Tag Archives: love

Family

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Family – that beautiful, complex six letter word. It can be something you’re born into, an entity you marry into, or even people you find in your life along the way.  Family is an encompassing word – it holds so much love, so much loyalty, and even at times, pain.  It can bring out the very best in you, make you feel nurtured and loved and wanted. Family can make you whole.  

Days like Thursday remind me that one of God’s greatest blessings is the kinship He gave us with others. Simply being together can ease the sting of loneliness and soften the blow of loss.  Even when nerves rattle and personalities grind, in the end there’s still a connection, a longing for fellowship. I’m so very grateful for my family…the ones who have nurtured me all my life, the ones who swallowed me into their mix without hesitation, and the ones I’ve gathered into my heart over the years.

The Dog Branch Clan

 

The children put out a thankful bucket. There were so many great responses!!

 
 

One of our animal family members on a beautiful November day.

 

Granny Dot

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“Open the door.  He’s telling me what to do.”

Her eyes were on the ceiling, over my head.  She studied whatever it was she saw very seriously. I asked her who it was and she shrugged.  I asked her if it was Jesus and she mumbled, “I don’t know”.  But still she stared.  I saw a mixture of fear and maybe agitation in her eyes.  Her brows were knitted together. She studied him hard.  I finally said, “Listen to him.  He loves you.”

*

I’ve witnessed the beginning of life first hand, and now the end of life.  The ultimate joy, the heart crushing loss.  Honestly, neither were pretty.  Both were hard and messy and full of anxiety.  When will it happen?  Will I be ready?  What will I do once it’s over? The only catch is with a birth you’re left with a little human to love, raise and adore.  With death, you’re left with a hole, an empty place where a human once presided in your life. With both, you’re required to have incredible faith.  Faith that you can be all that person needs you to be in that moment.  And now, now that the moment has come and gone, still wondering if it was enough, if you’ll be enough.

My mother-in-law passed this weekend.  We knew the end was coming.  We saw the affects of cancer claim her body.  And even though it was excruciating to watch her struggle, there is a bond that feels stronger than it ever has before.  Even with her gone, I feel closer to her than ever.  Dot fought, she persisted, she demanded that her body breathe.  We all told her that it was okay…that she would be safe and never alone.  I felt the truth of those words in her room in the middle of the night, and I still feel it now.

Dot told us all that she wanted her passing to be happy…no sappy funeral, nothing but celebration.  She liked to laugh way too much to ever settle for sappiness.  But still… all I can do is think, but what about Thanksgiving and your grandkids and your black pie and sugar cookies?  You haven’t taught me how to make dressing yet.  You were going to show me your favorite dress and your favorite book.  We were supposed to have one more day to do all those things.

The sad thing is, we’d just had a lifetime.

A lifetime of moments and conversations and meals and family.  It turns out that even a lifetime is not enough.

I’ve read that death is like walking from one room to the next.  You simply close one door and open another.  I pray for that transition, for that simple step of walking out, walking in.   I pray that for Dot she simply bounded into the next room, her energy back, her laugh loud and strong, her spirit filling up that wonderfully bright new room in a flash.

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Mother’s Day in Reverse

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Since I no longer have an earth-bound mother, Mother’s Day has become a (sometimes) forced holiday.  It isn’t easy losing a parent, and everyone who has lost one knows that.  Losing my mother at 35 forced me to, very suddenly, grow up.  Not that I hadn’t been doing that very thing, but I still had a momma that was there if I needed support or a hug or just her presence.  All at once, that very concrete tie to the earth was shattered.  All at once, it was just over and done.  And ever since, Mother’s Day has left me a little weepy and disconnected.

(Still, I wouldn’t wish for my mother to come back.  I haven’t wished it one time.  Sure, I sometimes long for her hugs and her smile, but would I truly ask her to give up her heavenly home for this world again?  Absolutely not.  She lives where I plan to be one day.  I’ll get her back then.)

So, this year I’m reversing things.  Instead of thinking about what is lost, I’m choosing to think about what is here. This year, I’m thinking of my children.  To my kids, this moment is to say thank you for being my children. No matter what, I’m your biggest cheerleader, your strongest advocate, and your toughest life-coach.  I truly would not change one hair on your head.  Your difficulties have made me a stronger person and a better teacher, and your glories have filled me with a giddy joy.

The only thing I would change if I could would be to take some of the pain you’ve had to bear and make it my own, and truly I’ve carried your pain with me every step of the way. As a momma, it’s hard to watch you kids suffer, but I know hard times are part of living, of growing. It takes the good with the bad to become a polished soul.

To my not-so-little babies, thank you for your laughter and silliness, your kindness and strength.  Keep striving for the good and the right in life.  I love you, Hunny and Little Buddy!

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Being Thankful

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I asked my students, with absolutely no prodding or help from me, what they’re thankful for.  I refused to give them any ideas, and they had to come up with five different things.  Their responses were timeless, innocent and pure.  They never cease to amaze me…especially when you dig down to what’s just below the surface.  Here are a few of their responses:

 My family (this was a biggy – almost every one of them wrote it)

Love

Toilet Paper

God

Jesus

My class

Grandma & Grandparents

Mesa Blocks (not sure I know what those are)

I’ll be honest here…the world seems much less scary to me when I see these responses.  Truly.  Just think…what if these babies could keep their focus just on (most of) the items listed above?  Just think where the new generation could lead this world if their hearts stayed true to family, God, and love.

With each passing day, I find I have more to be thankful for.  And it’s not just the big things.  Of course I’m thankful for my family…they are my most cherished gift, one that I cling to each and every day.  Of course I’m thankful for nourishment and shelter…I know I’m so blessed to have what some don’t and may never have.  The thing is, I find myself more thankful for the little things these days.  Things like a pain-free body when I get up in the morning, a warm, soft bed to fall into at night.  I cherish the little conveniences of life…things like coffee and central heat and air and indoor plumbing.  I cling to my books and savor each day I get to write.

