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.

Ferbuary_6,_2008_tornado_warning

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

Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats

Today on our OutandAbouts, the littles and I were listening to 40’s radio.  Some of us more willingly than others.

Okay, it was me.  I am the one who LOVES 40’s music.  And if I’m driving your little wiggly selves here, there, and yonder for you to see a musical and have a picnic and play at the park, the least you can do is sit there and enjoy it, right?

Today as we were listening the song “Mairzy Doats” came on the air.  Have you heard this one before?

The main lyrics are:

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, Wouldn’t you?
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”

And so on.

How cute is that?  I love this song.

So fun, a happy song that you can clap along to.

And then the year that it was recorded put all my mental toe-tapping to a screeching halt.

1944.

Do you realize what was going on in this country in 1944?

I’m not a great historical scholar, but I know that World War II for this country lasted from 1941-1945.

This happy, silly song landed on the scene smack dab in the middle of this hard time of rationing and sending our soldiers to war for long periods of time with no word as to how they were doing, if they were even alive.  There was no e-mailing or skyping.  The families back home sometimes just didn’t hear.

Let me reiterate–this was not a happy or silly time for our country and her people.

And yet–

the 40’s station is filled with songs like this one–songs that I simply cannot be sad or on my pity pot while listening to.

And many of them were on the air before the end of the war.

I can understand the light-heartedness of songs after the war ended, but as we listened today, after my I started paying attention to the years of the songs, I was amazed.

The spirit of the people during that era–

indomitable is the word that comes to mind.

They hadn’t buried their heads in the sand, dancing and singing, totally oblivious to what was going on.

No, they were quite aware.

And still they sang.

This is the generation of my Granny.  And my Great Aunt. Strong people who knew what had to be done and did it.  Who lived with the reality of war and death and fear each and every day.

I’m not sure I could have gotten up out of the bed every morning, y’all.

But not my Granny.  Not the men and women of the 1940’s.  They got it.  And still the band played on.

Giving them an outlet.  Something to smile about.  To take heart in.

And we take to our beds with season after season of our favorite shows on Netflix over the dog eating our shoes.  Or our favorite restaurant being closed on Sundays.   (both of these *ahem* may or may not have actually happened–not naming names, of course)

I’m not putting down my generation, because each generation has their own set of problems and challenges to face and overcome.

But those men and women of the 40’s–my hat is off to them. I love the spirit exuded in their music.  Much more so than the spirit of the music of some other decades I could mention but won’t.

Tonight I’m thankful for the people who stood strong in the midst of doubt and hardship and heartache.  They set the bar high for facing brokenness and still keeping one’s wits and spirits up.  I have the utmost respect for the composers, conductors, and performers of that decade.  They were serving their country in the best way they could with their gifts and talents and here, seventy years later, it has made a huge impact on me.  They didn’t give up.  They didn’t crawl in a hole and wait for the world to end.

Sort of puts all my “stuff” into perspective.

If you have a moment, listen to a song or two from the 40’s.  And remember.  And carry some of that indomitable spirit in your heart too.  We are standing on the shoulders of giants.  Who had great hearts and spirits, and whom we just might have inherited our own bit of indomitability from.

 

Love to all.

 

 

Just to get you started, here’s another favorite of mine.  (It’s pre-war. Sad to think that a long winter was coming for this country when this song was on the air.)

 

Don’t Play With Your Food

Big goings on happening this weekend.  A family hootenanny.  Great fun.

And so, in preparation for the gathering, I’m making Granny’s coconut cake.

And potato salad.

As I pulled out the potatoes to peel and put in the pot, a memory came to mind from when I was in fourth grade.  About potatoes.

Potatoes getting ready to go in my potato salad for the big family Hootenanny.

Potatoes getting ready to go in my potato salad for the big family Hootenanny.

Each Monday I spent all day in a classroom with a group of students from fourth and fifth grades, different from my classes Tuesday through Friday.  That was the classroom I first heard about the concept of nuclear war, learned the word “nefarious,” and worked with manipulatives meant to foster creativity.   In the middle of the school year, sometime after Christmas, my teacher requested that we all bring in a bag of potatoes.  She wanted us to learn to make potato prints from them.

So yeah.  Art.  With food.

Huh.

My Daddy was not impressed.  He not only did not send a bag of potatoes but he took time to write a rather lengthy letter about the cost of potatoes, the potato famine, and spoke out against “playing with our food.”

Naturally, at the time, I was mortified.

But today?

I get it.

