Passing Down the Grace

Today I picked up the book 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts by R. J. Palacio and thumbed through it for a minute.  This quote jumped out at me:

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These words made me think of my parents.  While I know they weren’t perfect, and I’m sure this wasn’t always the case, when I knew them, they were wise.  Some of the wisest folks I knew.  And as I got older, their wisdom (it couldn’t have been my perspective, right?) only grew.

And yet, I like this quote.  A lot.  It gives me the grace to take my own path, to trek in places that my folks never went and might never have wanted to go–and yet, their lessons about being good stewards of our world and all what inhabit it, their lessons about loving one another, about kindness and respect and giving–all of those things they sought and sought to teach us, they are in my knapsack as I make my own way.

seeking what they sought
but in my own way

With these words, Bashō-san, a 17th century Japanese poet, gives me the grace I have long looked for.  That I don’t have to do everything just as Mama and Daddy did, as long as I keep the big picture in mind.  I can remember what they taught me and what they were seeking…..and head out thataway.  On my own path.

Grace.  I am not my parents.  But I can honor them with how I live, even if it looks different from what they might have chosen.

Today I was “mother henning” my oldest–pecking and pushing and making all the suggestions about how she should handle this or that.  As I was typing my next message, wanting to “suggest” one last thing to her, I wrote, “And while I am mothering you…..”

only the word police, also known as Ms. AutoCorrect, not only didn’t like my word choice, she knew better.  She knows me and she knows my girl, apparently, because, in the words of the young folks, I got served.

AutoCorrect changed it to “And while I am not being you…..”

Ahem.  Well.  AC, you can just drop the mic and walk away, because what you said…..

truth.

I hear you.  I get it.

I am not being my girl.

And she is not being me.

And that is a beautiful and wonderful and magnificent thing.  That we can all be different and yet have some of the same things on our hearts–that we can live those things out in different ways, on different paths, with different styles and dreams and plans for reaching the same goal.  That is really good stuff.

Peace.  Kindness.  Love.  Justice.  Mercy.  Compassion.  Laughter.  Joy.

All the good things.  With so many paths to find it.  And so many ways to show it.

All the love.

Tonight I am thankful for a message that came to me not once but twice today.  And I’m thankful that when I was given this grace, I was reminded to pass it on to my own fabulous daughter who is no longer a child, but a young adult–filled with her own dreams and goals and beliefs and her own plans for seeking many of the same things I’ve been going after all these years.

Just looks a little different, that’s all.

And that is absolutely, slap dab, downright wonderful.

Somehow it makes this journey a little easier knowing that.  We can do it together–we just don’t have to be each other while doing it.

May you find the message of grace you need today in a book or billboard or in your very own heart.  Or maybe even in AutoCorrect.  It can happen.

Love to all.

Daddy and the Stale Vanilla Wafers

My Daddy loved stale vanilla wafers.

I learned to love them too. Or rather, I should say, I learned I loved them too.

Because, yes.

Very good.  The flavor is no different, but it’s all about the texture.

Daddy and I never really talked about our preference.  I just know that there was a feeling of comfort to walk in the house, open that first cabinet door to the right of the refrigerator and find a box of vanilla wafers with the top of the box closed but the bag standing wide open on the inside.   The way that some things never changed made me happy.

Vanilla wafers were the first things not on the list of fruits and veggies and cereals that I was giving my children that Daddy handed each one of them.  And they loved them…..and loved him for it.  How could I be mad when I saw the look of sheer joy on their faces as they beamed, faces and hands and probably shirts covered in vanilla wafer goop that becomes much like glue?  I can remember one of my three barely being able to open her eyes because of the goop surrounding them.  But there was no mistaking that smile.  Grin wide open.

So I’m not sure what it is about the stale wafers that is so appealing, but I was reminded of it when I grabbed one of the Fella’s sweet potato chips (yes, we have separate bags–that’s a story for another night though–the struggle is real, is all I’m saying), and I realized it was a little stale because the bag hadn’t been closed properly. (And–Georgia humidity.)

I was happy.  That chip was the perfect texture.

And all I can think is there is something comforting about things–food and people and the like–who take in their surroundings and assimilate.  You know, those that don’t have so many artificial ingredients that they stand up, and it’s like nothing can affect them at all.

I like a little compassion, I guess.  In my people and my wafers and chips, apparently.

Tonight, I’m thankful for memories of my Daddy.  Happy ones about shared joy and how he loved his grands.  I’m thankful for opened bags that lend just the right amount of something to the things I enjoy.  And I’m thankful for folks who allow themselves to take in what is going on around them and be changed by it.  And still be beautiful and loved.

