The Sign on the Path Oft Taken

First, this is not a political post or commentary.  That would be breaking one of my Daddy’s major rules for life–do not talk about politics in general company.  If you know me at all, you know I try not to ever disappoint my Daddy–or my Mama for that matter–even still.  I try to give them no cause to come back and give me a talking to.

Second, there is some language coming up.  I warn you in case you might have littles close by while you’re reading.  My apologies in advance.

Monday afternoon Cooter and I were riding up the interstate as we do several times a week–this time for his drama program.  Roles for the spring show were going to be announced, and between being excited about that and talking about his birthday coming up very soon, we were in high spirits.

As we got close to our exit, we saw the sign…..the sign that for many years has made clear that this business didn’t support our previous President but does support our current one.  It’s not an electronic sign, but the kind you have to put the letters up manually, so each message tends to stay a while.  There was a new one up on Monday.

I haven’t really had a problem with their political messages.  It’s their sign, their business, their right to put up their message.  Folks can choose not to read if they don’t agree, just as I do with social media posts that don’t geehaw with my way of thinking.

But Monday.  Monday.

Cooter saw it first.  And the question he asked drew my attention to it just before we passed it.

What.  On.  Earth.

Surely not.

“Mama, what does ‘MF’er’ mean?”

Y’all.

I did not want to have to talk to my 11 year old about that.  NOT AT ALL.  I’m not even sure I’d like to talk with my 23 year old about it.  Yep.  I just thought about it.  I would not.

After a quick glance at the sign which said, “Re-elect the @*’er 2020,” and a deep breath, I explained to him that it stood for a very ugly term and he wasn’t to ever use it.

He got it.

“Oh.”  He paused, as I turned on my turn signal for our exit.  “But Mama, they really should not, I mean SHOULD NOT have that on the sign!  I mean, that’s ugly.  What if a small child read that?”

Bless.  He has no idea that in my heart, he’ll always be my small child.

He paused again.  “I think we should sue them!”

(Sometimes I think having a sister in law school has him a little lawsuit happy.)

We talked about how suing them wasn’t feasible or likely to do any good.  “But can you tell them it’s not nice? That they shouldn’t put that up there?”

And so it was that I found myself on the phone today.  We double checked the name of the business on our way yesterday, because just as a I can quote you a commercial but not remember what the product was, I have passed by this place for years, but couldn’t remember what the business was called.

It turns out they have a few locations in our state, and the one closest to us is not the headquarters.  When a man answered the phone at the headquarters, I told him the location I was calling about.  Yes, they are all owned by the same person.

Our conversation started off nice enough.  Then I explained.

“I’m calling you because the language used on the sign at your location close to us is inappropriate and offensive.  I have no problem with the political commentary on the sign over the years, but if they were trying to win me over to their way of thinking, that would lose me right there.  I hate that I had to explain to my 11 year old what that term is and how ugly it is.  Even my child recognized that it is inappropriate and asked me to call you and tell you it’s ugly and ask you to take it down because he’s worried about small children reading it.  A child knows it’s wrong, but an adult–I assume it was an adult who put the message up–doesn’t?”

There was a pause. I wondered if maybe they hadn’t been aware. And then–

“Well–“he seemed to be shuffling a bit–“an adult said it first.”

Y’all.  *wide eyed stare*

I nearly choked on my indignation and disbelief.  An adult said it first?  I’m sorry, what?!?

I gathered my senses enough to reply.  “But don’t we teach our children that we don’t repeat everything we hear?  To discern right from wrong for themselves?  This is wrong.”

He sighed and said he’d share it with the owner.  I asked to speak to the owner and was told he was out to lunch, but that he’d give him my message.

And so that was that.

My heart was heavy and I had a bad taste in my mouth.  This is what is wrong with our world today.

My Mama raised us on several basic principles, but the top two were the Golden Rule–“Do unto others as you’d have done unto you,” and “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”  I might have those in reverse order, as there was many a time one of the four of us would use as an excuse for some wrongdoing, “But he did it first…..” “But she was the one who…..” “and then he…..” “she said…..”

