Be the Kicker

Sunday morning Cooter came into our room, bouncing on the bed.  It being a day of rest, the Fella and I were trying to stretch it out as long as possible.  Cooter is a morning person, me–not as much.

He was excited about the upcoming Falcons game, and he and his partner in all things football talked about the games from the night before.  I may have zoned out a tad during this bit.  Eventually the conversation caught my attention again–when I heard the Fella say, “Yeah, I don’t know if I’d want to be the kicker.  You have to be on standby, ready to be called in at any time.”

The conversation lost my attention again at that point, as I thought about the kicker.  I used to imagine stress as like being the catcher in a baseball game–ready for a ball to come from any direction.  But a kicker, sitting on the sidelines, not knowing for sure when he will be called in…..and expected to help the team out in a big way when he is?  Bless.

Because that’s the thing about football–there’s never a time when you tell the kicker, “Eh, just whatever, man.  It won’t matter.”

Anything and everything that kicker does matters.

That night I was in my think tank (some folks call it a shower), and I started pondering on who the kickers are in my life.  Those folks who are there, on my team, ready to step in whenever, wherever I need them.

Like Mess Cat making the time to come out after dark to pick up our Princess because I was with our drama king, Cooter, at his dress rehearsal.  (Coming out after dark is a whole ‘nother level of showing up, y’all.)  Or my Aunt who picks up the phone and listens and shares laughter and wisdom and “poor baby’s.”  Or my Cousin who answers my SOS texts when I’ve sliced my finger open, cutting up the cabbage for supper.  Or Aub who hangs out with her siblings so I can go do what needs doing.  Or the Fella who takes time from work when things go awry.  Or my brother who listens so well or my neighborfriend who picks up oyster crackers for my sick one or steps up in so many other ways…..my friends…..family…..And so many more–all these wonderful kickers, who are there, waiting, willing to be called into “the game” (and chaos) of my life.  Present, interruptible, loving, wonderful people.

I think we are called to be kickers in this life.  Doing our own thing, sure, but never forgetting we are a part of a Team, sharing the same goal, same dreams.  Helping each other out whenever need be.

Kick on, my friends.

Love to all.

Running Out of Gas

This afternoon I got a call from my Fella.  It’s not unusual for him to call that time of day.  Sometimes he’ll call to see if we need him to pick up anything on his way home from work.  But today, that was not his reason.

The gas gauge is broken in his vehicle.  Well, broken is a strong term.  Occasionally it works, only you are hesitant to trust it, because what if it’s not?  So maybe malfunctioning is a better term.  His gas gauge is malfunctioning.

He called because he had “broken down” right after leaving his office.  Less than five minutes up the road.  He thought it might be that he was out of gas, but then again, he wasn’t sure.  He hoped that’s all it was.

Me too.

The funny thing is he’s always so conscientious about filling up regularly because he never knows exactly how much gas he has left.  “The one time I let down my OCD about filling up the tank…..”

We picked him up and did all that needed to happen to get gas back to his vehicle where it was stuck on the side of the road.  He poured in the gas and then tried to start it up.

Perfect.

Thankfully, that was the issue.  He closed his gas cap, and we were all on our way again.  Back to the day to dailies and taking care of business as usual.

Three things occurred to me as I was driving to my next adventure:

*We do this ourselves, don’t we?  We think we know how much “gas” we have left to get us through all we need to do, but sometimes we misjudge or we push the limit, and then we burn out.

*When we do run out of gas, patience and grace are the two things we need the most from those around us.  When those around us run out of gas, that’s the best thing we can give them–patience and grace.  (This observation is in *ahem* retrospect.  I might not have been the best giver of these things today, and I’m sorry for that.)

*It takes help from others to get us going again–we just need to ask.  Whether that comes in the form of a friend who sits and listens, someone who makes sure we rest and take care of ourselves, or someone who has our back and fends off the gas-guzzlers, we need the support and presence of others to get back up and running again.

Tonight I’m thankful for a vehicle that runs.  And for the Fella making his day interruptible, so I could do what I needed to do after the refueling.  I’m glad that an empty gas tank was the worst of our worries today.  That’s not something we can say everyday.

Wishing you all a full tank and the rest to refuel when it’s not.

Love to all.

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Photo By CZmarlin — Christopher Ziemnowicz [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The One About What Really Matters

All last weekend I could hear the joyful sounds of laughter and conversation as all the girls from our street and one who used to live here gathered on our front porch, making “potions” and “perfumes” and all kinds of things.  Using wood, old chimes from a wind chime, baskets, all kinds of leaves and holly berries, and very active imaginations, the girls went at it as though they had mortar and pestle.  Mashing and grinding and laughing and singing and concocting.  They were having all the fun.

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I stepped outside to say hello at one point, and the youngest girl on our street was holding a big ol’ basket in her arms.  Her smile though–that and her blue eyes would warm anyone’s heart.  She set it down and went back to work with the others.  I turned to go back inside when the basket’s contents caught my eye.

