Fascinating, Comforting, and a Little Troubling

I just finished watching the first episode of “The Story of God” with Morgan Freeman on NatGeo Channel.  This episode explored what different religions from the past and now believe happens when we die.

There were a lot of moments that had me going “Huh” or “Wow” or “That’s really fascinating.”  One such moment was learning that the ancient Egyptians believed that the afterlife of their Pharaoh was crucial, as it ensured the sun would rise each morning.  All I could think is that yes, after both of my parents passed on, the thought that they are continuing on just on the other side of the veil,  that’s pretty much the only reason I was able to get up with the sun each day.  Any thoughts otherwise and I would have given up.  It was an interesting connection with this ancient civilization for me to think about.

It was, however, the story towards the end, that blew me away.  A couple have designed a robot (head and shoulders only for now) that will be a storage unit for memories, beliefs, and values of someone who has passed.  Morgan Freeman met the android which replicated one of the creators.  It was eerie, listening to her speak (the android, not the person).  The idea is that this will allow people and their thoughts, stories, and memories, to live on forever.

Ahem.

I was not able to choose the time and day that each of my parents ceased existing as they had before and left this world.  I am thankful it was not my responsibility to do so.  Imagine, though, that we had had the opportunity, prior to their passing, to create such an android?  How long would we want them to hang around?  Let’s say my children have one such robot made of “me.”  Who would be the person to turn me off and let me go?  Finally?  (Actually, I can practically hear my children, “Somebody go in there and turn Mama off.  She’s making me crazier than she did when she was really alive.”)  Seriously though, I cannot imagine making that choice about someone I love, robot or no.  And I mean, you figure, enough generations will pass, and then the robot would be someone no one really knows anymore…..someone’s going to have to turn G’Ma off eventually.  And let her go forever.

I shudder at the thought of all this.

I appreciate technology and all of its life-saving and life-protecting ways.  But life-preserving?  Like this?  I really hope this doesn’t become a thing.  I cannot imagine what it would be like–all the discussions and arguments about who gets “custody” or has to take “custody” and yes, in reality, when does the whole thing become mundane, and someone has to literally flip a switch and turn the robot, the “essence” of their loved one, OFF.  Or refuse to pay to have him or her “repaired.”

Just no.

Tonight I’m thankful for the mystery of life and the mystery of death, and I give thanks for the beautiful conversations Mr. Freeman had that, with the exception of the robot, brought my soul hope and peace and joy.

Love to all.

Story of God Morgan Freeman

“Story of God” with Morgan Freeman, courtesy of NatGeo Channel http://channel.nationalgeographic.com

 

Maemae’s Holiday Book–2015 Edition

December 17, 1967.

Forty-eight years ago.

My parents stood before a small group of family and friends in front of the Pastor, and with my Mama’s best friend and my Daddy’s Daddy standing beside them, they said “I do.”

And they did.

They laughed, they learned, they worked hard, they listened, they tried, they failed, they succeeded, but most of all they loved.

Through it all. They loved.

Each other.  Us.  People they met along life’s journey.

They loved.

One of the things they enjoyed most was hearing stories about the children in the family–and those who were not in the family.  They loved the stories, and they loved being with them.  Over the years it became one of their greatest joys to pick out books for the little ones they knew and loved.  On birthdays and especially at Christmas.

It has been one of mine too.  For the past two Christmases I have chosen “Maemae’s holiday book” in honor of their anniversary. This being the third Christmas without my Mama right here with us, I spent a lot of time and energy and thought into making my choice for the book this year.

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Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman 

This year’s story I had to think about before committing to it.  After all, it is about a mouse.  Mama was not a fan of mice.  As a matter of fact, she could be downright inhospitable to the little creatures.  She never could sit down and watch “Ratatouille.”  A mouse that cooks?  Food?  In a restaurant?  “Blech,” she would say and shake her head.

Oh me.

But this little mouse named Mortimer (pretty sure Mama would have loved his name too, I know I do) is adorable, and the whole book is whimsical at the surface and powerful underneath.  It’s about making room and finding a place and feeling the love of the Gift given all so many years ago.  Without giving the storyline away, we can all learn something about hospitality and welcoming with open arms from this little mouse.  Eventually.  Like all the rest of us, Mortimer is a work in progress.

