A Backstage Kind of Grace

Our little guy, Cooter, who isn’t so little anymore as he is now exactly two months shy of turning eleven, performed in his acting troupe’s version of “Trolls” this past weekend.  The role of Branch suited him well, as he griped and stomped and put on his unhappy face throughout rehearsals over the past few months.

Friday night was showtime.  He was ready.  He’s not been feeling one hundred percent, as the upper respiratory stuff that has everyone sniffling or hacking got a hold of him too.  But he was feeling good Friday.  We ran lines, and he practiced his dances wearing his Falcons helmet and jersey (a sight to see, trust me on this), and then we were off to the theater.

After the young people of Acting for the Almighty gathered backstage and got in costume, excited and a little anxious, the lights went down and Scene One began.  Cooter had several lines in this scene…..and within the first few minutes, it was time for him to deliver his line and be interrupted.  Which he did and he was.

And then it came time for him to finish what he’d been interrupted trying to say…..

and he jumped to the next page of lines, skipping the lines of several characters.

It only took a split second and the rest of these young actors jumped right in and carried on, finished the scene, and moved on to give a great performance.

But my stomach was in my throat.  Or my heart was in my stomach.  You get what I’m trying to say.

I was sick.  For my little guy.  For the children who hadn’t gotten to say their lines.  For the director and the playwright.

Oh me.

I had friends and family there who hadn’t been to rehearsals or memorized parts of the play from going over lines for three months.  They said they had no idea that lines had been missed.  Which I was thankful for, but I knew.  So did his fellow players.

At intermission one of the volunteers came out to reassure me that he was fine.  She said he took the hit for messing up and giving the wrong line, but “you saw him come out in the third scene.  He put himself back together.  He’s fine.”

The rest of the play went extremely well.  And it was a great performance.  I’m so proud of each one of the children, who bravely did what so many of us would be terrified to do.  Got up on that stage under the bright lights with at least 200 folks watching–spoke loudly lines they had memorized, danced, and sang.  They are our future, and things look really, really good for all of us.

That night Cooter and I talked a bit about the play, and he promised we could run lines the next morning before Saturday afternoon’s performance.  Before he went to sleep, he told me, “Everyone was so nice about me messing up.  They told me it was okay, that I’d go back out there and get it next time.  And I did!”

Bless.  Them.  Whoever “they” were–thank you.  Thank you for not getting upset with him.  This Mama’s heart is so grateful.

On Saturday morning when he got up, he had breakfast and then was puttering around.  I’d forbidden his standard rough and tumble football free for all in the front yard–I did not want him missing his last performance for ANY reason.  That and I’m a worrier, so he played with his friends and their Matchbox car village and did other indoor things on this cold day.  When he came back in and we were getting ready to go back to the theater, he and I had a quiet moment.

“Mama, you know what I’ve learned from this production?”

“What, buddy?”

“Improvisation.”

“Ummm, yeah?  Really?”

“Yes ma’am. Because when someone forgets a line or messes up, you can improvise and carry on. That’s what we did last night when anyone forgot a line…..like I did.”

Well, bless it.

I think that’s kind of what we need to know how to do in this life in general, isn’t it?  Improvise.  Goodness knows we seem to do a lot of it around here.

And, as the Fella says sometimes, we are none the worse for wear for it.

If improvisation were the only thing Cooter carried away from this experience, I’d be thrilled. Ecstatic.

But you know what? It wasn’t.

He learned a lot about grace too.  The way folks were understanding, encouraging, and supportive in the face of his mistake…..

that’s a beautiful gift.

And because of it, he wasn’t afraid of trying again.  Afraid, wondering what it would be like if he messed up again.  Because of that grace, he was able to get back up on that stage Saturday, try it again and do a fantastic job.  (If you’ll forgive this Mama for saying so–actually they ALL did a brilliant job on Saturday.  I am so proud of each one of them!)

I want my son–my children–all of the children–always to know what grace feels like.  So much so that they feel it in abundance and share it with anyone who could use it.  Grace gives folks the courage to try again.  To get up and out there just one more time and not so afraid of making the mistakes that are inevitably going to come in this life.

When Cooter was a baby and baptized, I chose a song for him.  It was Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish” and there was a line that I love so much…..

May “you find God’s grace in every mistake and give more than you take…..”

Tonight I am thankful for the ones who spent every week teaching my little guy and all his fellow actors about drama and singing and dancing and grace and being supportive of each other and how to improvise.  His acting may never be anything more than something he loves to do for fun–I have no idea where he’s headed with this…..but sharing grace and how to encourage others, how to courage on, and how to figure out at the drop of a hat what to do next in the face of the unexpected–all things that these wonderful folks have taught him…..

that they showed and shared with him God’s grace in his mistake…..

well, my heart is full to bustin’, y’all.  This is the really good stuff of life.

