Hobo Kitty (lower left) had a litter of kittens almost two months ago. About three weeks later, this little one (right) showed up right along side of her. Since we're in the country and all kind of critters are around, we thought that maybe the others didn't make it. We named the little one Bo, and mama kitty's name, well, we shortened to Ho. Yes, we're bad.
A week later, a jet black one with white socks appeared.
And just yesterday, two more appeared. Both looked to have had bad hair days since birth.
This morning, little Bo's screams led us to the front porch where his hind leg had become tangled in the yarn which Ty left as a toy. Len scooped him up amidst the screams and tantrums (Bo, not Len), and brought him into the house for the first time to operate. Once free from string, Bo took to us nicely, even slept a little while I fretted that in a few moments, I would have to let go.
I let go and he's back with the three others that have long scampered back underneath the chest on the porch. Bo did look back. In my mind, he said, "Thanks. Let's do the holding part again. It really wasn't so bad." Then, he slipped quietly underneath the chest with the others.
Kind of like mama's do - they let you play at will. They pray that if you get in trouble, there will be someone to scoop you up, fix the boo-boo, and then let you be on your way once more. Soon, you'll begin to trust those who have been kind to you. You'll remember them fondly and understand where you can live without fear. Open your eyes to all the possibilities and the people in your world. But you'll never forget that mama that made you do and go and be what you never dreamed possible.
"Thanks, mama. Let's do the holding part again, soon."
The case took wings as though it was as light as a feather. Flying through the air, daddy swerved the car to dodge the light blue bullet. It landed with a thump, rolling a couple of times before landing in the grass. "Stop," I screamed at daddy. "Let's get it." Knowing that you never pass by anything of worth, daddy pulled over onto the shoulder as we watched the car that once carried the case snug on its roof disappear into the horizon. It never slowed down; never paused. In my little girl mind, it was fate; the case was meant to be mine.
I bolted from the car as mama and daddy followed. I picked it up as if it were glass, taking care not to disturb what was inside. I held it tightly to my chest. I couldn't wait to open the latches to see what treasure was inside. For a split second, I felt sympathy for the lady who, around sunset, would discover she no longer had a traveling case and what was inside would be forever gone. That second passed, for now, whatever it was, was mine.
Mama grabbed it from me. "Get back in the car," she said.
I was devastated. I not only wanted, but I needed to see what was inside.
I sulked all the way to our cabin in Hiawassee. I pouted the entire night. Not once did mama open the case, or even offer to let me open it. It was a weekend of ignoring the case. I was mortified.
Sunday night, we loaded the car and traveled back home. The little blue case was shoved into the trunk, right beside my suitcase. "Open me. Open me." I couldn't stand it.
Before we went to bed that night, mama called me into her room and there it sat. On her bed. Top open. "Come look."
Inside was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Pastel pink. Chiffon. Ruffles. A long-flowing nightgown which I immediately held to my chest; it even had a little jacket. It whispered of a lady. In a pouch, lipsticks and powder, and even a mirror. I touched everything. I felt the softness between my fingers. All I had ever know was cotton; chiffon only lived in the movies.
That was the last time I saw its contents. The case was emptied and placed in the garage among things that were no longer needed. There it sat - on top of the pile - for the rest of my days.
Today, the case rests on top of other oddly shaped, nostalgic suitcases in my hallway. Every time I pass by, I remember the day it came into my life. The excitement that was born. The beauty and mystery it brought. I keep it as a reminder to keep that same childlike wonder inside me every single day. Granted, that's a stretch some days; but others, just seeing those silver latches makes me smile. I call it my "ten year old Grace Kelly moment." It was then I realized that suitcases + travel = chiffon. Who can deny that rationalization?
How do you fix a GRAY Japanese Kubota tractor that has been abused, destroyed, ignored, hammered, wrecked, knocked around, bruised, shattered to the point that IF the right parts were found, would it actually work? Would that key turn and that starter roll IF all the pieces were in place? Would papa's tractor - now a sad pile of metal - be reborn to dig and haul and move?
Would the memories of riding in the driver's seat, feet dangling, while papa made sure the brake was mashed and the gears were changed, do the trick? Sitting on the laps of Titans have been known to change lives before. Will those memories propel us to finish what we've started?
And even though this rescued tractor has sat on that trailer for the more than a year, three of its four tires are flat, and for the life of us, that key still won't turn and that motor won't sing, can we do it? Will we do it? It won't be for lack of trying.