Oh.  No.

It was filled–FILLED–with buds.  Beautiful closed buds from my camellia.

Oh my heart.  I guess I made a sound, probably a distressed one, and that sweet girl looked up at me with her blue eyes.

“Where did y’all get those?” I asked, when I finally found my voice.

“Over there,” she said, pointing at–yes–my camellia.

“Oh.  Ummm.  Okay.” I paused.  Hold it together, hold it together.  “Well, could y’all not pick anymore of those please,” I said to all the girls.  “They won’t bloom if they’re not on the bush. I mean, it’s fine and all,” I hurriedly said, as eyes got bigger, “but just maybe not anymore?”

“Oh, don’t worry, Mama,” our Princess said.  “We left the ones at the top that we couldn’t reach.”

Oh.  Well.  In that case.

*sigh*

So my poor taller than I am camellia with just a few buds left at head height was on my mind and heart all that evening.  I could hear my Mama’s voice, gently reminding me over the years.  People are what count.  Not things.  And I’m certain she would add, not flowers.

Eh.  I would likely have lost a lot of them in a good freeze anyway.

Tuesday I had a busy day, and my Fella took the helm.  While I went from an appointment to a meeting, he hung out with the littles and had them helping him take care of some much needed yard work.  I had started trimming our Lora Pedlum in the front flowerbed two months ago while the Fella was gone for work, but I could only get so high using my pruning shears without a ladder.  And I refused to get on a ladder without an adult close by to call 911 when I fell.  (Because yeah, it was bound to happen.)  So it was in desperate need of trimming all around, especially on top, as were some other shrubs.  There was also an invader in the middle of my camellia bush.  Some tall singular strand of an interesting weed/plant that had reached at least three feet taller than the camellia around it.

Since he had all of this in front of him, my Fella had picked up a cordless hedge trimmer.  (More power, more power) As I left for my day to dailies, he was setting out, trimmer in hand.

When I dashed back home between obligations for just a few minutes, he pulled me to the side.

“You want the good news or the bad news?”  he asked.

I immediately jumped to the bad news.  Was it Miss Sophie, who had felt puny a few days before?  Was it one of the children?  I couldn’t even wrap my brain around what all the bad could be, but YES TELL ME ALL THE BAD THINGS NOW BEFORE I PASS OUT FROM HYPERVENTILATING.

“It’s your plant.  I cut it down.  By accident.  I’m sorry.  Our Princess said it was your favorite.  I’m really sorry.  I couldn’t see that’s what I was cutting down under there.”

My–favorite?

“The one with the buds on it.”

Ah.  Oh y’all.  Yeah.  That sounds about right.

I went to the front door and looked out.

Yep.  Camellia.  Gone.

And all I could do was laugh.

Right?

I mean, last weekend I was trying to hold it together because most of the buds were gone.  I sure am glad I didn’t give the girls a hard time about that–would have been really silly, considering, huh?

I think that my Fella might have been a bit concerned that I was delirious, laughing and all.  After all, just over two years ago I lost it because he chopped up my fuzzy Wandering Jew plants in the flower bed thinking they were weeds.  I mean, LIFE WAS OVER AS I KNEW IT when those plants were chopped up.

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Only of course it wasn’t.

And they grew back healthier and in greater number than ever.

So yeah.  I’m in a much better place now, and really–I think maybe, in the words of my folks, I’m finally “getting it.”

People.  Their feelings.  They matter so much more.

My Fella seemed relieved that Hurricane Tara wasn’t about to hit land.  He took me out and showed me what he had done in the hopes of saving something.

Bless him, he had take two of the bigger branches from the bush and planted one on either side of the other shrubs in the hopes of them somehow taking root and growing and blooming and all the beautiful things.

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He’s been watering them everyday.

Bless him.

How could I not love someone with that much hope and faith?

Maybe it will happen.  Maybe those stalks will take root.  Or maybe they will become very important ingredients in the very busy and intense potions factory I host on my front porch.  Either way, all will be well.

I can always get another camellia.  I mean, I was hoping for a ginkgo for Christmas, but camellias are good too.

But precious little ones sharing their imaginations and picking buds and dreaming and folks who love me and go to such lengths to show it–I wouldn’t take a whole tea garden of camellias for that.  Or all the money in the world.

Wishing you all a sense of joy and laughter in the midst of the unexpected.

Love to all.

 

Christmas Lights and Marital Bliss

Today we finally got the lights on the tree.  We’ve had a time of trying to find time to actually go tree hunting, what with the Fella being gone, and Aub having finals and papers and all the things due this week, and all the things the littles do. And once we got the tree up, we had a time finding our lights we had stored away.  But today.   We got it done.

As I was wrapping the tree in light, listening to the best Christmas music, I found myself smiling.  Growing up, once I was old enough, it was my job to put the lights on the tree.  Every year. I suppose my parents weren’t as OCD about it as I am or maybe they didn’t enjoy being poked and scratched by those cedar trees.  Whatever the reason, it was my job, and I became pretty good at it, if I do say so myself as shouldn’t.

