What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

This morning I took my littles to their last STEM class for the school year.  It was on Robotics.  They got to build their own robots as teams, and they seemed to really enjoy it.

When we first got there this morning, we parked the car and began the trek to the building where the class is held.  As we started down the pathway, a woman–another Mama I’m assuming–was walking towards us.  We caught each other’s eyes and smiled.  I nodded and as she passed she smiled again, and then was gone.

But her smile has stuck with me all day.

I didn’t know her.  I may never see her again.  But there was something about her, the way that she carried herself, that was intriguing.

It was like–

it was like she was comfortable in her own skin.  With her lot in life.  Like she was not sorry for the joy she feels getting up in the morning.

It was almost like being a World Greeter is her  J O B.

You know, like the Wal-Mart greeters?  They are some of the most precious folks I know.  The one I know best, I guess, is Miss Mary.  I will go out of my way just so I can speak to her, ask her how she’s doing, and have her say, with her smile and unique manner, “Hello. Welcome.”  She doesn’t know my name, and whether or not she actually remembers me from visit to visit is debatable, but her welcome and her expression makes me feel as though she does.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?  If we had World Greeters or maybe Day Greeters–folks who welcome us to our life each day and ask if there’s anything they can do to help make the experience even better?

What would that look like for us to be that for each other?

Pretty doggone cool, I’m thinking.

Tonight I’m thankful for folks whose joy overflows onto the paths I walk on.  For folks who are always there when I call or let me know when they’re not, just in case.  For smiles from strangers and from folks I love.  For birthdays of good friends and songs on the radio that stir my soul.  For movie previews of books I love that have me ready to BUY MY TICKET NOW.  For classes on robots and the little people who will one day take that knowledge and do amazing things.  For friends with musical talent and texts that have me laughing for days.  For ideas of what to cook for supper that arrive earlier rather than later and for all the fixings close at hand.  Most of all, I’m thankful for people who know me and call my name.  I think I might have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

A World Greeter.

Welcome, folks.  How can I help you find your way to fabulous today?

Love to all.

 

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All the Pictures WITH them

Today I had the joy–and it was sheer joy–of seeing the faces of children as they saw Santa Claus up close and personal.

Our favorite little coffee shop hosted Santa in the chair next to the Christmas tree up on the little stage.  Family after family came in and approached Santa with timid footsteps and eager.  With shy smiles, radiant, beaming faces, or with worried frowns.  Some children went straight up to Santa, while others had to warm up to him from afar.  Santa sat with children of ALL ages on his lap or standing next to his chair, and he listened.  He held hands and handed out candy canes and smiled and laughed and coaxed little ones into smiling for the camera.

Most parents pulled their phones out and took pictures of their children with the jolly old elf.  Group shots and individual ones with Santa and their children.

And that’s when I had to step in.  I was that person reaching for their phones, insisting they get in at least one picture too.  For a family shot.

Almost every time, the parent would insist he/she hadn’t really planned on being in the picture, so they looked “a mess.”  Still I insisted.

One day your children will thank you.  They will be glad they have pictures of you and them together.  

I know of what I speak.

Over the years, there aren’t a whole lot of pictures of me and my Mama.  She was either taking the picture or in the kitchen while the rest of us were taking them.  So when I find one of the two of us, it brings me great joy.

I don’t have enough pictures with my Mama and Daddy.

So today, I reached for phones and insisted parents jump in there, and I took two or six shots of each family with Santa, insisting the parents look at the pictures before they left, so we could redo if we needed to.

It was an honor to see their faces.  Because when the whole family was in there with Santa, the parents’ smiles were usually bigger than those of the children.  Every single time.

If you are going to be with folks you love over the holidays, take lots of pictures with them, not just of them–all the people, parents and children.  Use the little square in the corner of your screen to turn the camera around and take selfies with them if you have to.  Whatever you have to do, create some magical pictures with the folks you love for you and others to look back on and remember and feel all the love once again.

My favorite moment today–when the veil was so thin–was when I looked in the eyes of a young Mama who got it.  She saw into my soul and why it mattered so much to me, and I saw into hers and knew that it was important for her too.  She was a tearfully happy Mama in the picture with her very young littles which I took through tears of my own.

