The One About Shopping Carts and This Season I’m In

I am in a new season of life it would seem.  The one where I am called out on my assumptions and the conclusions I’ve jumped to.  I am fascinated and intrigued by it, because the message to “chill” and “give things a second or third glance” continues to come from the strangest and most unusual of places.

This time it was a parking lot.

And a story.

Yesterday, my sweet friend Miss Carolyn shared about her trip to take some items to our local Hospice Thrift Shop.  She was loaded down, and when she got there she was grateful to find a shopping cart that someone had left in the parking lot.  She started unloading her car and putting things in the shopping cart when someone came up and asked if she needed help.  He not only finished loading the cart, but also helped her get it all inside.  A blessing for sure.

Huh.  How many times have I pulled into a parking lot and seen a stray cart and had some seriously unkind thoughts about the person who made the decision to leave it there?

And here was just such a cart blessing my sweet friend.

Well there you go.

I thought about sharing that story last night, but I didn’t feel like it was quite time.  That happens with the stories sometimes.  They have to ripen, so to speak, so I was content to let it sit.

This evening Cooter and I were on the way home from meeting the Fella at our Princess’ swim practice.  We made a quick stop at the Mart for broccoli and the new Star Wars movie.  You know, the important things.  (I’ll let you guess who was wanting which item.)  It was starting to rain as we pulled into the parking lot.  The closest spot was desirable, seeing as we did not have any rain gear with us.  The only problem was that it was near the Garden Center entrance, and they don’t usually have carts available in that area.  (And yes, it’s the Mart, I was going in for two things, but we all know how that goes in such a situation. I would definitely be needing a cart.)

As I pulled into the very first spot in front of the Garden Center, I saw a break in the clouds to the west on the horizon, and tiny bit of sunlight shone through despite the rain that was starting.  And that was when I noticed my own little blessing.  Two of them.

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And I laughed.  Remembering Miss Carolyn’s angel, I was glad that the angel had visited the Mart parking lot as well.  That cart let us dash in the closest door and not have to go back to the front to get a cart.

I am thankful.

I don’t think I’ll ever look at and judge a stray cart again.

I guess that’s the point though, right?

Tonight I’m thankful for a world of beautiful people sharing stories that can enlighten us and help our eyes be open to so much more good that what is readily apparent at first glance.  Thank you, Miss Carolyn, for letting me tell your story and for helping me to see Good and Light in a misplaced shopping cart.

Love to all.

 

The Most Precious Part of the Goodbyes

Tonight we said goodbye to a place that we hold dear, Bare Bulb Coffee.  I wasn’t sure if I could or would be able to be there as the lights were turned out for the last time, but as the time grew closer, I knew I couldn’t be anywhere else.

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Driving up to the shop one last time. Sunsets can be so beautiful…..

A few of us who have shared many cups of coffee and moments together in that space gathered tonight to play games, sit and talk, have coffee.  We ordered some pizza and hung out–making precious memories that I hope all of these people I love will carry with them for a long time.  There were friends there whom I was with last night, and there were friends whom I haven’t seen in far too long.

It was an unofficial Bare Bulb reunion of sorts, and it was good.

What I will remember most are the laughter and the stories.  And how folks whom we hadn’t known as long were brought around the table with open arms just like those we’ve known for years.  I’ll remember that strangers were invited to share in the pizza and the celebration and the light.  One more time.

I’ll remember the smiles on the faces and the gentle strumming of a guitar.  The children on the stage, playing games and eating pizza and coloring signs as tributes to this place where they grew up.  I’ll remember ordering my large decaf, no room for anything one. last. time.  The smell of the coffee.  The sound of the beans grinding.  The glittery tiles on the coffee table, the cool feel of the tile on the big table where the group gathered for one more round of Apples to Apples.

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The thing I’ve noticed is that when we are saying goodbye to someone we love, there is one thing that is always a part of those moments.

The stories.

And tonight was no different.  I heard all the stories being shared, and it made my heart glad.

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Tonight I’m most thankful for the ones who have gathered there over the years and those who gathered tonight.  Thank you for filling this sacred space with laughter and all the stories that we can hold close and use to fuel the flame given to us by this special place.  That we sent her out with laughter and fun and friends who have become family is a gift I will always be grateful for.

