seeking solace without reservation

there are days when the world seems
to be rushing toward that handbasket,
clamoring for a spot to climb in and go

it is on those days that I feel myself
swept up in the mad dash towards a place
I’d rather not be

but I can’t stop it,
all the throngs of people
pushing, shoving, shouting
and then

my friend reaches out her hand
across the crowd of people

“let’s leave this chaos
and all of this madness
and sheer meanness, let’s just go,
here, take my hand”

and so I do

and she smiles

“I’ve got you”

and she does

and together we find a place
away from the mayhem,
where we can breathe
and the flowers grow up to our elbows

we dance and spin around, falling to the ground,
cushioned by the pinks and reds and purples and yellows,
dizzy with relief

to have found another
in the splendor
away from the shadows and shouting

another who feels
and cries
and laughs over stories
about strangers on doorsteps
and children who are growing up

and finally,
I can rest
and then together we turn to let go
of what has been

and we hold tight to the light we were given
and each other
and, elbowing flowers gently as we make our way,
we go and find others
who
are being
swept up
in all the madness

and walk them home

San_Carlos_wildflowers,_2010

Sunset and spring wildflowers — on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, near Peridot, in Gila County, Arizona. By John Fowler from Placitas, NM, USA (Arizona Sunset Uploaded by PDTillman) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A Sucker for Love

Way back when, when my oldest was quite a small girl, we often found ourselves over at my dear Joyful friend’s house.  She and her girls were our lifeline, our fun, and our safe place to land.  They were my girl’s sisters for that time and for life, and I am always thankful for them.

So it isn’t surprising, I guess, that when it came time for us to leave their house, my girl would balk.  Balk might be understating it a bit for some occasions.  Flat out, she didn’t want to leave.  I remember my Joyful friend bringing Aub a Blow pop and telling her if she’d mind her manners and her Mama, she could have that sucker.

It worked.

Every single time.

Later, when the time came for us to venture out on our own, and we left the nest of Blackberry Flats, Mama liked to ease the transition of leaving each afternoon or evening with a Bob’s soft peppermint or caramel cream.  And then, eventually, a Dum Dum sucker.  I’m not sure if she changed her offering because she was out of the peppermints at one point or because of our food allergies or what, but the Dum Dums became the most desired treat.  We found an old style candy jar to put on Mama’s counter, and that’s what she would let little hands reach in to so as to find a favorite flavor.  And on rare occasions, when one had been quite good, he or she could–in the difficulty of deciding between two favorites–have both.  “One for now, and one for later,” Mama would say.  Now that I think about it, that wasn’t so occasional–it was more the rule.

I fondly remember Daddy pulling out my favorite flavor and handing it to me.  In that gesture, he was telling me he loved me.  I needed no words.  The lot of us had great conversations about the “Mystery” flavored ones and exactly how they came about.  The extra special ones, like the Savannah blueberry I think it was, brought about as much excitement as a Santa sighting in July.  Too much fun.

I miss those goodbyes.  Those sendoffs and waves and “see you soons.”  And all the hugs.

Today I dropped by Aunt’s to pick up a book and some special bookstore coupons she’d offered us (yes, because we do NOT have enough books–anyone that says different is off my “birfday list”).  She’d called and told me where I could find it as she wouldn’t be home.  We swung by in the midst of today’s adventures, and sure enough, the bag she’d tucked the things in was right where she’d said it would be.

I grabbed the bag and started off the porch, and then I was stopped still by what else was in the bag.

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Four Dum Dums.  For my two littles.

“One for now, and one for later.”

It took me a minute to start the car and get going again.  My eyes were flooded and my heart was full.

Tonight I’m thankful for stories that bind us together and for treasured memories.  I give thanks for traditions that get passed along and continue to warm hearts and bring immediate smiles to all of our faces.  I’m a sucker for tradition, and I’m an even bigger one for things that show us how loved we are.  I’m most thankful for my sisterfriend who knew that a spoonful of sugar is sometimes the “best encouragement,” for my Mama whose head I can still see bent conspiratorially over the candy jar with her grands, and for my Aunt.  Who never fails to remember and reminds me of that in so many precious ways.  The ones we love live on because of moments like this today.

Wishing you all a sweet to remind you that you are so very loved.

Love to all.

Watching The Rock Die

So there was this day I found myself sitting at the Emergency Room with my sisterfriend there alongside, and I looked up at the TV right in front of me whose sound was not minimal, and the violence was jarring.

It would have been jarring in any circumstances, but with the background sounds of the young woman in the wheelchair crying out in pain as her husband rubbed her back in gentle circles, and the voices of the nurses insisting that no one else go back to a patient’s room or security would be called, it was dizzying.  Surreal.  Confusing.  Not to mention all the worry and anxiety.

And it was more than I could bear.

