Dancing With Myself

Cooter recently got a new CD.  He is convinced that listening to it helps him get his Math done quicker and easier.  Me, not so much, but at least he doesn’t WHINE while he’s doing his math, so hey, I’m all for it.  Studying to music is a technique his oldest sister uses, and it seems to work well for her, so I’m waiting to see how it goes.

This morning he started playing it while I was in the kitchen.  Some of the new stuff has such a great beat, you know?  So there I was, cutting up an apple and moving around the kitchen, minding my own business, when suddenly I was all “My hands are in the air like I just do not care”*–I was dancing.

Now I’m no professional and I’m not sure how much moving I would be doing outside of my own home, but y’all, the beat was good and I was in my own home.  So I put that knife down and I danced.

Our Princess still wrapped up in her favorite golden blanket, off to practice the piano, looked over at me as she passed. That look and then, “Thank goodness none of my friends can see you, or I’d be VERY embarrassed.”

Y’all.  She’s TEN.

I’m not sure, but isn’t that a little early to start this kind of attitude?

I looked at her, and then decided to forgive ignore her.  My feet had a mind of their own.

I remember my Mama dancing around her kitchen.  She loved to dance.  She could do the Twist like nobody’s business.  Seriously impressive.  I don’t remember being embarrassed, but I could be wrong.  I probably didn’t dance with her, which I regret, but I didn’t shudder at the thought.  Seeing her dance was actually a glimpse into who she was, other than Mama.  It was intriguing, like seeing her Prom picture with someone who wasn’t my Daddy.  Mama was a real life person before she became my Mama.  And even harder to process, WHILE she was my Mama.

I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around that.

But here’s the deal, my precious young’uns, I didn’t check my “Tara” card at the door of the hospital when I first became Mama.  I can be me and still be your Mama.  I can dance and still wipe your nose.  I can sing at the top of my lungs riding down the road and still get the spaghetti stain out of your clothes.  I can laugh so hard while telling a story until you can’t understand a word I’m saying and still help you with your Math.  I can cry over a movie and still cook your supper.

Just like my Mama did.

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy that music stirs up inside me and for the ability to move my feet [somewhat] in rhythm.  I love that I can still surprise my children, just as Mama did us.  She was always our rock and yet she could still surprise us in wonderful ways. I give thanks for moments with my children like we had this morning.  The one where I glimpse myself through their eyes, and it makes me giggle.  I even give thanks for the almost eye roll I got from our Princess.  I’ve been on this teenage roller coaster already, so I know to buckle up good, because for the second time, I’m in for a bumpy ride.  The reason I’m giving thanks is I know how it turns out–eventually they come around and become really awesome people.

Another preteen in the house?

Yeah, been there, done that.  Bring it.

In the meantime, I’m gonna keep on dancing.

Life’s too short not to.

Love to all.

I kept hearing this song in my head while I was writing tonight.  You’re welcome.

 

*Yes, this is a line from the movie “Home.”  It was really, really good by the way.  I highly recommend it.  Lines from it are already becoming standard around here.  Like this one.  Now y’all go dance.  

 

 

The Next Couple of Days

And so it’s time for the pages on the calendar that carry me away to a paradoxical place for a couple of days.

The days that are so full of emotion and good and hard things that it’s difficult to reconcile them all together in my one heart and mind.

February 10, 2007  My baby, my third and last baby–first son, was born.

February 9, 2013 I took my oldest, Aub, to my alma mater for Scholarship Day.  The beginning of her college life.

February 9, 2013 My Mama’s 24th day in the hospital and the date of her third emergency surgery.

February 10, 2013 I celebrated my baby boy’s 6th birthday with him for about thirty minutes.  The rest of the day I was at the hospital.  That night I signed the papers to let my Mama go.  And sometime after 10:30 p.m. she left this earth and headed on up to the House.

The precious church and cemetery out at Little Union.

The precious church and cemetery out at Little Union.

The paradox of welcoming (my baby) and letting go (my first born).

The paradox of life (my baby boy) and of death (my sweet Mama).

Yeah, it’s a lot to take in.

On the day that my baby boy came into this world, as they wheeled the two of us to our own room they stopped my bed.  There was a button on the wall that the nurse asked me to push.  When I did, a beautiful little tune played all over the hospital.  I remember hearing that same tune many times while staying with Mama at that very same hospital.  Though she wasn’t conscious, I still smiled and told her, “Mama, a new baby!”  I know she was smiling in her heart too.  Babies and little ones were her very favorite people in the world.

There was no button on the wall to press when Mama took her last breath.  Only more papers to sign.  And tears to shed.

On the same day six years apart, these hands of mine stroked the face of one so loved–first my little guy and then my Mama.  One hello, one goodbye.

I wondered if the Universe had a lesson for me when my Daddy’s battle with his Giant ended the day after our Princess’ seventh birthday in 2011.  To go from joy to sorrow so quickly as we remember and celebrate and honor is hard–but it’s something we do.   Every year.

And then this–to lose and gain all on the same day, years apart.

Oh, my heart.