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…..and there was. For ALL.

May we honor what Bare Bulb Coffee was and what she taught us by letting our light shine–even in the darkest of times.  Together.

Love–and light–to all.

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From the first moment my feet stood in this place to the last time tonight, this place has always been a sanctuary for me. Holding me close and allowing me space and grace to do what my heart and soul needed to do. Thank you, friends, for sharing the journey.

 

bad news

so it turns out
I really can’t handle
any more bad news

I’ve decided that
based on the scientific fact
that I am sitting here
and everything in my head
resembles a ticker tape
running below the news reports

and we know nothing good
ever winds up there

so no more bad news

okay?

instead can we sit on the porch
and watch the breeze tickle the leaves
that are left after fall’s brigade came through
can we laugh at the children as they
do their best to imitate the big folks
while they play football or ride bikes
and just seem so free

can we pick up a brush and
splash the world with color
brights and lights and darks
and bring them together in one big
beautiful canvas that brightens
and lights up for miles around

can we curl up with a book
one that is light and witty
and whose characters find themselves
in the most unlikely of situations
but always work to find the happy ending
that is surely out there
if one
just holds on
long enough

can we sing at the top of our lungs
and dance in circles around the room
as the dog barks and the children giggle
and finally join in
when that certain song comes on that lifts
everyone’s spirits
every single time

can we measure and mix
and bake
and add all the sprinkles
to the cupcakes that make
everyday a celebration
eating them together in four bites
and downing them with the sweetest tasting water
ice cold and refreshing
laughter and cupcake wrappers
the remains of an afternoon well spent

so yes, just for today,
could we please let go of the what if’s
and what are’s
and what never will be’s
that drag my soul through the muck
so thick
that I can hardly stand up after

can we please turn off the news
and sit together
and tell the good stories
the ones that bring us all a little closer
and make us all smile

for today, it turns out,
I can’t handle
any more
bad news

tomorrow will be soon enough

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By Hello Darlin at http://www.flickr.com/photos/hellonheels/ via Wikimedia Commons

blue

perhaps
that candle he said you should use
countless years ago
showed how unique and precious
he thought you to be

like one blue candle
in a sea of red
amidst the holiday festivities

maybe he was saying
you are a treasure
unlike any other

and I would agree

blue was his favorite
and so were you

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By John Harvey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Light and Warmth Everlasting

There is something sacred about sitting around a fire and listening to stories when the weather is cold and the season is dark.

I think we tell ourselves we sit there for the warmth that the fire gives.

But I also think that while the warmth might begin as a spark from the fire that rises toward the sky, it’s only the beginning.  That spark lights a flame in the hearts of those gathered round that is fed by the laughter and love and shared joy in the moment.

It is then that we are loathe to leave, telling ourselves that when we move away from the fireside, we will feel the chill in the air, and the warmth will be gone, and we will be cold and all will be dark again.

Turns out that isn’t true.

Giving thanks for the warmth that is long-lasting, the kind that comes from good friends, good conversations, lots of laughter, and light and love.

Hang in there.  Though the dark seems long-lasting, the Light is coming.

Love to all.

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another year older

another year older
older but wiser
none the worse for wear

I don’t know about that
I’m older for sure
but not necessarily wiser
I’ve just spent the better part of the past forty-seven years
watching and taking notes
at what happens when certain choices are made
and so if that’s wise, then so be it
but I just call it noticing and paying attention
and listening to what Mama and Daddy said

and I’m for sure worse for the wear
my mirror doesn’t lie and anyone who says
different might need to have their eyes checked
I’ve grown to appreciate the scars though
as they show that I can heal, come back from the wounds
of this life
and the cracks allow the most beautiful light to shine through
and to change how I see things
rose-colored glasses have nothing on a soul that’s been
broken and still carries on

tonight I got a message from a friend in another country
on another continent
that warmed my heart
and made me smile
it’s already the day there
and in other places it won’t be for quite some time

that sort of puts it all into perspective
another year older
but really it’s just another day
another day to get more right than I do wrong
to try once more to put the pieces back together
and paint a beautiful memory for the ones I love to
look back on and remember

another day to act like the person I was raised to be
and honor those who brought me up
all these years
and still surround me with the love they did
from my very first breath and before

another day to breathe out kindness
and banish hate from my vocabulary
and from the tone I use
and the way I see the world

another day to live out my story
intertwined with all of yours
a good story
one that is filled with laughter and love and
meaning and
forgiveness and
grace

another year older
another day to live
“let us rejoice and be glad in it”

