Why Even Bother?

Life is confusing.  And hard.

Especially explaining it to your children.  About how life doesn’t have to be fair.  About how most of the time it’s not.  And no amount of indignation is going to change that.

People make poor choices.  Every moment of every day, someone is making a poor choice.  A choice that may or may not have any consequences.  For them.

And yes, I know.  You have gotten caught at anything you’ve ever tried.  You’re the one who always gets caught and “they” never do.

It’s something of a catchphrase around here–“Sometimes it just be’s like that.”

And no amount of indignation is going to change it.

It’s like the deputy who sat at the end of our street yesterday.  Our DEAD END STREET.   And he waited.  Turns out he was watching for folks who did not come to a complete stop.  At the last stop sign before the last cul-de-sac on a cul-de-sac.  Ahem.  Slow day in town I guess.   (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about safety, but his three hours at the end of the street seemed a little excessive-we seriously don’t have that many folks in and out around here.)  Anyway, there are people who do the California roll every single time at that stop sign and they totally missed getting caught by him yesterday.  Maybe they didn’t come home during his hours with us, or maybe they saw him in time.  Whatever, they didn’t get in trouble.  And then there were others–the mom rushing home to check on something or the dad who came home quickly to meet his daughter’s bus–who might always come to a complete stop, but yesterday, well…..not so much.  And they got a warning or a ticket or whatever.  They got busted.  And the others? Most likely will continue to roll through and maybe nothing will ever come of it.

And worrying over it won’t do any of us a bit of good.  It just is what it is.

I get being angry.  I get the frustration.  Princess thinks Cooter never gets in trouble for what he does and vice versa.  The truth is each one of them gets reprimanded when and where appropriate and repercussions follow.  But in the big, outside world, I’ve known folks who seemed charming and delightful but were mean as snakes on the inside and no one ever held them accountable for their actions.  Maybe no one ever will.  I have to let it go.  The eating me up inside only makes me hollow.  Doesn’t hurt them one little bit.  And that’s why I know I have to stop.

So why bother?  If it doesn’t even matter, maybe I can get away with it too.  Is that what you are thinking?  I guess I can understand that.  But I’ve been thinking on it and I read something today that made me think on it even more.

In “Whistling Past the Graveyard” by Susan Crandall, one character has the potential to be in real big trouble even though what happened was done to protect the lives of others and it just couldn’t be helped, really.  A friend tells this character to go on, run, that the tracks would be covered.  The person who could be in all that trouble replies, “…..A body can’t run from what they done.  They carry it with them inside.  It fester and spread like poison if it’s buried.  It gotta be out in the air where it can heal…..Someday you understand that too.”  (p. 262)

Amen.  If you done it, you done it, and you have to carry that in your heart.  It really doesn’t matter if you get caught or not.  It has to be let out for you to be able to live and breathe and move on.  For you to be whole.

So what is life all about?  Why bother? Why do the right thing, why make any effort at all if you don’t have a cheering section for all those right things you’ve done in life?  Why try if the only time you slip up, there’s suddenly a glaring spotlight on that and no one remembers everything else you did that was right?

Eula in “Whistling Past the Graveyard” had an answer for that too.

“Well, now, we can all do better.  That’s why we get up every day, to try and do better with the good Lord’s help.”  (p. 242)

That right there.  Truth.

That’s why you do what’s right.  Not so you can be noticed.  Not because we are afraid of being in trouble or getting caught or what other people will think.  Because of that.  Because we can.  Because we know better.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating.  Mama and Daddy used to say quite often, “If you know better, do better, and folks will like you better.”

And another reason, from C. S. Lewis:

20130928-233221.jpg

That’s what it’s about.  No matter who is or isn’t watching, do what you know is right.  And if you aren’t sure, do the best you have with what you have in that moment.  It won’t always be easy, but it will always be the thing to do so you can get up and face that mirror day after day, look yourself in the eye and hear the echoes of folks in the past, and know that you have nothing to answer for that you haven’t already.  And that is worth more than gold or silver or whatever is the next big thing.  That is worth everything.

