Umbrella and Steagles and 2017

Hard to believe since today has been cold as all get out, but a couple of months ago the littles had a swim meet.  It was one of those Georgia days that started out pleasant–the temperature just right–but rapidly moved into the “I’m sweating an ocean right where I’m sitting” situation.  The Fella was helping as a timer, so he was somewhat in the shade, but Aub and I–not so much.  We sat in our camping chairs (that have never been camping, but they have attended numerous sporting events over the years) and tried not to complain about the heat too much.

Because it was hot as mess.

We were using arms and sunglasses to block the burning glare, but there really was no escape for those of us who were watching the meet.  We were drinking all the water (subtracting out what may or may not have been poured on one or both of us in an effort to cool us off) as we cheered our swimmers on.

Just when we didn’t think we could bear it any longer, a woman came up to us from the pool area.  Separated by the chainlink fence, she hoisted her black umbrella up above her head and over the fence.

“Please take my umbrella.  I’m about to leave, but my son is over there.  He’s staying until the meet is over because his daughter is still swimming.  You can just give it back to him when the meet is over, okay?”

I was stunned.  Not only had this stranger offered us protection from the glaring rays of the sun in the form of her lovely umbrella, but she’d been paying attention.  To us.  Folks she’d never met before.  And she’d noticed our distress.

Of what she had, she was giving.

I’ve thought about her many times over the past few months since.  She touched my heart with her generosity and interruptibility and compassion.  And with her umbrella, which was the embodiment of those three things.  She saw, she noticed, (and those are two very different things), and she gave.  She was the umbrella.

Two days ago Cooter shared with me a story that he read in one of his books of football stories.  In 1943 because so many young men were being drafted for WW II, two teams–the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers–combined the players that each had left, so they’d have enough players to make a team.  Formerly bitter rivals, they worked together and had a winning season.  Though not their official name, the blended team was called the “Steagles.”  During a time of crisis, the ones who were former “enemies” banded together, worked together for the good, and created a winning team.

As 2016 comes to a close, both of these stories are at the forefront of my mind.  While I know my Mama would be fussing at me for disregarding the beauty and joy in everyday, several times over the past month or two, I’ve said along with many–“Good riddance, 2016.”  I know it hasn’t been all bad, but good gravy, we’ve had some doozies this year, haven’t we?

As I turn the page of my calendar tomorrow and greet a new day, a new year, I look for my word–the word to carry with me through the year, to hold close and inspire me, to encourage me, and to challenge me to, as my Mama used to say, “be my best self.”

For 2017, I’ve chosen two words.

umbrella

By Camera: Sternenlaus, Photo: birdy (selfmade by see authors) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 ((http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Umbrella

As I seek to make the coming year a better one, one that welcomes all, encourages all, loves all, I need to be the umbrella.  See, notice, share.  Offer protection, shelter, comfort, love.  And I need to pass along the umbrellas offered to me.  Pay it forward, backwards, upside down–pass it along to whomever, wherever/whenever it is needed.  And the really cool thing about umbrellas is even if you can’t afford to let it go, there’s usually almost always room to invite another soul in out of the rough stuff to stand beside you and be protected alongside you.

steagles-giants

By The original uploader was Coemgenus at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Steagles

This is going to be a year of collaboration, community, teamwork.  It will have to be.  I think great and beautiful things can happen.  But only if we are willing to break through the perceptions that are barriers, the ones that keep us from seeing how alike we are despite the world posting the differences on a lighted marquee sign.  While it will be way out of my comfort zone, I think it’s time to join up with folks from the other teams and see if we can do any better together.

Because better is what we need.

Desperately.

My last umbrella wound up going to someone on an exit ramp during a bad rainstorm.  Which is as it should be.  So I’m out of umbrellas and I doubt I can find a Steagles jersey on Etsy (but you can find Falcons ones, and that’s all I’m going to share about that because birthdays and whatnots are coming up, don’tcha know), but I can carry the spirit of them both with me and share it with folks I come across on the backroads and interstates and sidewalks.

Tonight I’m thankful for old WWII football players and grandmas at swim meets.  They both have taught me a great lesson–one I’m going to try my level best to live out in 2017.

Happy New Year!  But as Mama would say–even more importantly, Happy Everyday!

Love to all.

 

 

Turning the Page

Tonight as I toss my hand up in some semblance of a goodbye to 2014, I find myself looking ahead.

Sometimes looking back is just too much to handle.

This hasn’t been a bad year, it’s just there were firsts that were hard on the heart–and a lot to learn as I navigated the emotional and tangible aspects of living without someone I love.

So I look ahead.

I’m not looking ahead to 2015 as this set of days that will change my life, my world, my outlook.

Only I can do that.

But I am looking forward to each day as it comes.  Tomorrow, then the next, and then the next.