May we all be so kind and abundantly filled with grace to share.  And may we all have others around us who jump to wherever we are and help us carry on when the unexpected happens and we aren’t sure what line comes next…..

Love to all.

 

drama masks 2

 

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*****For those who may not know, Cooter is the nickname that my Daddy, his Cap, gave him years ago when he was very small and loved playing Matchbox cars with Cap.  The name came from the mechanic on “Dukes of Hazzard,” which still makes me laugh.  No one really uses that name for him anymore, but I use it here to remember the man who let my little 4 year old guy drive those little cars around and around on his hospital bed.  “Daddy, you can tell him to stop,” I said, after Cooter had circled his bed for about the umpteenth time.  Round and round the bedrail, the foot rail and above Daddy’s head he went.  “He’s not bothering me,” Daddy said. And he meant it.  I’ll treasure that memory for always.  I know Daddy would have loved this play so much, especially when the children all sang “True Colors” together.  It was one of his favorite songs.  And so now it’s mine.

 

 

A Dime For My Thoughts

A few days ago the littles and I were watching some videos about the Presidents.  One had a song about who is on this kind or that kind of money.  It was maybe a little beneath my two agewise, but it was a catchy tune, so we watched.

And I sort of sang along in the hopes that they would too.

Who’s on the penny?  Who’s on the penny?

Lincoln.

Who’s on the nickel?  Who’s on the nickel?

Jefferson.

(Did I mention I was rocking it while my two sat staring back and forth in disbelief between me and the screen?)

Who’s on the dime?  Who’s on the dime?

Eise

Wait.  What?

What do you mean–Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

I don’t even think so, people.

I pulled out my trusty friend (my phone) and asked that very question.

Who is on the dime?

And I’m sorry–

NOT Eisenhower?

My whole life has been a lie, y’all.

A LIE.

How did I ever get that confused?

Who was the first one to tell me that?  Or did I just assume and no one ever talked to me about this VERY IMPORTANT FACT, so that on this very day, I totally embarrassed myself in front of my two very impressionable children and had my very world turned topsy turvy, up on its end?

I feel like I should be sarcastically thanking someone, but I can’t figure out who.

I love my children.  I love homeschooling them.  Most of the time.  I love it when I learn new things, like how snails grow their own shells or a quick way to calculate something or the amazing things we have been learning about the Bill of Rights.  I love the great things we read and watch and the awesome conversations we have at times.

But this–

This I did not enjoy.  AT. ALL.

And it’s such a little thing, isn’t it?  I mean, I’ve spent more dimes than I would ever care to count or admit, and ALL THIS TIME I thought I was handing over Dwight D. Eisenhower, only I wasn’t, and so my world is a bit off balance right now.

What else have I assumed I KNEW AND WAS TOTALLY CORRECT in my way of thinking about–only wasn’t?

What else am I wrong about–in my thoughts, my understanding, my beliefs?

It’s scary, this thing of assuming what we know or understand is RIGHT.

Which is why, maybe, just maybe we should every now and then take a step back and listen to what others know and understand.  We don’t have to take those things on or accept them as true, but who knows what we might learn if we are open to hearing it.

Just a thought.  That’s my FDR coin’s worth, anyway.

……still shaking my head…..

Love to all.

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And so now, looking at it up close, OF COURSE I CAN SEE THAT THIS IS FDR. How have I been getting this wrong all these many years?

 

Epiphany

I wrote this to share at Coffeehouse Carols Sunday a week ago–these thoughts that stayed close to my heart after a phone conversation with a dear friend.  May this day of Light and Love give you hope during this darkest season.  

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“The visit of the wise-men” by Heinrich Hofmann – Postcards thebiblerevival.com. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_visit_of_the_wise-men.jpg#/media

 

“We ask for the light.  But then we can’t handle what it shows us.”

When I heard the words of my friend echoing across the phone line, my breath caught and I was silent.

“I’m going to have to sit with this for a moment,” I told her when I found my voice.

And then I sat with it for many days, for the whole ten days before Christmas.

During this time of Light and Love and candles and twinkle lights on the trees and houses and storefronts and all the lights in all the places, during this time of celebrating the Light that broke through the darkness—how could I begin to contemplate the hard things that the Light brings?

We all seek the Light.  Like the shepherds and Magi and all who followed the shining light to find the Messiah, we look for it; our souls crave the Light in the darkness.  Hope in the brokenness. We see it as Good and Holy and Perfect and Emmanuel.  God With Us.

And yet, we’ve all had those moments, haven’t we?  The pain of the light piercing the darkness?  Sleeping in a dark room and the curtains are open to the full sunlight of the day?  We’re outside or riding in the car and the sun comes out from behind the clouds and our sunglasses are nowhere to be found?  Sitting in a dark theater and the lights come up at the end of the show?

It can be abrupt.  Jarring.  Startling.