And though it seems paradoxical and hard, it is actually also very beautiful in its brokenness.  This is my fragile time of year.  I am beginning to give myself grace and not set any expectations on what I should do or feel or think.  I just do.  Am.  Be.  And really, these days of love and loss and laughter and tears are the epitome of what Life is–joy and sorrow, life and death, tears and laughter.  And hugs.  Hugs of joy and hugs of sympathy.

And oh my, all of the stories.

As the ones who loved Mama so very much gathered around her bed that night, stories were shared.  Laughter was heard, and tears were shed. But most of all, the love in the room was palpable–so much so that if there had been an instrument to measure it, I am certain it would have set off all kinds of alarms.  Nurses would have come running, and oh, what they would have seen!  Love like that, the reflection of the love Mama gave to each one of us, doesn’t come along very often.

Earlier today I read this, part of today’s sermon given by Hugh Hollowell at Love Wins:

“It isn’t the man’s actions or even his faith that bring him healing – it is the actions and faith of the man’s friends. We don’t even know if the man has any faith of his own. We don’t know if the guy is even conscious. Was he a good man? A bad man? We don’t know. All we know is he has friends with faith, and that that is enough. And it is there that I find hope in the story.” – From today’s sermon on Mark 2

This story and Hugh’s thoughts have stayed with me today.  There have been times on this journey of letting my parents go that the ONLY thing that has kept me going, the ONLY healing thing in my life, has been the faith of my family and my friends.  They have carried me and given me hope, and for that I offer my gratitude.  My faith has waxed and waned over the past few years, even more so in the past two.  That my babies have lost the people who loved them so much–that breaks my heart.  Each time I think on it.  That there is a gravestone in the cemetery with my child’s birthday on it–there are days I just.  can’t.  even.

But there are those who love me who can.  And who have.  And that’s how I’ve kept going.

Tonight I’m thankful for all of it.  Every single “feel” I had then.  And every single one I’m having now.  I’m just as comfortable with the weeping as I am with the laughter. And I think that’s okay.  I miss my Mama and my Daddy every single day.  I look around me at those who know the story and still listen as I tell it over and over as many times, in as many different ways, as I need to–and I am thankful beyond measure.

And so tonight I’ve told it one more time.  One more way.  The story of saying hello and saying goodbye and the years between them that were way too few.  And I thank you for reading and hearing it.  Tonight I had to write this, because I need to let it all out–the wracking sobs and the heartache.  Because on Tuesday, I will make it all about my baby boy. Who isn’t so much of a baby anymore.

Because I know if I don’t, I will be disappointing my Mama.  My Mama, who never would have chosen to leave when she did, and who adored that little guy like he was the best thing since sliced bread.  Or chocolate milk.  She loved all of her grandchildren that way, and I’ve felt her pushing me the past few days to go on and get this out.  So that we can party on Tuesday–and all the rest of the month.  Because that’s how she celebrated the day that those she loved came into the world–long and hard.  When she loved, she loved fiercely and with a love that was (and still is) unsurpassed.

Tonight I leave you with a song that my sisterfriend shared with me about a month ago.  This song is my heart right now.  I hope that Mama, Daddy, and all the others who have gone before us are dancing in the sky…..

that brings me comfort and makes me smile.

Because my Mama sure did love to dance.

Love to all.

 

I Wanna Come Back As…..

Growing up I remember Mama being in the middle of her day to dailies, blowing upwards to move the hair out of her eyes, sighing, and saying, “When I come back, I’m coming back as a show horse.  This work horse deal is for the birds.”

Oh Mama.  You’re so funny.

I thought she was.  And yet, now I get it.  Bless her, she worked hard on loving us and proving that she did with good food, a clean house, clean clothes that fit, and all the hugs we could handle.  We never lacked for anything we needed.

Walking Miss Sophie

Walking Miss Sophie

Yesterday morning as I took Miss Sophie out for her morning constitutional, I was wishing she would hurry along and let the spirit “move” her.  Of course all she could think about was sniffing every square inch of grass and sidewalk and keeping tabs on the bricklayers as they worked across the street.  All I could think about was how cold I was.

My hands were frozen.  My toes were like ice.  I could no longer feel my nose.  And I looked down at my little ball of fluff and wondered, How are you not freezing?

I mean, I know she’s covered with a nice winter coat, but those paws–really?  How was she NOT in a hurry to get her business done and let’s go settle by the fire?

And I thought about how amazing a dog’s paws are.

Tough enough to withstand walking on all kinds of surfaces–hard, rough, soft, rocky, slippery–and in all kinds of temperatures–hot, cold, and everything in between.  She wasn’t crying or whining about the temperature or conditions.

And that’s when I decided–

I wanna come back as a dog’s paw.

All this winter, my feet have been frozen.  It’s almost more than I can bear–cold feet.  And it goes all the way up and chills me to the bone all over.  When Miss Sophie decides to lay on my frozen toes, I stop and give thanks, I’m so happy.

So yes, coming back as a dog’s paw might help with the whole being cold problem, but it’s more than that.

A dog’s paw is resilient.  And keeps on moving–even in the worst of conditions.

It holds up no matter the heat or the cold.  And it’s flexible.  Have you ever pushed on your puppy’s paw?  Amazing.

