I've never been a girly-girl and when I heard these words from Evelyn's mouth, I choked.
"You are simply so lovely to look at," she said, sitting across from me at a crowded table filled with journalists and coffee drinkers in a Myrtle Beach bakery. "You are," she said humbly and earnestly as if she knew it was going to take some convincing on her part.
Truly, I had no words. and those words, I'll never forget as long as I live. At 59, I'm not exactly the me I would love to be, and with 60 on the horizon, I'm literally mortified. As I get older, I feel mortality creeping around the corner like a cat on the prowl. I wonder, "How in the world did I get here?"
Getting here was probably the easy part; staying here might take a little work.
I look in the mirror and see my mama. Although we share no DNA, I see the wisdom of her wrinkles, her concern for everything, her stoutness of character, her want for a world where good outweighs the bad, her adoration for her family, and her desire to live a good and long life. She was all of those things; I am all of those things, too.
I'm glad I'm here. I made it to the double nickle plus four, and if God-willing, twice that. I think about what Evelyn said to me that day, and I realize that other people see us so differently than we see ourselves. Yes, some opinions are for the birds and should be kept silent and if not, ignored. But for the majority of those with whom we share our time and table, their hugs and words and touch lift us higher. We must listen to those who applaud that which we might not even see, and when they suggest, "Fall in love," we do it. I have yet to do that, but I hope I can get there in the next 59 years.
I hear Evelyn's words every now again as they drift through my mind. I'm as amazed this very moment as I was then. And this week, I met a new friend and she made me feel the reality of Evelyn's words. I had a make-over; again, it was a first. Through our mutual connection at the chamber, we had a little fun and formed an alliance that will take us far beyond her dining room filled with beauty.
Feeling good about yourself is empowering. Women empowering other women is even more transformative.
I doubt Evelyn realized the enormity of what she said. I am sure Kirsten didn't know the gift she gave that went beyond powders and gloss. It's about time we make each other feel extraordinary, and (I'm screaming at myself most of all) learn to listen to compliments and internalize them. Feel the weight of their goodness. Let those words confirm and transform us into the women we truly are.
It's about time . . . we love ourselves.
You leave your mark wherever you go. You wonder how many come behind you and really look at your offering (whether a dollar bill at No Name Pub or a promise on the porch) and consider your contribution to the daily grind. I hope that I have added a meager semblance of good to the flow, with very few ruffled feathers, and when the world sleeps at night, people and animals rest assured they have a friend and a caretaker.
As the sun rises along Ramrod Key this Friday morning, I see the universe's contribution and mark upon my day, a projection of hope and light. Hope is a dynamic proposition that much like that of Robert Frost, offers many roads that diverge and it's up to me to make a choice, a good choice. The language I choose. The platform I raise. The character I disclose. Where will I do the most good? What is right for me? Where will my hope lead me? Can I get out of the box that I've created - and my surroundings expect - and fly?
I choose to fly. At this point in my life, flying is the only mark that makes sense. But keep in mind, flying is mighty hard. Tough. Exhausting. Ruthless. Rewarding. I will definitely leave the adventure to those with younger joints and figure out how to contribute in a manner fitting a pub in the middle of nowhere with no name. A mark that fits me.
After all, this life - this choice - this direction - is the only one I have which will lead me home.
Leave the best mark you can.
There are people reflecting all over the place - on Facebook, even in my mailbox that sits at the edge of my driveway. We get letters from friends and family, exuberantly shouting their accomplishments which include obtaining their third doctor's degree, incredible jobs with six-figure salaries and announcing their ump-teenth grandchild. They are proud, and rightly, they should be. However, since none of those broadcasts make my list, nevertheless, I am still proud of where I find myself on the last day of 2015.
It's not "Look at me" but "Look at how far I've come." I am not where I once was nor will I ever be at this point again. I am moving forward, adding to my list of triumphs, which to others may seem insignificant, but to me, monumental. I am making myself accountable for four of my best efforts this year. These feats make me proud. 1. I wrote a book and a publisher wanted it. I dare say I might not get to say this again, so I'm putting it right out front. I did it. I'm not sure how, but the words came, and so did the people; 2. I learned to shoot in manual mode, thus taking control of my photography which led me to my kick-ass 5DMarkiii (a.k.a. Kimsey); 3. I broke into a new travel market (my editorial complemented by Len's photography) with my first major international publication and million+ audience; and 4. I am realizing (albeit a continuing struggle) my place in this world - partner, employee, entrepreneur.
What makes you proud today?
I'm sad when I buy something new to replace something old. I feel like I'm betraying the something old.
It was much like last weekend while on a press trip, Len and I visited a distillery in Sevierville. We met the distiller, and he just happened to be from North Georgia. We knew the same people, and we even shared a laugh. I felt like I was two-timing Carlos (North Georgia Moonshine).
On the same trip, we went to Knife Works in Sevierville. Knives, guns, cutlery, even a Katana. The respect I had for Michonne skyrocketed when I saw the size of that thing. But back to knives.
Len always carries a pocket knife. When we met, he carried the one his sons gave him as a constant physical reminder that they were with him. He lost it in the attic during a clean-out, but has never given up hope that it will find its way back home into his pocket one day when he least expects it. Then, he replaced that one with one of his father's blades, a reminder as well. Long ago, his father received it as a promotional piece for his hardware store; it read Carver's Auto Parts before time erased its engraving. Although the blade, even then, was a little rickety, the handle worn, it took its place inside Len's pocket. He decided last weekend, it was time for a knife to call his own.
