See those HORRIBLE brown spots on my face? A product of being 20 and stupid. To those of you my age, remember laying out in the sun, slathering on baby oil, and dare I say it, a stick of butter. Stupid takes on an entirely new meaning now, am I right?
Yes, we did that. I'd turn a lovely brown, but it took some work. Taking more hours to turn golden than it took my friends, I'd lay out in my back yard, turning randomly (I was a lay-on-your-back girl because I had big boobs), turning bright red almost immediately. Red came before brown.
And I was a bored sun bather. I hated it, but because everyone did it, I did it. I wanted to be pretty, because everyone knows that everyone looks better (and smaller) with a tan.
I grew older and tanning beds took the place of my lawn chair. They were quick. In and out. Nice and brown. I liked that. Then, I became bored of that, too.
Kids plus jobs plus no me-time put an end to my relationship with the sun, real or man-made.
However, it has left it's mark.
Brown spots all over, but the only ones that make my skin crawl are those on my face. Two weeks ago, I (with a push from Len) decided to fix this. After all, I have a new set of beautiful teeth; I need a face to frame them. After a consultation (checking for melanomas and other skin issues) at Georgia Skin Cancer and Aesthetic Dermatology, I called back for an appointment. It's not a cheap procedure (three to do the trick), but it definitely wasn't as much as I had imagined. After a quick first treatment (15 minutes), my face was on fire, and it stayed that way for about three hours. Then, I was fine. Well, then the brown spots became brown boulders on my face, much like Skittles-pox but less tasty! They have to get worse before they get better. Why don't I just engrave that on my forehead for this is the story of everything I've ever gone through.
I keep thinking this; next time I look at my photograph, I'll see me and not brown spots.
It's been two weeks, and the brown crusty spots have all but disappeared. Some color remains underneath, thus the need for additional treatments. It's amazing how much better I feel about me. Who knew brown spots could hold so much power?
This is also my birthday month, and I've made myself a promise for this 59th year. I will learn to love me. I will believe that I'm important and worthy and good. I will treat myself with the respect that I deserve, not because of anything I've done, but because of whose I am. I will take care of my well-being in such a way that as my aging body challenges me, I can hit back . . . hard. I will listen to my husband and my son (NOT to those whose opinions really don't matter) who tell me of my worth and my capacity to do great things. And those great things must start inside me.
Brown spots on face ✔️
Next,a healthy body and lifestyle . . . 😱
I think that scares me most of all.
Let me Listen to Me and Not to Them.
I can't tell you his name, but I can tell you he is a genius. A salesman far beyond the wares he sold, he is one who, indeed, could sell ice to an Eskimo. How do I know? Because I watched him for two days. And as I watched, I realized that everything I ever needed to know about success in this life, this man could teach me. So here goes:
1. Have a plan. He set up two tents, one with little dancing animals that were children magnets; the second, dresses for mom. His plan, entice the kids first.
2. Know your priority. He had two totally different products. Rarely did I see women detour into his tent to check out the
3. Never take your eye of the prize. He never left the tent, with the exception of buying grilled corn-on-the-cob near the end of the day. He never moved from his spot.
4. Know your end-game. The women's clothing may have been more expensive, but the dancing animals were golden. I saw him sell one sweater during two days; he sold out of the dancing creatures. Women's clothing was everywhere; only he had dancing neon animals.
5. Have a plan B just in case. He could fall back on selling womens clothing, but he never had to.
6. Be patient. Once he would make a sale, he's go to the back of the tent. Shake it off a bit, and carefully choose the next animal to showcase. Then, he'd walk to the front of the tent and look both ways. He'd spy a small child heading his way, and poof, like magic, the animal would dance and the child would head straight to him. And so did mom.
7. Reel 'em in. No child is going to ignore a dancing neon purple poodle. And even if you didn't notice him and his dancing animals right away, there were three damn dancing puppets/animal/creatures, in a clear box above eye-level, clicking and jumping constantly. Electricity primed their movement. I heard the click. I tried to look away, but I couldn't.
8. Move on. Once the sale closed, he'd do the exact same thing again, in the exact same way, with the same result.
9. Time is on your side. He would take him time with each sale, doing what he had to do to close the deal. It was never time wasted. There wasn't a lot of conversation; just slight smiles from the man. He listened and you could almost see the wheels turning, deciding what must come next. It it was time he needed; then time it was. I watched him spend close to 10 minutes with one kid, and yes, the kid walked away with what he desperately wanted.
10. Believe in your product. There were no dancing neon purple poodles anywhere except here. Be unique. Be purposeful and people (or should I say kids) will come.
So there it is. How to be a success in business (or life) without a whole lot of effort. If we have a plan, set priorities, chronicle the steps to succeed, be patient and believe in yourself (your product OR your life), there's a good chance you'll make the sale (reach your dream). Who knew sitting at my vendor booth in downtown Dawsonville, Georgia, flanked by good ole' moonshiners would I be reminded of how to live life. All it takes is opening your eyes.
Thanks to the man with the dancing neon purple poodle.
Same with Jack (the horse with his neck stuck out). There's a treat in that hand, but to get it, you have to reach for it. You have to stick your neck out. You have to feel uncomfortable.
