Creature of Habit

Isn’t it funny what we become accustomed to?

And what we don’t?

I am a creature of habit.  So is Cooter.  This morning I needed to head out the door and run over to the hardware store to get something notarized (yeah, I know, I love that place), and I didn’t have time for dillydallying.  Cooter had been more worried about Legos and the like this morning, so I was lucky he was even dressed.  He didn’t accept the cup of yogurt I offered, so it was almost lunchtime by the time it occurred to him that he was hungry.

“Okay, we’re about to have lunch.  Just give me a few minutes.”

Wrong thing to say, Mama, wrong thing to say.

He was devastated.  Cue the meltdown.

“But I haven’t had breakfasssstttttt!” he wailed.

Oh me.

I somehow pacified him with something halfway healthy to munch on before I got lunch together.  I only wish he would be as rigid about the order of math before playing.  Maybe one day…..hey, I can dream, right?

Yes, so I’m a creature of habit.  Not quite as much as my little guy, but yes.

It takes me a little while to get in the habit though.  I think the studies say 2 weeks?  Maybe 3, is it?  I don’t know, I just know some things fall into place easier than others.

Like something that began last fall.

I don’t know which of my friends commented on or a liked a post by this gentleman, but that little “stalker” box that tells what your friends are up to, in the upper right corner on Facebook?  That’s probably how I first came across the writer I have come to appreciate so much.

Mr. John Paul Schulz.

I won’t tell his story–he does an entertaining job of that himself. (Now you know you have to go read his blog, right?)  But what first caught my eye is that he has a book coming out called, “Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days.”  After our long journey with Daddy‘s fight with lymphoma, I was intrigued.  I “friended” Mr. Schulz, and he kindly welcomed me, a stranger, into his fold.

I’m a lucky girl.

I asked questions when he described treatments similar to Daddy’s.  He was patient and answered them.  When I first stumbled upon his page last October he was sharing a quote or two from his upcoming book each day.  They brightened my mornings and many I shared with my Aunt or others I thought would enjoy them.   In recent weeks, he has started numbering these thoughts.  Today was number #102.

One hundred and two days of sharing a laughter, a smile, and an encouraging word.  And 102 days of Mr. Schulz reminding us “Everything is going to be all right.”  That’s his mantra, I think.

Some days that’s mine too.  That’s what gets me through the day.  The words straight from the page to my heart.  Yes.

It was over the weekend when it hit me what a habit this has become for me.  Reading and thinking on these words shared by a wise man who was born two years after my Daddy.  Over the weekend, I missed him sharing his thoughts as he was out of town watching the sunset with his mother.

Of course I forgave him.  And crossed my fingers he’d be back safe and sound and sharing wisdom again soon.

He was.

And it was on February 11, #101, that it hit me that I was being downright selfish not sharing this Georgia gem with y’all.

He started off quoting Robert Frost:

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Mr. Schulz follows the quotes each day with his own thoughts on the matter.  On the 11th, he continued with:

“Every day somebody gets another chance to get it right—or keep it right. That person may as well be you…..”

I won’t spoil the rest of it for you, but to read the whole post,  you can click here.  While you are there, treat yourself, and sign up to follow his blog.  You deserve it.

I can’t tell you really how much those words meant to me.  The day after the second anniversary of Mama leaving this earth.   It may sound cold, but the one thing I’ve learned in all of this is indeed, thank you Mr. Frost and Mr. Schulz, that life goes on.  I remember Mess Cat and me sharing with each other, somewhat in shock, that even though our world was tumbling down around us with the deaths of the ones who raised us and loved us, the laundry still needed doing.  Meals still needed preparing.

What is that even about?

Life.  Goes.  On.

And what John Paul Schulz says about second chances–oh me.  I need those all the time.  I never deserve ’em, but I do get them.  And I’m so thankful when I do.

Tonight I’m thankful for the words of others which make me laugh, make me cry, make me think.  And tonight I’m thankful for whichever one of my friends who was commenting or liking on a post, and yes, I’m even thankful for that Facebook stalker box.  Because now I have a habit that I enjoy–one that starts my day off right.  Reading the “Quotes and Notes” by John Paul Schulz every single morning that he writes one.

If you are on Facebook, pop on over and say hello.  Just for fun, I’ll leave you with another story from this man who shines such light into the world and makes me laugh.  I’m always thankful for the laughter.  It helps me to remember and to appreciate–Life goes on.

