The “M” Birthday

When Aub turned 3, I planned, with the help of my Joyful friend, a party with the theme of “Pink Pigs, Puppets, and Pizza.”  (I do love alliteration!) It was a lot of fun, as all of the parties were back then, and I even had her third birthday picture made in her favorite pink nightgown with all of her pink pigs sitting beside her.  I love that picture.

Tomorrow my girl turns 21.

I don’t know how that happened.  Cliche’ but true.  The days were long and the years were short.

And now–here we are.  21.

Tonight I mentioned to my older friend who is the epitome of wisdom, love, grace, and spryness that I guessed I was done.  Twenty-one equals grown, right?

I was walking behind her, and saw her shoulders shake with her mirth before I heard her laughter.  “Oh me…..okay.  Sure.  We’ll let you think that for now.”

I know better.  I really do.

My girl wanted a very laid back birthday this year.  I was good with that.  It seems like the world right now is a cyclone of chaos and to do’s and needs and what not, so a chance to sit.  And be.  And not much else.  SURE. YES.  The gift that keeps on giving.

We gathered in the backyard with the fire going (I’m getting pretty good at starting them now), and I set out the hot dogs and fixin’s along with the sticks for roasting.  I had a few decorations I’d put together for the day with a small sign with the theme for her 21st birthday “party.”

I returned to alliteration eighteen years later.  (I was in a play in Junior High with Beta Club, and my one line that I still remember was “I just love alliteration.”  I looked up what that was, and you know what?  Turns out I do.  To this day.)  Only the letter has changed.  This year’s theme?

M.

Mason Jars, Mermaids, Makeup, and Monograms.

My baby girl who isn’t a baby anymore loves most things Southern.  Traditions, cornbread, grits, pearls, and Mason Jars for anything from drinking out of them to storing things.  I tried a Pinterest project (ha–close to a fail, I’d say, but since I learned from it, we’re moving it to the WIN column) and “frosted” some jars with mermaids inside.  If you want to know more, let me know.  I’ll do my best to tell you the right way to do it, which the folks on Pinterest most definitely did NOT do.  As for the mermaids,  a dear friend of mine and I talk about them as a symbol of not only adapting but transforming into something beautiful wherever you are.  Aub is about to enter a whole new way of life, with this “official” adulthood thing.  I don’t want her to feel like she’s underwater…..I want her to grow a tail and swim–take off and make the new way of life her own.  As for the makeup, she loves it.  Since she’s 21 and not 11 anymore, I’m okay with that.  She is beautiful inside and out, makeup or no, and as long as she remembers that, I don’t have a problem with her enjoying the world of makeup.  (I do have a problem with the folks who didn’t recognize that her cake, designed and made by her loving Mama, was a compact and NOT a toilet.  We won’t even go there, folks.  I’m about to get sappy, and I can’t if I revisit my emotions attached to that experience.)  Monograms needs no explanation–I’ve written about that before.  She loves ALL THE THINGS monogrammed.  Even her cookies.  Today we were talking about her monogram, and she said, “I do love it.  It’s so asymmetrical.”  You’re welcome, boo.  Of course I thought about that when naming you.  Ahem.

Tonight as I remember where I was exactly this moment 21 years ago (calling my parents, his parents, my dear friend, heading to the hospital), I am thinking about that letter M and all of the other things it could have stood for–Mercer (where she might maybe perhaps go to grad school), Mouse (her nickname before she was born), Mama (who loves her dearly), Mic drop (something she does regularly), Mississippi (because she is a really good speller and knew how to spell it almost as soon she knew her alphabet…..and so many others.  But as I sat down by the fire last night, and realized how far she’s come, and yet this is only the beginning, I thought about the things I wish for her in the years to come that start with the M.

*Make time for the things you love.  Don’t toss the things you enjoy doing aside permanently for the sake of your career or even another person. If you love it, make time for it.

*”Make hay while the sun shines.”  Work hard when the opportunity presents itself.  Never go halfway.  Give it your all.