Someone recently said, "If you're not uncomfortable, you're not growing." I brushed it off first, but then last weekend, in a situation where I wore distress and agony as accessories, I realized (much later) what she meant. During the moment, all I felt was pain. Afterwards, I all I wanted was to reclaim the moment and offer a do-over to redeem myself. Being that uncomfortable made me realize I had a lot to learn, and I had better get to it.
Days later, I realized the situation wasn't as bad as my mind made it seem, but I had learned what subconsciously I hoped I would. I figured out my next steps, my strengths, my weaknesses, my goals and my where I want this adventure to head.
Staying tied to the shore just isn't an option; I'm a big boat with numerous unknown ports of call. I will stick my neck out (which comes with an colossal amount of angst) even to the point of feeling uncomfortable. There's a cookie waiting for me. I want it. I want it all. I was made for so much more.
There are moments when my naivete has served me well. I've never been one "of this world" as I remember mama warning me against. I was always the one in high school without a date on Friday night, and I never went to prom. (the horror!) I remember my first kiss like it was yesterday; I'm sure the young man does not. and by the way, I don't fault him for that. I was never part of the in-crowd who tailgated during college,
inhaled pot, slurped kegs, and, I was never invited to. My second home during all of my college years was the BSU (that's the 'old' Baptist Student Union - I suppose now the name has to be more in tune with the times for there's a new name plastered on the UGA building) and felt safe from the world's odd quirks. I went to church on Sunday and Wednesday, and I felt right at home in my skin. Frankly, I knew no other skin, no other way of life.
My Southern roots run deep, and for the life of me, I can't imagine letting go of them. Even though I admittedly lived a sheltered existence growing up, I learned truths and values that have become cornerstones for the life I lead at this very moment. Don't get me wrong, I did battle with mama's outrageous rules regarding too much TV, drinking those nasty cola sodas and going to moving picture shows, but as the only kid in the house, I conceded. Mama won every battle; one might say, she won every war. The old ways, as I like to say, have served me well. Unfortunately, I feel like the odd man out these days, but I know I can't be the only one that clings to a simpler time. I recently conversed with a youngster at the Cigar Shop in Athens; as he smoked his vintage 1950s pipe, he told me of building his own home and living like his grandparents did. Then, there's the bee guy who praises the days of old, "living off the land" and oozes happy! Makes my heart sing when I hear that these young ones "get it."
I worry about people who are like me who were raised to be one way and now the world tells us we must be another. If our parents and grandparents were called America's Greatest Generation, why are we forgetting the lives they led, the ways they taught? Am I becoming cynical of this new world? Is this a product of the double-nickle age? Do I hide my values and traditions inside a secure bubble so they will not be broken and people will not disappoint? People tell me times are different. I agree to a certain degree, but I hold on to the fact that the human heart still yearns and beats in the same rhythm it did a 100 years ago. I don't want to forget dinner-on-the-grounds, Tupperware, sauerkraut in the jug on the back porch, saying prayers and knowing that because of those prayers lifted skyward, everything will be alright.
I like to think that there are people like me.
We were scheduled to experience a first: synchronous fireflies. After one bump, there came another which shocked me more than the first. Let me set the scene: a curvy, muddy mountain trail after dark when even the sight of your hand is impossible. It's a touch thing. At the beginning, it's a flashlight thing.
We maneuvered our way towards the trailhead, Len with a headlamp and I with a flashlight. We quickly realized the headlamp was a no-no, so dark it went. My flashlight remained on, steadied on my feet, lighting the path until we move some 100 yards further, find a spot, plant our gear, and enjoy the show.
Holding on tightly to Len to avoid a face-plant, my eyes picked up on a woman darting toward me, reaching for my flashlight. "I know you can hear me," she said with such anger. "Turn that thing off." Len quickly pulled me back from her, and without saying what we wanted to say, made our way into the night.
We were excited, and at that moment, I allowed that woman to deflate my experience. Such anger and bossiness from a woman who was the self-appointed firefly queen. We knew the lights had to go off, but let me get to where I'm going without injury. It's not like there's only ONE firefly for ONE moment, and for sure, we're weren't the youngest whipper-snappers on the trail. Did she chastise everyone? Did she grab for other lights? She was rude, disrespectful, and I'm sure the fireflies thought so, too. She was a blemish (on the Park, on the community, on the experience) that needed to be popped!
I thought about her the next day as we toured the historic buildings along the Roaring Fork River Trail in Gatlinburg . . . seeing carvings, permanent marker script shouting "I've been here" . . . all you're leaving behind is proof of your ignorance.
Be polite. Be respectful. Especially when you're not on your home turf. You leave a scar with every word and mark you leave behind. In essence, when your hurt someone else - when you mouth off at someone - when you deface property - you hurt yourself. There doesn't have to be an ugly side. Forget about that . . . I know you heard me, firefly queen.
There are moments when I should be quiet but don't. THIS is that moment.
If I learned anything from my mother, it was that I should listen to my mother. Sure, she was the devil's instrument, tearing apart my dreams and bursting every bubble, telling me that Bobby Sherman will never love me. She knew nothing. Absolutely nothing. She was old. Old people don't know anything about young people. Where does she get off?
