Book Launch Joy

The folks who know me best know I have a love of books.  One that has me counting my books as some of my most prized possessions.  I have my favorites that I’ve had for many years, and I have books whose release dates are circled on my calendar.  I have books on my Kindle (sometimes that’s just how it has to be), but mostly I love the no kidding hold it in my hands books.  I worked in our library all four years of high school, so the smell of books brings me great joy and yes, I’ve been guilty of book sniffing.

I blame this love of books on my parents and my Aunt who took me to my first Old Book Sale.

The characters of the books become close friends and their stories intertwine with mine.  The authors of my favorite fiction and non-fiction books become my friends in real life, and I love celebrating the births of their new creations.

So imagine my joy to be chosen to be on the launch team for not one, but THREE books during the past couple of weeks.

THRILLED.  HONORED.

You mean I need to make reading a higher priority than I normally do?  Because after all, I have an obligation to help these writers with their launch.  In a timely fashion.

Sigh.  It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

I sure am glad it’s me.

I want to share with you about these books and then a special surprise at the end, if you have time to stick with me on this post.  If you have some reading to get to, I understand (bookmark me and come back to this later), but y’all, those dirty dishes can wait.  You need to know about all of these books.  You are going to want them ALL in your library.

(You do have a library, don’t you?  If you don’t, I can respect that, but please go to your public library and ask them to get these books for you, okay?  I want you to get to know them too.)

The first book is a lovely full color book by Roma Downey.  Yes, that Roma Downey from “Touched by an Angel.”  She was also in one of my favorite Christmas movies, “Borrowed Hearts,” with Eric McCormack, but that’s a story for another time.  I was sent the e-book version of this book, A Box of Butterflies,  but I will be ordering a hard copy as soon as it is released in March.  It’s beautiful.  The pages are gorgeous to view, and there are lovely and meaningful quotes all through it.  But the most beautiful parts are the glimpses into Ms. Downey’s life and the way her kind spirit shines through it.  Her friendship with Della Reese (who wrote the Foreword) is one of love and respect and compassion.  I could identify so much with the stories of her missing her parents, as this is part of my story too.  This book will lift your spirit and touch your heart.  I highly recommend this for you, and it is perfect as a gift book for those near and dear as well.

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The second book I just received, so I haven’t been able to read it yet, but I KNOW it’s what I need to hear from the title and the stories I’ve read about the author and her book.  Kate Bowler’s book, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, is a funny, frank, dark, and wise book that tells the story of this Divinity school professor and young mother’s diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer and how the prospect of her own mortality has changed the way she thinks and lives–for the better.  I saw on Twitter where someone was saying that every minister needs to read this book, especially the Appendix–I and II.  Never being one to skip to the end of a book, I admit that this morning I flipped to see what was in those appendices.  And yes, not only do all ministers need to read them and post them on their wall and carry them in their wallets and purses, but we all do.  I’m going to start the book when I finish writing this, but *spoiler alert* Appendix I is “Absolutely Never Say This To People Experiencing Terrible Times: A Short List.”  Appendix II is “Give This A Go: See How It Works: A Short List.”  The book is worth buying just for these pages.  And that’s without reading her raw and honest story, which I know will only offer more wisdom and insight on how to love each other through hard times.  I saw this quote from Kate Bowler on Twitter, and YES YES YES:

“The basic thing is not all pain has to be explained. I wish people would just, take a breath, notice the person in front of them, and realize that it’s probably a hard day and maybe they just want to talk about “The Bachelor.” It’s a good season.”

Whether or not you’re a Bachelor fan (no judgment here, my friends), we can do better by each other.  Not all pain has to be explained.  THANK YOU, KATE BOWLER.

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The third book—oh my, my soul is dancing—is When God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner. Y’all.  It’s a children’s book, the second children’s book by the author of When God Made You.  When I applied to be on his launch team, I had no idea I’d actually be chosen (but as Mama always said, If you don’t ask, you won’t know), so when I got the email welcoming me on the team, I was THRILLED.  When the actual book came in the bubble wrapped envelope, I was no lie like one of my children on Christmas morning.  Or maybe more like Miss Sophie when she finds a chip on the floor and doesn’t want to share.  I tucked myself up on my spot on the couch, tenderly opened the envelope and pulled out the treasured book.

And it is a treasure.

If you have a child, are a child, know a child, were ever a child…..you need this book.  The words are lyrical, dancing across the pages just as the illustrations (fantastic job by David Catrow) do.  I join in with the children in the book, listening to the words that assure me I am a part of the Plan, of the Light, and I am loved.

