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.
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.
They are cat people and along with two others, there's Nathan, a 10-month old garbage dump kitty who demanded Janet take him home that day. She did. Although mostly confined to their living quarters, he runs the place. He makes excellent coffee with that fabulous Juva coffee machine (which upon looking up purchasing information, decided I'll just go back to Aska for the next 15 years and enjoy theirs).
Yes, Nessa, this is a dream job. It's an exhausting one, too. And on occasions, a sad one, for there are endless one-time shots and regrettable goodbyes. It's amazing to think that because of what we do, this provides us an opportunity to cross paths with people that we would have never met in a million years. For that, we are grateful, and we promise to share the stories of the unforgettable.
Janet and Ric are unforgettable.
And so were the pillows. Here's a sure-fire test to rate the experience: if you find yourself sleeping so well on their pillows, that you actually search for the tag, take a picture of it, and order them immediately when you arrive home, the experience rocked!
Go visit Nathan's mom and dad in paradise at Aska Lodge in Blue Ridge. Tell them Judy and Len sent you and that they are missed.
With that in mind, our first event - an evening with the Lovells at The Old Pal in Athens. Carlos (Master Distiller) and his brother Fred swept through the crowd like long-lost friends and converted many to whiskey drinkers. Lovell Bros. whiskey, that is. And never far from her father is Carlene, the woman he entrusted to make his life-long love a legal reality. There's lots more about their story in the book, so consider this a tease.
My discovery and point is this: that each new journey contributes to who I am as a writer. Each time my eyes burrow into newspapers and my ears attend interviews, the big picture is sharper. The people that I have met thus far on this journey are incredible and already, this is already proving to be one of my greatest undertakings. At the end, the content will not have changed me, but it will have definitely made me more cognizant. Knowledge is imminent, but so are the relationships. It's the people you meet along the way - the historians, the sources - that make the path to publishing so rewarding. As far as relationships go, I consider Carlene to be one of my latest and greatest - a sidekick and friend in the nick of time.
I explored the Clarkesville Library yesterday and met the amazing historian, Bill Raper. Six hours passed at the blink of an eye and that was only the tip of the iceberg. Not only is he sharing his personal stories and documented facts about this Habersham County, he's also providing me a look into my past. How wild?
So here we go. Today, UGA. Tomorrow, UNC. The next day, who knows. I look forward to meeting the liaisons from everywhere and adding them to my list of comrades who seek to preserve the past for the future.
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 . . .
"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.
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.
happy birthday mama. i will never pluck without thinking of you.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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 will bite my tongue - harder, longer, and more often.
- i will go twice as many places on twice as many wheels as in 2013.
- i will not compromise and i will not lay down.
- i won't care what you think or why you think it [southern guilt - that's another diary, another time!]
- i'll push the envelope again [parasailing and ziplining]!
- i'll stick my neck out and catch my breath later.
- i'll figure out a way to hold my grand-daughter this year while she can fit in the crook of my arm [a big please on this one].
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.
the drive reminds of many i once made. as a college student and newlywed, i'd always travel to clarkesville to see mama and daddy and be renewed by mama's orange slice cake and dried apple pies. years later, there's the one i always made the tuesday before the traditional thursday to pick up my aunt sophia and her decadent chocolate cake. we'd always stop by KFC on the way home for hot wings; that was our secret.
for this drive, it was only one cooler filled with pasta and sweets.
now it's thanksgiving morning and the parade is over, the fire is blazing, and memories are invading. len is talking to his northern family - in animated italian - and becoming the talker he swears he is not. i claim the fire and think of my children. we're spread on different continents, but even distant cities might as well be a world away. thanksgiving will live primarily in my mind for the majority of years to come, a realization that i'm not sure i'm ready for. my children and len's children lead faraway lives, our parents are gone and the immediate family are not close. so we will hold memories close and even though it's just the two of us, i'm beyond thankful. i'm grateful for the life i'm so privileged to lead.
so wool socks, keep me warm! memories, keep me warm! it's almost time for lasagna.
my birthday week of men
it's my birthday week - yes, when you're this old, you get a week - and i started thinking about all the men that i have been around these past seven days. so, here's a list, in order of appearance :)
1. lloyd carter: he's my touchstone to my past. a father of a friend who reminds me just how good life was and is. his smile is contagious and his attitude, inspirational. len and i spend last sunday afternoon with his family, at the family reunion. since our parents are gone, we've adopted new parents plus an entire family. i can't think of any better than this man. thank you lloyd for loving me and showing me the way. you're a 91-year old-pistol!
the 11alive forecast told of a perfect day in georgia. an "11" on the wizometer. i tend to agree. it's only a few hours old, and perfection is rising.
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