Because I know in this life, things are never predictable.  Our lives can go from hot to cold in a heartbeat, and THEY DO.  Tough times ARE going to happen.  Being flexible is the key to survival in a lot of my days.

To be able to hold up under pressure, no matter the circumstances, and keep on putting one foot in front of the other.

Yes, please.  THAT.

Tonight I’m thankful for my ball of fluffy love.  She’s quirky just like the rest of us, and I love her.  I’m thankful for walks and that we have a safe place to do that.  I do not take that lightly.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the memory of Mama and her laughter that has echoed in my heart and head today.

(I know this was a far-fetched train of thought, but I’ve been thinking a lot about being resilient and strong, especially when life throws you curveballs like rain and cold and really hard things.  Also, cold feet.  And puppy paws are really quite amazing.) 

Love to all.

middle of January

and before you know it,

it’s the middle of January

and you’ve only just put away the Christmas

and so your heart would already be a little heavy–

touching her things and giving thanks

that she shared them with you

and all the memories attached

with each little Santa or nativity

or snowflake

 

and you remember those words of blessing said

as her precious hands tucked them in their boxes,

words from your own mouth–

May the next time we open this box

our spirits and our health all be good

 

but it wasn’t to be

and the middle of January comes

 

bringing more memories

 

her smile over the simple cards you made

or the little trinket nothings you crocheted for her

that she always kept

over the many years of childhood

 

her joy and happiness over the lemon cake recipe

you found and made that had no cholesterol,

she tried to take good care of her health

 

and all the laughter once you grew up

over sharing mushrooms

 

she spent years making her birthday about everyone else

finding joy in the little things

making each person who wished her well

feel one of a kind special,

no matter how elaborate a gift they offered

whether a pencil drawing

or a new robe

(there was that one year)

each time she exclaimed

it was the best ever

and the joy in her eyes was genuine and true

 

her birthday

a day to remember and cry a little

for crying in the middle of January

is okay

more folks than a few usually do

 

as the calendar page turns

and I see her name with the cake and candle there,

drawn just as she always did on her own calendars,

my tears will blend in with those for whom

this month is just hard in general

 

I know how they feel

the joy that was just so full and glowing

full of light

and precious

has been put away

and is gone

 

Only Christmas will come around again

soon enough

but I won’t see her eyes twinkle or

hear her tell me how I am loved

or how beautiful she thinks I am

until I too leave this world

 

and so the tears and memories fall

as I blow out the candle

and remember

 

three little letters

three little letters

when put in a particular order

add so much and enhance every word they join

just as we hope to do with those who gather near

beauti-ful

joy-ful

delight-ful

plenti-ful

it is wonder-ful

what those three letters can do

but if they are moved just so,

organized into alphabetical order,

they become something that

takes away

that hurts

that separates

and causes pain and loss–

loss of the sunshine of spirit

loss of the smiles and the singing

that once filled the air

and leaves only quiet and the sound

of a thermometer beeping

at regular intervals,

and red cheeks and peaked eyes,

and the worry and

glass after glass of liquids

and emptied tissue boxes

it is aw-ful

 

IMG_6349

 

Our Princess was diagnosed with the flu last night after a long, exhausting day of not feeling good at all.  The last straw was the high fever.  I don’t ever want to see numbers that high on a thermometer again.  What has struck me the most over the last two days has been how lackluster our days have been.  No one changed the Advent Calendar for 18 or 19.  No one has sought after our elf, Christopher Pop-in-Kins.  No one has eagerly rushed to see what the kindness elves offered as a suggestion for the day.  

You don’t miss the sun until it goes behind a cloud…..I have always teased saying she is our sunshine–only with her, we have to wear shades.  Turns out it can be quite gray and gloomy when our sunshine is under the weather.  

As she felt well enough to argue a little with her brother today, I am hopeful that tomorrow will find her with a little bounce in her step…..or a step alone would do.  It’s hard when your children are sick.  

Thankful tonight for catching it quick and for the improvements we’ve seen today.  I give thanks for helpful healing suggestions and offers of sustenance dropped off at the mailbox.  I am thankful for the moments of calm I have felt in the midst of the worry and stress of a baby with health issues.  That’s how I know my Mama is sticking close.  

Love to all.  

 

My Christmas Wish…..

Oh such a lovely day.

Absolutely shimmering with love and light, much like the fire I’m sitting by right now.  In much the same way as the sunlight danced on the water at the fishing pond this afternoon.  And just like the candles that lit the lovely old room where we shared stories and celebrated the life of St. Lucia this evening.

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Our folks out fishing, waiting on Santa to arrive.

The littles welcoming Santa and Mrs. Claus

The littles welcoming Santa and Mrs. Claus

Light in the darkness honoring St. Lucia--sharing stories and cookies to remember

Light in the darkness honoring St. Lucia–sharing stories and cookies to remember

Our girl as Santa Lucia

Our girl as Santa Lucia

 

A day filled with good things–visiting Santa at the Go Fish Education Center and fishing off the bridge while we waited for his arrival.  Listening to a precious conversation that Santa and Mrs. Claus had with our Princess and Cooter.  Reading the kind words my oldest’s godfather had to say about her.  Hugs and a visit with Mess Cat–those don’t come often enough.  The sun shining, the breeze just right.  Baking cookies from Maemae’s recipe for Swedish Ginger Cookies to share with people tonight at the St. Lucia Day service.  Putting together a wreath last minute from things around the house for our Princess to dress up as Santa Lucia.  Laughter and sharing stories over good food with great friends.