Wow.

Right now—RUN, DON’T WALK, PEOPLE—you can pre-order When God Made Light, which is being released next Tuesday (yay!) and get your very own copy of When God Made You for FREE. (Click on FREE for the link as to how to make that happen.) It’s the ultimate buy one, get one, and y’all know how I love a bargain!  I already have both books, and I’ll be taking advantage of this special deal, because when it comes to your favorite books, you can never have too many copies.  Mama and Daddy taught me that.  This is a book for you to have and to share with all the people you hold dear.  If you want me to show you my copy and you’ll be on one of my Out and Abouts over the next few weeks, let me know and I’ll bring it along.  But you will want your own copy, I can assure you of you that.  And when you get your copy, please promise me you will all sit around taking turns reading it to each other–because you all need to hear this message.

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Here are two more books *BONUS TIME* I want to share with you.  First, one of our local stars and her sweet Mama have written a book and while I don’t have a copy yet (it’s a huge seller and constantly on backorder, but YAY that’s a great thing), I know this young woman and her mother, and they are the best kind of people.  Their hearts are so big, I don’t know how they keep them in.  The way they love others is an inspiration to all who know them.  I Want to Make a Difference by Kelsey Anastasia Norris and Carol Norris is a beautiful story of love and giving and overcoming odds.  I can’t wait to have my very own copy, and y’all I’m hoping to get it signed because I am a huge Kelsey fan.

 

Finally, this past Tuesday, A Cup of Love anthology was released on Amazon as an eBook.  I am honored that Ms. Barbara Barth once again asked me to be a part of this.  My story, “Love at the Laundromat,” is included along with stories by some of my favorite authors. (I’ll just be over here fangirling, don’t mind me.)  It’s the story of when my Mama met my Daddy for the first time, and I’m so glad it worked out because my Mama was full of spunk, y’all.  I think they would be okay with me sharing their story and even more so because the proceeds from the sale of this eBook go to First Book, a program that puts books in the hands of young children who might not otherwise have them.  That’s what they were all about–books and children.  So this honor is extra special for me to have my story included.  If you are looking for the perfect card for someone you hold dear this Valentine’s Day or any day at all, consider sending them A Cup of Love.  It’s cheaper than most cards and will last far longer.

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I hope you will find a book or few in these titles that will entertain you, lift your spirits, make you laugh, and bring you joy.  It’s still good reading weather around here (okay, yes, it’s always good reading weather to me), so I hope you will treat yourself or find one of these treasures at your library and spend some time tanning your soul with a good book.

Love and happy reading to all.

 

the pen

If I could give you anything,
anything at all, it would be a pen.
One you wouldn’t lose, no matter how hard
you seemingly tried to do so.
I would give you a pen which wrote in any
color you imagined at the moment.
With this pen, with any words you put down on paper,
you would feel heard and understood
and not so alone–
with those words sitting there all lined
up in your favorite color du jour,
reflecting your very thoughts,
you soul would tell its story.

By writing it all down
with this pen
your heart would be glad and
your mind would be eased
and peace would come to you.

That peace that comes from finding another
who says, “me too”
and echoes what weighs on your very being,
baring itself and revealing
your own beauty to you,
shining back in your eyes
and you can’t help but love her
and you

and in that moment
you will be free
and soar above the wreckage that
tries to pull you
down

write your words
and know
you are
never
alone

and
you
are
loved

it is written
and so it is so

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“Italian quill and ink” by Clementina – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

One Thousand

About a week ago, I happened to notice my blog post count.  It’s not something I’ve watched since around number 500 or so.  So imagine my surprise when I saw the number and then counted on my fingers to discover that I would hit Post 1000 tonight.

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This is post 1000.

I’m smiling at the timing of this.  This, if you will pardon me, momentous occasion.  I set out in April of 2013 to write.  Everyday.  I thought maybe six months would suit, proving to myself I could stick with something.  But something unexpected happened–it became a habit.  One I grew to depend on.  A companion every evening, with whom I would sit down and share my thoughts or stories or woes.  There were a few evenings I would have rather been left alone, but I pushed through and my soul was better for it.

This has been good for my soul.

So after the six month mark, I continued, and then one year and two and two and a half, and now…..1000.

I have loved sharing my stories because in doing so, many of you have shared yours with me.  Stories are the very fibers of our lives, and I thrive upon them.  I love to sit and hear folks’ stories, just as I enjoy sharing mine.  When we listen, we learn and one of the most important things we learn is that we are more alike than not. WE. ARE. ALL. CONNECTED.

