Thursday, December 31, 2015

And Then There Were Two

This New Year’s will be like no other that has come before it, full of changes for all, excitement for some, and a plethora of all-over-the-place feelings for me. It will literally bring a whole new life for our family and I am trying very hard to roll with the flow.

If my words have seemed more sympathetic, empathetic, and sometimes maybe even dramatic the last few months, well, there have been some big events brewing in my home. I try to be a strong woman and a realist, but I am a Mama first and foremost which can make me extremely strong, and also exceptionally weak. There’s nothing like the big ole’ heart of a Mama – nothing even close.

In reality who would have dreamed cutting grass and cleaning-up yards for guitar strings, beach-trip money, and video games would have ever gotten big enough to become a bona fide business that began as the Lawn Rangers and has now become Helms and Carter Lawncare and Landscaping LLC; that would also provide homes for both of the young men who run-it, while still barely into their 20’s?

They both insist that was the plan from the beginning, and by golly, they have worked their fingers to the bone making it more than a dream – because in reality, it has become a profitable income machine.

As long as he’s been old enough to know the difference, Zachary always said he would never pay rent, throwing his money into the wind – he would instead save-up, make wise investments, and buy a home.

Well folks, that’s exactly what’s about to happen in the month of January 2016; my youngest, twenty year old son will sign the closing papers on his new house.  My home will be empty except for my husband and I, and I’m not quite sure we remember how being alone works.   

Even with just the three of us - I still cook like I’m feeding a football team – because there used to be a time, when that was an occurrence in our house most any night. So to say I always have left-over’s now, would be an understatement, how I will ever adjust to cooking for two, well I’m just not sure.

And the quiet – who will replace all the laughter, mischief and unexpectedness he brings to our lives. How will I ever adjust to not having still-alive frog legs in my freezer, bird parts in my sink, deer hooves lying on my kitchen counter, and the annual gun-cleaning with parts lying all over my beautiful dining-room table?

Multiple work boots at both my front and back doors, golf clubs in the middle of his bedroom floor, fishing poles and tackle boxes strewn about, and always the crossing of seasons- both camouflage gear and swim trunks/snorkels -flowing from one season to another, never finding a proper storage spot; but instead, lying about as if sitting-on-go for their adventurous buddy and whichever sport he chooses for the day. 

This is your newest, about-to-be Empty Nester signing off, and wishing you all Happy and Safe New Year holiday.

...Only Makes Us Stronger

I can remember years ago my mother talking about Christmas curses. Not the scary, creepy kind – the “oh my gosh, why is this happening to us right now?” kind.

But you know when you’re a kid; all you’re interested in is that Santa remembers to bring you everything you asked for and then some. Everything else is background noise, other than the one ear you keep open for those sleigh bells.

Well guess what? Now I’M the background noise – and I’m experiencing my first Christmas curse. Granted, it could have happened long ago, when I was a single mom, trying to raise two children, and provide Santa Clause on my own. 

So admittedly, “the curse” could have happened at a much worse time than now.
Let me explain this whole curse business – it’s best told with a story from my childhood that I’ve heard and understand a lot more clearly now as an adult.

In the summer of 1972 my family and I moved into our brand new house that my parents had built on Radium Springs Road in Albany, Georgia. That very December, in their new home, with their new house payment, along with all the other costs it takes to start-up a home, the refrigerator stopped working – it just absolutely died. And the last thing that my parents could afford on their very tightly, budgeted income – was a new refrigerator.

This year – the beginning of MY curse: Thanksgiving Eve, my boss was kind enough to let me go home at noon; unfortunately, I came home to a puddle of water standing at the foot of MY refrigerator.

Since my husband was out of town, I knew I had to make a decision. It wasn’t hard for the single-woman-on-her- own-Michelle, to swing back into gear. I called Stewarts of Quincy, and they were at the house within a couple of hours. 

Thankfully it was just a pin-prick hole in the copper tubing that connects to the ice-maker and they had it repaired in no time - $153 later. But much better than the cost of a new refrigerator!

The following Tuesday night, I turned-on the faucet in the bathroom sink so that the water could warm-up and I came back to yet ANOTHER puddle of water, this time on my bathroom floor; we called the plumber and he arrived the next morning – a loose pipe - $75 later.

Then sadly this weekend, our television started to die. It’s still dying – slowly. Sometimes it comes on, sometimes it takes awhile. Sometimes it has weird color streaks, sometimes not. So we’re waiting for the final shoe/curse to drop. 

BUT – I don’t have small children waiting on Santa, and our bills are few. When it finally dies, it will be irritating – not catastrophic. The worst will be hooking the dang thing up – but that’s another crazy story for another day.

My hopes are that everyone has a smooth-sailing holiday, with only the expenses you’re expecting and can afford. Merry Christmas to all and may you only have peace, joy and love surrounding you and your families. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Thank You Very Much!

Proper etiquette is dead, and I think this is the perfect time of the year to talk about it. I’m not quite sure what happened through the generations, but somewhere along the way, children were not taught how to properly thank someone, and now the rudeness has just tumbled out of control.