When the light shines suddenly in a place of darkness, in those first moments we can see things that are quite unpleasant.  Things scurry and run quicker than our eyes can discern, seeking the cover of darkness once again.  When the Light first came into the world as one of us over 2000 years ago, then too, the Light shone brightly and showed us things that were not okay.  Things that had been under the cover of darkness for so long—injustice, poverty, condemnation, evil thoughts and deeds, wickedness, deceit.

The Light did not bring beauty to the world in the most conventional of ways.  The One Who Came brought beauty by shining a spotlight on all of the things hiding in the dark and showing us how to live in such a way as to end those things that were scurrying for cover.  To follow in the dust of the rabbi and do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.  To LOVE and never let the darkness cover up all that is hurting our world ever again.

It’s not easy.  In fact, it’s exhausting.  As exhausting as trying to pick out the perfect gift on Christmas Eve or as frustrating as trying to return the shirt that didn’t fit on the day after Christmas.  Even more so.  To carry all of the things that are hurting and painful and broken in one’s heart and mind, and to seek to find ways to end them, to heal them, to relieve them—it’s just hard.

So Christmas.

The Coming of the Light.  Hope in New Life.  Joy in the sound of a cry joining the soft lowing and stirring of the animals surrounding the newborn child.

The dawn will come and the days will pass, and it will become apparent that the coming of the Light did not suddenly change the way things are done.  In fact, His coming only emphasized just how wrong things had been for far too long.

And yet—imagine being in the darkest place imaginable.  Maybe this doesn’t take much thought for some of us—for those for whom this is a very real reality.  So the darkness is so dark and thick and heavy, not only can you not see but you can feel the darkness in every fiber of your being.  It is oppressive.  You feel alone, disoriented, lost.  And hope is fading fast.  The silence is deafening.  Or the worries in your heart and mind clamor for attention, and it is dizzying.

And then one night, in one moment, the Light shines through.  And while that can be quite disorienting and scary at first, once you get your bearings, you look around.  And what the Light shows us, blesses us with, is that there are OTHERS.  We are not alone.  He gives us the gift of drawing others close to His grace, and we gather together and share the journey, all of the journey.

My Mama used to say, “Joys multiplied, sorrows divided.”

For me that is the beauty of the Light. Of the gift we are given at Christmas.

We gather together around the baby each and every year and we sing our praises and we look for some sign that our Hope is not in vain. If we take a moment and look around at all who are in the glow of the Light, we can see that we are not alone.

There are others there to help us up when we fall, to help us find hope in the situations that break our hearts.  There are those who will point out the good in the midst of even the hardest of things, and those will carry on when we just can’t.  They show up with casseroles and love letters and kind words and hand-drawn pictures and cups of hot chocolate with candy canes for stirring.  And they show up, again and again, because, for all of the hard things the Light shows us, the most important things that He shows us is that we are a part of something really, really good.  We are a part of a community.  A group of folks who choose love.  Who care.  Who seek to find the things that scurry for cover and bring them out into the open so Love and Light can bring the beautiful and powerful transformation, through our passion and love and efforts to follow in the dust of the child who was born so long ago and stays at our sides still today.  Our steps might be clumsy at times, but we are on the right path and we are together.

My folks used to remind my siblings and me, whenever we would go anywhere, to stick together.

I think that’s the most beautiful part of the Christmas message.

Stick together.

Look out for each other.

Hold hands when crossing the street or walking through the hard things.

And no matter our differences in any given moment, love each other.

God With Us, and we are With each other.  Standing in the Light.

Merry Christmas!  And may Epiphany and Light be ours today and everyday.

Love to all.

Don’t Go It Alone

I remember a sermon my sweet friend who introduced me and my Fella shared.  Actually it’s an image that she shared that has stuck with me all these years. I believe in looking back that she read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 from the Good Book.

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The picture she painted with her story, of the dark and traveling together and the stumbling, but someone always stopping to help another up.

Powerful.  So powerful.

We are not meant to travel alone, y’all.  To do this life with no one else around.  I am not saying we are not meant to live alone, but I do think we are not meant to LIVE alone.  Sharing a house and sharing a journey are two different things.

My life has been changed for the better because of the folks who are around me and the ones who listen and love and care about my story and I theirs–in fact, so much so that our stories become intricately interwoven.

Through messages and late night phone calls and texts about silly things and all the important ones too.  The being interruptible and sitting with me in the hard places and the holding me in the light and hoping for good to come.  The sitting quietly and laughing loudly.  The road trips and waiting rooms and bowls of soup and handmade aprons and letters in the mail and cards left on the front porch.  The shared tears and the reverberating laughter.  The hands to hold and the hugs to envelop every little bit of what is going on.  The “I’m on your side” and the “well, have you looked at it this way…..” The “let’s go do” and the “let’s just be.”

All of it.  Every single bit of others in your life and mine…..they save us.  They make us better.  They keep us from falling in a pit of despair and believing the lie that no one cares about us or that it is all about us and no one has ever had it this.  BAD.