And yet, in the end, she knew everything. Funny how that happened. Sadly, it took me 50 years to get it. I wish there could have been one more moment to tell her, "You were right."
So at the end of a week - that included disappointments and pure rage - there's a swarm of thoughts stored still inside my gut, I'm letting them out. Time to make Juette proud and avoid the heart attack.
If you were my daughter (or son), this is what I would tell you:
- Always say THANK YOU. From the kid who opens the door for you at the Waffle House to your family who takes care of your dog for four months, say "thank you." You might need those people again some day. No one should ever have to wait to hear those words.
- And let's not forget manners. You know, those things that make us civil, kind, thoughtful and not a dog. If someone calls you and asks for a response, do it. When someone takes the time, you should take the time. Convenient is not an excuse. It's just good manners.
- Along those same lines, don't burn bridges. Bridges are very hard to build from the ground up.
- Listen to your elders, especially those who have said they have been there before. More than likely, they aren't lying - why would they? - and they are trying to save you some grief.
- Do the right thing from the beginning. It's easier that way.
- Admit you were wrong, and fix it. Just fix it, and stop whining.
- Love can't fix everything. Some things must be left to the will and skill of others, and there's nothing that all the love in the world can do until they are ready.
- Be honest. If he's in jail, he's in jail. Things (truth) always have a way of returning and biting you in the ass (Juette would have never said ass, but I'm taking poetic license here!) It's always harder to tell the truth later.
- If you say you're an adult, then act like one. Being an adult is hard, making hard choices and then sticking with them. And, being an adult never means being rude. You can't fix rude. Rude runs deep, and people don't forget.
- You will grow up one day. The past is much clearer through the lens of your own experience.
- Love doesn't end, but nerves do. People will only take the shoveled shit so long. (Again, Juette - no shit.)
- Tell your parents - your in-laws - your family - that all those years of their struggling, denying, sacrificing, and believing - was not in vain. Those words of gratitude will mean more than you can know right now.
Call it your gut - I call it mama.
Last year for an assignment, I was asked to write about words that changed my life. They weren't my words but those of my son. I never shared this until now. With my donation to Project Safe in Athens (instead of the ice bucket challenge so many of you hoped to see) and the NFL debacle on domestic violence, I decided it was time. Although it's much shorter, I think the point is still made. Tell someone; then, listen to them. If it happens once, it will happen again. Believe in yourself in spite of what you're told. The reason you stay is not as important as the reason to leave. Simply, let go and walk away. #whyistayed
"Just go mom."
Not the three little words that I had been told all my life I wanted to hear. The expected and anticipated "I love you" had morphed into "Just go mom."
It was fall, a transforming time in the South, when the air is cooler and the ceiling converts to muted hues of red and yellows. The long, hot summer was over and with the new season's crispness, there came a time to slow down, to enjoy the wood-burning fires and accept its floating invitation to another time and place. The truth of the matter was that the paradox of fall, the dying of leaves and the shedding of life, was exactly what was happening to me; my life, as I knew it, was about to die.
I was 48. When I was a little girl, I thought that was old; by the time I reached my early 40s, I still thought it was old but with age would come conquered dreams and predicted stability. I was wrong. Normally out-going and gregarious, I was isolated and withdrawn. My husband of 24 years had transformed a decade earlier into a man that I didn't know and didn't love, one who relied on alcohol, drugs and abuse to make his life worth living.
"When are we going to leave," my children would ask. "Soon." I would respond knowing full well that soon could be years down the road.
"I do have a plan," I assured myself. Although I had no job and little self-respect, scraps of paper in agendas and scribbles on calendars validated the escape never far from my mind.
October 16, 2006, arrived with little fanfare, no signs of an imminent turning point. It was a replica of the day before, and surely the one to follow: sleeping late, coffee on the front porch swing, lunch, nap and TV. A lifestyle many craved, but it was killing me. My need for productive living had been stifled by my lack of love for my husband and for myself, and although my daughter pushed me for an outing every now and then, it was simply too hard. My son's uncanny savvy for laughter in almost every situation even proved too little, too late.
My best friend Cheri - the only one that remained after my husband scared all the others away - lived next door. She was 10 years younger, a blonde-haired beauty that made me wish I had half her looks and all her motivation. I watched as their family grew from two to four, loving the entire lot of them as my own. As a hairdresser, her schedule was flexible and most mornings were spent joining me for coffee on my front porch. I later realized she was watching and checking, making sure I was in one piece before she left for the day.
It was getting dark outside. I was visiting next door and finally decided to pick my feet up and journey home. Like she did most times, Cheri walked me every step of the way, through her yard, through the adjoining fence, up the porch steps, and into my house. It was quiet.
"You're back," he yelled from the darkness. "I've been waiting on you." The slur of his words and the sway of his body as he entered the room told his familiar drunken tale. My son and daughter appeared, as if on cue, as bitter words were spoken.