The One About My Dog’s Business and An Email from Pinterest

A couple of things that happened today–

Miss Sophie is a picky pooper.  I don’t mean to offend, but there’s just no other way to put it.  She will not go in our yard.  And she is very sensitive about where she will go.  It takes quite a bit of sniffing and turning around and sniffing some more and sometimes, even when you think “YES! Finally!” she turns around and walks away from that very spot that once seemed so perfect.

Some days it takes a really long time.

(Yeah, she’s quirky like the rest of the folks around here.  We’ve decided to find it endearing.)

Some time around the middle of the day, I got an email from Pinterest.  From PINTEREST.  Writing to me.  I just knew it was to congratulate me for pinning all the things, and that although my pins were the most fabulous, I had exceeded the limit of pinning without actually attempting to do/make/create one of them.

Thankfully, no.

It was to let me know that they’d had to delete one of my pins.  It had to do with the creator of the picture not wanting it pinned again and again and again.  It was a recipe for a special blend of essential oils to help with injuries.

Eh. *shrugs* Okay.

I was afraid it was one of the one of a kind crochet patterns I pinned that I am sure I will BEGIN WORKING ON TOMORROW forthwith.

The nice thing was how kind the email was.  Pinterest kept assuring me that it had nothing to do with me or anything I’d done.  It was all about the originator deciding they didn’t want their information out there.  But they wanted me to know in no uncertain terms that I had done NOTHING wrong.

Well, that’s a huge relief.

And it really was.  It was so nice to be assured that while something I did had to be affected, it wasn’t my fault.  And they went to such trouble and used such nice words to make sure I knew that.

These two totally unrelated stories have come together for me tonight to remind me of this–

We all have things–anger, impatience, frustration, sadness, pain, anxiety, fear among others–that needs to come out or we will go mad and become ill.  It just has to.  But instead of letting it fall wherever, we need to be deliberate about who we share it with and how.  All of our woes and worries matter, but we don’t need to let them fester to the point of blowing up and out at folks.  Be particular, find a good friend or trusted family member and share your stuff.  Perhaps sharing with a compassionate soul and getting it out in the open will help.  But if it should happen that you carry it too long, and you blow up at someone, take a lesson from Pinterest.  Tell them kindly it had nothing to do with them.  Apologize. And use kind words.  It does a world of wonders, y’all.

We all have messes and issues and troubles and woes.  May we all be as particular as Miss Sophie and as kind as Pinterest when we become overwhelmed by our own troubles and that stuff starts coming out.

Love to all.

the memories beckon

there is a hole
where she once was
and one for him too
a hole once filled by their love,
their stories, and their spirits
and oh, those smiles and laughter,
music to my soul

quiet now, empty and hollow
and dark
and I miss them

she misses her Love too
the one who once filled her heart
where the gaping hole is now

most of the time
we go through our days
and we are fine and okay

until we are not

then the tears flow and our hearts
break open,
we cannot speak
so we go to stand in the dark
next to these holes in our hearts

we weep in the darkness,
with our arms wrapped around us tight
trying to hold ourselves together

while others walk by
barely noticing the safety pylons
and rope blocking off this area,
because it’s just not safe
for others
who have never known it
to come close
to this kind of pain

but what if it were only made safe
by the presence of others
the ones who would venture near,
build a fire to keep us warm
and pull up a stump to sit with us
for however long it takes
waiting in the silence for the stories
we need to tell
one.more.time.
and the names we need to say,
to shout,
just so the world won’t forget

because we are so afraid they will,
that they will all forget this precious soul
and that one,
whom we loved and who loved
and made the world a brighter place
before they left, leaving these massive holes
in our lives

sit with me in the dark
please
and with her, the one over there
who misses him
and hold us close
until the stories we share
lift the weight a bit and we can walk again
and please say their names,
etch them on your heart

and tell me your stories
about the ones you loved
I will listen and say their names
and we will call out to the stars
for them to remember the ones
whose lights once shone so brightly

and we’ll walk close as we make our path
back into the light
once again

for a while
until the memories beckon us to them again

By F.A. Mac Donald, Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By F.A. Mac Donald, Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Share the Stories, Say Their Names

Today I sat in a church that holds memories of important days for me and added one more.  I sat there, saying goodbye to a man who taught me Physical Science in college.  And so much more.

