Lessons in Trusting From an Eleven Year Old

Cooter was sick with his standard Sunday evening 12 hour stomach thing two weeks ago.  I don’t call it a proper bug, because there’s never any rhyme or reason to it.  He doesn’t run fever or have any other symptoms.  Just every so often–occasionally–he will have stomach trouble to the point of vomiting a few times.  Most always on a Sunday evening.  We will stay up late watching his go to “sick” movie (the original Batman), and then once he’s able to, he will make the call on whether he will go to bed or sleep on the couch, and whether or not he prefers me to be close by for the rest of the night.

This last time, I was anxious that he feel better quickly.  If it ran typically, he’d be fine before morning, and we really needed for him to be.  He has drama on Mondays, and he really, really doesn’t need to miss any rehearsals if he can at all help it.  I’m old school, so if I had any doubts about him being well, he wouldn’t be going.  That night I kept asking him if he felt okay.  He did but then a second wave hit.  I decided to try an oil I have that is suppose to help with stomach upset, so I applied it topically.

Things had settled a little, and then he told me that he thought he’d be okay if he didn’t have to keep smelling that smell–that it was really bothering his stomach.  Interesting.  Well, nothing for it but to try to gently wash it off.

He said that helped.

The next morning–as per usual–he woke up asking for his oyster crackers.  And then real food.  He was hungry.  And he kept it down.  And he ate more and was his old self.  Just like all the other times.

Wow.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly his body turns around from whatever THAT was.

I was talking with him that night after drama.  He was glad to feel better and more than happy that I agreed we wouldn’t use the oil for him again.  He said that trying to stop the throwing up was not working.  “See, Mama,” he said in that voice he uses when he is imparting the greatest of wisdom to his old Mama, “I just have to trust the process.  If I’m sick and throwing up, that means I need to do that.  Get the bad stuff out.  Mama.  Trust the process.”  

A lot of the time I can see Mama in my middle child, our Princess.  But in that moment, I could see and hear Mama in my little guy’s words and expression.  He knows how much I worry when he’s sick, but he’s fine because he “trusts the process.”  And in telling me to do it, well, that’s just like my Mama.  Trying to calm me and bring me peace in the midst of chaos.

Trust the process.

That’s so hard to do sometimes, isn’t it?  Because it requires letting go.  Letting go of trying to “fix” things or cure them or even just guiding how it goes.  Being a “scriptwriter” for my own life from way back, this is really hard.

But I look at that peace on my little guy’s face and he’s just taking it in stride.  I’m sick, okay, let me do what I have to do to get better.  

Trust the process.

Trust it in the midst of a new friendship.  Trust the other person.  Give them a chance.  Trust in the middle of planning a huge project. Trust that it will all come together.  Trust in the making of a long journey.  Trust that we will get there, or wherever we get, it will be okay.

It sort of goes hand in hand with what Mama often said, “Do your very best.  Be your best self.”

Because if you do those things, then trust the process, there is a peace in that that calls out to my soul.  I want that.  I need it.

It’s a Sunday again, and today Cooter was out with his best buddies building a fort with sticks and branches trimmed from the trees around their house.  It took them a while, but they built a magnificent fort, and then they proceeded to spend the afternoon on into the evening in it, telling stories, imagining adventures, and making the best of memories.  They took it one step at a time, did what came next, gave it their best efforts, and wound up with a great place to play.

If they’d worried about what kind of fort, or tried to count all the sticks and branches ahead of time, or worried about how it could be torn down before they were finished or how there could be critters living on the sticks or how someone might spill a Gatorade inside the fort (true story) and how that might delay their fun…..well, it could have been a long afternoon and made for some grumpy little guys.

Instead.  They formed an idea, did their best, and trusted the process.  In the end, their lives were all the better for it.

Okay, I know, it’s just a fort.  One that will most likely be fire pit fuel in the next few weeks.

But it’s a beautiful example of trusting the process.  And not nearly so…..ummm, disgusting….as the stomach trouble story.

