s-o-c-k-s ~2022~ socks

It was nineteen years ago that we were preparing to move to Japan. It was a huge change for this Georgia girl who had never lived more than thirty minutes from the home she’d grown up in. Still, it was a wonderful experience, and we came home two and a half years later with another family member–our second daughter, our sweet T.

While living in Japan we adopted the custom of leaving our shoes at the door–something we still do today. As a fan of no shoes and flip flops, my children–two legged and four–know something is up when I put on socks, because, unless it is cold, I’m not wearing them. Socks on is my version of game on–about to take care of some business.

Still, I have a love-hate relationship with socks. Yes, I can even be sentimental about socks. I still have a pair given to me thirty years ago as a Christmas gift. I have a pair of Tigger socks my parents gave me before we moved to Japan. I have some I crocheted beads around when Aub was in second grade. And I have the inevitable, aggravating singles that I hesitate to get rid of because…..you just never know, do you? I used to make it a game for my littles to match up the socks when we’d collect enough to make it worthwhile. As teens, they aren’t really interested in that game much anymore. *sigh*

I was once talking about how I feel about socks with a friend of mine. I suggested (jokingly, because I’d never do that to our environment) that I wish that socks were disposable, so I wouldn’t have to deal with all the lost socks. “Socks are the bane of my existence,” I told her. She was aghast and told me so. She really, really loves her socks.

And that’s something, isn’t it? You can tell a lot about a person by their socks–the ones they wear, if they wear any at all. I have a friend who in college always matched her socks to her outfit–I loved all her colorful socks. My Fella enjoys wearing unusual socks. Sweet T delights in picking out socks for her Daddy every year. She has even found some wrapped up like a pizza and some like a burger, each in a special box. Cooter, on the other hand, likes his basic black (last Christmas) or white (this Christmas). My Daddy liked the basic whites too. He even used a Sharpie to label the matching ones–A and A, B and B, 1 and 1, 2 and 2, and so on. Y’all, I love my Daddy, but I’m not exactly sure what good that did except to know which one had mysteriously disappeared. Because that’s what socks do in my house. I think we have one of those special sock eating washing machines. PM me for the brand if you too would like your socks to spontaneously disappear. Truly, this is a great machine for that.

Recently, our sweet T came in and told me she knew how to say “It is what it is” in Spanish. “S-O-C-K-S.” (eso sí que es) Well, what do you know? Pretty cool.

In the past couple of years, I have found myself saying “It is what it is” quite a bit. I think it’s my way of verbal sighing. Or a way of shrugging with words. When things come along that just weigh heavy on my soul, things I don’t have control over…..so much of how I live these days feels out of my control.

And yet…..

I don’t want my children to grow up with S-O-C-K-S being their go to. I don’t want them to shrug or sigh and feel resigned in the midst of all that is going on around them. Are there things they can’t do anything about, things they can’t change? Oh my, yes. But are there things that people want us to believe we can’t change, but maybe just maybe we can? Good gravy, YES! We have to at least TRY.

It’s a fine line to balance–acceptance and advocacy. Some things in this life we have to accept, but some things we never should. I’m reminded of the Serenity Prayer–

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
courage to change the things I can, 
and wisdom to know the difference
Reinhold Niebuhr

As I was thinking about what my word for this coming year should be, I kept hearing my daughter saying S-O-C-K-S in my mind, AND all the while I’ve been moving around a stack of mismatched socks this holiday season as I’ve cleaned and decorated. So I think it is only fitting that I’ve settled on SOCKS for my word for 2022.

Maybe it’s not so important that they match. I remember a company (Little Miss Match?) who deliberately paired together socks that didn’t match, and they were adorable. (I’m sure there’s a lesson in that for making what you have work for you, but that’s a story for another time.) Maybe what I need to focus on this coming year is knowing when to say S-O-C-K-S (eso sí que es) and when to put my socks on, ready to take care of business. Because the world needs us to do both, y’all. May we all have the wisdom and the courage to know which socks to go with when.

Love to all, and may you bless and be blessed in the coming year!

Thursday Takeout and Year End Musings

Thursday nights are Takeout nights.

Which is short for “Tara has had enough with the cooking of the things and needs a break, it’s almost the weekend, for goodness’ sake.”