I didn’t grow up knowing or even thinking about whether we were poor or not.  We had food on the table three times a day, a roof over our heads, and clothes to wear. Our clothes more than likely were not name brand, and Mama shopped the clearance racks at Sears and waited for items to be put on the 75% off rack many times before she’d even think about buying a shirt or pair of pants.  My shoes never had a swoosh on the side until I was grown, had a job, and was buying my own shoes.  And they were on sale.  We didn’t hurt for anything, not that my parents ever let on anyway. It was because Mama and Daddy were frugal people with simple, reasonable tastes, and they didn’t waste things.  Still, I’m thinking that a bag of potatoes was not an expense they could have easily afforded at the time for something that seemed as frivolous as print making.

Daddy used to tell me that every generation wants the one after it to do a little better, to have a little better life than they did.  And I really believe he wanted that for each one of his four children.

Just as I think his parents wanted that for him and his siblings.

But there’s a fine line between “better life” and excessive lifestyle.

For Daddy that line was crossed with potato art–playing with one’s food.  Using a bag of potatoes to be cut up, painted, and then thrown out–when that bag could have fed his family for at least two meals?  No.  It was beyond what he would call better–it was wasteful.

I think about that sometimes, about how my Daddy went against the grain and stood up for what he believed in.  No matter how embarrassed I was at the time, it made an impression on me, and I try to be as strong in my own convictions and as willing to say what I think when I perceive a line being crossed.

I want a better life for my three children.  I want them to succeed and reach their goals and not have to struggle for everything.

But, forgive me, I do want them to have to struggle for something.  I want them to have to make an effort and to work hard.  And to learn what I learned from my Daddy and Mama–figure out what you believe in and stand strong upon it.

Things that come too easily are not as easily appreciated as those things we work hard for.  And wanting for something rarely if ever really hurt someone.

They’ll survive.  Just as I did.  It didn’t hurt me that I was 16 when we got our first color TV and 17 when we got our VCR.  I grew up sharing a room and so much more with Sister, and things were never just handed to me.

Today I’m thankful for all of those things.  I’m thankful for parents who tried to teach me to be a good steward of what I have and don’t have.  I give thanks for a Daddy who wasn’t too embarrassed to say what he thought.  (And a Mama who was even more so that way.)  Most of all, I appreciate being told all those years, “You’re under (12, 18, 25, 42…..) and your wants won’t hurt ya.”

Yeah.  That.

And you know what?

They were right.

Love to all.  Hope your weekend is full of fun and maybe even a hootenanny or two.  😉

 

 

My Boots

My Daddy's boots

My Daddy’s boots

Growing up Daddy wore the same thing just about every day.  Jeans, belt, white t-shirt, and a chambray shirt made by Mama, matched with his work boots as he headed out the door.  When he’d wear one chambray shirt out, she would snip the buttons, and attach them to the new one she was making.  When Mama realized she did not enjoy sewing, he started wearing short sleeved button down Oxford style shirts–in light blue or white.   The last few years he interpersed those with a t-shirt, long or short sleeved weather dependent; often one I had embroidered a design on.  I think his favorite might have been the one that said, “Shade Tree Carpenter,” because that is what he was in his retirement.  He’d stand out there under the shade of the tree he called the trash tree because it made such a mess shedding its leaves, and he would create and build all kinds of wonderful things to be enjoyed by his grandchildren.  That was one t-shirt design he asked for.   It was a classic.

All that is to say, Daddy was laid-back.

I think he was probably glad our rehearsal dinner was at Nu-Way, where a sign was put on the door early that morning–“Dinning (sic) Room Closed, 6 pm, Wedding Party.”  His daily dress was just right for the party.

During his last couple of months, when he was pretty much bed-ridden, Daddy and I would visit and talk about all kinds of things.  At the time I had been thinking about getting a pair of boots.  My oldest Aub had saved up and gotten her a pair, and that flung a craving on me I guess you could say.  Daddy and I talked about the best kinds, how to care for them (saddle soap and all), and what color we thought I could pull off.  I had seen a pair of bright red ones with white and turquoise flame stitching.  I really wanted to be the girl who could pull them off, but I just wasn’t sure.

It was mid-November when Daddy’s fight with the lymphoma came to an end.   In the midst of everything going on, I had not even thought about what I would wear to his service.  It was the day after he died, that Friday, that we were scrambling–meet with the funeral director, take the clippings from the tea olive and cedar to the florist for the spray, make many, many phone calls, feed the children, and last but not least, plan out what each person was going to wear to the service the following day.  Mama called me aside.  “I want you to go get your boots.  Go right now, you should have time, and get them.  And then I want you to wear them tomorrow.  You have a denim skirt, right?”