When a character on the TV walked into a room and shot The Rock, a man whom I’ve only seen in Disney movies and in brief interviews and that time he lip synced the Taylor Swift song, “Shake It Off,” it sent a shock though my system.  I really like him.  Okay, I’m in the ER, and The Rock is now dead.  Only he isn’t.  But in a room that has seen its fair share of gunshot wounds, it just seemed WRONG.

More than wrong.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve sat here thinking about that day.  And about ERs.  And the thing is, I cannot think of a single reason that wouldn’t be at least somewhat worrisome or troubling that would bring one to the ER.

Let’s face it.  It’s not a happy place.  Somebody is sick or hurt or struggling or something is WRONG and that’s why each and every person is in there.  If it’s not them hurting, they are there because they care about someone who is.

So maybe, could we all agree that these TVs that seem to be in every waiting space there is these days should be tuned to something that would take our minds off of the worry, pain, fear, concern, aches, hurt–or at least attempt to?

Like maybe “I Love Lucy” greatest hits.  Or an “Andy Griffith” marathon.  Or some other show that is devoid of violence or high speed chases or anything else that quickens the pulse and raises the blood pressure.  No more added stress.   I’m sure it would be a different show for all of us, but at this point, I’d take elevator music playing in the background.

Can we just remove the violence, the blood and gore and terror, at the very least?  (There’s enough of that in the world, in that very room, already.)

It seems that the older I get, the more sensitive I am to it.  At this point, I could do without ever seeing anything like that again.

Thanks for listening to my thoughts.  I welcome yours…..what would be your choice to pass the time in a place like the ER?  What do you think is appropriate?

Love to all.

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By Thierry Geoffroy (Thierry Geoffroy) [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Day to Say Their Names

I don’t think that All Saint’s Day truly resonated with me until two years ago.  The Sunday closest fell on my birthday, and we were invited to the church my Mama loved and joined that last year she was with us.  They were remembering all those who had died in the past year.  Mama’s Sunday School class was having a gathering time to remember as well, and we were all invited to that too.

Sacred, holy moments.  Hearing my Mama’s name spoken by people who knew and loved her and missed her just like we did–that was a precious gift.  I can’t think of a lovelier way to have spent the day.  Hugs, laughter, sharing stories, tears, gratitude, light, love, and remembering.

Much as we did today.

Our family was invited to Daybreak, the day shelter and resource center for those experiencing homelessness, to remember and honor my friend who passed on in May.  She was instrumental in recognizing the need for this place, dreaming about it, and making connections that eventually saw it come into existence.  My family and I have spent many Sunday evenings there in that place or, before it was built, just down the street at the park with our friends, serving and laughing and talking and being with people we came to love.

Much like tonight.

I had the great joy of preparing the hot chocolate for this evening.  I so miss my Sunday rituals of preparing the coolers and making the tea, coffee, and hot chocolate for our friends’ supper at the park.  It was my Sunday liturgy–giving thanks and going through the motions so that we could serve our friends and be a part of the Sunday night picnic suppers.  (And don’t forget the marshmallows!)  Tonight as the room began to fill, so did my heart.  Face after face of friends we shared those suppers with, some whom we served with and others whom we served.  My heart was full to bustin’, I’ll tell you what.  All the hugs and catching up and moments of companionable silence.  Standing side by side with these beautiful people and caring souls, all of us broken and full of light, as we listened to the names of those we have loved and said goodbye to this year.

We said their names.

We told their stories.

And ours.

How we loved, laughed, learned.

And how we will continue to honor their memory.

I shared about my friend’s love of elephants and how, like an elephant, she never forgot what was important–love, family, friends, forgiveness, holding on, letting go, and taking care of each other.  Relationships.  Another friend shared about the seeds that our friend D planted in her life.  Beautiful seeds that are continuing to grow and changing the world.  It was when I heard a pastor talk about how D didn’t finish her work here that I caught my breath.  What?  So he agreed that she was taken from us way too early?

Then he continued, sharing from the Good Book that the poor will always be with us.  So no, D didn’t finish her work, just as we won’t.  We take it up from those who came before us who cared and loved, and when we leave this world, those who come after us will, we hope, pick it up and carry on with the loving and caring and taking care of folks.

It reminded me of the stories I heard while in England about the ones who worked on building the great Cathedrals.  A father would work his whole life and then the son would join in and then his son.  Some who worked on these grand holy places never saw them to completion.  Yet they put their whole hearts into doing the best job they could.  And so it is.

As I listened, I found comfort.  My job is to do what my friend did.  Love long, hard, and every chance I get.  Be a friend, a good listener, an encourager, someone who is dependable and kind, someone who laughs and can tell great stories, and someone who serves and serves and serves again.  Someone who loves.  She was all of these things.  And much, much more.

My other job, no less important, is to raise my children to pick up the legacy of loving and to carry it on for as long as this life will let them.  And so on and so on.  May it ever be so.