I walked past my husband as if he were a ghost when he suddenly grabbed my shoulders, turning my face towards his. "I said, I've been waiting on you." His fingers dug into my flesh, begging for attention, gaining more intensity as his knuckles grew whiter. I tried to back away, but the grip was too tight. At once, his hands released my arms and traveled towards my neck, reaching around and forming a choke hold with his entire arm. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. "You will answer me when I call you," he shouted as he sloppily slammed me against a doorway, indifferent to those who watched. He was twice my size, and his intoxication only made him stronger, more aggressive, and I was fixed.
From across the room, my son lunged forward, slamming into his father, tossing him off me and onto one wall, then another. It reminded me of his offensive line maneuvers on the football field, protecting his quarterback at all cost, then I realized his moves were meant to protect me. With his forearm, he held his father's body securely against a wall. He glanced around, and our eyes met.
"Just go mom," he screamed. I'm not sure whether his words or actions broke my heart first. I was frozen. From both sides, my daughter and my friend echoed the words. My eyes were transfixed on my son. Over and over, he demanded, "just go mom." And finally, "it's time to let go."
The night was filled with flashing lights, endless questions, and finally, arrests and restraining orders. My husband's attempt on my life was topped off by his attempt on his son's life. After quiet descended and disbelief set it, I walked the same worn path toward home that I had walked every day, but this time, it would be my last.
"You have to go." Cheri spoke first as my children nodded in silence. "It'll never get any better, you know that. They want you to go. They want you to be safe. We'll pack everything tonight, and you'll never have to come back."
Over the next few hours, I grabbed everything that meant anything to me. From photo albums to paintings, silverware to shoes, Christmas decorations to deeds and passports, I stuffed my vehicle with all it could hold and left the majority of 24 years behind.
Around midnight, my children and I stood in the front yard looking back at our home. I remembered when we would drag old quilts to the rise in the front yard, spread them out and plop down for hours watching the stars dance in the summer sky. We laughed about the endless family birthday parties on the deck with grandma and papa. I remembered carrying Ty through the front door for the very first time. And there, in the back yard, the place where we had buried Spot, our beautiful red dog with not a marking on his coat. What had happened to all those moments? Who was I then, and more importantly, who had I become?
I drove out of my driveway for the last time with nothing inside me but a belief that my children's love and conviction would be enough to rescue me. The next few months tested this notion with constant moves, little money, and feelings of inadequacy that were finally overturned by a good Samaritan who gave me a job based on his gut feeling.
Paths define people. Mine, like the one from Cheri's house to my front door, had become well-worn, crumpled into a singular route, with no promise of deviation. My life had become a passageway of self-doubt, verbal and physical abuse, and uncontrollable circumstances that I unwittingly allowed to take control. I forgot to see what possibilities lived just beyond my reach. I stopped listening, stopped dreaming, and lived within the barriers that I had built around me.
"What did you mean by 'let go'" I asked my son a few days later.
"It's like this," he began with his 16-year-old wisdom. "I miss you, mom. I have watched what dad has done to you for so long. All of us have tried to talk sense into you forever, but you wouldn't listen." I opened my mouth to speak which he quickly covered my lips with his fingertips. "You wouldn't listen," he said boldly. "We've all tried. Now, we're out of that mess, and you have to get over it."
The answer for all 16-year-olds - to simply get over something.
"Remember what you always tell me," he continued. "What you do from this point on can change everything. It's not what came before, it's what happens right now. So, there. There's your answer. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, and figure out what comes next."
That night, I broke the decade-long cycle of domestic violence and took that first step, which as anyone who has ever lived this life will tell you, is the hardest. Over the next couple of months, with the help of Cheri and my children, I decided to take charge of the remains of my life and reconstruct my path. I had nothing to lose.
A month later, the four of us huddled around an outdoor coffee shop table in the cool November air, and I wrote on a scrap of paper three concrete goals to accomplish in the next three months - a job, a car, a home. By spring, I had all three including a new purpose for living.
I have always heard you have to hit rock bottom before you truly know the power that lives within. Releasing my past failures, as well as my successes, launched me toward the understanding of what was possible if I only start with a clean slate. It was incredibly hard, but I figured, my children and I were worth every ounce of sweat. I will admit that I haven't totally erased that night, or those troubled years, from my memory, for I often wonder what would have become of all of us if we had stayed. At that very moment, I remember those sage words of my 16-year-old - "it's time to let go"- and how his words changed the course of my life.
like most writers, i have writing archives, where dozens of beginnings to manuscripts and a few completed ones spend retirement. for those that skipped that stage of its life and were sent out to demanding editors, these chapters are stapled with their rejection letters. most writers possess them, a necessary part of process that i have fully come to accept.
today, i am a writer. that's my job (enter snoopy doing his happy dance). this part of my writing journey - the years that didn't involve endless pages of interpretive thoughts on great works of american literature - began at least 20 years ago in the romance genre. i was going to be a romance novelist; after all, it was romantic. and i had seen romancing the stone a million times, and i had known how the plot would end. i was searching for my own jack. i faithfully joined georgia romance writers, attended the meetings, even joined critique groups, but something just didn't mesh. i loved every second of it, but i could never write the end. i finally got the message: this isn't your genre, judy. find another way.