My Mama didn’t play that.  Ever.

I can almost see my Mama’s eyes rolling at the man’s response today.  Maybe because I saw my own in the mirror after I ended the call, and I look more like her everyday.  (I was hiding in my room for the call, as one does when privacy in a house full of folks is needed.)  Or maybe it’s because I know, I KNOW, she’d have had something to say about that excuse–“But an adult said it first.”

I can also hear my Mama, “well if an adult jumped off the bridge, would you?”

No ma’am.  NO MA’AM.

My heart breaks that this is what we’ve come to.  We respond, we retaliate, we follow blindly behind others–whether it be responding with inappropriate comments because someone said it first or participating in illegal or harmful activities because someone else was doing it first.

If someone else doing it first makes things justifiable, we are headed towards a whole lot worse world of hurt than we are in now.  Please, y’all, please–will you help me spread the word that taking the high road, the one oft less travelled, is best? (I know it’s hard–I struggle myself at times.)  Not responding in kind when hurtful words are spoken, not taking a sip or a puff when underage drinking or illegal drugs are present, not following along just because “everyone else is doing it.”  Can we please encourage and support each other to be stronger and better than that? Can we please break this vicious cycle before it breaks us?

Cooter was pleased I’d made the call.  Unfortunately he thought that would fix it, so he was very disappointed when we passed by tonight and the sign with its ugly combination of letters was still there.  “I hate that sign,” he mumbled, almost under his breath.

Oh buddy, I know.  I hate it too, and all that it represents–a world where tit for tat is okay.

But I hope that he never stops speaking up and out for what he sees is right and just and true.

Tonight I leave you with the wish below.  For you, for me, for Cooter, for the folks who made the decision to put those words on that business sign, and for all who feel the brokenness  in this world.  PEACE.  Love to all.

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Art by macon.ink Instagram @macon.ink

 

A Few Minutes in the Dark

Yesterday morning I woke up to the sound of my cell phone vibrating repetitively against my bedside table.  I barely had the time to pick it up and read that there was a tornado warning issued before the tornado siren a few miles away started going off.

It was startling to wake up that way, but we jumped up and gathered our littles and Miss Sophie and made our way back to my closet–our safe place in our home.

I have been remiss.  This is not something we had prepared for or practiced.

Also, my closet was kind of a mess.  And it was dark in there.

Still we squeezed in and waited while the Fella checked news reports.  It sounded like the worst of it was a couple of miles north, but we weren’t sure when we would be safe to leave the closet.

Sitting there holding Miss Sophie, gently rubbing her fur to keep her calm, our Princess said, “You know, I know this is scary, but it’s really kind of exciting all at the same time, isn’t it?”

Ummmm, well, yeah, I guess that might be an understatement, but okay.

Huddled close on my left was Cooter.  He was shaking.  When I’d gone in his room, the siren had already awakened him.  He was afraid we were being bombed, bless him.  And though he knew that wasn’t the case, he understood the real threat of a tornado, and it had him very anxious.

After a few minutes of our Princess talking about things like how they are never allowed in my closet (one word–Christmas) and how she really hopes I will move some things around before we have to do this again, we got the all clear from the Fella.  The meteorologist said the storm had moved to the east of us, and so the rain would be coming soon.

And it did.

That whole time, I’d been holding Cooter and rubbing his knee.  I don’t know why, but that’s what I did.  He was still pretty shaken when we finally emerged.

We spent the rest of the morning hearing about the damage and checking on folks we love and care about.  Round two of the storm hit in the afternoon.  We were very fortunate, and other than losing power for about thirty seconds, we had no issues.  I am thankful.

I learned a lot from that storm.  I need to have emergency plans for all of the emergencies, and we need to practice them.  No joke.  I KNEW this, but I hadn’t taken it seriously I guess.   Day to day life carried on, and I didn’t make it a priority.  That will change now.