When I was growing-up, from the time I could talk and write, I was taught that every gift, whether it was monetary or physical, was to be acknowledged with a phone call or a letter.  And not a week after you got your gift and had already used it or spent it, but immediately upon receiving it.  

I’m sure through the years my children have grown sick of me asking have they called so and so yet, regardless, I still find a round-about-way to do it. I was raised to believe, that my children’s behavior, respect or lack of, was a reflection of me and how I raised them.  So I’m not sure if people today are lazy, or they simply just don’t care.

When both of my children graduated high school, neither of them could spend a dime of what they received, or use any gift that was given, until those thank you notes were written to each and every person that was kind of enough to think of them.

And those cards weren’t just written with sentences like “thank you for the money” or “thank you for the travel bag” – I taught them how to properly write a thank you note, with complete sentences, using descriptive words and adjectives. And I would proof-read the first few until I was sure they understood the complete purpose behind doing it in the first place.

When people spend their hard-earned money, you should show the utmost respect that someone not only took the time to do that, but that they thought enough of you to do it as well. Money truly does not grow on trees, not even $10 dollar bills; no matter the size of the gift, the gesture is the same, and so should be the appreciation.

I cannot tell you the gifts I have bought and delivered personally to weddings and baby showers that I never received a thank you note. And for the ones that were mailed, I guess I have never really known if they even received it. Granted, no one gives a gift with the only objective being that they’re told thank you, but people do give gifts to make people happy and to hopefully please them for one occasion/reason or another and they like to know their objective was achieved.

Parents – teach your children the art of gracious acceptance. Teach your children appreciation and gratitude, and most importantly, teach your children that they are not entitled just because it’s their birthday, graduation, or Christmas. They should feel honored that someone thought enough of them, cared enough about them to show them in the form of a present. Their only job is to say thank you or write a proper thank you note; that is all – and you’re welcome. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tis The Season

It is well known in our little town that my husband walks the streets of Quincy, trying to get in his exercise, and honestly, I think, a little bit of socializing. Because there is rarely a time when he leaves out for his four mile walk that he doesn’t come home telling me who he came across, what his conversations were or relaying hello’s from mutual friends.

Part of his route takes him into the curves and bends of one of our local cemeteries. He likes to walk that route particularly for those deep curves and bends, but he also likes to stop every now and again and speak to old friends.

As my husband makes his regular trek through Hillcrest during the week, he’ll speak to our old friend “Big Rick” Gleaton, and “Mr. Gene” Williams his old lunch-eating partner when Kittrell’s was still open for business; both of who now rest peacefully there.

All that might sound a little strange to some, because I realize that a lot of people aren’t particularly fond of cemeteries. But my husband will tell you real quick like, “It’s not the dead that you need to be worried about”. I think it brings him comfort to be able to “visit” every now and again, people that he thought the world of when they were still here.

But this morning he had a little bit of a scare. As he entered the cemetery there was a car parked towards the front and there was a lady sitting in it, obviously grieving and distressed, as she was crying pretty heavily. He continued on, but when he made his rounds and he came back out, she was still sitting there in her vehicle, and still crying.

Now my husband is not a prying man, nor is he one to get-up into someone’s business; but something about the whole deal didn’t set right with him so he tapped on the window and waited as she rolled it down.

He said she was crying so hard he could barely understand her but he thought he understood her to say she was there to see her daughter, as it was the anniversary of her death. As she continued to sob, she also said her husband was buried there, as was the rest of her family.

In that few minutes that he had her attention, my husband tried to say something that hopefully felt right enough to bring her comfort, but it bothered him enough that he repeated the incident to me when he got home. 

The holidays can be so very hard for everybody sometimes, but especially hard for people who have lost loved ones, and so very hard for those who have lost loved ones too soon. It’s important that we all stay ever-aware of those people who pass through our lives who may be suffering from loneliness, depression or extreme sorrow. 

That story of sadness has certainly stayed with me today; you just never know who needs a kind word or a listening ear, more than they need anything else in the world. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

And the Holiday Train Moves On....

I’m sure many of you have spent a major holiday without one of your children who has moved far away, and the logistics or financial cost of it all just couldn’t seem to be resolved.

I had my first such holiday this Thanksgiving; my oldest child lives in Brattleboro, Vermont, and between his work schedule and the cost of airline tickets these days, we just couldn’t make that trip happen this year.

It was his first Thanksgiving away from home and my first not having my assistant chef standing next to me in the kitchen, absorbing all the chaos and fractious behavior that was rolling off of me like waves of steam from a boiling volcano that could erupt at any minute.

But my youngest son was here, manning the turkey fryer as is his job every year, and my parents were here as well. My mother, bless her, pre-made some of the ingredients for her special dressing and brought them with her, as well as she made a delicious dessert for us this year.  It all came together despite being minus some very important family members.

I made it through, and Josh celebrated with his new family of friends in Brattleboro, all of them preparing different dishes and making one huge beautifully put together buffet, which they all thoroughly enjoyed I am sure. It certainly wasn’t the way we would have rather spent this holiday, but everyone is alive, safe, and well, and nothing beats that – even 2000 miles away.

