“Let’s Get This Thanksgiving Started!”

This morning when he woke up my little guy Cooter came right up to the kitchen door and proclaimed quite loudly, “Let’s get this Thanksgiving started!”

That made me laugh.  I mean, the turkey had been in the oven for a while, but yeah…..it’s not Thanksgiving without the “fambly folk” there.  And how can your day go any way but great when it starts out with someone so excited to start the day right there by your side?

A morning of cooking after a day of baking yesterday, all with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade playing in the background.  I’m a purist.  We do NOT switch back and forth between channels and parades.  I do have someone on remote control duty to mute or block out the picture when certain commercials come on.  *sigh* I thought it was supposed to a family friendly program.  Ahem.

It was perfect timing as the last of what I was preparing was finished at the same time Santa arrived at the parade.  We did our traditional waving to Santa, and then we loaded up everything and headed to Mess Cat’s.  We had a wonderful meal with great folks.  As Mama and I used to say after Daddy died two years ago, “It was really good, contextually speaking.”

And yes, the memories came flooding back.  When I made Mama’s dressing and her gravy this morning, I thought back on all the years she made it and how sometimes she would make it just to give us a special treat.  Have I mentioned that cooking was her love language?

The memories took me back even further.  To when I was little.  We were having a holiday meal at my Granny’s house.  She had cooked and cooked and the food covered the stove and the countertop.  How she fit all of us in her house back then I have no idea, but she sure did.  I was finally old enough to fix my own plate, so I walked down the line and noticed there were two pans of dressing.  One had a lot out of it, and one only had a little.  I don’t know if I felt bad for the pan no one seemed to want (yeah, I do stuff like that sometimes) or if it was just easier to get some out of that pan because of the line.  Regardless, I got a helping out of the pan with more.  I realized my mistake on my first bite.  Mushrooms.  I really don’t care for mushrooms, but I sat and ate the dressing I’d spooned out for myself and didn’t say a word, exactly as I’d been taught.  On the way home I leaned forward in the backseat and proudly told Mama and Daddy how I’d eaten the dressing with mushrooms without complaining once.

Daddy laughed.  And then Mama.

It was a few minutes before they could catch their breath and tell me why that was so funny.

Granny, who also showed love with food, had made a special pan of dressing for her oldest, Daddy’s older brother.  Not mushrooms.  No.  Oyster dressing.  He loved it, so she made it especially for him.  Oh dear.  (Daddy later mused at what my Uncle must have thought, seeing more of his dressing gone.)

I may have shared that story before, but for some reason it came to my mind as we had dinner today.  Leroy, my brother-in-law, had prepared his dressing.  I don’t know why dressing was so important to me this year.  Maybe it’s because the past two years, even though I made many of the side dishes, Mama brought her dressing.  Aub would go over the night before and help her make her dressing and gravy.  They’d drive up mid-morning with all that deliciousness in tow.  As has happened with each family get-together since Mama passed on in February, the thought comes to mind–“Who’s going to make (fill in the blank) now?”  I knew I was going to make some dressing, and I knew Leroy was too.  But I also knew neither would be hers.

And you know what?

It was okay.

Leroy’s dressing was delicious.  I found out how much I really love sage when it’s added just right.  And while my dressing wasn’t hers either, it’ll eat.  I think I did her gravy justice, but Leroy’s turkey gravy was absolutely delectable.

It was a good day.  I realize that even though she’s not here to make her dressing, she is here with me.  Always.  I just have to listen a little differently now.  And as I was listening today, I remembered the Thanksgiving two years ago when Mama came to my house.  With her dressing.  And gravy.  Only one week after Daddy left this earth.  She came with dressing and love and time and smiles for all of us when that was probably the last thing she felt like doing.  There’s a lesson in that.

Today as I finished prepping the sides–the sweet potatoes and apples, the homemade cranberry sauce, Mama’s gravy, pineapple casserole, and other things we traditionally have, I remembered the people I love who taught me to make them or whose favorites they were.  And I realized that in trying new things, like Leroy’s dressing and gravy or Granny’s all those years ago, I was stepping outside my comfort zone and embracing the day.  Instead of mourning that Mama is gone, today–just for today–I was able to remember without tears, and take a taste of what this new different normal is like.