All of it–really, really good.

My heart is full to bustin’.

And yet I feel like weeping.

I feel…..sad.

Stories are overwhelming me–stories of families in need who can’t give their children the magic they would like to on Christmas morning, let alone put food on the table.  Stories of children in homes that aren’t theirs, being asked for the very first time to dream and wish and the list is oh so heartbreakingly long.  Imagine no one ever asking what you want under the tree–ever.  And then one day someone finally does ask.  Children.  They’re only little for just a little bit–we only have one chance to get it right, to make this world a safe place for them.  And I say we, because it’s up to all of us to care for the little ones of the world, whether we have little ones sleeping under our own roofs or not.

So much hope lost, so much brokenness, so many children without someone gazing on them with love and joy.

I was at the grocery store this morning (yes on a Saturday–but it was a quick in, quick out–it was SATURDAY after all), and I saw a Mama and daughter shopping together throughout the store.  The daughter wasn’t much older than our Princess.  At one point I saw the Mama throw her head back and laugh and then hug her daughter with a side embrace. As she looked down at her girl, love shining in her eyes, the Mama told her precious girl, “Oh you are so funny!”

It was enough to bring tears to my eyes.  The love in that Mama’s gaze.  I’ve seen that.  Every time my Mama looked at me.  Right up to the last time, when she wrinkled her nose in her “I love you” language, unable to say those three words out loud.

My Mama firmly believed that every child should be wanted and loved.  She loved each of hers so very much, and I don’t see how any of us could have ever doubted it.  Oh she fussed and she gave us one more chewing out on more than one occasion, but I never doubted my Mama loved me.  Ever.

And the fact that there are children who do have doubts–who cannot be sure that they are loved–and the fact that there are parents who love their children so very much but cannot provide the basic necessities…..

My heart and mind aches.

It’s like having the flu, but it’s in my soul.

And there doesn’t seem to be a cure for it.

I like to peruse the titles of books.  Sometimes I go to Doubleday’s website and just look at book covers and titles and wonder how the writers chose the design, the fonts, but mostly the words in their titles.  What about those words encompassed the meaning they were trying to convey?

Tonight I saw a title of a book that gave me pause.

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon.

I have no idea about the story, though I have read some of her books.

This is about what those words said to me.

Somewhere safe with somebody good

somewhere where there is enough food,

where love is plentiful, and there is enough so that just enough dreams

that float around through those little ones’ heads and hearts

can come true–

just enough so that hope is not lost forever.

Somewhere safe with somebody good,

someone who will fight tooth and nail and lion, tiger, or bear

to provide for and keep the little ones safe.

Somewhere safe with someone good

who will always gaze upon them with love,

so that even when the one who loved is gone,

the ones left behind will still feel the warmth

of that love.  Always.

Somewhere safe with somebody good–

that’s my Christmas wish.

For my little ones and for all little ones, young and old,

who share this earth with me–

somewhere safe with somebody good.

So that the doubts and fears and hunger pains

and sorrow over dreams that never came to be

will dissipate and never be a part of this life for the

precious little ones again.

That’s it.

It is all so overwhelming that I don’t even know where to start.

And so I pick up the one starfish I see, and I throw it back in the ocean.

And I pray that on Christmas morning the little one will look around

and know that he is loved,

that she is treasured,

and the seed of hope will once again be planted

in their little hearts and souls.

I pray that there will

always be a caring someone there to tend that seed and

help it to continue blooming and growing.

May we all get a chance to plant a seed of hope for someone today.

Love to all.

 

 

Another Trip to the Grocery Store

So today was St. Nicholas’ Day.  And as we are learning about holiday traditions from around the world, we read about St. Nicholas and (a day late–didn’t have necessary items in hand last night–ahem) tonight we are putting our shoes out in case St. Nicholas might do a return trip and swing back through here to fill our shoes with candy.

As I mentioned, we didn’t have the necessary things to make this happen, so after our tree hunt today, I asked the Fella to stop and let me run in the grocery store while he sat in the car with the littles.  I dashed in, grabbed the goodies, and (a rare occurrence) was able to go through the express lane.  I could have done the self-checkout but I worry about whether the sale prices will go through and frankly, I enjoy talking with the folks who work there.

Today did not disappoint.

The lovely lady in front of me was purchasing a gorgeous arrangement from the floral department.  It was a plant with a poinsettia tucked in the bowl as well.  BEAUTIFUL.  Really.  So much so that I had to say something.

Which I did.

“That’s beautiful,” I told the lady.  (It just had to be said.)

She nodded and smiled.  The cashier, Quintavious, jumped in and laughed, saying, “I know, isn’t it lovely?  She got it for me.  I am just in shock.”

He was so engaging and delightful that I couldn’t help but laugh and jump in the game.

“Oh yes, the customers here are the best in the world, aren’t they? Buying lovely arrangements for the wonderful folks who work here….” I teased.

