Spaghetti Pants and Coffee

Today was one of those days with good and hard so jumbled up together, it’s hard to see one without the other.

Which works really well if you are trying not to focus on the negative…..there’s always some positive to think upon.

It was a day of putting my big girl boots on and closing another set of doors to the past.

I hate contemplating the idea of “last time.”

Oh there’s some last times that are good.  But today had the potential to be the “last time” of going to a place that built me.  A place filled with memories of little me, and little littles.  The last time–inconceivable.  I just couldn’t bear the thought.  Seen in the rearview mirror, it all becomes more precious.

But I put on my big girl boots and went and did what I had to do.

These boots were made for walkin'.....

These boots were made for walkin’…..

To say goodbye one more time.  To sign my name once more.  To take care of business.  To let it go.

IMG_5465IMG_5466

I’ve been spending way too much time with lawyers and in courtrooms lately, it seems.  All towards the end and closure, but still.

No, death is not the final word because there is one more after that–estate.

Which I’ve pretty much deemed an ugly word.  One that makes people do things they wouldn’t normally, one that can bring out love and patience or greed and selfishness.  Take your pick.  I’ve seen both.

But in the midst of the day, I looked down and I noticed I had spaghetti sauce on my good jeans.  (I was dressed up for all this big girl business stuff.)  And I laughed.  I near about started crying, and then I laughed again.

Imagine all those folks I made feel better about themselves today because they could say, “Huh.  I’m not doing too bad.  Look at that girl.  She might have those cute big girl boots on, but she has spaghetti sauce on her pants…..”  and then they’d laugh and laugh.

That thought brought me so much joy you just don’t know.

I mean, if I can make other folks laugh and feel okay about themselves–well, that’s something, isn’t it?

Today was hard.  But tonight I’m thankful for phone calls from brothers, listening to the tears and saying just the right words.  And for the laughter.  Oh he can make me laugh too, with or without spaghetti sauce on his pants.  I give thanks for a sweet Princess who sat through the day of thingstodo and drew all different kinds of fashion outfits, complete with accessories, in her little notebook.  This week she’s a fashion designer and actually quite good.  I smile at the curiosity in my baby boy, who found a pamphlet about “Identity Theft” and read all about it as we sat waiting at the bank.  He’s quirky, and I like him that way.  Today I give thanks for folks whose stories intertwine with mine, and how the shared tears over remembering those we’ve lost brings two people together faster than almost anything else (except food maybe?).  I appreciate the gift of being shown through a house I once knew every inch of like it was the back of my hand, just to put my heart and mind at peace that it’s being cared for and loved.  Precious people.  Most of all though, tonight I’m thankful for an amazing doctor, who, when I asked if there was such a thing as me drinking too much coffee (I was quite serious), answered, “No.  Not at Christmas!” And then he laughed so jovially I couldn’t help but join in.  Now that’s a man who really cares about his patients!

This evening after supper, Cooter was walking around with the music maker playing Katy Perry’s “Roar” over and over.  Once I even heard him singing it from the bathroom.  It’s quiet now, but I looked up the lyrics (written by Katy Perry, Bonnie Mc Kee, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Cirkut), and I think he might just have picked up on his Mama’s spirit and feelings about today and was trying to give me a boost–bless him.

Here’s the first bit:
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

[Chorus]
I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar

 

Some days a little roaring is a good thing, and today was one such day.  I fell down but I got back up, brushed the dust off my boots, and danced through the fire that was today.

Doesn’t mean there won’t be more fires…..

(surefire certain there will be)

but it does mean I can get through them.

With spaghetti pants and coffee, no less…..

because I’m a fighter.

And doors may close, but I will keep on keeping on.

Wishing you all the energy to get back up…..and roar.

Love to all.

Be Particular…..and other words from a wise woman

Today is my Granny’s birthday.  She hasn’t been here to celebrate it with us in seventeen years.  That blows my mind to think about how long it has been since I’ve heard her say, “Hey girl” in that special way she had.  I guess it’s because in so many ways, so many times I feel her with me and I can even hear her voice.