So this tractor fixin' project has been in the works for well into two years now. As time allows, Len and Ty piddle and poke and search for the right parts, the right key, affordable replacement tires. I watch Ty and I know that bringing this tractor back to life is a way of keeping his papa close at hand. Len knows that getting this tractor in working order has nothing to do with it's ability to work, but everything to do with keeping his step-son's memory of his grandfather alive. That's enough reason for him.
I watch Ty wipe the years of time-stamped dirt from the tractor's once vibrant shell, knowing that it will never be as beautiful as it once was. For one reason, time has added layers that scrubbing just won't erase, and for the most important reason, his papa isn't around to make it shine.
So, if they get it running, great. If not, then great, too. It's home, and it's loved. Just like papa.
I looked up and saw the grin. Immediately, I caught my breath and I remembered - picnics under the tree, Grandma Franklin, the Elvis moment - all surfaced. I gasped. She gasped. And the rest was a reunion of best friends.
My memory has never been too favorable; there are jabs at the past, flashes of light that will illuminate certain moments. At this age, flashes of light are favorable. I need jabs. I need reminders. The grin was my jab.
It had been at least 35 years since I had seen Sharon Franklin. She lived in Woodstock; I lived in Clarkesville. The summer brought us together as she would spend three months with her Grandma Franklin on the hill in the little brick house underneath the towering oak tree. I can't for the life of me tell you how we met. All I know is that we were inseparable. We were besties before besties were cool. We swooned over Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy, vowing I would marry Bobby and she, David ( I think Peter Frampton was in the mix somehow?), and we'd be happy forever. Instead, she married Ricky, a pure stud in Habersham speak. I was jealous. I started college with no Bobby in my future and certainly no Ricky along the way. Sharon settled down with Ricky, made babies and well, our lives drifted apart. Until last Saturday . . .
You never forget those who make you feel good about yourself, those that just make you so stinking happy. Sharon make me stinking happy. Our hot summers spent in the shadows of Grandma Franklin and the old oak tree prepared us for life, although we had no clue that that was happening. Those summers taught us to delight in the simple things, the beauty of best friends, the wonder of really old people, that laughter cools just like lemonade, that going places is overrated, and jumping sky-high on beds won't bring down the house. True friendship requires bed jumping and lemonade sipping and secret sharing.
Last Saturday, Sharon smiled and I cried; I felt Grandma Franklin and mama doing their happy dances in heaven for the girls were back together. Time and geography may have separated us, but in a split second, we were back on the hill, underneath the oak tree, running silly. We exchanged numbers, and I promised I would not let time separate us again.
My book has given me earnings that weren't penciled in my contract. I got to return home, to hear heart-felt stories of how much the community loved my mama and daddy, to be part of a family again and visit with relatives that I miss so much my body aches, and this - for this reason - I am most thankful; I made a new best friend with my old friend Sharon.
There are moments to be quiet, keep your opinions to yourself; after all, they are just my opinions and more than likely will not manufacture world peace or nourish the hungry. "Don't unleash the drama," says the one that is my son. I ask, "So others get a voice and opinion, and I do not? " Silly, but that doesn't make the world go round. No one learns from keeping quiet, and heart attacks are ignited because you can only stuff things inside so long.
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:
Call it your gut - I call it mama.
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.
"what cha' doing?" i looked up, contemplating the silver strips mama held in her hand. her head was arched upward, and with one hand she held tightly to her face, and with the other, she placed the two long silver metal things against her chin and tugged. she grunted and jerked.
"plucking my face," she uttered.
'what in the world is that,' i thought, my mouth twitched to the side as i stretched higher on my tippy toes to see if i could see plucking. i wasn't sure what i was looking for, but assuredly once i heard a grunt, i knew i was close.
she did it over and over again until finally, she placed the silver things down on the bathroom counter, grabbed a washcloth that had been soaking in the sink and touched it to her face.
"what cha' doing now," i questioned again.