After the Fella and I married, he was the one who put the tree in the stand and got the lights on it, and I supervised the hanging of the ornaments with the littles.

It wasn’t easy, y’all.  I’d find myself going back and tucking a strand here or there, trying to rearrange it without anyone noticing, much like my Mama used to go behind us in loading the dishwasher.  Just a little thing here or there.  Nothing major.

Then came the year of the LED lights. I don’t know if y’all will recall this, but those things are the bane of my existence this time of year.  The blue-white ones hurt my eyes and the yellow-white ones just don’t look quite right to me.  Now if you like ’em, I’m happy for you, really I am, but for me, I just can’t.  Give me the old-fashioned yellow-white twinkle lights and let me load a tree up.  The year of the LED lights, I’d just about had enough.  I can’t recall, ahem, all what happened, but I do remember that the next year the Fella went out and bought me those twinkle lights I love, and I was the one to put them on the tree.  The LED lights we have are put on the bushes and trees outside, and all is well.

In just a couple of days, my Fella and I will celebrate thirteen years since we stood around the fountain at my alma mater and said our “I do’s.” While Christmas lights weren’t in the list, I’m pretty sure they could fall under our promise to love each other in good times and bad, in sickness (ahem) and health.  In fact, I’m fairly certain, that in 37 years, when we are celebrating our Golden Anniversary, when folks ask us, “So what’s the secret?  How’d you manage to make it this long?” my answer will be the same as it is now.

“Christmas lights. He buys the ones I like. I string ’em up.”

I mean, it’s brought us marital bliss this far.

May the lights in your life bring you all the joy today and everyday.

Love to all.

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Hmmmm, now that I look at it, it might could use another strand around that spot on the bottom…..good thing the Fella got an extra.  

 

 

 

One Thousand

About a week ago, I happened to notice my blog post count.  It’s not something I’ve watched since around number 500 or so.  So imagine my surprise when I saw the number and then counted on my fingers to discover that I would hit Post 1000 tonight.

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This is post 1000.

I’m smiling at the timing of this.  This, if you will pardon me, momentous occasion.  I set out in April of 2013 to write.  Everyday.  I thought maybe six months would suit, proving to myself I could stick with something.  But something unexpected happened–it became a habit.  One I grew to depend on.  A companion every evening, with whom I would sit down and share my thoughts or stories or woes.  There were a few evenings I would have rather been left alone, but I pushed through and my soul was better for it.

This has been good for my soul.

So after the six month mark, I continued, and then one year and two and two and a half, and now…..1000.

I have loved sharing my stories because in doing so, many of you have shared yours with me.  Stories are the very fibers of our lives, and I thrive upon them.  I love to sit and hear folks’ stories, just as I enjoy sharing mine.  When we listen, we learn and one of the most important things we learn is that we are more alike than not. WE. ARE. ALL. CONNECTED.

And so it is that the timing of this is so perfect.  For the first time in 103 days, all of the ones I am most connected to are all under one roof.  The Fella, who has been away for work for all this time, is home. Home!  (The fact that I bought a special bag of sweet potato chips just for him might tell you how excited I am.)  My Aub is finishing up the semester and tucked away in her room HERE studying.  Home!  I don’t dare interrupt, but knowing my girl who is one of my dearest friends is right here warms my heart.  All of my people.  Home.

I have big things going on–good things and wonderful things and challenging things.  I have a project that I’m going to put some loving hands to.  I have a coffee shop that I and others who love it are working to save.  I have a family who would probably like to eat something other than yogurt and blueberries or chicken wraps or cheese quesadillas for supper.  (Not that those are leaving the menu entirely, just so y’all know.)  In this season of chaos and all the busy things–good things–I seek a time of Advent.  Of preparation. My soul craves it.

During this season of Advent and reconnecting and rebuilding and recreating and remembering, I’m going to change things up a little bit.  Some days will be writing and sharing stories, but some days it will be 1000 words.  As in a picture is worth a…..

I’m no photographer by any means, but there are moments and things during the day that touch my heart, and I look forward to sharing those with you.

Tonight I am thankful for all of you–my friends and family and others whom I’ve never formally met who take the time to read the stories, to hear the words, and to feel all the things along with me .  For those of you who share my words with others, thank you.  I give thanks for the stories you have shared with me which touch my heart and make me laugh or weep or think.  Thank you.

And tonight I’m thankful for the Fella being home safe.  Where he belongs.  Not just because I need someone to tell me Miss Sophie is okay or haul off the recycling or help us move the scarecrow and pumpkins so the nativity can be put up in the yard.  Because he is loved and as Cooter put it, “Daddy is one of my shining lights.”  I’m thankful this semester is almost over for Aub, who has worked and studied and performed and written and volunteered and made beautiful music.  She amazes and inspires me.  I look forward to cuddling in front of the fire with my littles and reading stories of Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien and making all the merry memories.  I am excited about my project, and I am hopeful for our coffeeshop.  Most of all, I’m looking forward to quieting my soul and listening.  Listening to hear the whispered stories of my past and the story of where I am meant to go, and dreaming of what may come.

