Sweet Memories

15 Nov

My friend Cheryl and her siblings hosted an estate sale today at their parents’ home. Their mother passed away last year and their father is now in assisted living suffering from dementia.

They’ve worked diligently for months getting their parents’ house–the house most of them grew up in–ready for resale. A big part of the process was the estate sale happening this weekend; they hoped to sell enough of the items to make it easier to get the house on the market.

Walking into the house today flooded my mind with memories.

Walking into the downstairs door I remembered the many Halloween parties Cheryl hosted for our close group of friends in high school and college. Cheryl’s younger brother remembered the parties when I mentioned them, and then laughingly showed me a piece of tape and a small sliver of crepe paper stuck in the corner of the basement room.

“That’s been there since one of those Halloween parties,” he said. “We never got to it, until we moved some of this furniture.”

That small piece of celebratory paper had stuck to the ceiling since at least 1987. I shook my head, glad that it had never been cleared from the spot.

Walking upstairs into the den I remembered the many afternoons watching Alabama football games with Cheryl and her family. There was the time that our friend Carol (an avid Auburn fan) stormed out of the den after Van Tiffin kicked a 53-yard field goal to give the Tide a victory back in 1985; she threw her orange-and-blue shaker onto the floor, left the room without saying a word, and drove off to her own home.

That same room hosted birthday parties and double dates, and numerous conversations with Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs. I loved visiting them, because they were so different than my own parents; their “Yankee” sensibilities were different than Mom and Dad’s Southern ones, and besides they loved to host parties and serve cocktails and smoke pipes.

I could almost smell Mr. Jacobs’ pipe there today in the room.

Walking onto the upstairs covered deck I remembered the time our group decided to stay up for 24 hours (apparently, if I remember correctly, because “we could”; there was no great reason why, but none of us had seen the sun rise after being up all night).

We made it easily until about 2 a.m., and then reverted to doing home videos (way before Tik Tok), playing Truth or Dare, watching movies (on VHS, of course), playing games, and laughing a whole lot.

We saw the sun rise right there on the covered deck, the foggy light seeping into the window over the lake outside.

As I walked through all of the rooms in the house, those memories came streaming back.

And I realized at that moment how weak my memories were compared to those of Cheryl and her sister and brothers.

Cheryl told me that the entire experience was very emotional. Before opening the sale, they circled up in the kitchen, held hands, and prayed.

The memories of their parents were potent, and they prayed that they’d do them justice.

I watched the way they treated the items that belonged in their family for so many years and the way they talked almost reverently to customers about the items being bought. I could feel the camaraderie between them all, as they watched strangers take part of their pasts away from the home.

I admired them, and prayed that someday I could do it as well.

As I left the house I took a quick picture with Cheryl and Carol on that deck, and then I snapped another one of the outside of the house since it would assuredly be the last time I’d be there.

They say that there’s “no place like home,” and how grateful I am that “home” isn’t just our own. It’s the other places that we’re lucky enough to be invited into as children, or teenagers, or young adults.

Thanks, Cheryl, for inviting me into yours.

I’ll just hibernate and read

14 Nov

Doesn’t it seem like the best thing to do these days is to just find a spot in your house (I recommend a corner of your couch or a bed; maybe even a porch swing or a chaise on your deck), curl up under a big blanket, and dive into a book?

A friend of mine shared a quote today on Facebook that really spoke to me.

It said:

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” (Kitty O’Meara)

This quote was written in regards to the need to stay home during the pandemic–especially as infection and hospitalization numbers continue to rise.

These things…resting, exercising, mediating, dancing, making art, playing games, READING…happen when people stay home (or at least stay home more than usual).

What a wonderful idea!

I know I’ve felt the pull to read much more since last Spring, when the pandemic first hit. I’ve read more in 2020 than I have in most years since I was a very rabid reading teenager.

What a healthy idea as well.

When we read, we expand our minds and our imagination and our understanding. We open ourselves to new possibilities, and celebrate people and situations different than anything we’ve experienced in our own lives. Quite simply, we learn. We grow.

I shall continue to hibernate and read as long as the coronavirus lasts.

And I will continue to do so afterwards, reminded of my love of reading and reinvigorated to read even more.

(My friend also shared the above picture along with the quote, and I found such comfort in the image; I could imagine myself curled up, hibernated and alone and enjoying a good book.)