"making it feel better," she responded.
i wasn't exactly sure what she was making feel better, but i watched her repeat this worrisome process every day from the moment i was ten until, well, forever.
this morning, i looked into the mirror, arched my head upward, and with one hand held my face and with the other, placed what i now know to be tweezers against my chin and tugged. i grunted. and knowing what came next, i ran the hottest water possible into the sink and watched a cloth float until it filled with the weight of the water and sank. i gathered the cloth, twisted it tightly until all the water escaped and placed it against my chin. it felt better.
i'm not sure when i looked into the mirror and saw her staring back at me, but i'm glad i have those stalwart eyes showing me the way. even though they have been closed for nearly six years, not a day goes by without my remembering. and as sure as hogs love slop (a favorite saying of hers), she's peeping down from heaven and watching my morning ritual and declaring, "don't forget the cloth. it makes it feel better." mama always knew what made the grunt feel better.
happy birthday mama. i will never pluck without thinking of you.
she's here, as i'm sure her parents can confirm. it might be the sleepless nights heard round the world that provides the proof that a six-pounder can cause all kinds of havoc to normal human beings. what a disruptive little cuss she is, this caitlin cutie. and just so you know, at a week-and-a-half, mama and daddy still don't get the concept of 'step away from the baby' or 'put the baby down' even though she's just too cute. mari was cute once, as i'm sure phelim was. i didn't learn until my third child that what my mama told me was the gospel. never rock, never walk, never tote a baby - no matter if it kills you not to cuddle and snuggle with that mystical lump of joy. but as mari will tell you, sleep is overrated and cute wins out every time. let's see if she feels that way in, say, a month!
you see that adorable pink blanket? that's been soaked with kisses by her grandparents, grandma judy and papa len, so technically [in my mind] we've touched. that's the only consolation at the moment for the thousands of miles separating us. it was her christmas present before we even knew of those ruby red lips or those big feet [yes, i said big feet]. i will give phelim the credit for those [or her uncle ty, not sure which one gets the most credit].
still rockin' that pink blanket, i see. that, my dear caitlin, will be the object that brings you the most comfort (even if mama and daddy tell you differently, always reach for grandma and papa's blanket - it's where dreams are born)!
she's only a few minutes old. i recognize that look on daddy's face. the one that says 'you are wrapped around my finger' and 'you can't date until you're 25' and 'sure, just one more popsicle' and 'i'll love you until the twelfth of never'. i have that same look, only it's going to take you a little longer for our peepers to connect. until then, papa and myself are leaving you in good hands. see you soon.
happy birthday caitlin - march 22, 2014 - 6 lbs. 1 oz. - sydney, australia
By this time next week, I should be a grandmother. Some 28 years ago, I remember the same anticipation, only I would be a mama - a realization that scared the gravy out of me.
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 Ii 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.
dear baby j,
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.
yesterday is a funny thing. it holds that time-space-star trek-weird kind of leverage. something i'm almost positive sheldon and leonard could explain. however, in my mind, yesterday, when provoked, flashes in-and-out on a daily basis. like when i drive by schools and see the suv express dropping off kids, or pick up a bottle of v-8 in the grocery store, or drive down the road and see bubbles of black topping the ground.
those school drop-offs put me behind my suv wheel, tapping patiently, waiting for three happy-go-lucky kids to doddle from the house to the car, offering no attempt to be a little early - just once. i was frazzled by my first period roll call. len's mom had v-8 every day, mango and peach only. i buy it now when i need more veta love in my life. and those black bubbles. as i drive into town, i see calves lying everywhere in green pastures, my first indicator that spring has rescued us from a terrible winter. even though i'm an outsider, I get to watch those shaky legs take their first steps. if i was lucky once upon a time, daddy would get me close enough to touch the newborn's tender skin.
those happy-go-lucky kids were just babies yesterday. heck, i was only twenty-something yesterday. where did the in-between go?
now, my baby is going to be a mama which makes me a grandma. in about 10 days or so. as much as i hate not being there to welcome my granddaughter, i cry at the thought that i won't be there for mari. to tell her everything is going to be okay. to assure her that the hurt won't last forever. and don't forget to just breathe, as drew barrymore said in your favorite movie. just to be her mama, to hold her and be proud of her and remember when she was nothing more than a promise.
i struggle with that, and also, not being involved in a mother's ultimate wish. i won't be there to welcome her or snuggle with her. and she won't get to learn my touch or feel my care. so until we breathe the same air, introductions must be made and words must be exchanged. and i will have faith that my images and words will allow caitlin to know that somewhere, there's a lady just itching to rip off those socks and play with her toes.
my life has always been centered around words and images. now, i put all that i have learned to the test. my mission - to not miss a thing. it's much more complicated than that, but that's it in a nutshell.
so when my baby becomes a mama and this mama becomes a grandma and len puts on his grandpa hat, it will all be as it should be. and until the plane ride becomes nothing more than a drive around the corner, get ready for lots of words and photos and love from mayne. grandma and grandpa's got lots to share.