This week I’m going to follow Cooter’s example and try trusting the process.  In my days, in my conversations, in my relationships.  I’m going to try giving it my best and then letting go.  I’m hoping I’ll have as big a smile as these guys did this afternoon, hanging out in the midst of broken branches and limbs that their trust and hard work turned into a pretty cool place to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Or a lifetime.

Love to all.


One corner of this afternoon’s magnificent fort.

Time to Close a Tab

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

Multiple tabs.  Yes.

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

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

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

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

It’s all just too much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And may all the good things follow.

Love to all.

the sanctity of the sink

Last night at Evening Prayer we talked about finding the sacred in the ordinary.  Even in Mt Washmore and the folding of the clothes.  Ahem.  Over the weekend, my Fella was out of town, our Princess was sick, and Aub was working.  The emptying of the dishwasher was left to me and Cooter, who can’t do much more than the silverware and tumblers without climbing on stools.  And trust me, with this one, climbing is contraindicated.  As I faced the pile of dishes in the sink, on the counter, piled on top of piles, I realized I had put it off long enough.  If it were to be, it was to be me.  Last night I thought about that sink full of dishes and tried to see it with a different pair of eyes.  To see it as sacred.

the sanctity of the sink

All those dishes

dirty in the sink

beside the sink…..

but all reveals the blessing

in the having of dishes

and silverware and the food

that was prepared and served

and that left the spoons

and cutting board

and knife covered with flavor and

remnants of a meal lovingly created

for all

The hummus container

needs rinsing

for recycling because we can

and we should

The medicine cup used

to give a dose of relief

along with a prayer for healing

The cups that were filled with water,

clean water, to parch a thirst

and replenish our bodies

Such a simple thing

and taken for granted

but a gift to be appreciated nonetheless

The puppy’s kong for dispensing treats,


a reminder of this one we wished for

for so long

and we love

The blender parts

left over from the fruit smoothie

that boosted my spirit–

thankful for those who grow and pick

and freeze the fruit,

the perfect timing of all three of those

or it’s no good to eat

The dishrag that I got

from Mama

I see her hands washing the dishes and

wiping down the counter

with this one–her favorite color


She loved washing dishes by hand

the warm water helped her arthritis

“Besides, it’s just me” she said, and

so she rarely ran the dishwasher

As I rinse and load

I remember the lesson she taught me

“A dishwasher will last longer if you don’t

work it so hard–rinse your dishes”

She thought the loading was like a Tetris puzzle

she could always fit in one more thing,

after all

she did once “fit a five foot swimming pool

in a little bitty Falcon”

That’s family lore there

As I rinse the remnants of another meal done

I give thanks

for those who grew it, prepared it, sold it,

transported it, sold it to me,

and I give thanks that I am able to cook–

nothing fancy, mind you

but it’ll do

and I give thanks that we have so many dirty dishes

at each mealtime

because that is more love and laughter to go around

At the bottom of the sink what Mama used to call

“dinner dandruff”

I used to marvel that she could reach in

and touch the stuff–ewwww

And now I watch my own hands,

not totally unlike hers

as I finish clearing out the sink

I find the dishwasher soap from underneath

and pour it in

I press a button and give thanks for this

gift of modern technology

the invention of someone who wanted to

change the world

and she did (or he maybe?)

Tomorrow I will do this all over again

and likely it won’t feel the same

It is easier not to feel and

hard to always think and give thanks

in all

but for tonight

I’m on Holy Ground

standing over my sink

in my bare feet





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.



GPS Coordinates for Grace–About Losing, Seeking, and Finding


Today we went out geocaching for the first time with our friends from The Light at Bare Bulb Coffee.  They are like family to us, this group of folks who set out to try something new and learn a little about seeking and finding and apparently, patience.  And all about accepting there are some things we will never find no matter how hard we look.  We used GPS coordinates to seek the little treasures hidden along the trails, working together, poking and digging and laughing and pondering where would be the perfect hiding place.  Ah those tricky clues!