Granny was the wise country woman who sewed her own dresses, had her gardening boots by the back door, and kept a butter churn next to the gas heater.  I don’t remember any butter being made in it, but that doesn’t mean she never did.  She was always busy.  Her hands were always doing something.  Shelling peas, shucking corn, stirring the soup, patting out the biscuits, frying the okra or catfish, sewing a dress, painting a ceramic figure, playing a game with one of her grandchildren, turning the pages in her Bible, rolling out pie crust, washing dishes, or laying out the pallet for us to sleep on.  She kept a tissue box in the back window of the car, and I used to think how smart she was to do that.  She kept toys in the bottom of the china cabinet for us to play with.  I was especially fond of the Fisher Price Little People RV/camper.  (Maybe I can blame my ever-present longing for an RV on that?)  She kept Archie and Jughead and Betty and Veronica comic books for us to read on lazy summer afternoons as we waited for the heat to let up a bit so we could go back outside.  She had a room full of wonderful books.  Some of my favorites were the Wonderful World of Disney set of storybooks–“Tales from Another Land” and so on–thanks to eBay we also have a set of these great books.  I read the best biography of Lady Jane Grey (yes I’ve read more than one–ahem–nothing wrong with that right?) that belonged to her laying on the bed in her back bedroom.

That room, which I believe was my Daddy’s and his brother’s growing up (is that right?) , was once called the “cold room.”  It was on the other side of the house from the other two bedrooms, and it stayed a lot cooler than the other two.  It was the furthest from the little gas heater.  I don’t remember when, but one year Granny put up some curtains that were red bandana and denim print as I recall.  It was then re-dubbed the “pretty room.”  That room was not one usually frequented by us children.  Perhaps that’s why it felt like it held some kind of secret magic or something.  This was the ideal place for keeping the Christmas candy and goodies that Granny prepared year after year.  Oh my, the bounty I can remember being in there in Tupperware containers and the like.  Martha Washingtons, Buckeyes, Divinity, Date balls, and so many, many more.  The mind and my sweet tooth would boggle.  I can also remember beans and other vegetables laying out to dry to become seed for the next spring.  We had to be careful not to step on or scatter them.

Granny’s was a safe place for me, and so much stayed the same that being there was always a comfort.  Honeycomb cereal poured from the plastic cereal bins.  Irish Spring soap in the old bathtub with the high curved sides.  And I’m pretty sure she always had Pepsodent, but I could be wrong about that.  She kept red solo cups for drinking water–the smaller sized ones–in a dispenser next to the second sink in the kitchen.  When she made homemade peach ice cream, she had these little containers she’d pour leftovers in to have another time.  Only you might better think of it a little bit before you wanted to eat it, because it was brick hard when it first came out of the freezer, and it took a little while to get just right for eating.

Granny loved dogs.  She bred terriers back before I can really remember, and then later she had a basset hound and bred those.  She let us watch “Gunsmoke” in the afternoon and “Hee Haw” on Saturday night. And she watched the 11 o’clock news on WMAZ every night.  We knew the lights were going out at 11:35.  In later years, after her move to town, “Doctor Quinn” was her go to show.  That and anytime Billy Graham was on TV.  She didn’t watch a lot of TV, she wasn’t still enough to do so until her body slowed down, and she couldn’t do as much.

My Granny taught us to “be particular.”   These were words that covered a lot of territory.  Be particular about your belongings.  You don’t need much, but take care of the things you do have.  Be particular about the people you look to for guidance.  That doesn’t mean you can’t care about folks who are different, just be careful what example you’re following.  Be particular about what you eat–make sure it’s real and good.  Be particular about your language.  What words are coming out of your mouth.  No need to resort to certain kinds of language or saying unkind things.  Be particular with other people’s things, feelings, and hearts.  And be particular with the choices you make. They are a lot more far-reaching than you think.  I think that if I ever go back and put “Loved” and “Others” on Mama and Daddy’s gravestones, I should probably go ahead and put “be particular” on Granny’s.  Because she was.

She had a saying that she often still says to me.  And I’ve earned it.  Every.  Single.  Time.

“Lazy folks always did have the most to do.”  I guess she said it.  Mama quoted her left and right when I was growing up, and now, no kidding, it’s my Granny’s voice I hear when I wind up having to clean up two messes because I didn’t feel like taking care of the first one in a more timely manner.  Or when I don’t take the time to put something up right and it either gets lost or broken.  Ahem.  Not that these things happen very often.  Not at all.

Granny could straight cook.  Each year, on her birthday, I have made her coconut cake from her recipe.  It is one of my favorites, especially after a day or two when the icing has had a chance to sink into the cake a little bit.  Oh boy.  When it snowed on her birthday weekend in 1993, and the family get together at her house in town had to be cancelled, I was the lucky one who went to stay with her because we’d lost power out in the country.  I took her coconut cake with me and we had some Saturday night after Dr. Quinn but before bed.  And again on Sunday morning.  For breakfast.  As I mentioned off-handedly that maybe I shouldn’t be eating cake for breakfast, she told me in no uncertain terms that she had a friend in the nursing home who said something about eating good things while you still can, “because the day is going to come when you can’t.”  Amen.

