How to Get Lost (and a free book)

I’m not sure when it happened, but it was confirmed this past Christmas.  We have moved past the toys on the wish list.  My (not so) littles were hoping for things that supported their dreams–like dance and games and shoes.  My little fella asked for a pair of Crocs (easy to slide on and off and APPARENTLY back in fashion?!?) and books.  When I asked him what books–was there a series or author he preferred, he said “No ma’am, surprise me.  I always love what you pick out.”

As they were excitedly planning what gifts they wanted to give each other, I was scratching my head about what books to suggest to Santa to bring for him.  My little guy Cooter who didn’t read a lick until he turned 7 is an avid reader–magazines, books, cereal boxes…..whatever he can get his hands on.  He loves it when I grab a paper at the grocery store and bring home to him.  He reads it front to back, with extra attention to politics, comics, and ads for trucks.  And gas prices.  He’s a fanatic about watching gas prices.

Christmas morning was a delight and joy as we shared love and gifts and laughter and memories.  Cooter was intrigued by the book choices and said they looked promising.  Last fall he read the young adult version of Just Mercy because his big sister had read the original version, and there was a movie coming out.  He and his sister were fortunate to get to go to the advanced screening for the movie locally two days after Christmas.  He came home saying the book and movie had changed his life.  That moved me to tears because he has found a passion for justice and defeating wrong.  When looking for books for him, I knew to stick with history and books that would fall in this same realm.

One night about a week or so after Christmas, I was locking up and turning off the lights, preparing to go to bed a little after midnight.  Cooter has always been my child who goes to bed before everyone else.  10:30 is about the latest he can handle on the weekends, and he’s usually in bed way before that.  The girls tend to be night owls in comparison.  So I was surprised to see the light on underneath his door.  I suspected he’d fallen asleep reading as he often does.  When I opened the door, his face popped up from behind one of his Christmas books.  Shocked, I asked, “Buddy, what are you doing? It’s after midnight!” His eyes got huge and he said, “What?! For real?”  I recognized that look.  I have been blessed to feel that more times than I can count in my life.  He’d gotten so wrapped up in the story, he’d lost track of time completely.

Bless.

After he recounted the story to me, I encouraged him to put it away and turned off his light.  My heart was light and thankful.  He seemed to struggle–or maybe it was me–when he was little and reading was on the agenda.  He never seemed to be able to get what the letters in front of him were doing. Or I couldn’t help him understand. Until he turned 7.  And then it clicked.  For the past almost six years he’s been a voracious reader.  I’m so very thankful for that.  For his anger over injustice, for his love of funny books, for his need to read the stories from the past, for his desire to share the stories with me.  This year we are using a literature based curriculum for his lessons, and he is loving it.  Who knew when I was close to tears over his lack of drive to learn to read that we’d be where we were that night…..with his little face showing the shock of coming back to reality after being so lost in a really good book.

It all started with reading him good books when he was small.

Actually, that’s not true.

It started with my Mama reading me books when I was small.  I never felt our lives lacking, no matter what we did or didn’t have, because we were always surrounded by good stories.

Mama passed that and so many of those good books down to us.  I have shelves of her books that are blending with ours.  Children’s books that are still brought down and pored over and read and left sitting out to remind us that we are never too far from that child in us who first delighted over the pictures and rhythm of a well-written story.

That’s why I’m happy that me and mine are never too old to enjoy a good children’s book.  Especially since all of the ones by one of my favorite children’s authors have been published after my three have traditionally aged out of those books.

But we say we’re never too old to love one.

Matthew Paul Turner has a new book coming out tomorrow–When God Made the World.  You need this book for your littles, your grands, your friends, your home, yourself! Like all of his books before, he uses words to paint a story that your heart longs to hear–how each part of creation was designed lovingly and with a purpose–including and especially YOU! The author leaves us with a blessing and a charge–words that I find myself praying over my children as they enter this new chapter in their lives.

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I was talking to my sweet girl yesterday about her future and her dreams for it.  She listened and responded and finally shrugged.  “Mama, I’m just trying to figure out this being fifteen years old thing right now.”

Oh baby girl, I hear you.  And I get it.