Thank you all for sharing the journey.  I look forward to continuing onward with you however it may look, sharing the light and love and laughter.

Love to all.

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The Countdown is ON

Around here we have some countdowns going on.  Several actually.  It didn’t occur to me today which one might be foremost in my mind, in my subconscious even, until I saw this on the road while Miss Sophie and I were taking our morning constitutional earlier today.

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The first thing that came to my mind was, “Huh.  That looks like a TIE fighter.”  And right after I typed that just now I had to look up to see if I even had the right thing or not–I am right about which one, but of course it really does NOT look like a TIE fighter in actuality, but still, you can see where my mind was going.

STAR WARS, y’all.

December 18.

Unlike the other countdowns going on in our home, this one we’ve had on the horizon for over a year.  Ever since the movie was announced and “December 2015” was a far away nebulous thing.

Not anymore.  We are closing in on SW Day.  It’s real.  And we are so close to it that we can all but taste the popcorn.

One week before Christmas.  Another of our many countdowns going on right now.

The anticipation is so palpable, it’s a real thing.  Anticipating all of the good things to come.  One, two, three, four.  All right there together in a row.

Having good things to look forward to is the best, isn’t it?  With all the hard things and the sad things and the downright dark things in our days and weeks and months…..hanging on to the good that is coming…..that is what keeps us going.

Hoping you all have something fun and wonderful to have a countdown for in your neck of the woods.

Love to all.

 

When You Can, Do This

The Fella went on a trip to do the do that he does.  For three and a half weeks.  He was scheduled to come home today.

He did not come home as scheduled.

I’ve had this day circled in my mind, my heart, and with everything that has gone wrong around here–I’ve counted down the days.

The backed up kitchen sink.

The brand new washing machine flooding water on the laundry room floor.

The vacuum cleaner belt broken.

The dryer running hot, and therefore, not at all.

Each thing, I’d say–we can do this.  For 21 more days, fifteen, ten, six, two, and then yesterday morning I woke up thinking, “One more day.”

I almost cried.

We’ve had some good times while he’s been gone.  Cooter tried out and made the swim team.  The littles wrapped up their summer gymnastics fun.  Aub got an A in her summer class, and worked out continuing her summer job she loves so much as a Fall internship.  We’ve visited with friends and family and eaten breakfast for supper and lots of yogurt and pizza.  We’ve gone and gotten peaches, and I’ve put nearly all of them up in the freezer.  The littles have played at their cousin’s, and Aub and I’ve had a couple of “Big Girl” days.  All in all, we’ve not only survived, but we’ve lived.

However, this day, today, that I had circled in my mind, was the day I was going to pass the reins over to another adult and sit down and take a long needed deep breath.  (Oh and someone else would be taking out the garbage. Yay.)

Yesterday afternoon, after the crew and I had been out running errands, doing our day to dailies, I was tidying up in the house a little.  The littles and Aub were scattered around the rooms, doing different things, when the phone rang.  Our Princess answered, calling out that it was Daddy, and then she talked for a minute or two.  After that she handed the phone to Cooter.  I was back and forth between the room they were in and the kitchen.  When I walked back in, Cooter was off the phone.

“Did you hang up?”  He can get easily distracted, so it would have been like him to be so distracted his Daddy would say he’d just call back later.

“No,” Cooter said.  “He said he had to go.”

Huh.  Well, that was weird.  He didn’t want to talk to me?!  I was working up my indignation, when Anxiety Girl whispered that maybe the plane had broken down and he was trying to come up with a way to tell me he wouldn’t be home on time.

I walked back into the kitchen and heard Aub coming in from the garage.  I wondered why she’d gone out there.  I also wondered why she was closing the door so carefully instead of tossing it shut like she and I usually do.  I was about to call her out for doing that, saying that it made me think the Fella had come home early, when I realized I saw her feet in the recliner.

And I saw my Fella standing in the doorway.

With the biggest grin on his face.

We don’t have to go into detail about my expression (goofy), but the only words I could get out were, “What are you doing here?”

And then chaos and laughter and “gotcha’s” ensued.

Seems that the original return home date was only for the first few days of him being gone.  It was then backed up to Friday and had been for about three weeks.

And he kept the secret this whole time.  Every time I’d say “so, Saturday the 2nd, right?” calculating how much more I could handle without losing my cool or how I could do laundry considering and so on–he would reply, “Yep, if the plane takes off on time.”

Ha.

That man had the biggest grin on his face the whole afternoon and evening.  Pretty pleased with himself he was.  At one point I looked over, glad he was home–he had already fixed the dryer, thank goodness–and I asked, “What were you even thinking?”

And he said, “Well, I figured you were due for a good surprise.”

