The One About Shopping Carts and This Season I’m In

I am in a new season of life it would seem.  The one where I am called out on my assumptions and the conclusions I’ve jumped to.  I am fascinated and intrigued by it, because the message to “chill” and “give things a second or third glance” continues to come from the strangest and most unusual of places.

This time it was a parking lot.

And a story.

Yesterday, my sweet friend Miss Carolyn shared about her trip to take some items to our local Hospice Thrift Shop.  She was loaded down, and when she got there she was grateful to find a shopping cart that someone had left in the parking lot.  She started unloading her car and putting things in the shopping cart when someone came up and asked if she needed help.  He not only finished loading the cart, but also helped her get it all inside.  A blessing for sure.

Huh.  How many times have I pulled into a parking lot and seen a stray cart and had some seriously unkind thoughts about the person who made the decision to leave it there?

And here was just such a cart blessing my sweet friend.

Well there you go.

I thought about sharing that story last night, but I didn’t feel like it was quite time.  That happens with the stories sometimes.  They have to ripen, so to speak, so I was content to let it sit.

This evening Cooter and I were on the way home from meeting the Fella at our Princess’ swim practice.  We made a quick stop at the Mart for broccoli and the new Star Wars movie.  You know, the important things.  (I’ll let you guess who was wanting which item.)  It was starting to rain as we pulled into the parking lot.  The closest spot was desirable, seeing as we did not have any rain gear with us.  The only problem was that it was near the Garden Center entrance, and they don’t usually have carts available in that area.  (And yes, it’s the Mart, I was going in for two things, but we all know how that goes in such a situation. I would definitely be needing a cart.)

As I pulled into the very first spot in front of the Garden Center, I saw a break in the clouds to the west on the horizon, and tiny bit of sunlight shone through despite the rain that was starting.  And that was when I noticed my own little blessing.  Two of them.

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And I laughed.  Remembering Miss Carolyn’s angel, I was glad that the angel had visited the Mart parking lot as well.  That cart let us dash in the closest door and not have to go back to the front to get a cart.

I am thankful.

I don’t think I’ll ever look at and judge a stray cart again.

I guess that’s the point though, right?

Tonight I’m thankful for a world of beautiful people sharing stories that can enlighten us and help our eyes be open to so much more good that what is readily apparent at first glance.  Thank you, Miss Carolyn, for letting me tell your story and for helping me to see Good and Light in a misplaced shopping cart.

Love to all.

 

When Cable is a Necessity

I happened upon a Steve Harvey video on YouTube that was more serious than most I’d seen of his.  (Yes, watching those have become a sanity-feeding thing.  I don’t question it if it works.) I watched it, and the title said it all–“You Can’t Watch This Without Getting Emotional.”

Absolutely right.  I got emotional.

And I stood corrected.

Over the years I’ve worked with people from many different socioeconomic statuses.  I’ve heard all kinds of opinions expressed and judgments made.  To be perfectly honest, I’ve made some myself over the years, and while I try to keep them to myself, I’m still guilty.  And I’m sorry for that.

Over the years I’ve heard folks who have enough judge folks who maybe don’t for the choices they make in how they spend their money.  Interesting that having enough keeps folks from doing that about you, but when you don’t, suddenly it’s everyone’s business how you spend the little you have.

In this video, the Dad, who had recently finished his prison term and was trying to turn his life around, talked about having a job, and how now he could afford to turn the cable on.  Now he and his children could sit together and watch TV so they’d stay inside, instead of wanting to play outside.  Outside, where their lives could be at risk.

See, this man and his family live in a rough neighborhood, and they can’t afford to get out.

So they watch TV together.  As a family.  And they stay inside, trying to be safe.

Y’all.

All these years, I’ve told my children that watching TV is a privilege, and I dole it out sparingly.  I’ll send them outside in a heartbeat.  “Y’all put that down and go outside.  Now!”  I’ve said that more times than I care to count.