and so i did. i sat down and tried to figure out what i loved most in this world. and then i heard my mama's voice. the stories, the history, the truths she imparted on a daily basis, much that fell upon deaf ears. i loved travel, people, the past, old people, quirky stories - those stores you just can't make up. stories that will die if these deaf ears continue to be oblivious. and that is where you find me today - traveling and discovering unique tales of a people who make destinations so darn interesting. and in my travels, i met carlos.
long story short, i fell in love with carlos, his story, his family, his life - and as a writer, you should never let anything like that ever go to waste. so i'm not.
so i took the idea and submitted it to a publisher. in may, a publisher said, "i like this. maybe it will work."
part 2 of snoopy's happy dance!
now, it's july, and i'm not only in the heat of summer, and in the heat of the process. my path to publishing is real; the contract has been signed and returned, and i've had time to do some mind-processing (one of my workflows, i've come to discover) and it's time to buckle down. it's odd that you spend a lifetime dreaming of this moment, and now that it's here, you're scared senseless. time flies. sources evade. sure ideas wither.
so with an anticipated publishing date of august 2015, i'm hot on the trail of the following: moonshine in the mountains, north georgia mountains, old folks, young folks, copper stills in the moonlight, revenuers, spirits, carlos lovell, distilleries, recipes, new folks who can't get enough of those old folks, - and none of that rot-gut stuff allowed (carlos says so), etc. you get the picture.
first stop, the libraries: university of georgia, university of north carolina, clarkesville library,etc. next stop, well, i haven't figured that out just yet.
i invite you to come along on this pathway. for on the days when i just need to vent and explode - with words that have nothing to do with moonshine and history - i hope to find you here, exploding with me.
i will not be my mother. who am i? i am my mother.
there are things we must do. bills we must pay. jobs we must finish. celebrations we must attend. noses we must wipe. but soon (and my soon is coming quicker than anticipated), all the routines will change, and i will fall in love with the serendipity of it all. i'll turn the corner, and be sucked in by the inescapable fortune before my eyes.
nevertheless, i'll walk the expected road for now, but soon, when you least expect it, i'll be spitting and wearing purple. don't get in my way - for your own sake.
when i am an old woman i shall wear purple
with a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
and i shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
i shall sit down on the pavement when i'm tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
i shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit.
you can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickle for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
but now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
we must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
but maybe i ought to practice a little now?
so people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
when suddenly i am old, and start to wear purple.
thank you, dear friend . . .
At that time, i had no idea what a lucky girl i was. not only did I make some of the most enduring and long-lasting friendships of my life, but I also formed a relationship with God that would carry me through my unpredictable later years. Although I'm not as consistent, shall we say, as I once was, when it comes to walking through the church doors on a weekly basis, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't look UP and converse.
With that said, I am most assuredly not catholic, but my husband is. Much like me, my husband's life was resurrected around the church, its traditions and beliefs. I tell him I would have been a horrible Catholic, with all that kneeling and stuff - terrible knees you know. I have visited St. Patrick's cathedral in New York, purchased a beautiful pearl-like rosary and even lit a candle for my daddy. I'm sure i didn't do it right, but in my simple mind, I was close to God and my daddy.
Every year since the beginning of my life with Len, we have celebrated Christmas by attending midnight mass at St. Joseph's in Athens. much of the time, I was lost, but followed my husband's movements as best I could. It was a long way from my Southern Baptist, Bethlehem Baptist. If my prayers were answered, Rev. David McGinness would lead the service. I first met him at St. Mary's hospital when he comforted Len as his mother was slipping away. such peace, humility and grace he brought with him. even though I wasn't catholic, I knew where he got it.
He's a man of small statue, heavy on the Irish brogue, and shockingly, very entertaining. At masses, he always began his remarks with a comical tale and then shifted into a deeper lesson. He did so this Christmas night when he began with a scale and ended with a birth. "There was no room in the inn," he began matter-of-factly. Such a disappointment for those who missed this blessing, he continued. And why is there no room today? Such clutter. Such unnecessary stuff.
As I go through the daily chores of everyday life, I want that stuff gone. Those thoughts erased. Those people that make me sad. the events that I can't change. The lives that I can't touch. I don't want to miss out because I didn't make room for the important moments, people, events, tears, laughter . . . joy.
I will do my best to consciously make room - daily, moment by moment, breath by breath. For my husband who unselfishly gives me his heart; for my children who still hug me and want to spend time with mom; for family who never forgets the history that glues us together; for my heritage, one that has built my character and won't let me down; for my career, one that gives me such pleasure; for friends who make me a priority in their life, not an option. I don't want to wake up this time next year and realize, with disappointment, that I missed the king.
so what did i do? i wrote about it.
i was the lifestyle editor at the walton tribune and got a shot at writing my first editorial. after all, as a woman, i had lots to say, so why not open the flood gates. in a newsroom full of men, the female perspective might draw new readers, and it was an easy assignment for those floundering leaders. so, i wrote.
for some reason, i didn't keep the article. however, my mama did because as excited as i was about being a mama, she was more excited about her first grandma role. her baby was having a baby. i get it now.
