How Do You Like My Leaf?

One of the many things I loved and miss about my mom is how we used to make up silly songs together about ordinary situations. Usually, this would happen when we were walking or cleaning or driving somewhere. I used to love running errands with her, even when I was older. She was the kind of person who made mundane things in life a little extra special and fun.  When my dad would protest to the unrealistic nature of blockbuster musicals, we would point out to him that he kind of lived in a musical.

Though my mom and I both had a deep appreciation for good music, the songs we’d make up were classically terrible. Just really, really bad–but funny. Snort until (your pants are at risk) level of funny. Usually, the melody would either be stolen or very haphazard, and the lyrics would be morbid, purposely obtuse, or random observations.  Sometimes they wouldn’t make any sense to anyone but us. We could rarely remember them later.

HOWEVER, I do remember the very first song.

The very first song we ever made up together was when I was about three years old, and it was called, “How do you like my leaf?”

Mom and I were walking at Wilshire Trails park in Gainesville, Ga. It’s a beautiful park, with paths that wind through threes and over streams, an old, covered “Troll bridge,” and several large rocks on which to climb. It was autumn, and the ground was strewn with wet red, yellow and brown leaves stuck to the path. I picked one up gleefully and beamed up at my grown BFF.

“How do you like my leaf?” I singsonged.

Without missing a beat, mom sang back: “It’s very wonderful!”

“How do you like my leaf?”

“Very Very NICEEE!”

“How do you like my leaf?”

“I don’t want to sing this song!” (still singing of course)

“How do you like my leaf?”

“VERY VERY NICE!!!!”

This kept going. It escalated. The faux angst to my mom’s response lyrics got increasingly more panicked. You get the idea.

Whether we wanted to or not, we would remember, “How do you like my leaf?” forever after.  It can get stuck in your head permanently. Eventually, my mom, dad and I hated that song, but we loved it too.

Well, that silly little song has been in my head a lot this week, and I know it is because it is the week of my mom’s birthday.   Autumn was, in so many ways, her season. It was the time of the year when my small family made so many formative childhood memories. Autumn was when we’d head up to the Appalachian Mountains and camp as much as we possibly could. Autumn is when we’d meet my grandparents for a cozy vacation in Tennessee. Autumn was when we’d head to Jaemor Farms to buy all the apples and explore the corn maze. It was when my dad would light up the old fireplace for the first time in months, making our house by the lake smell like old stone and smoke and spices and woods.

All of these memories, and so many more, float through my head  constantly  this time of year. They are like memory-leaves scattering down, catching on light breezes as my heart jerks in response to them.

A few days ago, I was walking with Kora, my three year old daughter, and she found a bright orange leaf that she thought was amazing. She beamed at me with her billion watt smile.

“Look, mama! A Nana (banana) leaf!”

It was a perfect leaf, and a perfect memory, and a perfect moment to share a little bit of my mom with my daughter. So I taught Kora the infamous jingle. Of course, what with being the very bottom of the barrel it terms of sophistication, the song thrilled Kora’s little heart and provoked many giggles.

Yesterday, out of nowhere, she wanted to sing it with me again. It caught me in the gut, but made me smile, too.

My mom’s birthday is tomorrow (October 27), and it is the first year since she’s passed where I have a very full day that does not allow me much time to reflect. The last four years, I’ve purposefully tried not to schedule much, unless it was getting together with my dad and/or grandmother. It has kind of been a day for me to remember, to put flowers on my mom’s grave, to look at pictures. Tomorrow will not be that, though. I’ll be participating as a first-time vendor in a really whimsical local fall festival, selling  the apothecary products that I make.  When the opportunity first presented itself, I knew I wanted to do it immediately. However, when I found out it was on the 27th, I hesitated. Would it be wrong to be busy?

But the more I think about it all,  the more I feel good about it. My mom would have been so excited about me doing this, and I know it will be a fun new fall memory for me and my family.  So many little things this week keep pointing me back to the thought that I am able to go forward while smiling back at the beautiful memories behind me.  There is heartache to be felt, but sweetness to remember…And wonderful things that can only be built because of what has come before.