Celebrating Things Big and Really Quite Small

Celebration.  Jubilee.  Partying with the big fish.  (sorry, that one’s from way back)

This has been a week of things such as that.

And we have celebrated in all kinds of ways.

Cupcakes--perfect for any celebration!

Cupcakes–perfect for any celebration!

Some folks celebrate with food.   We usually do.

Balloons add a festive touch.

Balloons add a festive touch.

Balloons are especially fun for birthdays, weddings, housewarmings, new babies, and so much more.

These beautiful ladies now grace my kitchen.  My new favorite painting by Barbara Wilkinson--"Substantial Ladies Dancing."  Don't you just want to join them?

These beautiful ladies now grace my kitchen. My new favorite painting by Barbara Wilkinson–“Substantial Ladies Dancing.” Don’t you just want to join them?

Some people show their excitement and joy by dancing.

I finally learned to make the granny square triangles for my banner--Pinterest WIN!

I finally learned to make the granny square triangles for my banner–Pinterest WIN!

Some people create and decorate to show their enthusiasm.

This has been a week of new life and love and just all kinds of wonderful things.  All of which we have celebrated in one way or another.  A new baby with hugs and tears and gratitude.  A good week at school for our college girl with thankful hearts and storytelling and dancing with joy.  Progress in learning with composing a new song to sing around the house.  And finally, we have one more bit of news to celebrate as this week draws to a close–

remember when I told y’all Imma need me a puppy?

Here's our newest little one--isn't she adorable?

Here’s our newest little one–isn’t she adorable?

Well, here she is.  And isn’t she worth the wait?

Since coming home to her celebratory banner and cuddly corner, she has spent the afternoon snoozing for the most part.  She likes to run for a couple of minutes outside and then she’s stretched out snoozing–outside or in, it doesn’t seem to matter to her.  She’s also quite smart–she took on our college girl in a match of wits and won.

Tonight I doubt if there are three happier children anywhere else on the planet than right here with the Zoo Crew.  I’m pretty pleased as punch myself.  I’m reminded of Sister’s words, whispered to me in the wee hours of Friday morning after quite the eventful night.  “You know,” she said, with heavy lids, “a puppy doesn’t need feeding in the middle of the night.”  I smiled. “Yes. I know.”

But even if she’s wrong and this little girl needs something during the night that I need to wake up for, I am thankful for this season in my life.  As Mama said so often, “To everything there is a season.”  And this is my season to watch my littles grow a little less small as they care for and play and laugh with this long-waited for puppy.  Everyone needs their own Spot.  And now we have ours.

pic of ME puppy shirt

Know Better, Do Better–Shooting Arrows Part 2

Last night I wrote a letter to a friend who is fighting the victim mentality.  I want her to know that not everything people do is aimed at her.  Or anyone else for that matter.  Sometimes it just is what it is.   So tonight I’m writing to those of us, yes–including myself–who maybe forget we are constantly shooting arrows unintentionally and they must land somewhere.

Dear You (Me, Friend, Acquaintance, Passerby),

Sometimes folks do things that are less than perfect, things that unintentionally hurt you and others.  It’s not meant to be personal.  It just is what it is.  And sometimes it is inconsiderate.  Sometimes folks do things without realizing how their choices and actions are going to affect the folks around them.  And sometimes they do it without caring or considering it at all.

There’s a patch of road that I drive on at least once a day where it goes from four lanes to two.  When I’m heading home there is this merge area that really has little warning if you are not from here and used to it.  It never fails that one car or three will think they are entitled to zoom ahead of the car/cars next to them, and so they do, rather than taking it in turns.  They don’t even look to the side of them.  It’s just how they do.

And that’s how it is in most of these situations.  Folks are just looking out for themselves and they do what they do without even considering how it affects others and the consequences.  It never even occurs to them.

So, umm yeah, this happened today.