As I sit here next to our twinkle-lighted tree with “Mortimer” at my side, I give thanks for my parents who loved reading and taught me to do so as well.  I give thanks for them and their love of children and books and how they loved matching the perfect book to the perfect child.  It was a beautiful thing to behold and to be a part of.  Tonight I’m honored to carry on this tradition, and I hope, as the ones loved so dearly by Maemae and Cap/Uncle B and Aunt B find their books in their mailboxes over the next couple of days, that they will remember the smiles and the hugs, and even if they don’t remember that–I hope they will know how precious they are, that they were and are still so loved, and that every person deserves a sweet place where they are always welcome.  A place to call home.

Love to all.

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As I read Mortimer’s story, I kept thinking of this picture our Princess drew several years ago.  It is all of us around the supper table.  She said that extra seat was in case a special Guest dropped by.  Keeping room for others–at our table, in our homes, in our hearts, and in our lives–that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?  

 

PSI have one copy about Mortimer’s little adventure to share.  I’d love to send it to someone with a little one or not quite so little one who would enjoy it.  Comment below sharing your favorite holiday book and subscribe to the blog and you’re entered to win.  It’s that easy.  Winner will be selected randomly Friday 12/18 at midnight EST.  

Butter, Sugar, and Wise Words from My Daddy

One of my friends posted on Facebook today about something that inevitably happens to many of us during the holidays.

She was preparing a dessert, and she realized she didn’t have one very important ingredient.  It happens.  More often than not around here, if you want to know the truth.  When I wrote her that I hoped all would work out, she shared that she had already looked up how to adapt the recipe on-line and was going to give it a shot.

That’s when I told her my Daddy’s mantra about cooking.

She replied that he was wise and must have been very good to have in the kitchen.

She was correct on both of those.

Not that my Daddy cooked much.  I don’t remember that happening much at all actually.  He could make a sandwich like nobody’s business and the way he slathered peanut butter on vanilla wafers, saltines, pound cake, whatever–well, he had it down to an art.

But cooking?  I do seem to remember a pan of burnt toast when Mama was at the hospital having my baby brother.  But then–maybe that was the excitement and distraction of the birth of his fourth child and not so much an indication of his skill set.

No, my Daddy was great to have in the kitchen because he knew just what to say.

Or not say.

After all, his mantra was based on my Mama’s self-doubts about her creative concoctions in the kitchen.  On more than one occasion when she’d start questioning what she had thrown together or how this or that would turn out, Daddy would say, “Look, you put enough butter and sugar in anything, it’s going to be good.”

This would make Mama laugh.  The grace in those words could work magic.

Never mind that they were TRUE.

I made the Poor Man’s Pecan Pie for today, which is very similar to the Mock Pecan Pie I made in June.  It’s the one with no nuts at all.  Or pretzels.  I saw a lot of Faux Pecan Pie pictures today–the ones made with pretzels instead of pecans, and they really looked delicious.  So yes, we’ll be trying that one soon too.

We took the pie over to Mess Cat’s for our family Thanksgiving dinner together.  When I finally cut into it, it was a bit soupy in the middle still.  Of course it was.  Because I FOLLOWED THE RECIPE.  Last time, I had to substitute for the Karo syrup I didn’t have, and it turned out beautifully.

Still the one who requested it was pleased.  “Mama, it is so good.  I like it better than the last one, ” Aub said.  (The last one which was perfection itself and not soupy at all?  Huh.  Okay then.)

That was when I thought of my Daddy.  And how much he would have loved this pie.  Because when you put enough butter and sugar in anything…..

Tonight I am thankful for hearing my Daddy’s words in my heart just when I needed them. I am grateful for the example he set in loving the cook and appreciating what was put on the plate.  He indeed had a grateful heart, and he let my Mama know it.  He and I shared an affinity for the sweet things, and I sure do miss bringing him sweet, buttery things that would make him smile.

Hoping you all had a day of sharing all the best stories and of merry memory-making with those you hold dear.

Love to all.