I love my Granny.  She was a strong woman, and the memories of her carry me through hard times of my own.  She stood by my Papa and my Granddaddy as illness and age took them away from this life.  Her faith never seemed to waver.  She loved God fiercely.  She was smart and knew how to take care of things.  After she moved to town, the layout of the house was very different.  Where there had been no hall in the house on the farm, now she had a long hall to trek down from the living room to the bedroom.  And unless she went down, turned on her bedroom light, and then came back and turned off the living room light, it could be a long and risky trek.  She asked someone in to do a little work, and the next thing I knew, Granny could leave on the living room light, go down the hall to her bedroom, turn on her bedroom light, and then turn off the living room light.  From her room.  So cool.  She laughed that the next folks who bought the house would probably think, What on earth?!  I laughed too.

Today I didn’t make my Granny’s cake.  I didn’t make a side trip out to the cemetery on the outskirts of town where she was laid to rest.  What I did instead was carry her in my heart all day, not much different from any other day, but I celebrated the good memories I have.  Of telling ghost stories late at night while staying there with my cousins.  Of playing “hangman” with her and us laughing over the crazy words we came up with. Or Battleship–that was my very favorite. Of me sharing strawberries I’d just picked or picking up Church’s Chicken or Creekside Catfish for her.  Mostly of the great conversations we always were able to have.  Today I remembered all of those, and I took care of business.  The business of putting away the things of another life well lived.  Another strong woman I love.  It was time.  I like to think that she and my Granny are up there, pausing for a moment in the middle of their birthday festivities, nodding, approving what we got done today and letting me know it’s okay there’s no cake this year.  Now my Daddy–he’s off to the side, shaking his head, and saying, “Well, it’s about time.”  But my Granny, she probably cut her eyes at him and told him to leave me alone–that I’m doing okay.

At least I sure hope so.  She was a fabulous woman whom I love and adore.  I sure hope she’s okay with who I’m becoming.  Because I sure am a work in progress, and I really am trying to be particular.

Happy birthday, Granny!

Love to all.  If you still have your Granny with you, go hug her.  They’re precious and dear, hold on tight.

Move a Mountain Monday

There’s a group on Facebook, the Canny Women, who promote doing instead of buying, and every Tuesday they cheer their followers on through “Tackle a Pile Tuesday.”  They can inspire or frustrate you depending on where you’re at–just being honest here.  Today, they inspired me.

First I had seriously contemplated taking my only day that we didn’t have some place to be and going with the littles to the grocery store.  They’re not a problem in the stores at all, it’s me.  As the day progressed, and we all piled up and listened to our Princess read “Wiley and the Hairy Man” aloud, I just wanted to be home.  I saw a post this afternoon by Canny Women where they asked what everyone was fixing for supper, and there was their slogan–“DO instead of BUY.  Shop at home first.”  Did I have food here?  Yes.  Could we make it without the trip to the grocery store?  (well, I really wanted to get a few things to mix up our snack mix…..*whining*) YES, we absolutely could.  Even our Princess who insisted she was out of shampoo realized that she really wasn’t, and all was well with the world again.  We stayed home, we had three good meals and a snack today, and we actually have enough that tomorrow is going to be grocery store free as well.  A great big whoo hoo!

And even though it’s not Tuesday, I decided to go one step further and make it “Move a Mountain Monday.”  Yeah, piles just didn’t describe what I was facing anymore.  Here’s what was in that mountain–

College advertisements, enticing, tempting, offering my child money and all kinds of perks.  This is what happens when you take the SAT not knowing you are going to graduate a year early.  The other colleges didn’t get the memo, so I have another whole year of her getting college letters, brochures, and catalogs.  All with her name on it, so that part goes in the shredder pile.  Don’t ask me why–I don’t know.  It’s what my people do.

Insurance and magazine advertisement junk mail.  And credit card applications.  Just no.  I do not like change much, so no on the insurance and nobody needs another credit card and dear magazines–if I haven’t already contacted you, I’m not gonna.  Just letting you know.  So these too, the parts with the personal information on it, get shredded.

Catalogs.  Oh good gravy.  Order something from a company just once because it was a special Christmas request for someone you had no other ideas for and from then on it’s catalog overload.  I think I’ve heard that there’s a way to stop the catalogs from coming, but that would require putting it on my to do list and following through.  Bigger gators closer to the canoe–and my brain’s been missing for months now, so that’s not likely to happen.  I can say I will try if someone tells me how to make it happen.  But I make no promises.  The inserts with my name and address and the mailing label all go into the shredder too.  (Once I had a company calling me about an order that I DID NOT place, so yeah, I must not let my catalogs get into the hands of folks with malicious intent.)