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The Secret Garden (AKA The Library)

The deep South has its fare share of gardens. In fact, here in south Mississippi, where I currently reside, a step outside in mid-to-late spring yields an instantaneous whiff of deep, sweet fragrant flowers—Honeysuckle, Magnolia, Gardenia. These are some of the most most heavenly, decadent blooms of all, to my mind. They are also some of the most short-lived. This is almost ominous, because if spring in the deep South is beautiful and lovely (and it is), it is equally short-lived.

Then we get summer. About five months of it.

And in some parts of the deep South, like south Mississippi, summer is a time that you don’t really want to be outside too much.

Why?

If you have to ask, then you clearly have never sat in a sauna with an non-breathable blanket over your head.

Then you have clearly never felt the need to change clothes after a short and exhausting walk to the mail box.

You have clearly never seared the bare-skin of your thighs on the seat of a car when attempting to run errands.

You have clearly never had your hairstyle or makeup melt, almost instantly, off your face the second you leave the house.

You have clearly never—

You getting the picture?

It’s not just hot here.  It’s a drowning kind of heat. And in a small town, like where I live, there’s not much you can do to escape it.

There’s not a mall here. There aren’t many restaurants. There are no indoor parks. My town doesn’t have a movie theater.  You can drive to other towns for some of  those things, if you feel like it. But, a lot of times, you don’t really feel like being out all day, because of the heat.  There’s one public swimming pool, but it’s pretty insane once the the heat picks up.

Mostly, people are inclined to visit each other: at their houses, at church, at work, at pools of friends and families of friends. If you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, and that’s the vibe you are getting…it’s because it really IS like that. (If you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird,  then I suggest you do so immediately).

There are definitely wonderful things about living in a small, Southern town. But summers can be hard. This is not true everywhere in the south, of course. I grew up in the south, a town in Northeast Georgia. But it was a bigger town than where I live now, and it was also close to the mountains, as well as a lake. There were plenty of ways to be outside and get cool. My husband grew up in Florida (which is not really the South, culturally speaking, though it’s plenty hot).  Still, he had the beach.

Because of this heat-issue, I struggled a little with making things fun for my (then) almost-2 year old, last summer. Now, even though it’s just the first of May, I’ve started thinking about ways to make this summer more memorable for her.  Summers are such a magic time, aren’t they? At least, I think they SHOULD be. Thanks to a certain HGTV show, the downtown area of our neighboring town has flourished, and we now have more things to go and do nearby. However, all of these things cost money,  which tends to add up if you are using them to escape the heat.

Then I remembered something. One of those simple, duh, moments. A memory from my own childhood.

The library, of course. We don’t have a bookstore here, but we DO have a library. The town right next to us has an even bigger library.

My own childhood is filled with memories of the library, especially in the summertime. We’d go every Friday–my mom, dad, and I.  Coming in from a sparklingly bright parking lot to the quiet, clean smell of dusted books and the cold, sharp AC elicited a feeling of excitement.  Reverent  tones. The flicking of pages. I can still feel the weight of the bags of new books we’d leave with–worlds waiting to be discovered.

So yesterday, I told my almost-three year old about the library.

That it was a place we would be going. A place where for her to listen to stories with other children and find new books to read. A place so special, a place of such awe, that you have to whisper when you go there.

And we went. And she loved it. She picked out three books and we have read them all about three times since yesterday.

In the perilous summers of the deep South, the library is its own haven.  Some say libraries are on their way out in the digital era, but all I can say is that I refuse to believe it. Libraries are a sanctuary, a secret garden. Many may have forgotten them, but those who remember the library love it truly and always. May we nurture it and share it’s beautiful secrets with others, so that we never forget what an oasis it can be.

 

Standing Desks: What’s the Big Deal?

My husband has been talking about standing desks for awhile now.