They walk alongside, and they pick us up when we fall.

And the coolest thing about this journey is that as we share it with those who circle the wagons close and stay there beside us is that one day we will have the chance to do that very same thing for someone else.

It’s a beautiful ebb and flow of life.  Today I needed picking up.  Tomorrow it might be you.  Or you.  Or maybe even me again.

We all stumble.  Most of us fall.  But it’s the knowing there’s a hand that will be there to help us back up…..that’s the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

Our posse.

Find yourself a good one.  Find the folks who are walking carefully and maybe even a little slowly, hanging back.  Leave be those who are darting around and ahead of everyone else.  The best way to find a friend, the old saying goes, is to be a friend.

Go and be.  Reach out your hand.  And you’ll be amazed at who comes to stand beside you.

Love and best wishes to all.

Flip the Flag

Miss Sophie and I went for a walk late this evening, after the sun was well behind the trees and there was a lovely breeze blowing, dissipating some of the heat from the day.

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As we walked down the cul-de-sac, I noticed a flag up on a mailbox, and in that moment, I wished we had flags like mailboxes.

A flag that we could flip up as a signal to say, “Hey, notice me.  Stop here for second, could you?  Can I please give you some of this that’s weighing on me for you to take away?  Will you share something with me that will brighten my day?”

Maybe I’m oversimplifying it, but that’s it.  I think that a flag to flip up when the words are hard to say–that would be just what I need sometimes.

Wishing you all the words to say and the people to hear them.  And to understand.

Love to all.

upon being awakened by the sound of a fly buzzing

upon being awakened by the sound of a fly buzzing,
trapped, I could only suppose, behind the blinds
I began to wonder

it didn’t sound frightened or scared,
just the persistent buzzing
much like a bee as it goes about its business
humming, happily oblivious
or not, I guess,
to all that is happening around it

and I wondered how many times
I mistake the words coming from a person
sitting right next to me
as meaning she is okay–
hearing what she says but not really listening

and realizing

she too is trapped behind the blinds
or the masks
or the circumstances that have her feeling afraid,
lost,
with nowhere to turn

such that she just continues to buzz
hoping that someone will hear
and understand her cries for help

and set her free

It Goes Both Ways

This past Sunday we moved our college girl out of the dorm and back home.  Her and all her stuff.  I found myself saying something that I seem to be saying a lot lately, as I asked my cousin for help at the last minute.  “My lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on your part, and I hate to be a bother, but…..”

I do hate bothering folks.  And needing help.

I was raised by a strong Mama who often said, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”  Which was what she said to discourage us from sitting around waiting on things to get done without us putting in any effort, I’m pretty sure.

Today, however, I was reminded of the original quip–one that my husband brought home from work with him.

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“Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”  

Yeah.  This one I don’t do so well either.  I don’t know if it’s codependency or being the oldest of my siblings or just my personality, but I tend to make emergencies out of other’s needs, last minute or not.  I loathe letting other people down.

Today it came to my attention that someone we knew might need some help.  I was concerned and frustrated, as this cold had me on a self-imposed quarantine until this evening.  (I’m old-school–I don’t go anywhere until I’ve been fever free for 24 hours. That was good enough for my Mama, so…..) I wanted to help, felt guilty I wasn’t helping, and yet…..

this person had not even asked for my help.

Still I worried over the details.  Maybe I should have offered.  Then my wise girl pointed out that this situation was like so many others that we’ve come across–the person involved tended to change his plans and his mind at the last minute.  Taking others along for the ride.

In other words, not our monkey, not our circus.

Not our emergency.

There was such an immediate sense of relief when I realized that.  It’s not always on me to help.  To make things okay.

If that sounds crazy, good.  You are in a healthy place, I think.  It has made me crazy at times, trying to rearrange my own priorities so I could help someone whose plans fell apart and needed someone at the last minute.

It’s good to help others.  It’s also good to have boundaries.

To take care of you.  And it’s even okay to say no sometimes.

It’s a fine line to walk.  But today I took a step in the right direction.  I let go of expectations that had been put on me by no one else but me.

Tonight I’m especially thankful for my cousin.  And his truck.  He not only showed up, he showed up with a smile and a willing attitude.  That was another of my Mama’s favorites:  “The Lord loves a cheerful giver…..and so do I.”  She always did love my cousin.  He’s shown up more than a few times with that smile and attitude.

May we all have good boundaries and the peace that those can bring.  And when it is right and we do show up, may we have a smiling face, a cheerful heart, and be all in.

Love to all.

Still afraid of the dark

Growing up I was afraid of the dark.

It was bad.

If it was my turn to feed the cats after dark, I was a nervous wreck, certain that someONE or someTHING was out there waiting to “get” me.  Even the flashlight did not ease my worries.  As I got a little older I grew to appreciate the moon and stars and enjoyed gazing, but I still didn’t venture too far from the back stoop, within an easy dash to safety.  And my Daddy, whom I was sure could take care of anything that came along.