My little guy asked me, after being excited that he knew that 5 plus 5 is 10, “Mama, is 8 plus 8 eighteen?”

“No. 8 plus 8 is 16.  See?”

He sighed.  “Well, at least I know what 5 plus 5 is.”

Dude.  No!  Now you also know what 8 plus 8 is.  LEARN from your mistakes.

Please.  For the love of everyone else who shares airspace with you.  Learn from your mistakes.

And don’t make excuses.  Oh my land.  I was married to an alcoholic in my previous life and I have a dear friend who is succumbing to the disease now.  I have heard just about any and every excuse you can think of uttered with the greatest conviction and sincerity possible.  You’re not fooling me.  Stop it.  Excuses like you didn’t know or you didn’t mean to or well, hey, no one ever really follows that rule anyway.  Or everyone else was doing it.  *eye roll*

Your Mama raised you better.  And if she didn’t, there’s a whole world out there who has shown you with their responses to your behaviors that maybe you might want to try something different.  Learn from that.

Just stop it.

pic of know better do better

As my folks said more times than I care to admit, “If you know better, do better, and folks will like you better.”

And as Mama used to say, “Act like you are somebody,” with my addendum, “and treat everyone else like they are too.”

There’s a whole world of folks around you.  Look around with your eyes and your heart and see how connected we all are.  Everything you do affects someone.  The arrows of insensitivity and unkindness and lack of respect we’re shooting off have to land somewhere.  Live intentionally.  Let what you do affect others in a positive way.  Think before you act.  Those magic words “I’m sorry” mean nothing if you are just going to turn around and do it again.  Say them, yes, but MEAN THEM.

But if you do say them and you make an effort to change how you roll, grace will abound and most folks will forgive you–and you will be on your way to being the kind of person you were intended to be.

Our Wednesday book group is studying Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott.  Today we talked about God’s idea of a good time as described by Ms. Lamott.  She shared that it is those times, for example, when we take the time to speak to someone in the grocery store checkout line or let someone go ahead of us at an event or in the store or in traffic or we spend time listening to a lonely loved one.  When we share what we have to give–that’s God’s idea of a par-tay.  I immediately visualized bare feet dancing. When we are filled with joy in our house, we dance.  And that was my vision of God’s reaction to our spreading goodness with our actions–Bare Feet dancing.

We need to make every effort to stop sending arrows into the air unintentionally.  Let’s focus on making those Bare Feet dance.  By sharing goodness and smiles and time with other folks.  Willingly and graciously.  Doesn’t matter if we know them or not–just say hello and smile for goodness’ sake and go from there.  You can do it.  I know you can.  And so can I.

May the Dancing of the Feet begin!

Love, Me

Ready, Set, Go…..

Alternate title: One of the youngest and brightest heads to the oldest and the best

 

A letter to my oldest, as she ventures further along the path intended for her…..

School bag all packed and ready to go.

School bag all packed and ready to go.

Dear Aub,
Funny, I typed Abu first. She’s with us watching over you as you go, you know. I’ve never been so sure of anything as I am that.
I need you to know you can do this. I know it doesn’t seem like it to you, but you have done amazing things so far, and you will only continue to amaze. You have it in you. Just reach down deep inside and grab hold of it. The same thing that allowed you to move halfway across the world and let your light shine, the strength that had you starting over at a new school six times and finding your niche, and the passion that helped you figure out what you believe and stand up for what is right—all of that will see you through.
No matter what twists and turns this path takes you on, always remember that we all share this world, and we all have the same right to be here. Remember that people really want to be heard, so be sure to listen. Not just with your ears but also with your heart.
I know we say “grace abounds” quite often around here, but do you really get it? That means that when you unload the dishwasher when the dishes aren’t clean, I need to be more gracious in my response. And that when our friend calls and says he wants to get sober and off the streets, again *sigh*, we continue to love and support him. That means that whatever story you have to share, I will listen. And it means when your roommate wakes you up, coming in late from whatever path she’s on, you forgive and forget and move on. You see what I’m saying? Grace. Don’t leave home without it.