And so it is that the timing of this is so perfect.  For the first time in 103 days, all of the ones I am most connected to are all under one roof.  The Fella, who has been away for work for all this time, is home. Home!  (The fact that I bought a special bag of sweet potato chips just for him might tell you how excited I am.)  My Aub is finishing up the semester and tucked away in her room HERE studying.  Home!  I don’t dare interrupt, but knowing my girl who is one of my dearest friends is right here warms my heart.  All of my people.  Home.

I have big things going on–good things and wonderful things and challenging things.  I have a project that I’m going to put some loving hands to.  I have a coffee shop that I and others who love it are working to save.  I have a family who would probably like to eat something other than yogurt and blueberries or chicken wraps or cheese quesadillas for supper.  (Not that those are leaving the menu entirely, just so y’all know.)  In this season of chaos and all the busy things–good things–I seek a time of Advent.  Of preparation. My soul craves it.

During this season of Advent and reconnecting and rebuilding and recreating and remembering, I’m going to change things up a little bit.  Some days will be writing and sharing stories, but some days it will be 1000 words.  As in a picture is worth a…..

I’m no photographer by any means, but there are moments and things during the day that touch my heart, and I look forward to sharing those with you.

Tonight I am thankful for all of you–my friends and family and others whom I’ve never formally met who take the time to read the stories, to hear the words, and to feel all the things along with me .  For those of you who share my words with others, thank you.  I give thanks for the stories you have shared with me which touch my heart and make me laugh or weep or think.  Thank you.

And tonight I’m thankful for the Fella being home safe.  Where he belongs.  Not just because I need someone to tell me Miss Sophie is okay or haul off the recycling or help us move the scarecrow and pumpkins so the nativity can be put up in the yard.  Because he is loved and as Cooter put it, “Daddy is one of my shining lights.”  I’m thankful this semester is almost over for Aub, who has worked and studied and performed and written and volunteered and made beautiful music.  She amazes and inspires me.  I look forward to cuddling in front of the fire with my littles and reading stories of Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien and making all the merry memories.  I am excited about my project, and I am hopeful for our coffeeshop.  Most of all, I’m looking forward to quieting my soul and listening.  Listening to hear the whispered stories of my past and the story of where I am meant to go, and dreaming of what may come.

Thank you all for sharing the journey.  I look forward to continuing onward with you however it may look, sharing the light and love and laughter.

Love to all.

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And They Said It Wouldn’t Last

Two years ago tonight.

Wow.

April 7, 2013 I sat down to blog with the idea that I wanted to put down in writing all of the stories that I had saved up while my Mama was unconscious in the hospital–all the things I had planned to tell her when she woke up.  Those stories I never had the chance to tell her.

It was my goal to stick with it and write something everyday.  That’s something I’ve heard from more than one published author–practice your craft.  And so I did.

In the beginning I think I saw maybe six months as a goal.  But as that neared, I was hooked and knew I couldn’t stop until I hit a year.  But then that didn’t feel right either.  So when I hit 500 posts, I thought about taking a break, but the stories kept coming, and so I wrote.

And tonight.  Two years.  Of writing every day.

It has changed me.  The way and the how I go about my day, my life.  And oh, the things I have learned!

I take my phone just about everywhere, so I can take a picture of something I might want to share about later.

I’m a better parent.  I listen to my children’s conversations more closely, prepared to glean wisdom from them, because I KNOW they see this world through such a different lens and I want to capture that for myself.

I stay up way too late.  I can write things fairly quickly, but then my OCD kicks in and I edit for an hour (or two) some nights.  And then I can still find things I wish I’d changed.  I’ve become quite the night owl.  Even Miss Sophie gives up on me most nights.

My house is not perfect.  Not that it was before I started writing, but now *sigh* even less so.  Or more so.  #comfortablydisorganized

I’ve learned that I enjoy sharing our stories.

I’ve also learned that poetry is a great love of mine, and my favorites are the ones that I find the title and then write from there.  Unorthodox maybe, but those few words paint a larger picture for me, one that then writes itself.

I have been fortunate to discover that the writing community is a beautiful one.  Writers, both published and unpublished, are encouragers.  They read each other’s work, and because they KNOW the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into some of these stories, they share and encourage and praise.  I love the friends I have gained through writing and blogging.  They are talented and strong and know how to put something out there and shoot straight, and they are beautiful inside and out.

I know how fast one’s heart can sink when getting a rejection letter.  And I know that one of the greatest gifts when one writes is to start a conversation, important conversations.  The kind words in the comments section warm my heart, and when someone takes the time to share something I’ve written, I stop and do a happy dance.  Right there in the kitchen or the living room or wherever I am when I find out.  Happy happy joy joy all over my face and feet.