Sometimes–actually quite often–it’s good to sit and simply reflect with gentle words and remember the stories from when we were small.  When God Made the World is just right for doing that.  With rhymes and words that remind us to look around us in wonder and appreciate the gifts that God has put before us, paired with the lovely bright and vivid illustrations by Gillian Gamble, Matthew Paul Turner has given us the perfect book for those moments.  He reminds us we are a part of a much bigger picture BUT a very important, precious, and unique part of it all.

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The book releases tomorrow.  If you pre-order TODAY, you can copy and paste your order number at this link and choose another of Matthew Paul Turner’s books to be sent to you ABSOLUTELY FREE.  You don’t want to miss out on this.  All of his books are wonderful and make great gifts.  Or belong on your own shelf.  Go ahead and treat yourself.  I won’t tell.

Wishing you all some time today to get lost in a good book.  Cooter and I highly recommend it.

Love to all.

Turns Out She Knows Best

Where has the time gone?

Not even joking, y’all.  My oldest called me the other day, and she’s about to register for classes for next year.

Her SENIOR year.  Of college.

WHAT ON EARTH?  How did this happen?

I mean, I know, time passes, but I very clearly recall every single emotion I felt the day we moved her into her first dorm room on campus almost three years ago.  It has been a roller coaster ride for sure, but like those rides, it will be over before we’ve even caught our breath good.

Aub is planning on going to law school after graduation.  She has a plan, and she’s making it happen.  Make no mistake, she is the one taking care of all of the things she needs to do and doing them.  She got her internship which turned into a great job.  She read and decided what it will take to be accepted into law school.  She studied for and did well on the LSAT.  She has a notification set on her phone to remind her when to turn in her application to the school of her choice.  She’s even looked at places to live while in law school.

I blinked, y’all.  This is what I get for doing THAT.

When she called me the other day, she discussed that she is going to drop her second major and make it a minor.  The classes she needs aren’t all being offered when she can take them, and she would have to double up and take a lot of hours to make it happen.

As I’ve mentioned before a time or ten, change is not my friend.  So this change made me a little nervous, and I talked with her about all the ways that maybe she could still keep the double major.

I mean, I had to, right?  It’s my job as her parent to tell her what I think is best.

And later that night, after everyone else was asleep, it hit me like a hammer upside the head, that NO.  That is not my job.

It is not my job to tell Aub what the right thing to do is.  It is my job to teach her how to decide the right thing for her.  And then let her do it.

And I recalled her words, “If I drop the second one to a minor, I can continue working, and the work experience will be more valuable in the end than a double major, I think.”

She thinks.

She reads.  She studies.  She researches all the options.

And she thinks some more.

Wow.

All on her own.

And the one thing I’ve watched and been amazed to see is that when she sets her mind or heart on something, I can sit back and watch it happen.  Because it will.  When she believes in something, she will do what it takes to make it happen.

She’s a doer and a go-getter, and she is driven when it matters to her.

Like this.

Tonight I’m thankful for the privilege to be a part of her journey and to see all the amazing things she is already doing in this world.  I am thankful for her strength and drive and passion and heart.  When her heart is set, look out world.  Most of all, I give thanks for this amazing person who is teaching me how to do my job.  By letting her do her life.

May we all be so fortunate as to know what we want and go after it.

Love and best wishes to all.

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My girl, her first month of college. In a few short months, she’ll be a senior. She’s got this. And it’s my job to let her. 

 

 

the fire within

that glint you see in her eye
is only a spark
compared to the fire that burns within

she is our future,
the place where our paths all converge
and her story
is the one that we’ve all been waiting for
to right the wrongs
we’ve protested and fought against
for far too long

her flame can take out
the strongest of them,
the ones whose hearts are soiled
with a taste for power,
and it can burn those who
aren’t ready
to join her on the journey,
the ones who try to veer her off her path

she is intent and focused
and what she dreams of one day
will be
because that flame from within
is blazing the way
for her to speak and be heard
write and be read
lead and be followed
listen and understand
dream and create
act and inspire

such fiery heat can scorch
but for the one willing
to walk alongside
and encourage
and feed her soul
and make her laugh

that one will never feel the cold

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why i will miss Christmas

come Friday I will be sad

that Christmas is over

few celebrate it all twelve days

anymore

 

my heart will be heavy

not because of the gifts

which will have all been given and received

and not because of things done

and left undone

cookies can still be baked

and stories can still be shared

 

instead I will be sad

over the loss of vision and hearing

that seems so much better

during Advent

as we watch and wait and listen

 