Make it a priority to learn people’s names.  Everyone’s.  From your classmates to your big sisters to the lady who cooks your lunch to the “workman” who fixes your leaky sink.  Learn their names and say them.  Shows folks they matter, and shows you know they do.   It’s just the right thing to do.
I’m going to mess up. I’m going to be pushy and ask you questions that will tread all over your new-life independence. And I’m going to suggest how you might do something differently. I’ll just go ahead and apologize now. I’m sorry. It’s what I do. But I will try my best not to do it more than once or twice. A week. Deal?
And you’re going to mess up. You’re going to overcommit or forget an assignment or do less than your best on a project. You’re going to, at some point, feel like there is a big old “FAIL” etched across your forehead. Rest assured it’s not. Get up, dust yourself off, and try, try again. Keep on keepin’ on. That’s what Maemae and Cap used to tell me. All those many times I felt like “Fail” was my new middle name. All those times I wanted to crawl under the covers and hide from my mistakes. That was their solution—try again. And you know what? They were right.  They were always right.  But you already knew that, didn’t you?
You are about to meet all kinds of kinds. Try not to judge. I know it’s hard, but that is one of the worst things you can do—for yourself and for them. You might miss out on knowing someone really awesome because you’ve dismissed them based on some kind of first impression that winds up being totally skewed and off track. Don’t be heard sharing the failures or missteps of others. That’s common as pig tracks and besides, it hurts folks. That whole “do unto others” thing that Maemae preached about on a daily basis—that’s what this is all about. You don’t want others telling about your missteps, let those of others go as well.
At the same time, be wise. Surround yourself with strong people who are full of positive energy. It’s not your job to fix crazy or toxic or hurting people. You can be kind, but don’t take that on yourself. One of the best things you can do for a toxic person is to let them go. And point them in the direction of help. And that’s it.  I know that sounds harsh, but in the words of a wise therapist, “It’s okay to choose healthy.” And your Mama highly recommends it.

Don’t let your past be your excuse.  Ever.  It can be a launching point and a reminder of how not to be, but don’t let it be an excuse.  You can rise above those who haven’t been what they should have in your life.  Don’t let them live in your head rent-free.  It’s time to evict them.  Forever.
Make time to laugh. And try new things. Stay in touch with your artistic self. Listen to your music. Sing out loud. Explore and take walks. Give yourself permission to reinvent yourself but don’t change who you are. (I know, I sound like one of those judges on a reality tv show—”be yourself but not so much, ‘kay?”) I hope that makes sense. You are wonderful just as you are, but you can branch out and do more, do different. Swim. Ride. Make your own adventures. You have what it takes. Go for it.
Get plenty of sleep. You know how you get. Sorry, you got that from me. And when in doubt, take a shower. You know how they make you feel better. If something ever starts weighing heavy on your heart, call me. If that doesn’t help or isn’t an option in the moment, look at your painting you created last Sunday:
pic of aub's painting

Because it’s not. I don’t want you to take it too lightly either, but I doubt you will. So, I remind you what Maemae would say, “It’s all for the fun of it.”
Finally, if you find yourself doubting you can do this or if you are ready, remember what Maemae said, “It’s time. You are ready for this.” And as our Princess reminded us the other day:
“Maemae said you can do it, and she was always usually wise, so I know you can.”
‘Nuff said.

Love you, forever and always, to the moon and back,
‘Dre

ps–just for the fun of it–

“Always be yourself.  Unless you can be a Pirate.  Then be a Pirate.” 🙂

And from the lyrics of your new favorite song–“Keep yo’ business off  of Facebook!”  (For those who haven’t heard the song, click here.)  Just really good advice.  Love you.

If It’s Broke ‘Round Here We Fix It

pic of pot lidYesterday I was cooking rice to go with my chipotle lime chicken and peppers.  I love rice.  I especially love it with chili and soups.  This is the best pot to cook it in, so I was very sad when, about a year ago, I cracked the lid, and it was no longer usable.