And it was actually rather okay.

And tonight I’m giving thanks for that.

(Oh and just to let you know, Cooter was ready to start the day because he loves peach cobbler.  He asked me to make it yesterday.  And today, as he sat eating it, I heard him tell his sister and cousin, “This is the best Thanksgiving ever!”

That’s more than I could hope for.)

Gators, Cats, and Panic Attacks

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

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

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

pic of mike wazowski panicked

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

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

That's our big boy, being goofy.

That’s our big boy, being goofy.

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

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

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

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

Piddlin’ and Putterin’ Around

It’s been one of those weekends. I only had a couple of things on the “agenda,” leaving a lot of room in the margins for getting together with my sister Mess Cat and her family. Or not. Whatever. Free time. That has become a precious commodity around here. So it was a nice surprise.

Several times this weekend, I’ve called Mess Cat or she’s called me.
“Hey, whatcha doing?”
“Nothin’ much. Just piddlin’. You?”
“Oh just putterin’ around. Nothing major.”

And this is how our several phone calls went all weekend. (With the exception of her painting trim in their new house. And I think she did refer to that as “putterin’.”)

This afternoon we puttered around at Mama’s. We sat on the porch swing and just soaked in yet another southern July day with highs in the 80’s and a nice breeze.  Beautiful.

The view we had today.....sitting on the porch swing and piddlin' around.

The view we had today…..sitting on the porch swing and piddlin’ around.

Later we checked around on things, uprighted a birdbath our two rambunctious boys decided would be cool to turn over to get the “dirty” water out.  No easy feat, that one.  We puttered around in the house, picking up, putting things away, emptying the ice bucket from the freezer.  A whole lot of little and a little bit of nothing.

In case you were wondering, putterin’ and piddlin’ around are not related to laziness at all.  In fact they are not for the faint of heart, for to putter or piddle around, one must have the ability to do things with ease and focus so as not to enter the level of frenzied activity that could be deemed “work.”  Piddlin’ and putterin’ are good for the soul and not strenuous on the mind, body, or spirit.  Think Andy Taylor and Floyd sitting around whittling on the bench outside the barber shop.  Now you got it.  Good stuff.  It takes skill, I’m not gonna lie, and years of practice.  But yeah, me and Mess Cat, I think we’ve got it down.

We’re working our way slowly toward the new normal.  One day at a time.  I like to think we are resilient.  Like the Back Porch Rosebush.  Before Mama’s back porch was built, there was a little set of concrete steps at the back door.  Next to the steps was a rosebush.  When they were getting ready to build the porch, someone, I think it might have been my brother-in-law Leroy, moved the rosebush to the other side where the porch would end.  It’s growing quite nicely, and there were two beautiful roses on it when we were there today.  It was a few months after the porch was built when we saw a sprig of green coming up through the floor of the porch.  At first we didn’t really pay much attention to it.  I think we clipped it back and kept on keeping on, what with Daddy being sick and all.  It quickly grew back through the floor.  Mama soon realized it was her rose, which somehow enough of it had been left in the ground that it was regenerating down there in the darkness under the deck.  She tried rooting it and cutting it back some.  The rooting didn’t go so well.  In recent months my siblings and I haven’t really thought too much about it.  Today, here it was in all its glory, thanks to all the rain, celebrating reaching the sunlight.

The porch rosebush, our own version of the phoenix, rising up out of the darkness towards the light.

The porch rosebush, our own version of the phoenix, rising up out of the darkness towards the light.

For Mess Cat, me, our brother and sister and all of our family, this is what each day is about.  Reaching past the darkness towards the light and hope for better days, yet still connected to the darkness.  Once you’ve been there, you can never leave it fully behind, but you can soak in all the goodness and love around you and reach for the light.

And so we do.

And while we’re reaching, we putter.  And piddle around.  And sit and be together.

That’s the best stuff in life.  Being together.

As a summer treat to celebrate a beautiful day, here’s a great summer song to putter and piddle around to–y’all enjoy!

And yes, that’s Kris Kristofferson with the guitar and cigar.  And if you don’t laugh with Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish, well, there’s just no help for ya!