i like endings because as sure as rainbows follow rain, a beginning is just around the corner. i'm one of those crazy women who loves a new calendar. the crisp, white paper screaming for me to deface its surface, with highlighters and off-the-wall colored inks, to make lists and appointments, followed by fruitful mark throughs and completed to do's. here lives proof i made a goal and its success [or failure, in come cases] is in black and white.
it's the last day of 2013 on mayne mill and the heavens are a little cloudy and i'm beginning taxes and finishing laundry. oh, the envy i sense in your eyes. i'm recalling a few of those lists and goals during the year that was and all of the good things that happened, the adventures taken that were not even anticipated this time last year, the children who broke my heart for the millionth time and those who stopped me in my tracks with utter amazement, friends who came and went and those who reappeared when my heart needed them the most. there were journeys to places i had only heard about from others and now, i stood on the same island where wild horses roamed, the same bridge where forest gump crossed, the same doorway through which a governor traveled each night. quite spectacular for this old coot.
remembering is a powerful tool, one that should be used for good. to learn. to change what went wrong. to build upon went right. however, don't let the past interfere with the present, i tell my children, for if we let it, it most certainly will take over today. i teach them that it is important to revisit the past for only one reason, as a reminder of what will happen if our actions never change. if we allow people to run over our emotions and thoughts, then they will. if we put ourselves in precarious situations, more than likely, we will fall. if we fail to use common sense, well, we deserve what we will eventually get. if we don't put ourselves first, no one else will. those are some fairly simple certainty's that took me a half a century to nail down. in the course of a year, i tend to forget them. but on this day, when all is said and done, i reflect and remember, and most of the time, i kick myself in the butt for not listening to myself. i like to blame it on menopause.
i look forward to a new year. i predict 2014 will be good. i'll share just a bit of my calendar ink with you:
i can feel a beginning on its way. i guess whatever kind of beginning is up to me. happy 2014 and here's to all the full calendars and fruitful mark throughs.
i found a letter today as i was cleaning through some old boxes getting them ready for trash pick-up. it wasn't in a ripped open envelope. it was simply a folded sheet of white paper with the date at the top, with - "judy & children" - scribbled beneath.
i don't remember ever seeing it, although since that time in my life, there have been more battles and combat than i care to remember. there's a good chance it might have passed by my sight rather quickly and i forgot. but, i doubt that. this i would have remembered and kept in the box where you keep things you must remember for a lifetime rather than finding it layered in between the bills and the opened birthday cards.
i can see how it evolved. mama had returned home from lunch at the senior center - the joy of each day, and now, this was her quiet time. she took her spot in her tan recliner with the arm pads draped over each side. they conveniently held everything she might need at a moment's notice - the remote, her glasses (and dark visor in case the mail ran and she had to walk to the mailbox), pencils and pens, a larger-than-life crossword book turned to the exact page where she left off, tissues and maybe a piece of candy for when her sugar got too low. and, each was in its proper place. she always scolded the kids when they would use something and not return it to its place.
i can see her with a writing pad and pen and her thoughts racing. in the later years, it grew harder for her to script much more than a few letters or numbers, and connecting them into conversation or a letter meant more time and effort. it was exhausting, and i knew if i received something, it meant something. pay attention.
i still have the birthday cards she gave later in life where she had scribbled "mama" in her arched, weary style. one still makes its home in my wallet just in case i need a reminder.
this note makes plain her wishes upon death, but it's the between-the-lines that tell my mama's story. her long life - 96 years - how lucky she was to one that juxtaposed struggles and triumphs; the love of a good and hard working man that never left her side; a child in later years that completed the home; many brothers and sisters who were the delight of her existence; grandchildren that made the lonely later years
never lonely; she was rich beyond the numbers in her bank account or the visible earthly possessions, and she knew it. she wanted us to know that stuff didn't mattter; it was what was inside that was most valuable.
her faith was as stalwart as the magnolia she and daddy planted when i was a child. television was not good for anyone, she contended, but every now and then, something other than the nightly news would be alright. we would always watch the billy graham crusades, and i always wondered why mama wasn't standing beside brother billy and brother george on that podium. she was as steadfast as either of those men. she wanted for us the eternal life that she knew was coming to her sooner than later. a chance for all of us to be together again. she was counting on that.