I tried using a saucer to cover the top while the rice cooked.  It worked okay but getting that very hot saucer off the top was quite difficult and, at times, painful.  I just had to make do.  But I refused to go buy another pot and lid.

It was when I was at the GW Boutique several months ago that I remembered something that Mama did years and years ago.  She had a skillet that she liked to use that either didn’t have a lid or the lid, just like mine, was disabled.  She went to a flea market about ten minutes from the house one day, and she found a glass lid the perfect size!  I remember thinking how ingenious that was.  She was not going to let go of a perfectly good skillet just because it didn’t have a lid.  And that skillet and lid are great partners still to this day.

So as I walked down the dishes aisle of this particular GW Boutique, I decided to give it a try.  And there on the bottom shelf, in the midst of a stack of lids of all shapes and sizes, was this lid.  I didn’t know if it would work for sure, as I hadn’t measured my pot, but for 88 cents, I figured it was worth a shot.

And look at it go!  Perfect.

Mama and Daddy raised us to be good stewards of our belongings and our world.  We didn’t throw things out.  Mama kept a mending pile, and she mended jeans and shirts and all kinds of things.  Daddy changed the oil in the vehicles himself and fixed furniture pieces and cars and squeaky hinges.  I can remember them buying an old beat up desk for a bargain price, stripping it and refinishing it.  It still sits in the same spot in the house at Blackberry Flats.  There was no buying something new for the sake of buying something new.  If you could make the old something work, that’s what you did.  I once found a child’s rocking chair, old and faded at the GW Boutique.  Daddy took it apart piece by piece, stained it, and put it back together.  Beautiful.  One of my treasures.

I love the country song, “Dirt Road Anthem,” sung by Jason Aldean.  I can still remember the first time I heard it.  In it there is a line “If it’s broke ’round here we fix it.”  Truth.  That in, a nutshell, is how I was raised.  The preceding line is “We like cornbread and biscuits” which is also truth.  (And you just gotta respect someone who makes a rhyme of biscuits and fixed it, don’t you think?)

Tonight I am thankful for the frugality and good stewardship of my parents and their efforts to pass that along to us.  I am thankful that there are GW Boutiques pretty close to all of my beaten paths, and that I have three children who not only put up with going, but who ask to go and “pop some tags” on a regular basis.  We don’t buy for the sake of buying, but if we find a bargain, we have been known to get quite excited.  And finally, I am thankful for that glass lid–a link to the past and a sign that I might just be turning into my Mama.  I should be so lucky.

Don’t Leave Anyone Out

These last few days of summer have been filled with some of the best things in life, but some of the best fun has been playing and having adventures with cousins.  As can happen when you mix children from a few families, you often have to remind the group, as Mama always told us when we were going to see our cousins at Granny’s house, “Don’t leave anyone out.”

This afternoon the crew were all over at Blackberry Flats.  I had gone out to give another round of “encouragement” to all the young’uns about playing together well and fairly.  And yeah, “Don’t leave anyone out.”  Our Princess, the oldest in the crew, stood on Mama’s front porch and pitched in her two cents, “Yeah, we can’t do that.  Because if Maemae were here she’d say, ‘Y’all don’t leave anybody out.  I don’t lak (like) that.'” (Sometimes her accent is thicker than others.) She continued, “It’s like when you are having a party and a poor child comes to your door and you invite them in and have them sit by the fire and give them food and turn it into their party.  That’s how we should do.”

Not that we’ve ever had that happen, but yeah, just like that.  I stood amazed and somewhat slack-jawed.

Matthew 25:35, Princess version.  Invite a stranger in and make the party all about them. I like it.

**Today’s Thirty Second Tuesday is brought to you by a challenge from my baby brother Bubba.  He’s been in town, and we were talking this evening about writing.  He teased me about what I write, saying, “I don’t know. After thirty seconds I’m just skimming.  Thirty seconds is all I can give you.”  Which was followed by a suggestion that maybe I could try to write something that could be read in 30 seconds or less.  I don’t know about that, but Bubba, here’s my best shot.  Hope it met the challenge.  Love you bro.