i cringe at my writing, but i sure do remember the hormone roller-coaster. i'm sure baby j (mari) is thinking many of the same things at this very moment. i'm not sure she ever read this, so here it is - your mama being nervous because you were on your way.
no need to be nervous, baby j. you'll do great.
without quite knowing what to say, i would like to begin by saying i'm glad to be your mom. with mother's day just around the corner, i have been thinking of the significance of what is actually about to happen.
no, i'm not backing out, but a few shivers have been running up and down my spine for the past few weeks. the closer i get to seeing your face, the more worried i become that i won't be able to live up to your expectations.
i guess all moms go through the same stage - wondering whether or not they will be able to fulfill baby's every need, calm every doubt and fear and be around to wipe away all the tears.
the fear of the unknown, they call it. . .
i remember when i first found out that you were here . . . talk about the unknown. my emotions went haywire. i didn't know exactly how to react. your dad couldn't believe that what he had been dreaming of for years was about to become a reality. you brought quite a lot of excitement to our home in october. we knew then that all of our tomorrows would never be the same again.
we began planning from day one. what will the nursery look like? what about day care? what doctors do we use? what happens if we can't afford the baby? the house is a mess.
now almost nine months later, we still have the same questions with no definite answers. now we simply look above for guidance and assurance to those questions and for the calming of our fears. we anticipate your arrival with joy and determination that all things will work out for the best.
you see, baby j, being a parent in the 80s is quite different from the time i great up. now mothers shuffle their time between career and family, while the father must do the same. finding someone that i can trust to keep you while i'm at work poses a problem. how can i make sure you're getting all the love and attention needed while at the same time leaving a little room for me?
i can remember how my mother had to be everywhere at one time, while at the same time she was always tugging me along for the ride.
to this day, she tells me that i was her responsibility and no one else would get the pleasure. for that reason, she sacrificed all else for me.
i never had a baby-sitter. i guess mom was everything to me - babysitter, mom, playmate and best friend. it makes me exhausted just recalling what she did for me. over all these years, the things that she did for me then were never more important that they are right now.
i want to be that kind of mom to you, baby j. one that be exactly what you need when you need it.
the countdown is beginning. i guess anytime that you decide to make your grand entrance into this world is the day when my world will take on a whole new beginning. sometimes i wonder whether or not i am willing to make such a sacrifice.
then i feel you kick me with just enough force to let me know that your wants are not to be forgotten. i can almost smile because you feel my insecurities and know that they exist only in my mind.
you definitely will be a bundle of joy, baby j. our own little bundle. one that will change our lives in a way that only experience will dictate.
i look forward to meeting you face to face and touching you, and caressing you only as a mother can do. moms have that special touch, or haven't you already guessed that.
so for this mother's day, i can only dream of what my mom's day will be like when i first get to hold you. we'll have a lot of days together for the rest of our lives, baby j.
i'll see you real soon.
i was right about everything except the last part. well, semi-right. everything was going according to plan, the check-in, the prep, but once i got on the table for the epidural, normal morphed into emergency. i remember saying, "i can't breathe" and the world going black.
long story, short - the epidural went up instead of down. i didn't wake until that evening and when i did get to hold my son, it was with assistance. but i got to hold him. and touch him. and the day was good again.
then, i met kathy.
most of the time, when your world is turning upside down, you forget that life continues for others without any regard for your status. it's not wrong; it's just how human nature works. but in the midst of my struggle, kathy and her family paused for me. you see, she gave birth at the same hospital, on the same day, at the same time as me, a fact that her son still holds over my son's head. that's the price you pay forever when you arrive five minutes early.
our families knew each other, but i had never gotten to know her. we attended the same church, sang in the same choir, but ran in different circles. she was old monroe; i was an outsider. i didn't think i fit. but on this day, we fit. our families fit. our concerns meshed. the lot of us leaned against each other for comfort, advice, strength and all the while, we celebrated our two beautiful boys - no matter what the future held next. our bonds were born.
we shared a unique opportunity. learning how to be happy for the other while our world balanced on its side. our friendship multiplied over the years. there were many good moments, but unfortunately, much of our lives were mingled with pain and struggle. again, we returned to the ties that drew us together in the first place; we leaned and survived.
today, my friend is going through sadness. a circumstance that has brought years of anguish to others and now, it has chosen her. it has a history of destruction, but i'm not sure it knows the what it is up against with her. she took care of her first husband, and he was much more ominous than cancer. so there.
i'm not sure what to say or even how i can make it better. more than likely, i can't. i'll leave that to the doctors and the good lord above.
so, i will lean. just as before. i will be there. i'll brush a shoulder or pat a back or touch the back of her daddy's hand. maybe that's a daily exercise we should all engage in. stay on the treadmill, raise the weights, but never forget to raise your arms, hold a friend, lean a little closer. exercise those ties than bind.
kat, i'm leaning today. leaning hard.
such a metaphor for forgetting that curve balls are inevitable and how you react, consequential. i didn't duck yesterday, and as a result, i did something really stupid. we've all been there. and then one day later, you smack yourself. good and hard. where did all my common sense go? what happened to all that motherly advice you impart to your children, and then when push-comes-to-shove, you fall apart and do exactly the opposite of what you tell them to do in order to rise above? ah, the humanity of it all.