 

 

Today on the job one of the guys asked, “John, what’s so funny?”
I was surprised, “Nothing special, why?”
“Well,” he said, “You’ve been grinning all morning.”
I said, “Oh–I see–today I realized that a couple of years ago I thought I was going to die and everyone who knew me thought I was going to die.”
He looked at me quizzically–
I continued, “And I didn’t. Ain’t that something to grin about?”

–John Paul Schulz

Love and laughter to all.

My Day in Pictures…..and a Word or Two

I did a big thing today.

First of all, before I go any further, you need to know that the last time I left my house for anything more than running across town for our daytodailies or escorting our littles to their various activities or running to Macon for an appointment was this past June when we went to the Mouse House for several days.

Gone.  From Home.

Miss Sophie was in the best of hands, and all was well.

Until we got home.

And the smell of things gone sour hit me as soon as we came in.

We lost everything in the freezer and other refrigerator.  EVERYTHING.

I was devastated.

So then I pretty much figured, well, what else do you expect when you are gone from home?

But today.  Today I did a big thing.

I left home.

For an adventure.

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It started a couple of weeks ago when I started thinking about the book release for Renea Winchester that was scheduled for today up near Atlanta.  We have never met in person, but she has become very dear to me and has been a great encourager.  And when people are dear to you and something big is going on in their lives, well, if you can, you step it up and celebrate with them.  It’s just what our people do.

Turns out the Fella came in that night talking about going to a car show.  Up near Atlanta.  Interesting, I said, since I too would like to head out that same day.  Up in that same direction.  Long story short, the two things were a half hour apart which is practically next door in the Atlanta time/space continuum.  So we decided to go up together.  Up until yesterday I was still a little anxious.  What about Miss Sophie?  What if the power went out?  What if it rained?  What if?  What if?

I finally shushed all those voices and decided the joy of meeting my friend and celebrating with her outweighed all those what ifs.  Aub decided to stay home with Miss Sophie and study before heading back to school.  All the stars aligned, and we were off.  (like a herd of turtles, the Fella would say with pinpoint accuracy)

We dropped the Fella off at the British Car Show Fayre in Norcross and headed on our way.  We made the necessary “pit stop” along the road that ran between where he was and where I was heading.  (Did y’all know there are Targets with Starbucks in them?  I’ve never…..I mean, you knew that bathroom was going to clean.)  When we found our destination, a nice young man told us where to park.  This book release celebration was being held at Farmer Billy’s farm and home.  Folks were parked all along the yard and road.  It looked like a fabulous turnout.

Signing the friendship wall.

Signing the friendship wall.

When Cooter, our Princess, and I walked up, we saw the Friendship wall and each of us signed it.  What a neat idea.  (It made me wonder where I can hang a Sharpie for friends and family to sign their well wishes when they come to visit us.)  As we headed around we saw them–Miss Renea and Mr. Billy. They already had quite the crowd lined up to sign their books.  There was someone there selling wonderful smelling tamales, aprons made from feed sacks and old jeans and overalls, and beautifully carved wood figures and walking sticks.  It was my first book release party, but I’m thinking maybe they’re not all like this.  I loved it.

The trap that caught Cooter's eye sitting on top of the rain barrels

The trap that caught Cooter’s eye sitting on top of the rain barrels

In the midst of all of this what caught Cooter’s eye as we stood in line for the signing was a trap sitting up near the house.  “Look, he has one like we do.”

I laughed.  He was right.  (We’ve had some rascally raccoons coming up and eating the cats’ food.  They have now been safely and kindly rehomed.)  We wondered what kind of critters Mr. Billy has had to use his trap for.

The closer we got the more excited I was.

The closer we got the more excited I was.

We got closer in line and it was about to be our turn.  We were so excited.  We found out there was another author there whose book release was later on today.  He was moved to the front of the line so he could get to his own on time.

Renea Winchester and Raymond Atkins celebrating together on a day that was special for both of them.  I love the bond between writers.

Renea Winchester and Raymond Atkins celebrating together on a day that is special for both of them. I love the bond between writers.

How much do you love this?  Each author celebrating with the other even on his and her own special day.  When Miss Renea brought the author forward, apologizing for going out of order, I was starstruck yet again.  Mr. Raymond Atkins.  His very first book (“Front Porch Prophet”) just arrived on my doorstep three days ago.  Really?  I have never been so tickled to let someone ahead of me.  And to see the two authors together–really.  good.  stuff.