After Thursday/Thanksgiving, we rolled-on into Friday which consisted of Zach and I beginning the part of the inside Christmas decorations we could do alone. Then Saturday, when my husband returned from his annual Thanksgiving trip to South Carolina where the rest of his family lives, we began the decorating of the tree.

There wasn’t a lot of the usual fanfare this year; Zach got the tree down alone, and he and Ramsey began with stringing the lights. I’d like to believe that as I have gotten older, I’ve grown more mellow and I’m not as controlling as I once was – but both of my children will tell you quickly – that is not the case, ever.

Maybe the difference was the lack of the brotherly duo, who actually claim they work quite well together, and once again, place me as the head of the drama blame.

I just believe it must all look as perfect as possible. All the ornament placing takes a great deal of studying, even though the tree is stark with nothing but lights in the beginning; it is but a blank canvas, ready to be adorned with beautiful pieces of memories.

 My Mama said it  best years ago, and I have never forgotten her beautiful description: all the
ornaments should be dangling gracefully from each branch like sparkling, colorful jewels on display for everyone to see, just as if you had opened the lid of a jewelry box; and I think my tree is just that - magical and beautiful - less the tinkling music and the twirling ballerina.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Different Times, Different Thanks

It’s amazing  how much the parameters of being thankful has changed; so many lives have been needlessly lost and brutally taken in the last 330 days – most of them acts of hatred and certainly violence. It feels as if there are no safe places to turn to anymore, nowhere that you can go that gives the reassurance of eternal safety and well-being.

It shouldn’t be commonplace to always feel paranoid and uneasy; certainly not at colleges and schools where we send our children to learn, they should never have to feel unsafe. Movie theaters that should provide joy and entertainment, and churches which should be the holy grail of safety and love, no longer automatically fit those descriptions. And now, in Paris, that list also includes cafes, outdoor soccer games, and music concerts.

But this morning, I woke-up to sparkling sunshine in my bedroom window that I hadn’t seen is days, and my 20 year old son Zach, parading around the house shirtless and in his old Robert F Munroe gym shorts and his “favorite” hunting hat he found last night, as he unearthed all of his hunting garb and declared it a miracle, as he had previously thought it was lost.

I’m not a morning person at all, I mean I’m not grouchy or mean, I just have nothing to say for the first hour or so. But if anybody can drag you out of silence and into laughter, it’s him. Because as he was parading – I interrupted long enough to ask him to strip his bed before he left the house for TCC – as it was linen washing day. His reply was “Oh I’ll strip those sheets lady, and I’ll strip them with a smile, and do you know why? Because it’s Duck Hunting Eve day, that’s why!”  

It’s been a sad week for me. As I have told you before, I tend to get caught up in other people’s sadness, and watching the television from dawn til dusk, and all the Paris coverage in between did not help matters any for me. I’m 52 years old and I still haven’t learned to constructively compartmentalize information sometimes.

But this morning I was reminded once again, that besides all the things we are thankful for everyday: food, shelter, employment, family and friends, and our health – I am the most thankful for the humor in which my entire family is overly blessed.

Both my mother and my daddy have passed down their own brand of humor to both me and my children, and I was lucky enough to find a husband who is equally blessed. Laughter can get you through almost anything in life, even if it happens at what some would consider inopportune moments i.e.; I believe death almost demands humor for the survivors.

I hope we can all find the laughter within ourselves, remember the love we have for one another and cherish our family and friends as we celebrate another year of Thanksgiving. To get through hard times, we use whatever it is we have – and I choose love, laughter and family. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Clarity Of Darkness

Tonight as I sit here on my glider, still fanning myself out of habit, even though the air is a chilled 47 degrees; my eyes are flitting like butterfly wings on the sights before me as if they are brand new and silently acknowledging that I am generously blessed.

This front porch is my haven of sanity. On either end are a set of beautiful wind chimes that play varying tunes at the slightest breeze.  Between them are full, still-green ferns that hang from the eaves, and on either end of this long porch are macho ferns that have grown-up to their name, firmly rooted in black urn planters.

Looking straight ahead, I see a wooden swing held firm in the ground by wooden posts covered in Jasmine – those posts are the same posts that held the original swing that my Daddy bought me and my boys almost 17 years ago right after my divorce.  I think he believed that the swing would bring my little family smiles, laughter and many conversations – serious and silly - that would become needed memories in the years to come, and he was right.

Over the years, the rain and general weather chipped away at the original swing and it has since been replaced, but those posts have stood steady and firm and have followed me all the way from their original land-site in Leesburg, Georgia where my Daddy and my children put the first post-holes in the ground, to my first home in Quincy on Hwy 65, and now here, their final resting place.

All the smells of what a first chill brings are abound; fireplaces burning their first wood of the season, and off in the distance, the drifting smoky air brings smells from possible fire pits and I’m imagining happy people sitting around them, laughing and telling stories about other good times from days gone by.

I have never felt safer and more secure than I do right now – even though I am alone, and sitting in the dark; because this is my home, this is where I feel the most loved and needed – and what could possibly ever change that?