we watch with anticipation

for the lights

in the homes

and in the yards

that mean Christmas is near

 

we watch for the special gift

and the smiles on friendly faces

as we wander through shops

and markets

 

we watch for the lone light

on the back porch that

tells us someone is there,

that we are welcome,

and we are not alone

 

we watch for the colors

that bring cheer to the season,

the colors on ornaments,

sweaters, socks,

paper, and ribbons

 

we watch for the knowing glance

of a dear one we love,

and the smile that tells us we

will always be known

and loved

 

we listen for the sound of delight

as little ones and old alike

catch their first glimpse

of the lights so deliberately strung and hung

 

we listen closely for the words,

for the longing in the voice,

so we can find the perfect gift

we listen better and intently,

seeking clues about those we love

and what they like

 

we listen to the songs

that warm our hearts

and lift our spirits

through the stories they tell,

songs whose lyrics we know

and have sung for years and years

 

we listen to the quiet

and think about that night

in the barn that started all of this

listening and watching

and waiting

oh so many years ago

 

and then, as December comes

to a close,

we tidily box it all up–

this acute awareness–

and we hurry on our way,

back to the busy days

and the to do lists

and resolutions

and whatnot

and we forget sometimes

to listen and watch

and wait

until the magic

of the holiday comes

’round again

and reminds us

 

that listening and watching

and gathering with

those we love

is the greatest gift of all

 

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Her Biggest Fan

I got this text message this morning from my oldest, my college girl, my Aub.

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Where did the time go?  It seems like just yesterday this girl was prancing around Blackberry Flats, such a cutie patootie.  Full of vim and vinegar that one.

My girl in one of my favorite outfits from the consignment sale.  She could always make me laugh--still can.

My girl in one of the favorite outfits from the consignment sale. She could always make me laugh–still can.

I think about how just a few years after this picture was taken, she was at Yokota East Elementary school, a DODDS school on base in Japan.  I walked her to school in the mornings.  After a few weeks she asked me to start picking her up in the van (we lived five minutes away) because, she said, the school days just “wear me out.”  And so I did.  Many afternoons we stayed and she and friends played on the playground until they were ready to lock the gates.  Such beautiful days, much like this one, days filled with classes and art projects and Japanese culture class and book sales in the library.  I helped with class parties and was the assistant in her art classes.  If she had something going on, I was there.

Aub on a field trip with her Yokota East Elementary classmates and friends in a shirt my Mama and Daddy decorated for her.

Aub on a field trip with her Yokota East Elementary classmates and friends in a shirt my Mama and Daddy decorated for her.

And now, somehow time has slipped by, and I’m not.  There.  Physically.  But yes, I was still cheering her on today.  Even if she didn’t see my face going all goofy with pride over a job well done.

Today as I was cleaning out some drawers, I found a note tucked away that I had written her.  “Keep smiling.  You did great.”  And on the other side, “What’s for supper?”  When?  Ah yes, the county spelling bee in elementary school.  We went through several of those in her time.  I had written the note before we left that morning.  Because I knew that her just being up there was “great,” even if she were to go out on the first word she tried to spell.  And no matter how she did, she got to pick out what to have for supper.  Precious memories.

Later on this afternoon Aub and I were texting again and I suggested she could run an errand she needed to take care of this afternoon.

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And she sent me this back.  Another moment in my girl’s life that I’m not there as I used to be–snapping pictures, giving a thumbs up, cheering her on.  I was teasing her with that “comment o’ guilt” and she knew it.  But still, it hit me full force today that she has definitely moved on from the “Mama in the audience” phase of life.

Wow.

Wasn’t it yesterday that she was graduating from kindergarten?

 

My girl in her cap and gown graduating from kindergarten.

My girl in her cap and gown graduating from kindergarten.

Okay, maybe not.  Well then surely it was yesterday she graduated from high school, right?  Maybe last week?

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Almost a year, you say?  Do what?  I cannot believe it.  But there it is.  The calendar doesn’t lie, I guess.

 

I am so proud of my “sophomore.”  (Well, that is hard to say.)  She has worked hard, played hard, and found a new life in a new place to call home.  And the fact that I have great memories of the same place as my home brings me a special kind of joy.  In fact, we’ve just about determined that next year she will be living in the same room I lived in my freshman year.  That is just downright cool.

