Monday, May 14, 2012

Vacations, Forsaken Babies, and The Weepies

(Another letter for my son.  From your Future-Mom)

I'm sure that one day Nolan is going to grow weary of my pearls of wisdom, gentle nagging, and general lessons from my years of experience at trying to be a person.  But for now, he has yet to show a strong grasp of the English language, and so I am forced to write down whatever it is that I someday wish to impart to him. 

First off, let me say that it is not my intention to be self-involved and whiny.  But most writing IS self-involved.  And for me, at least, it is a way of expunging fungus-y thoughts from my brain.  Like a good cry---you just feel better afterward.  So with that disclaimer in place:  It is no secret in our house that I appear to have been an emotional wreck, of late.

I don't deny it.  But it has been driving me crazy trying to figure out why.

. . . We have had deaths in the family in the past weeks, and I know that weighs on the minds and hearts of many in our family.  There are sicknesses, and there are deaths.  I believe it was Kermit the Frog that said that "In this life, there are meetings . . . and partings.  That is the way of it."  (He says it when Tiny Tim dies.)  It was from A Muppet Christmas Carol, which is one of my favorite movies ever

And, just because I have been on a huge Jim Henson kick today (---Seriously.  I've been watching my favorite songs on youtube, and scenes from his memorial, and crying.  Like I told you---currently a nutcase.---), here is one of my favorite songs from that movie.  Every Christmas I sing this song while I'm putting up decorations.  And sometimes on birthdays.

. . . and sometimes in the bath. . .

(It's a good song.)

But once again, as I am wont to do, I am getting off-subject.

In a few days, Michael and I are going on vacation for the first time in 2 years.  It is also going to be the first time I have ever left you for this long, and I am scared.  (You are staying with your grandmother, and I know you are in good hands.  I know you will be safe.  I know that this is a common reaction.  But knowing that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.)  So what I'm saying is that, in addition to having a bad case of 'the weepies,' I have also been a teensy bit over-sensitive, and might have POSSIBLY made an ass of myself last night to your father. . .

POSSIBLY.  Just possibly.

However, when he left for work last night, I was still mad, and utterly and completely convinced that I was in the right.  (*I am not saying now that I was NOT in the right.  There were many grey areas.  Mistakes were made.*)  I was mad.  I hardly ever get mad, but boy, was I mad.  I considered cutting the sleeves off of all his best suits.

Couldn't even eat dinner.

I was just THAT mad.

Then somewhere over the course of the evening, I turned the incident over in my head enough times to see it from a different angle. 

This was a very unfortunate turn of events for me.

Made it practically impossible to hold onto my 'mad.'

Then I remembered how much I love your dad.  Remembered how happy he makes me.  Realized that maybe I should've handled some things differently. . .


(You are not allowed to use that word.)

Long story short, I got up with you at breakfast this morning and, since your dad had worked all night, I had to wait for him to wake up, so that I could apologize. 


(Again, don't ever say that.  It's a bad word.  I'll try to stop using it.)

He slept until almost 1:00. . . and it was excruciating.  Just waiting.  Telling him I was sorry was the only thing that was going to make me feel better.

(I am all about feeling better.)

So what I want to say to you boils down to this:

There is no dignity in too much pride.

When it comes to relationships, and the person you care about most in the world, it doesn't MATTER who's right.  What matters is that you, and the person sleeping next to you, are happy.

So, if you turn out to be anything at all like me---keep two hands on your tongue.  Don't say things you can't take back.  The fewer lingering things out there that you regret saying, the better you will sleep at night.

There will be instances where you have to decide:  Is this something worth fighting over?  And sometimes, it will be.

But most of the time---it's just not.

So when you can't figure out what to do, just remember:

Nobody's perfect.  You aren't expected to be.  But don't expect the other person to be, either.

Let logic dictate.

Let love guide.

. . .

Let us hope your grandmother's pantry is fully stocked with Saltine crackers. . .


Sunday, May 13, 2012

To Nolan, on his 1st Mother's Day

Dear Nolan Grey,

Today is my first real Mother's Day.

(Last year you were 'here', but I still couldn't see you, so I don't think that one really counts.)