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the memories beckon

there is a hole
where she once was
and one for him too
a hole once filled by their love,
their stories, and their spirits
and oh, those smiles and laughter,
music to my soul

quiet now, empty and hollow
and dark
and I miss them

she misses her Love too
the one who once filled her heart
where the gaping hole is now

most of the time
we go through our days
and we are fine and okay

until we are not

then the tears flow and our hearts
break open,
we cannot speak
so we go to stand in the dark
next to these holes in our hearts

we weep in the darkness,
with our arms wrapped around us tight
trying to hold ourselves together

while others walk by
barely noticing the safety pylons
and rope blocking off this area,
because it’s just not safe
for others
who have never known it
to come close
to this kind of pain

but what if it were only made safe
by the presence of others
the ones who would venture near,
build a fire to keep us warm
and pull up a stump to sit with us
for however long it takes
waiting in the silence for the stories
we need to tell
one.more.time.
and the names we need to say,
to shout,
just so the world won’t forget

because we are so afraid they will,
that they will all forget this precious soul
and that one,
whom we loved and who loved
and made the world a brighter place
before they left, leaving these massive holes
in our lives

sit with me in the dark
please
and with her, the one over there
who misses him
and hold us close
until the stories we share
lift the weight a bit and we can walk again
and please say their names,
etch them on your heart

and tell me your stories
about the ones you loved
I will listen and say their names
and we will call out to the stars
for them to remember the ones
whose lights once shone so brightly

and we’ll walk close as we make our path
back into the light
once again

for a while
until the memories beckon us to them again

By F.A. Mac Donald, Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By F.A. Mac Donald, Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rainy Days and Monogrammed Hoods

The rain.
Y’all.
And we haven’t even gotten the worst of it here where I am.

I’m not complaining–when I have the luxury of staying at home and not being out in it, I can find my happy place in the midst of these rainy, dreary days. Cool temperatures? Even better. (SOOOO ready for hoodie weather.)

Still, my concern has been we aren’t really outfitted for rainy weather here with my little crew.

It would seem, I’m recently discovering, that we have outgrown umbrellas. My children aren’t as small and compact as they once were when we could “everybody grab my leg and let’s shuffle walk/waddle over to that building” and I would carry the umbrella just so enough that they wouldn’t get very wet at all.

Now though? That doesn’t work. All but one would have to bend over double to grab my leg.

We have a couple of those vinyl ponchos, but I swanee those things have a life of their own. I shove them into a ball, tucked under the back seat of my vehicle. IT NEVER FAILS that at least once every other day, one or the other of those ponchos has crawled out from under the seat and is threatening to expand so as to take over the entire back of my vehicle. Not okay.

I’m over it.

As it looks like this is going to be a wet year, I finally decided they all could use rain jackets. I finally found one that could be tucked into its own pouch–hey, portable AND it won’t become a sequel to Night of the Living Rain Poncho and take over my world? Good enough.

I took all three children to the store to pick out whatever color would make them happy. Children’s sizes weren’t in stock, so I told Cooter we’d see about finding him one another place. The girls each picked out their favorite. When we went to check out, the sales clerk asked about monogramming the jackets. I had already told both of my girls this was the only and last rain jacket I’d be buying them. It was going to last them FOREVER. When the “m” word was mentioned, Aub’s eyes lit up. She is about monogramming all the things. Everywhere. When our Princess realized what was being asked, she wholeheartedly was on board. It sounded grown up and her sister wanted it, so YES. A thousand times YES.

Okay then. I had an ulterior motive. Maybe if they were monogrammed these jackets would be less likely to be tossed in a lost and found bucket in any of the various places we find ourselves on a weekly basis.

The next question was did they want just the left chest monogram or one on the hood too.

Sigh. The struggle is real, y’all. And I’m not talking about the rain anymore.

I could see in my oldest’s reaction that this would make her happier than a sunny day in Georgia. See my aforementioned comment about monogramming all the things. Everywhere.

Our Princess listened to the question when it was her turn to decide thread color and the like. Her eyes became so bright and her whole countenance was filled with joy.

She even clapped her hands. “Oh, YES! Please! Then when Maemae and Cap look down from Heaven and see it on my hood, they will know it’s me.”

Well.

Ahem.

Bless her. Bless. Her.

If it had been anyone else, I would have called them on manipulation. But not this one. This was all her. Authentic. And precious.