I’ve learned that I can think about something for days, waiting for all the words to float to the surface of my thoughts before carefully writing it, and all I hear afterward are crickets.  And then the very next day I can write something just off the top of my head in that moment, and it will take off with comments and shares and affirmation that it resonated with folks.  That right there blows my mind.  And makes me laugh to myself.  You never know what will spark a fire.

In the midst of these two years, I’ve given thanks over and over for the one who opens my blog and reads it every morning.  Indeed, there have been some nights that has been my motivation for getting a story written.  I cannot have NOTHING there when the page is opened in the wee hours of the day.  “If you read it, I will write” sort of thing I guess.  But since I love the Reader, it’s a joy to put something there–once I rattle my brain around and something floats to the top.

There is always a story waiting to be told.  I just have to wait for her to present herself.  And sometimes she can be a bit coy.

In these two years, doors have opened for me and some have closed.  Shoot, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  I have spent time sharing stories about my children, our pup, my family, homeschooling, food allergies, and life in general.  I’ve even been known to step up on my soap box from *ahem* time to time.

Thank you for reading.  Whether it’s been once or 730 times, thank you.

Back when they had the suppers at the park on Sunday evenings for folks who could use a good meal and community, we took coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.  Folks who came up to quench their thirst (or sweet tooth, we had marshmallows too) would sometimes say, “Thank you for being here.”

I’d look back at those sweet faces, etched by their journey and the elements, and say, “Thank you for being here.  I’d look pretty silly standing out here with tea and coffee and hot chocolate and no one to drink it.”

And so, thank YOU for being here.  For reading.  For commenting.  For sharing.  For taking time out of your busy days to spend a few minutes sharing this journey with me.  A story isn’t a story until it is read by another.

I don’t know what the next two years or one year or two weeks or even tomorrow will hold, but I do know that I am a better person for sharing my stories.  My joyful friend is a wonderful scrapbooker–she has done a beautiful job of recording her family’s stories that way.  It was a fun hobby for me for a while, but I just couldn’t stick with it.  I guess this is my version of scrapbooking, telling our stories so my children will have them to look back on one day.

To know where we come from, where we’ve been, and where I hope they will go.

Happy two years, y’all!  It ain’t a party unless we’re all here together.

Love to all.

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Behind the Blog…..and What Comes Next

We went to our favorite farmer's market and got our Elbertas.  Our yearly trip.....a good day.

We went to our favorite farmer’s market and got our Elbertas. Our yearly trip…..a good day.

So, today, this happened.

Yep.  Seven boxes of peaches.

Peaches to share and peaches to prepare. 

Peaches, peaches everywhere.

It’s what my people do.  Since I was little and we all sat around the table together with bowls and paring knives and more bowls, I have been a part of putting up peaches in the summer.  Peaches played a huge part of my life.  And what a gift to have a taste of summer in the middle of winter–so yes, over the next couple of days, I’ll be peeling, slicing, dicing, and putting them up.  Tucking their secrets and sweetness away for another day–when it’s dark and cold and sunshine and memories of summer are needed.

It’s funny.  After we got home, I sat down with my first peach of the summer (Daddy always said the ones before the 4th of July weren’t worth bothering with anyway).  It was sweet and tangy and filled with the taste of sunshine.   I ate in about five minutes (because I was stretching it out) what it took Farmer Brown a whole year of worrying over to bring to fruition–and that’s not counting the years before the trees were producing.  He pruned his trees in the dead of winter, and when the blossoms started showing, he hoped for no more cold weather for that could damage the blooms and reduce the crop.  After the little baby peaches came out, he and his crews thinned the trees, so that the peaches left would grow bigger and stronger.  And when the time was just right, they picked them, placing them gently in boxes so they wouldn’t bruise.

How do they know?  Which branches to cut?  Which peaches to drop to the ground?  What the right level of ripeness is?

I don’t know, but somehow it all comes together so I can savor the flavor of nature for five minutes.

Yep.  Here we are.

Yep. Here we are.

Another thing is happening today.  As I type.  This is my 500th post.  I wrote a few before I started back last year on April 7th and wrote each and every day.  So…..500.  Here we are.

When I hit the one year mark, I thought I might take a break from blogging.  For just a little bit.  But I wasn’t ready.  My mind and heart were whirling with things I had to write and thoughts I wanted to share.  As I’ve said before I write for me and for my children–so they will know their stories and who their people are, and so they will know who I am and what I believe and why.