Our Geocaching Adventure today--a first for me and mine.

Our Geocaching Adventure today–a first for me and mine.

It was a beautiful day for wearing hoodies and vests and jackets and watching the patterns on the ground the sunlight made as it filtered through the trees.  At times it was hard to tell the difference between the grownups and the children.  In the end we arrived back at the starting point, having actually found one geocache and all with smiles on our faces.


Aub opened up the back door and called out that we’d been robbed.  Her purse that she had left under her sister’s jacket in the backseat was open and things were strewn all over the backseat.  When we realized it was her wallet, The Fella asked me about mine.  I opened the front door and looked down under the seat where I’d left it.  Nothing seemed to be disturbed.  Thank goodness.  As Aub searched it seemed that all they absconded with was her cash.  Which was sad enough, but not as bad as it could have been.  Rightfully so she was pretty upset.  As we began the drive home, tensions were high and our Princess started crying.  Aub turned to her, and Princess said, “I lost something too.  My DS.”  Remember how much she and Cooter wanted one of these?  I got really good bargains on the local bookoo site.  Bless her heart, she has done a really good job of taking care of it.  It’s not her fault someone reached in and took what wasn’t theirs.

Oh the tears.  Her heart was broken and suddenly what had been so wonderful was marred.  When we got home, Aub shook her head in anger and said, “I’m more mad about the DS than I am the money.”  She looked at her little sister.  “She will never be the same again.”

I know.  I know, and it makes me sad.

When I was little we didn’t lock our doors.  We lived in a little row of brick houses over on Boy Scout Road and all was safe.  There was a little girl living next door and sometimes we played together, though for the life of me, I can’t remember her name now.  One evening I told her I couldn’t play long because we were going to KMart after supper.  It was a pretty special event, because it was rare we did evening shopping trips like that.  When we returned home after dark, a light was on in the house and Mama’s jewelry box had been gone through.  The one thing missing?  Her ten commandments charm bracelet.  I’m not making this up folks.  I’m not sure exactly what all transpired, but the next day the little girl was at our front door apologizing and returning the bracelet.

Even though I knew who had done it and all was back in its proper place, my world had been changed.  To think that someone was in my house, my safe place, when I wasn’t there and I didn’t know about it.  It upset the heart, the mind, and the stomach.

Aub was about the same age when the house she and I were living in was broken into twice in a six week period.  They ransacked and took, between the two occasions, her change jar, her embroidered backpack, her VCR with her favorite Olive the Olive Reindeer movie in it, and a video camera that I was using for my grad school project.  It was terrifying.  Especially for Aub.  After the second time we set about finding somewhere else to live.  We moved in short order and got a dog who very quickly took it upon himself to let me know if someone so much as slowed down passing by our house.  Bosley was an awesome protector.

It took quite a while for us to feel safe again though.  As a matter of fact, there are times that the old fears come back full force.  When I walked in my house both of those times, I wasn’t sure if the person was still in the house or not.  The second time I was so angry that it had happened again, that I yelled out, daring him or her to show his/her face.  Yeah, anger can make us do a lot of foolish things, can’t it?

Today I felt that uneasy sensation come back.  That unsettling anxiety and feeling off-kilter.  Someone had been in our stuff, had made what felt safe and secure to us suddenly seem unsafe.  It broke my heart to see the six-year-old little girl in Aub’s eyes this afternoon–fearful all over again.  And mad.  They weren’t supposed to be able to get to us now.  How had this happened?  And then there was our Princess.  Her first time realizing that there’s some mean folks in this world.  She kept saying why would someone do that?  Why?  And, to keep it real, Cooter would pipe in with, “I’m the only one who didn’t get something stolen.”  Ummm, yeah, thanks buddy, keep that to yourself.  Please.