A moment worth waiting for (but I'm glad I didn't wait any longer!)

A moment worth waiting for (but I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer!)

Then it was us.  I introduced myself, so excited that we were finally meeting face to face, after months of messages and emails.  The moment did not disappoint.  What a beautiful soul she is, inside and out.   Our Princess leaned in to me and said, “She looks just like Princess Anna.” (from Frozen for anyone who hasn’t been on any kind of media for the past year)   When I told my writerfriend, she brushed it off, attempting to point out nonexistent wrinkles.  Please, she’s every bit as beautiful as Anna and then some.

We had a wonderful few minutes meeting Renea Winchester and Mr. Billy Albertson.  Moments I will treasure.  Moments I would not have had if I hadn’t stepped way outside my comfort zone and headed out this morning ready for adventure.

 

Cooter, ever the mischief maker, with the bunny ears--watching the goats.

Cooter, ever the mischief maker, with the bunny ears–watching the goats.

 

Now. That made it all worthwhile.  Every minute of it.

Now. That made it all worthwhile. Every minute of it.

We continued our visit around the farm, peeking from a distance at the baby goat who has been under the weather, standing next to cool tractors, looking at the chickens and the goats.

And before I left, I got to sniff Farmer Billy’s fig tree.  It’s okay, I asked him first.  Y’all.  That’s the smell of my childhood there.  The one in the yard at my Granny’s–the one she hung the pie tins in to keep the birds from eating them all.  Oh that heavenly smell.  (Okay, that’s it–somebody tell me the right time of year to plant a fig tree and where I can find the biggest one still able to be transferred.  This has got to happen.  Soon.)

On our way back to get the Fella, we stopped to get a bite as we were all feeling a little peckish.  We made another pit stop.  (I’m sorry, y’all, but these are of the utmost importance for the under 10 and over 40 crowd–which was pretty much all of us.)  We admired the cleverly made door handles

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and were thoroughly confused by the sign in the bathroom placed OVER the hand dryer.

Ahem.  Wait, what?

Ahem. Wait, what?

Thanks to Cooter, who hit the air dryer button, we used all options available for drying our hands.  After he hit it, I kept waiting for the bathroom police to jump out of hiding and give us the boot.  Didn’t happen, but I’m still troubled by that sign.  What do they want from me?

We headed back down the connecting road to pick up the Fella.  We had a wonderful surprise visit with his cousin and family.  Love these folks.  Wherever they are, it’s a party.  Just is.  They are so full of laughter and joy and good hearts, it can’t be anything else but all good.  The children even got to drive off on their own for a little bit.

There they go.

There they go.

Just kidding.  But at one point when a few raindrops came down, and they flipped the top up for a little protection, we could see their heads bobbing and the car rocking and they were moving to some kind of beat.  Only the radio wasn’t on.  Ah, to be young on a Saturday afternoon again!

All too soon we were on our way.  We are very fortunate that we have a DVD player in the Gomobile.  They don’t usually get to watch it, but for long trips, yes please.  This was the choice of the day.  Is it okay that I love that my children are every bit as much the nerds that I am?

One of their all-time favorite shows.....time to pull out Season 2, I think.

One of their all-time favorite shows…..time to pull out Season 2, I think.

Today was such a special day of surprises and spending time with people I love and call my own.  I am thankful that I found the get up and go to get up…..and well, go.  I am very thankful that the trip that the Fella wanted to make was just down the road from where I wanted to go.  And that my oldest was willing to hang out with Miss Sophie.  I appreciate the gift of her time and love so much.

As the Fella drove this morning, I read for a bit.  And this part struck me and stuck with me throughout the day. In the very first chapter of “Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches,” Renea Winchester writes, “After growing up surrounded by people who knew me, I struggled with the aloneness that comes from living outside your raising.”

Today.  Today I was not alone.  Even at the book release party where I didn’t really know anyone exactly, I felt at home.  The farm, the tractors, the garden, that fig tree, the smiles and welcoming faces…..that’s home.  Sitting with the Fella’s cousins (shoot, they’re my people too, right, and I aim to claim ’em), swapping stories, sharing my heart, and hearing this cousinfriend say, “Let me just take a moment,” in empathy for what had been shared–that. right. there.  That was home. Being with folks who are good and kind people, who were raised just like we were–there’s a comfort there that can’t be replicated no matter how hard one tries.

