Toting Twigs and Wayward Worms

One of the gifts that these strange times have given us is longer walks in the mornings. When we were first asked to stay home during the beginning of this pandemic, Miss Sophie, whose routine was thrown way off because *we*never*left*, convinced me to take her on longer walks in the mornings. Or maybe it was the other way around. Instead of our quick, hurry up, I thought you had to go ritual, we had leisurely meanderings through our neighborhood, waving from a distance at neighbors we hadn’t seen in a while and some we’d never met. The mornings in March and April and even the beginning of May were unseasonably temperate, and it was lovely.

With spring upon us and yards being watered again, the tragedy that has broken my heart each spring and summer began once again. Earthworms, who had either floated without choice or, tempted by the early morning coolness, crawled from grass to sidewalk, were left stranded on the concrete walkways as the days grew hotter. Some were able to make it back to the safety of the grass, but so many were not.

I carry a stick when we walk. Not a big one. A twig really. It’s not meant to scare anyone or anything (supposedly a gator comes around occasionally or so I’ve heard). It’s my worm lifting tool.

Yep. That’s a real thing.

I don’t know how I got started or when the first worm called out to me for help. Before I started carrying my twig, I’d search frantically for a leaf or stick or strong blade of grass to gently slide underneath the sweltering, wiggling worm and lift him quickly to the safety of the dark, damp earth. I don’t know how many make it okay after or even the lifespan of a worm. I just know I can’t pass by one who has any wiggle left in him. He has to be moved to safety. (But no, for some reason, I haven’t brought myself to use my bare hands–I keep telling myself it’s gentler not to, but I’m pretty sure that’s what rationalizing looks like. ūüėČ )

It’s been a few years maybe that I’ve been doing this. I don’t think anything about it anymore. Neither does Sophie. As I go about my business, she takes a minute to ponder life or what smells were left where. So far no one has ever stopped me to say, “Hey! Whatcha doing all bent over and contorted like that?” or “Hey! Stop flinging earthworms in my yard, you crazy person!” All of which I am glad for.

It’s become such a natural thing for me on our walks that when the pandemic hit and Cooter decided to join me and Miss Sophie in the mornings, I didn’t think about him wondering what on earth his Mama was doing all stooped and bent over and talking to an earthworm like that–or why I was carrying a twig with me.

When curiosity got the better of him and he did ask, I explained sheepishly. I braced myself for my new teenager to have something sarcastic to say or some great knowledge to impart to me that would imply that maybe my efforts were all in vain. Let’s face it, I thought he’d tease me unmercifully. He loves me and respects me, but I could see it happening.

I did not expect him to go looking for his own twig and ask to “rescue” the next one.

But that’s what he did.

Side by side I walked with this man child who (don’t tell him I admitted to it) is now slightly taller than I am. He gained inches during this quarantine, and I’m now the shortest person in this family. Bless.

As we talked about everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) under the sun, we kept our eyes open for any wigglers. There were many who were already lost, sadly, but when we saw one still going, we’d excitedly and with gentle scolding (“look here buddy, go THAT way, no quit jumping, I’m TRYING TO HELP YOU, SIR) help another misguided bloke to safety. The joy was palpable, though we never tarried long after we got another one across. Miss Sophie’s patience has limits, my friends.

When I think of this quarantine, those lovely morning walks with dazzling blue skies, puffy white clouds, gentle breezes, and the perfect air temperature will be among my treasured memories. Walking with my favorite “little” fella and my precious pup, toting twigs and rescuing wayward worms–priceless.

I’ve thought a little more about those spring walks, since we don’t go quite as long or as far in the sauna that the outdoors here in Georgia has become. When he first joined me back in March, I didn’t set out to show my baby boy “how to keep worms from frying on the hot pavement.” He saw me carrying my twig and watched what I did with it. Then he found his own and copied me.