So it was ironic that I roomed with my sister who loved the dark.  We’re talking pitch black.  If I even tried reading with a flashlight under the covers, she was not happy.  I could not relax in the dark enough to go to sleep, so I would beg her to let me leave the hall light on and crack our door.  Mama and Daddy would turn off the lights when they went to bed anyway.  She usually put her foot down, but there were nights she’d be so tired, she’d acquiesce and I could fall asleep in peace.

Oh the nights when Mama and Daddy turned in early and they turned off all the lights in the house.  Those were hard.  The darkness held an unknown factor in it, and that is what I was afraid of.  What I didn’t know.  What could be out there. What might be.  My mind would crank up, and some nights it was hard to shut it down.

I don’t remember when things changed, but now I find it hard to sleep if there are any lights on in my room.  There can be an extraneous light from the kitchen or living room that might send a ray or two into the room and I will probably  be okay.  But if there is a lamp or booklight or phone lit up, I find it difficult to sleep.  Wouldn’t Sister find that poetic justice?  I haven’t had the nerve to tell her, after the hard time I gave her all those years.

So yes, I like to sleep in a dark room.  Winter or summer, air conditioning or heat, it seems to me  if a light is on in a room, it is hot.  I find comfort sleeping in the dark.

But I am still afraid of the dark.

This occurred to me early in the wee hours of this morning.  Miss Sophie had her “female” surgery yesterday, and I stayed up with her making sure she was comfortable and could sleep.  While we cuddled, I read a few stories on the internet, and it hit me as I settled down for the night about 2:00 a.m., I am still very much afraid of the darkness.

First I read the article about the shooting in the FedEx in Atlanta yesterday morning.  And I did what I do when faced with the Darkness.  It’s automatically what I do for comfort, like my nephew who rubs a corner of his shirt or my niece who sucks her thumb.

I immediately went through a checklist in my mind–how can I be sure not to be caught in this Darkness?  How can I keep this from happening to me?  How far removed am I from what happened?

I know.  Sad, right?

I mean, my heart goes out to those affected.  And I want to cry.  But then those old anxieties at the unknown and uncertainties kick in and I’m trying to make sure somehow that I won’t be caught out in the dark.

Then later I came across this article.

“After Two Weeks, 234 Nigerian Schoolgirls Are Still Missing: A terrorist group opposed to education is thought to be behind the kidnappings”

What?!  Two weeks?  How had I missed this story?  Was it not getting coverage?  Or was I just in my own little world?

Oh the tears.  Those poor young women.  Seeking an education.  A different way of life.

And it hit me–

How is it possible that we, these young women and I, are living on the same planet?  This past Saturday while I celebrated with other women who attended our all women’s college and honored our heritage–one that began in 1836–these young women were going through unknown terrors at the hands of their enemies in a land far away.

And yet not so far away really.

It makes me think again, wondering how I wound up here and they wound up there.  There are no words, no explanations.

And through my tears, I realized that I am still very much afraid of the Dark.  The Darkness in this world that is responsible for things like this happening.

As I went to my old soothing standby to calm my anxiety–my running through my checklist of–can this happen to me?  Or, am I safe from this?–I realized it has happened to me.  All of these things of the darkness, they are happening to me. To all of us.

I’ve shared this one before, but it came to my mind and heart again this morning.

Another version of the "Many leaves, one tree" line that's been running through my mind.  So true--we're all in this together, aren't we?

And the words of Tayari A. Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and other novels, also spoke to me:

This is very important.

I am not sure what we can do to help, but you have to at least care.

234 girls, stolen from their families, all because they went to school.

She is right.  We have to care.  I may be afraid of the dark, but I cannot continue separating myself from what is happening to cope, to soothe my anxieties.  The truth is that the shooting in Atlanta, the young women kidnapped and reportedly being married off to their captors, my friends who are sleeping on the dock to stay out of the terrible storms of the past two days, the children across town who are hungry, the college student who doesn’t have a stable family to go home to over summer break–they all matter and it all affects me.  Affects all of us.  In this world so filled with darkness, even if we are unsure of what to do, we can begin by caring.

I remember a book I read years ago.  I ordered it off my Scholastic book order form.  I was allowed to spend a dollar occasionally on those book forms, so when I found a 95 cent book, I was excited.  It was Light a Single Candle by Beverly Butler.  I remember how much I loved that book.  But tonight I’m remembering a quote from the beginning of the book–the first time I ever heard these words (which have been attributed to Adlai Stevenson, Eleanor Roosevelt, W. L. Watkinson and a Chinese proverb):

It is better to light a single candle

than to sit and curse the darkness. 

Words that have stayed with me all these years and came home to roost this afternoon.

I am still afraid of the Darkness.  After all the years.  Of that someTHING or someONE who might be out there full of evil intent.