And so many of you have joined us for the journey.

I am humbled.

So many kind words, so much encouragement.  I am thankful for all of you who have taken time to read even one word.  And for those of you who have shared your own stories and thoughts, I appreciate it.  You matter to me, and the gift of your time taken to read and to say hello–that means a lot to me.

Because, you know what?  Much like Farmer Brown, I put a lot of time into what comes into fruition.  (Even those Haikus last month.  I walked around the Mouse House during the day tapping out syllables on my chest as we were standing in line for a ride or the bathroom or whatever.)  Some posts I think about for days or weeks before I write them, and others come together at the last, quickly and sometimes almost seamlessly.  I worry over language, spelling, grammar, and offending folks.  Because no matter how strongly I feel about something, I do not set out to create a me and you.  I much prefer there to be an “us.”

So yes, not that what I write is always a “peach,” but for each thing you have read there is about  two hours of keyboard time behind it.  Writing, rewriting, editing for grammar/spelling, and then rereading.  And making the decision to hit publish.  Do you know what I have to say sometimes to be able to hit that button?  Some nights, when I’m exhausted and my emotions are overwrought over what I’ve put down in words, I say to myself, “Ah, well, no one’s going to read it anyway, so okay…..” and I hit the button.

But rest assured, I know you have been reading.  And I thank you for that.  The gift of your time and allowing me to share my stories with you…..HUGE.   THANK YOU.

And so now, at Post 500, I feel like my little guy Cooter.  Earlier this week as he went through his checklist of what all he wants to be when he grows up, he looked over at me, wiping his hand over his brow, and said, “Whoo.  I’m swamped.”

Oh me.  I hear you, bud.

I have several boxes of peaches to put up.  And peaches wait for no man or woman or blogpost.  They go from zero to ripe pretty doggone fast.  And I have littles to move on to China in our homeschool studies.  AND we have big family fun happening this week–the week in which we celebrate with family who lives far away and finish going through the last of my folks’ things.

Whoo.  I’m swamped, y’all.  Good stuff.  Hard stuff.  Life.

At the one year mark, I was a little afraid that if I missed even one night I wouldn’t keep writing.  And so there was the night I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to finish writing after my brother visiting from out of town stayed up with me until 1, laughing and remembering and talking.  There was the night in September when I witnessed the miracle of my niece’s birth and curled up in a corner of the room after to share about it.  There’s been numerous nights when I sat down at 10 p.m. to think about my day and decide what was “worth writing home about.”  It’s been a good ride.

And now I know the truth.  I won’t stop writing.  If it’s not for the blog, I will work on some other projects.  Because after 500 posts, I think I can say this, if still a bit timidly–

I am a writer.

Because I write.

I’ve not published a book, and I may never do so.

I’ve not won an award for my writing since high school, and I’m okay with that too.

There’s a lot of “never haves” and “not dones,” but the truth is, those can’t happen if I don’t try.  No one’s going to walk up, knock on my door, and say, “Hey we want to publish whatever you are writing right now, doesn’t matter what it is.  Just hand it over.  We already know it’s great.”

Are they?

Nope.  See, I knew that.  And so I am going to take a break from blogging for a little while.  Here’s the deal.  I don’t know if it will be one night or ten.  I may even think of something I have to share and be back tomorrow night.   But I might not.  I might still be peeling peaches and listening to a little read to me, while my oldest goes through the list of what all she needs to head back to college.  Yes, we’ve got big beautiful normal things going on around here.  And as much as I love writing, and as sure as I am that I will continue to write–what a relief it is to know that now–I also know I have a life to live.  With my children, my people, the ones who make me laugh and whom I love.  As my Mama used to say, “There’s a time for all things.  Ecclesiastes 3.”  Yes ma’am.

Balance.

And there’s also this stack of books I’ve not made time to read yet…..some of my favorite author friends are often sharing about things they are reading.  So I know that’s part of being a good writer too.  Reading good writing.

Thanks if you’ve stuck with my ramblings so far.  I am excited to explore writing on some projects I have in mind. (And I’m scared to death, is it okay to tell you that?)  I love sharing my stories with groups, so maybe I will work to make that happen more as well.  I don’t know, but I do know that I feel peace.  I give thanks for all of the nights I’ve sat down and eventually hit publish, and then you all have read it and encouraged and agreed or disagreed respectfully.  Thank you for that.

I’ll see you around here soon.  In the meantime, y’all, I might just go take that nap.

Love to all.  And many, many thanks.