While his past jobs have kept him physically active, he now works a desk job which means that he sits at a computer for most of the day. After work, he comes home and pays bills. Recently he also started online classes (we are both going to school with SNHU online); this also keeps him sitting, glued to a screen.  Lately, he’s had more back problems than ever and has felt down about the sedentary nature of his daily routine.

He’s a tall, strong guy and he wants to use his body and stay healthy.  He’s basically Mr. Incredible, and therefore I really think he doesn’t want this to happen:

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I also want him to be happy and healthy of course, so I was totally supportive of the whole standing desk idea for our home office, even though it seemed a little weird to me.

This weekend the stand came in and assembly began. He converted his Monster (HUGE) Desk into an adjustable desk with a crank that can raise or lower the height so that it can be used while standing or sitting. It looks like a Mutant -Monster desk now.

“You’ll use it too?” he kept asking me, excitedly, “I mean, do you think you’ll like it?”

I just kind of shrugged, “Sure, I guess. Maybe.”

In all honesty, I couldn’t picture it. I am ADD and I get distracted enough as it is. I usually have to do like five things before I can settle in to on my writing projects or grad school assignments: coffee, blanket, computer glasses, music. . . toddler MUST be napping or I can’t focus at all.Then it takes me about 20 minutes, after settling in, to stop the circuit of rabbit-trailing articles or checking social media and actually begin the work at hand.

I could only imagine how distracted I would get standing up. That just didn’t seem -well- cozy/settled to me. Also, I chase a  1 year old around most of the day and exercise on a fairly regular basis, so I don’t really struggle with feeling inactive.

But yesterday I had to write a paper and I wanted to use the office. Why not? I figured. I’ll give the Mutant Monster Desk a try.

Then it happened.

I realized that standing desks are FREAKING AMAZING.

I mean, I am totally, completely IN LOVE with them.

Here is why:

  1. Something about the act of standing up actually helps keep my ADD brain on track. I did not expect this. I guess my body is saying, Okay, remember what you are here to do. You are standing up. You are not a lump. You are a person with a brain and purpose. Get to it. This is the complete opposite of what I expected to happen.
  2. I can actually stretch while I work. If I’m listening to music (which I always am when I am working) I can bounce/dance around a little.
  3. Movement makes me happy, as it does for most of us (even if we don’t realize it). Being able to use your body is a natural mood booster. I did not feel nearly as anxious  as I normally would about having to write a paper under a major time crunch. Being able to move and focus better were both huge stress-reducers.
  4. No added tension to my neck and shoulders. I have chronic headaches; any stress or discomfort seems to make it’s way directly to my noggin. Obviously, hunching over my laptop, as I frequently do, does not help the situation.  I actually had a really bad headache when I started working on my paper yesterday. However, the standing/stretching I was able to do while at the standing desk honestly helped to ease my discomfort.
  5. Energy. I finished my paper around midnight, which would normally be past my ideal bedtime. However, last night I felt almost hyper after my time spent at the standing desk.

So today, I couldn’t wait to get back in the office after Kora went down for her nap. I decided I would use the standing desk to spend some time researching benefits of . . . well . . . the standing desk. Here is what the research says, based on my findings here and here and  here.

  1. Those who used sit-stand desks were 78% more likely to report a pain-free day than those who used regular workstations, according to a Stanford University back pain study.
  2. The increased utilization of standing/sitting desks may help reduce obesity in our nation and the multiple related health concerns which accompany it.
  3. Did you know that an hour or more of daily sitting can actually lower your metabolism and your body’s good cholesterol, contributing to Type II Diabetes and Heart Disease? This is something that the increased utilization of standing desks could help combat. This is regardless of whether or not you exercise other times of the day.
  4. A 2011 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that workers who were given sitting/standing stations sat a lot less and experienced improved moods. Happy workers are good.
  5. A 2015 study published in the Oxford Journal of Public Health shows that sit-to-stand desks in classrooms appear to be an effective way of reducing sedentary behavior (prolonged sitting) in a diverse sample of children. This means that using this option in schools could help the upcoming generation to establish healthier habits.
  6. Office workers who are equipped with sitting/standing desks may be WAY more productive. One study by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health found office workers who stood were 46% more productive than their sitting counterparts. That a is HUGE productivity.
  7. Though research has not yet yielded significant data to support it, my personal case study has indicated that using a standing desk while listening to dramatic film scores may increase your likelihood of feeling like a super hero/villain/spy. This is always a good thing.