Being with good folks–and enjoying the day that’s been given to us.  Maybe that’s our calling.

I’m thankful it was mine–at least for today.  And so thankful that I answered it.

Love to all.

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If you are interested in books by either of these authors, you can click here or here to order Raymond Atkins’ latest novel, “Sweetwater Blues”  or–

here or here to order “Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches” by Renea Winchester.

Enjoy!

On Sacred Ground

Today I walked on sacred ground.

I do that more often than one might think, but I find sacred ground in some of the oddest places–once I stop and really consider where I am.

A writerfriend, whose first book I was introduced to by Karen Spears Zacharias, released her new book yesterday.  It’s been exciting watching her share the process on Facebook and on her blog.  (Social media does have its upsides, doesn’t it?)  And yesterday was the day.  I was out running errands with crew in tow yesterday afternoon, so we stopped at the big box bookstore, just in case.

Sure enough, they shook their heads and did their standard, “But we can order it for you” dance.

Umm, no thank you.

When it comes to books I want, I got skills.  I got this.

I had an appointment in Macon this afternoon that would put me within fifteen minutes of Mercer University Press, the company that published my friend’s new book.  On a whim (and hearing my Mama in my head–“What’s the worst that can happen?  They say no?  Well you’re no worse off then, are you?”) I called up to Macon, and a very sweet person told me that sure, she had four copies not spoken for and she’d be happy to set one aside for me.

And that’s how we get things done around here.  If you don’t ask, you just don’t know.  They might even say yes.

After my appointment, I followed the directions given to me over the phone and stored in my head.  I only had to turn around once.  Turns out I was right around the corner from my Great Great Aunt’s old house on Coleman Hill. I just love old historic neighborhoods, y’all.  I was in my element.  I walked up on the front porch of this old home with a humble sign informing me that I was indeed at “Mercer University Press.”

As I’d been told, I rang the bell.  It was an old-fashioned twist kind.  I was enchanted.  And also, I want one.  (As if the whole “old-fashioned” bit hadn’t already told you that.)  Another nice woman came to the door and let me in.

Oh y’all.

I caught a glimpse of stacks of books in the adjoining room.  I didn’t want to gape and stare but in the few moments I was there, it gave me the impression of a very old and dignified old gent, sitting in his leather chair with dark wood everywhere and beautiful carpets at his feet.  I don’t know if that’s what was actually there, but that was the impression I left with.  I’d been in the presence of greatness.  I mean these people choose other people’s words to immortalize in print.  I am amazed and enamored with it all, and I stood in. that. place.  That place that makes writers’ dreams come true.

It was a sacred moment in a sacred space.

As I handed over the exact amount I had scraped together when sitting in the gomobile in the parking lot (if you believe in “signs” surely that would have to be one, right–I didn’t know what they would charge), the person who had welcomed me in handed me the book that had been set aside for me on the chair by the door.  Oh y’all.  The feel of a new book.  The anticipation.  The excitement.  And to know about the excitement that the person who wrote it is going through–priceless.

I think I remembered to say thank you–I was that distracted–and I took my leave.  I walked back down the steps and turned.  What a neat little adventure I’d had, all because I took Mama’s advice and asked.  I wanted to mark the adventure somehow, so I did what most of us do in such a case.

Pulled out my phone and took a picture.  And then came home to write about it.

My thumb showing off my new book written by someone I've grown to love, posing in front of Mercer University Press in Macon.

My thumb, showing off my new book written by someone I’ve grown to love, posing in front of Mercer University Press in Macon.

And now you know why it’s a must read.  That title alone, right?  The really good things in life.  I cannot wait to sit down and curl up with it.

Tonight I’m thankful for Karen, whose book “Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ‘Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV” rocked my world and introduced me to ideas and challenged my beliefs and priorities six ways to Sunday.  She is a great writer, and I love her dearly.  I’m also thankful for the people she has introduced me to, one of whom is Renea Winchester, the reason for my adventure today.