It was a privilege sitting with others who love and miss him, listening to the one who was closest to him share his stories–some from as far back as 51 years and others as recent as four days ago, when this wonderful man took his last breath and the room was filled with peace.

As the stories were told, I was mesmerized.  I love listening to stories.  Maybe some folks were antsy, wondering how much longer, but all I could think of was More.  Please tell me one more.

Afterward I did get to hear more.  As people gathered around the tables heavy laden with foods, savory and sweet, they shared their memories.  Laughter and tears flowed freely.  Hugs were given again and again.  Old friends were reunited, and new friends were introduced.  The sun was shining, and the promised rain never came.

Only a gentle breeze that offered refreshment and relief from the afternoon heat.

Tonight I’m thinking about those stories, and how people from many different parts of this one man’s life came together to honor, remember, share, and listen.  There were people he’d taught, people he’d mentored, ones he’d worked with, others who worked for him, folks he worshipped alongside of, people who shared his love of camellias or music or books or good food…..

So many different people.  Gathered there in one place because of their love for this one very special person.

A beautiful thing to see and be in the midst of.

It was an added gift that I saw folks whom I love and have not seen in a long time.  I got to visit with women who were basically “rock stars” in my mind–they were prominent on my college campus when I was there.  I got to introduce them to my own Wesleyanne, and it warmed my soul to see her wrapped up in their stories from another time of the campus she loves so much.

I visited with a high school friend, and we laughed and laughed, and I know now why women go to the bathroom together.  It’s good to have a posse, y’all–no matter how many years go by between seeing each other.  My daughter looked at my friend’s daughter and could not believe how old they are both getting.  Yeah, that’s where life takes you, my girl.  Down a path that moves so quickly you are constantly surprised at how everything and everyone is changing.  It can be dizzying at times.

One of my favorite moments came when a family I’ve known for over thirty years came in and sat behind me in the church.  It was good to see their smiling faces.  I leaned over to my girl and whispered, “I babysat him once upon a time.”  Her eyes grew big as she took in the thirty-something year old man behind her.  “Wow,” she mouthed back.

His sweet Mama whom I remember from library events and school things–she’s dotted all through my childhood memories–leaned in to hug me.  “I love your blog,” she said.

Y’all.  That meant so much to me, yes.  To know that someone out there is reading these stories I share–and then her kind words.  Yes.  Thank you.  (I am humbled and honored when I discover that someone spends his/her time reading something I have written.)

But what meant the most to me was what she said next.  And she said it again in the hallway outside the bathroom in the parish hall.

“When I read them, I can see your Mama.  And I can hear her,” she said, smiling her beautiful smile.  “And your Daddy too.”

She knew my Mama–living in a small town, folks know just about everybody, but they volunteered together and well, she remembers.

And THAT meant everything to me.  She said their names, and she remembered.  I want to hold on to that moment for a long, long time.  In that moment, it was almost like I hadn’t completely lost them.

Today was about listening to stories.  And sharing them.  But most of all, today reminded me to speak the names of those whom we love who are no longer walking alongside us.  There is power in saying their names, in sharing their stories.  In that moment, we can bring their memory and stories to life and begin to heal the hearts of those who are hurting from the pain of missing the ones they love.  No matter how long it has been.

Whose story can you share today?  Who needs you to speak the name of one they love?  Whose story will you sit and listen to today?

Those stories, y’all.  They matter.  Some days, they’re all we have.

Love to all.

Catharsis

I’ve been having some trouble with my left shoulder for a few weeks now.  I tell you this not for sympathy, but to explain why I was where I was today.