Okay, so you get the picture. I’m all about the standing now, and the standing desks. Does it sound weird to you?  Try it. Just try it. I dare you. And let me know what happens.

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Remembering the Tidal Wave

-There’s no denying that this week, the week of June 18, sucks. Maybe it always will.  Each moment of June 18, 2013…and the days leading up to it, are pounding brain in tidal waves of memory and grief this week. I’m not alone in grief; I don’t pretend to be. I don’t share these thoughts in an effort to seem important, but because these feelings are important, and we all have them. They merit expression in words, which don’t come easily for everyone.  Our stories matter. Here’s some of mine-

It’s not just remembering saying goodbye the day you died. It’s the remembrance of everything in those last days.

That final trip to the hospital, when you were discharged and assigned hospice care.  I promised to make you something good to eat when we got home. You just looked at me with those sad, blue, dolphin eyes. You smiled, slightly; I took a photo.  I didn’t know that you were saying goodbye, then. I had absolutely no idea. Not until June the 19, when I was sorting out pictures for the funeral arrangements. I looked at that photo – taken only days before – and saw your face looking back at me in that moment: brave, sad, loving, pitying.

At home, family began to arrive. Hospice gravely told us you had a few weeks, perhaps. The truth was it would only be a few days. Dad went back to the bedroom and told you, quietly, what they’d said. I heard you cry out, “I don’t want to die yet!” The loudest words you’d spoken in weeks. It broke my heart. Breaks my heart, even at this very moment; I can hear it now.

That night I screamed. And screamed. This was a nightmare I had had over and over as a small child. But was this real? Was this real? No, no, couldn’t be. It was. But it couldn’t be.

Surely I would wake up.

The next day, you went to sleep.

 Your friends and family poured in. Bringing food. Sitting in the bed next to you. Singing and praying and kissing your face as you drifted in and out of awareness.  I lay in bed with my arms around you while you slept. I tried not to cry, in case you would hear, but once I lost control. You hadn’t moved all day, until then. You moaned and lifted your hand to rub my back, softly. Small tears slipped out of the corners of your closed eyes. Later, there would be a tiny bit of dry salt there.

Don’t worry. I know how much you love me. Always have. Always will.

June 17: The night before it happened, I sat near you with my husband and my best friend. We read you poems. You seemed content, though you did not stir. Dad held your hand all night: so sweet, so vigilant.

I went to home.

He called the next morning. Early. Barely able to get the words out, he told me that you were struggling to breathe, “fish out of water,” he said.

I made it just in time, which was a miracle. Another miracle; you heard my voice and opened your eyes: looked at me, into me.

That’s how you left the world, looking into me.

Pouring your love into me, just like you always had.

I saw you leave. Saw the light go out. Saw your body empty of you. I know where you went.

No one could die better. What a hard thing, but what an honor, it was: to say goodbye like that, your eyes on mine. It’s a memory that hurts and haunts me, but I treasure it all the same. Sometimes, a lot of times, that’s the image I see when I close my eyes at night.

-People say that grief comes in waves, and they are right. That’s how it feels. Like a tidal wave. I think that the first year is the worst for most people: you never know how high the waves are going to be, when they are going to hit. It’s not that you miss someone less after the first year; it’s just that you learn to keep swimming. Life keeps happening no matter how much you feel like it should have stopped. Eventually it just becomes part of you. That doesn’t mean you forget, or that it doesn’t hurt anymore, but it becomes a different sort of thing. You learn to anticipate what might trigger it: holidays, birthday and weeks like this one: the anniversary of the loss.