It’s hard to imagine on a night like this, that the sky could explode right in front of my face and everything about life would be instantly changed. It’s even harder to imagine that my loved ones could be taken from me, or that in a blink of an eye – I could be gone as well. Just how insane is it that we could become “those” people to who “those” things happen?

For many days to come, the people of France will be reeling from the death and destruction that exploded in their skies, in their faces, and to their bodies. Families are searching, grieving, and still praying for miracles.

As I slowly sway back and forth, and my bare feet brush the wood below them, I’m wondering how long it will be before people like me/us, will become those other people.  People who were living life - until hate took over, and then they weren’t.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Women Lessons 101

To all you gentlemen who are reading this; there will be no need for your blood pressure to rise, or becoming  indignant and denying what I’m about to discuss, because it won’t even matter. WE know - ALL women know about all of these things.

Sometimes we (women) blame it on the moon, sometimes we blame it on your jobs and the stress, but mostly, we just blame it on how men were made. Meaning, you just can’t help it that you were born missing a sensitivity gene. You can’t help that you’re unable to select a greeting card without it somehow involving a fart, albeit beautifully and intricately worked into the scenario, it’s still a fart joke and inappropriate for your wife.

Or that you cannot select a gift on your own to save your soul unless it’s circled on a sheet of an advertisement page with a big black marker, or ordered by your significant other – FROM YOU / FOR HERSELF – to make sure she got exactly what she asked for – instead of whatever you saw after you looked for five minutes in the front part of the store and made a horrible / wrong command decision on your own.

That missing sensitivity gene also means you don’t see the warning signs of imminent danger when you walk into the house without the loaf of bread that she asked you to pick-up on your way home, not once but with three different reminders and a text.  Nor do you notice the flames in the whites of her eyes when the first sentence out of your mouth is “what’s for supper?” when you didn’t do your job in bringing part of it home.

But I’m not sure it’s just a missing sensitivity gene - because it’s GOT to be more than just that to cause these things to happen:

A.      Forgotten or seemingly not the most important thing in the world – YOUR wedding anniversary and HER birthday.

B.      Cards that although they were bought and given, look as if they were the last one to choose from and P.S. – she is not your Aunt nor is she Hispanic – as she must be to even read the card, because she didn’t take Spanish in high school, even though she has cursed herself for that many times over by now.

C.      When she is obviously either mad or has been crying – and although these are things that       you would like to avoid like the plague – ignoring them will cause you to believe YOU now   have the plague, because she will have nothing to do with you until it blows over. Could be weeks, don’t push it.

Being a woman is tough job. We are your wives, but we’re also mothers, cleaners /cooks / wash women and mediators for both you and our children. We love you, but we’re tired. We need your strength and your safety, but mostly we just need you to pay attention to something besides your miles to the gallon, sitting in a tree stand, and the Nascar standings.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Hibernation In Progress

I hear the muffled sound of a very loud, and irritating horn-beeping in the distance – bonk, bonk, bonk – I attempt to slide my eyes to an open position, but the deafening bonking noise that will not seem to stop, makes me squint and frown all at the same time, and all I can see is darkness. But wait. It’s not a horn. It’s my alarm clock – but why is it going off at 4am? Because I get up at 7:30 every morning and it should not be black as the night at 7:30am.

I am one of the few that LOVES when Daylight Saving Time is over. Let me repeat, I LOVE IT.  I’ve already told you all of the reasons why before – PJ’s at 5:30 in the afternoon is acceptable, no week-day socializing after-dark is expected, and burrowing-up in my recliner and doing absolutely nothing outside after 6pm is not frowned upon as lazy or non-active. BUT, the biggest gift of all is that whole sixty minutes we re-gain that can be spent gloriously sleeping!

However, there is about three weeks before it happens in the fall that the mornings become atrociously dark and therefore difficult to rise-and-shine with my regular motivation. Seriously, who in the heck can get out of bed (because you obviously should still be SLEEPING) when you can’t see your hand in front of your face?

I’m an old fashioned bear: it must be daylight when I am asked to function and be nice, and it must be dark when I am expected to lie down and be quiet. And as the week progresses, each day that passes, the shine is wearing off the sociable-side of my personality, and I find more excuses than not, to just lie there and not get-up when the alarm goes off.

But last night, we finally got that hour back that was stolen last spring.  I woke-up to daylight instead of darkness this morning and with an energy I hadn’t felt in weeks. The Halloween flags and mailbox covers came down, the pumpkins and scarecrow couple lost their post in the swing out front, and all were replaced with welcoming turkey flags and cornucopia covers. My beautiful beaded-pumpkin-table-runner has been laid out on the dining room table, and all the salt & pepper shakers are now seasonally adjusted as well.

The holiday train is at the top of the track and about to begin it’s out-of-control journey with its lightening-like-speed, another thirty days will be gone before we know it, and we’ll all be talking about pies, baking turkey’s and giving thanks.

But until then, we will be waking to daylight, leaving work at possible sunset or nightfall, cranking-up heaters, putting a match to the pilot lights, chopping and gathering wood for the fireplaces, bagging-up our summer clothes and washing-up our warmer winter clothing. 