her abrupt end puts her life in perspective. she was tired, and it was time to go. nine month later, she did. in that same tan recliner that she spent most days in.
yes, i cry each time i read this. i miss her every time i read this, and i love my children more and more each time i read this for i'm afraid that we may have let her down. she provided such an amazing example of how to tackle life and win, and when it's time to go, how to exit with grace and contentment.
although i'm tired, mom, i'll try to finish this life, this existence in a manner that i hope will make you proud. just for you. just like you.
meet the [other] animals
in an effort to introduce ourselves to our new son-in-law on the other side of the globe, we continue these posts and hope that by the time we finally meet face-to-face, there will be little need for any introduction.
according to bear, the other animals are just that, other - an afterthought, just taking up space.
we let bear think that and love the others just as much. here's the rest of the family on mayne.
meet jack and lolly. jack - a blm mustang - (center and below) was once wild, born on the range in colorado. he was herded up by the bureau of land management and shipped east in hopes that he would find a home. there's a white freeze brand on his neck that tells his story, of where he came from and how old he is thought to be.
at auction, len fell for jack's childlike personality and won the final bid. the next day, he returned, loaded the scrawny thing in the trailer - along with cheyenne who they threw in for an extra $25 - and headed home. today, he's still the life of the party, helping len fix fences and entertaining the rest of the crew. he's len's best friend with an extraordinary shoulder.
riding him is still a challenge. jack goes backwards very well.
lolly [right with len] was once a hypotherapy horse - meaning she was trained to work with the physically challenged, to take care of them on rides, to be calm and reassuring. in other words, if len convinces me to ride, he puts me on lolly for she reads my fear and goes slowly. she's also the queen of the pasture. all the others goes where lolly says 'go' and moves when she says 'disappear'. she rules the roost and all the others fall in line accordingly.
she is always fed first, and she hates donkeys and cows.
meet woody [below]. he's a king ranch quarter horse that is magnificent in statute but a little timid when it comes to acting his size. he's mostly a loner and stands on the sidelines while the others determine the sequence of events. but, it seems like he's happy to do it. len enjoys riding woody but only after he's 'run the snot out of him' in the round pen first. one time, about three years ago, he didn't do the prerequisite, and woody had the last word.
he dumped len smack-dab on his tailbone which broke and len's been aching ever since.
and then there's cheyenne [below right]. you can't bridle her, you can't catch her, you can't worm her, you can't trim her feet. she just eats and bugs woody. that's all i have to say about her.
then, it's the boys. cody [left] and silas.
cody appeared september 1, 2011. he was starving and i threw him old hotdog buns. he scarfed them down. he hasn't left. he is part german shepherd - something else mix, and about six months old when he arrived. he had/has more energy than god. since then we've snip-snipped and were told that would calm him; that wasn't the case.
he can sit on command and is very protective of me and his food. we'll celebrate his third birthday in 2013.
he's a digger and when he rides, he barks at every car that passes like he will devour it completely.
needless to say, he doesn't ride much.
silas was a shelter dog. instead of us rescuing him, he rescued us in 2007.
silas was an inside dog and it took me a while to get the hang of living side-by-side with a dog that weighed almost as much as me. my leather shoes were his first victim, and i was his second for he stole my heart and hasn't given it back. now, he has learned to live with cody and share the backyard, but each does have his own house.
we celebrated his eighth birthday in may of this year.
silas sits and shakes when you say 'paw' - a trick taught by ty. silas is now teaching cody about 'paw'.
that's our tribe. bear, jack, lolly, woody, cheyenne, cody and silas. welcome to our party.
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?
"go into a room by yourself," she said. she was my daughter and i knew this wasn't a good way to begin a conversation.
i followed instructions and for the next few minutes, my heart slammed upon the hard wood floor like a fish slapping against the deck of a boat. just one more movement and maybe, i'll jump high enough to clear the boat's edge and i'll be free. my capture will be over. or not.
i make no apologies for the way i was raised, the values i was taught, the endless sunday's i spent in church praying and singing and accepting the proposed succession of life. 'a' would come before 'b' and so on. that's just the way life was intended to travel and i accepted that. i'm sure there are other people that were taught completely different ideals and values, but for the most part, people of my generation believed in marriage, family, working hard, the uselessness of excuses, and sacrifice for those you love. for what's it's worth, this list should be considerably longer, but i find that spouting these strengths around today's generation is moot.