*Make a difference.  In whatever you do, do it in kindness and with good intent.

*Make someone laugh or smile.  At least once a day.  And it’s okay if that person is you.

*Make other people feel important.  Because they are.

*Meander on the less traveled path.  Learn to love the other way around.

*Mix it up.  Try new things.  Attempt something you never thought possible.  Eat a new food.  Read a different genre.  Take archery lessons.

*Move.  Your arms.  Legs.  Head.  Dance.  Walk.  Run.  When you are moving, it’s harder to sit on your pity pot.  Trust me, I know this.

*Middle.  Sit there every once in a while.  Or more often.  It offers a different perspective, and different perspectives can be very good to try out for size.

*Master something you’re curious about.  Painting.  Knitting.  Piano.  Underwater Basket Weaving.  No one can ever take your skills away from you.

*Music. Listen.  As much as possible to as many kinds as possible.  Music can lift your spirits or rest with them where you are.  Never be without music.

*Make.  Create.  Share.

*Motivation.  Seek it.  Offer it.

*Move on.  Move beyond.  Don’t get stuck in that one bad moment.  Or bad experience.  Or held up by that one person who doesn’t get you and never will.  Let it go.  (Yeah, I said it–I sang it too.)  I feel that it will be okay.  It will be okay.  

*Muse.  Listen to her.  Let her guide your thoughts and your words.  Write.  Please.  The world needs your voice.

*Metamorphose.  As much as it takes.  Change.  Adapt.  Grow.  Never stop growing.  Adapting.  Becoming.

*Miracle.  You are mine.  Be good to my treasure.  Because I love you.

And I give thanks for you every single day.

May Light shine upon you, today and everyday–chasing the darkness away, so that you can reflect all the good that has gone before you and offer a glimpse of all the good you will bring in the days and years to come.

Happy 21st birthday, Aub!  

You are loved.

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The first pink pig is on the left.  Squealer.  He went everywhere with us way back when.  

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My attempt at a Pinterest project.  Win some, learn some.  Definitely learned some on this one.  

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Monogrammed Mason Jars made by our sweet neighborfriend. As delicious as they are beautiful.

 

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It’s a compact. And completely safe for our food allergies, so this is a definite WIN, and definitely looks like a COMPACT!

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Our girl’s post about one of her gifts.  The one about adapting.  And making this new life work for her.  After all, who doesn’t want a mermaid tail of their own?  Just keep swimming.  

 

 

Christmas Cheer

Tonight I’m thankful for barefooted little boys feeling well enough to run around outside on a day that has blue skies and sunshine.  I’m thankful for little girls who are growing up but still hug dolls and cry over sweet stories.  I give thanks for big girls who love dolls and listening to the radio and who still get excited about the magic of Christmas.

For the gifts that made me feel loved and the folks who give love so generously, I am grateful–fruitcakes, pitchforks that  turn out to be something wonderful, simple rings that hold a promise, and ampersands and earrings and books and smiles and hugs and phone calls and laughter and time spent together.

Today was filled with the quiet joy that comes from loving those who are here and remembering those who are not and loving and laughing and holding each other close through it all.

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Tonight I’m most thankful for all of those who share Christmas cheer with us.

Wishing you all enough cheer that you have plenty to share with those around you.

Merry First Day of Christmas!

Lying in Wait

Today I was out on a mission of madness and magic trying to find, hoping against hope, that something I didn’t get at the GW Boutique last night was still there.

Actually a couple of things.  Thought about them overnight and realized they were all good choices.

One was a Target return bamboo throw in the loveliest of off white shades.  (My Great Aunt who lived in, as Daddy would tease, “one of the finest homes in that there Eastman, Georgia” would have approved–it was just that elegant.) Why I didn’t grab it last night, I cannot say.  I offer as my only excuse that perhaps I was overwhelmed with the cart full of treasures hidden from this one and that one, and that I just wasn’t thinking straight by that point.

Figured out today it was at least a $75 throw.  I think they were asking 5 or 6.