Three nights a week our adventures and learning have us getting home later in the evening and one more has us getting home right around a late supper time. So Thursday, the last night each week of those adventures–that’s the night we drive through a drive thru and give thanks for folks who cook the food.

We recently have added a new place we can pick up from that is safe for our food allergies. Any day we can add another restaurant to our safe list, we dance around and celebrate with all the bells and whistles. It’s a very, very good thing.

A few weeks back, on a Thursday night, we went to the drive thru at this new place and ordered a smorgasbord of food to enjoy that night–and perhaps, when all was said and eaten, we’d be really lucky and there would be leftovers to flip for on Friday for lunch. When we pulled up, they asked us to hold for a minute. Gladly. I like to have the orders done and ready to relay, and, with preferences and requests coming from two in the car and one more via text message plus my own, I could use that minute wisely. It was probably a couple of minutes later when the voice asked me to go ahead with my order.

When we got to the window, they asked us to pull up ahead and said they’d bring it out. I think Text Message’s order required extra prep time, so there we were. Still, as I told them, “You’re cooking supper. I’m just really thankful for y’all because that means I don’t have to.” And I meant it. I don’t play with appreciation when I don’t have to cook. When you’ve learned to manipulate around food allergies in meal planning and prepping, there are times and phases and seasons when cooking is less fun and more tiresome.

We pulled ahead and waited only a couple of minutes. They were surprisingly quick. Also surprisingly, they had two young men bring out our food. One could have managed it I feel sure, but they both came out. They delivered our food, and then they thanked me.

They thanked me. Thanked us for being so nice about the delay and just in general, as “we’ve had some folks come through this evening and not be so nice…..so thank you, ma’am.”

That broke me. These two young men explained how they are understaffed and pulling double duty and how good it had been to be greeted with a smile and treated with kind words.

Y’all. I did nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary. My Mama raised me to say thank you to the person who cooked my food. My Fella was raised the same way, because, bless him, no matter what I put on a plate or in a bowl, he always, always thanks me for the meal. It was second nature to me to thank the people behind the glass window and masks. I didn’t even think about it–it just happened.

Sometimes my children call me “extra” when I carry on conversations with clerks and staff in different places we go. (Or should I say “used to go?”) But let me assure you there was nothing “extra” in my tired, worn out, ready to be home, hungry “thank y’all for cooking supper for us tonight.” Not one bit.

And yet–it was seen as such.

I’ve carried this with me for several reasons over the past month or so since it happened. It struck me how an easily spoken kind word can have a huge impact on someone, especially someone who is having a rough moment. In a past year, I’ve chosen the word “intentional” as my New Year’s word. I suppose that’s what I found myself thinking after that interaction with those weather-worn young men. I need to be more intentional with those kind words. Make it second nature to speak kindness into the air to pierce the darkness and heaviness and negativity. The only way that happens is by practice, speaking those words as many times in a day as I can. It might even–ahem–require I speak those kinds of words to the people in my own home–the ones 2020 has found me spending more time with than ever before. Kindness. Kind words. Putting them out there–making it as effortless as breathing. That’s a goal. (And I’m not gonna lie, some days, the struggle can be really real.)

Something else happened that night. We said good night and were humbled by their appreciation for such a simple thing as thank you. We drove off and as we headed back to the main road, my shotgun rider called for me to stop–she saw someone running after us. WHAT?! Sure enough, one of the young men had chased after us, for quite a distance (it was very dark out and I hadn’t noticed him), to ask us to come back for a small portion of the food we had ordered but that hadn’t been put in the bag originally.

That.

My children, 13 and 16, noticed this. They saw him and his persistence in completing his job and doing it well. As I maneuvered the divided highway to turn around and go back to the drive thru, they talked about him and the great service that we had gotten that night. Those young men had been extra EXTRA, and we noticed. It made a lasting mark on my people and their hearts. I am so thankful for that and for those employees and their example.

As this year comes to a close on this very different sort of day–this morning was our Christmas morning (due to Covid quarantine) and tonight is New Year’s Eve, complete with games (gifts from this morning) and fun snacks–I am thinking about those young men. I think about what made that night memorable, and it boils down to a few things.

Honest. Transparency. Appreciation. Relationship.