I kept thinking about Mama and how much I wanted to call and tell her about this.  And it was like she was on the other end of the line in my mind, saying how someone needed some praying for real bad.  Poor things, look at where their life had gotten to, taking things that weren’t theirs.  From a car parked at the entrance to a walking path.  Bless their hearts.  And then she’d probably point out how lucky we were that it wasn’t so much worse, to which I would respond sarcastically most likely because I wouldn’t be ready to hear THAT.  (We have conversations like this from time to time.  Still.) But in the end I’d probably say well, okay Mama you might be right.

And I guess I pegged the conversation pretty good. As much as I wanted to come home and hole up and be sad and depressed and mope for the rest of the weekend, Mess Cat wanted me to call her.  She had a Mama story to share.

One day they were on the way home in the car.  Out on the backroads where we live, you’ll pass folks walking from time to time.  Sometimes they’ll “white-line” it and other times they’ll get over on the grass when a car passes by, but on this particular day there was a fella who didn’t seem to be planning to do either one.  He just stayed in the road.  Mama made a comment like she wondered what was going on or something like that, and Mess Cat, being Mama’s girl and feeling protective, turned around and gave the man a dirty look.  He promptly made not one but two rather crude gestures with his hands.  Mess Cat said she’d never seen the gestures before that day, but judging from the look on his face, she was guessing it wasn’t good.

My sister told me that Mama just kept on driving and said, “Well my goodness, he sure is having a hard day to be acting like that.  I can only imagine what kind of day it has been for him. Poor fella.”

That.  That right there.  That’s my Mama.

When Mess Cat told me what Mama said (and sorry girl, I might not have gotten the story word for word), memories flooded back of Mama saying just such as that in different instances when I’d come in sharing the stories of the ugly comings and goings of folks.  She was just about always ready to give grace first and point fingers later (or usually not at all).

And so tonight as I think back over the day, I know that it was her voice that I was hearing when my heart went out to the person who desperately and quickly grabbed what they did from our car.  And it was her voice I heard when our Princess said, “I guess they must have really needed some money.”

I am thankful for a merciful robbery.  It really could have been so much worse.  I could still be on the phone right now calling and cancelling and so on.  I am so grateful that our Princess had a bounce in her step and a twinkle in her eye tonight before she went to sleep.  She will be okay again.  And I know it sounds superficial, but I’m glad they didn’t take Aub’s new GW Boutique Vera bag.  She was tickled to make such a find, and I’m glad that she didn’t lose it too.  I’m thankful for my sister to share stories with and to remember Mama  with and who will remind me of Mama’s wisdom when I need to hear it most.

It’s not been easy today, but I want to be like my Mama.  She was a GPS for grace–she’d show us the way to find it and give it and how to forgive and show compassion.  Her “coordinates” were spot on–there was no missing the direction she was pointing us in, because she was leading the way.  I want to give grace like that–grace that doesn’t make sense at all, today and everyday.  And I hope to show my children the way as well.  But most of all, no matter what else that person stole from us today, I don’t want to let him or her steal the joy of a fun-filled day with friends that are like family.  The beautiful day, time with folks we love, great conversations, laughter over our missteps, and the fun of being just where we were in the moment and not rushing to the next thing on the calendar.  That’s something that poor soul can’t take from me unless I let him.  If I do, then I’m the poor soul.  And I can’ t have that.  Nobody wants to go where those GPS pity pot coordinates will lead.  There’s for sure no treasure to be found there.


Keeping It Real

I write a lot about brokenness in the world.  It’s true.  I see it, experience it, it breaks my heart, so I write about it.

But sometimes the brokenness starts right here at home.

Like today.

The morning started off okay.  When I woke up, Cooter was leaning over me, breathing in my face, whispering, “Breakfast. Breakfast.”  I got up and put on my everyday jeans (which I planned on changing later when we headed out) and a t-shirt.  I threw a jacket over it to take Miss Sophie out for her morning constitutional.  I got Cooter his breakfast and then when our Princess got up, she had hers and we started our school day.