Let’s all gnash our teeth together, shall we?

Ah well.

It’s not like there’s a blanket or throw shortage in this house or anything.

*sniff*

But I did find a couple of really awesome treasures otherwise, so it was still a successful trip.  One thing is going to make the Fella laugh on Christmas morning, I’m pretty sure.  (and that’s all I’m saying since he does venture over this way every now and then)

On the way to the GW, as I was by myself in the vehicle and could listen to anything I wanted to, I had the radio on a classic Christmas station.  About halfway there a song started playing, and when I realized who was singing, I could scarce believe my ears.

Cary Grant.

Cary Grant?

Yes.

Wow.

It is called “Christmas Lullaby” and in the song he is speak-singing to his baby girl who is already asleep.  He tells her how much  he looks forward to Christmas morning and seeing her joy.  And all of the magic.

And as I teared up–CARY GRANT, Y’ALL!–I thought about all the years of lying in wait in my twin bed at Blackberry Flats and in the double bed in the house on Boy Scout Road before that–waiting for the magic of Christmas morning.  I could hardly wait.  I remember late one Christmas Eve sitting up in the bed, talking to the air, hoping Santa could hear my last minute wishes.

There is a Santa and the magic is real, because I was not disappointed.

And now that I’m “grown up,” just as Mr. Grant did on Christmas Eve, when I do get to bed (I’m all about the staging y’all–it’s a production such that I have elves quitting on me who just can’t stay up that late), I find myself lying in wait for the magic all over again.

And it really doesn’t feel that different.

Well, maybe I’m a little more tired than I was when I was young.  Maybe I fall asleep a wee bit quicker.

But for the most part, I find myself lying in wait with the giddiness and excitement of a child–a child waiting for Christmas morning.

The song was written by Peggy Lee for Mr. Grant.  The sweet words that touched my heart this morning–

 

It’s Christmas Eve

and you are asleep, my little one

This is such a special night for you

and for me

For you, because you will awaken to a joyful morning

filled with wonderful surprises

and all the things our love can do to delight you

There’s a shiny Christmas tree

and a doll, a music box

and some toys

And for me, because I will watch your happiness

All this joy we will share because of the birthday 

of the Christ child,

who taught us that in loving and giving

we find our own happiness

and that angels do watch over us

 

Angels bless you, little one

While you’re fast asleep

You’ll awake to dancing toys,

candy canes,

Christmas joys

And I pray your whole life through

angels will watch over you

loving you 

the way I do

my little one, sleep well

 

Loving you the way I do

Oh my dear little one, sleep well

 

Merry Christmas

 

 

One day my children will learn that on Christmas Eve it’s not just the children who are lying in wait with excitement, and they will find the joy in creating magic for the children they love.  All the time and energy put into making magic for the children–my own and those who are not–every minute is worth it.  To share the delight that our love can do.  The loving and giving do bring great happiness.  Precious.

Just like Mr. Grant, I pray that angels will watch over my children their whole lives through, loving them the way I do.

But I’m not sure that’s possible.  Because, even when they are being real stinkers, I find myself giving thanks (well not every time, I’m no saint) that they are here and are mine for a while.  And loving them through it all.

And all that joy and delight and magic?

I’d best be getting my sleep now, because Christmas Eve is a time of lying in wait for all of us in this house.  It’s so hard to sleep the closer it gets.

And it’s for the joy and anticipation that comes with lying in wait that I am most thankful.

We are so fortunate.

Wishing for you all to have someone to make joy and share delight with on Christmas morning and every day.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Another Trip to the Grocery Store

So today was St. Nicholas’ Day.  And as we are learning about holiday traditions from around the world, we read about St. Nicholas and (a day late–didn’t have necessary items in hand last night–ahem) tonight we are putting our shoes out in case St. Nicholas might do a return trip and swing back through here to fill our shoes with candy.