That Southern Voice…and, how in the world could I ever write that much?

13 Nov

I talked this week with Sean Dietrich, a writer known as “Sean of the South” who is extremely popular. His Facebook and blog posts are shared thousands of times everyday (and for good reason; they’re inspiring and insightful, and share awesome stories about people, places, food, faith, dogs, football…anything that’s Southern).

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

I interviewed him for an article in the upcoming December edition of Birmingham (and Nashville) Christian Family magazine.

I knew I’d learn some cool things about faith and church (because that was the main point of the story), but I came away with a lot of insight about writing as well.

Sean writes a 900-word story each and every day for his blog and social media; he also writes each day on book projects.

In total, he said he wrote 3000 words a day–and he’s done that every day for the last eight years.

Geez! How in the world does he stay that productive? I have struggled just to get on her every day and write 200 or 300 words on this blog. His work ethic and productivity inspired me so much.

He also had a lot to say about how he learned from the Southern family members from his own life about the art of storytelling. He said his parents and grandparents were all great storytellers; he grew up listening to their tales.

He called his mom “chatty,” saying that she made friends everywhere she went. I shared with him about how we always laughed about how my Mom would come out of the grocery store and tell us that we needed to keep the cashier in our prayers; she would learn all about the cashier’s struggles (all from a 5-minute visit at the register). He laughed about my description, and we commiserated about friendly mothers and storytelling grandfathers.

It all made me think what a privilege it is to be a writer–to tell the stories, to share the inspiration, to pass it along.

And how also writing can be a challenge–that writing 3000 words a day sounds near impossible, but that it’s okay if you can’t be that productive.

It’s all about the effort. And the voice.

And, ultimately, the way it reaches others.

Church Signs

12 Nov

Knowledge can often be gained by the study of church signs, and this was true this morning as I drove by one in my community.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The sign stated: “Thanks giving is the start of Thanksgiving.”

This is so true, as we often get the understanding of gratitude backwards.

Instead of just “being thankful” for what we have in our lives (which we’re usually encouraged to do this time of year, because it’s inherently a pretty good thing), it’s important to actually GIVE THANKS.

When’s the last time you thanked that person you claim to be thankful for? When did you last thank a server or worker (or stranger) who needs to be reminded of their worth? How often do you say a prayer of thanksgiving, giving voice to your blessings?

As we make lists of things we’re thankful for, let’s make it even more tangible by giving thanks with our actions and voices.

Words are powerful. A voice to your words is more powerful.

Cheering Each Other On

7 Nov

Throughout the month, I’m trying to finish up my work on a book of daily devotions for homeschoolers. I have four to go and am working diligently trying to meet a deadline this weekend.

The devotional I wrote today focuses on a basic, but important action we can all do. In a world full of criticism and judgment, I try to be an encourager. I consciously work to tell people they’re doing a good job; that they’re important; that they’re worthy. When I deal with strangers or acquaintances, I do my best to thank them for their efforts. (The “love language” I speak to other people is, not surprisingly, words of affirmation.)

I’d like to share as part of my blog post tonight the devotional I wrote on encouragement for my homeschooling book.

I’m sure not all of you are homeschooling parents (although there are more of us this year, due to the coronavirus), but perhaps these words can still inspire you to be intentional in your encouragement to others.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

“Encouraging One Another”

“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” (Romans 15:2)

Many (many) moons ago I was a cheerleader.

I loved my cheerleading outfit and pompoms, and I loved to perform at halftime and at pep rallies. I can still, in fact, remember almost every move to the routine we did to the classic 80s tune, “Hey, Mickey!”

My favorite part of being a cheerleader, though, was the CHEER part. I loved to cheer on my school’s football and basketball teams; I wanted to believe that my encouragement could lead them to greater success.

So, I lost my voice on all of the “Go, Fight, Win!” yells and the “I believe that we can win!” chants.

Encouragement is vitally important in our Christian testimony. It’s not our job to point out people’s failings or judge them for their shortcomings. We are called to be loving examples of God’s love toward us, helping others in their time of need and building each other up with encouragement.

I want to share that encouraging attitude (that grown-up version of cheerleading, if you will) with fellow homeschooling parents, because I know it’s been done for me on numerous occasions.