It’s been 3 years now, and most days I keep swimming pretty well. But this week has – like a tidal wave – knocked me off my feet. I wasn’t expecting it, somehow. All these memories to come flooding in this strongly. It sucks – literally sucks the air out of me-sucks me down under the weight of everything. People who haven’t had this kind of loss in their lives don’t quite realize how much these waves can  feel less like sadness and more like raw horror. While I share this without a bow on top, without any dusting of sugar, I do know that it won’t always hurt like this.

Next week will be better, different, again. But I do think it’s important to acknowledge our pain when we’re in it. We feel these things  because we’ve lost something valuable–in our grief, we acknowledge the value of what we’ve lost.

As my mom always said, “It is what it is.”

Fruit and Flowers: 4th Anniversary

They say you won’t be able to sleep the night before your wedding, and that, the day of your wedding, you will be jittery and nervous.  Last night when I went to sleep, I got to thinking about how none of that had been true for me, exactly four years ago.

The night before my wedding, I was excited, but not nervous. I slept well, if little: the “little” part was only because it had been a late night visiting with family and because I had to get up early the next morning to get beautiful. I remember the strange realization that fell over me as I crawled into my childhood bed, head on “The Little Mermaid” pillowcase that my mom had put there (probably with emotions that I can only begin to understand now that I’m a mother.)

I realized that I wouldn’t be sleeping there anymore, not unless there was some special reason. My best friend and maid-of-honor was sleeping on an air mattress or something in my room, and I realized that I was – for the most part – saying goodbye to Little Mermaid pillowcases and slumber parties (I have since realized that there are some exceptions!)

It was the last of so many things I knew, with infinite firsts on the horizon.

But I slept, and slept well, maybe because I knew that it was all new for Dane, too. That’s what marriage is, in large part: loving someone enough to say, “Hey, whatever it is, this life together, I want it with you. Let’s jump into the unknown, holding hands. You are my person, and we will help each other  with all the firsts & all the lasts, too.”

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Four years later, and I know there is no one else that I’d rather be holding my hand. We are blessed to share so many things in common: creative interests, nerdy stuff, morals and values, perspectives on family and faith. We enjoy each other, though we are not perfect at all. We are also incredibly different from one another in ways that can make things challenging for us sometimes.

In the way we approach life, we couldn’t be more opposite: I’m over here clumsily juggling 20 balls in the air (and dropping some, like “oh well!”) Meanwhile, he’s in the opposite corner, slowly and carefully entering each task into a spreadsheet, thinking of the best way to get each thing done. I’m more emotional, passion-driven. He is more practical, rule-oriented.  Sometimes we step on each other’s toes.

Sometimes we also show our affection in different ways, which can mean that, sadly, we often miss what the other has done in a wholehearted effort to say, “I love you.” When we have these differences, though, we are both learning to grasp the realization that what the other was trying to say was, in fact, “I love you,” and that’s really what matters most.

We’ve been through a lot of death and a lot of change in four short years, and I think it’s made us both realize how short life is. And this year we celebrate our anniversary with our little girl.  I think she has made our hearts grow larger, so that as our love for her has grown, our love and appreciation for one another has, too. Every day I am grateful for the love that binds us. Every day I am grateful our life together.

Happy 4th Anniversary, Dane!

(Apparently, we are supposed to give each other fruit and flowers.)

 

 

The Beauty of Blockbuster

Growing up,  my mom and I would often hit the local Blockbuster after school. I’ve got this clear picture of the event: me in my school uniform, rain dripping down on our green van. It’s probably a Thursday afternoon. Thursday afternoons are the best time for Blockbuster. It gives you weekend movies and Friday-flourescent-light-daydreams of vegging out.

We didn’t just go when a new movie was out on DVD or (gasp) video, either. We went when we were in a mood that needed to find resonance at a cinematic level.

It’s the same mood you have when you venture into the library or into a bookstore. You don’t know where you are about to go, but you know there is some kind of journey ahead. It’s a journey that involves walking down aisles that are stocked with possibility, each containing a world all it’s own.