Yessir.  I think I pretty much was.  We all were.  And that he struggled to keep his secret for that long (and believe me, as much as I asked him about it–and even three days ago said “just go get on a plane and come home early”–it had to have been a struggle) makes it pretty awesome.

Tonight I’m thankful that all that fell apart while he was gone, including emotions and worries and vacuum cleaners, have all pretty much been repaired.  Now we are all catching up on sleep and preparing to say goodbye to summer together.

Which is really when we are at our best.  When we’re together–all five of us.  Oops, six–sorry, Miss Sophie. I’m pretty sure she thought something really bad had happened to him the way she refused to let me out of her sight.

If you ever get a chance to give someone a good surprise, big or small, do it.  Please.  There are far too few of those in this lifetime.

Wishing you all something that makes you smile so much you just about can’t stop.

Love to all.

Hands and Hearts Joined Together

Note:  This is not a news report filled with facts about last night’s vigil.  This is simply my story of what I experienced and what I understood to have happened.  The news articles are about the facts.  This is about my heart.  

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Yesterday started like any other.  Breakfast, math, spelling…..and then the text came from the Fella.

He said there was a vigil going to be held at 6 p.m. at the prison where Kelly Gissendaner was to be executed.

Having already seen the announcement on Facebook, I knew, but I wondered where he was going with this.

“I think you should go.”

And with those five words he turned my day and my world upside down.  I offered many excuses as to why I shouldn’t (carpooling children, the drive, not wanting him to have to leave work early…..) And still he said, “Go.”  He even texted Aub, home from college for Spring Break, and offered the idea to her.

As we talked and after I talked with my Aunt, I started warming up to the idea.  And then, in a moment, I found myself wanting to go.  To be there with others who were concerned–passionate even–about justice and mercy and finding a place for them to co-exist peacefully.

As I was cleaning out my vehicle–a job that always needs doing, I soaked in the spring-like air.  It was…..downright warm.  The littles were literally romping in the backyard as was Miss Sophie, so happy not to have frozen fingers and toes and noses.  It was wonderful.

And in the midst of that, I stopped and wondered if Kelly would be allowed to breathe in the beautiful fresh air, if she would know that winter was slowly losing its grip on the world, and that maybe spring would win.  Again.  As she does every year.  And hopefully sooner rather than later.  I just hoped Kelly could feel it and know.  And I cried.

Aub and I met the Fella on our way out of town.  He took the littles and headed out on the adventures that Monday usually brings.

It took a surprisingly short time for us to get to the prison in Jackson.  I was glad I had read the directions on Facebook as to what to bring and do.  We no sooner had turned in than they directed us to turn before the guard’s gate into a pasture/open field to our left.  Having pulled out our IDs as we were told, we handed them over to an officer who copied down our names and my tag number.  There were law enforcement officers, dressed in full protective gear from what it looked like, all over the place.  As I drove to park where directed, Aub and I were quiet.  The officer who guided me into the spot to park under the trees next to the roped off area told us to gather all we wanted to take with us.  We would not be allowed to return to our vehicles unless we were leaving the grounds.  He also had me open all doors and the hatch on the back.  The drug dogs searched our vehicle.

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Aub and I carried our water, our chairs, and phones with us around to enter the roped off area.  On the outside of the roped off area that was closest to the road, the press had already started gathering.

My eyes were immediately drawn to a group of women gathered close.  They were calling out, “Kelly saved me!”  “Kelly is my friend!”  “Kelly told me to get out and never come back there.  And I did what she said.  I haven’t been back in there since.”

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The Struggle Sisters.

The women who have served time and been encouraged by Kelly.  Coming together to support her, even if as close as they could get to their friend was out there in the middle of that field.  Looking back towards the woods that hid the facility from our eyes.

Five minutes in and I was already so overwhelmed with emotions, my eyes flooded.

Y’all.  The story we’ve all been following.  The people we’ve heard about whom Kelly touched and helped.  The woman we’ve been praying for.

All of that is real.  So very real.  And in that moment, my heart broke even more.  This was no story, this was someone’s life.

And while I knew that it was real, it hit me in that moment like never before.

About that time, a woman (whom Aub and I are pretty sure was one of Kelly’s attorneys) lifted her cell phone in the air.  “Hey everybody! I have Kelly on the phone and she’s listening.  How about a round of ‘This Little Light of Mine’?”

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Oh my heart. The tears really fell then.  We all sang together, our eyes and hearts and energy focused on that cell phone and the woman listening on the other end.  Several of her friends called out, “I love you Kelly!”  “Thank you Kelly!”  “I’m still here, Kelly!”  “We’re still praying, Kelly!”

The woman with the phone laughed as the singing faded and said, “Maybe one more time in tune?”  We all laughed and sang one more round.

We had been there less than ten minutes.

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Immediately following the phone call, the woman gathered herself and went to a van that had pulled up.  She was told she couldn’t take her notepad with her I guess, as she walked back and handed it to someone.  She got in the van and it pulled away.  She was going to meet Kelly, I believe.