And I know that doesn’t just happen with sticks and worms. It happens with stock and words. What I take stock in, how I use my words to harm or heal…..he’s watching. Listening. Those hands that used to reach for mine– first to help him stand, then to step, and then to comfort–are growing and changing as much as his voice which is so much deeper with now only a few cracks or squeaks. Those hands, his voice–he can choose how they affect this world. He’s taking in what happens around him and choosing what he wants to be a part of, what he wants to change, encourage, develop, empower, study, share, love.

I’m thankful for a life where my baby boy carries a twig around our neighborhood and no one asks why. I’m thankful for a life where he carries a small stick for the survival of earthworms and not a bigger one for his own. The disparity in that is not lost on me. We are so fortunate that it moves me to tears.

Most of all, I’m thankful for parents who taught me to leave things better than I found them. To be a good steward of all around me. To know the little ones are watching and learning, whether we realize we are teaching or not. And that no creature is too small to care for and about. I’ve been one of those earthworms, finding myself somewhere on my journey that it turns out isn’t the best of places. I’m thankful for those who came along and nudged me back on the path, back where I could continue growing and living out my best story.

Wishing you all a walking buddy who wants to share all his thoughts and dreams and ideas with you along the way, a pup who is always glad to see you when you do actually finally leave the house, and someone to come along with a twig to lift you up and return you to safety when you find yourself lost and alone. Love to all.

I’m never quite sure what makes them leave their grassy homes.
My trusty twig and a backup piece of bark. It’s serious business, this, and one must always be prepared with backups.

My Anxiety, Real and Without a Filter

Wednesday is trash pickup day.

It is also “Nightmare on Our Street” for our mail carrier.

A cul-de-sac with empty trash cans all scattered hither and yon.

Yes.  A tee-total mess some weeks.

So yesterday morning as Miss Sophie and I had our morning constitutional, I stopped to move a couple of my neighbors’ trash cans out of the way, so hopefully our mail carrier wouldn’t have to leave her vehicle to deliver the mail. ¬†(Or worse, just not deliver it at all–goodness, that would be catastrophic! Ha.)

When I turned back to my little fluffy girl, I saw her sniffing something on the road with intense concentration.

Oh.

No.

There on the ground were not one, but two peanut shells.  One still had a peanut inside it.

*insert expressive WORD here*

Y’all.

So often in this life and on this blog, I/we–okay–I might downplay things. ¬†Someone asks me, “How do you keep up with what’s safe or not? ¬†How do you keep from worrying yourself sick? ¬†How do you know where to eat that is okay?” ¬†I might brush it off with a “Oh we just do the best we can.” Or “I’ve learned a lot over the years.” ¬†Or “It’s not easy, but we keep on trucking.”

But it’s rarely as peace-filled and self-assured as all that. ¬†The reality isn’t very pretty.

The minute I saw those nuts on the ground, I flipped. ¬†I mean, I flipped out. ¬†I started fuming and talking to myself, to the dog, to the air– “Why? ¬†Why? ¬†I was just moving a trash can, WHY?!” ¬†I wasn’t mad at Sophie, I was mad at the situation. ¬†My brain immediately started spinning. ¬†More than likely her snout and beard had touched the nuts, so she was now contaminated, and I had to take care of that immediately. ¬†As our Princess was sick over the weekend, I had kept the two of them apart for a couple of days, and they were so happy to be able to play together again. ¬†But they couldn’t now. ¬†UGH. ¬†Double UGH.

We went straight to the bathroom just inside our front door.  I tossed off her leash and collar and put her right in the tub.  Water running, I sudsed her up good and thoroughly, her face and her chin especially.

This was Miss Sophie’s second bath in three days, and she was not amused.

Miss Sophie Ru

Miss Sophie was not amused with so many baths so close together.  

I hated to do it, but I felt like I had no other choice.  I am sure I got water in places where water was not intended to go, bless her.  She snorted and snorted, so then I started to worry about her.  Had I damaged her?  Hurt her?  Was SHE going to be okay?

After I dried her and cuddled her a minute, all was well.  Then I was back to thinking through everything I needed to do to keep my baby girl safe.

For the rest of the day, I keep them apart. ¬†Which wasn’t easy, as Miss Sophie likes to climb up next to our Princess while she works on her lessons. ¬†She loves to go outside with her and her friends. ¬†If I said “No, you have to get down, Sophie” once yesterday, I said it “eleventy-seven” times, as Cooter used to say.