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Then, gradually, then quickly, life changed. We became the instant age.

Remember when Netflix first arrived and you just put a whole bunch of things in your online cue, but you didn’t know what they might send you? It was a new surprise each time, and it was the hippest Russian Roulette to date. Then came the days when you could watch Netflix from your laptop (if you were really cool).

Today, pretty much everyone has Netflix available right on their TV screen (and by that, we  mean what used to be known as “instant watch”). It’s nice, I mean, it’s convenient and yes—it’s perfect for chilling. Heck, there’s a whole layer of Millenials (not my layer, but the younger ones) who base their social lives around the phrase, “Netflix and chill.” (Yes, I know, that’s not actually what that means…and this post is just gonna dodge that bullet.)

I’m not saying Netflix is bad, not at all. I love my Netflix, especially now that they are coming out with these amazing original series (Daredevil, anyone?). All I’m saying is that now, Blockbusters are no more. One day, I will have to explain to my children and grandchildren that – back when I was a kid – we used to have to go to a store and pay to borrow a movie that we wanted to watch. It probably will sound terrible to them, maybe their little eyes will widen in horror. Is this the future equivalent to walking “six miles in the snow?”

But I don’t know if there will be a way to explain it. The process of taking time, the physical act of pacing, picking choices up, putting them down. What mood are you in? What kind of weekend will it be?

I don’t know if I will ever be able to tell them how such a simple act had the ability to slow down dull, rainy Thursday afternoons, how it provided the therapeutic ability to process, analyze and make mood-oriented cinematic choices.

But there it is, the long-lost  beauty of Blockbuster.

 

The Power of Nerd Awe

Awe: a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.

Nerds have a great deal of awe. In fact, nerds have a special kind of awe, different from the awe of others.

It is this Nerd Awe that gives the Nerd his power.  It’s an energy field created by all epic things. It surrounds us literature and film lovers and binds us together, connecting our mundane and fantastical worlds.

Do you have this great power in YOU?

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Ponder these things in your heart,  and you will know the answer.

Have you ever stayed up until the early hours of the morning with a book…Eyes heavy with fatigue, heart racing with adrenaline? You know that, if you fall asleep, they may never find the final Horcrux.

Have you ever felt tingles down your spine as you listen to a John Williams score, overwhelmed by the complicated emotions brought on by the Force?

Have you ever been filled with joy, smiling to yourself like a moron, over the typed words on a page, the scene from a film, that reminds you that friendship is so much more than text messages or hangouts? True friendship, you realize, goes to Mount Doom and Back Again, no matter the consequences.

Have you ever read a line from a book and felt like dancing up and down: “Someone else understands! Somebody gets it, and they said it better than I ever even thought to think it.”

Do you ever listen to music and daydream that you are fighting an army (zombies, orcs, wizards, etc) and totally killing it? (Be honest, now.)

Have you ever tried to use a superpower that maybe, just maybe you actually have, but you just have to believe it enough?

Do you ever get goosebumps from a feeling that you can’t quite describe, a sensation connected to the rediscovery of an alternate view of the world…and world of ancient, long-forgotten binaries:  good versus evil, right versus wrong, what we can do and what we must do.

Do all of these things inspire you? To read. To write. To travel. To make deep friendships. To have adventures?

If you know these things to be true, then wield the mighty power of Nerd Awe well, and you could change the world. 

Just remember, my fellow Nerds: with great power comes great responsibility.

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“…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

-John Green

The Struggle of Living in the Present

Living in the present is both something that I conscientiously try to do, maybe more than most people…. and it’s also something which is a real and honest struggle for me.

It’s started really early for me. I can probably peg it to a dream I had when I was about four. I had this dream that my mom died, and I woke up crying because I realized-for the first time- that one day she probably would go before me. It became my worst fear for most of my childhood. My mom was my best friend, and I didn’t want her to go. I tried to appreciate her as much as possible. Then, as many of you know, she did end up leaving this world way too soon. Have you ever had your childhood nightmare unfurl in front of you? Trying to stretch time out before the trauma comes, to love as hard as possible but  finding it’s not enough to retain the present? It leaves you with a weird relationship with time. You realize that it will keep slipping away even as you try, so deliberately, to soak it in.