“Yeah, I don’t get off until 7 tonight though, so I’m not sure what I will do with it.”  The cashier looked perplexed as the customer smiled and finished making her payment.

“Well,” I said, “I guess you’ll have to let her take it home with her until you can get it home later, right?”

Quintavious looked at me like I had lost a little more of my mind than I actually have.  “Oh noooooo.  It will sit right here, and then when I go home, I will carry it in the house, and my Mama will reach out and say, ‘Oh you shouldn’t have,’ and I will say, ‘Oh I didn’t have…..’ and I won’t be letting go of it.”

I laughed again–it was his intonation and his voice inflection–‘Oh I didn’t have…..’ This young man missed his calling as a comedian.

After we both said goodbye to the lovely lady and the exquisite arrangement, we continued our conversation.

“That’d be ugly, wouldn’t it?  If I went home and told my Mama that?”

Before I could answer, he dropped his tone.  He gestured at the treats I was purchasing.

A little quieter than before, he said, “You know, not many people know about this, but I am a taste inspector.”

Because of his hushed tone, I mistakenly thought he said, “I am a taste and spitter.”  (Which could, in essence, mean the same thing if you really think about it.)  And yes, I probably do need my hearing checked.  But he was talking quietly.  Apparently he’s been certified and it’s a bit hush-hush.

“Yeah, not a lot of people have heard of it.  But it’s a service.  A service here in the store.  I can check these”–he pointed to the chocolate– “and make sure they’re okay.  You wouldn’t want to buy something bad, would you?”

No, Quintavious, no I wouldn’t.

He’s a giver all the way, that one.

If someone hadn’t been behind me in line, someone who wasn’t taking part in the banter, and if I wasn’t thinking that St. Nicholas will drop the whole bags in the shoes instead of individual candies (I’ve smelled the feet that go in these shoes–won’t nobody want to eat them if they go in without the protection of a bag), I would have opened a bag or two right then and had him taste test them.

Because his teasing reminded me of a few things.

First, life is more fun when we are interacting with people.  I could have stood in the line and played with my phone.  *sigh*  Yeah.  I’ve been known to do that.  (When the magazine covers weren’t particularly interesting…..)  But when we talk and say hello and open the door for conversation–oh, the joy that can bring!

Second, grocery stores have amazing floral departments.  At least this one does.  Note to self–if you ever have to take flowers anywhere…..

Third, Quintavious’ story reminded me of my Mama.  When we were little and she’d bake chocolate chip cookies or peanut butter bars (ah the pre-food allergy days) with chocolate chips dropped in–basically anytime she’d use chocolate chips, she would call us in. We didn’t always know why, but once we saw the chocolate enter the equation, we started making sure we answered on the first call.

Mama would hand us each one or two chocolate chips, saying, “Oh I need someone to taste these chocolate chips and see if they’re okay.  We wouldn’t want to use them if they were poisonous.”

Yeah.

She said that.

Morbid, I know.

But at the time, it was delightful.  She played it up big, telling us how necessary it was for us to check them.

And we never had nightmares or anything.  It made us laugh.  And we felt very important.

Turns out there’s a title for that–a taste inspector (though “taste and spitter” is growing on me).

This evening I was making more of Mama’s cookies and, at the request of the Fella who was taking them to a shindig, I used our Star Wars cookie cutters.  Cooter and Princess eventually helped with the cutting out.  They are getting to be quite good at it.  When the first ones came out of the oven, Cooter wandered over and looked at them appreciatively.  He was about to reach for one, and I stopped him.  “Don’t do that.  Those are for Daddy’s get together.”

IMG_6035

Look at those cookies, just waiting to be taste tested…..

 

Cooter eyeballed Yoda for a long moment and said, “But Mama, I need to inspect it.  I need to make sure they are good enough for Daddy to take.  You wouldn’t want him to take bad cookies, would you?”

See, I’m a pretty proud Mama right now, because apparently, I have a certified taste inspector in my own home. I now know that’s a thing.   Who knew?  Maybe he’ll be able to get a job someday after all.

That’s a relief.

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy of happy memories–even the odd ones like taste testing chocolate chips to make sure they weren’t poisonous.  I love the joy that is in this house when cookies are being made, even when they aren’t for us.  And I give thanks for folks who do their jobs, no matter what it may be, with laughter and a joy-filled personality and who make others feel good when they are around them.

Would it be weird to call the store and find out when Quintavious is on the schedule and plan my grocery shopping accordingly?  That was more fun than a little bit today.  #stalkingnotstalking

As you go forth in your day, may you find joy in what you do and share the light of laughter and fun with all who cross your path.

Love to all.

The Little Girl and Her Books–A Fairytale About Dreams Coming True

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved books. She loved them so much she practically gobbled up each one she held in her hands.  Her Mama took her to the library, and she still remembers signing for her first library card.  She would choose a half-dozen or more books and bring them home, laying them all out open to the blurb–which she had already read before selecting each one–and reread each summary.  Sitting there on the gold carpet in the open doorway to her bedroom, she’d make the difficult choice of which one to read first.