I should have known better when Princess started with Grammar instead of Math.  Always. Start. With. Math. Get that Goliath out of the way first with her.  Just the opposite with Cooter.  Phonics/reading first.  He was excited this morning because he moved to a new book and level, so we got through it fairly easily.

After Cooter finished I made the hot chocolate they wanted.  From Scratch.  I only tell you this so you are prepared to fully appreciate my heartbreak.  I was sitting down to call about some business type stuff for my oldest when I heard an “Oh no!” and a splatter.

And then tears.  (Not mine. Yet.)

I jumped up.  Even though I didn’t want to.  Can I get credit for that?  Because what I did after deserves no credit.

I sent them and the puppy (it was hot CHOCOLATE after all) away to another room.  I mumbled and ranted and fussed to myself as I wiped up the mess and tried to treat the fabric seat that was now soaked (really wanting those all wood chairs NOW).  I bemoaned the fact that my steam mop is NOT working right now.  I sprayed with something to clean and wiped again.  And again.  And again.  I washed down the table and set about making another cup for Cooter, because of course it was his whole mug that was gone.  They had made a mistake, and I want them to know I forgive mistakes.  I don’t know if the lesson was a good one or not, but there it was.  And now we are out of milk.

After making the phone calls necessary to clarify the business “stuff,” I got an e-mail that it had been resolved.  Basically what I had figured had happened and had tried for two days to explain to the powers that be (who had not listened at all and had dismissed what I was saying)–yeah, that’s what the email confirmed.  That I was right.  Only it was phrased as this is what we found…..Ahhh.  Yes.  And in what was definitely not my finest moment, I attempted to forward it to my oldest with a sarcastic comment something like “What I figured.  But NO ONE would listen to me. Such is life.  Get used to it.”  And then proceeded to hit Reply rather than Forward.

Oh y’all.

My own frustrations and attitude came crashing back on me.  Here I was contributing to the brokenness and the hurt in the world.  I immediately wrote again, asking for forgiveness and apologizing for my rudeness and sarcasm.  She gave me grace I didn’t deserve and laughed it off, which went a long way towards me changing my attitude about the whole situation.  But y’all.  What a hard lesson. I should have known better. THINK BEFORE I SPEAK.  OR WRITE.  Or apparently even think.  *sigh*  I was pretty shaken up over seeing my own MESS so close up and personal.  I didn’t like it at all.

Since that fiasco, I attempted to bake a cake for a friend with a birthday, but I only had four eggs and my pound cake calls for six.  I made do, but I was thinking back to Monday Tara, who decided NOT to go to the grocery store and telling her I sure hope she enjoyed her day at home.  I sure hope she did.  And now we are out of eggs.

In the midst of heating up leftover lasagna for her lunch, our Princess spilled half the serving on the floor.  Another mess, more tears.  More frustration.  We are out of lasagna leftovers.

This was our day.  In a single picture.  One broken mess after another.

This was our day. In a single picture. One broken mess after another.

This day has been one of those school days when I should have thrown the math pages and worksheets out the door and just curled up on the back porch with them and read history and science and a great story.  Maybe even re-read “Wiley and the Hairy Man.”  (just that good!) But no, I made a bigger mess by insisting the math get done.  We’re still not done with it.  I really *h-word* the review lessons.  It only serves to remind me retention is maybe not a strong suit.  So there have been tears over the math.  I told Cooter to unload the dishwasher.  He’s a crafty one, and I’m tired.  So he kept putting it off by coming up with other things he thought he should do. He finally did unload all he knew how, and I asked our Princess to take a break from GoliMath, and finish it off.  And she proceeded to drop every melamine cereal bowl we own…..on the floor.  The same floor I have been trying to keep sanitized after a puppy accident or three, and with the steam mop being out of order–well, those babies will get washed again.  Except for the Star Wars one I picked up from the GW Boutique which did not survive the fall.  Yes, Cooter cried.  Real tears.  So did Princess.  After she called out, “Why? Why does this keep happening to me?  Am I cursed?”  (Thank you, Gilligan’s Island, for that one.)