After watching this video, I’m humbled.  I’m humbled about all the times I’ve wondered about people’s choices and what their priorities are.  I HAVE NO IDEA what life is like for folks who live in fear of their children being outside.  None at all.

All these years, I thought satellite TV or cable was a huge privilege, since we grew up without it (or a color TV, but that’s another story).  Turns out, that for far too many families in our very own country, in our very own communities, the thing I grew up taking for granted, the thing my children get to do almost any time they want, is a HUGE privilege.  Something almost unattainable.

So cable becomes a necessity of sorts.

Oh my stars, how have we let our world get to this point?

Tonight my heart is heavy and filled with awe and thanks.  There but for the Grace…..go I.

And with that heaviness comes the realization that I can’t sit back and let this be okay.

Our children shouldn’t have to sit inside and be captives in their own homes, in their own neighborhoods.

And make no mistake, these are OUR children.  They will grow up to be in community with the ones we are raising in our own homes, and they will need to work together to fix so many messes.  Isn’t it up to us to give them a leg up by starting to do what we can now?

I have no answers.  But if you do, please share.

Thanks for thinking on this with me.  In the meantime, please join me in holding these families and neighborhoods where violence is the norm in your heart and in the Light.

Love to all.

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This is the video I watched on YouTube.

Hey! Watch Where You’re Aiming That Thing

Remember that old saying about pointing fingers?

That while you’re pointing your finger at someone else, there are three other fingers pointing back at you?

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Yeah.  That one.

Tonight I was finishing up supper for the crew after a long day of thinking and wondering about why folks behave the way they do.  Why certain choices are made.  Why what happens, happens.

And before I could finish my “finger pointing” thoughts–you know the ones:

she must’ve lost her ever-lovin’ mind

some folks just got no raisin’s 

there’s just no accounting for how some folks behave

I sure as shootin’ never would’ve…..

You’ll never find me doing that…..

 

Ummm, yeah.  Those kind of thoughts.

Before I could finish one of those in my mind, (thankfully) I was reminded of those other three fingers pointing back at me.

Three fingers for three thoughts that are TRUE, whereas all those that I was trying to finish in my mind MAY OR MAY NOT BE TRUE.

*You don’t know what you don’t know.

*You will never know the whole story.

*So you should probably hush your mouth.  Oh, and put your finger away.

This was what my heart said to my brain.  Or vice versa.  Either way, they both got the message.  In those few seconds of realization, I let out a major sigh and so much “bad stuff” was released.

Not my monkey, not my circus.  Not my story to write or tell.  Or to judge.

I don’t know how we can get so all fire set on judging someone else’s behavior or choices or lifestyle.  But we do, don’t we?

It’s a struggle.

Tonight I’m thankful for the reminder to keep my nose in my own business and keep my fingers all in a row–the better to offer a handshake, a pat on the back, or a hug.

I sure can’t do any of those when I’m pointing, can I?

And right now, I’m thinking the world needs more hugs than fingers pointed anyway.

Love and a big hug to all.

 

Check Yo Self…..oh wait–

Today I had to text my college sophomore and ask her about this phrase I’ve seen floating around in social media–

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because those words kept going through my head.

Check yo self.

And I so wanted to say them today.

To someone else.

Ahem.

That’s right.  The day after I asked us all to stop judging and walk with folks in their messes.

I wanted to say this to folks who had their children in tow and maybe weren’t paying close enough attention to what their children were up to.  They were engaged in conversation and their littles were wandering a bit.  Nothing bad happened, no one came close to getting hurt, and yet I wanted to say this to them–“Check yo self and yo children too.”

Okay, pot–seen the kettle lately?

Sigh.

I’ve been there too.  I have been that Mama so needing adult conversation that I might not have been as focused as I should on my littles or their needs or behavior.  I might have been there as recently as today, but I’m not saying for sure.  Ahem.