The job of loving and caring for others is one that can never be finished, never be overdone, and never will be outdated.  It will always be there, waiting for people like my friend to step up and show all of us how to love passionately with a radical hospitality and all the hugs anyone could ask for.

Tonight I’m thankful for hearing the names of those whom I have loved and had to say goodbye to this year.  I carry them in my heart everyday, but today it was such a gift to be able to share their stories with others who loved them too.  Their light I hold close and give thanks for, and their love is etched on my heart.

May you find someone with whom you can share the stories of those you love and miss today.  Feel free to share them in the comments section if you’d like.  I’d love to hear them and I’ll join you in the remembering.

Love to all.

I Can Rock Some Home Decor, and Other Fashion Faux Pas

Many days I am a walking billboard for “What Not to Wear.”

I know this.  I accept it.

The way I know this is because apparently I gave birth to a fashion expert.  She KNOWS what is fashionable and what looks good, and what DOESN’T.

And she loves me enough to tell me.  Each and every time.  Quickly.  Without hesitation.

And with, at times, extreme disgust.

Like today we were shopping at the GW Boutique where Cooter found a Halloween costume (already, yes, he’s only been talking about it for a month).  It’s just about hoodie weather here now (any day now, please), and I like to look and see what fantastic hoodies they might have.  It’s like a game.  A treasure hunt.

We were walking through the men’s section (you can find the best hoodies there), and I saw an Oxford shirt that reminded me of one I used to sleep in–it had belonged to one of Mess Cat’s old boyfriends and thus, she had passed it along to me. (Hand-me-downs for the win.) I wore that thing until it fell to pieces.  Literally.

When I pulled the shirt out to show Aub and see what she thought of it, she got “the” look on her face and said, “Why you want to go around looking like Bill Cosby?” referring to his unique tastes in clothes on the Cosby show.  Y’all remember the “Cosby sweaters?”

I laughed.  She was right.  But I still got the shirt.  It was on sale (hello!) and I think it will be comfortable to sleep in.  And it might just be fun to get “the look” from her every now and then.

So yes, I love my clothing bargains.  I found a cool website, ThredUp, which is an online clothing consignment store.  We found Aub several dresses at very good prices for her law internship.  One day on a whim I typed crocheted top or something like that in the search box, as I found myself in something of a bohemian style mood.

And I found this top.

My tablecloth top.  I love it so much.

                                                            One of my favorite tops. I love it so much.

I was in love.  The color, a light cream, and the crocheted details and the asymmetry of it.  LOVE.  Because, if you haven’t picked up on it before, I’m a bit wonky and asymmetrical myself.

I wore it last Sunday to Evening Prayer with jean capris and a coral colored tank underneath.  Most days I dress for myself.  I don’t mean that I dress myself (which I do) but, barring a glare from my girl, I wear what I enjoy.

And I really enjoy that top.

As we were setting up and milling about, talking and catching up before the service started, one of my friends came up and said, “Hey!  I made it tonight!”  I was so glad she did.  Her spirit is fun and sweet and calming, a really rare and welcome combination.  I smiled.  Then she continued, “And you are really rocking that tablecloth you are wearing, I have to tell ya.”

Y’all.

For the love.

I burst out laughing.  My friend totally caught me off guard.  But she was so right.  It did look like one of those doily type tablecloths from way back when.  And with the asymmetry making it rounded, if it hadn’t had a brand tag at the back of the neck, I might have thought it was the best repurposed sweater EVER.

Alas, though, it was just made that way.

My sweet sisterfriend immediately backpedaled because she’s sweet like that and started apologizing.  But I reassured her then and I am reassuring you now, girl, I love you.  Thank you for that belly-busting laugh.  The kind that erupts from you before you even know it’s happening.  I LOVE THOSE KINDS OF LAUGHS.  And I’m thankful when they happen and for the person who inspired them.

The thing about my daughter and my friend commenting on my fashion choices is this.  It doesn’t bother me that they had something less than flattering (I don’t know, could being compared to a tablecloth be considered flattering?  Mayhap)  to say about my clothing, because their commenting means they noticed.  Me.  They saw me, and they noticed what I had on.  It also means they care enough and are comfortable enough in our relationship to say what’s on their minds.  They aren’t being unkind pointing out my fashion faux pas–their sharing comes from love.

And that’s a gift to be sure.  To be known, to be loved anyway, and to be close enough that someone is comfortable sharing their truest thoughts.

A gift I am so thankful for.

Later last Sunday evening, the fact that I’ve been known to pick up one or ten crocheted or knitted afghans from the GW came up.  As we were talking, it was as though a lightbulb came on over my head.  “Y’all.  I have passed by a round blanket or two at the GW, simply because it didn’t really appeal to me.  But now, NOW, I know what I can do with one.  I’ll repurpose it and make one of these tops!”