i hate it when human nature takes over. i'm really better than all that 'meanness' that pours from my mouth. my mama made sure i had all the rules and instructions i needed to get through just about anything. and inevitably , i fail to listen - to remember - i get bogged down in garbage and forget what is really important. who is really important.
no matter what we choose to be at any particular moment, we have to remember, it's a choice. i made it. i pay for it. i'm not the only one in the game. others are depending on me to rise above petty rubbish and do the right thing.
it's monday. i plan on getting back in the game today; however, today's game will follow the play book, the play book that ends with a shot at the title.
waiting allows me my time, the first of the day without pressures and deadlines. my alone time. and this waiting time begins my evening conversation with mama.
i'll usually tell her things she already knows, explain events she already understands, and finally, i'll inquire as to "what are you doing up there." i'll hear her move through the trees, see her in the animal's eyes, or just hear nothing, which mama would agree, is the best melody at the end of a long day. it must be amazing, i ponder, to live in the night sky surrounded by twinkle lights and the heavenly father, knowing all the why's and why not's. there are times i'm jealous of that. not that i want to leave earth, but i'm envious of the "no-pain, streets of gold, great companionship and all the answers" kind of existence. i think if we're all honest, we all would like that life - down here. but, as i've always heard, you can't have your cake and eat it, too.
my rambling continues, and i explain it's a new year, and we're knee deep in obamacare. "too much to explain now," i offer. "just know it's a bunch of hooey." i can't help but think if i'd only taken care of myself a little better, this wouldn't be as important an issue. having hundreds of dollars in prescription drugs wouldn't be a reality. or how I wouldn't have my own neurologist or cardiologist or gastroenterologist - more gist than i knew existed. who would have thought 54 would be this old?
"what's that, mom?" i ask.
"remember what i said?" she repeats.
i just look at lolly - all content with her bucket of sweet feed and heaping pile of hay - and realize mama, as usual, is pointing out the true horse's ass.
if i heard it once, i heard it a million times . . .
1. sitting that close to the tv will make you blind. or at the very least, a requirement of reader glasses in every room of the house, including all bathrooms.
2. eating too much creamed corn will make you fat - why do you think they feed hogs corn? yes, mama, i enjoyed every creamy bite, and you were right. it did make me fat.
3. go play outside and don't come home until it's dark. she should have thrown me out of the house more often, not just to go fetch a hickory.
4. you can eat at home. my incessant pleas to stop at the mcdonalds in commerce on the way to my uncle's house were annoying, and always, fell on deaf ears. you go, mom.
5. if you cross your eyes, they will stick. i think i win this one.
and these little gems went far past the health of it all, straight into living life . . .
6. if you swallow a watermelon seed, you'll grow a watermelon in your stomach. by mama's account, i should never go hungry again.
7. if a you hear a hoot owl cry three times, someone will die. i hear owls and i still wonder who will die during the night. my northern husband laughs at me.
8. if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. i should have listened to this one a little more closely.
9. you're going to grow up and have a daughter just like you. curse you, mama.
10. never wear dirty underwear. and i never will.
11. there's only one right way. and it was mama's way. who could have imagined the word right and mama could be interchangeable?
12. you'll always catch more flies with honey than vinegar. every single time.
13. i'm not going to tell you again. . . and she didn't. i knew the second time meant a visit to the front yard for that hickory switch.
14. life isn't fair. how did you know?
and probably my favorite of all . . .
15. you'll see. she was right. she was always right. god has a delightful sense of humor.
it's funny as you get older you remember all those things your mama told you when you pretended not to hear. and now, you'd give your right arm just to be able to listen to the cadence of her voice once more. even if she had to end the conversation with "you'll see", that would be fine and dandy.
and when you find yourself alone with just yourself, the horses and the sky, those long-ago words will return and keep you company. you'll see.
he was what you would call today, a picker. he had every do-dad imaginable. those 'dads' weren't just small either. they were bird houses, cars, even mountains. he told me of one auction where he purchased land in north georgia, a mountain, an entire mountain. crazy, i thought. then he told me of his dream to build an underground house on the side of his mountain. warm in the winter, cool in the summer - heaven in his eyes. then, he told me he had never seen it, but he was certain it was a good deal. he died still believing in that deal and wishing for his underground house.
lost without him, his wife sold most of the mountain, but gave me a lot as a gift. he would want you to have it, she told me. he knew the mountain girl that lived within me, and she would be always be at home here. this would be my resting place. whenever time came.
time has come. it's time to change the possum hollow sign to population 22. not sure the time frame, but everyone has to start somewhere. today, we start with a dream, a goal, and the dream of ivet pushing me and this mountain girl to make my mountain retreat a reality.
the visit 2013
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
presidential distinguished professor
the arena at gwinnett center
the pillars of responsible citizenship in the 21st century global village and secular ethics in education
over 10,000 in attendance
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, one of the world's most renowned and revered voices for peace and universal ethics, is the 14th spiritual leader of Tibet and the 1989 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk.
he returns to the stage, still chuckling along the way. "sorry. sorry. actually, i always act like that, completely informal, informal way." applause and laughter sweep through the arena.