It was only natural that she work in a library, I suppose, which she did.  The same one where she got her first card–she worked there all through high school.  Books helped pay her way through college, I guess you could say.  The girl loved the smell of books and the feel of them and the way they lined up so neatly, alphabetized by author or organized according to the Dewey decimal system.  A world where everything made sense and words were magical, bringing stories and people and worlds to life.

The little girl, who wasn’t so little anymore, had always loved writing stories.  And she dreamed big.  She hoped that one day, maybe just maybe, crossing her fingers for luck and wishing on every star–that one day her name could be on the cover of a book.

As the years went by the girl was busy with life and stuff, and though she still loved books and read as much as time allowed, the girl wandered away from her pen and paper for a while–until one day when the sadness was overwhelming, she heard in her heart her Mama, whom she loved and missed so much, saying, “Write your stories.  Tell it all with your words.”

And being the girl who always (umm, well, no)–mostly tried to do what her Mama said, she sat down that very day to write the stories in her heart.  The ones that made her laugh, the ones from growing up, and the ones that made her cry.  All of them.  And with the encouragement and love of her dear friends and family, she kept on writing.

Then one day her Fairy Godmother came along sharing delicious fried bologna sandwiches and said, “There will be a book published, filled with Christmas stories.  You should think about writing something and send it along to see what will happen.”  And with a wink and nod and a promise to come back when it was spring planting time, she left, reminding the girl to be mindful of the deadline.  After the clock struck twelve, all chances would be lost.

So the girl went to see the Queen, who was gathering the stories, and she was welcomed in and encouraged.  The girl knew just what story to share.

On an afternoon filled with light, sitting in her Nest, looking out at the birds and the trees, the girl wrote her story.  As she typed the last words, her heart was full. Oh, the precious memories attached to one little 4 by 6 card!  Delicious ones too–her heart was light because her spirit was filled with the joy of sharing a sweet memory.

Before the clock struck twelve, the girl hit “attach” and “send,” and all was good. The kind Queen nodded and said yes!

And now, the girl awaits the clock striking midnight on December 1.  For on December 2, the book will be available for all to read. Stories, poems, and recipes from 31 different writers all together in a cozy read–“A Cup of Christmas.”   It is an e-book, easily sent to wish all a merry Christmas and happy holiday season.   And it’s the beginning of the girl’s dreams coming true!

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Y’all, the above fairy tale is a true story.  I am thrilled to be one of the 31 writers who contributed to “A Cup of Christmas,” conceived and put together by the lovely Barbara Barth–the Queen of making dreams come true.  I appreciate her allowing me to be a part of this great book.  I am also thankful to my Fairy Godmother, Renea Winchester, who is one of my favorite authors, and who also has a story in the book.  Talk about exceeding one’s wildest dreams–my Aub was so excited for me, she didn’t even bother to spellcheck her text message!  (oh wait, am I the only one who does that?)

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My text from my college girl after she found out that Renea Winchester has a story in the book too. Note the ALL CAPS–she’s yelling with excitement!   I feel loved. And yes, special.

 

 

So beginning December 2, please go to Amazon and download the book.  Tell your friends.  Send copies as gifts, and check–just like that–your Christmas card list is DONE.  (You’re welcome, but it was really Ms. Barth’s idea. You can visit her and thank her here.)

After a couple of days, the price will be $1.99.  Don’t despair though–all proceeds from the book will go to First Book.  From their website:

“First Book is determined to see that all children, regardless of their economic conditions, can achieve more in school and in life through access to an ongoing supply of new books.

With the help of our partners, donors and dedicated volunteers we have provided more than 120 million new books to schools and programs serving children in need. Yet millions of children are still waiting for our help.

Together we can make a difference in children’s lives. Together we can provide new books and critical resources that elevate the quality of education for children in low-income families.”

I just know my Mama is smiling right now, as children and books and children’s books were her most favorite things in the whole wide world.  Maybe THIS is why she told me to start writing my stories.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Thank you all for reading and sharing my stories.  It would mean a lot if you could make the time to read one more–the one in “A Cup of Christmas,” along with all the other wonderful stories and poems.  I can’t wait to read them all myself.

And now, before I go–

A hint about my story.

It includes all of these things–

 

Candles, cookie cutters, a special recipe, and a girl who shared light and love long, long ago.....

Candles, cookie cutters, a special recipe, and a girl who shared light and love long, long ago…..

 

Love and happy reading to all.

 

Updated:  The book is available now!  http://www.amazon.com/Cup-Christmas-Kimberly-Brock-ebook/dp/B00QB6F35E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417496246&sr=8-1&keywords=a+cup+of+christmas

Three Things (or more) We Learned at the ER

Today started out soon in the morning.

4:40.

a.m. that is.

I awoke to the sound of the phone ringing in the other room.  Once fully awake, I moved with purpose to get to it, only to miss the call.  Hoping it was a weather alert or some such as that, I looked at the Caller ID.

Oh no.

My oldest.

Supposedly tucked in safely in her dorm room at the Oldest and Best.

But something wasn’t right or she would not be calling so early.

I was right.  Something was very wrong.  She’s had health issues similar to this before, but the pain has never been so bad, so terrifying–she felt paralyzed.

