Monthly Archives: May 2013

My Daddy

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Daddy and Ginger - 2010

Daddy and my stepmother, Ginger – 2010

Forty-three years ago, my daddy (and yes, I still call him daddy) began working for a large grocery chain.  He was very young, extremely broke, newly married with a child on the way, and just barely a high-school graduate.  Suddenly at eighteen, he was responsible for a wife and baby that would arrive come September.  The year was 1969, and gone were any chances of going to college.  Any dreams he may have had for his future were replaced by the demands of necessity.  Necessity demanded that he make enough money to support a family.  Necessity became the commander of his life.

My mother always told me that their parents had politely and succinctly told them that the day they graduated from high school, they were on their own.  The words, “you made your bed, now sleep in it,” were part of her story.  It was the time, it was simply the way it was.  It was the sixties in the south, and youthful dreams quickly took a backseat to reality.

My parents were so young but they were never young to me.  They were parents regardless of their age.  They fed, clothed, filled the den with toys on Christmas morning, disciplined when we needed it, instilled great manners, but more than anything, they loved.  My parents had abundant love for us given how very young they were.

Daddy - early 1970's

Daddy – early 1970’s

Through moves, through divorce, through remarriage and more children, my daddy stayed on with this original company.  He worked long, hard hours every one of the forty-three years he served this business.  Knees were injured, hernias erupted, but with a tenacity many young people have never heard of or experienced, he endured.  He stayed, he worked for every cent he made, and he never lost his ability to love.

Today, my daddy is retiring.  Today is his last full day as a working man!  I guess starting out young gives one the opportunity to work for a very long time.  The true blessing is even after working for forty-three years, daddy is still young enough to enjoy a long, thriving retirement.  My celebratory wish is that he enjoys every single minute of it!  Thank you, daddy, for giving your all, for holding on even when circumstances seemed insurmountable, and for never losing your ability to love and the joy in your heart .  Those things will be your legacy to us all.

Daddy and Hunter

Daddy and Hunter

Allergies, Bites and Pools

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Itchy eyes, itchy feet, and I can’t sleep for scratching!  Between allergies and bug bites, I am living, walking proof that the weather has changed.  Usually by the end of May, my ‘seasonal’ allergies are settling down.  I haven’t hit that milestone yet.  Here’s hoping the trees are almost finished blooming!

And even though I believed we had a cold, long winter, the myriad of insects that have been feasting on my feet and legs don’t agree.  They are thriving.  I don’t like bug spray but it’s either them or me.  Today, I choose me!

Along with the warm temperatures, comes the water.  Beautiful, glistening, cold…and maybe not for me.  I adore watching the sparkling waves on the river or the cool blue of a pool but there’s no doubt I’m a land-lubber.  Watching six children swim yesterday, I could almost remember a time when swimming was exciting and I yearned to go.  Now, it’s more of a nuisance entering the water.  Is it too cold?  What about my hair?  My bathing suit will stick to my body once it’s wet.  Yuck.

To say the least, I’m adjusting – settling into a new routine at home, re-acclimating my body to the warmth and to nature.  I’m afraid it’ll take a little getting used to.  But even as I think that, I smile.  Acclimation is good, change is wonderful at times, and being gnawed on by bugs is a simple reminder that we all have a place on this earth – even if it is part of the food chain.

Beautiful - but do you think there are any mosquitoes?

Beautiful – but do you think there are any mosquitoes?

School’s Out!

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Another school year has come to an end, and I can’t help but be thankful.  What a year it’s been.  Long and trying and demanding in ways teaching has never been before.  Today is my first day at home and I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.  I’m completely bushed.  But in a day or two or three, reality will set in that I’m off for several weeks and a permanent smile will cover my face.

One of my little fellows said, “Mrs. Rackley, I’m happy and sad all at the same time.”  It was our last day together, and his simple words brought tears to my eyes.  It was nothing but pure, the words that slipped from his lips, and in that moment I felt just as he did.  This little boy had become one of my children over the past 180 days.  They all do, even the ones that make you want to pull your hair out.  Somehow, they become your kids not just your students.  For eight hours a day, they become your responsibility – yours to manage, love, teach, nurse, train, coddle when necessary, discipline when needed.  It’s exhausting but it’s also fulfilling.  When God asks me one day what I did with my life, I will be able to say I tried my best to love and guide children.