I nodded, thinking of how appropriate that was for Daddy.  Who rarely had a day he didn’t wear denim.  “Yes ma’am, I can make it happen.”

“Oh, and Tara?”

“Yes ma’am?”

“See if you can find some dress shoes for me.  You know, a nice pair of flats.  I don’t have any shoes to wear for tomorrow.”

So I was off on a mission, one of them nigh unto impossible.  Mama had not been shopping in ages while caregiving for Daddy, so I had some experience in the “shopping for her” arena.  And I knew how hard it was.  I won’t say she was hard to please, but let’s just leave it at sometimes “she had high standards.”  Ahem.

First stop was the ride over to the Western Wear and Horse Supply store near my house.  I walked in and looked at the red boots I’d told Daddy about.  No, they just didn’t suit.  I walked the aisles a time or two, feeling the pressure of time and a lengthy to-do list crowding in.  Then I saw them.  Just enough red to make me happy, and what a beautiful deep, rich red.  Those were MY boots.

I didn’t fare as well for Mama.  I went to her favorite clothing store, Belk’s, and found two pairs that were possibilities, and I got them both.  I could return either or both later.  Both it was.  Mama tried, but since her foot surgery, only certain types of shoes were comfortable.  Her sweet cousin wound up loaning her a pair of dress shoes that were just perfect.

The next day was the first time I wore my boots for real.  And I loved them.  Still do.  I don’t know if it is because they were christened with the red dirt of home, but when I wear them, I find a sense of strength that I didn’t feel before.  I kind of fancy them as my “kickin’ attitude” boots.  Usually it’s a good attitude, but when I had to meet with doctors and ask hard questions during Mama’s HospitalStay, I wore those boots.  When I have had to take a stand, my boots were right there under me.  And when I stood again at the little country cemetery, saying goodbye to Mama, I wore the same boots I first wore at Daddy’s funeral.  Imagined or not, perception’s what we are dealing with people, and I perceive that they give me strength.  Anyone remember Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking?”  Yes.  That. (Only with longer skirts…..)

pic of mah boots

In the past two months, I have acquired two more pairs of boots.  I wear them mostly to save the soles on my treasured pair.  I need to have them resoled.  I’ve done a lot of moving in them.   My sister found the black pair at her GW Boutique in Atlanta.  Can you believe that?  I don’t want to talk tacky, but I just have to brag about her skills–for less than $10!  Those boots were the perfect dress boots to give me what I needed on that bittersweet and precious Graduation Night of my girl two weeks ago.

It was a week after my sister made her find that we were at our local GW, and my 8 year old saw the red pair.  It was like there was a heavenly light shining above them.  Leading her to them.  She was enthralled and so happy.  They fit her and we brought them home.  The other day I asked her if she planned to wear them again, and she said, “Well yes, when I go riding horses.”  (Ummm, yeah, because that’s been pencilled in.)  Turns out they feel funny to her feet, and turns out they fit me just fine.  (She’s going to be really, really tall.)  So, score!

One cold night over a year ago, I was out rather late, picking Aub and her friend up from the movie theater.  It was past my bedtime, so I was in comfy clothes and threw on my lined Crocs and headed over.  As I was sitting there in the parking lot waiting for them and people watching, I saw a group of teenagers gathered together near the curb.  About that time a little man walked up to get his tickets.  The teens saw him and began to laugh and make exaggerated gestures, mocking this man.  He and his friends never noticed as they bought their tickets and went inside.  But it made my blood boil.  When Aub and her friend got in the car, I told them about it, and I lectured them that I better not ever…..well, you know the drill.  They might as well have been guilty the way I carried on.  As I drew to a close, Aub’s friend leaned over to look at my feet, grinned, and said, “Miss Tara, it’s a good thing you didn’t have your boots on or they’d have been in real trouble, wouldn’t they?”  See, even he knew.  I’m tough stuff when I have them on.  (Or so I tell myself.)

Tonight I’m thankful for a laid-back Daddy, and for a Mama who honored that and loved him for it.  I’m also thankful for my parents who raised me to be strong–to pick myself back up when I’m in the depths, and who bought me my first pair of grownup boots that remind me of that strength.  I love my family and friends who sit with me in those depths and cheer me on when I pull my boots out.  The thing is, I know there are more hard times ahead.  I also know, that even though things will get shaky and dark, in the end, I can handle it.  I’m going to come out on the other side.  Maybe a little more worn, maybe a few more scuffs, but still standing tall.

And for those who might have been deprived of Nancy Sinatra growing up–here she is, her and her boots.