august 29, 2011 | it's an amazing august morning. the sun is shining and although it would be great to have some rain on my crunchy grass, i'll take the sunshine. a slight breeze blows through me as a sweep the front porch (so like my mother). there's even a stray dog there looking terribly hungry and lost; I quickly grab some bread from the kitchen and hope he takes the bait. he hides in the corner and an hour later, the bread is gone and so is he.
today is one of those milestones for my husband that is calendared later in life. it was two years ago today that his mom, veta, went home to neil; and automatically, i think of my mom, three years ago december, who journeyed home. days like today become a benchmark for children. a day that for some reason we judge all other days upon. a day when a part of one's heart that has always been within a stone's throw, leaves. that seems so odd, something so stable, someone so important is suddenly gone and life must continue.
iI remember when daddy died almost 25 years now, i watched as they closed the top of the casket, a movement very much like one of those slow-motion moments in a horror film - a sign that something ominous was behind the door or on the phone. one inch, then two. as the slick-haired, funeral type physically lowered the top, i felt my body following his direction. i remember thinking how can life ever be the same. it did. the next day the sun rose and cars were actually seen on the highways, and life went on without daddy.
the cycle of life continues, and it's okay. i will be okay. i have to keep telling myself that, that this is the way the good lord intended it to be. what remains will be a testament to the life lived. but no matter the common sense thought, tears still fall and chairs remain empty.
that's when we gather up all the moments over the past fifty-or-so-years, hold them close and never forget. these will carry us through each day, beyond the shadows and away from the fears. thank you mama, veta and all the others that have left. i will be okay because of you.
meet the cat
quite simply, bear is a cat.
a 21-pound black fur-ball that owns the house, the horses, the cars, the dogs, and the bed.
bear was a stray that len and his boys found, and the kitty was still a kitty.
they lived in the city and weren't quite sure they wanted a cat, so they took him to the animal shelter.
doing what kids do best, they changed their minds, begged their father to rescue 'their' cat and so he did.
some $400 later, bear was home with his new family. that was 10 years ago.
today, bear's life is exactly as he wants it. no more. no less.
his routine is simple. he rises in the morning when our light goes on.
len and i do the usual - hug, kiss, hold - and then, we hug, kiss and hold bear.
then, action moves to the kitchen where i get coffee for the humans while bear gets a snack to start his day.
this is as sure as rainbows follow rain.
he's obstinate. he wants to eat - and drink water from the bathroom faucet - when he wants to. he has graduated from the days of jumping from the floor to the sink to a series of steps which include toilet seat, back of bowl, cabinet.
if his bowl is not heaping [ala garfield], he gets mad. he will bug me until i do as he wants.
he rubs on my legs, yammers in a bothersome cry, and finally, if that doesn't work, he snips at my leg.
at this point, he has won.
he hates suitcases. they are an omen that he will be alone for a long time and he might starve.
he loves shoes, any shoes, but especially the size 13 tennis shoes that belong to ty.
he lounges on top of them when they are left behind on the kitchen floor. i think it's the smell, his connection to us.
he takes you to his food pail in the pantry, and says, "here" and then walks you to his bowl. he does have manners.
mostly, he shuffles on the hardwood floors, sliding from room to room. every now and then you can hear him gallop as his heavy feet pound the hardwood. that's when he's frisky, we've decided. he wants to play - just a bit.
he loves fresh air. he thinks he wants to go outside, but we know his feet would get wet and there's no faucets. for now, sitting in the windowsill will have to do.
he hates cody and silas (the dogs). even though they total 150 pounds, he could take them both. hands down.
bear sleeps in veta's chair [veta is len's mom]. he still feels her presence even though she has been gone for three years.
he loves ty. ty is his partner in crime and they pick at each other. bear usually wins when he whips out his claws.
bear misses michael and brian and veta and mari and logan.
when len and i first came together, he told me that bear had trouble with humans,
and that there were very few humans that bear liked.
bear never sat in a lap.
len says i'm bear's human. he's by my side all day, sitting, lounging just as close to me as he can get.
finally, i've found a writing buddy that will stick by my side - even if it's a sucky writing day.
bear is my buddy.
i sit at my computer and write, and bear is always just a few feet away,
looking out the window, on the look-out for boogers, dogs and birds.
meet the parents
sometimes, you have to do what is required.
somewhere around the world - in a place i've only read about - is my daughter.
now, there's a boy that says he's going to be my son.
this is not exactly how i dreamed this would progress, but as i said, you have to do what you have to do.
since you can't come to us, we'll come to you.
introductions must be made. it's the only southern way to handle this.
meet our family. mari's family, and now, your family.
we really don't carry shotguns
[unless we need to].
so that's us. in a nutshell.