I can’t adequately recall all the times that I’ve asked for help since starting on the homeschooling path. The advice I received in turn has been invaluable in giving me practical tools and real confidence. 

I wouldn’t be where I am without those cheerleaders encouraging and edifying me along the way.

And now I want to pass that on.

I want to cheer with as much determination as I did when I was a 15-year-old high school student. I want to be that person who spurs someone on to a higher level of achievement.

I want to aways (always!) build up.

Prayer: Help me, Lord, be an encourager. Make my words and actions be sweet edification to strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family members. Let me be someone who builds up, and never Teras down. Amen..

And now I want to pass it on.

Mask Up, please!

6 Nov

Today marked a sobering milestone in the United States.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

It was the first day since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic that the country hit 100,000 reported cases in one day.

Hospitals are filling up across the country, and states are seeing alarming upticks.

This thing is not over!

Pretending that it’s over is not the answer. Denial won’t make the virus go away.

So, we need to work hard.

I want so desperately to get it under control. In fact, I’ll do just about anything to get life back to normal and to save lives in the process.

In my own state of Alabama, our governor today extended a mask mandate until December.

I applaud the decision to extend the order,

And yet, as soon as the decision was announced, I saw angry words all over my social media. People cursed the governor, saying that she could tell them to wear masks, but “By God, I won’t do it!”

How hard is it to wear a mask?

In fact, if we’d done it from the beginning and kept doing it consistently, we most likely would have gotten the pandemic under control at a much lower level than it is now.

How hard is it to wear a mask?

It’s an act of service and love to your fellow human beings. It keeps others safe, and if anything it’s a slight inconvenience.

How hard is it to wear a mask?

It’s not a tool of control; it’s not an act of taking away your liberty; it’s not an undue burden.

It’s NOT that hard to wear a mask.

Some days are too busy…

5 Nov

This is a friendly reminder…to myself…that it’s okay to not be able to do everything I vowed to do everyday.

Today has been very busy, and this blog has suffered for it.

Between the waiting and watching (and obsessing) over the presidential election results and the pile of work I have to do on a number of writing and publishing projects, I had to put the blog aside.

So, this is it.

This is all I’m writing.

Tomorrow ill be better.

The Reading Challenge Continues

4 Nov

Back at the beginning of 2020, I made a pretty lofty reading goal…to read 60 books over the course of the year.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At the time I realized that the mark would be more than I’d read in one single year in quite a while, but I thought, “Shoot, maybe I can do it.” Each year, I like to increase my reading productivity; this could be the year, I pondered, that I could actually complete my “To Be Read” list.

And then, as “2020 happened,” I felt torn by the goal I’d set. The anxiety created by the pandemic and the resulting quarantine was a challenge, but it ultimately made my annual goal seem more attainable.

I suddenly had much more time to read.

I got involved on Goodreads, the app that tracks your reading habits.

My daughter decided to start an online bookstore, which challenged me to read even more than before.

And, as my work as a reporter and adjunct professor was affected by the pandemic, I found myself at home more often.

I suddenly COULD read more. (Even though the reasons for doing so are things I would have never wished for.)

So, how is my 2020 goal going?

I’m still behind on it and sit right now at 45 books with November and December still to go.

If I read everyday and stay up late reading every night (instead of, say, writing on this blog!), I might make it

If I don’t make it, that’s okay.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share here what I read during the past month. And when I’m done with this Blog Like Crazy exercise, I can also share what I read during this month.

I read seven books in October:


~ Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

~ The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

~ Breakfast on Mars and other Delectable Essays by Brad Wolfe

~ And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

~ One of Us in Next by Karen McManus

~ Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

~ Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I loved the selections I read during October; they included mysteries, young adult thrillers, essays, classics, and dystopian books.

My daughter, Scout, read eight books in October and continues to be an inspiration for me; she pushes me to read more, read in new genres, and stay passionate about what I read. (She also has made it newly fun, as she and I do weekly “book talk” videos on her Scouting Books online bookshop.) Im so grateful for her!

And now as November moves along, I’ll read even more and see how my goal progresses.

Hope

3 Nov
Photo by Isaque Pereira on Pexels.com

In working on a book of essays, stories, and poems based on my experiences and reflections during the pandemic, I grabbed hold of the word HOPE.

Hope has been something that’s come and gone in waves during this time.