While I’m waiting for reality to set in, that yes, thank you Lord, I truly am off for the summer, a little voice in the back of my brain is whispering.  It’s excited, it’s merrily jumping up and down waiting for me to acknowledge it.  The voice chants, “Write, write, write!  You’ll have more time to write.”  And another voice squirms as it beckons, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!  Let’s hit the road.  Let’s travel and see and hear and breathe in something different for just a little while!”

I plan to listen to those voices very soon – just give me a day or two impatient ones!  Soon I’ll be ready to write and dream and hit the road running.  Summer is here!

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Geraniums

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“Long experience has taught me that people who do not like geraniums have something morally unsound about them. Sooner or later you will find them out; you will discover that they drink, or steal books, or speak sharply to cats. Never trust a man or a woman who is not passionately devoted to geraniums.”

― Beverly Nichols

Geraniums were a staple of my youth…well, at least a staple of my youth at my grandmother’s house.  Every spring, her concrete pots would suddenly sprout a set of matching red geraniums.  They became a symbol of my grandmother…along with her fruit-filled jello salad, scrumptious vegetables she grew in her own enormous garden, and her sparkling blue eyes.  Grandmother was smart, sometimes sharp-tongued, but always nothing more, nothing less than my loving grandmother.  She passed her love of geraniums on to me, and never has there been a summer season without their blossoms gracing my yard.

Red calls to me every spring - crisp red blooms against velvety green

Red calls to me every spring – crisp, red blooms against velvety green

Imagine the sputtering of my heart the first time I saw the porch of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  Brilliant red geraniums lined the front porch, which stretches as far as the eye can see.  Geraniums echoed throughout the building, on the carpet, scattered among guest rooms.  To say the least, I was downright giddy being surrounded by the beauties.

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Grand Hotel – Mackinac Island, Michigan

I fell in love with Mackinac Island the first time I saw it.  The quaint streets of town, the shuffling of horses, the never-ending smell of horse poo and fudge, the bicycles, and the beautiful homes.  But Mackinac is so much more…it’s the subtle breeze, the quiet in the forest.  It’s the beauty of nature that whispers through the flowers and the limbs of trees.  The flowers are there for only a short time and they tend to show off their beauty like waving flags.  Geraniums are there among them, scattered across the island.

Maybe it’s their heartiness – a quality we all strive for, or maybe it’s their unique fragrance – different from so many others, which echoes my very being.  Whatever the reason, I adore them.

Geraniums have arrived on my back porch.  I will smile each time I see them, thinking of my grandmother, thinking of Mackinac.  Isn’t it amazing the power of a single flower and the memories they can evoke?

Grace

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Where do you find grace?  Do you ever really look for it?

Grace tapped me on the shoulder this morning during church.  Sitting on a pew in the eighty-year old building, I glanced over to one of the towering stained-glass windows just as a beam of sunlight speared through.  After a long, rainy day yesterday, the arrival of sun shining through the brightly colored glass was enough to bring a sudden smile to my face.

It was enough to feel the whispers of grace.

Grace, to me, is that gentle reminder, that knowing tug that says hope is never lost.  No matter what, it never really is gone.  Grace is always waiting for you.  You only have to open your eyes and see it.  Grace is forgiveness, is love, is hope.

I’m working, slowly but surely, on my current book.  My current character, Maggie, is discovering grace after losing her memories and beginning again.  Amnesia has stolen every memory, every detail of her life beyond the past several months.  She’s on a journey of self-discovery, and often trips over her own feet trying to figure out life.

 

    The wedding feast was grand.  Grand in love, in joy, in smiles.  Tables covered portions of the backyard, draped in lacy pink cloths.  Candles flickered across the yard as yellow roses, purple phlox and white daisies filled vase after vase. 

    The bride and groom shined as devotion bloomed between them.  The children ran giddily among the tables, their laughter echoing into the warm night air, blending into the tilt of voices as stories were told, one after the other.

    People gathered throughout the yard, enjoying the summer feast of chicken and pork, fruits and pies, vegetables, fresh and stewed.  It was a night of celebration, a night of promise.

    Soaking it all in from her perch on the porch, Maggie let each scent, each whisper of noise, each sensation fill her soul.  In that moment, she knew gratitude, understood the enormity of thankfulness.  Her body was full.  Smiling into the night, she knew she’d been given the gift of life.  A second chance.  A new beginning.  And for the first time since awakening months before, she felt a warm rush flush her body.  A rush of love, of knowledge.  Something much bigger than anything she knew had blessed her.  Something she at last could identify as grace.