Aub and her alma mater

Aub and her alma mater

My girl knows how to stick to it.  :)

My girl knows how to stick to it. 🙂

For my girl, who “stuck” to it this year and did a great job, even when things got just about as hard as they could get–a big wink and thumbs up and “Whoo hoo” and all of those other things I’ve done to embarrass you as I sat in the crowd.  I’m always in the crowd, baby girl, and I’ll always be your biggest fan.  I learned from my biggest fan, you know.  Maemae never let me forget how much she loved me, and I hope you will always know how much I love you.

Way to go, boo–keep it up like this and you’ll be graduating before I know it.  *sigh*

Love this girl.

Love this girl.

 

Y’all, if you’ve got littles, go hug them.  I’m off to hug mine.  Before we know it, they’ll be graduating and doing their own thing, just like this one.

 

Love to all.

 

Six-Year-Olds and the Sound of Music

Tonight we had the great honor and privilege of being with friends who are like family.  We celebrated Christmas with them by being together, laughing, eating, catching up, and going to the theater together.

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Theatre Macon in downtown offered their performance of “Sound of Music” tonight as a gift to Daybreak, with all ticket sales going to the shelter.  What a beautiful gift!  Before the performance started, Sister from Daybreak shared that we all need to work hard but also rest hard, and she hoped it would be a good night for all of us to do just that.  To laugh, to have a song in our hearts, and to enjoy a wonderful performance.

Check.  Check.  And check.

As the nuns began singing about a problem named Maria, I was mouthing the words to our Princess.  She laughed and whispered that I was silly.  She and Cooter, our little guy, were up way past their bedtime, and this was the longest play they’ve ever been to.   With the exception of a few wiggles, they did pretty good.  And they had moments when they were totally entranced.

As did I.

The cast was brilliant.  In the wake of all the negativity of  the Artist now known as “Someone Other Than Julie Andrews” playing Maria Von Trapp last Thursday night on live television, I guess I was a little nervous.

No worries.  The stories all over about how the musical is different from the movie version prepared me for the songs and song placement that were different.  The actors and actresses knew their lines perfectly and had beautiful voices that blended well together.  I adore Julie Andrews, but y’all, I never looked back tonight.  My Daddy used to say, “When you compare, you lose.”  And I think if I had spent the entire evening comparing this to the iconic movie version I would have lost a beautiful evening of entertainment and being with folks I love.

The talent was amazing, especially considering the first timers on the stage…..and the youngest actress–a kindergartener from our very own little town down here.  Y’all.  Precious don’t get any cuter than that.

She caught my eye immediately, as I suppose she did everyone in the theater.  But I was watching closely in the second half of the play, which I suppose was very likely past her bedtime as well, and I saw two of the older girls sit on either side of her.  I would not have noticed the “dead space” at all–it was not noticeable–if I had not seen one of the “sisters” put her hand on Gretl’s leg and the other patted her gently.  She promptly asked if Fraulein Maria was coming back.  Beautiful.

In this life we all need someone “older and wiser” to sit with us and give us a nudge or a pat or a shoulder when we need it.  We need to feel safe and secure on the stage of life, when one never knows exactly what is coming next.  We might know what we think is coming, but that is the beauty and tragedy of live theater and life itself–you never really truly know.  Someone could forget a line, miss their cue to move across stage, or just not show up at all.  Tears welled in my eyes when I watched how well those young actresses worked together.  If only we would take a lesson from that.  Don’t leave the folks around us hanging out to dry–if we can help, we should.  Remind folks what they already know.  Sometimes that is all it takes to get someone back on track.

Towards the end of the play at the Salzburg Festival, Liesl had Gretl sitting in her lap.  The stage was dim and the Captain Von Trapp was singing “Edelweiss.”  I saw Gretl look up at Liesl and whisper something.  Never stepping out of character Liesl, only fifteen herself in “real life,” gently “shhhh’ed” her little sister.  When Gretl attempted to communicate again, Liesl shifted the little one who had been rubbing her eyes only moments before in her lap and shook her head gently “no.”  Well done.  Well done.  Not everyone would be able to handle a sleepy kindergartener after 10 p.m.  I was impressed.  A few minutes later little Gretl went up and tried to hand her doll to Maria as she was having a conversation at the Abbey shortly before their escape into the mountains.  I noticed a couple of the older children reach for her just as if it were all scripted.  Which it might have been.  Mix live theater with a six-year-old and who knows what you might get.