I also learned something about people.  Our Princess can be so sensitive about so many things, but in the midst of the storm, she kept her cool, and after her initial reaction, carried on as usual.  I think she just trusted that everything would be okay.  She has a quiet strength that we tend to overlook in the midst of her butterfly personality.  On the other hand, Cooter has reached the age where he is trying to be tough.  He will find things to laugh or joke about in a heartbeat, and he’s really clever and very funny.  I do get glimpses of his sensitive side, but never more so than yesterday.  He was concerned, and all of the potential outcomes ran through his mind.

Turns out strength can come from where you least expect it.  And so can tender hearts.

Giving thanks for moments in the dark and those who hold me close when we are there, and even more so for the light that greets us when we come out.

Love to all.

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By NOAA (http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/watch/ww0048.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“…..with every Christmas card I write…..”

On our way home this evening, the song “White Christmas” came on the radio.  Aub and Cooter were in the car with me, as I was humming along without really thinking about the song.  The song continued, and the lyrics played:

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
with every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry…..”

and then I heard Cooter hollering at the top of his lungs from the very back seat–

“WHAT?” Palm to forehead.  “What?  I’m supposed to write Christmas cards too?”

*sigh*

Poor little guy.

Poor all of us.

How many folks have asked you, “Are you ready for Christmas?”  “Do you have it all done?”  “Have you planned your menu for the day?”

How many times have you asked those questions in an effort to make conversation?

*guilty*

All the pressure.  All the expectations.  We create list after list.  Shopping lists.  Gifts we’re giving lists.  Parties and dinners we are invited to.  Parties and dinners we want to throw.  A baking list.  A grocery list.  A list of errands.  And yes, Cooter, even a Christmas card list.

One of my sweet friends was all but apologizing to me today that her Christmas card wasn’t going out until after Christmas.  There was just too much to do and not enough time.

Bless.  Her.  Sweet.  Soul.

I remember the year I didn’t send out cards until Valentine’s.  It worked.  It was kind of fun.  And I’m guessing our card didn’t get lost in a stack with everyone else’s Valentine’s Day cards.  Just a thought.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves–scratch that.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to create the perfect Christmas full of all the perfect little moments in a clean, tidy home with lots of festive decorations and ornamentation and all of the joy and fun and laughter and contented sighs.

Yeah.

I’m betting I’m not the only one.

We have one week left, y’all.  To take it back.  To take a moment to rest and cuddle and read a Christmas story together piled up on the couch or chair or bed underneath the colorful afghans that bring me such joy with the people that make my soul glad.  Savoring the moment without worrying over the perpetual clutter or unwrapped gifts and all the other things we carry on our shoulders.  To simply be in the precious moment of NOW.

We have one week left to change our question from “Are you ready?” to “How are you?” or “Where are you finding peace and Light today?”  or “Where AM I going to find peace and Light today?”

We have one week left to change it. Even if we only take five minutes a day to step away from all the expectations and Hallmark commercials (doggone them for making me cry and wanting to create all the moments myself) and hustle and bustle and lists and pressure, and we just sit down and breathe.  And laugh.  Or listen.  Or sit next to the people we love or the people we’ve just met and BE.  That’s the goal.  If we can even take five minutes a day to welcome into our hearts the presence of Peace, we’ve come a long way from all of the things weighing on us, all of the lists we carry around, and we’re one step closer to that quiet night of reflection and Love beneath a bright star listening to the quiet, steady breaths of the little one newly come to us.

Go ahead.  Add THAT to your list.  You deserve it.  And *takes a deep breath* so do I.

Love to all.

Christmas_To_Do_List_(4206456664)

By Jon Curnow from London, United Kingdom (Christmas To Do List) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Sometimes They’re the Words I Need to Hear

So when someone is having a hard time, feeling broken, lost, alone, worried, upset, anxious, and you don’t know what to say–

silence is okay.  Sitting right there next to them and saying nothing is okay.

But you know what else is okay?

Saying, “It will be okay.”

Because sometimes whether it will be all right or not isn’t the point exactly.  Sometimes, whatever happens, they will be okay because they won’t be alone.

They have you–either sitting there in silence or reminding them that this moment will pass, by saying that one word–

not “okay.”

But “will.”

With that one word, we turn to the future.

Will.

Be.

Okay.

It might not be now, but this too will pass.