Love and wishes for a box of vanilla wafers, however you best enjoy them, to all.

By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Riding Shotgun

Some of my fondest memories from when I was little are riding shotgun with my Daddy.  We played this game until he would finally have enough and stop it–bless him, I’m sure it went on way longer than he could have possibly wanted it to:

Me:  What’d you say?
Him:  What’d you say I said?
Me:  What’d you say I said you said?
Him:  What’d you say I said you said I said?
Me:  What’d you say I said you said I said you said?

…..and so on until we’d get tongue-tied in fits of laughter or Daddy would kindly indicate that was enough.  Being a parent now, remembering how much he did play it with me, it endears him to me even more.  BLESS.  HIM.

We’d also sing crazy versions of “Yellow submarine.”  We all live in an orange jellybean, a blue tambourine, grass that’s really green…..

Or “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Cage.”  Yeah, that was a good one.

I enjoyed our times together when he taught me to drive.  There were life lessons going on in that vehicle as well.  All kinds of wisdom imparted on those drives.

As I got older I enjoyed when Mama would let me join her on trips to see my Great Aunt.  Or to town.  Sometimes I’d drive, sometimes she would.  The fun times were great.  The hard ones were scary, like the time I drove her to the ER when she was running such a high fever.  Even then, she kept her sass I loved and her sense of humor I loved even more.  We were bonding across that dashboard.

This is a “thing” I am passing on to my crew too.  We have some light-hearted, joyful, funny, deep, and hard conversations as we travel down the road.  I remember it was on one road trip that the impending arrival of Cooter was announced to his sisters.

Yesterday my Cuz’n helped us move the big things up to my oldest’s dorm room.  He had helped us move her out back in May.  The rule around our house (or so I told him) is you bring it in, you’re responsible for getting it back out.  He’s a good sport.  Willing and able, two qualities not to be taken for granted.  He met us at the house to load up her mini-frigidaire, rug, and papasan chair.  I commented that it seemed like she had brought back way more at the end of her last school year.

He reminded me, “Don’t you remember, Tara? You keep taking things up all year long, get it just like you want it about April, and then move it all back in May.”

Yep. Sounds about right.

As the Fella loaded up in his vehicle with a few smaller things inside, I decided to ride with Cuz’n.  We don’t get to visit that often, and when we do, it’s always a happenin’, as my Mama would put it.  We packed up our mini-convoy and headed up the road to Macon.

What we talked about isn’t nearly as important as the laughter and the shared memories that allow for really, really good conversations between folks who are each other’s people.  Folks who get the quirks and hardly see them anymore. Or at least when they point them out, they still love you and will go off on anybody ELSE who points them out.

Yes. A good time riding shotgun.  It didn’t hurt that we were in his old truck taking the backroads as far up as we could.

It was Sunday, after all.

Sunday drives are the stuff some of our best stories are made of.  Yesterday, I added another chapter.

Tonight I’m thankful for the folks whom I get to call mine.  They really are the best.  I’m thankful for the willingness of good guys to spend their Sunday making sure my girl had her niceties to make this year and her room extra homey.  (The littles and I helped her move the necessities–clothes and bedding–up last Wednesday.)  I’m thankful that no one mentioned, not even once, that maybe next year she could ask to finally be on any floor other than the top one.  And that no one complained we didn’t get to use the elevator.  Good guys, I tell you.  They were smiling and laughing the whole time.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a good day of riding shotgun, laughing over old memories, and making new ones to laugh over in years to come.

Wishing you all someone fun to ride shotgun with–it’s always a good day for a Sunday drive.

Love to all.

For the Love of Kindness, PLEASE

Y’all.

I’m done.  I am worn out.  I am so tired to seeing folks hurting others with their comments and freely shared views on social media and other outlets.

The thing is, they don’t mean to, I’m sure.  These are good people.  And just like me, they hurt other people without even realizing it.  Still…..

This past week there has been a story that has gone viral.  The one about a restaurant owner/manager who yelled at a toddler to stop crying.

And even with those words, my words trying to sum it up in a nutshell, I’ve done what so many of us do–ignored that there is another side to the story.

Two sides, a crying baby, parents who may or may not have tried to calm the child, maybe some frustrated clientele, maybe not, and a frustrated restaurant owner who yelled because she had had enough.  They all agree that she yelled at the child.  She admitted as much.

What has made me the saddest are the people who have come out on the side of the restaurant owner–as if it is EVER okay to yell at a child like that.

Just to be clear with my stance–

In my opinion, that is NOT okay.

Children, as is their nature, are going to have “melk-downs,” as our Princess used to call them.  It’s inevitable.  What happens after those breakdowns is in large part determined by the adults around them.  And when those adults are overwhelmed, things can get ugly very quickly.