 

On Kicking Rocks and Using My Words

When I was younger and I took my little brother on walks down our dirt road and then down the paved road and back, we came across rocks in our path.  Sometimes we picked them up for his rock collection.  Other times I would kick the rock.  I liked to watch it skitter across the road and come to a halt.  If it didn’t go too far toward the middle, I would kick it along, again and again.  Until it ventured too far away from the grass we tried to stay close to or I grew tired and Bubba was ready to be home.  Those times with him seemed so ordinary then.  And so precious now.

I’ve been thinking about kicking those rocks.  It’s harder to find a rock in the middle of our streets in our neighborhood  or on the sidewalks, so it happens less and less that I get to kick rocks.  I miss it.

When I kicked the rock, it responded.  It moved.  And then when the energy I had put behind it wore out, it stopped.  But in those moments of movement, my existence and my strength were validated.  I walk this earth and I made that happen.

My parents were both wordsmiths, craftsmen, if you will, with letters and words put together to express thoughts and ideas and entertain and tell stories.  Mama wrote children’s stories and songs.  She wrote down memorable moments in her marriage in one book, and in the year after Daddy died, she journaled on the computer.  She did this almost nightly until she got so sick and had her first HospitalStay in late summer 2012.  Daddy wrote poetry, waxed philosophic about life, and wrote letters that were made to be kept, simply because of their entertainment value and meaning. I don’t know that he considered himself a writer, but he was.

I miss them.  I miss their stories.  And so it was that one year ago tomorrow I sat down to write.  To write our people’s stories.  To get down in words what it was like those long twenty-five days in the hospital, watching Mama fight for her life and trying to care for her the way she had for me for over forty-four years.  To work out some of my grief and tears and fears through writing and processing with words.

“Use your words,” Mama would often tell us, growing up.  This was usually when we were so angry with one or another of our siblings that we were about to use our hands or feet for purposes that were less than desirable.  Instead of using violence, she wanted us to use our words.  Talk about what we were feeling.  Tell the other person how we felt and why.  And work through it with anything other than violence.  That’s how she raised us.

So it was only natural, I guess, that I turned to words to work through my raw grief and brokenness over losing my two best friends less than fifteen months apart.  That I used the beauty of words instead of lashing out at doctors and hospital staff that I was so angry with.  To write instead of wrong.

At times during Daddy’s three years of fighting the Giant of lymphoma, we thought things would get better.  When he was in remission, things were so good.  We thought we had that joker beat.  Daddy was nearly his old self.  Laughing and telling stories.  Washing his truck out in the yard.  Sitting on the brown couch, reading or watching the littles play.  All those times I should have asked him to tell the stories of our people again.  Stories he took time to dig and research and track down.  And tell.  But I didn’t.  It wasn’t until he was bedbound that I sat down across from him with this same laptop and asked him if he felt like telling one or two, one more time.  I was ready.  But he shook his head and looked out his window.  Oh, the tears I have wept over that.  All those stories.  Gone.  So many questions I’ve had since then.  For both of them.

So now I also write to share our stories.  To get them down for my children and grandchildren and anyone beyond that who might be sentimental enough to care that we had a great-Granddaddy who always started the meal with a blessing and mid-way through would urge, “Take out and help yourselves.  You ain’t et hardly nothin’.”  Or that my Granny cooked and cooked and never sat down for a meal.  She always stood at the counter in the little house where my Papa had made the wooden stools for all of us to sit on.  The same counter with the storage built in the back where the Mercurochrome was kept.  I tell the stories so that when they get to wondering why I have so many books, they can read the story of how my beautiful Aunt took me to my very first Old Book Sale ever and started an obsession.  I write, hoping that when my people cannot hear my voice with their ears anymore, they will find comfort and joy and maybe a guffaw or two in the words I leave for them.  Just as I have in those we’ve found of Mama’s and Daddy’s.

The challenge that began when Mama and I were sitting down to order Daddy’s gravestone came to fruition last year on April 7.  My oldest, my awesome and smart and funny girl who is also my IT specialist, had already transferred things I had written on a different site in 2011 and 2012.  I wrote a post on the 5th about the scarf I started while Mama was in the hospital.  But it was on April 7th that I sat down and wrote and kept on keeping on.  I so wanted to be able to see something through to its finish, to commit and stay with a project. (Unlike that scarf.  Sadly, I still have not picked it back up.) When I wrote that day, I told myself I wanted to see if I could write something every day.  Every single day for a year.