Forget the dishes in this sink.  And just close up that dishwasher.  Miss Sophie was onto something I think.  Bed sounded really good by 2 p.m. today.

Forget the dishes in this sink. And just close up that dishwasher. Miss Sophie was onto something I think. Bed sounded really good by 2 p.m. today.

At one point, Sophie even kindly suggested by blocking the sink that I just give up trying to clean up anything (including the dishes) and go back to bed.

Our own version of Peach Shortcake.  Brought smiles and healing in the midst of our messy day.

Our own version of Peach Shortcake. Brought smiles and healing in the midst of our messy day.

So how do you fix all of these messes and heartbreak and brokenness?  I decided that I don’t want all of that bad stuff to be how the littles remember this day, so I sliced each of them a piece of the pound cake, got some of the Elberta peaches out of the freezer and added whipped cream on top.  Princess said it was the best ever, and Cooter couldn’t talk for shoveling it all in his mouth so fast.  Both were smiling and all of the messes from before forgotten.  Thankful for that.

But me?  I let myself get bogged down in all of it.  I kept on my everyday jeans because no way were we going anywhere after all of this.  I had nothing left in me.  Everything emotional seemed to steam roll after that.  I was sad because my lousy faucet drips unless you turn it just so. And it wobbles.  I am not happy with it.  Or the person who keeps using cups that can’t be loaded in the dishwasher. I was worried about why Princess kept dropping things today–was something wrong? Anxiety Girl showed up in full force.  Stop the madness.  And sadness.  I wanted to call someone and cry on their shoulder.

But no one wants to hear all of this whining.  And there’s that whole no crying over spilt milk thing.  Kudos to you if you’ve stuck it out this long listening to my “woes,” my first world problems.  I didn’t have anyone to call because really, none of this was very serious and the only person who HAD to love me anyway and who ever listened to me whine and then could, in her own way, call me on it or make me laugh about it, is gone.

This is what grief does best.  Waits until your emotional immune system is low.  And strikes with a vengeance.  I miss my Mama. 

It just is what it is.  Why she listened to my whining as much as she did, I have no idea.  She certainly didn’t put up with it when I was younger.

I was so tired and out of ideas that I wanted to text the Fella and say “We are SO going out to eat tonight, k?” But all I could think about is how it is getting dark earlier, and I don’t want to be out after dark.  I’m weird like that.  Dark=being home.  And I thought about ordering pizza from our favorite small town pizza place, but then I started stressing about how much cheese I feed my family, and how we should probably not have that tonight.  *sigh* Am I the only one who stresses over my family’s nutritional needs like this?

So what was the purpose of sharing this messiness of our day with y’all?  I have a couple of blogs I love to read and also follow them on Facebook. This one young woman is adorable in her tea parties and homemade things she plans and does with her children.  Sure, she shares her messes, but even those are cute.  And delightfully told.  I’m thinking there’s no way she’s ever accidentally sent a nasty-gram to someone via e-mail.  It’s a little intimidating and if I didn’t love her so much, I really wouldn’t like her at all.  Just because of that.  So yeah, I’m keeping it real.  My days are not all contemplating the meaning of life from a frog riding on the car’s perspective.  There’s not a magical school of fish that shows up with a song and dance number all prepared to lift my spirits when stuff goes down around here.  Mr. Clean and Justin Case aren’t always available when homemade hot chocolate (sigh) hits the floor or I run out of groceries.  This is what my house looks like.  And there’s a reason I’m using words and not pictures.  (Does anyone else get dressed from the couch in the living room?  Not that we do. Ahem. Just thought I’d ask.)

So it’s time to get off my pity pot.  Sister called and laughed with me over the e-mail and shared her own horror story of a similar vein.  Fella came home and took over correcting Cooter when he crossed the road against our wishes.  Sophie is looking at me with those eyes like she KNOWS and she gets it.  Princess has bounced back to her sunshiney self, and Cooter hugged me twice.  Without me asking.  Aub problem-solved for herself about something that needed doing.  Not too shabby.