This blog post was going to go in a whole ‘nother direction tonight, but when I saw my own words from last night-walk with each other with our messiness intertwined–it stopped my fingers and the direction of my thoughts cold.  I guess that includes our children and their messes too, huh?

Oh me.  I almost fell off the non-judgmental wagon there.

That was a close one.

I don’t get to pick and choose when living like that works for me.  It’s an “all in” kind of thing.

It’s a lot easier to say those words “check yo self” to someone across a crowded room than it is to the person in the mirror, the one who finds it so easy to slip back in her old ways, isn’t it?

Last night I mentioned that this parenting thing isn’t easy.

Let me add one more thing that’s not easy.

This living life.  Being intentional.  With kindness and grace.  Not.  Easy.

And I know I am having growing pains when I catch myself from falling back into the depths of holier than thou.  Nobody knows another’s story well enough to judge.  When I act like I do, I am opening the door for folks to do the same with me and my story.

And that has never felt too good, I’m not gonna lie.

So yes.  Tonight instead of telling y’all all about how these folks behaved and how they could have behaved better, I’m going to shrug and say, I don’t know.  It could have been way worse, and I have no idea why it was the way it was.  Me and mine did the best we knew how to do and that’s all I can be responsible for.  The only one I can really say “Check yo self” to is that chick in the mirror who finds it really hard to walk this high road of giving grace.  I’d much rather hightail it through the woods and find a shortcut.  The high road is hard.

But the scenery…..and the company–it’s gonna be worth it, right?

Off to check myself, and put this girl to bed.  About faces in attitudes can be exhausting.

Love and grace to all.

We Are All Beautiful Messes

My friend’s husband was out of town last week.  She missed him and commented genuinely that she didn’t know how single parents do it.

I thought about that for a few days, and I guess my answer would be–the same way folks who co-parent do.

The best they can with what they have at the time.

Which can look as different as the one or the two who are parenting at any given time.

I’ve been a single parent.  First, I guess some would say, by my own choice.  Only it wasn’t my choices that led me to that decision.

I had great supports.  My parents.  Family.  Friends.  Folks who were a part of my village in helping love on my baby girl.  I give thanks everyday for each one of them and the role they played in who she has become and in me keeping my sanity.  Well, most of it anyway.

The second time I became a single parent, it was situational and temporary.  Sixty-two days, ninety-five days, one hundred thirty days, and roughly ten months that one time–when the Fella deployed.  He was as much a part of things as he could be from his place in the Sandbox, but for the daytodailies it was all on me.  And my village.

This parenting thing, this thing I love so much, it isn’t easy.  Ever.  With a partner or without. I’ve walked both paths.  It’s all hard.  But it’s harder, just like everything else, when you’re discriminated against.

Oh, not the second time.  The second time folks were all willing to pitch in and thank me for my service.  (Umm, you’re welcome?  I’m just making sure everyone’s fed and the house doesn’t burn down, and occasionally I try to talk the Fella into things long distance–like getting a puppy.  I don’t necessarily make it easy for him.  He’s the one sacrificing here, but I do appreciate the support.)

But that first go ’round?  I hit some roadblocks.

The first time I remember was when I was looking for a school for my girl.  We lived in one town and I worked and spent many long days in another.  I wanted her in school where I would be closer.  I remember sitting in the office with the administrator at this one school.  She didn’t know our story at all.  But in one swift statement, she alienated me and mine and I never set foot there again. “We love to have our families involved.  It’s important to have both parents an integral part of the child’s life.  Studies show that children do better when both are very involved.”

Ahem.  Maybe not so much.

My girl and I were both better off.  Without sharing stories that are better left unshared, let me share this–she saved me because I wanted better for her.  A huge part of who she is today would be so different if we had kept the whole two-parent household thing going on.  So studies be well, you know.  The truth is, in many cases, the child is better off in a one parent household.  But a lot in this world tend to look down on single parent households unfortunately.  Single and stereotyped.  That’s it.