I’m also thankful for the silly things…like XM radio and the classic rock stations.  I’ve discovered channel 57 (Y2K country – and all I can say is thank you for some decent country music.  It saves me from having to listen to the new, overly produced, male heavy country music of today.  Gag me.)

I’m also thankful for the encouragement I get from the readers of my blog.  Opening myself to others and admitting that I love to write was very difficult for me.  I guess I spend too much time in the worry zone.  Anyway, your sweet comments and kindness have fueled my love for writing even more and given me courage to share some of my stories.  For that, I cherish each one of you.  I truly hope you have the best Thanksgiving ever.

For me and my family, we’ll be keeping our eyes and hearts on the words above…family, love, God, and enough toilet paper for the 35 folks coming to visit on Thursday!

I Love You, Too

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I love you, too.  For never giving up on me, for helping me to see my worth.  I love you, too.

For the moments when I’m lost, when nothing is clear.  When things are gray and dense and muddled… and somehow you pull me through…I love you, too.

During the scary times…those moments when fear wants to swallow me whole but you don’t let me drown.  During the happy times…when I’m flying almost too high to breathe.  During every moment of every day…

For making me smile… For the warmth you simply bring into my heart by being near…

Friendship and family and your grace…

For all those things and so many more, I love you, too.

Thank you for loving me first.

Friends

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“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked.  “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”  “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”  E.B. WhiteCharlotte’s Web

We were a sight in high school.  One hundred pounds soaking wet, curly perms, braces and polo shirts.  We were girls of the eighties, and yes, we thought we were mighty hot.  We adored Rick Springfield and Rick James, Prince and Janet Jackson.  Laughter was a constant, drama was never far behind – boy drama, girl drama, parent drama.  Trouble visited from time to time, but through it all, we were friends.

This week, I met an old friend from high school for lunch.  Over the years, we have lived far apart at times, closer at others, but no matter the distance, we’ve kept in touch.  The strange thing is sometimes it may be a year between the ‘touches’.  We send Christmas cards, call every now and then, but seeing each other face to face is sometimes hard to do.  We live in different cities, we’re raising families, and time has a way of slipping by.

Strangely and wonderfully enough, time doesn’t seem to matter when we finally meet again.  Within minutes, a deep recognition occurs.  Even though we’re different, somewhere in our hearts or souls, we recognize each other and the friendship we had as girls.  We are blessed to still have a connection all these years later.

Seeing my friend again made me appreciate the true friends I have in my life.  They are few but they are special.  They may be rare but they’re priceless.  The people who have hung by me, through the worst and the best, those friends are gems indeed.

Only real friends will tell you when your face is dirty.” Sicilian Proverb

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

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Does everything hinge on love?

If you have it all – a beautiful home, nice cars, fancy clothes – does it make you whole?  Complete?

Even as you secretly yearn for your neighbors new phone or the expensive boots they’re wearing, will getting them make you full?

And how about your actions?  If you force yourself to do and say the right things in and out each day, are you satisfied?  What if you go to church every Sunday and earnestly listen, claiming to be devout but still find yourself empty, what then?

What if none of it mattered?  Not the things you have or the things you do if behind it all, there’s no love or compassion?

What if everything we are is simply defined by love?

Love manifests itself in many ways – affection towards another, in our words and actions.  And if there is no love in any of our actions or any of our words, then what?

Love isn’t simply the passion between a man and a woman.  It isn’t simply the devotion between parents and their children.  Maybe it is most commonly identified in those situations but love goes way beyond the obvious.  It is in our movements when we greet strangers, in our words when we encounter people we don’t know.  It identifies us when we look at someone completely opposite than ourselves and decide whether or not to show kindness.  It shows itself through compassion, through understanding, patience, and by putting our own wants away.

What if everything we are, everything we are going to be, and what lies just beyond this realm, is all based on love?

Are you living with it,

are you giving it,

or are you simply waiting on it to find you?

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

Love Stories and Fairy Tales

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I have a complete and utter fascination with love stories and fairy tales.  There’s no sense denying it.  I adore them.  My family tolerates my favorite T.V. show for one hour a week – Once Upon a Time.  The fairy tale characters, the ornate costumes, the wooded setting – I love it. 

I’ve often wondered why I don’t or can’t write anything other than love stories.  The female characters I write are usually going through an intense period in their lives, and yes, they meet a male character at some point in the story.  This doesn’t mean the male character saves the woman from her troubles – far from it.  Usually he adds to the disarray!  It’s what they can do together that fascinates me.  The power of love, the bond that forms when you find a person that makes you stronger.  It’s the sacrifice, too – that complete commitment and the utter surrender of your own wants.  That part of the human spirit is amazing.

Katie is one of my favorite characters.  She’s scholarly brilliant but romantically dumb.  She craves love but has no clue what to do with it.  Here’s a snippet of her story:

     “That’s my favorite kind of book.  I want the happy ending…every time,” Katie shyly admitted.

     “Why?”

     Feeling uncomfortable with the question,the prying into her soul, she fidgeted, glanced toward the tarp and then back again.  “I don’t know.”

     “Maybe it was because you never had the happy ending growing up.”

     “But I did!  I got it when momma and daddy got back together.” 

     “You were eighteen by then, Katie.  Your wiring had already been set and programmed.  After living without it for so long, you can’t help but crave it.”

     “Brandon…that’s just…”  Turning away, she caught a glimpse of the picture of Brandon and his father.  A tender boy, a doting father – they’d missed out on their happy ending, too.  Swallowing her own tumble of emotions, she finished, “That’s just too damn close to the truth.”