And here it is.  It hit me about two months ago how close I was to reaching that goal.  And then one month.  And last week, as it grew closer, I started getting something akin to stage fright.  This is a big hulking deal for me.  It’s been so hard to stay focused for years now, at least since 2009 when Daddy was diagnosed.  So much rolling around up there, but difficult to stay focused.  I wasn’t sure I could do it.

And here I am.  Barring anything unforeseen happening between now and when I hit the “publish” button tonight, I’ve done it.  There were times my days were so full, it almost didn’t happen.  Like the day and night I spent with Sister, being given the gift of being present for my niece’s birth.  There were nights I didn’t publish until after midnight, so it looks as though I published twice on one day, and none on another, but I know the truth.  Like the night my Bubba was here and we stood in the kitchen whisper-talking until after 1 in the morning.  People and relationships take priority always.  My Mama taught me that.  And I almost didn’t publish before falling asleep at 2:45 a.m. but I thought about those precious to me who said they read my thoughts first thing in the morning.  I didn’t want them to worry, so I wrote.

I’ve been thinking all day about those rocks.  The thing about kicking them is that when they stopped, that was it.  They moved no more unless someone else came along to push them a little further.  But words, words are different.  They can’t be completely taken back. You never know the full circle of who they touch, where they go, and how long they will be heard.  I am inspired by one of my favorite writers whom I am privileged to also call my friend.  Karen Spears Zacharias.  She knows the path of grief and loss all too well.  And she is a writer.  Her words touch people all over for days and weeks and months and years after she crafts them together into a story or a message or a thought that is too important not to share.  She touches lives and makes a difference.  With her words.  And her heart.

Besides using this writing thing of mine to work through my pain and weariness of grief and to record our stories, I wanted this too.  I wanted my words to make a difference, to change a life.

And you know what?

After a year of sitting down to write as my house settles down and eyes, little and big, close, and sleep wafts through like a gentle summer breeze, I can say that these words I’ve written, these thoughts I’ve shared, these tears I’ve cried as my fingers hit the keys, these stories I’ve shared, the times I’ve laughed out loud about where a story was heading…..they have changed a life.

Mine.

And for a one year mark, that’ll do.  I can’t ask for any better than that.

Love to all.  Sweet dreams, dear readers and friends.  Thanks for hanging out and listening.  Always.

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Many thanks to those who have made this year of writing possible.  My friends who have encouraged me, especially Baddest Mother Ever, who pretty much threw the gauntlet down and challenged me to do this to begin with, thank you.  I am grateful to all of you who take time from your own stories to read mine–whether one time or every day or anything in between.  And to my friends and family who have taken time to comment here or on Facebook, thank you!  Hearing your thoughts in return is a precious gift, and it means the world to me.  Thanks to my family for putting up with me crashing in the brown chair or propped up in the bed late at night, clicking away. (Or worse, putting up with me on the nights the Muse was a bit elusive. Ahem.) Thanks to my author friends who have called me the “w” word (writer).  You humble me and I hope to one day to deserve that label.  To my Aunt who listens and reads and listens a whole lot more, there are no words to fully say thank you–but yes ma’am, thank you.  And I’m sorry I wore out that old phone battery.  😉  To my sisters and brothers and cousins and friends and family and children and my Fella and my Mess Cat, who love me and put up with me, knowing their story is only a few clicks away from being told right here, I love you all so much.  Thank you, my big girl, who is not only my IT specialist but also my editor sometimes and always one of my treasured friends.  The one who lets me tell my stories and her stories and the stories from our before, and who never fails to encourage me and is never surprised when something goes well.  She shrugs as if to say, “Well duh, ‘Dre, I knew you had it.”  I love you baby girl. To you, Princess, Cooter and my Fella, I am deeply indebted for the gift you give me of time and encouragement and putting up with me when I am “in the zone.” 

And finally, to my Daddy who challenged me to write oh so many years ago, and to my Mama who told me to write it all down in a book, I owe my world to.  I am who I am because of them on so many levels.  My Mama gave me a journal for my birthday two years ago, when Daddy was so gravely ill.  She talked to me non-stop about being thankful and finding something to give thanks for everyday for the fifteen months she lived here without my Daddy, her best friend and true love.  Mama, that journal is still empty, but my heart is full.  Thank you for encouraging me and pushing me to do this.  Even from beyond the veil, your voice is strong and your love is stronger.  Love you both.  Always, T. Annie

 

Because She Told Me To

One of my dear friends decided to “be Mama” last night and told me to go write. I laughed as I replied, “You know, she’s the one who originally told me to do this. And that’s a story in itself.” So here it is.