My friend, Karen Spears Zacharias, wrote A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder.  That book changed me.  It made me aware of what role we all play in the prevention of child abuse.  With a kind word, offering support, encouragement, offering a helping hand–we can often diffuse a volatile situation and maybe even change a life.

Yes, naive or not, I do believe that.

In response to the story of the child in the restaurant, one of my aunts wondered why the manager didn’t try to distract the child.  With a straw, a plastic spoon, something, saying that this was something a good manager would do.

Exactly.

We’ve been to restaurants where the waitress pulled out packs of saltines from her pocket to give to the little ones.  Then there’s the crayon and paper menu go-to for distractions.  Over the years I’ve learned to keep someTHING in my purse for just such occasions.  Markers, paper, pencil, something to keep them occupied.  But when I was starting out with my first little one, I had no idea.  I had to learn from others how to handle those moments.

And yelling doesn’t cut it.

My parents in their last years carried around copies of their favorite children’s book in the trunk of their car.  Daddy was known to head back out to the car from the pizza place or a doctor’s appointment to get a copy for a child they met.  He also loved perusing the Matchbox cars section of stores.  He picked up interesting and different ones, in addition to the ones he collected as special.  He usually had one or two with him or in Mama’s purse at doctor’s appointments.  To share with whatever children they might meet.

You don’t get much better than a new little car for a distraction.

Notice, I said–in their later years.  After all of us were grown and they had learned what worked and what didn’t.

This young couple in the restaurant–I’m thinking they are just learning too.  I’m sad that there is so little grace for them, and yet grace is being given to the woman who chose to yell AT A CHILD instead of handling it in a manner that would be kinder.

And that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

Nanea Hoffman of Sweatpants and Coffee, whom I introduced you to last night, is a wise woman.  My guess is she gets it from her Daddy.  Yesterday she shared this, in response to the story:

“I don’t care who is right or who is wrong. I care who is being KIND.”

– Nanea Hoffman’s daddy

Amen.

Sounds a lot like my Mama, who would often add–“I’m sure you’re all really very wonderful.”

I’m trying, Mama.  I’m trying.

Y’all, we can do better.  We can step outside our judgments of who is right and who is wrong and BE KIND.

And maybe tote a little Matchbox car around in our pocket for good measure.

.....or you know, Hot Wheels.....

…..or you know, Hot Wheels…..

So many folks say, “I wouldn’t want to be raising children in this day and age.”  I get it.  It’s not easy.  That’s why those of us doing it right now sure could use the encouragement and support and KINDNESS of those around us.

Let’s forget about who is right or wrong and Just. Be. Kind.  That’s everything.

Love to all.

Musical Memories

Over the weekend I got an email from the Georgia National Fair sharing what their musical acts this year will be.  One of the bands listed was the Marshall Tucker Band.  I told my children, “Yeah.  Cap enjoyed their music.”

And then I started laughing.

When I was growing up, we always tried to get Daddy the perfect gift.  For his birthday.  Father’s Day.  Christmas.  And it was always a challenge.  One year we knew he had said something about really liking the music of one particular group.  Between us children and Mama, all we could come up with was the name started with M.

We looked and searched and listened to the radio. (This was pre-Google by the way.) And then, after hearing the latest hits, we knew.

Thank goodness.

Men At Work.

Of the “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Land Down Under” fame.

Ahem.

Daddy was very gracious about it.  He even liked the music on that cassette tape.

But no–I’m not sure how it eventually came out, but it was the Marshall Tucker Band he’d originally mentioned.

Now if you’ve heard music from both, you understand just how gracious he was.

Because they are very different.

I love this memory for so many reasons.

Another trip down Memory Lane happened when Aub was playing music for Cooter to help him focus on his lessons yesterday.  They are both trying to convince me he learns better when music is playing.  I don’t know.  I thought so at one point, but when some songs come on, he jumps up and starts singing and dancing and yeah.  I’m thinking not so conducive to the learning in those moments.

When I heard the beginning notes yesterday, I knew.  And I went back in time almost 38 years.

My brother was a baby.  Daddy had just taken him out for his first ride in Daddy’s old pickup truck.  Mama was cooking supper, listening to the radio, when the song came on.

“Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” by Willie Nelson.

She knew what a big moment this was for Daddy and my brother and when the lyrics played, I think she let out something somewhere between a laugh and a cry.

“Don’t let ’em pick guitars and ride in old trucks

Make ’em be doctors and lawyers and such…..”

She knew it was all over then.

And the song always made her smile.