As I mentioned, we didn’t have the necessary things to make this happen, so after our tree hunt today, I asked the Fella to stop and let me run in the grocery store while he sat in the car with the littles.  I dashed in, grabbed the goodies, and (a rare occurrence) was able to go through the express lane.  I could have done the self-checkout but I worry about whether the sale prices will go through and frankly, I enjoy talking with the folks who work there.

Today did not disappoint.

The lovely lady in front of me was purchasing a gorgeous arrangement from the floral department.  It was a plant with a poinsettia tucked in the bowl as well.  BEAUTIFUL.  Really.  So much so that I had to say something.

Which I did.

“That’s beautiful,” I told the lady.  (It just had to be said.)

She nodded and smiled.  The cashier, Quintavious, jumped in and laughed, saying, “I know, isn’t it lovely?  She got it for me.  I am just in shock.”

He was so engaging and delightful that I couldn’t help but laugh and jump in the game.

“Oh yes, the customers here are the best in the world, aren’t they? Buying lovely arrangements for the wonderful folks who work here….” I teased.

“Yeah, I don’t get off until 7 tonight though, so I’m not sure what I will do with it.”  The cashier looked perplexed as the customer smiled and finished making her payment.

“Well,” I said, “I guess you’ll have to let her take it home with her until you can get it home later, right?”

Quintavious looked at me like I had lost a little more of my mind than I actually have.  “Oh noooooo.  It will sit right here, and then when I go home, I will carry it in the house, and my Mama will reach out and say, ‘Oh you shouldn’t have,’ and I will say, ‘Oh I didn’t have…..’ and I won’t be letting go of it.”

I laughed again–it was his intonation and his voice inflection–‘Oh I didn’t have…..’ This young man missed his calling as a comedian.

After we both said goodbye to the lovely lady and the exquisite arrangement, we continued our conversation.

“That’d be ugly, wouldn’t it?  If I went home and told my Mama that?”

Before I could answer, he dropped his tone.  He gestured at the treats I was purchasing.

A little quieter than before, he said, “You know, not many people know about this, but I am a taste inspector.”

Because of his hushed tone, I mistakenly thought he said, “I am a taste and spitter.”  (Which could, in essence, mean the same thing if you really think about it.)  And yes, I probably do need my hearing checked.  But he was talking quietly.  Apparently he’s been certified and it’s a bit hush-hush.

“Yeah, not a lot of people have heard of it.  But it’s a service.  A service here in the store.  I can check these”–he pointed to the chocolate– “and make sure they’re okay.  You wouldn’t want to buy something bad, would you?”

No, Quintavious, no I wouldn’t.

He’s a giver all the way, that one.

If someone hadn’t been behind me in line, someone who wasn’t taking part in the banter, and if I wasn’t thinking that St. Nicholas will drop the whole bags in the shoes instead of individual candies (I’ve smelled the feet that go in these shoes–won’t nobody want to eat them if they go in without the protection of a bag), I would have opened a bag or two right then and had him taste test them.

Because his teasing reminded me of a few things.

First, life is more fun when we are interacting with people.  I could have stood in the line and played with my phone.  *sigh*  Yeah.  I’ve been known to do that.  (When the magazine covers weren’t particularly interesting…..)  But when we talk and say hello and open the door for conversation–oh, the joy that can bring!

Second, grocery stores have amazing floral departments.  At least this one does.  Note to self–if you ever have to take flowers anywhere…..

Third, Quintavious’ story reminded me of my Mama.  When we were little and she’d bake chocolate chip cookies or peanut butter bars (ah the pre-food allergy days) with chocolate chips dropped in–basically anytime she’d use chocolate chips, she would call us in. We didn’t always know why, but once we saw the chocolate enter the equation, we started making sure we answered on the first call.

Mama would hand us each one or two chocolate chips, saying, “Oh I need someone to taste these chocolate chips and see if they’re okay.  We wouldn’t want to use them if they were poisonous.”

Yeah.

She said that.

Morbid, I know.

But at the time, it was delightful.  She played it up big, telling us how necessary it was for us to check them.