When I told them thank you for cooking supper, that I was worn out, I was being honest. My true self. Because Thursday night at the drive thru after a long week is as real as Tara gets. And in return, those young men felt safe being transparent about their evening. We all were appreciative of the other, and that right there set the stage for a good foundation for a relationship. And that relationship just might be why that young man chased me down. I really believe that. We are willing to go the extra mile for people we are in relationship with. Oh sure, I realize he might have been required to find me and ask me to come back, but the smile on his face behind the mask after that long run–that was all about the relationship. If ever so new, it was still there.

Whom can we be honest with about our struggles? Whom can we be transparent with and ask for help? Or offer to help when we see a need? Whom do we appreciate, even for the seemingly smallest of things? How can we let them know that? Let me just say, “I appreciate you,” are precious words to hear, especially on cold, dark nights when one is exhausted from all the day to dailies. They are magic words, because they can build a connection. And connections lead to relationships. And relationships? They are the lyrics to the melody of life, bringing meaning to and enriching our story.

Tonight as we end this year and turn the page on the calendar, I’ve chosen my word for 2021. (And no, the irony is not lost on me that last year’s word was “trash” and this year’s words were “make do.” I’m still shaking my head and laughing over that.)

My word for 2021 is extra.

Extra.

I plan to live it, give it, demand it, respect it, love it, and be it. Being extra has led to some of the most memorable moments of my life–and a Thursday night less than a month ago is one of them. May we be the people throwing out extra praise, running the extra mile to help someone, and may we live and love so extra that we are loved and treasured more than the extra packet of dipping sauce that is always a treat to find!

Much love and wishing you all a good year, one extra good day at the time.

A New Verb

Last night at Pursuit, where the crew and I go on Wednesday nights for worship and fellowship, we listened to the message given by our friend and pastor.  He talked about light in the darkness and being that for others.  But the one thing that stood out to me and that I’ve carried in my heart today was when he {perhaps accidentally} “verbed” a noun.

He was talking about holding onto memories and moments and how they can give us hope–only he started to say, “That hopes me–that brings me hope.”

I am not sure if he meant to use hope that way, but I have to tell you, I’m glad he did.

I know I’m going to give away my rapidly increasing age with this, but today as I pondered over hope as a verb, I recalled the SNL skit from my college days with Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon as Hans and Franz. (Funny I don’t remember watching SNL much, but I remember those two vividly.)  They would introduce their characters and say in unison,  “We are here to pump {clap} you up!” In each skit they’d share that this is what they were called to do.  It would seem that this was their sole focus in life.  Pumping others up.

In reflecting on the words from last night, I’ve thought about how we are called to be light in the darkness.  There has been so much blasted darkness that has crept in and wrapped itself around people whom I care about and our world in general–it has weighed heavily on my heart these past few weeks or so.  In the midst of what our friends and family and even strangers in the checkout line at the Kroblixmart are going through–most of which WE HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT–we are called to hope others up.  (You can even add the clap for nostalgia if you’d like.)  In much the same way as Hans and Franz did, we need to make it a focus of our lives–to encourage and listen and stand close with those who feel like they are drowning in the darkness.  They don’t owe us the story of all their pain and turmoil–just jump in there and care anyway.  They’ll tell us when and if they’re ready.  In the meantime, hold fast with grace and love and prayer and the power of a gentle touch in the midst of hurt, doubt, pain, sorrow and the jarring, harsh crushing of one’s dreams.

I’m so thankful for the words I heard last night, whether they were intentional or not.  As the hours of light grow fewer and the shadows grow longer,  I fervently pray that in the coming days I can hope up those I walk alongside and share their load.  Perhaps we all can do that.  Fervently, urgently, fiercely surrounding those in pain with love and grace and hope–hope that gives the strength to see folks through to tomorrow.

And if when life catches us off guard and sends us spiraling, may we all find the strength to find someone close by, grab tight to their hand, and say–even if only a whisper, “Please.  Hope me up.”

I am reminded of this truth I heard years ago–“Hurting people hurt people.”  I like this new twist to show the beauty and power of our new verb–

Hopeful people hope people.

May we all make tomorrow a day of hope.  Finding it, giving it, doing it.

Hope me up, y’all.

Love to all.

*****thanks, TH.  For your words and for the inspiration.  

hans and franz photo

We are here to hope {clap} you up!–Hans and Franz