But I can no longer sit and figure out my six or twelve or twenty degrees of separation to bring me comfort.  Life is too short and the world is too small.  What is happening right now affects us all, no matter how scary it is.

And so tonight, as I tuck Miss Sophie in for a good night’s rest and I crawl into my bed on clean sheets in my home where the sidewalks seem safe and the birds sing in the trees behind my house, I will cry over a part of me that is broken.  The part that is connected to those immediately in the line of the Darkness.  The river flows and touches all of us.  Their brokenness is a part of me and always will be.  I cannot live in peace until we are all at peace.

And for tonight, that’s where I’m at.  Tearful, broken, but caring and hopeful.

A veritable paradox.

Love and caring to all.  It’s a start.

After Two Weeks, 234 Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls Are Still Missing

A terrorist group opposed to western education is thought to be behind the kidnappings

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/two-weeks-234-abducted-nigerian-schoolgirls-are-still-missing-180951236/#0dBcu2vogr1T2shs.99
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After Two Weeks, 234 Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls Are Still Missing

A terrorist group opposed to western education is thought to be behind the kidnappings

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A Birthday, A Couch, and a Whole Lot of Love

We moved the brown couch in our house eight days ago.

Cap on the brown couch during one of Aub's photo shoots in 2003

Cap on the brown couch during one of Aub’s photo shoots in 2003

It’s known as “Cap’s couch.”  There are so many memories around that couch.  Mama and Daddy bought it years ago and put it in the “big room/playroom.”  The blue fold-out couch was already in there, so now they each had one.  They always said that the brown couch was to go to Auburn, my oldest, when the time came, because she had spent so much time on it.

And now it’s here.

Daddy reclining on his couch as Mama and Cooter show off his new skills of standing and walking.

Daddy reclining on his couch as Mama and Cooter show off his new skills of standing and walking.

And my girl continues to spend time on it.

Aub asleep on Cap's brown couch.  Under Cap's argyle blanket we made him.  The argyle was a thing between us.  A precious sight.

Aub asleep this morning on Cap’s brown couch. Under Cap’s argyle blanket we made him. The argyle was a thing between us. A precious sight.

Each night she’s been home from college since we moved it in, she has slept on her Cap’s couch.  She says it’s so we’ll all remember that it is really hers, but I know she knows I know what she’s not saying.

Got that?

We all miss them.  And today we are especially missing Daddy, Cap.  He would have been 71 today.

Daddy and our Princess on his birthday back in 2008.

Daddy and our Princess on his birthday back in 2008.  It was on Daddy’s birthday in 2004 that I called him from Japan, where the Fella was stationed, to tell him of this precious gift due in November–our Princess.  What a birthday gift!

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that.  Daddy never aged.  At least not until the lymphoma and the chemotherapy and radiation starting taking their toll.  He will forever, in my mind, be around 40–the age he was when I was in high school.  When he was calling out spelling words, helping me train for the state literary meet.  Helping me with trigonometry.  Teaching me to drive.  To pump gas.  Driving back to town to pick me up from work.  Listening to my stories of how my day had gone.  Watching football games and the summer Olympics with me.  Teaching me how to grow up and fly.

Oh Daddy.

The last time we were together before the day our world fell apart and everything changed–first the seeking of a diagnosis and then the fighting the diagnosis–I sat next to my Daddy on that same couch.  I was showing him a book in the Edward R. Hamilton Booksellers catalog that I was thinking about getting my Fella for his birthday the next month.  Daddy looked and nodded, but now I suspect he was having vision problems even then.  I sat almost shoulder to shoulder with him.  I can’t say why, but that day things felt different.  I felt protective of him.  He’d been having some balance problems but all the doctors had written it off as other things.  Never anything so serious as lymphoma of the brain.

Well, that’s enough of that.

Today I baked a cake, and we took turns saying what we loved remembering about Cap.  Our Princess said she loved it when they flew a kite together at Blackberry Flats.  Aub said she liked that he taught her big words.  Cooter shrugged and said, “Everything.”  Yep.  I hear you, buddy.

My Daddy came across as the strong, silent type.  He was both of those things, but so much more.  He was more than his bearded look might suggest.  He was a wise man who was also intelligent and kind–not a combination you come across as much as you might think.  He was a good listener, and when he spoke, others listened.  When he retired, folks signed a card for him.  Several mentioned how much they would miss him listening and sharing his wisdom.  Amen, my friends.  Amen.

Daddy could be quiet and contemplative, but when he laughed his booming laugh, it seemed as though the whole house was shaking.  He could click his tongue and shake his head, very much like his Mama, and you just hoped you weren’t on the receiving end of that disappointment.   My Granddaddy used to say that when my Daddy pointed his finger at one of us, it was a MILE long.  It sure felt that way.  It seemed like he always had some cut or bruise on his hand or grease under his nails from working with his hands.  He loved to do that.  To create.  He inherited that from his grandfather and father, who were both talented carpenters.  He also created with words.  He wrote.  He read.  He observed.