As evidenced by something that we came across in the past three or four years.  It was a school organization.  One of the tenets on their statement that had to be signed for membership gave their definition of family.  I was reading it, and Aub was reading it over my shoulder.  She frowned and shook her head.  “No, Mama.  We are not doing this.  According to this–‘we define family as a married man and woman with offspring’ you and I were never a family when we were on our own.  No, Mama.  Forget it.”

Yes.  Exactly.  We ourselves were plenty.  We were enough.  We were family.  And a much better one than we had been before.  We were safe and we were strong.

I’m sad when things like this happen.  When well-intentioned folks say, “Studies show that children are better off in a home with two parents.”  That takes away something important for all the rest of the families that don’t fit in that box.  Something very important.

Hope.

The truth is no one but me really knows all of my story.  About why I wound up where I did when my daughter was three months shy of three.  About why I am where I am today.  It’s my story.  Even if I told it, no one would be able to fully get it.

And the same is true with each one of us.  I don’t know your story, or yours, or yours.  I wish we could just give each other the space and the grace we all need to be who and where we are without folks judging or making us feel less than.  I just wish…..

I read this news article recently about a program in Canada, the Nanny Angel Network.  Founded by a cancer survivor who saw moms with cancer sitting in treatment rooms with their small children and who thought, this is no place for children, this non-profit provides free childcare for moms with cancer.  Over half of these young women have been single moms.

Oh bless.

I cried when I read about it.  This is it, isn’t it?  Loving without judging.  Taking care of each other.  Having each other’s back.  Being each other’s feather.  Yes.  This.

We need more of this in the world today, y’all.  And less guidelines and studies and belief statements that put folks aside as < less than.

That.  Ain’t.  Right.

Love is.

Bottom line.

Tonight I’m thankful for our village.  The way they allowed their stories to be so intertwined with my very messy one–is there any greater gift we can give someone?  Than not being afraid of their mess?  If there is, I don’t know it.

I give thanks for women like Audrey Guth, the founder of the Nanny Angel Network, who see a need and let their heart and mind figure out what they can do to help.  And then they DO it.  I aspire to be one of those women too.  Sometimes all folks need to shine is a little love from someone else.

Let’s take time to find someone with a messy story and go love on them and let them know it’s okay and #bethefeather, okay?   And if you feel like your story is too messy to be of a help to anyone, look at me right now.  (Well okay, the screen.)

You and your story are not too messy.

Read that again.  I’ll wait.

We are all beautiful messes, and we are meant to journey together.   Don’t let your mess keep you from letting folks in.  Ever.  Life’s too precious and there are people who need to know you and your heart and who need to hear your laughter.  Let it ring.

Love to all.

An Inspired Change of Heart

Sunday afternoon we took Mess Cat’s, Bubba’s, and my littles to go swimming.  As I walked back to the gomobile to get my sunglasses I overheard three men talking “golf” talk.

They sounded like high school teenagers, arguing about a person who wasn’t there.  Apparently the fourth guy (not present) was not going to be happy because they wanted to play at this golf course again instead of another one, which apparently was where the fourth guy wanted to play.  Now.

One guy looked something up on his phone. “The last time we played there was July 10th.  So yeah, not quite a month.  We’re okay.”

Another said, “Well, you know what he’s going to say if we put him off another week…..” and then he proceeded to mock the other guy like I have seen my little people do.

Y’all.

For real?

It’s been a long week.  A lot of brokenness in this world coming to the forefront.

When I walked by these guys, whose greatest worries were where to play their next golf game, and who were a bit less than compassionate to their alleged friend and golf buddy, I just shook my head.

Way to share the light, guys.

There’s a whole lot more valid and important things to be stressing over in this life, my friends.