I’ve thought about this a lot tonight, and yes, at times it might seem like a trite (or downright inappropriate) thing to say, but sometimes we need reminding that things as they are in this moment won’t always be this way.

Things WILL right themselves once the storm passes and these choppy waters settle, and it will be okay.

There is comfort in not being alone.  And having someone remind you to look ahead.  Beyond THIS.

Tonight I’m thankful for the one who reminded me, “It will be okay.  You will be okay.” I love you.

May we all have someone who knows us well enough to know when those words are the ones we need to hear.

Love to all.

Maybe I Should Wear a Cone of Shame

I don’t know that I’ve ever had a Monday so stereotypical as this past Monday. You know, one where you’d really rather just pull the covers up over your head and go back to sleep?

Yeah.  That was my morning.  Between me and Miss Sophie, we stayed in the road for appointments.   One in town and one out of town.  By the time we were all home and settled back in, it was mid-afternoon.

That evening my sweet cousin texted me to check and see how we were all doing.  Because she has a hot spot she won’t leave alone, Miss Sophie had to wear a cone–the “Cone of Shame,” as some call it.  It’s not serious, but she keeps scratching so the cone was the obvious solution.  As I told my cousin about both visits that day, she wrote back, “Well, at least you’re not having to wear a cone too.”

Well, if that isn’t the truth!

After I laughed and appreciated having someone on my side who can keep it real and yet keep me laughing (a true treasure), I got to thinking about what she said.  And while I’m glad I don’t have to wear a cone, I’m not sure if maybe I shouldn’t be wearing one.

After all, I tend to pick at things until they fester up again, instead of leaving them alone and letting my heart and soul heal.

In cases like that, a cone around what is worrying me would be a welcome reminder for me to leave it alone.  Let it go.  Move on and beyond.

I was thinking about this today when something that frustrated me a few weeks ago started rumbling around in my heart again. After a few minutes of reliving it and getting all riled up again, I realized what I had done.

Opened the wound.  Felt the pain again.  Set the healing process back all over again.

So yes, please, could I borrow that cone of yours, Miss Sophie?  It seems to be working for you.  Maybe it’s time I learn to quit picking at those worrisome spots.

May we all learn to let things go.  Even just a little.

Love to all.

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Still Squaring Up…..Thirty Years Later

There has a been a lot of pain and joy and violence and heartbreak and celebration and divisiveness and reunification in the past two weeks.  Almost more than I can begin to take in and really wrap my brain around.

It has me feeling a bit discombobulated frankly.

Or maybe that’s the headache.

This afternoon I went into my bedroom to get something I’d left in there, and as I rounded the corner of my side of the bed, I heard the voice in my head.

It was from over thirty years ago.  I guess I must have tucked it away really well, because I haven’t thought about this in years.  But today, with all of this that has been going on–people posting and shouting and crying out to be heard and understood and others crying out for things to stay the same and just folks crying in general–it all came rushing back.

And it near about sent me to my knees, weeping.

I was in elementary school.  In the county I grew up in, there were two towns.  The one I grew up just outside of and the other one where everything happened.  This was where the 4-H office was, and it was also where the old school my Daddy attended growing up was.  The 4-H group used an area in that school for their Square Dance classes.

When I first heard of the classes, I was excited.  When I was in third grade, only a select few had been allowed to go to the gym to learn square dancing.  I was too young to understand why, so I can’t answer that question now.  I just know I was not one of them.  So when this opportunity came about to learn through the 4-H club a few years later, a club I was involved in at my own school, I was elated.

My parents were willing to take me, something I don’t take lightly now, being a parent who is part taxi driver much of the time.  Daddy took a book and would sit in the car reading, as best as I can remember.  As I was the only one from our town attending, I didn’t know anyone else there.  There were three girls who were welcoming to me, and I was so thankful.  When the caller announced, “Square up!” the four of us stood waiting for partners to join us.  And off we went.

I loved it.

My Mama made me a couple of skirts and a crinoline.  I loved the feel of flouncing around in them and my bright white tennis shoes.  I had found something I truly enjoyed.