I don’t know if I would have gone on such a trek if it hadn’t mattered to me that my friend had released her new book, an effort of love and much hard work. She has shared her journey and done a great job of making all who followed feel a part of it.  That is why, after I have read her stories and shared it with my Aunt, this new gem will go on this shelf in my library–

My library shelf with books written by my writerfriends--talented women who work hard to share their gifts with all of us--all of them now Mercer University Press authors.

My library shelf with books written by my writerfriends–talented women who work hard to share their gifts with all of us–all of them currently Mercer University Press authors. (I was going to retake, but my thumb is enjoying its moments of fame, so…..)

As I was toting my book back out to my gomobile, ready to head out on the next errand, I crossed paths with students–probably from the law school there at Mercer.  I stopped for a moment.  As dear as Wesleyan College is to me, Mercer also holds a place in my heart.  That is where I did my postgraduate studies.  And my own Wesleyanne is considering doing her postgraduate work there too.  I imagined her walking amongst this group of young people, and it warmed my heart.  If it is right for her, may it be so.

I took one more look back at the old home that houses Mercer University Press.  Sacred ground.  And maybe more sacred because one day, good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, maybe one day I will find my way back there.  Only maybe, just maybe, I will have my own stack of papers in hand.  And a dream in my heart.

If it is right, may it be so.

Here’s hoping you can find yourself walking on sacred ground and the place of your dreams too.

Love to all.

 

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If any of you want to have your own copy of this wonderful book, go here and order directly from the old house on Orange Street in Macon.  You don’t have to ring the doorbell or anything.  They make it really easy for you.  Y’all take care.

Breathe, Shirley

It’s been over a year and a half since my dearfriend had her out-patient procedure.  The one that gave us the words that we go back to and use with each other so much.

Breathe, Shirley.

She went in to have the procedure and was put under anesthesia.  She doesn’t remember a thing until she started waking up.  She was in some sort of recovery room and hadn’t come fully to yet.  The nurse was doing things to take care of her and encouraging a person named Shirley at the same time.  As the nurse took vitals and made notes, she continued to say aloud, “Breathe, Shirley.  You can do it.  Breathe.”

My dearfriend, in her semi-conscious state, felt awful for this other lady in the room who was having a very difficult time in recovery.  After all, Shirley wasn’t even breathing.

And then, as she came to even more, it hit her.  The nurse was talking to her.

Only her name isn’t Shirley.

*sigh*

The story is a lot funnier when she tells it. (Especially the way she says, “So then I asked the nurse, ‘Are you talking to ME?'”) But most things are.  She can take those everyday mundane and even hard things and have us both laughing over them by the end of the story.

I love having folks like that in my posse.  Don’t you?

We have laughed and laughed over that one.  There she was feeling bad for poor Shirley who wasn’t breathing well enough on her own, and turns out it was her.

Oh me.  Y’all hang on, I gotta wipe my eyes from laughing so hard.

I told my Mama this story shortly after my friend shared it.  We had a good chuckle over it ourselves.

And then came Mama’s HospitalStay, the one where she was on a vent and many of our days consisted with them attempting to take her off the machine that was helping her breathe.  I found myself saying on more than one occasion, “Breathe Shirley.  Breathe.”

That’s not my Mama’s name either, but I was hoping deep inside, beneath where she was resting so peacefully, that maybe it would stir a giggle and she’d remember and be able to breathe on her own again.

And maybe, just maybe, like my dearfriend, I was the one who needed to be reminded to breathe.  Sometimes in the midst of hard times and stress and anxiety-filled days and nights, we tend to forget to do just that, don’t we?  And we need to be reminded.  To stop.  And take a deep breath.

Breathe, Shirley.

I have another sisterfriend who writes and shares stories about “finding balance and grace in the midst of life,” over at Centering Down.  I am blessed that I get to share stories both on-line and off with her.  She has a calming spirit, and she knows all about breathing.  As a matter of fact, she has published her 100th post, and it is about breathing.  Y’all take a minute and go read “Calming Anxiety with Breathing Techniques.”  It’s good stuff, and I can attest to the fact that breathing does help with anxiety and stress.  I just have to be reminded sometimes.

After all, if it’s good enough for Shirley…..well…..

Congratulations to my friend on her writing triumph.  And thanks to my dearfriend who allowed me to share her story and gives me the gift of an hour with her each week while we wait for our girls–where we laugh and remind each other to breathe.  And we call each other Shirley.

It’s become a term of affection now…..

Love to all.

And don’t forget to breathe.