 

Gators, Cats, and Panic Attacks

I’ve been up since five this morning.  And I’ve not had a nap today.  Neither of these things was planned, nor did they contribute to my general pleasantness today.  But I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet.  (Besides I might need it for next year’s Towel Day…..never throw in a perfectly good towel.)

I woke up to the sound of a cat yowling.  Just outside my bedroom window.  I turned on the porch light and looked out.   I saw what looked like a calico cat huddled on the corner of the deck.  Upon closer inspection a few minutes later, I realized it was the black and green soccer ball one of our crew left out there.  Ummm, yeah.  (Note to self–schedule eye appointment.  Soon.)  Rather than being the return of the stray who serenaded our girl kitty a couple of months ago, I realized our big boy, Sugar, had busted the screen and gotten out.  We got him back in and I made the necessary repairs (well, mending for the time being is a better way of describing it I suppose–Gorilla tape is the bomb!).  I couldn’t go back to sleep.  So I finished reading my book in the quiet, which was a rare treat.

The littles and I had an outing first thing this morning.  After we arrived, I saw I had an email from the neighborhood folks.  A gator has been seen in the pond at the other end of our street and he’s been hanging out in some of the yards around it.   So that sounds about right.  My mind immediately went to what could have happened if we hadn’t found our cat this morning.  Sugar, whom we rescued last year when he was three weeks old from whatever got him and beat him up pretty bad, whom I bottlefed and worried over, escaped just as there’s a gator on the prowl.  Oh my stars.  I was overwhelmed.  I don’t want to lose him that way.  Or at all.  I have to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  I could feel the panic rising.  That’s what all the grief and brokenness and hard times of the past four years has done.  I have panic attacks from time to time.  I look like Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc./Monster U.

pic of mike wazowski panicked

Or not.  Not making light of panic attacks by any means, but that feeling lost and “not knowing what to do at all” look that you see in his face?  Yeah, that’s it.

I am working my way through them.  Today I gave myself a pep talk.  Told myself I could handle this.  One. Step. At. A. Time.  And I did.  I talked and laughed with my Aunt.  For a long time. (Sorry.)  I changed some plans and rearranged my thoughts, and by afternoon, I could hear Mama, “This too shall pass.”  She said that a lot.  She’d also say, “Well if that’s the worse thing that ever happens to us, we’ll be all right.”  Or, “Well, at least they’re not shooting bullets at us.”  She was right.  I did feel the worry and upset and panic passing.  Sugar was back to his old self, no longer the crazed cat of 5 a.m. that refused to acknowledge me calling his name and telling him he needed to come back inside.  By late morning he had forgiven me and was back to being our happy, curious indoor cat that we all love.

That's our big boy, being goofy.

That’s our big boy, being goofy.

I am trying to learn not to let these moments overwhelm me.  I am trying not to let people and their issues steal my joy.  I am working really hard on tolerance and patience as well.  These things called Grief and Loss and Death have also turned me into one great big eye roll.  (Can you imagine Mike Wazowski doing an eye roll?  Yeah, that’s what I feel like too sometimes.)  I just don’t have the patience with some situations or some attitudes like I used to.  Is it a side effect of grieving?  Is it my age?  Is it that I think life is too short to waste time on things that really don’t matter in the long run?  Maybe some of all three.

All I know is that tonight I’m okay.  I made it through today.  The gator didn’t eat my cat.  I will find Sugar a new family (due to allergies, it just has to happen).  Right now at this moment, it’s all okay.  It’s different, but it’s okay.  I made a game plan and kept breathing.  I cannot let myself think about tomorrow.  I just have to do the NOW.  And some days that’s as good as it gets.  Oh, and I only rolled my eyes twice today I think.  Not too bad for a Monday.

This is my superpower, so yeah, I've got this panic thing down.

This is my superpower, so yeah, I’ve got this panic thing down.