So the piles on the desk didn’t get attacked today.  The dishwasher was full and dirty while supper was still in the oven.  (Yes, we actually had a meal despite the lack of staple groceries.) I got the laundry somewhat caught up but nothing folded.  I didn’t get to the grocery store yet again.

So it goes.  My Mama would say, “Well at least nobody’s shooting bullets at us.”  Or “If this is the worst that ever happens to us, we’ll be okay.”  And I reckon she was right.

Still, if tomorrow rolls around and Future Tara decides to finally go to the grocery store, I won’t complain.  And if Mess Cat calls about us getting together and having supper tomorrow night, I’m all for it.  (hint hint) I will welcome a life lesson from a goose or a bird or even a spider, at this point.  Just please, please, no one spill anything.

Because, yeah, that’s one more thing.  We’re almost out of paper towels.

Time to go to bed and try again tomorrow.  As Mama would say, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Move a Mountain Monday

There’s a group on Facebook, the Canny Women, who promote doing instead of buying, and every Tuesday they cheer their followers on through “Tackle a Pile Tuesday.”  They can inspire or frustrate you depending on where you’re at–just being honest here.  Today, they inspired me.

First I had seriously contemplated taking my only day that we didn’t have some place to be and going with the littles to the grocery store.  They’re not a problem in the stores at all, it’s me.  As the day progressed, and we all piled up and listened to our Princess read “Wiley and the Hairy Man” aloud, I just wanted to be home.  I saw a post this afternoon by Canny Women where they asked what everyone was fixing for supper, and there was their slogan–“DO instead of BUY.  Shop at home first.”  Did I have food here?  Yes.  Could we make it without the trip to the grocery store?  (well, I really wanted to get a few things to mix up our snack mix…..*whining*) YES, we absolutely could.  Even our Princess who insisted she was out of shampoo realized that she really wasn’t, and all was well with the world again.  We stayed home, we had three good meals and a snack today, and we actually have enough that tomorrow is going to be grocery store free as well.  A great big whoo hoo!

And even though it’s not Tuesday, I decided to go one step further and make it “Move a Mountain Monday.”  Yeah, piles just didn’t describe what I was facing anymore.  Here’s what was in that mountain–

College advertisements, enticing, tempting, offering my child money and all kinds of perks.  This is what happens when you take the SAT not knowing you are going to graduate a year early.  The other colleges didn’t get the memo, so I have another whole year of her getting college letters, brochures, and catalogs.  All with her name on it, so that part goes in the shredder pile.  Don’t ask me why–I don’t know.  It’s what my people do.

Insurance and magazine advertisement junk mail.  And credit card applications.  Just no.  I do not like change much, so no on the insurance and nobody needs another credit card and dear magazines–if I haven’t already contacted you, I’m not gonna.  Just letting you know.  So these too, the parts with the personal information on it, get shredded.

Catalogs.  Oh good gravy.  Order something from a company just once because it was a special Christmas request for someone you had no other ideas for and from then on it’s catalog overload.  I think I’ve heard that there’s a way to stop the catalogs from coming, but that would require putting it on my to do list and following through.  Bigger gators closer to the canoe–and my brain’s been missing for months now, so that’s not likely to happen.  I can say I will try if someone tells me how to make it happen.  But I make no promises.  The inserts with my name and address and the mailing label all go into the shredder too.  (Once I had a company calling me about an order that I DID NOT place, so yeah, I must not let my catalogs get into the hands of folks with malicious intent.)

Then with all this unimportant stuff are all the things I need to sort and file and respond to.  Bills get paid, but that’s been about it.  I’m organizing and filing for our house and three other lives that were, so maybe you can understand how this mountain got out of hand.  Understand or no, it is what it is.

A mountain of disorganized mess.