The calmness in my voice did not betray what was in my heart.  I was at least 45 minutes away and I was in my pajamas.  I suggested she call 911, but she said no, she could wait.

I have not gotten ready that fast since Mama called me and told me it was time to come tell my Daddy goodbye.   And this morning’s trip up the road to the campus was a long, long drive.  I played the radio on low as I drove as fast as I dared in the darkness.  Trying to distract myself, I flipped through a couple of different stations.  Finally I ignored it all and just thought.  About my sick baby.  About my Mama.  And for a few moments it was as though she were sitting in the passenger seat alongside me.  I felt peace, and a few minutes later my daughter texted that the pain had lessened somewhat.

That was news I could handle.  Definitely.

After five hours in the ER, where everyone was nice, the facility was clean and quiet (come to think of it, I never heard an intercom), and we were given a room almost immediately, we were heading out with news that nothing was seen that could be problematic.  It seems to be, unfortunately, something she will have to live with and deal with from time to time.  The good news is she can live with it.  So thankful.

In the middle of her visit, when they were pouring liquids down her to prepare her for the ultrasound, my girl did what most her age seem to be doing.  She took a selfie.

Oh me.

But instead of rolling my eyes, I laughed.  She must be feeling somewhat better if she felt like taking a selfie.  After we were able to share with her grandmother what was going on, my daughter shared her funny picture on Facebook, hospital gown and all, along with three things she learned today:

Things I learned today: 
1. Hospital gown blue is definitely my color 
2. Hospitals use Starbucks straws, and 
3. You’re never too old to call your Mama to hold your hand in the ER.

It made me smile.  Folks continued to check on her throughout the day and wish her well and ask her what on earth was going on.  I hope that girl knows how loved she is, and not just by her Mama.  But yeah, mostly her Mama.  I adore the ground she walks on, but I don’t hesitate a second to yank it out from under her when need be.

Today was not one of those days.  Today was a day of “poor baby’s”  and trying to make her laugh and asking the nurse to wait to take her blood pressure until this particular political commercial was over, because it really was making her crazy.  Today we memorized the weather in our town and all surrounding areas because we heard the weather report over and over on the morning news.  They really do design those shows for folks who are there for a few minutes and gone.  Seriously, same stuff.  Over.  And over.  And OVER.  We questioned Dr. Phil’s choices, and then questioned if he had run out of normal troubled folks, because it seems that he’s digging deep to find this sort of crazy.  For real.  Tomorrow’s show will be about two women–each one thinks the other is stalking her…..and they’d never met before the show.  Okay, that eye roll I skipped during the selfie?  Insert it {here} please.  I will not be watching.

When I narrowed it down to three things I learned, here’s what I came up with:

1.  This raising children is never over, it never gets easier, and no matter how old they are, when they’re hurting or in trouble, they’re your baby.  ALWAYS.

2.  You’re never too old to wish your Mama was there in the ER with you, no matter how old you are, no matter why you’re there–you never stop wanting her comforting presence.  I know, I sure wanted mine today.  

3.  Good news becomes more precious and appreciated the older I get.  When the doctor said, “all clear,” my whole body did the fist pump, “YES!”  

 

Tonight I’m thankful for that good news, for my baby girl who still wants me to hold her hand, and for the nurse who tied the back of her hospital gown because I had not done it.  (Epic Mama Fail there.)  I’m thankful for the Fella and Leroy who took care of the littles in style (I think they are working to have me replaced by their uncle–he is now their favorite! Adventures and lunch out will do that for a person).  I give thanks for all of those who love my girl and wanted to know she is okay.  I appreciate those who were there to calm my worries and anxieties so that I didn’t pass them along to my girl.  And I give thanks for the voice of one who loves her so and has ever since she became the other female in the family, whose voice quivered today when she thought about what could have happened to her little one–the one she will probably always see as 7 years old and in pigtails.

It’s always a good day to give someone good news and tell them how much they mean to us.  We really shouldn’t wait until they need us to hold their hands in the ER.  That’s a good message to hear anytime.

Love to all.

The Legacy of Leftovers

I cook like my Mama y’all.

Well almost.

She was an incredible cook.  She could whip up something out of nothing it seemed.  She knew what went with what and there were only two times I questioned her cooking sensibilities.

Chicken Chow Mein.   (Seriously, whoever thought that eating bamboo and those worm-like sprout things should be taken out behind the woodshed and given a good *ahem* talking to.)

Easter Egg Casserole.  (Y’all ever have this?  No?  That’s what I thought.  Mama used the leftover boiled/decorated eggs from Easter and put it with the Easter ham and cream of something soup and cheese and English peas and I’m pretty sure baked it with those fried onions on top.  The funny thing is that after ALL those many years of complaining about this thing that turned up EACH AND EVERY YEAR on or after Easter, the first year I found myself away from home living in Japan, I craved the blasted thing.  And so yes, I had to try to make it myself.  Sigh.  Isn’t it crazy what food can do as far as taking us home again?)

And–oh wait.  There were three times.

Each and every time she insisted on putting mushrooms in something.  Ugh.  Mushrooms.

Just say no, people.