Tonight mixing it with my six-year-old led to a magical ending.  Towards the end he was also a little fidgety.  And, as luck would have it, OH MY LAND, he wound up with the squeaky seat.  Let it move a millimeter up or down and it squeaked.  I just knew everyone around us was going crazy from the sound.  I finally pulled him over in my lap, this little fella who at one point had taken off his sweater vest (our nod to show respect to the theater and the folks performing) and a little later leaned over and whispered, grinning, “I took off my boots.  My feet were too hot.”  Ah yes.  That sounds about right.  Country come to town.

But he made it.  And so did our Princess who is a wiggler from the womb.  (I actually did not believe the sonographer when he said there was only one baby in there.)  Our sweet friends also made it through, saying our littles were well-behaved, despite all the wiggles and squeaks.  (Love y’all for that.)  When it was over, our two littles were bouncing up and down–“Can we go meet the characters?  Please?!”  I looked at the crowd waiting to do just that.  And I looked at folks crossing the rows and taking the more direct route out that I so longed to follow.  Cooter and Princess remembered saying hello after “White Christmas” two years ago.  So I said yes and told the rest of our group I’d meet them outside.

So.  Worth.  It.

The talented cast of Theatre Macon's "Sound of Music" takes a bow

The talented cast of Theatre Macon’s “Sound of Music” takes a bow

Cooter wanted to meet the boy who played one of the Von Trapp sons.  They have something special in common, and he was determined to meet him and ask him a question.  Princess wanted to meet Brigitta who had blonde curls like she does.  So we waited just a couple of extra minutes and wound our way around to say hello.  I called out the boy’s name, and he turned around with a big smile.  Bless him.  And then it happened.  As I was introducing Cooter, my little baby boy stuck his hand out to meet him and say hello.  Because that’s what our people do.  Only he never has before.  Ever.  I almost started bawling right there, but Princess wanted to meet Brigitta, so I had to shove it back down and keep on moving.  I got a beautiful picture of the four of them that I will treasure forever.  For what is actually in the picture but even more for what took place moments before.

My baby boy took his first step to becoming a young man.

Somebody hold me.  Now.

I’ve watched his legs pumping so hard moving him rapidly up and down our neighborhood street on his bike.  I’ve stood amazed and entranced watching those amazing little legs, the ones that wouldn’t stretch out completely for several days after he was born.  The ones he toddled around on eventually, later than the girls had, thrilling and relieving me all at the same time.  And now, less than two months after kicking the training wheels to the curb, he’s ready for the Tour de France.  I’m not kidding.  Move over, Lance, I got a real champion on my hands here.

Or maybe an actor.  After he asked the young actor how old he was, he said thanks and goodbye, and I, being a little starstruck myself perhaps, said with a lump in my throat, “You were both wonderful.  I know you will treasure the memories from doing this for a long time.” And with that cheesy, gooeyness we walked away.  Only to hear my Princess say, “I sure will.  This was the best play ever!”  That, my friends, is just how she rolls.  As we walked down Cherry to Third and to our car, Cooter piped up, still thrilled to have met his new friend, “I wanted to know how old he is, and when he said twelve, all I could think was you are just like me!  I mean, he is, he’s just like me!”  And that’s how it all starts.  His wheels are turning for sure.

Tonight I am thankful for different ways of celebrating and giving this Christmas.  For our friends who made time to be with us tonight and gave us the gift of good company, last minute as our plans were.  I am thankful for theater companies who donate entire performance’s proceeds in an era when that could have really helped them.  I am thankful for Daybreak where I spend one afternoon a week, but where my heart is all the time.  Spending time with my family and live theater all rolled into one always fills me with joy.   But most of all, I’m thankful for the exuberance of my Princess, the presence of my oldest who’s in the midst of finals week,  and that handshake I witnessed tonight.  The tears I cry over it are good tears.  Tears of love and remembering and gratitude for being there to see him take his next first step.  Those are the tender and thin moments of this life I live as Mama.  And I am thankful.

The magic and lights of downtown Macon as we were leaving--the Cherry Street fountain.  Where my relationship with Daybreak had its beginnings.

The magic and lights of downtown Macon as we were leaving tonight–the Cherry Street fountain. Where my relationship with Daybreak had its beginnings.