We stood and got our bearings.  There were different groups of people gathering.  There were many clerical collars, mostly but not all Episcopal priests.  Their Bishop was there too.  There were students whom we believe were from Candler at Emory.  There were the Struggle Sisters, loud and passionate and loving.  “This is not right!” one called out.

I agree.

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There were a few older men and women–people who have been doing this for years.  One older man brought a stack of signs that different people carried throughout the night.  They have been attending the vigils for one about to be executed for a long time.  “Since they started back the death penalty in 1976,” she said.  She is 70 years old and very interesting.  She pointed to another roped off area that I hadn’t really noticed.  “That’s where the folks who support capital punishment can gather,” Miss S told us.  “Way back when the Klan would show up in full garb and stand over there.  Oh they didn’t cover their faces, but they were here. ”

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The area for those in favor of capital punishment. The interesting thing is that for all of the negative comments I have read with regards to clemency and mercy, not a soul came and stood over there the entire night. Not a single person.

 

Wow.

We gathered in a circle a little before 7 p.m., the scheduled execution time, and we held hands.  We sang “Amazing Grace” and “This Little Light of Mine” and said the Lord’s Prayer together.  Then a prayer was offered by a minister from Tennessee.  When asked if anyone else wanted to pray, one of the Struggle Sisters said yes.  She prayed briefly for her friend and those standing there, but then she began to pray for the ones behind the bars.  The ones who knew Kelly and loved her and were going to feel very lost in prison without her.  “Please let them find peace.  And comfort.  And please let them not riot.  Please let them be okay.”  And then at almost exactly seven, the rain began to fall.   Just as it should be.

I can’t even.

I have thought of the message this gives about rehabilitation and redemption and grace to the world, but I hadn’t thought about the ones who day after day are imprisoned and were looking to Kelly, thinking that’s what it looks like to be okay in here.  That’s what we are supposed to do.  And then to know she’s been executed?  Despite all of her efforts to become a better person?

No.  I can see darkness all over that.

We then gathered close in together and we were told what was going on.

Would the execution happen at exactly 7 p.m.?  No.  We later found out there were three appeals being sent up through the court system, so no, thankfully it did not happen at 7 p.m.

How would we know?  There were a couple of people who had folks contacting them.  They shared with the rest of us.  I don’t know who they were communicating with, but we were getting good information that the news sources didn’t have apparently.  When we got it.  And as far as it being “done” and “over,” one priest shrugged sadly and said, “The witnesses will come back. And then we’ll know it’s over.”

Because of those words, every vehicle that came up that road, lights shining in the darkness as it emerged from the area behind the woods, we all slowed our steps, took in our breath, and waited.  And still no witnesses.

Word came in that the appeal had gone to the Georgia Supreme Court.  At that time we were unclear what the exact appeals were, but eventually we were.  Aub was really good at looking up things on her phone to understand what was going on.

When word came down that the 11th circuit had denied the appeals and it was now going to the US Supreme Court, shoulders sagged a little bit.  The news articles will tell you it was fifty out there last night, but don’t you believe them.  I can’t give you a number, but it was COLD.  My toes were numb and it was obvious about the time the sky grew dark that my girl and I had not dressed warm enough.

At one point I offered my chair to one of the Sisters.  She and another friend and Aub were sitting there together.  Aub heard one say to a friend on the phone, “This ground is cold.  Reminds me of my bed in lockup.  But I can see the sky, and it is beautiful!”  And she proceeded to go into great detail and describe the sky.  Aub was blown away.  Imagine not being able to see the sky whenever you wanted to.  Something so many of us take for granted.  Heartbreaking.

We heard a man who works with At Risk Youth talking about bringing young people to meet Kelly.  She would talk with them and then say, “I don’t ever want to see you again.”  Kelly is all about wanting folks to realize they are better than being behind bars.  She wants them to stay out.  He laughed at the memory of her heartfelt words.

He also talked about Kelly’s daughter at the Parole Board Clemency hearing last week.  Her daughter stood up and said she was proud to say she is Kelly Gissendaner’s daughter.  That she was proud of the person her Mama has become.

Bless it.  Again, the tears.

Walking to keep warm and to quiet my soul.

Walking to keep warm and to quiet my soul.  This is my shadow cast as I walked.  

Looking out toward the prison behind the woods, where she sat and waited to know if she would die that night.

Looking out toward the prison behind the woods, where she sat and waited to know if she would die that night.

As the night got later, I decided to walk around as some were doing.  It served to warm up my body and to quiet my mind.  As I walked around and around and I looked out toward the jail where Kelly was sitting, waiting for others to decide her fate–one.more.time–these words went through my mind.

My sister waits but I can do nothing, and so I walk.  

My sister waits.  

And so I walk.