Now that will be something worth talking about, don’t you think?

May we all have someone who loves us and loves us well and keeps us on our toes, with sharing ideas, opinions, and lots of laughter.  Because laughter really is the best.

Love to all.

It’s About More than Geography

Yesterday evening I was sitting watching swim team practice, when my neighborfriend arrived with her family for her son’s swim lessons immediately following practice.  He, his brother, and my two littles are the best of buds, playing and riding bikes together, but when they arrived at the pool, it was like they hadn’t seen each other in ages.

As my friend settled herself on the bleachers, I introduced her to the others I’d been visiting with.  When I went to introduce her, I told them her name, and then I added, “She’s my…..ummm…..”

“Neighbor,” my friend laughed, shaking her head at my hesitation.

I laughed too.  And yet I felt like I needed to clarify–point out that our relationship was more than a geographical one.  I mean, after all, she washed, dried, and ironed mine and Princess’ clothes for my Mama’s funeral back when our washer fell apart two and a half years ago.

That’s more than a neighbor, right?

Today I’ve wondered what that was all about.  My hesitation.  My need to explain how she was “more” than a neighbor.

When did “neighbor” become not enough?

We are called to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”  So in that context, I think that neighbor would be a pretty esteemed title to hold.

And my sweet neighborfriend is one who deserves every bit of that esteem.

Tonight I’m pondering what being a neighbor really means–how to do it right.  Folks use to greet one another with affection and respect, “Howdy, neighbor!”  When did that change?  Was it because we are losing the art of front porch sitting…..standing on the sidewalks visiting…..borrowing a cup of sugar or a can of diced tomatoes?

I’m extremely fortunate that my neighbor and I have done all of these things.  I love her, her family, and what it means to live close to them.  Neighbor is indeed a term of endearment around here.

May you all have a great neighborfriend in your life–someone with an ear, a shoulder, an extra hug or cup of sugar, and who laughs when you try to explain exactly what your relationship is–and may you ever be close, no matter the geography.

Love to all.

The Gift of a Grandma

I want to be Grandma when I grow up.

Note I didn’t say a Grandma, although that will be good many years from now.  When it’s time.

But no, I want to be Grandma.  Wanna be just like her.

She’s not even biologically my Grandma.  She is the grandmother of my dear friend.  I heard about her long before I met her, but when I finally did, she did not disappoint.  She was every bit as kind and genteel and lovely and grace-filled as I had thought she would be.  And so much more.

It takes a village y’all, and Grandma is a big believer in that.  It’s not so much that she’s said those words as that she lives them.  At one point, I was talking to my friend about her grandmother, and I referred to her as “Grandma.”

“Oh, sorry, I mean, you know.  Your Grandma.”

“Oh no, you can call her that too.  Everybody does.”

And from that moment, she became my Grandma too.  Because you can never have too many of those strong, wise, and wonderful women loving and encouraging you.

We don’t get to visit very often.  But Grandma indulges me by reading my stories and encouraging me in my writing.  She has come to know Aub, our Princess, and Cooter through the stories here.  And they became hers too.

I found out today just how much they are hers.  We stopped by to see my friend and Grandma and their family.  GM got up from her seat and went to a table behind the sofa.  She brought over two of her handcrafted treasures, handing one to me for Cooter (who wasn’t with us) and another to our Princess.  She looked at Aub and smiled.  “I’m working on yours.”

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What a precious treasure we have in our life.  Grandma had made Princess a doll cradle purse.  When she opened up the purse, there was a sweet baby doll sleeping in her own bed, complete with pillow, blanket, nightgown, and bonnet.  So very sweet.  For Cooter she’d made a hand puppet owl.  GM had wondered if our Princess still liked dolls.  She certainly does, and she adores her new baby.  This gift filled her with joy, and she hasn’t let her out of her sight since she got her.  And what GM didn’t know was that a couple of weeks ago Cooter had a pair of socks on his hand, making them talk and do all kinds of funny things.  This owl will be much loved and played with, just as the doll will.

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For a long, long time.

Tonight I am thankful for my friend who shares her grandmother with us so generously.  I give thanks for the life of Grandma and her generous, sweet spirit.  She has a gift of crocheting and is really good at it.  She uses it to bless so many who are hers and many who are not.  She and those like her are the reason I find myself rescuing handmade crocheted and knitted blankets from the GW Boutique and other places like that.  The amount of love and thought and time that goes into making each one–priceless.  I can’t bear to leave all that love behind.

Most of all I’m thankful to be a part of Grandma’s village.  One who gets to see her smile and hear her sweet voice.  I hope to be just as generous with what I have and all that I am, just like her.

May you all find someone to love and be loved by.  May you find your own “Grandma” or be that loving soul for another.

Love to all.  (And especially you, Grandma–thank you for loving us!)