Tonight I give thanks for the pictures I do have with my folks, and I give thanks for all the times I look at someone I love and say, “Let’s take a picture together and they say, ‘Okay.'” The photos bring back joyful memories and make me smile and remember and hold my people close.  Once again.  The years between us just melt away.

Merry memory-making, y’all.

Love to all.

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Santa waves in greeting to one of his little visitors.

 

 

 

sing with the sparrows

when you left this world

whose troubles weighed you down

and whose darkness made you weep

as you held hands with those in the shadows

 

I hope you were given a moment

to dance with the fireflies

and sing with the sparrows

 

before going on to where

the brokenness could no longer find you

the extinguished light

I stand cloaked in the words

that threaten to envelop me

if I do not give them breath and life

 

and still I stand

hesitant

unsure of the tempest

that will come

if they are given voice

 

for though I love the rain,

the storm both frightens and thrills me,

I seek shelter but do not cover my eyes

 

fascinated

intrigued

terrified

 

and then the darkness comes

as it always does

and the light is blown out,

it must be saved for others

for another

dark and cold

night

 

but not for this life

it doesn’t matter

she won’t need it anymore, they say

 

they don’t realize

the candle won’t be as bright

the next time they seek its glow

 

one less person to reflect

the radiance

 

and the tears fall

on the unhallowed ground

and no one grieves anymore

 

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The Miracle of Mostly Dead

At the end of last summer, the cherry tomato plant I’d put in a pot on my front porch and watched grow, withered away in the late summer heat.  Exhausted from its efforts to grow, bloom, and bear fruit all pretty much simultaneously, the stem and leaves browned, dried up, and crumpled back down toward the earth.

It was gone.

Being the avid gardener I am *ahem*, the “empty” pot sat on the porch all winter.  Rain, snow flurries, and various and assorted little critters found themselves landing in the pot before moving on.

As spring I arrived I had grand intentions of planting more “summer” vegetables in my pots.  The best I did was create our fairy garden.  While that feeds our hearts and souls, nothing was planted that would feed our bodies.

And then, one day, I saw a sprig of green rising up from the twisted brown tentacles of last year’s plant. I wasn’t sure what it was until, on a whim, while I was watering all my other “front porch greenery” I decided to water the little green twig in the soil.  The smell was unmistakable.  There’s nothing like the smell of tomato plants.

Well I’ll be.

How beautiful is this, where once all there had been was darkness and what looked like nothingness?

How beautiful is this, where once all there had been was darkness and what looked like nothingness?

That little plant wasn’t dead.  It was mostly dead.  (There’s a difference, I know–we’ve watched “The Princess Bride” over and over many times.)

And mostly isn’t all the way.  Bless it.

It quietly came back.  And today, this happened.

The cherry tomatoes our Princess harvested today.

The cherry tomatoes our Princess harvested today.

Isn’t that amazing?

You can take away from this that if you are a lazy gardener and let things slide, every now and again you might get lucky.

Or you could think about how amazing it is that there was still life under all that darkness, all that death–resilient–life that didn’t look like life as we know it but it was there all the same, gaining strength to blossom and grow and bear sweet and beautiful fruit all over again.

Either way.  Up to you.

But yeah.  Life.  There even when you can’t see it.

I needed that reminder.  That’s the stuff miracles are made of.  Believing in something you cannot see.  Believing in the possibility.

Love to all.

 

Perseverance, Bobs, and The Ones Who Took the Call

It’s been almost a year since I stared disappointment in the face, since our Princess found out that she wasn’t being invited to try out for the swim team.  That was one of those defining moments for me as a parent, and it broke my heart.

What a difference a year makes.  She and Cooter took lessons at the beginning of June this year.   Once again, our girl was disappointed not to be selected, but she bore it well.  She knew she had another round of classes, and she set her mind to just keep trying.

For the past two weeks she has done just that.

She has gotten stronger in her strokes, and her endurance is better.  She can go the whole length of the pool without me having to will her there.  (Okay, that’s what it felt like people.)  Her backstroke is beautiful to behold.  She set her mind to it, and today, this happened:

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Oh, the excitement!  The sheer joy in that sweet face.  In the words of our Princess, “It made the past two years all worth it.”  Yes baby, it did.