I know young parents who are worn out from parenting and do not have nearly enough emotional support in raising their children.  They need a friendly ear and a big hug.  And lots of backup.  A young man in our community took his own life and left folks with all kinds of what ifs and wondering why.  A friend is struggling with the diagnosis her mother recently received–terminal.  A young woman in college has nowhere to go when the semesters are over, and so she does the best that she can to have a place to sleep when the dorms are closed.  Each day children age out of the foster care system and are dropped off on the street corners with their backpacks full of belongings and little else.  Single mothers go through cancer treatments and do their best to parent the ones in their care with little to no help from others.  People are arguing with each other over children coming to our country in need and whether or not we should help them.  Folks fight over whether or not we should be treating people with frightening diseases in this country.  People are hurting and hiding their stories behind masks and hoping no one sees what threatens to come to the surface.

All the while there are folks who have no greater worries than where to play golf next weekend.

Or do they?

When I first set out to write this post two days ago, it would have ended after the sentence ending “next weekend” just two lines above here.    But tonight, after an evening of great discussion with caring and compassionate and beautiful people, I am compelled to extend the grace I so need myself and say, I have no idea their real stories.  I don’t know what those men are facing when they head home.  What the golf game might be a respite from, or how much weighs on them as they turn out the lights and close their eyes at night.  I have no idea the depths of their real worries and if maybe it’s a relief to stress over something as minute as where to play the next golf game.  I don’t know.

And that’s the lesson in this I guess.  I was so quick to judge on Sunday.  So ready to turn my head haughtily and give them the stare I’ve worked years to perfect.

Sigh.

It’s really never that simple, is it?  Those shades of gray showing up again–and the knowledge that folks aren’t all good or all bad.  We are all just making it the best we can.  The other lesson I’ve learned in this is surround yourself with good and compassionate and thinking people.  The unexpected treat of an impromptu visit with just such folks tonight changed me.  It changed my heart, my attitude.  The grace, the love, the laughter that they shared with me made it easy for me to pass on the same to the golf buddies in retrospect and to the people I encountered after I said goodbye tonight.

Listen to folks’ stories.  To quote Taylor Swift, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”  Don’t assume anything about someone else’s story.  And surround yourself with folks who make you want to be a better person and then expect it from you…..and love you anyway when you don’t quite hit the mark.

(You getting all this, Tara?  You writing it down?  Yep.  Got it.  Now to live it out.)

Wishing you all someone to hear your stories with a grace-filled ear and good folks to share the  whole journey–the joys and the heartbreaks.

 

Love to all.

 

 

 

Seeing past the circumstances–that’s a human in there

I got to see my friend Mac today.

This made me very happy.

He looks really good.  He seemed sober and well-rested.  I give thanks for that.  It can’t be easy to get good rest when you don’t know exactly how cold it’s going to get or if your tent will hold during the next rain or if a policeman or someone else is going to come and make you move along.

We had time to sit and visit today–a rare gift.  He shared the discouraging news he had about something that could have changed his future.  We shook our heads, and I asked him what he was going to do.  He shrugged and said, “What I need to do.” And I laughed and said, “You’re going to do what comes next.”  He nodded.

I told him the story of my friend years ago who moved to a new town.  He wrote me that on his way in to his new job, he got a flat tire.  On a very long bridge.  Oh my land.  I asked him what he did.  He wrote back, “I did what came next…..I changed the tire.”

Today I listened to Mac’s game plan, his “what comes next,” I was proud of him.  Proud that he had done his own research and asked questions and had come up with a plan.  This is huge.

We sat and talked about Aub and the littles.  How they were all doing and the propensity for two out of the three of them to lose textbooks and pencils and socks.

Then he shared a story with me.

“Hey, the other day me and J and a couple of the other guys were sitting down yonder under the bridge near the store, and this lady pulls up beside us.  She asked, ‘Hey are you guys homeless?’  We looked at each other and said, ‘Well yeah.’ Then she said, ‘Okay, well can I drop my son off with y’all?  He keeps on acting up and not listening to me.  I want him to know what it’s like to live like y’all.”