We’ll all be taking a body break soon – catching-up on our reading, snuggling in blankets, dragging out hot chocolate and vegetable soup recipes, and taking a due rest. We’re off to winter folks, wrap-up and hang on!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Minds Wide Open

As I walked the path across that familiar but unfamiliar place, my body felt anxious and excited all at the same time. The last time I’d walked those steps, it was a high school and teenagers were strewn about everywhere, doing whatever it is teenagers do during lunch break in a school courtyard. I glanced over at the empty green benches and felt a small sense of melancholy that was soon to be forgotten.  
I continued to walk, opened the door, and stepped into a room where the tables were all low, the chairs small, and the pictures made for learning the alphabet; as I turned my head I would see a rug on the floor that was painted in blocks and all the little bodies who owned this room, sat cross-legged on a color.
Their fresh little faces matched their body language, which were twitching with eagerness and thoughts that something different was about to happen, and they knew they had the best seats in the house.
As I moved closer to the center of the room, I was immediately aware that they had been prepped, for my name rushed out of their mouths both in unison and in individual spurts, making me feel as welcome as I had felt in a long, long time.
Thirty days prior, I was invited by a friend of mine, Holle Boykin, who teaches/challenges/loves the 4K class at Greensboro Elementary School - to attend a very special event called JumpStart to Reading Day. She asked if I would like to visit and read to her class, and I promise you, I couldn’t say YES! Fast enough.
Story-telling is a basic human interaction. It’s how we make sense of the world. It encourages creativity and imagination, and it’s important for children to have safe-places and story-books that can make that happen.
When my children were small, it was pretty cool to be the Mommy who could make them react with wild-eyed laughter/giggles and seem mesmerized by funny sounds and created characters. To know that when they climbed-up next to you with their little pile of books, the fun and excitement was about to begin, and memories made.  
As it would turn out, I was able to read not one, but three books that morning. Holle is a wonderful teacher, and with her prompting questions after each book-reading, was able to receive relevant responses from interested little minds, as all of the children in her class are so smart, inquisitive, and attentive.
When it came time to leave, they were all waving and telling me goodbye when a little boy named Ruben Francisco rushed-up and slammed his body into mine, creating a full-throttle body hug, ensuing the rest of the class to follow suit, for one of the best group hugs I’ve ever had.
I was told when I left that I was welcome back anytime, as well as discussing a for sure set-date of March the 2nd – because I can’t think of a better reading-celebration-day than Dr. Suess’s birthday! To reach their hearts and open their minds – read them a book.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Save The Women

Usually I would have already talked to you all about this – the importance of it, the necessity of it, the life-changing / life-saving need of it; but it’s been a good year. I’ve received no new phone calls and there have been no new discoveries that I am aware of, which means, that all is well for now.

For the past five years, and for every single one of those five years, I have had at least one girl-friend receive the news that no woman ever wants to hear: “Ma’m you have tested positive for breast cancer and we must begin a plan for treatment”. One year, two of my friends received that same, awful news, so the count for five years is at 6 women and running. That doesn’t even include all the women that you already knew who survived it, or the new fighters you will meet while you walk through someone else’s journey with them, hoping to provide comfort and support.

This has been a good year, and as silly as it sounds, I didn’t want to jinx it by saying so. My last friend who received her own news September of 14’, finished her last chemotherapy treatment this past October 1st. She is a traveling store organizer for a national company and she’s back at work full-time. She travels from one store to another, setting and re-setting their store-fronts for business. It can be hard physical labor, but she is tough and she has persevered.

As far as I’m concerned, every single woman who has been diagnosed are tough, strong and determined. I don’t know a single one who sat down in defeat and refused to do whatever it took to make sure they would still be here for themselves and their families.

But you know I read something the other day and the author was talking about all these advertisements and catch-phrases that are used to get people’s attention and raise awareness – one of them being those bumper stickers that say things like “Save the Ta-Ta’s”. Well it got me to thinking, because I have one of those very same stickers on the tailgate of my truck; I’ve had for at least five years or more. I bought when my first close friend was diagnosed, calling it a show of support – I guess.

Well what I read was talking about how all these stickers are certainly recognized for what they are – but how about we make some stickers and signs that just simply say – Save the Women. And I thought to myself, what a powerful statement that is – because in the end, although losing body parts is not a wishful or encouraging thought, it is a better thought than losing a person, losing a loved one.

We love people, we love women; not for their appendages, but for themselves and who they are: as mothers, grandmothers, wives and friends. Get your annual mammograms - matter of fact - get all of your women well-health appointments every year. Be proactive in living, save the women – save yourselves. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sunflowers in October

For the last six years, his mother and I have shared football team-feeding-duties, hot and cold bleacher seats, seen plenty of exciting wins and hard losses, shared worries about our children who now use heavy equipment for a living, and we have shared sons. I’m more than sure that she has had my son around her kitchen table as much as I have had hers around mine.  He has always felt like one of my own, he always will.