It’s funny her take on it.  Last night she had written herself a note on a Wesleyan College (her future alma mater, she insists) sticky pad.  It said, “Last day!  🙂  Make it BIG.”  I was overjoyed to see her cheering herself on–thinking positively.

“Mama, you know that note I wrote myself?”  I nodded from the driver’s seat as we pulled away this morning.  “Yeah, well I think it was good luck.  I’m glad I wrote it.”

Ahem.  How far do you let this go?  Me?  Not far apparently.

“Well baby, I’m glad you wrote yourself that note, and I’m so happy you have been invited to try out, but all of that happened because of your hard work.  You set your mind to it and you practiced.  You got stronger, and you listened to your instructor’s directions.  You did well, and you earned this.”

“Yes ma’am.”  She paused.  Okay, good, she’s hearing me.  “But imagine if I hadn’t written it.”

Oh my.  *sigh*

I’m proud of her.  I’m proud of her for applying herself and for her determination, but what I’m most proud of her for are the bobs.

She and another girl who was also hopeful about meeting the requirements had just completed the swim back from the other end of the pool.  She told me they did their bobs while waiting for the other two students to swim back.  (Bobs–they duck their heads under the water while holding their breath and blowing air out of their noses.)

“But these weren’t ordinary bobs, Mama.  They were special.  They were hope bobs.”

“Hope bobs?”

“Yes ma’am.  Because we were hoping we’d made it.”

Ahhh.

Then the third girl made her way back.  Only she wasn’t able to swim the whole way without stopping.  By the time she reached the end where Princess was, the little girl was in tears…..”because she was sad she wasn’t going to make it.  It was her Mama’s dream for her to be on the swim team.”

Oh.  My.

I nodded, not being able to find appropriate words in the moment.

“So we did some more bobs.  We did think bobs.”

“Think bobs?”

“So we could think of how we could cheer her up.  Then we told her she did a good job, and that if she didn’t make it, she could try again.”

That.  That right there.  That’s why I’m proud of my sweet girl today.  She has such a precious heart that sometimes it overwhelms me.  Imagine what life would be like if more of us took the time to do “think bobs” and “hope bobs.”  Beautiful.

As we were leaving the pool today, bubbly and excited with more than one of us beaming from ear to ear, we talked about the day–our Princess’ exciting news and how Cooter had learned to dive into the deep end of the pool.  (And he is phenomenal diver–he literally takes my breath away each time he goes.)  I asked Princess if there was anyone she’d like to share the news with.  She called Mess Cat, Leroy, and my Aunt.  Each time her joy was new and fresh, and I wanted to cry.  I am so thankful that she has people she wants to share it with (all of the requests were her own), and I am even more thankful that they took the call and celebrated with her.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about the ones she couldn’t call, but whom I’m sure were celebrating her stick-to-itiveness right along with the rest of us.

And I thought about the words I’ve heard so often through the years.

The Lord gives and the Lord taketh away. 

That’s from the Good Book, from the book of Job.  If ever a fellow lived that, it was he.  He had a time of it.  And I reckon that in the past four three years I’ve felt more compassion for him that I ever did before.

But today…..today I decided the order of that was all wrong.  (No offense intended to the biblical scholars in our midst.)

Today it felt more like “The Lord taketh away, and the Lord gives.”

Because in the midst of missing my Mama and my Daddy and all the others whom we’ve loved and who have journeyed beyond the veil, there has never been a moment when someone didn’t step in and love on me, on us.  Not replacing them, mind you, but sharing light and love and lifting our spirits just when we needed it the most.  Like today.

My parents are no longer here where we can see them, but when I look around with eyes that will see and listen with ears that will hear and I-get-myself-off-my-pity-pot, I am in awe of the gifts we have been given in those who stand beside us, with us.  Those who curl up next to us when we are too tired to go on.  Who wait patiently and encourage and love and…..

it’s almost too much to wrap my brain around.

Life is good.