Daddy was fascinated with the world.  But mostly with the little things that might be ignored by other folks.  He loved reading about science and philosophy and where the two meet.  Daddy loved children.  He loved talking with them and teaching them things.

Daddy loved wasps.

One summer he set up his video camera and recorded them.  For hours at the time.  He wanted to know the whats and whys of their actions.  The other day when Mess Cat and I were going through the video tapes at the house we found one marked “wasps.”  She sighed.  I laughed.  I love that about my Daddy.  After he got sick, the wasps practically took over his building out back.  I used to say that the ones he recorded thought they’d hit the big time and went back and told their family and friends to come and see.  I think Blackberry Flats was the “Hollywood” of the Wasp World.

A fascinating man who was fascinated with life.  He taught me to respect and tell the truth and take care of what we had.  And others.  Take care of others.  He once told me I didn’t need all the clothes I owned.  Just a couple of pairs of jeans and a few more shirts than that.  No need for all I had.  One day I hope I get to the point where I can pare it down to just that.  I’m afraid it won’t be anytime soon though.

Most of my happy memories with Daddy are from before his fight with the Giant began.  We had good times then too, it’s just that so much of that time we felt the weight of worry hanging over us, so it was hard to see past that.

An exception was when he came home after being away that first time for over a month.  He walked (!!!!!) through the back door on his own.  Slowly and steadily and by himself.  We had picked up pizza for their supper and driven over to meet them.  Leroy had driven Mama and Daddy home from Emory in Atlanta.  My children’s world had been turned upside down by the absence of their Maemae and Cap, but in that moment all was right again.  Cooter, a little over two and a half, was already digging into a slice of pizza.  He grinned so big with a mouthful and said, as though it were any normal day, “Hey Cap!”  Daddy stopped, reached out for the counter for support, smiled just as big and said, “Hey, Cooter.  How’re you doin’?”

Tears, y’all.  All was right again.  For a while.

My other precious memory is much later–almost two years later.  Daddy had become almost completely bedbound, partly due to the progression of the Giant and partly due to falling and breaking his hip months before.  He had been up in the wheelchair–maybe for an appointment at the Cancer Care Center?–and we were getting him back in the hospital bed in the living room.  Mama and I got him all the way back in bed and his head on the pillow.  As I was about to leave the room for a minute, he asked me if I could help him.

Oh Daddy, anything.

I leaned over so he could wrap his arms around my neck.  And I half lifted, half pulled him up higher in his bed, so he was in a better position.  Bless him, he couldn’t maneuver it very well himself anymore.  He lifted his head up off the bed enough for me to tuck his pillow back in place.  I asked him if that was better.

He closed his eyes and nodded.  I reached out and touched his shoulder.  Just as he had reached out and touched my toe after the birth of my first child seventeen years before.  No words were needed.

As I started to walk away, I heard him clear his throat.  I turned back.

“Thank you, Tara,” he said, barely above a whisper.

No, Daddy,  thank you.

Each day I left their house, as I said my farewells to my folks, I would go in wherever Daddy was, sitting at the table, reclining on the brown couch, sitting in his recliner, or finally, laying in the hospital bed, and I would say,

“Bye Daddy, see you later.  I love you.   Thanks for everything.”

I meant it then and I still do.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.  Love you.  See you later.  Thanks.  For Everything.

This picture was taken 19 years ago when I was expecting the first grandbaby.  He took me almost every week to DQ to get an ice cream cone.  I miss him every day.

This picture was taken 19 years ago when I was expecting the first grandbaby. He took me almost every week to DQ to get an ice cream cone. I miss him every day.

Waking Up At Christmas

Oh the great arguments we used to have!

As the oldest, and a true loophole finder, I was often the one pleading our case.

“Five a.m.” I’d say.

“Not one minute before nine, ” my parents, the “other party,” would say.

“Six.”

“Eighty-thirty.”  They’d respond.

And so on.  Until usually, almost every year, the time was set.  7:00 a.m.

The time we were allowed to get our parents up on Christmas morning.

The rule in our house was that we did not go in and see what was under the tree without everyone else.

Most Christmas mornings, especially after Bubba was old enough to understand how exciting it all was, Sister, Mess Cat, and Bubba would come pile into my twin bed in the room I shared with Sister.

Around 5 a.m.

We would laugh in hushed tones and whisper excitedly, giving hints about what we had gotten or made for each other.  What we had gotten for Mama or Daddy.  What we thought Santa might actually bring us.  How hungry we were and ideas for how to sneak a peek without them knowing and how ready we were for 7:00 a.m. to be here already!

When it was a few minutes before seven we would creep down the hall to stand outside of my parents’ bedroom.  We were giggling and shivering and all aflutter with excitement.  When we figured it was 7 exactly, we would tap on their door, gently at first, and then with a little more insistence.