I went in and took a seat in the pews, my husband and extended “family” trailing behind me. The piano keys were streaming with live music, there was quiet chitter-chatter from most any direction, and craning necks from all, looking to see who else was coming-in and where they would be sitting.

As I sat there looking at all the sunflowers draped-onto/attached-to-burlap presented as an art form, I silently contemplated as to whether or not to break-out the camera I
had stuffed down into my purse. It didn’t take me long to decide that there was no way I was going to miss out on snapping those “pretty as a picture” decorations, and I began my camera-eye’s journey around the room.

It wouldn’t be but a few more minutes and the ceremonial music would begin. The groom and his groomsmen would began their walk down the aisle, take their places, and stand stiff as soldiers at attention. Their faces taunt and without much expression, I was remembering two of these young men as they were, in what seemed like just seconds ago: with laughing, carefree faces, playing football, having ping pong contests, and Xbox matches for hours at the time; and then that one afternoon both of them spent hours in The Man Cave, stapling the latest swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated to the ceiling.

Now all I see is two handsome, grown young men, one watching his best friend and business partner with solemn eyes and a stoic expression, and the other, waiting on the love of his life who was about to begin her own journey down the aisle, to stand next to him, for the rest of their lives.

She was a picture of absolute beauty as she began her journey down, her hands slightly shaking, and I watched as her husband-to-be began to swallow rapidly and his face began to flush. Some might say the ceremony was old-fashioned – I will say it was real, original, and using all the words that are tried and true. It was one woman and one man, pledging to belong to, and care for, each other, forever and ever amen.

These days will come closer and closer together I am sure, all these children who have turned into adults when I wasn’t looking, will be finding their life partners and saying I do to forever. But this day was special for me, because this is the first couple-marriage of my second born child’s generation.  Congratulations to Matt and Taylor Carter – May your new life together be everything you ever dreamed of and more love than you ever imagined.  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Tools Of Our Destruction

Her car breaks-down in an unfamiliar part of town, it’s late and it appears the rest of the world doesn’t exist. The streets are empty of humans, or any machine passing-by that could take her to safety. She has walked for miles, she is tired, and her body is rigid from the tenseness of staying hyper-aware with every step she takes; for she knows, this is not where she belongs.

It would be days before her family and the police find her, and they would all wonder why she was there, it was not safe, bad things could happen there.  She was found hanging in the basement of an old building. Her family would cry, grieve, and then angrily wonder; when will the color of your skin, no longer kill you.

She was so excited! She had received her very first invitation to her first teenage party and everything had to be perfect. She would spend hours buying a new dress, having her legs waxed, and last but not least; her facial hair waxed to cover the beard that was now in full growth. Her name was legally changed, from Max to Mackenzie, and she was flourishing with her new life, happier than she had ever been.

There was loud music and alcohol flowing from every room of the big house. She was uneasy, but sure that her invitation was sincere, and with that felt safe. Hours later, a group of kids would find her in the back yard, stripped of her dress, lying on the cold ground with a gash on the back of her head from a hammer-blow that she never saw coming.

Her family would cry, grieve, and then angrily wonder, why their child would be treated with hatred and intolerance, when she wanted nothing but to love and be loved for who she was in life. She didn’t live to know a day of tolerance; the day when the world would learn to love others who were different without fear and judgment.

They would all stand in a classroom, seemingly just like any other day, when suddenly the door would come crashing down, and a gun wielding mad-man would stand before them demanding to know their religious beliefs. One by one they would be asked and would answer “I am a Christian” and one by one, they would fall for their sacrifice and beliefs.  

Their families would cry, grieve, and then angrily wonder, how has this day come that their loved ones believing in their God would cause them to meet Him long before they should have been ready.

This isn’t about gun control - it’s about a rope, a hammer, and a gun; used with racism, hatred and intolerance. Our nation has to accept the responsibility that we’ve failed in our job of raising a generation of people with the fundamentals of human compassion and love for all.

Killing people for their sexual/gender orientation, their skin color, or the God that they believe in, are the headline captions every day, as the rising death-count silently pleads; wake-up America, before it’s too late. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shovels and Snow Tires

Isn’t it amazing how the first day of fall hits and automatically the temperatures drop about five degrees per day; it’s cloudy and all “falley” looking outside, I mean it’s like a literal switch was flipped.  I’m sure there’s some kind of quirky “cold front” that came through – as if THAT’S a real thing here in Florida, but the timing is unreal just the same.

Either way, it’s a nice change of scenery and temperature, because last night as I sat out on my glider at 5:15, I wasn’t choking to death from the heat. There was a nice cool breeze, and as I sat there I was wondering what the temperature actually was, so I checked the weather app on my phone and it was only 81 degrees!

What a remarkable difference, because just last Sunday I was sitting in that same spot about the same time and I was about to burst into flames it was so hot. I was talking on the phone with my oldest son who lives in Vermont now, and as I was listening to him talk about their weather changes, I felt as if I was melting away in my seat, and dripping onto the porch creating a puddle of liquefied human.