The new Colt (on the left) is now at home in Len's pocket. His father's knife sits on his dresser, in a plate where all Len's valuables and trinkets sit each night. It won't be tucked away inside a drawer, but will remain in the light. Even though we take things out of commission, parting with them still seems unnatural, so we keep them if for no other reason than to remind ourselves of what once was.
I suppose we can say that about everything: a new pot versus mama's old iron skillet; my death-trap Saab versus the one I'm dreaming about in my mind; daddy's sturdy ratchet set versus Home Depot's newest do-everything singular sensation; the latest ergonomic office chair versus old faithful that was hard as a rock.
I'm not two-timing, I say with conviction. I'm making adjustments, fixing what hurts, retiring the worn. Who am I kidding? This emotional sentimental journey is a long one, and I will continue to replace, but never discard. And really, who am I hurting? I have drawers and acres and cabinets to store the entire lot. So if one day, you see me on Hoarders, just smile and know my heart (like my house) is full.
A ship is always safe at the shore - but that is NOT what it is built for. ~ Albert Einstein
Albert nailed it. So did Virge Lovell in my book North Georgia Moonshine. In the first chapter he says, "Little boats stay close to shore; big boats venture forth more." Staying close to the shore is a sure thing, but they weren't designed to stay tied to the dock. I can see the likes of pirate Jack Sparrow and Captain Ahab planning their next voyage, ordering a dinky ship because after all, it would simply be tied to the shore. What's the use?
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.
And there you have it. The life of an author. In a nutshell. In all its glory.
It is now the next day. Len's last words to me this morning were "send! send! send!" I love my cheerleader.
The trash sits at the curb on Mayne, and I am looking at a completed document, making final changes, tweaks and corrections. By literary standards, 40K is not a major book, but by my standards, it might as well have been the Bible. I could never have imagined how exhausting this would be. I'm spent - just like mash! But unlike the mash, I'm not sure there will be another run. Today, I say no. Tomorrow, who knows?
Len read my book yesterday, for the first time. Instead of getting it in phrases and slices, he saw the entire picture. I sat at my desk in my office while he sat at his desk in his office. I heard him laugh, comment, sigh - that is my validation. That's the best review I will ever receive.
All in all, I'm proud of what I have created. Thankful for the opportunities along the way. For the past two years, I have been given the privilege to watch a family come together than had spent too much time apart. I heard stories that made my toes curl, my heart race and my mind spin. I recorded history - not only for the family - but for generations (including me!) who came from the North Georgia mountains. I cemented a time that I hope will not be lost. I am proud.
So, this part ends. Who knows what comes next? I'll let you know once the editor has her say.
With gratitude . . . . (SO much gratitude)!
September 27, 2014, was a long time coming. It was my dream in December, 1982, and today, it's just a house. Houses grow old, just like me, and if not given love and attention, will die. Such is the tale of Colquitt. After many attempts to spruce up the old joint, it wasn't going to happen without the help of a winning scratch-off. So sell, we shall. After Ty's (gracious and out-of-his-league) attempt to gut and become Mr. Fix-it fell through, the choice of buyers during year one became slim and non-existent. Then, a dreamer like me saw the potential, is taking a chance and will make this little bungalow into a dream once again. I wish him luck and prosperity. I wish the same for us.
So on this overcast fall Saturday in Georgia (while the Dawgs undo Tennessee a few miles up the road), we're loading up and moving out; however, that doesn't come without a few tears and 'remember whens?'
What's a move without a lame attempt at a yard sale?
And then those items that you find that mean absolutely nothing to everyone else, but mean the world to you . . . .
. . . the china cabinet (that began its life as a TV) that mama and daddy transformed (that's what you did in those days). It's been painted a million times. Inside the drawers, you can still see a scant reminder of where "Judy Hill" scribbled her name in crayon.
. . . the oil lamps that sat in my living room in Clarkesville for as long as I can remember. Mama always said, "We must be prepared if the lights go out."
. . . and the table. The table that mama built. She got adventurous, took a class at North Georgia Tech (the Trade School as we called it), and built a table. It took residence in our dining room. We never ate at the table, but always adored it and treated it like royalty. It's gone through three moves now and is a little rough for wear. One day, it's going back home to the mountains - to our little cabin in the woods.
. . . and the ten-ton blue fan that mama kept in the back bedroom window to blow cool air from one end of the house to the other. In hot summers, I would go back to the bedroom, lay at the foot of the bed so that my face would be inches from those steel blades. I would enjoy the coolest place in the house and then start singing into the moving blades. "ahemahemmmmmm"
No matter what this little first house of mine became, it ends as a reminder of my wealth. I remember Mari's first birthday party around the backyard rose garden - stenciling the living room ceiling in purple love birds - mama rocking her first grandchild in the t-tiny living room - the day Challenger exploded and I froze in disbelief - sitting on the front stoop at night wondering, questioning - planting the dogwoods for Logan and Mari and the weeping cherry for Ty - a home for the three of us and mama when there was no where else to turn - where mama took her last breath - where I learned to stand alone.
I haven't left many houses in my life - Clarkesville, Jersey, Monroe - and I have to remember that the most important things I take with me. The boards, sheet-rock and windows are just that and nothing more.
I plan on having only two more in my life time - my current and most important one- Mayne Mill - and another, in Hiawassee. When Len and I get our fill of traveling and photography (doubt that will ever happen), we'll start on our little hideaway in the mountains. After all, mama's table needs a proper resting place.
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.