It was a hard and thin place to be.  Caring and wanting to know answers and not quite sure how this was going to go.  As I wondered around and while Aub was listening to the Sister describe the sky, I met and talked with an amazing priest who is shining so much light in this world.  As we talked my stomach dropped.  It seems to me, as I listened to her and others that night, and with all I’m reading, that this is very political.  Sentencing, executions, death penalty, clemency, and all of it.   It seems to be about who is in charge and what suits them at the moment.  I don’t mean to be cynical, but it feels that way.  It was also very disconcerting to hear that in addition to the execution scheduled last night, there had been one last month.  Another was scheduled for next Tuesday and another for the 24th.

I’m sorry.  WHAT?!

“Have there always been this many?  This frequency?” I asked.  I couldn’t believe it because how did I not know this was going on.  In my very own home state.  I was assured that no, something seems to be in the air, and some were pondering that maybe it has something to do with a case coming before the Supreme Court in the next couple of months.  I haven’t really read up enough on it yet, so I won’t get into that here, but let me assure you, again–see how politics can govern so much of this?

Aub came up to join us, and we talked some more until we saw some vehicles moving again.  Lights shining in our eyes from across the driveway.  We saw someone get out.

Folks were murmuring.  People were guessing.  “I think it’s the witnesses.”

Oh. NO.

A man said, “Well I thought I saw the hearse go that way a little bit ago, so maybe yeah.  Maybe we didn’t hear and it’s already over.”

The emotions were overwhelming.  And then the words passed through the crowd gathered, a little smaller than the one that had started out the evening, but not by much–

NOT TONIGHT.  

We didn’t know the why’s or what’s, but we knew the who.  Kelly.  Kelly was still alive.

Good news.  GREAT NEWS.

Aub heard one of the sisters point at another van and say, “Who’s in that van?  Is it Kelly?”

We can’t be sure.  But surely at some point, she would leave the prison in Jackson and be transported back to Arrendelle, the women’s facility.  Maybe that was Kelly.

The Department of Corrections gave a 25 second statement that had all of the media scrambling.  The spokesperson never came any closer to our group.  As we knew we couldn’t leave the rope area and come back in and as fast as it all happened, none of our group was able to go and hear what was said.  However it didn’t take long to know something had happened with the drugs.  Thankful.  Like last week with the snow that kept them from transporting Kelly down to Jackson for the execution as scheduled, I was so thankful for those cloudy drugs.  Kelly would live to see another day.

We saw someone headed our way and I wondered if he were going to share what had happened with us.  He did not.  He asked us to gather our things and get in our vehicles, so we could leave in an orderly fashion.

I was so thankful and uncertain and blown away, that I just did what he asked and didn’t wonder why he didn’t give a statement to us until later on.

That was the fastest drive home I’ve ever had.  The hour plus trip only seemed like fifteen minutes.

Miracles can do that to a person, I guess.

Surreal.

I am so thankful that the Fella not only encouraged us to go but that he also helped make it happen.  It was a beautiful and emotional night.  I met some of the most wonderful people last night.  They shared freely, their stories, their smiles, their hope and fears.  And we were together.  Hands and hearts joined together with one hope.  That Kelly’s life would be spared.  I’m also grateful for a safe journey and a great traveling partner.  She’s going places this one.  If you could have seen her wheels turning as she read the information she could find on the appeals, you most likely would have been impressed too.  I’m so proud of her.

I woke up this morning anxious for the news.  Was it already scheduled?  Or worse, had it already happened?  No and no.  Early this afternoon, a statement was issued that not only has Kelly’s execution been postponed, but so has the one of the man scheduled for next week–postponed indefinitely.

That made me smile for the rest of the afternoon.

Last night was beautiful.  People of all walks of life joining together in song and in message and in support of another.  If that isn’t a picture of what this life should be about–I don’t know what is.

Giving thanks and love to all.

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Grace and Home Improvement

I learned something new today.

They say you should make that your goal each day, you know?  So today I did it, and that makes me glad.   Doesn’t happen every day, so it’s kind of a big deal.

Today Leroy and my Fella were hanging some shades for me.  It was no small task, and I am thankful they were willing to take it on together.

While they worked and Mess Cat and I visited, the thought occurred to me–the thing that Mama often quoted:

“Many hands make for light work.”

Truth.

But that’s nothing new; I already knew that one.

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And I thought about another thing I know from home repairs and home projects–“Measure twice, cut once.”

That one came in handy big time with this project.  We almost made a really big mistake.

It’s a good thing to remember–like “righty tighty, lefty Lucy.”  I use that phrase a lot–especially when I’m outside turning on the water spigot.  I love little memory tricks like that.

But it was when the project hit a snag today that I learned a new and important part of home improvement projects.

Leroy and the Fella were putting their heads together over what would be the best next step to take.  The Fella mentioned our local hardware store not far from here, and Leroy’s face lit up.  “Yeah, I’ve been wanting to go in there.”  They were both smiling at this point.  It was pretty close to precious.

“You know, it’s not a real home project until you have to make at least one trip to the hardware store,” Leroy told me.

Really?  No, I didn’t know.

But I do now.