I also remember when I turned 10, being kind of contemplative about how great my childhood had been up until that point and the fact that it was going  by too quickly. I was definitely aware that time was speeding up and I needed to enjoy it, but the fact that I was so aware  made it hard to do that.

Was I just a weird kid? Are there others of you out there?

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There are a plethora of similar examples, but I think they all essentially represent a serious paradox of the introspective, melancholy type.

Fundamentally, we are aware of the present. We are aware of its joy, of its depth in grief, of its illusive inability to be captured. There are photographs we consciously take in an awareness of the fleetingness of life. I do think that those mental photographs are one of the best things I do to live in the present, but it’s still hard to keep the ongoing moment in focus when I know I am trying to remember something that might be gone, later. My mind always is slipping forward, to the “What if? Whens?” or backward to the “Remember?” It’s hard to keep it still.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that’s all bad. The fact that my brain tries too hard to appreciate the present does actually help me appreciate people and events in my life better, I think. However, it can still steal my joy in the present.

I was struggling the other night as I lay in bed, caught between memories and inevitabilities and yearning for the peace of the present.

I realized, suddenly, that I have one anchor throughout all my life. Just one.

The Lord is in every time and every place, and He has always been-will always be-with me, wherever I am.  There’s a saying that, in life, we enter and leave alone, but as a Christian I know that that’s not true. My God is with me in every stage of my life, and there is so much comfort in that realization.

So my prayer for today-yours, if you want it-  is for joy in the present, appreciating but not overthinking. Each moment God has made was made to be lived in.

“This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118: 24

 

Ode to an Irish Blessing Mug

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Today I wanted to make myself a proper cup of English tea, and in doing so I came across this mug:

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It’s pretty fortuitous that I would be using this Irish blessing mug on today of all days. And not just because it’s Irish, actually. This mug has a story.

When I was 14, I traveled back and forth between Georgia and Mississippi with my parents once a month, and we would stay in this house (the same one I live in now) for a week. This house actually belonged to my great-grandparents, and it’s special to all of my family. It’s not that it’s large or fancy or worth whole lot of money; it’s really just a small, simple house, a bit rough around the edges these days. Despite those things, it’s rich in memories for all of us, and I feel very blessed that my dad was able to bring us to live here part-time then, and that I get to live here full-time now.

Anyway, back to then. After about a year of traveling back and forth so frequently, my family stopped and stayed in GA for awhile. This house  lay empty for almost ten years. I remember the first time I brought Dane, then my boyfriend (I think it was 2010) to this house. It was so strange, like it had been frozen in time. The pictures we had kept on the fridge were still there, my old bedroom had an issue of Pointe magazine (I was a ballerina) on the nightstand and the photo I had pinned to the mirror of Josh Groban was still there. It was eerie, to be honest, as if my 14 year old self still existed and had just run out to do something.

And now, even more years later, I live here again, and new memories of my life with Dane and Kora and my Mississippi relatives are layered over those snapshots of time from that year I spent sweet time here with my parents. The fact that my dad has since had a stroke and my mom has passed away makes it seem like much longer ago than a mere 12 years (sometimes, I feel ancient) then there are the other memories-memories from when I was a little kid and I’d come here to see my Mamaw and all of my cousins and I would run around in the yard. There are more stories still, overlapping that–memories that are not my own, but my dad’s, my uncle’s, my aunt’s…stories that didn’t happen to me, but are still a very real part of who I am.

How the heck did I get to this thought-rambling with a mug full of tea (which is now cold, btw)? Here’s how: I bought that mug when I was 14, on one of our trips here.  Somehow it had become buried among my Mamaw’s Christmas mugs in the deepest, darkest corner of the kitchen cabinets. And, despite the fact that we’ve been in this house for over a year now, I only recently re-discovered it.