And I’m not talking about the little squares that “occur” occasionally in the cream of something soups.  I’m talking she bought the cans of the really big ones.  Seems like they got bigger every year.  And when we all got out of the house, she started spending a little more and getting the fresh mushrooms and cooking them herself.

In chili.  Spaghetti.  On pizza.  In snap beans for goodness’ sake.  Why would anyone want to ruin a perfectly good cooking of those?

She and I resolved our issues in recent years though.  Every Monday was our crash hers and Daddy’s date at the pizza buffet day.  Mama and I would ask for a veggie with pizza spice.  We’d each eat several slices.  And my Mama let me pick off my mushrooms and give them to her.  Something that was never allowed growing up.  She wanted me to learn to eat what was put before me and be thankful.  And once I did that, I was allowed–no–encouraged to give her my mushrooms.  “Why do I want to waste good mushrooms on you?” she’d ask with a wrinkle of her nose.

All righty then.  I love you too, Mama.

But I digress.  So yes, I cook like her but not quite up to her caliber yet.

I cook like her in quantity.

She had a joke with my Fella–“Well,” she’d say, leaning closer, as if to share a confidence with him, “it might not be good but there sure is enough of it.”

Silly woman.  Of course it was good.  She’d given up making that chicken chow mein mess by then, and I was allowed to pick out my mushrooms.  It was ALWAYS good.

Quantity.  I have a family of five to cook for, and much of the time now, we’re down to four *sniff* with my oldest off at the Oldest and the Best–and I still cook like my whole extended family is coming over.  Most nights.  And most nights I have leftovers.  Lots of leftovers.

Can I just tell you how much I love leftovers?

A whole bunch.

And do you know that I’ve only in recent years discovered that there are folks who don’t “do” leftovers?

Y’all.  I’m for real.  I know, I was shocked too.  We were raised on sale with a coupon eating leftovers.  And I loved it.

(Except for those chicken chow mein leftover nights.  Okay, letting that go now.)

My Fella loves them too.  He is willing to eat “whatever’s oldest in the fridge and can still be eaten” on those nights when we’re cleaning out the Frigidaire .  I appreciate that so much.  I can’t imagine if he weren’t okay with them.

Leftovers do a couple of things for me.

First, they save me time and thought and preparation–it’s easy, we’re going to have this leftover with this leftover for supper for tomorrow night, done.  I do try not to serve something two nights in a row, but nobody really seems to mind or notice.  Except for my picky eater Cooter.  If it’s something he doesn’t like, then well, two nights in a row is borderline abuse in his book.

Second, I feel like I’m saving money.  I don’t mind paying a little more for the good beef if I know we’ll get two meals out of it.  It doesn’t always happen, but if I can have even just enough for the Fella to take for lunch the next day, I’m happy.  All about the bargains.

But there’s a downside to leftovers y’all, and please tell me I’m not the only one.

I get a case of LOSS every night when it’s time to put the food away.

Leftovers Storage Syndrome.

The struggle is real, y’all.

I have the hardest time deciding what to put my leftovers in.  I used to be really good at this when I lived with my folks.  I could nail what size dish down to the last drop of the leftovers.  It was rare that I’d misjudge and we’d have to wash a dish unnecessarily because something didn’t fit.  Very rare. It was kind of my thing.

Only now I don’t live with my folks.  And I stress each and every time I have to search for the right container.

It’s almost enough to make me stop cooking enough to have leftovers.

(Hush my mouth!  Did I just say that?)

Remember last night how I talked about my scatteredness?  It’s affecting my kitchen cabinets too, I’m ashamed to tell you.  I have dishes in this one and this one and that one, and something for real sho ’nuff is eating LIDS around here.  I will find the dish but no lid.  Time and again.  What is that about?  I think maybe the socks that keep leaving their mates behind are ganging up and kidnapping lids.  For what I have no idea.  But it’s the only explanation I’ve been able to come up with so far.

I have nice storage stuff too.  I just can’t get it together for storing.  So yes, I’m also embarrassed to tell you, that the other day when I had sloppy joes leftover, I grabbed what I could find because I was so tired of looking for the “right dish” and threw it in, snapped the lid and put it in the fridge. Done.

 

There was more in there, but yeah, it was an oversized choice.  I've lost my touch.

There was more in there, but yeah, it was an oversized choice. I’ve lost my touch.

And so every night when I go to have my yogurt, I have to double-check that it’s not my sloppy joes waiting to be eaten again.

Ah well, I’m grateful for clear lids.

Tonight I’m thankful for memories of my Mama in the kitchen.  She could work magic in there.  She showed us how much she loved us in that room.  So much laughter and teasing and  teamwork and storytelling went on in that kitchen, and it was all because of her.

I’m also thankful for the gift of leftovers. And folks who will gladly eat them.  That I even have dishes to put them in at all is also a gift, and I appreciate that.  I know how lucky I am, I do.  But I am also grateful for the ability to laugh at myself and shake my head and look at my chaos and shrug.  It’s just the season.  Fingers crossed “this too shall pass,” as my Mama used to say so often, and I will get organized, I won’t have LOSS anymore, and I will once again be the Queen of Sizing Up the Right Dish.

Until then.  Ah well, better to keep laughing, right?

Wishing you all just enough leftovers and love to all.