And we never had nightmares or anything.  It made us laugh.  And we felt very important.

Turns out there’s a title for that–a taste inspector (though “taste and spitter” is growing on me).

This evening I was making more of Mama’s cookies and, at the request of the Fella who was taking them to a shindig, I used our Star Wars cookie cutters.  Cooter and Princess eventually helped with the cutting out.  They are getting to be quite good at it.  When the first ones came out of the oven, Cooter wandered over and looked at them appreciatively.  He was about to reach for one, and I stopped him.  “Don’t do that.  Those are for Daddy’s get together.”

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Look at those cookies, just waiting to be taste tested…..

 

Cooter eyeballed Yoda for a long moment and said, “But Mama, I need to inspect it.  I need to make sure they are good enough for Daddy to take.  You wouldn’t want him to take bad cookies, would you?”

See, I’m a pretty proud Mama right now, because apparently, I have a certified taste inspector in my own home. I now know that’s a thing.   Who knew?  Maybe he’ll be able to get a job someday after all.

That’s a relief.

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy of happy memories–even the odd ones like taste testing chocolate chips to make sure they weren’t poisonous.  I love the joy that is in this house when cookies are being made, even when they aren’t for us.  And I give thanks for folks who do their jobs, no matter what it may be, with laughter and a joy-filled personality and who make others feel good when they are around them.

Would it be weird to call the store and find out when Quintavious is on the schedule and plan my grocery shopping accordingly?  That was more fun than a little bit today.  #stalkingnotstalking

As you go forth in your day, may you find joy in what you do and share the light of laughter and fun with all who cross your path.

Love to all.

Best Advice for Graduates…..and everyone else

I’ve listened to a lot of graduation addresses.  I’ve even given one once many moons ago.  Last year I contemplated how different that would have been if I were to write it now.

But now, now I have heard very possibly the best advice ever given in one of these speeches.  For graduates.  For all of us.

And it was offered by the salutatorian, Divine Francis, of Veterans High School, one of the local schools here in our county.

First Divine said that he didn’t know the secret of success.  He said if he did, he’d have already written the book and made a million dollars and retired to the Bahamas…..basically, not be HERE.  Then he described a movie.

“What if I told you there was a new movie coming out, two hours long, of watching paint dry?  And that if you paid the admission price, you could sit there and watch paint dry for two hours, up there on the big screen?”  He paused.  “You’d probably shake your head at me and ask, ‘Divine, why would I want to do that? Why would I want to waste two hours of my life doing that?  That’s dumb!'”

“But what if it’s the night before finals and you decide to go to a party instead of studying.  That’s just as dumb. I say, ‘Why would you want to do that?'”

“And I think that’s the best thing we can do as we go forth.  Don’t do dumb things.  That’s it.  Don’t do dumb things.”

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Y’all I’ve never been crazy about that word.  But I have to tell you this.  I clapped.  As did so many who heard the words of this still seventeen year old–“I have a late birthday.”  That pretty much wraps it up, doesn’t it?

In whatever you’re about to do, don’t waste your time on poor choices–instead make the effort to do the smart thing, the right thing.

Truth.  From a graduate about to set out on a new path.

I think he’s going places.

Y’all too?

Tonight I’m thankful for a young man who stepped outside the box and didn’t give the traditional speech filled with sentimentality and inspirational quotes and challenges to make every moment count–I’m thankful for his keeping it real and sharing simple wisdom and truth.

Love and an overabundance of wise choices to all.

 

 

The One Gift I Will Miss Giving This Year

Over the years my Christmas gift preparation list has changed.  That is to be expected, right?  Children are born, they get older, people move away, and so on.  Some can no longer have the sweets or would rather have a book than a sweater.  After my great-aunt who sent us a Whitman’s sampler every year died, I used to get one each Christmas–until food allergies struck that one off the list.  My experience with the Advent Conspiracy study two years ago changed the kind of gifts on my list.  Seems like there have been changes to the list every year.

And this year is no different.