It just made me think of the way that memories layer themselves. They hide, are found, take on new meanings later.

When I was 14, I’m sure the words “May the road rise up to meet you,” made me think of some grand adventure that I was going to have (my LOTR fandom was at its height), but now those words make me think of what a dreamer I was then and what it felt like to have an open road of possibilities. I think of how life did not turn out the way I thought it would, but how I truly do love my life.

The roads we walk are never predictable, but we have to enjoy them as they unfold, because we only get one  road -I hope I can always stop and look back on the way the memories I’ve created along the way-the gorgeous moments and the tragic ones. Those moments overlap and combine to create one beautiful life that I am grateful for.

Thanks Irish Blessing Mug. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

February: 10 Things to Love

You know how Oprah has her favorite things?

And then she’s like….

 

Well, I’m a little Oprah-inspired here, so I’d like to share, with YOU,   some of my favorite things….or “Things to Love.”

While I can’t promise you they will be hiding under your seat, hopefully they are things that you can have in your life, easily, and enjoy them as much as I do.

Also, my enthusiasm may not wear suits and fling it’s arms out wide, but that’s only because I have to take a selfie of my own excited face.

SEE……

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EXCITED!

10 Things to Love in February

  1. Tea from a teapot. I learned this in England and conveniently forgot it after I’d been back in the states for awhile: tea is ALWAYS better from a teapot. Lately, I’ve been trying to drink more green tea lately, and making a nice, steamy pot of tea makes me actually want to drink it.
  2. My own candle. No one else’s, just mine. To be burnt only when I want, and extinguished only when I want.  My aunt bought me this one, soiree from Park Hill Candles. It’s probably the most amazing and fragrant candle ever. Don’t touch my candle!
  1. 12722161_10206916985176109_203307505_n3. Relatives who babysit. Grad school has been super tough lately. It’s hard to concentrate for hours at a time on heavy philosophical stuff when your little child is crying and/or needing something and/or scrambling around on the floor, heading for the fireplace. I’ve had some help this week. Kora has had a blast with her family, and it’s been such a blessing to me.

2. The Valentine’s Day aisle. I am a Valentine’s Day freak. I love it. When I see all the pink and red hearts everywhere, my heart has a panic attack of love.

3.Taking a walk. Good de-stressor. Good way to stay in shape. Good time to talk with friends.

4. Skinny chocolate. Guilt-free, healthy, easy to make. It’s a Trim Healthy Mama thing. and there are lots of yummy variations. I’m not even doing Trim Healthy Mama, I just think it’s a win-win.

5. Jazz music. Light that special candle, make a pot of tea, put on some Jazz music, and what do you have? You have company in like five minutes because I’m so there. Seriously. We’ve been playing older and contemporary jazz a ton in this household lately. It makes every night feel special, like a party.

6. Johnny Flynn. Johnny Flynn’s music is also on frequent rotation around here. I hadn’t heard of him until I watched Song One a few months ago, and “the main singing guy” was my favorite thing about it.  I love his sound, his lyrics and the many emotions his music evokes.

7. Essential Oils I’ve been using doTERRA essential oils regularly for the past few weeks. I love to have something diffusing pretty much all the time-it really can change how you feel, physically and emotionally. I’ve got “On Guard” protective blend going on right now-cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, rosemary and eucalyptus. (the baby in this picture is pretty good, too)12625626_10206795983991155_1507181439_n (1)

10. Family Dinner at the booth. We live in my great-grandparents house. My “mamaw” cooked fried chicken and sugar cookies- you know, standard Mississippi love- on a non-stop basis when they were still around, and fed everybody. They were legendary in their love and hospitality. Our whole extended family has great memories of the kitchen here, and of the built-in wooden booth that is reminiscent of a diner. I usually work on things there, but we haven’t eaten dinner at it very much. Well, Kora finally got a high-chair and, since then, we have had dinner every night at the booth. It’s been such an awesome bit of quality time together in the evenings.

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