i grew up. i graduated high school, then college. i got a job. i worked hard. i fell in love, i married. i had children. what followed the children part wasn't exactly on my wish list and included lots of bumpy roads, but i managed. but things happened in that order. it was just accepted. i never once thought of putting the cart before the horse. life would be warped at that point and who knows what the next part would be. i couldn't risk that.
i guess all of life is a risk to some extent. but why drown yourself in what you can avoid. i'd rather not work so hard.
the phone call ended abruptly with no resolution, at least none on my end. i do not, and will not, accept happy as the answer to my question. 'happy' is not an acceptable reason for doing anything. now, 'joy' on the other hand, is worth considering, but i see no joy in this. 'happy' is fleeting (as it always is) and once reality pops in for the duration, 'happy' will be put on the back burner and you'll forget what 'happy' felt like.
i, on the other hand, am still in the fish-slapping, heart-slamming conundrum. after all, what do i know? i'm just her mother.
the bride and groom and friend, jack.
my step-son is getting married today.
most days with this event penciled on the calender summons parties and gifts, generous offerings of congratulations and hopeful promises for a long and healthy future together. a day which lies at the end of a multitude of months full of incessant planning and soul-searching for the perfect dress, the perfect flower, the perfect location - all of which those of us who are married knows does not exist anywhere except in the bride's mind. and that's okay, too, for everyone deserves that unicorn-fairy-tale-love-so-much-it-hurts moment.
from what we've been told, it hasn't been months in the making, but a few weeks, but nevertheless, an adventure that is all-consuming. there's not much i know of the bride, only her name and her profession. not sure how long she has known the boy, but it's never long enough. although by sheer convention, i should know much more about the groom, but i do not. and that is why this day starts with queries rather than stretches of exaltation.
when you have children, you never expect to the be on the sidelines, looking on as other characters engage in the moment at hand. you expect to be in the heat of it all, raising glasses, offering hugs . . . receiving hugs. all those milestones that your parents experienced with you - first dates, graduation, first car, first job, marriage, birth of children - they told you they couldn't wait for you to experience the same. you agreed as if this romantic succession of episodes would be your fate as well. consequently, these illusions were made even more remote by mistakes, free-will and just damn stubbornness and human nature.
do we continue to stand on the sidelines? sometimes, you have to, but that doesn't decrease the amount of love or pride or hopefulness that all parents have for their children on special days like today. no matter if time or distance has been the winner, you never turn loose of the quest to be a part of their lives. they have no clue that every single day that we breathe, they are part of our lives.
we wish joy and prosperity, and all those things you hear as glasses are clinked at receptions around the globe. although we won't get the opportunity to declare our dreams for you, we share them here. know that as each day passes, we'll be praying that your fairy-tale includes white horses and castles. as it should be.
and our hope lives on that, somewhere in the world - in texas, in australia, in jersey, and even upstairs - that they will grasp the importance of including us in celebrations that are, in reality, all about them. it's a joy - and regrettably, a sorrow - that they really won't grasp until they have their own little ones - who poop, laugh, run, jump, scoff, fight and leave.
i love being a mom. i love being a mom especially when i see my children exhibit manners, try new adventures, comfort a friend, say 'thank you' and 'you're welcome'. i'm not one of those southern moms who require their child to say 'm'am' for i just don't think it's a necessary requirement of etiquette. plus, it makes me feel very old. so, that is not a word i push, but i do push being respectful and being polite. i don't have time for the 'you should know i appreciate you' or 'i shouldn't have to say it' - well, of course you have to speak up. there's no agenda. no hoops. just plain ole' manners. there's no substitute - or excuse - for that.
my son has been watching my husband and i fall head over heels in love with photography. he's seen the amazing photographs we've produced. trust me, they've been a long time coming - and we have miles to go - but my son is impressed. "mom, give me pointers," he said this weekend. "let's go riding and you show me how."
nothing inspires me more, nothing makes me do the 'yippee' dance like my son liking what i do and wanting to do it as well. and i'm sure he doesn't understand how proud that makes me. and he won't until the day his son or daughter says that to him. he'll remember when he staggered with his mom through the waist-high grass to get a shot of an iron horse, and he got one good one from about three dozen clicks. that was a good day. it was a great beginning.
so, yes, children, there are words you have to say. words we as parents want to hear simply because they are the favorable fit at the precise moment. thank you for wanting to do what i do. thank you for reminding me even though you hated to be corrected when you didn't acknowledge a good deed, you learned what you should do.
thank you - for your deeds and your words.
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.