What.  The.  French.  Toast.

My jaw hit the floor.  She asked him WHAT?!

Mac said the teenage boy in the car with her looked scared.  “We told her ‘naw’ he couldn’t stay with us, but maybe she could check down at the shelter and see if they’d let him hang out there.  Then we told him he didn’t want to be like us, that he needed to do right.”

Bless him.

Can you imagine being asked to be an example to a young person of who not to be?  How not to turn out?  What was this woman thinking?

I understand the frustrations and challenges of raising children.  I know what it feels like to worry over their choices and their actions and their friends and what they are doing every hour of every day.  I don’t know exactly what this woman was having to deal with, but what I do know is this.

Mac is a human being.

So are his friends.

They are more than the sum of where they live or how they live or when they had their last meal and where it came from.

They are stories of families and choices and choices taken away.  Of lost jobs and injuries and friends who took advantage of them.  They are people who need the same basic things we all do–to feel loved and respected and valued simply for who we are.

Not to be asked to be an example of a life gone wrong.

On any given day, we fluctuate where we live, how we live.

On any given day, we fluctuate where we live, how we live.

All of us live on a continuum.  None of us are completely on either side of it.  We all float somewhere in the middle–about where poor choices, luck of the draw, and grace abounds all meet.

My friend was seen as a two-dimensional character–“what not to become”, not as the beautiful person he is.

And that breaks my heart.

Not all people who are overweight have a problem saying no to food.  Not all people with lung cancer smoked all of their lives.  Not all people who are out of work failed to apply themselves and get an education.  Not all people who are homeless are lazy and don’t have any ambition or dreams.  People should not be defined by their circumstances.  If we don’t know their stories, we shouldn’t assume the reason why their situation is as it is.   What this lady was asking my friend and the others to do was to scare her son into behaving.  We don’t ask this of other folks–what is it about not having a roof over their heads makes my friends any less human?

Mac laughed it off.  He’s used to shrugging off the insensitivities and downright rudeness (my words) of folks.  He sees it a lot.  And he didn’t mind telling the young man to stay in school and behave.  He tells my children the same thing quite often–that and to keep up with their textbooks.  Ahem.  The difference here is I didn’t ask him to, but the biggest difference is we have a relationship.  I know some of his story and he knows some of mine.  The reason he says this to my children is because he KNOWS them, he knows how they roll, and that they’d rather be playing on the hill at Daybreak than doing math any day.  And because they love him, they listen to what he says.  He doesn’t finish out his sentence about staying in school and behaving with “or you’ll end up like me” because that would make no sense to them–all they see is a wonderful guy, “Uncle Mac,” who fell into our lives and became my brother–a friend who makes them laugh and who draws great pictures.  He makes all efforts to be sober when he’s around them, and for that I give thanks.  Because we are close, he knows that is very important to me.

Today I told Mac how much I admire him because he is a strong person.  I could not face the challenges he does even for half a day.  He looked at me and said, “But I’m getting weaker.”

I know, my friend.

He wants sobriety.  He wants to have a home, friends, family he can be with anytime he decides to go see them.  He has tasted it and it tasted pretty good to him.  But the taste of the alcohol is stronger.  And for now, it’s winning.

But I have hope.  This beautiful soul, this talented artist, and this quick-witted friend and poet–he has a lot going for him.  And when he makes the decision to do something different, I’ll be right there beside him.

Just as I am now.

His choices don’t affect my love for him.  They only affect my worry for my friend, my brother.

We all need to know we matter, that someone cares for us.  As a person, not as a cause or an example or a lesson.  As a living, breathing child born into this crazy, messed up world and left to eke out a life for ourselves.  Without an instruction manual.

We all need to know we are human.  And that others see that in us.

And we all need to be careful of the lens we use when we look at other people.

Go love somebody and let them know how much they matter.

It’s a good day for that…..any day, don’t you think?