And in doing so, tonight I decided on my “word” to focus on each morning, noon, and night of the days in the coming year.

In the past couple of years, I’ve chosen “interruptible” and “with.”  So this year, I’m switching it up a little bit.

IMG_6626

and

See, I don’t want to walk into closed doors or situations and let them control me and where I can go in this life.

At the close of this year, should I still be up and walking and talking (and typing), I want to be able to say as I look back at 2015 in retrospect–

When I faced adversity (and this will happen), I kept on walking, and…..adversity didn’t dictate my next steps.

When someone’s actions were hurtful and broke my heart, instead of shutting down, I took that pain and…..I grew stronger and learned whom I could trust and love.

I didn’t let pain, loss, hurt, darkness, or brokenness have the final say.  When facing the cracks and pain in others, I showed them I cared, but I didn’t let their pain make me bitter, and…..I never walked away from a chance to love.

When I was short on time and long on to do’s, I took a deep breath and…..I got it done, one thing at a time without letting the feeling of being overwhelmed open the door to anxiety and frustration.

When I questioned the wisdom of the Universe and asked “why?,” I thought, “Okay, this may be what life has handed me, what is on my path right now, but it will not stop me.”  It happened and…..and then I faced it and did what I could do.

When I had an opportunity in front of me–

to be kind, to try something new, to reach for a goal, to give something with meaning, to share light with another,

I stopped and saw what was needed and…..I moved forward in love.

Tonight my heart is at peace as I put away one calendar and pull out another.  I know all the answers for good things and happiness do not lie in the turning of the page, but instead in the choices I make.

In the coming days, it is my fervent hope that I will not let my circumstances and situations become the final word.  I want to always follow with “and,” and then direct my own course.

Wishing you all a lovely and safe New Year’s day filled with big dreams and an even bigger, more wonderful reality right in front of you.  Make it yours and then…..

Love to all.

 

 

When the Redcoats Are Coming…..a lesson from our first President

Red has been the color of the week around here.  And not because of Valentine’s Day either.

We have been reading about the Revolutionary War around here.  After reading from their history books, we have taken a sidetrack to read a fictional account of the war–“Boys of Wartime: Daniel at the Siege of Boston, 1776” by Laurie Calkhoven.  It has been an interesting read.  We take it a couple or three chapters at a time.  It has surprised me that it doesn’t pull punches about some of the realities of war, and it has surprised me that our Princess has not just walked away during our reading time.  She has some delicate sensibilities–certain words have been known to make her feel ill, and she once could not eat any “squishy” foods for days after seeing the petrified remains of a cat that had met its demise.  I’m glad that she seems to be working beyond that phase.  (You’d be amazed at how few foods there are that don’t qualify as “squishy.”)

After we finished our lessons the past couple of days, I heard my littles rummaging around in Cooter’s room.  From my work in the kitchen or the den, I would hear them marching through the house.  When I peeked around the corner, they carried swords and shields, calling them bayonets.   At different times, they were either the Redcoats or the Sons of Liberty or one of each.  I could hear them call out to each other or their other troops, “Hold your ground, men.  HOLD YOUR GROUND.”  They tell me these are the words of General George Washington as shown on “Liberty’s Kids,” a PBS Kids program about the fight for independence.

We’ve had a lot of interesting conversations this week.  From why the colonists who were blocked off from supplies by the British soldiers might be hungry to how Molly Pitcher met her husband.  (He was a barber who stitched her up after she cut herself with a very sharp knife.)  At one point we talked about what might lead someone to eat out of a trashcan.  And how money doesn’t solve all of one’s problems.  We’ve celebrated a birthday and talked about the importance of putting others first, even when it’s your special day.  The one conversation we haven’t had, but one that I’ve thought about since hearing their war cry is about exactly that–holding your ground.

My sweet babies. I love hearing you act out the story of the war that gained the colonists independence from the British rule.  I love that you are learning about it, and that you are making it your own.  It is your own.  This is how this country began.  Good things can come from holding your ground.  Like having independence from things and people who seek to oppress.

When all around you seems to be falling apart, hold your ground.  Don’t lose faith or hope or give in to the foolishness surrounding you.  When your friends decide to leave someone out or make fun of someone, hold your ground.  Do what you know is right, and don’t doubt what you know.  When someone is taking something from someone’s bag or yard or car or house or store, hold your ground. Don’t follow.  In the words of your Cap, “Is that yours?”  If not, don’t touch it.  Don’t even think about it.  When life throws you a curveball and you just want to throw your hands in the air and give up, leaving behind all that you have done to get where you are, don’t.  Hold your ground.  When your heart says you should reach out to someone who needs help, but everyone around you is whispering that he is no account and not worth your trouble, remember the story of the Good Samaritan and hold your ground.  Do what you are called to do.