“Who is it?” one of them would call out in the dim light of morning.

We’d all giggle.  “It’s us!”

We would hear them stirring and the sounds of water running.  Mama, just about every year, would say, “Daddy is going to get a shower first, and then we’ll be ready.”

NOOOOOOOOOO!

We always laughed but I think there was a little fear in the back of our minds that he might really be going to take a shower, and oh my goodness, how could we ever wait that long?

And just when we thought we could not stand to wait any longer, nearly bouncing out of our skin with excitement and anticipation, their door would open and *oh relief* there they’d be, dressed and ready to go in and finally get this Christmas morning party started.

We would line up outside the living room door, and Mama would say, “Let me see if Santa has already come.”  She’d peek her head in, check it out, and then turn back to us and give us the okay to head on in.

Waking up on Christmas morning was always the best part of the day.

Back then I guess Mama and Daddy taught us about patience on Christmas morning.  In the years since, they taught us so much more about waking up at Christmas.

Waking up to others.  Those not gathered with us under the tree.  Those who maybe had no tree or family or even a home to gather with or in.  Since newly married they sponsored children through the Pearl S. Buck Foundation.  Something we didn’t know about until we were much older.  It was when I was in college that they taught us about really waking up.  They married on December 17.  Over the years we would give them different things as anniversary gifts.  One year we asked Mama what they would like for their anniversary, and she asked us to do something for others who needed something, that they didn’t need anything.

That was the first year the sibs and I went in together and had our eyes and hearts opened.  There was an elderly couple, living in an old, rather rundown house.  We took them groceries and a few treats for Christmas.  Bless them.  What precious, sweet folks.  They had so little but they were so filled with joy.

That’s what our parents were trying to get us to wake up to all those years on Christmas morning–to the idea that it’s not about what you have, or what’s under the tree, but who you have in your life.  Who is at your side, whispering and giggling on Christmas morning.  Who is walking with you as you journey through the years, the good times and the bad, the laughter and the tears.

The past few years, the tables have turned.  Mama and Daddy have come to our house on Christmas morning.  Some years they were earlier than others.  And then there was the Christmas of 2008.  The year before Daddy got sick.  It was Christmas morning.  I’d been up rather late the night before putting out the cookies and Coca-Cola for Santa.  It was 6:58. I only know this because I opened my eyes to check when I heard……

The doorbell.  Ringing all through the house.

Did I mention it was 6:58 a.m.?  In the morning?

They were quite tickled with themselves.

And once I realized that the Fella could appreciate the humor in the situation, I was delighted at their turnabout.  As were my young’uns.  Once they wiped the sleep out of their eyes.

What a great memory!

Then last year, Mama had talked about the possibility of not coming on Christmas morning because of the weather.  She told me on Christmas Eve that she would check the weather when she got up.  It was 4 a.m. when I realized that Cooter was running a fever.  My heart broke.  I knew that Mama didn’t need to be around him, as she was vulnerable to illness because of medication.  I didn’t want to wake her up, so I waited until 8 a.m. to call her.  No answer.  Ten minutes later.  Still no answer.

Three minutes later.  Her car in the driveway.  Oh yes!  Oh no.

I told her on the porch.  She looked at me and said, “Well, we just won’t hug today, but it will be okay.”  And she hugged me, wrinkled her nose, and let me know it all really would be okay.

And it was.  Better than okay.  I was able to have my last Christmas waking up to see my sweet and spunky Mama’s face.

My Mama, who taught me to wake up and look around me at what others needed and figure out what I could do, left us for a better place in February.  But she is still with us.  I know she is.  I was struggling this year with what I could wake up out of my grief and do this Christmas to help someone else.  And in the craziest of ways, things presented themselves.  Not what I would have thought of and not what I was expecting, but things that woke me up and blessed me anyway.  I’ve had my eyes opened, my heart torn, and my mind blown this holiday season. I’ve cried over what I’ve seen both good and bad, and I’ve laughed with joy.  And I know my Mama had something to do with it.  She liked to help me look outside of myself when I was on my pity pot.  In fact, she insisted on it.  That’s just how she rolled.

When Mama woke up in the mornings, the first thing she’d do was have a glass of chocolate milk.  It helped her feel better since she had to take so much medicine.

And that’s what we all need, isn’t it?  Something to help us get through the bitter and broken and hard to swallow moments in life.

So this Christmas morning, I will have a small glass of chocolate milk in her honor.  And remember all that she and Daddy taught me about waking up at Christmas and every day of the year.  It’s about those you can giggle with, walk with; it’s about looking around and helping when you can, and always keeping your chocolate milk handy.  When the world gets hard, nothing’s better than giggling sisters and brothers and all the chocolate you can find.

Merry Memory-Making!

Other Christmas memories from my childhood–

Daddy and Cherry Cordials

Keeping Christmas Everyday

Christmas a Hundred Years Before

O Christmas Tree