Then with all this unimportant stuff are all the things I need to sort and file and respond to.  Bills get paid, but that’s been about it.  I’m organizing and filing for our house and three other lives that were, so maybe you can understand how this mountain got out of hand.  Understand or no, it is what it is.

A mountain of disorganized mess.

I prepared myself mentally and sat down at the desk.  I pulled out my shredder.  It was a gift from Mama.  She taught me how to be organized and to protect myself.  I was so excited to get a shredder, probably more for the novelty than for the safety of it, but I loved my gift.  From time to time it gets jammed.  Which is why the pile of “to be shredded” was escalating.

One of the gifts from my Mama that I will always appreciate.

One of the gifts from my Mama that I will always appreciate.

I turned it off and worked at the tines until it was ready to go.  When I had it whirring, I was on a roll.  I created loads of shredded paper and knocked out one mountain and then two. All I have left to handle tomorrow is my “To Deal With” pile.  And thank goodness, it is a pile.  Not a mountain.

So many thoughts went through my head as all that information was buried in the mound of bits and pieces of numbers and letters, no longer discernible.  Mama was proud of the idea of giving me one, and she wanted me to be able to take care of my business carefully and responsibly.  She would say it took her years to perfect her system, and perfect it she did.  Sister asked to look through Mama’s desk at how it was organized before we started cleaning it out.  Mama was just that good at managing a household and so much more.  I think she overestimated me and my capabilities.  I seriously doubt I will ever have it as together as she did.  There will always be a day in the month that my stomach will clench and I will try to focus and remember–I did pay that bill, didn’t I?  Did I respond to that e-mail?  The answer is most often yes, but that’s how my mind works.  Because my system doesn’t.

The other thought that wandered through as I rhythmically fed the papers of all shapes and sizes and textures through the machine was wouldn’t it be nice if everything we needed to clear up could be handled this way.  All traces of whatever we’d like to leave behind, feed it into Life’s shredder and let it go.  No worries, no residue left behind–that’s a shredder I’d get in line to feed some things through.  Nothing left to carry in your heart or mind.  Just gone.  Swept out of your life with an old broken crayon and a few crumbs from the biscuits at breakfast.  Done.

But that’s not how it goes.  We have things we’ve done, choices we’ve made, things that have just happened, that have our names indelibly scrawled across them, and somehow we have to make peace with that and move on.  There is no Life shredder.

And yet tonight I think I’m okay with that.  Sure I’ve made some bad choices.  I’ve had things happen that I couldn’t and still don’t understand why they did.  But, and I apologize for the cliche’, having my name on those things make them a part of my journey.  And without those bits and pieces of the story, I would not be sitting here with sleeping children and the Fella home safe and sound and a snoozing puppy laid out on the floor waiting to be tucked into her little bed.  It would all be different.  Different good, different bad–not something I can know or even want to know.  It just is what it is.  And it’s okay.  If I were to put all those hard things in Life’s shredder, it is possible that I would only be more broken, much like the paper I handfed through today.

It's okay for the scraps of old mail and advertisements, but not for the bits and pieces of my story--even those I haven't made my peace with yet.

It’s okay for the scraps of old mail and advertisements, but not for the bits and pieces of my story–even those I haven’t made my peace with yet.

So maybe I wouldn’t get in line for that Life shredder if one ever existed.  I think I’ll hold on to the bits and pieces of paper and all those letters and numbers and words and exclamation points and question marks that make me ME.  And I’ll definitely hold onto the ellipses…..for some of the best stuff is waiting on the other side of those.

But I am thankful for my Mama who tried to teach me how to take care of business and wanted me to be safe in all kinds of way, including shredding stuff that could make things harder for me if I didn’t.  I think she would be proud of me for trying today.  Whenever we’d do something we especially did not like, she would say, “Aren’t we feeling sanctimonious?”  And you know what, I rather am a bit.  Most importantly, I think today I started moving more than a mountain of mail and such…..I think I started moving the mountain of mayhem in my life, including the parts of my story that are harder to be okay with.  And that’s something she’d really be proud of.  There was never anything I couldn’t share with her, no story she wouldn’t hear.  She loved me warts and messy mayhem and mood swings and all.  Maybe it’s time I start doing that for myself.  Time to move the mountain of maudlin regret and woes and worries.  Move it out of my heart and mind and make room for more of the good stuff.  I think that would really make her smile.