Right now you're rolling around in your walker, and staring out the kitchen window at Muscles, who is relaxing and terrorizing lizards on the patio.  . . .Muscles has become a bit of a reclusive, hedonistic cat since we gave him outdoor privileges.   Or, "yard time."  He has decided that he wants yard time to be ALL the time.  He's like a teenager with a girlfriend now---we never see him.

Ash Ferley, on the other hand, prefers to stay indoors most of the time.  He likes to sleep curled up under the desk, on top of the computer tower.  (I honestly don't know what that thing is called.  . . . That's probably sad.)  Unfortunately for Ash, his preferred resting spot is precisely walker-height.  And you have wasted no opportunity to try and screw with him if you see him resting there.  I have personally seen you cat-slapped several times.  (Think me cruel if you must, but thank goodness Ash has no front claws.  It would've been bloody.)

You're only nine months old. . . but it feels like I've known you for my whole life. . .

You've already caused several bits of mischief around the house, cat-slapping aside. . .

You threw your tennis shoe, and a bowl full of fruit loops, into the toilet.  You run for the refrigerator or the pantry every time we open the door.  Seriously---it's like a mad dash.  The door opens up, you stick your arms out in a Superman pose, and race furiously toward whatever has just been opened.  If it's the fridge, you immediately try to remove the bottles of milk and cola.  If it's the pantry, you prefer to pilfer the contents of the trash can.  The dryer--you just like to bang on the door.  (You like the sound it makes =)  The dishwasher?  My baby goes straight for the knives.  . . . I'm just SO proud!

You have pulled the runner off of the kitchen table, bringing with it (and destroying) the beautiful ceramic fruit bowl my mother gave me.  When I found you out, before you had the good sense to look remorseful, you actually laughed out loud, like:  Look what I did!!

You're teething right now, so you have good days and bad days, but I can honestly say you are the sweetest baby I have ever seen.  (And I am being COMPLETELY impartial here.  For real.)  You wake up smiling every day, you laugh and coo and gurgle to yourself and anyone around you.  ---You generally have at least some small contribution to every phone conversation that I have these days.  Thank you for that.---  And even as I type this, you are trying like mad to open the cabinet door behind which we keep the liquor and the cat food.

I have seriously got to baby-proof this house. . .

But I'm getting off-subject here.

I just wanted to try and tell you what life was like for you at nine months of age:

We spent today like we spend most every day-- except you slept until almost 8:00, instead of 5 or 6 a.m.  Thanks for that, kiddo.  Then I propped up on the couch and gave you your breakfast bottle.  Devin was here for the weekend, so it was the three of us, under various afghans or throws, waking up and watching Spongebob Squarepants.  When your brother is NOT here---we watch Game of Thrones.  Your mommy is crazy for that show.  (Seriously awesome.)  But it is *very* graphic and very violent, and if I thought you could understand ANY of it, we'd have to stop watching it now.  But I don't.  You're generally too busy trying to pull Ash's tail, or contemplating whatever clothing is on your feet for that day, to pay any attention to the Mother of Dragons.

Your daddy worked last night, so we tried to play quietly until he got up at 11:00. . . but keeping you AND Devin quiet for several hours straight is an arduous task.  And not entirely that successful.  But you had a good morning, playing with Devin and rolling around the house.  (I call you Hot Wheels.  I also call you Tookie.  I'm going to have to stop, or you will hate me for it one day.  Though I DO think 'Tookie' would make a great street-name.)

We live in a 3-bedroom, cottage-type house, with what is fast becoming a beautiful back yard, thanks to your Daddy.  When we moved in, and I was enormously pregnant with you, we planted a tree in the middle of the back yard.  It's a flowering pear tree, and it is beautiful.  It's your tree.

You smile whenever anyone talks to you, you are into absolutely EVERYTHING, you can say Mama and Dada and even bye-bye (sometimes), and you can clap your hands.  Just saw you do it today.

You amaze me.

And I would like to apologize to you, and to my husband, for being an emotional wreck today, because even now--I can't stop crying.

Nine months.  Every day.  And I still can't believe that you're real.

