they don’t blink.  Or they blink and call her out to be her best self.

And these folks who know how to love, they remember how short life is.  And they know how powerful it is to take someone’s hand, look her in the eyes, and say “I love you.”  They love and remind others that they are loved.

I am an apprentice.  But what I finally remembered this morning is that I need always ALWAYS to look for love.  Especially when I am tired.  Angry.  Hurting.  Sad.  Worried.  Stressed.  Overwhelmed.

I need to look for love.

And it was like the scales were removed from my eyes.  And I saw the heart with wings.  And then I looked at the ground.

The second heart I saw after I opened my soul to look for love this morning.

The second heart I saw after I opened my soul to look for love this morning.

And then this one.  Love is there, if only we look for it.  I saw all three of these hearts within the span of about 3 minutes.  And maybe ten steps.  Is it any wonder that I was weeping?

And then this one. Love is there, if only we look for it. I saw all three of these hearts within the span of about 3 minutes. And maybe ten steps. Is it any wonder that I was weeping?

Hearts.

I began crying.  Realizing that just maybe these were messages from my Mama.  Reminding me that love is a process.  A work in progress.  And to always look.  Even underneath the hot Georgia sun, with a hurting spirit, love can be found.

If only we look for it.

May love surprise you today.  Open your eyes.  You are worthy of being loved.

You ARE loved.

Love.  Love to all.

The Bird Who Read the Newspaper

This evening I saw a writing prompt that was one word long.

Newspaper.

An interesting choice of topics, I thought, all while the wheels were turning and one distinct memory came to mind.

Chiefy.

My Mama loved parakeets.  With my sister’s allergies to dogs and cats, we only had them outdoors, and my sister couldn’t really be around them very much.  She fell in love with birds, and so began the parakeet part of our family story.

By Moe Epsilon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Moe Epsilon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The one I remember the most was a beautiful blue and white bird who was named Chief Grey Cloud.  Chief or Chiefy for short.  He had more personality than a little bit.  He thought he was human, and he loved my Mama.  His Mama too, I guess, he would say.  When she went down the hall to her bedroom, he followed her.  Walking and waddling behind her.  He would call for her.  But the funniest thing was he read the newspaper with her.

Mama would sit down in her chair at the end of the table with her glass of tea.  She opened the paper up and started to read.  As happens with newspapers, sometimes there was a lot to read on a double page spread and sometimes very little.  Chiefy would stand there on the paper, waiting for her to turn it.  When she lifted the page, he would chirp and squawk and go running excitedly to the opposite side, eventually stepping off onto the table just in time for the paper to land.  Then he’d hop right back on and wait for her to finish reading that page.  It was their little dance, and it was funny to watch.  She loved reading the paper with him, and the chirps and squawks were of happiness, not fear that he was about to be smothered by the paper.

Silly, precious bird.

Many tears were shed when he left this world.

I’m thankful for the one word prompt that brought back this memory.  I am even more thankful for the picture in my mind and heart of Chiefy chirping happily and waddling/walking very quickly over to Mama to welcome her when she left this world and went on up to The House.  I know that was one happy reunion.  One I have not thought about before.

Mostly I give thanks for the little critters in this life who bring us so much happiness.   What wonderful gifts of laughter and joy they bring.

May you all have someone to call for you and follow you down the hall because they love you.  Love to all.