He was saying how cool the nights in Vermont are now – like 55 degrees every night and that the days are about to start cooling down as well to a low of the 70 degree range. That particular day in Quincy Florida it was still 91 degrees at 5:30 and as I listened to him drift into conversation about the winters in Vermont, my gator fan was blowing on high behind me, so the roar was pretty loud, but I could have sworn I heard him say something about snow tires?

This year will be quite the test for him living out a winter in Vermont, the temperature highs some days are near zero or below, the snow can be crazy and yes, he may have to purchase snow tires at some point. He knows that to be able to go to work, shoveling drive-ways is a reality in his future. He is also a Georgia/Florida native so all of those things are going to be quite the change for him.

But he’s also about to see one of the most magnificent fall-changing-color-seasons he will have ever seen in his life. Every day now he wakes-up to mountains right outside his bedroom window. His desk is also facing that same window, so that when he writes, he always has the most peaceful and beautiful scenes one could imagine.

In another week or so the leaves will begin to change there and the menagerie of colors will be nothing short of breath-taking. People from around these parts drive hours and hours, spending money on hotel reservations just to see a glimpse of that beauty for a few days. To have it all right at your finger-tips – well one would have to wonder if those sights of natural beauty would ever get old? I am surely thinking not.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

And He Said.....GERONIMO!!!!

I was reminded during our vacation this past week, traits of my husband’s personality that I normally over-look. I’m about to touch on some of the highlights of our trip, and as always, I’ll be keeping it real.

Anna Ruby Falls was so majestic and amazing, however the 3,000 feet of elevation during the climb was pure hell and I should have strapped an oxygen mask to my face because I’m pretty sure in between the starting and stopping to regain breath and air, I saw angels more than once; but they say in your last moments, sometimes you tend to hallucinate, so it could have been that as well.

We visited another site called “The Gourd Place”. Now I almost didn’t get to see this as my husband was convinced by the sign on the side of the road, that we would find nothing but gourds hanging from poles; well what a surprise he did find!

Part of this place was things collected over the years that were made out of gourds, i.e.; banjos, ladles, horns, guitars, etc. But the most amazing part of the building was designated to more modern
uses such as dinnerware and candlestick holders that had been painted different colors and were made to be dishwasher-safe. 

I took a LOT of pictures and as all adventurous people like myself are – we think there is nowhere that we can’t go to get “that perfect shot”.  I learned some new things about my husband – mostly that he’s terrified of doing jail-time and he’s not about to go up into any place that looks like you shouldn’t be there – even if there are no signs saying that.  At some point I asked him, “I wonder what’s up there in that building” and his response was “nothing that concerns you, covered in security cameras and protected by a SWAT team ready to take you down if I drive you up there.” 

I would also hear “just another way to get your dang money – aka tourist-trap” more than once, but the time we just about came to blows was over the $5 parking required to park in town so you could stay all day, get out and walk as well as shop til’ you drop. We wasted thirty minutes, $10 of gas and spotted three tow-trucks before he decided paying to park was inevitable.

I will admit these types of vacations are kind of “girlie” and that men are required to be extra patient. I’m sure he had to dig deep a few times to rid the thoughts of gently bumping me off a mountain; if I heard it one time I heard it twelve, “it sho is a looonnngg way down there”.  I watch a lot of CSI, I know how these “mishaps” can occur.

But I think he enjoyed most of it as much as I did, maybe even enough to go back one day. Although
I tried to see everything, I missed the two Christmas shops that were closed and I’m pretty sure I saw him secretly thanking Jesus for that narrow escape.

Friday, September 18, 2015

These Hills Bring Peace

The first time I was ever exposed to the mountains of Tennessee I was about 16 years old and my parents took us on a family vacation in February. Snow was still lying everywhere on the mountains and I immediately fell in love with the look and smell of the land as it lay covered in white and was as tall as the eyes could see.

So when for my high school graduation present I was asked where I wanted to go the most, I chose the Tennessee Mountains. Every single high schooler I knew was headed to Panama City Beach to scream at the top of their lungs and heat their skin bronze in celebration of 12 years of their lives accomplished and finished complete.  I however, chose Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Once again, we would head off to the mountains and that’s where I would spend the next however many days looking at the land that made me feel whole and complete. I’ve never been quite sure what my attraction to trees, hills and green land is, but it fills a hole inside of me that I can’t really explain.

When I was growing-up, my grandmother spent several of her vacations with my grandfather in Helen Georgia. She would talk about it like it was the land of magical mountains and with the same mellow sounds of satisfaction when she spoke, that seems to perfectly match my own feelings.

This year I couldn’t quite make up my mind where I wanted to vacation; Savannah, Georgia was my first choice, I lived there as a small child at the age of four, and I wanted to go back and see it as an adult. But I waited too long to try and make arrangements/reservations so that will be a trip for next year on me and my husband’s 10th wedding anniversary.

After a little more thinking and perusing the internet, Helen, Georgia was my next choice. I decided I wanted to see with my own eyes, what my grandmother found so enchanting about this special place. I’ve only arrived today, but I’ll tell you this, at the first sight of hills and grassy mountains in the distance, I was already in my own special place, as the sights and beauty began to fill that small empty hole inside of me that only the mountains seem to fill. 