"i feel the beginning of the 21st century, some violence even today, like syria."
"innocent people, children, great suffering. these I believe are the symptoms of the past mistakes and negligence."
". . . very much based on extreme self-centered attitude, individual level, national level. So that's the key element to violence. if you keep others also part of humanity, also brothers, human brothers and sisters. . . "
"there is a possibility to create a peaceful century."
"so I feel not only myself but many of my friends now feel the only way to solve this problem, through dialogue, dialogue, can solve. so there the dialogue means respect others, respect their interests. . . the proper way is whenever we face problems, the potential conflict, and with respect to their right, their view . . . "
"our survival entirely depends on someone else caring."
he continues to explain the necessity of compassion in all areas of one's life and that the course of lives are often dictated by the influence of the home. he speaks lovingly of his mother, crediting her as the designer of his character.
"i always telling people, i have some kind of - certain amount of compassion, that firstly i learned from my mother."
"maximum affection from our mother, from our parent, and our friends. i think these people deep inside are much happier. those individuals who received less affection or parent abandon, sometimes abused, those of distrust, always remain a little bit distance from others. we are social animals. the very basis of our future."
"outside a very good car and inside a very good television, all these things are there. but if that family even a member of the family, some kind of jealousy, some kind of distrust. husband a little bit of distrust wife. wife, a lot of ornaments, but a little bit distrust husband. then I think that home never by very happy human home."
"it is not sufficient just to complain about our problems."
"we need enthusiasm, not money."
" . . . peaceful mind, then no need for drugs. If they're mentally unhappy, then this lack of knowledge how to reduce mental problems, then just relying on alcohol or drugs, like that. America I think seems a lot of customers of drugs. So then blame on some other country. if no customers, then they will not bring them."
"common interest is more important than individual nation's interest."
"some emotions are bad for our health."
"action is more important than faith, than prayer."
there's endless quantities of outdated clothes, unused kitchen utensils, unopened (regrettable) gifts, worn-out shoes, discarded computer equipment, lifeless TVs, packaged christmas decorations, busted lamps, unnecessary nick-knacks, and more and more of the same. most you fly right by, but there are some objects that require a closer look.
i can't begin to explain how many hallmark cards can fit into a box about waist high. i believe veta (len's mom) kept them in business. whether it was the sending or the receiving, she did her part in establishing hallmark as a billion dollar enterprise. it may appear to be just paper, but you must attach humans to these mailings. consider those who sent the cards - how they perused the aisle in the grocery store, reading card after card until the right one made them smile. jackpot! and then, days later, veta, sitting in her green lazy boy, going through the mail, finding a colored envelope and realizing it wasn't a bill. with her shinny letter opener, she slit open the envelope and then magic, a smile from ear to ear. thoughts from far away! no matter if the occasion was a birthday, a holiday or even a death, a smile was there because someone cared enough to send a card. not an email, a hand-written card.
and in my mama's old steam truck, one single greeting card that stood out from all the others: the first valentine from what would turn out to be one of many during a very long, love affair. he only signed his name, kimsey, and added no thoughts or phrases. his name was enough. i wonder how many times she read the card while tracing the imprint of his name with the tips of her fingers.
when you least expect it, you will find treasures wrapped securely in 1980s newspaper pages. there's the drag-ula car made by my husband for his pine-wood derby years ago. wrapped securely in browned paper, hours and hours of work lay in my palm. before I even knew he existed, he carved it with his hands and crafted it with his heart. then, there's the sosewsoldier sewing kit that belonged to neil, len's father. he carried this government-issued necessity to france, through belgium and then home again during wwii. both will have a new home, free from stale air.
finally, as i ramble through heaping box of towels, dishcloths and crocheted throws, i stumble upon a beautiful blush linen tablecloth, complete with eight matching napkins - still in its original box, unused with creases still crisp. as with all things cotton packed away, a wash is required. as i toss the tablecloth in the washer, i read the tag: made right in america. not simply made in america like we occasionally see today, but made right in america. pride jumped off the tag and smacked me in the face. i don't recall seeing that wording ever. i'm sure that in 2013, those words aren't added to tags on linens or toys or computers or anything else for that matter.
there are lessons to be learned from the attic. mice can get into any box, i don't care how secure you think it is. most of us have way too much stuff. those clothes you wouldn't wear in the 70s will NOT come back in style and even if they did, you wouldn't or couldn't wear them then so you won't wear them now, so get rid of them. dead tvs and computers are just that, dead. and, when you dig through the clutter, there are gems of lasting worth that must be saved. there are stories of accomplishments and failure, of loneliness and hope, of holidays and dreams - magical seconds of a lifetime made concrete by materials stored in an attic.
meet the parents
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].
not bad for a beginning, don't you think?
i went to the woods because i wished to live deliberately. . . thoreau
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.
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.
Blue Ridge Country
Building A Business
Little Cabin In The Woods
Path To Publishing
Son In Law
The First Book
To Sydney With Love