Daddy shared a story with me over twelve years ago. I was struggling at work with new tasks that were being added that had nothing to do with taking care of our clients. I called him, frustrated. He told me the story about the founder of the Salvation Army, General Booth, who, in 1910, had failing health and would be unable to attend the convention. Someone suggested he send a telegram to be read to encourage all those who had helped people during the busy holiday season. Knowing funds were limited but wanting to encourage, General Booth sent the following telegram to be read at the convention:
pic of othersI think it was effective. I know it stuck with my Daddy over the years, and it was how he and Mama lived.  I scrawled it boldly on a piece of scrap paper and taped it over my desk. It stayed there until we moved.

Last January when Mama visited the monument business to pick out a headstone for Daddy, I went with her.  We sat with the son of our funeral home directors who ran the monument side, a young man the age of my little brother, and looked through book after book.  It was overwhelming.  Mama knew she wanted something simple, that Daddy would have preferred that.  She found one she liked, and we started talking about what to put on it.

“Just his name and the dates,” she said.  Quite firmly, I might add.

“But, Mama, that’s all?” I was not happy.  “Can’t we put a word on there that means something?  Can we at least put ‘Cap’ on there?  That’s what most of us called him anyway.”

“No, I’ve talked with your sisters and your brother and they’re all okay with just name and date.”

Well I declare.  I started fuming.  Traitors.  I tried again. I might have whined. Maybe.

“Mama, do you remember that story Daddy told me?  I would really like to put ‘others’ on his stone somewhere.”  I was thinking of how many markers have “Daddy” or “Beloved” on the stones.  “Others” would have been perfect for Daddy.

Mama shook her head.  She might have been diminutive in stature, but she made up for it in willpower and strength of spirit.

“But Mama, I have a word picked out for you too.  It’s a good one.”

Again, a head shake.  Definitely NOT.

So the business of payment and font choices and abbreviating vs. not abbreviating (guess which one I was for) ensued.  The young man asked Mama if she would like to go ahead and purchase her marker.  She looked over at me.

I shrugged.  “Go ahead if you want.”

“Well that way you won’t have to worry about it,” she said, wanting affirmation that I was okay with it.

“No, that way you will have what you want on it and won’t worry that I’m going to put something else on it,” I said.  Okay, I huffed.  I may or may not have had my arms folded across my chest.  Just sayin’.

The young man laughed.  Mama signed the paperwork.  He told us that her marker would be placed out there at the same time as Daddy’s.  It seems that they have a blaster of some sort that they take to the cemetery to add the death date when it needs adding.  He chuckled, “And anything else you’d like.  There’s a spot down here that would be perfect for another line…..” He looked over with a teasing grin.

I laughed out loud.  Mama did her exaggerated sigh and eye roll.  “Tara, just tell your stories in a book.  You write your book and leave these markers alone.  No need to tell them on a headstone.”

I am sure we were entertaining for the young man whose hard job it was to help us honor Daddy and to talk with Mama about her own immortality and need for a marker.  I am also sure he’s seen all sorts sitting across the desk from him.  He probably thought our relationship was a bit contentious, as I sat there hard-headed, trying every which way to convince Mama to add “others” to Daddy’s marker.  And her, just as hard-headed, wanting to keep it simple.  But he wouldn’t have been more wrong.  That’s what dear friends do–call each other on stuff.  And we were good at it.  But we loved each other fiercely.

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So when we visited Daddy’s grave just two months later on his birthday, our first without him, it was surreal to see Mama’s marker there as well.  We planted a tea olive to honor him.  (“Daddy, what’s the name of that tree out there that smells so good?”  “It’s a tea olive.”  “Well, Daddy, all I know is I hope Heaven smells like that.” I reckon he knows now…..) My three each attached notes to balloons and let them go.  In the midst of the planting, Mama got tired and had to sit down.  She sat down on her marker.  It might have seemed irreverent if it had been any of the rest of us.  My oldest, Aub, said, “Maemae, that’s the only way I want you using that thing for a good long time.”  If only…..

So now it’s time to have the date added to her stone.  And I guess for now, I will hold off on adding their special words.  I am doing what she said, telling our stories through another venue.

But I hope folks won’t be surprised if one day my stubborn streak kicks in (wonder where I got it from?), and they see me at the country cemetery out at Little Union in Crawford County with a hammer and a chisel.  Working on the two stones by themselves over by the woods.  Because the stories behind the names and dates are good ones.  And I think a good story needs to be shared.  Everywhere.

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And Mama’s word?  Loved.  Because she was.  And still is.

And I thank her for telling me to write.  Love you Mama.