Tomorrow we will venture out on foot and see all the sights that I have outlined in advance – Anna Ruby Falls, the Baby-Land General Hospital, and the Christmas Shops, the Old Sautee Store where I’m told the ice cream is to die for, and rummage through the rest of the shops galore up and down the beautiful streets of Helen.

But tonight I am tired from the drive and the little bit of tramping-around we’ve already accomplished walking the creek behind our hotel at sunset. So I’m headed out to my balcony overlooking my requested mountain view and thank the heavens and my grandmother above for this very special vacation memory that is unfolding as I write.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What If.......

What if I hadn't been born to my American, white parents? What if I was a black woman from Harlem whose son had been shot down by one bad cop in the name of hate and no good reason, would I then trust any cops, anywhere? Would I fear for my life because of the color of my skin? Would that always be one of my biggest fears?

Or as a white wife of a police officer who died, because someone walked up behind him, never knowing him, but knowing his job by the clothing he wore, and shot him in the back of his head leaving me without a husband, and my children without a father.

I wonder how I’m not a Syrian woman with a family of seven, piled-up in a makeshift boat, trying to travel hundreds of miles across water to safety, only to arrive and be scorned, looked-down-upon and spat-on in disgust; going sometimes days without food, sleeping in the street, and any hovel of a hole we could all fit into, and crying – crying for my hungry children who I thought I was helping to survive, but now, the struggle is still so very real.

I wonder all of these things until my heart breaks, because the facts are - somebody is all of these people - they are somebody to all of these REAL people that are dead now. How did we get to this point of hatred? How did we seemingly come so far, only to turn around and go back 40 years, back into the days of hate and violence being spewed from our hearts, our mouths and the guns in our hands?

I keep hearing and seeing Black Lives Matter everywhere – let me tell you something – all lives matter, every single one of them. For those of us fortunate to be born in the right place, in the right time, well Glory Hallelujah!  But all of us are not those people, and no, we shouldn’t feel guilty for our place in this life, but by gosh we should feel a definite responsibility to uphold our abilities to provide human compassion for those less fortunate, instead of walking past them in the streets of Greece (or anywhere else) with disgust on our faces because our vacations have been ruined by their will to stay alive at any cost.

What matters is WHAT WE DO FROM HERE – RIGHT NOW. And let me tell you, there had better be a plan, because otherwise we are Iraq and Syria and any other country that kills its own at any given time, with no laws, for no reason, and no consequences.

Our lives - ALL OF THEM - better start mattering and quickly, or we will surely, just kill each other off, one by one until there is nothing left of us. Maybe this is the 2nd coming everyone keeps talking about; maybe He is letting us take care of cleansing this earth ourselves, because we are surely not honoring the sacrifices He made so we could be here. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Current of Life Moves Swiftly

I know I’m not the only one who looks in the mirror and still sees a young woman who still listens to young/hip music, still laughs at bawdy humor, and who still dances in the car when she drives.

Some days I never see the wrinkles that shadow the corners of my eyes, the age spots on my hands that I prefer to see as new freckles, or the lack of strength in my hands when I can’t open jar lids anymore without the help of someone stronger. All of these changes I push to the back of my mind as if they didn’t exist; that is until reality intercedes and I am forced to acknowledge where I am in this thing we call our life-span and I silently accept that I’m not twenty-five anymore.

Sometimes it’s simply the events in our lives that force us to answer to our ages. Sometimes it’s the conversations when you’re re-telling old stories and the crowd surrounding you appears stunned that your story didn’t include covered wagons, and Cowboys and Indians, because the tales that you’re reciting from memory sound to them as if you’re an ancient relic.

And sometimes, it’s something as simple as your youngest child is six months away from being twenty-one years old, and your oldest child is eight months away from being thirty years old and the last conversation that you had with your oldest child he was saying he hoped he didn’t have a birthday crisis – and all you can think while he’s talking is – I hope you don’t either, because both of us cannot have a crisis at the same time.

From last May until even just recently, so many engagements have been announced, wedding dates set – and I mean by children! And if they’re not getting married, they already are married and they’re all having babies - babies that are playing tee-ball, and taking ballet lessons and starting kindergarten!

And the parents of these children wonder out loud, where has the time gone? How did their babies turn five years old this summer? Well let me tell you kiddo’s something, I wonder the same thing from time to time myself.

How did my two children become grown people, with grown-up jobs, and living grown-up lives? What was I so busy doing that I didn’t notice they weren’t wearing little boy sandals anymore, or that they now wear cologne that smells like those good-looking men that pass you in the mall, or that I’m no longer telling them they need to bathe with soap, they know when and how to shower all by themselves.

Slow down, work hard, but work less and play more. Be present for all those silly faces and conversations, make story-time a nightly regime, finger-paint with tiny hands, bake cookies, and on Saturday, play in the water-sprinkler instead of cleaning house. 

Because the next thing you know you’re looking in your own mirror, applying wrinkle- cream and wishing you could re-wind your own life, and used your own time a little wiser and made more memories.