not bad for a beginning, don't you think?
my inspiration wall - pegged with people from my past. the v.k. hill sign sat on top of my daddy's mailbox for as long as i can remember. i found it in some of mama's boxes the other day, and decided, it should never be put away. he will be my inspiration as long as i live. so here he is - in front of my eyes.
it's amazingly cool this august morning. to have windows open in august - in georgia - basically unheard of during what is referred to as the most miserable time in the south- summer. humidity, we're not afraid of you anymore! at least not this weekend.
as a writer, i understand atmosphere. it's a writing aid. it gets my story and my characters in the right mood to do something note-worthy. i think they will agree that a breeze blowing is definitely reason to celebrate. i'm closing in on the magazine deadline, but wanted to sneak in a word or two here. really, just to clear my head of the civil war and bring it closer to home.
time for tea and then back to deadline. my inspiration is awaiting my return.
i went to the woods because i wished to live deliberately. . . thoreau
i had a conversation with a lady this week about stuff. she and I are about the same age, so i figured who could know more about stuff than two middle-aged women who had been through children and men and lived to tell the tale.
she seemed as disheartened with stuff - a.k.a. car payments, overly-decorated houses, pricey vacations, unexpected commitments, shopping for things you didn't need while working at a job you hated, etc - as I was. things that really make no difference in my well-being or quality of life.
oh, make no mistake, there was a time when the right car in the drive-way meant the difference between living well and barely living. the flashy metal was in a four-year cycle, trading on and trading up, which also meant more money each month. but who cared? I had a new car. that's what i was supposed to do, and boy, did i look great.
now, in my drive-way sits an 11 year old saab that, god-willing, will get me from a to b without having a stroke. I keep up the maintenance which if I counted it up would probably equal a car payment - but still, that's random and I can live with random. i've never had a car this long, but I do fear the day, when old Bessie just can't belt out another chang-ching. I would miss her and my trepidation each time i climbed in. we've developed quite a relationship, and I think, we still have time to explore more.
people are keeping vehicles longer these days. they aren't as concerned with the froo-froo that once consumed our lives. there's a joy in simplicity. staying at home, saying 'no' to things and meetings that really aren't that important. leaving that charming artifact on the store shelves and asking a second time, 'is it necessary?'
i ask that a lot lately. is it necessary? will this make me a better person? is it worth my time? am I selfish to put myself before what is expected of me? and this answer to all - is no.
by the time people reach my age, it is the person staring back in the mirror who must be the priority. if I can feel good about my decisions, or lack of ones, I will be just fine.
no more stuff for me. nothing unless it's absolutely necessary. simplicity. thoreau had the right idea when he escaped to walden pond - to live off the land with only the bare necessities. to live deliberately. to be himself, and not be concerned with what other people thought he should be.
we would all be better if life included only what we truly needed.
"judy, you are favored," my new friend eagerly told me. i just sat there without a clue as to the next word that would come out of my mouth. so, i waited.
"judy, you are," she said more convincingly. "i don't use puffy words. I mean it." i think she did. the longer i sat there in silence, the more i heard those words resounding over and over. i was favored.
the backstory is simple. i'm going to a birthday party at a monastery tomorrow - the 102nd birthday of the founding father for the only monastery in georgia. i suppose my friend recognized something i didn't. i admit, it is kind of cool that i am being allowed in a part of the cloister where no one is allowed to visit, but i have been down this road before - a journalist asking for access for a story. but then i thought, of all the people in the world, this man - this father - would be the least impressed with my credentials. he couldn't care less. it was his birthday, and as i was told, he - as well as all those around him - wanted to share his life with me. in fact, who am i kidding - yes, i got access to jason aldean in sanford stadium, but he didn't know me from the faceless armadillo crossing the highway.
i realized that these two events are as different as night and day. the aldean concert was a media circus, his moment to flaunt before the home crowd just who he had become, and the more eyes on him, the better. it would make him a better man, a better entertainment. a better paycheck.
for father luke, his invitation is personal and selective. more than likely, he will not understand my role at his celebration, but he will hopefully catch my eyes and hear my greetings. he'll answer my queries, and with his wonderful humor, he and i will both laugh when he answers. he will care enough to bring me into his space, and hope that i will return the respect. he will not need my approval or presence to authenticate his life.
i am favored. not simply because i get the opportunity to do things many don't, but because i get to tell stories of a generation that still has so much to teach us. i'm allowed the opportunity to sit with the sages of this world, to photograph them and capture moments when they are happiest, and to write down their words so that when they have gone on to greener pastures, their legacy remains.
yes, my new friend, i am favored, not because of who i am but because of those i have met.
what a smile from father luke. happy birthday. august 3, 2013.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.