So yes, as if you had to ask, she got her initials monogrammed on her hood too. And the first thing she did after we picked up her jacket was put the hood on and smile. She nodded, and said almost to herself, “Yes. Now they can see it’s me.”

Oh baby girl.

Tonight I’m thankful for the rain and the sun and the thin moments when I feel my parents close. I do not take it lightly that we are able to go and get rain gear just because, and I am thankful for it. I give thanks for the joys that three little letters can bring in all the bright colors and fonts. I’m also grateful that I was able to find Cooter a version of the rain jacket as well, sans monogramming. (He will eventually outgrow his, and y’all know how I feel about hand-me-downs.) Most of all, I give thanks that my children still feel so connected to my folks–who adored each and every one of their grandchildren. I am so happy that they continue to live on in our stories, laughter, and tears.

Wishing you all a bit of sunshine even on the cloudiest of days.

Love to all.

"22 Regen ubt" by Tomasz Sienicki. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:22_Regen_ubt.jpeg#/media/File:22_Regen_ubt.jpeg

“22 Regen ubt” by Tomasz Sienicki. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:22_Regen_ubt.jpeg#/media/File:22_Regen_ubt.jpeg

If It’s Broke ‘Round Here…..

I was puttering around in Cooter’s room with only the intention of being able to vacuum his floor.

I wound up doing so much more.  It turned out to be a pretty momentous project, as we packed up quite a bit of his “baby stuff,” as he called it.  He didn’t want me to get rid of all of it–some we are storing away for “whenever.”  But the fact that he was ready was a big deal.  A Very. Big. Deal.

He’s my baby, you see.

But he’s also 8 and a half. And he’s put up with some things (like the so very precious itty bitty baby pictures on his wall) for far too long.

At one point a couple of years ago we put horses that I collected growing up (some, not all, were the Breyer horses that were quite the thing with me and my best friend) on the shelves in his room.  I asked him, considering he has a few Star Wars things he might like to display, if he’d like for me to put the horses away for now.

After hemming and hawing and me reassuring him all would be okay and my feelings would not be hurt, he said yes, he was ready to change things.

I pulled out the box with my Daddy’s name and mailing address on it–the one he and Mama first packed my horses up in, wrapping them gently in old t-shirts and dust rags.  And I, just as they once did though probably not as well, carefully wrapped each little horse and tucked it away, only after looking and remembering the Christmas or birthday I got each one and the names I’d given them.

The last two I packed up were the ones on the very top shelf.  The ones I’ve had the longest.

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I don’t remember how old I was when I got them, but I think maybe five?  Actually the big one (which has wheels on her feet) was mine.  The other one was Sister’s, but it turns out birds were more her thing.  We got them one Christmas.  My horse came with a wagon and we had a driver and rider dolls.  They had “real” bridles and saddles too.

Then came the time that each had a tail to break off.  Daddy used some kind of substance to stick my horse’s tail back on.  I’m not sure what happened to Sister’s horse, but Daddy went another route in fixing her tail.  Frayed twine of sorts.

And here it is, all these many, many years later and that tail is still on.

My horse’s tail did not fare as well, but it’s still with me.  Wrapped up in a bit of one of Daddy’s old t-shirts, waiting for me to try to figure out how Daddy fixed it the first time and make that happen myself.

That’s the thing I learned from my parents that tends to stand out the most, I guess.

To be a good steward.

Take care of what we have.

And those we have.

And if it’s broken–

we fix it.

Sometimes we have to get creative, think outside of the box, or have a whole lot of patience as we wait for paint or glue to dry, but before we throw it away, we try to fix it.

Tonight I’m thankful for remembering and breathing in my Mama and Daddy’s presence as I worked to pack the horses away.  I wonder if, as they were packing up my things, their hearts hurt as much as mine did as I packed up Cooter’s.  It’s bittersweet really–sad that the years are passing so quickly, but filled with joy that he is growing and learning and figuring out who he is becoming.  That’s an amazing thing to have front row seats to for sure.    Most of all, I’m thankful for the lessons my parents taught me about taking care of all we see and know and love.  About not throwing things–or relationships–away just because there’s something broken in them.

May we all find a way to fix something that’s broken.  Because we at least have to try, don’t we?

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