It’s bothered me so much lately that I’m not sleeping well, because I tend to flop a couple of times during the night, and now I wake myself up when I do.  I am coping fine.  Getting things done and all that.  It’s just I’ve had to compensate for it being out of whack.  And I’ve stopped doing planks with Justin every morning.  Enough is enough.

Finally I decided to do something about it.  Me + lack of sleep = unhappy me = Unhappy Family.  It’s the new math.  Or Mama math, as I like to think of it.

I made an appointment with a very skilled massage therapist.  He has helped with our Princess’ leg issues to the point where she rarely has the leg aches anymore.  He has straightened out my neck and shoulders and LOWERED my shoulders (stress, I know where you live) more times than I can count.  I knew if it could be fixed, he could do it.

When folks hear about massages, they picture relaxing and gentle with calm music, candles, lovely scents.

Just no.

This guy is kind and compassionate, but it hurts, y’all.  He chases those little knots around and pushes them out of you.  And it hurts like the dickens.  Until it stops.  And he releases the pressure, and you feel like a new person.

End result is awesome, but it takes some work to get there.  (Hmmmm, that reminds me of something I like to call life…..)

I walked in today, and told him the news that my neck was actually fine.  He listened to me whine for a couple of minutes and nodded.  He said he knew just what to do.

And he did.

But oh me.  I bit my lip and made fists and my feet came up off the table a time or two.  A couple of times I was worried my reflexes would kick in and I’d punch or kick him.  Each time the knot released and he let go, I could tell it was working but the pain got a lot more intense before it let go and felt better.

About halfway into it, he found a spot at the top of my shoulder, one of the instigators of all the trouble I’d been having.  When he went after it, it took my breath for a second.  As I remembered to breathe, I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

But they weren’t from the pain.

I was sad. And the tears welled up and dripped to the floor where I was looking through the hole in the table.

Oh the brokenness.

What.  on.  earth.

I couldn’t figure out what was going on, and then I remembered a wise doctor telling me that we carry our stories with us, even on a molecular level.

Ah.  So that’s where all the stuff has been hiding.  No wonder I couldn’t move my arm easily.  I’ve been holding onto some things.

I wasn’t sure if it was worries over future plans or the grief of my friend’s passing or the stress of spending a night on anaphylaxis watch with our Princess a few nights ago…..but I knew it was all in there.  Hiding in these little knots.  When he finished, I felt a weight had lifted.

Off my arm.  Off my soul.

Last Saturday night I sat listening to my cousin’s husband play at our favorite coffeehouse.  He shared his stories through song.  I laughed and listened and really enjoyed the evening.  He is talented and so open with the stories he shares.  It was all going really well, and then he played the song he wrote for his daughter.   The one about their connection at her birth and how he hopes he will see her as he takes his last breath.

It hit me at once all over again.  And the bandaid was ripped off, and the pain of my Daddy dying was raw and new, and I wept.

And it was good.

I don’t want to ever think about that and not feel, you know?

It was good to shed those tears.  It opened up something in me, I think.

Silly, isn’t it, what can bring us catharsis?  A release of all that is pent-up inside.  Of all that is screaming to get out.  We sometimes tell ourselves we have to pack up all of those emotions and feelings and tears and push it in a corner and keep on going.  Because we have things to do, people to see, places to be–we’ll get to it later.

Only we rarely do.  There’s no spot on a calendar for grief work or meditation, is there?

And so when we sit in a darkened theater and see a movie that moves us beyond tears, the box gets opened a little bit.  Or when we have to pull over to the side of the road because Colbie Caillat’s “Try” has us sobbing all of a sudden for some strange reason, a little more escapes.

It’s important not to stuff it all in and push it out of the way, I’m finding out.  At least for me anyway.  My arm and shoulder are begging me to keep working on taking a little bit out of that box everyday.

I don’t think it will every completely be empty.  Our hearts and souls rarely work like that.  But if I don’t stuff it down and keep sitting on it to keep the box shut like I’ve had to do on occasion with a suitcase, that’s progress.  If I can take a moment or two each day to take a little out and let it go, I will have done something.  Something cathartic.  Cleansing.

And that is a good thing.

Wishing you all a sad song on the radio just when you need it most.

Love to all.