And that’s a lot.

In the midst of all of this, I meant to go pick up those nuts from the road just a ¬†few feet from our driveway. ¬†I planned it out. ¬†I’d use a bag over my hands like I do with “other” things I pick up from the grass, and I’d quickly dispose of them.

But I didn’t get back to it in time, and I don’t know what happened to them.

Last week was the Fair, and we walked around and had such a wonderful time. ¬†But there were peanut shells on the ground all over the place. ¬†And all kinds of nuts being served and eaten. It was very difficult to feel very comfortable. ¬†Every cough or sniffle or when our Princess got really quiet, I’d pounce on her, “You okay? ¬†You feel all right?” When Mess Cat caught her touching the bottom of her shoe for some reason, I nearly lost my mind. It was a mine field, y’all. ¬†No wonder I was exhausted when we got home. ¬†I try not to let her allergies limit us and what we can do, but it’s not always an easy venture. ¬†So perhaps you can understand why the sight of a Teal Pumpkin brings me so much joy.

It says, “No worries here.”

And, “All are welcome and safe here.”

And, “Solidarity, sister. ¬†I’ve got your back.”

Yes.  Yes.  And YES.

My point is, in this whole drawn out tale, is that quite often all is not as it seems to be. ¬†Folks, for the most part, let you see what they want you to see. ¬†It’s rare that folks are comfortable parading all this anxiety and frustration and discombobulation out in the open.

Because I was so discombobulated, y’all. ¬†Food allergies are nothing to play around with, and for something freaky like this to happen…..it just reset the clock on my overprotective “on guard” status all over again.

Well, there’s good news, says my family.

Some days it just it what it is, and that’s as good as it gets. Yesterday was one of those days. ¬†Today I lifted the ban off my girl and her puppy friend, and they were quite happy. ¬†I still found myself watching closely, and asking that same question I know she gets tired of–“Are you okay?”

I don’t know if I will ever stop asking that one though.

Tonight I’m thankful for baths that clean, for compassionate friends, and for the beginning of a new day. ¬†I’m thankful for the folks who get it, and I long for the day when there will be no more food allergies.

But until then, this is me.  Real and without filter.

Love to all.

IMG_5171

His Heart Was Full to Bustin’

This morning when I took Miss Sophie out for her morning sniff’n’smell, the sky was overcast, a dark grey, with heavy clouds just ready to let all the rain fall down upon us. ¬†It was still out as well–nothing moving, reminiscent of a cold, winter morning–only it wasn’t cold or winter. ¬†But neither was it very hot or summery feeling–for a Georgia morning in August, we’ll take it.

Because the air was still, it was very, very quiet. ¬†So quiet that I could hear the songs of the insects and birds quite clearly. ¬†It was so peaceful, I almost felt completely alone in that moment–well, me, Miss Sophie, and the One who painted it all.

Peace.

As we turned back towards the house, I heard a sound that was out of place. ¬†It was neither bird nor bug. ¬†I couldn’t place it until I turned around and saw in the distance a man walking along with energy and purpose. ¬†He had on headphones, and he was singing along to whatever he was listening to. ¬†I couldn’t understand the words as they were of a language I didn’t recognize, but my soul understood the meaning. ¬†I’m pretty sure he was singing worshipfully, as his voice was filled with awe and joy.

A sacred moment.

Miss Sophie and I quietly made our way back home, not wanting to intrude on his morning, but so thankful he’d intruded on ours. ¬†I want to be like that, so filled with praises and joy, that I can’t do anything but burst out in song and enthusiasm–thankful for all I’ve been given, no matter who is around. ¬†I want to be so in love with this life that I can’t be still–or quiet.

I’m working on it, y’all.

Tonight I’m thankful for a holy moment bursting into this quiet morning. ¬†For a song that broke through the language barrier and the one who sang it, I give thanks.

May we all find something that fills us up and overflows our hearts with joy and love and wonder.

Love to all.