Such a perfect calendar for Mama--"A Place for Everything."  She lived and breathed by that one.  This calendar has guided me through so much I've had to take care of this year.  Thankful she was so organized.

Such a perfect calendar for Mama–“A Place for Everything.” She lived and breathed by that one. This calendar has guided me through so much I’ve had to take care of this year. I am thankful she was so organized.

Each year the first gift I buy has almost always been my Mama’s.  Years ago, I don’t remember how long ago, I introduced Mama to Mary Engelbreit.  She started off using the wall calendar just like I did, but eventually she graduated to a weekly planner and a page a day–mostly for the beautiful paintings and inspirational messages.  You’ve never seen anyone who organized a calendar so well.  In the back she had cards she’d printed out with the most important addresses and contacts and all of the birthdays for her family–her children, grandchildren, cousins, and grand-nieces and nephews.  She never missed honoring their special day in one way or another.  She had appointment cards she’d saved from the previous year that she entered on January 1.  Oh to be as organized as she was!  Somehow I missed that gene, and I mourn it quite often.

Lovely.  Just a lovely experience the whole year through.

Lovely. Just a lovely experience the whole year through.  Wit and wisdom and whimsy all in one place. 

Years ago a couple of us children would toss out gift ideas for Mama and we’d make sure someone was getting her calendars for her.  I think it might have been when we moved to Japan that it became a given that me and mine were getting the calendars.  I have enjoyed deciding where I could get the best price on them (she wouldn’t have it any other way–she was the Queen of bargain shopping).  I loved looking at the covers and peeking at one or two pages in her planner before wrapping them.  Over the years a quick glance at the calendar on her desk could tell what her week’s outings were.  It would make me smile to see where she had gone back and written “Tara and Crew :)” (smiley face hers) on a day that we had been visiting.  During the years that she and Daddy were playing logic games on the computer, they decided to play through the “levels” in order.  Mama would write what level they left off on at the top of the page a day.  Then they’d know which game to start with the next day.  If the page a day calendar message was one that made her think of you, she tore it off and saved it to give to you or  to tuck in a card.  If it didn’t, she folded it and put it in her round crystal dish and used the backside for grocery lists or notes or other things you need scratch paper for.  They are still sitting on the counter at her house, as is the page a day, still on January 17 of this year.  The day she left for her Hospital Stay.

This year I am missing having those perfect square packages to wrap.  I will miss how Mama always knew we wouldn’t forget to get her those calendars, and yet she’d be so pleased and seem so surprised that we did remember.  Last Christmas she told me to pick out my own planner and she’d “surprise” me with it.  I just ordered my 2014 book the other day, so all of this is on my mind and heart.  I just miss her.  Everything about her.  Her calendars were a big part of who she was.  They tell her story.

If you know of someone who would love the wit and wisdom and whimsy of Mary Engelbreit, let me know.  I think my Amazon cart is crying out, “What is going on?” as for so many years, especially those when we were out of the country, that is how I got them for Mama.  I would love to share it with someone you love, as that is how Mama rolled.  Always thinking of how she could help someone else.  Even when she was feeling so sick herself, we had several conversations about her wanting to find a way to help this person or that situation.  She just loved folks, and it showed in how she lived.  So in honor of Mama, if you know of someone who would enjoy a surprise treat this holiday, and in the spirit of FunGiving, drop me a line at imightneedanap@yahoo.com and I’ll choose someone randomly to send the surprise to from YOU.  Send me a note by midnight Tuesday, December 10th, EST and tell me about your special person, why they are “good company,” and whether they’d love a planner or a page a day calendar.  I’ll contact you on Wednesday if your special sisterfriend or awesome family person is the chosen one.

Thanks for playing along.  It’s all about making our own fun and sharing joy despite our heavy hearts.  Sharing one of Mama’s favorite things with someone you love will be muchly fun and bring a smile to my heart.  In the words of the themes of next year’s Mary Engelbreit calendars–“Keep Good Company” and make this the “Best Day Ever!”  Love to all.