On some mornings I’ve risen with hope in my heart; on many other days, I’ve felt utterly hopeless as I’ve dealt with issues that in a sense were out of my control. Loss of work for both my husband and I, financial issues that naturally arose from that, the sickness of friends and family members, the disconnection with so many people that are important to me.

There were plenty of days where I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and just give up.

But.

There are always, ALWAYS days–and situations, conversations, relationships–that gave and continue to give me hope.

Two of the poems in my book show the swing of emotions I’ve felt over the last many months.

They are both, aptly, called “Hope.”

The first I wrote at the early part of our coronavirus quarantine. The second I wrote just last week.

My feelings on any given day may be anywhere en the hope spectrum…with the first poem, with the second, or somewhere in between.

“Hope”

winged and anchored.

but my wings are clipped,

detached,

grounded

and anchored doesn’t translate

what it once meant.

Hope happens at night

when I dream of 

wide open streets,

wide open arms,

unanchored flight.

Awake,

hope 

meanders,

drfits,

escapes my outstretched fingers.

“Hope”

in the midst of

this

untethered,

I am winged,

anchored.

for

I know that behind the curtain

is a sanctuary where fears, uncertainty.

disquiet

are welcome.

And peace, comfort,

hope

are spoken into ears

and existence.

Photo by Lynnelle Richardson on Pexels.com

On Election Eve, my message is…

2 Nov

(Note: Today, I did indeed get some writing done. It wasn’t a lot. It was 120 words in my young adult novel-in-progress. It wasn’t anywhere near the amount of words I would have liked to have written. But it was 120 words more than I’d written the day before. But, I’m not sharing from that sad little production today. Instead, let’s talk about tomorrow.)

It’s the eve of the 2020 presidential election, and I can almost feel the palpable tension in the air. We’re all anxious (from every side, it seems); we’re all worried about not just the results of the election, but what it means for the days ahead.

It’s easy to let fear control us.

I’m reminded, though, that there is wonderful glory and historic hope in the process we get to participate in tomorrow.

As I shared these thoughts with my daughter Delaney tonight she said, “You’re too positive, Mom.”

Perhaps I am. (I’m a number 7 on the enneagram, after all. And a glass-half-full kind of person since birth, if I recall correctly.)

But there’s something about going to the polling place and penciling in that small little circle. It’s always been a real moment of clarity for me; it was that way the first time I skipped and laughed and giddily shared my excitement with everyone in the room on that day back in 1988. And it’s been that way ever since.

Even when my candidate hasn’t won–which has been many times–I’m enthused by the process.

I’m especially enthused by what looks like the eagerness of so many voters to participate in this year’s election. The numbers are already high, and voter turnout may eclipse anything we’ve ever seen before.

And yet.

Did you know that 45% of American citizens DON’T vote? There are almost as many people who stay home on Election Day as there are who get out and make their voice heard.

That boggles my mind.

So, I could have many a message to impart on Election Eve 2020…on the issues I find important, on the challenge in showing love to those who vote differently than me, on the history we could see as a result of the election, on the joy I will have in not seeing political ads on my television set.

But instead, I think the most important message is to do honor to our democracy by practicing the most basic practice of that democracy.

Vote.

I thought about how important this action is when deciding on my Halloween costumes for just last week.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Halloween. I take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to dress up (and to do so in a variety of costumes if possible).

This year I dressed up for a special Zoomaween (is there anything more 2020 than that?) party with my oldest high school and college friends. My choice of costume? A suffragette.

Women fought seemingly insurmountable odds to have the right to vote; how could I not honor their struggle?

And then on Halloween. night, I dressed up as Alexander Hamilton alongside my husband’s Aaron Burr.

While that costume choice was guided primarily by love (nay, obsession!) with the “Hamilton” musical, I also loved the idea of dressing up like one of our important founding fathers.

While our founding fathers had their issues (and women and people of color couldn’t vote alongside them), they still had some pretty amazing things to say about our nation.

I feel an “enthusiasm in liberty” when I do my part and vote. It may be small, but it certainly never feels small; in fact, it often makes me feel brave and heroic.

As the day winds to a close tomorrow, I of course will fervently hope that my choice emerges victorious (although, to be fair, we probably won’t know for sure for weeks).

But I will also pray that my excitement or my disappointment won’t eclipse my character. I pray that my joy in the voting process–whether validated in a victory, or not–will remain true.