One day recently while Mess Cat was over visiting, our Princess came running through the front door.  She’d been playing a few houses away with all of her friends here on our street.  She came in saying her friend needed a paper towel.  I looked at her for a moment, puzzled, and I’m sorry, I just had to clarify.
“You were in her front yard, yes?”

“Yes ma’am.”  She reached for a paper towel.

“And she sent you down here to get a paper towel for her?”

“Well, no, I offered.”  She frowned up a bit.  Maybe she knew what was about to happen.

We’ve had a problem with her letting others tell her what to do to the point of her being in tears, because she finds it hard to say no.  She doesn’t want to disappoint or have someone mad at her.  I felt a lecture coming up.  Again.  I want to empower her, for her to be strong.

She spoke first. “Mama, can I talk to you in private for a minute?”

We walked into the other room and she whispered in my ear what was going on between a couple of the other children.  She wanted to know what to do about it.  I quickly encouraged her and made a suggestion on what would be the right thing and how she could handle it.

With a hug, she and the paper towel were out the door and back up the street.

I went back in the room with Mess Cat.  “Well that was really smart,” she said.

“Yeah?  How do you mean?”

“She needed to ask you about what was going on up there, and so that she could, she offered to come home and get the paper towel that was needed.  That was smart.  She wanted to talk to you without all of them knowing and accusing her of tattling.”  She went back to what she’d been doing.

Yeah?  Yeah.  Wow.  What had looked like submission had really been an act of strategy and strength.

So, my precious ones, sometimes holding your ground looks like retreating and regrouping.  And finding someone you trust to help lead the way.  It was a lesson that I needed to learn too.  Holding your ground is even more powerful and sustainable when you have others standing beside you.

Hold your ground.  Words of wisdom and a life lesson from our first Commander in Chief and President.

I think I just figured out what we’ll be discussing on Monday.  Just in time for President’s Day.

“No, I don’t think so”

There are people who walk into our lives, pull up a chair, plop down with a satisfied sigh, look us in the eyes, make us laugh, and it’s like they’ve been there forever.

Isn’t it fun when one of those folks comes into your life?

Two years ago a pretty special somebody walked in.  She took my world by storm, at a time when the only storms we’d had in the past few months were bad ones.

But she was a good one.

The kind that clears the air, gives you a rush with the great breezes, and leaves everything brighter and clearer and fresher once it’s blown through.

That’s what being with her is like.  The air is charged, the conversation always lively, and best of all, she’s the kind of friend that takes you on as family.  She is a loyal one.  Once you belong to her, you always belong to her.  And when she laughs…..we all get tickled.

She is a beautiful, strong woman busy loving on folks and raising two strong young men.  And she never lets grass grow under her feet.  She inspires me with her energy, her courage, her humor, and her honesty.  She calls it like it is, and she sees with a clarity I wish I had.  She makes me wish I could be very much like her when I grow up.

This evening as we sat around the table way past mealtime (don’t some of the best conversations happen around the table?), she was listening to Aub share a story of some of the goings on in her life.  She held up a hand as if to stop her and said, “Wait.  Hold up.  What you should have said right there was,” *clap* *finger pointed*”‘No, I don’t think so.'”

Wow.  I like it.

I like what it says.  And its flexibility for different situations.  It sets up boundaries with no room for misinterpretation.  “No, I don’t think so, you’re not going to treat me that way.”  “No, I don’t think so, I’m not going to be your pawn anymore.”  “No, I don’t think so, I’ve got enough on my plate right now.” “No, I don’t think so, I’m not going to let your issues become my issues.”  “No, I don’t think so, I appreciate your offer of help–but I’ve got this.”  “No, I don’t think so, I’d rather not share this with anyone.”

These words just might be my new magic words.  Pair them with “Isn’t that nice?” and we’ve got a winning combination, I think.

Beautiful.
Just like my friend who made the time to visit and abide with us today.  Who listened and shared her wisdom with me and my girl.  Who laughed with us, teared up with us, and who loves us.  Her laughter filled more than our home today, it filled my heart.  And bless her, she even rolls her eyes with us and for us.  We may not get together very often, but she is a true sisterfriend, and she and her family have shown up for each of the joys and the heartbreaks in our lives ever since our meeting two years ago.

When you’ve got a friend who rolls her eyes for you, don’t let her go.  And if anyone tries to mess that up, you just clap, snap, and point, and let them know, “No, I just don’t think so.”

A real treasure…..and I am thankful for her.

For those of you praying for and thinking about Aub’s friend, Miss K, she is getting stronger.  She is still in hospital and has a long way to go, but she is awake and alert and sharing her own thoughts and updates on Facebook.  Please continue to keep her and her journey in your thoughts and prayers.  But thank you for traveling this far with her and all of her sisters at Wesleyan.  They will be so happy when she is able to return.  As will we all.