I prepared myself mentally and sat down at the desk.  I pulled out my shredder.  It was a gift from Mama.  She taught me how to be organized and to protect myself.  I was so excited to get a shredder, probably more for the novelty than for the safety of it, but I loved my gift.  From time to time it gets jammed.  Which is why the pile of “to be shredded” was escalating.

One of the gifts from my Mama that I will always appreciate.

One of the gifts from my Mama that I will always appreciate.

I turned it off and worked at the tines until it was ready to go.  When I had it whirring, I was on a roll.  I created loads of shredded paper and knocked out one mountain and then two. All I have left to handle tomorrow is my “To Deal With” pile.  And thank goodness, it is a pile.  Not a mountain.

So many thoughts went through my head as all that information was buried in the mound of bits and pieces of numbers and letters, no longer discernible.  Mama was proud of the idea of giving me one, and she wanted me to be able to take care of my business carefully and responsibly.  She would say it took her years to perfect her system, and perfect it she did.  Sister asked to look through Mama’s desk at how it was organized before we started cleaning it out.  Mama was just that good at managing a household and so much more.  I think she overestimated me and my capabilities.  I seriously doubt I will ever have it as together as she did.  There will always be a day in the month that my stomach will clench and I will try to focus and remember–I did pay that bill, didn’t I?  Did I respond to that e-mail?  The answer is most often yes, but that’s how my mind works.  Because my system doesn’t.

The other thought that wandered through as I rhythmically fed the papers of all shapes and sizes and textures through the machine was wouldn’t it be nice if everything we needed to clear up could be handled this way.  All traces of whatever we’d like to leave behind, feed it into Life’s shredder and let it go.  No worries, no residue left behind–that’s a shredder I’d get in line to feed some things through.  Nothing left to carry in your heart or mind.  Just gone.  Swept out of your life with an old broken crayon and a few crumbs from the biscuits at breakfast.  Done.

But that’s not how it goes.  We have things we’ve done, choices we’ve made, things that have just happened, that have our names indelibly scrawled across them, and somehow we have to make peace with that and move on.  There is no Life shredder.

And yet tonight I think I’m okay with that.  Sure I’ve made some bad choices.  I’ve had things happen that I couldn’t and still don’t understand why they did.  But, and I apologize for the cliche’, having my name on those things make them a part of my journey.  And without those bits and pieces of the story, I would not be sitting here with sleeping children and the Fella home safe and sound and a snoozing puppy laid out on the floor waiting to be tucked into her little bed.  It would all be different.  Different good, different bad–not something I can know or even want to know.  It just is what it is.  And it’s okay.  If I were to put all those hard things in Life’s shredder, it is possible that I would only be more broken, much like the paper I handfed through today.

It's okay for the scraps of old mail and advertisements, but not for the bits and pieces of my story--even those I haven't made my peace with yet.

It’s okay for the scraps of old mail and advertisements, but not for the bits and pieces of my story–even those I haven’t made my peace with yet.

So maybe I wouldn’t get in line for that Life shredder if one ever existed.  I think I’ll hold on to the bits and pieces of paper and all those letters and numbers and words and exclamation points and question marks that make me ME.  And I’ll definitely hold onto the ellipses…..for some of the best stuff is waiting on the other side of those.

But I am thankful for my Mama who tried to teach me how to take care of business and wanted me to be safe in all kinds of way, including shredding stuff that could make things harder for me if I didn’t.  I think she would be proud of me for trying today.  Whenever we’d do something we especially did not like, she would say, “Aren’t we feeling sanctimonious?”  And you know what, I rather am a bit.  Most importantly, I think today I started moving more than a mountain of mail and such…..I think I started moving the mountain of mayhem in my life, including the parts of my story that are harder to be okay with.  And that’s something she’d really be proud of.  There was never anything I couldn’t share with her, no story she wouldn’t hear.  She loved me warts and messy mayhem and mood swings and all.  Maybe it’s time I start doing that for myself.  Time to move the mountain of maudlin regret and woes and worries.  Move it out of my heart and mind and make room for more of the good stuff.  I think that would really make her smile.