After they returned and were working on putting holes where holes needed to be and not putting holes where holes didn’t need to be, Leroy put a hole in one of his fingers.  (Well, not a hole exactly, but there was plenty of blood.)  He asked for a paper towel and a band-aid.  As I went to gather them, I thought of another quote of Mama’s: “The right tools make any job easier.”

Leroy quickly cleaned himself up, put on the band-aid, and went back to work, announcing, “A trip to the hardware store and an injury.  That’s how you know we’re almost done.”

Again, good to know.  Duly noted.

Tonight I’m thankful for windows with shades and for the two guys who made that happen.  Isn’t it awesome that we all have different gifts and talents and that we can share those to help others around us?  I give thanks for a job well done and for lessons learned in the midst of it.  All other lessons aside, Leroy taught me once again about the gift of grace.  He set out to do the job, but his game plan allowed for grace.  Grace when all the necessary tools weren’t in place, and grace for when there was a mistake.  He didn’t beat himself or anyone else up and make the whole experience even more difficult than it already was.  He had built-in grace.  We need something we don’t have?  No worries, we can go see what they have at the hardware store that can work.   A slip of the hand and there’s a cut and blood?  No problem, clean it up, slap on a band-aid, and let’s finish this job.  I love it.  Today my brother-in-law and my Fella taught me that even in home projects, in the words of my Bubba, “It’s never that serious.”  It’s all about getting it done.   Doing the best we can with what we have and keeping our wits about us.  Working with others and helping folks out.  With smiles on our faces and grace in our hearts.

Kind of sounds like a good way to go about life too, doesn’t it?

Love to all.

Coon Bait It’s Not

So the Fella has become a no kiddin’, serious about it for real, coon trappin’ guy.

It started with the sightings.  And a neighbor saying that he saw one just amble out of our garage one afternoon when we’d left the door open.

Ahem.  Ummm, no.

Then the cat food for our outside feline friends started disappearing a little faster.  Some nights we’d hear our cats protesting something that was going on.

It was time.  So the Fella borrowed a trap from friends, and he’s been setting it out on the side of the house on a regular basis.

So far he’s caught four raccoons I think and one possum.

Ah, the joys of living next to the woods.  And yes, I realize we are the ones encroaching on their habitat, so it hurts my heart a little bit.

But only a little bit.

He’s good to them.  He takes them out and rehomes them near the river a few miles down the road.  They will be a lot better off and less likely to find their way into the roads.

So a few nights ago he came in to set his trap.  He uses my old Chobani yogurt dishes (the big ones) with the clear lids.  He’s perfected his technique but doesn’t always use the same bait.  Lately he’s been prone to using apples.  Which is fine.

Unless.

I saw him with my good paring knife and one of the apples a few nights ago.  At first it didn’t register with me what he was doing, but since he’s not the world’s greatest fan of fresh fruit, it finally hit me to ask him what he was up to.  Just as he was about to cut into the apple, he said, “I’m setting the trap.”

Y’all.

In his hands was one of my hard to come by, precious, lovely, and huge Honeycrisp apples.

The last of my Honeycrisps--it almost gave its life to be coon bait.  Nooooo!

The last of my Honeycrisps–it almost gave its life to be coon bait. Nooooo!

Just no.

Someone recently shared that Honeycrisps were the pumpkin spice lattes of fall for the non-coffee crowd.  That compelled me to go and try them out.  I was a little skeptical.  Really?  An apple that was worthy of such praise?

Oh yeah.

For sure.

And that man was gonna use one to try to trap a raccoon?  A critter that would just as easily eat one that was bruised and sitting all but forgotten in the bottom drawer of the Frigidaire?

And that’s what he was quickly given.

All I could think about since the “apple incident” was the old adage–“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”  No, and you sure shouldn’t be trying to make a sow’s ear (or raccoon bait) out of a silk purse either (or, you know, the BEST.  APPLE.  EVER.) .

I mean, for real.  The preparation and eating of those apples is akin to a sacred thing.  They are truly that good–good job, God!

As for the Fella, I’m keeping him stocked up with acceptable baits.  But I’m starting to worry.  We originally had just the three we knew about to catch.  Last night, when he caught number four, he saw two others scurry off when he came up to the trap.  He thinks they were trying to help bust their friend out.  I’m started to wonder if word is getting out amongst the critters that we are the place to come for a midnight snack–it’s a regular buffet what with the cat food and now the apples.  (And many nights they get the apple out without tripping the trigger, those crafty little boogers.)

Tonight I’m thankful for the Fella, for his getting the job done to make it safer for our cats again.  I’m thankful for his late night and oh-dark-thirty in the morning trips to rehome the little guys and gals.  I know not everyone would go to the extra effort.  And most of all, I’m thankful that there’s still one Honeycrisp apple left in the kitchen for my “bednight” snack with yogurt that I’m about to have when I leave y’all with it tonight.  Yeah, I love that guy, but when it comes to my good apples or the last helping of rice (that’s another story), I just don’t play.

Wishing you all the goodness of fall, in whatever ways that bring you joy.

Love to all.