Then one night one of the ladies who was volunteering as chaperone called me to the side.  She quietly suggested maybe I’d want to square up with someone else for a change.  I can hear her voice now, but I can no longer see her face.   I can still see the dimly lit room and that tile floor, all scuffed and dull from years of use, but her face is gone.  Which is probably for the best.  Some things are better left forgotten.

She was strongly suggesting that I change.  While she didn’t say it in so many words, it was very clear to me, shocked as I was, that she thought I should leave my three friends because they were black.  African-American.

I was in shock.  Speechless.  Broken.

That’s what drove me to my knees today.

I had forgotten what that felt like.  To have someone in authority telling me whom I should be friends with, hang out or associate with, whom I should care about. For someone else’s prejudices to be inflicted upon me.

And here we are.  Over 30 years later.  We are still seeing this happen today, and it is heart wrenching.  People who are so certain that their way of thinking is the only way–the right way–that they believe everyone else should abide by their beliefs as well.

I don’t remember exactly what I did in that moment, except that I do remember feeling sick.  And dirty.  And I remember going back to my friends.  And squaring up.

Because that’s what you do.  Stick with your friends.  Even when others suggest they are “less than” or you could do better.

What I’m having trouble remembering is whether or not something was said to my Daddy, or if I ever told my parents myself.  I can only imagine what my Daddy, who came up during segregation, would have said–the man who told me later in life that when I was in high school, he searched his soul and decided that if I ever brought home a boyfriend of a different race, the only thing that mattered was if that person loved me and treated me right.  The same man who also shared that if one of us came home in a serious relationship with someone of the same gender, he would be okay then too.  As long as we were loved and treated well.

Because he loved us.  And that’s all that mattered.

Mama too.  She was all about loving folks.  And feeding them.   But that’s another story.

Tonight I’m still a little shaky.  For a few minutes today I was a pre-teen and had my world rocked all over again.  I was overwhelmed by the shame of feeling like I was doing something wrong, and yet also confused because I was pretty sure I wasn’t.  Once again I feel the weight of being responsible for little people and shaping their thoughts and hearts.  I don’t want to mislead them.  Ever.  I’m thankful for this memory resurfacing today, painful as it is, as it has reminded me to guard against prejudices–those get passed along very easily, even when we aren’t trying.

I want to take a page from my parents’ book on this one.  Love all.  And let my children know again and again there is never a story or person they can’t bring home to me.

Let’s go out there and make this world a better place.  PLEASE.  And please someone show me that we have moved beyond where we were thirty years ago.  My heart really needs that right now.

Love to all.

By le vent le cri (Love you!) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By le vent le cri (Love you!) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Order in the Chaos

In the midst of a week of realizing, once again, just how much is out of my control, I tried to keep my hands busy. If my hands were busy, maybe I would focus on the task at hand instead of my heart hurting or the troubles of my friends and family.

Or not.

But it was worth a try.

It was funny what brought me the greatest comfort. It wasn’t the nap. (I know, I was shocked too.) It wasn’t bingeing on Netflix or picking up a book.

It was tackling Mount Washmore that had collected on Cap’s couch. With all the comings and goings of the past few days, clothes got clean but not folded or put away.

It was time. As I matched socks and sorted out each child’s clothes in stacks by pants, shirts, and unmentionables, I found peace. In the quiet with the melee of the house in the background (because it is rarely ever completely quiet around here), I folded and just “was.” No thought train running through my brain, no emotional rumination, just quietly picking up one article of clothing, folding it, deciding where to put it, and then moving on to the next piece.

One piece at a time. Slowly the pile went away.

My Mama used to say loading the dishwasher for her was like playing Tetris. Trying to figure out how to place each dish in just the right spot to fit all of the dirty dishes in there.

Making order in the chaos.

That’s what I did yesterday. I can’t fix all the things that are rolling in around me, but that pile of laundry? Folded, sorted, and put away. Done.

That I could do. That I could control.

And it felt good.

Sometimes it’s the simple things to help us swing back toward “balance.” And balance is what I long for.

May you all have a load of laundry to fold just when you need some peace the most.
Love to all.