My children have had the privilege of learning to be safe in the water.  They have learned a lot, including the important lesson that hard work can eventually pay off.  And they’ve learned that people and their feelings and relationships are the most important aspects of our being.  I am fortunate beyond comprehension to have the people in my life that I do who love on my babies–all of them–as though they were their own.  Because they are their own.  We belong to each other in this life, and that is a sweet, precious thing.

I’m off to do some gratitude bobs.  Because tonight my heart is full to bustin’.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

Old Enough to Have a Back…..and then some

Today I was blessed by the bounty from the efforts of another.  I had the privilege of picking beans I didn’t have to plow, plant, weed, and care for.  All I had to do was spend a little time out there picking them and putting them in the bag to bring home.

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Wow. What a gift.

As I worked my way down the row, lifting the plants gently to find the beans hidden underneath, plucking one after another, I thought of my Daddy.  I used to pick from the garden with him just like this.  First at my Granny’s where she and my Granddaddy had planted more than enough and let us pick whatever we could use.  I loved sitting on the edge of the metal bucket, picking and dreaming and being with my Daddy.  Guess which one of those was my favorite?  I think picking beans and peas with Daddy was when I learned about a companionable silence.  Oh we would chat some too.  (Okay–me.)  But a lot of those times we’d quietly work in tandem, gently taking nature’s gift to fill our table and our freezers.  Later on after we moved to Blackberry Flats we’d pick together in the garden there.  Where Daddy rotated his planting year after year, working to find the best spot for growing and so as not to overtax the land.  After tilling, he’d use two bricks with string tied between to line up his rows for hoeing.  I sometimes helped with the planting phase too.  Again, the quiet.

Much like today.

I thought of him so much as I worked my way down the row.  I was determined to get through one row completely before I stopped.  He would have liked that.  Be methodical and commit.  Don’t go in there willy-nilly, picking first from this plant on that row and then from that plant two rows over.  Start, focus, work hard, and finish.

When I was about a third of the way down the row, I almost broke the silence by laughing as a memory came flooding back.  One time when we were picking together, I was maybe nine or ten, I started slowing down my pace.  Daddy asked me what was wrong.

“My back hurts,” I said.  (and possibly whined)

“Oh, you’re too young to have a back,” he said, dismissing my woes.

And that became the thing.  When I was toting around his first grandchild, I was reminded I was young, too young to have a back.  When I was working at a packing shed and helping load boxes of peaches, too young to have a back.  When I was in graduate school, carrying my backpack to and fro, still too young to have a back.

It was almost three years ago now, when Daddy was just about completely bedridden with the lymphoma and his broken hip that was slow to mend.  We were still taking him for consultations at the Cancer Center.  I had ridden over to drive him and Mama to the appointment.  At one point, I positioned myself so Daddy could put his arms around my neck, and I could help lift him from the car and swing him around into the wheelchair so he could go into the building.  I wasn’t very good at it, not nearly as strong as I wished I could be, and it was the kindness of a stranger that got the job done, bless her.  Trying to lighten the moment, I said something to Daddy like, “Well, if I’d a had a back, maybe that would have gone better.  But I’m not old enough to have a back.”  He looked over at me, from where he was sitting waiting to be called back, raised his eyebrows just like my Granny would have and said, “Oh no, you’re old enough.  You have a back.”

Huh.  Well good to know.

I wonder when on earth THAT changed.  Can you imagine all the time I missed, when I could have been legitimately complaining about the back I finally had?

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Today I smiled again as I stood, looking back at the completed row.  I enjoyed picking beans with my Daddy today.  I enjoyed my crew spending time with Aunt, whom they love dearly.  I enjoyed the generosity of my Uncle who works so hard to be a good steward of the land he has.  And I really enjoyed the twinges that had me stooped over for a full five minutes after I tried to stand up straight.  I was reminded all over again that I do indeed have a back.  And it wasn’t happy with me at all.

And yet, for some reason, all I could do was giggle.

For those of you old enough to have a back, congratulations.  You may express your discomfort all you want.  You’ve earned it.  All the rest of you, you’ll get there one day.  Until then, we don’t want to hear a peep about your nonexistent back.  You’re not old enough to have one yet.  😉

Love to all.