I don't know if I'm a good mother yet.  I know that I'm trying.  And I know that I love you and just think you're the most perfect, wonderful, delightfully mischievous child that the sun ever rose on.  And I know that you love saltine crackers more than almost anything. 

. . .Later, we will settle down for the night.  Sweet-smelling oatmeal lotion will be applied, as well as a clean diaper, and we'll snuggle down on the couch together with a bottle. 

I will watch t.v. and rock you, and you will fall asleep in my arms.  Then I will carry you upstairs, put you gently in your crib, and turn on the little white-noise machine, that is currently set to Rain.

And you will sleep.

. . . . . .

I guess it's okay to cry sometimes. . . just because sometimes you feel so undeserving of everything you have.

Bless you all the days of your life, Little Tookie.

I love you, Nolan Grey. 

Now get out of the liquor cabinet.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

OUR Story


First off, I came with a lot of baggage. 

I don't mean a suitcase or two.  I mean a train of enormous elephants, linked nose to tail, in a giant parade of shame, carrying traveling cases FULL of baggage.

   (Remove 3/4 of the sparkle, and add about half a dozen more elephants, and you're got a good idea.)

I was 31 years old.  I had just moved back home with my mother, after doing my best to douse the flaming wreckage of my most recent marriage.  'Flaming wreckage' can be defined here as:  'Anything inflicted upon you by your spouse that lands you in the hospital.'  So, without going into TOO many details (---He was by NO MEANS innocent.  But people can change (*I* have) so I feel it would only belittle ME to belittle him in this forum.---)  Suffice to say that he was drunk (a nightly occurrence), I walked into the kitchen where he was cooking, and picked up a rag to wipe up the drunken mess he had made on the stove I had just cleaned.  And then he hit me.  Punched me in my temple a few times, then in the ribs, choked me (at this point I thought I would most probably die), then flung me into a closed door where my spine hit the doorknob in a none-too-pleasing manner. 

In my bathrobe, sockfeet, and nothing else, and in the pouring rain, I ran.  But not before grabbing my phone, car keys, and an empty wine bottle from atop the fridge (thinking ahead, I felt it was a pretty safe bet that I would need a weapon of SOME sort).  I fled for the the car; he was right behind me and took my keys out of my hand before I could even get the car door open.  I backed away from him, slowly, like I imagine an antelope might back away from an angry lion.  But this was no lion; this was Fury, and I'd never battled Fury before.  I had never felt like less of a Super Hero in my life.  As I was steadily backing away-- again: in the parking lot, in the rain, in the middle of the night--he was just as steadily advancing.  I was trapped and I knew it.  So I tapped the wine bottle on the asphalt parking lot.  Lightly.  Just hard enough to break it.  Actually, thinking back on it now, I am amazed that it actually broke into a usable weapon, instead of just shattering into a thousand pieces.  With no other choice, I pointed it at him.  He was only 5 feet away.  I think my message was fairly clear:  Don't . Come. Any. Closer.

Ahh, but his demeanor had changed now---Hooray!  =) 
It was just a big misunderstanding, after all.  NOW he was apologetic.  (Now that I was standing there with a broken bottle in my hand and ready to eviscerate him.)  "Let's just calm down and go inside.  I'm sorry.  We'll work it out," he said. . . or something like that---I must admit that I wasn't really listening.  I was contemplating the bottle in my hands, and wondering if I would have the fortitude to cut him up if I was forced to. . .

It only took me seconds to figure out that I did not.  No matter what happened that night, it was simply not in me to cut up another human being.  So I tossed the bottle, ran inside, fled straight down to our bedroom, barred the door with my desk chair, and grabbed my phone and started dialing furiously.

The chair broke with a big *CRACK* noise.  Louder than I expected, for some reason. . .   The door splintered and fell off its hinges and to the floor just as I got the 911 operator on the phone.  He just stood there staring at me as I talked to her, describing what he was wearing, how tall he was, what color hair. . .  I think he was probably considering if he could get away with killing me.  All I did was stare back.  For some reason, I was more or less completely calm.  . . .Curious.