The two big concerts this Fall at the Fair are going to be Alabama and Rascal Flatts.  Aub said she thought she wanted to go to both–that was a proud moment for this Mama with eclectic musical taste–“but I think I should probably go see Alabama.  I mean, who knows how much longer they will be playing…..”

“I thought they’d already done a Farewell Tour,” we both said at the same time.  And then we laughed together.

I love how music is such a part of our memories and our lives.

Tonight I’m thankful for a Daddy who was gracious and never ceased to amaze me with his “outside the box” appreciation of music.  I think I know where I got my eclectic taste from.   Daddy really enjoyed old country, but over the years “You Are” by Lionel Richie, “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler, “Reason to Believe” by Rod Stewart, and even “Karma Chameleon” by Boy George and Culture Club, for goodness’ sake, were added to his list of favorites.  This doesn’t even include the alternative musicians he listened to and enjoyed.

He used to say anytime he heard “You Are” by Lionel Richie, “I don’t know if he did or not, but he should’ve gotten an award for that one.”  And my Daddy was not one to repeat himself unless it was really important.

Tonight I’m also thankful for parents who surrounded us with music of all kinds and recognized the value of listening beyond the sheer pleasure of it.  I am thrilled that my children have inherited a rich musical legacy of listening to all types of music and that they are able to develop their own tastes.

Wishing you all a day filled with music you love, with one or two new ones to try on for size thrown in there as well.

Love to all.

The album cover I remember from growing up.

The album cover I remember from growing up.

The Stranger and the Orange Chair

Tonight at Evening Prayer we were talking about strangers.  In the middle of listening to the story of Abraham and Sarah greeting a stranger and the story of the men on the road to Emmaus coming upon a stranger, one thing came to mind.

The orange chair.

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My rendition of our orange chair. It was given away years ago.

 

In our little five-room house on Boy Scout Road that we lived in from when I was not quite three until I was nine (when we had six people living there and my parents decided enough was enough), we had an orange chair.

Perhaps I should explain this was back in the 70’s.

Orange was the old black back then.

It sat by the door to the little hall in the center of the house.  The one where the space heater sat.  The chair was upholstered in a lovely fabric.  I’m sure it wasn’t silk but it had a neat feel to it.  It was built all square and quite comfortable.

One rainy (Sunday?) night, we heard something outside.  The edges of this memory are hazy, but I know I was very young.  I remember the open door revealing a dark night, with the exception of the street light, and the rain pouring down.  And the young man who was coming into our house.

We didn’t know him.  Only that there’d been an accident.  Right in front of our house.  He had been riding his motorcycle and what with the rain, he’d laid it down right about the time a station wagon was coming from the other direction.

I don’t remember there being anyone there at that time besides him, and I don’t think it was a hit and run either.  I guess the station wagon wasn’t involved in the accident, but it was a part of the story.

Mama led him to sit in the orange chair.  He was pretty shaken up.  And hurt.  I remember a bustle of activity.  Mama went to nursing school before she started college, so she knew the basic things to do for him.  Or maybe that was just her Mama know-how kicking in.  I think she or Daddy must have called for an ambulance because I vaguely remember others coming in, and I don’t remember Daddy leaving to drive him anywhere.

What I remember most is him sitting in the chair.

And I remember what I saw after he left.

Little drops of blood.

Over the years the chair had one or another “chair cover” thrown over it.  I guess it was because of those little blood stains.  Or because it was orange.  Maybe a little bit of both.  We had some fancy ones–ones with fringe and that foam backing so it didn’t slide.

(Respect the chair cover.  Mama could redecorate anytime she wanted.  Well, when there was one on sale.  Not that she did. But she could have.)

Tonight when I remembered that chair, I realized that was the first time I remember seeing my parents help out someone they didn’t know.  Giving.  Caring.

But it wasn’t the last time.  Not at all.   And the lesson stuck.

When it comes to someone in need, there is no such thing as a stranger.  When someone is hurt or lost or broken or hungry, you sit them down in an orange chair and you do what you can with what you have to change their circumstances.  For the better.

And never mind how messy it gets.  As Mama reminded me on many occasions, “They’re just things.  Things can be replaced.  People can’t.”  And so she threw a chair cover over the orange chair and kept on–helping, caring, and making this world a better place.  (And not just by hiding the orange.)

May we all have the opportunity and heart to welcome a stranger this week.

Love to all.

 

 

The Mushrooms Said “I love you”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What?

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

Because mushrooms.  Just no.

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

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

Yuck.

And yet–

I felt loved.  So very loved.

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

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

He knows me very well.

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

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

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

Mushrooms, Sophie.  And so much more.

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

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

Love and laughter to all.