Then I called my mother.  She and my step-father arrived before the police.  I had stopped crying.  In my mind, it was already done, and over with.  So strange to think of now, but we sat there, the four of us, in our living room and calmly discussed what had happened.  But--for the sake of privacy, we'll say his name was Joey--Joey sat in a chair as far away from us as possible, very unnerved and fidgety, and still (I'm sure) quite drunk.  By the time the police got there---Joey was gone.  In a nerve-induced strangeness, I suppose, I began to furiously tidy up our townhouse.  And as I was throwing an afghan over the back of our blue chair, that's when I found the enormous butcher knife he had hidden in the folds of the chair . . .   Mama said, when I picked it up,  aside from a face filled with complete confusion, that I went white as a ghost.  (And I am already QUITE pale.  I've mentioned it before.  It's an affliction, and I'm dealing with it.)  It took a few days to get my brain together, but he went to his mom's and (thank God) did not come back.

So in the hospital I landed, with a bruised larynx, cracked ribs, black eye, and slightly concussed.  The nurses kept flashing pictures of me, and I felt so much like an extra on Law and Order that I almost laughed out loud.  And, except for court dates (of which I did not miss ONE, even though it took all the guts I could muster to do it. . ."Screw your courage to the sticking place", right?), I never saw the bastard again.  Fingers crossed, I never will.

So that's ONE trunk on the back of one elephant.

My mom was gracious (or worried) enough to take me in.  I didn't have a job; I didn't have a car, I didn't have anything to my name.  (And good LORD, I was so very tired of being there again.)  . . .Well, anything, that is, but a bitchy grey cat that had a tendency to overeat and be incredibly demanding (as pictured below---that's his "happy" look. . .),

a few notebooks filled with my writings, and a habit of looking out my window every night, terrified that I would see his car there. 

After several months, and what seemed like DOZENS of court dates, it was all over.  Divorced.  I was FREE!!  But still plagued by nightmares of that hateful man.  But the last day I walked out of the courtroom, I had a No Contact order in place.  And that means exactly what it means.  The nightmares have abated now, but have still yet to go away completely.

So, without a job, without a clue as to what I was supposed to DO, and with an overwhelming sense of shame at another failed marriage, I settled with the bitchy grey cat into one of Mama's upstairs bedrooms.  It was June, 2008.

I tried to help out around her house as best I could, but I was basically useless.  Also, it was around this time that I developed radial palsy in my right hand (brought on by the beating from that dear ex-Joey), and for those of you that don't know, that meant that I couldn't move my right hand at ALL.  I mean "at ALL," at all.  For about a month.  I was a wreck.  . . .Funnily enough, the hardest part about the situation was that I couldn't write.  It took me FOREVER to scrawl something even BARELY legible with my left hand, and most of the time it just wasn't worth it.

So I read a lot, I stared into space a lot, and I just didn't give a shit a lot.  And also, and this is where the story gets good, I got on the internet a lot.

One day Mama decided to take me to my cousins' farm so that I could visit with them, ride their horses, get out in the country, and clear my head.  It worked.  =)  And, while on the back of a horse named Zip, I asked Mom to take my picture.  I was smiling from ear to ear, for the first time in MONTHS.  (This was also before mom went on her I-Love-Horses-And-Need-To-Own-Every-One-On-The-Planet stage.)

Later, I opened my Myspace account, and used the photo of me riding Zip as my profile photo.  And this is where it gets interesting (stay with me here).

Meanwhile, fresh from a move from Atlanta, Georgia, a man named Michael Turberville had just gotten divorced and moved back to Birmingham.  He, too, was on Myspace, and was doing a search to hopefully find old friends that he knew from when he lived here years ago.  He said he saw my picture and all he could think was:  "Who is this woman with all that HAIR?"  (It was down to my waist at the time.  Wish I'd never cut it.  Like for real---serious Tomb Raider hair.)

(DISCLAIMER:  I did not LOOK like Angelina Jolie (I WISH) at the time.  I just had the same hair.)

And, out of the blue, he sent me a message, introducing himself.
This was July, 2008. 

I thought from his photo that he was handsome, of course,

but (ESPECIALLY after the experience I had just had) I was NOT going out for drinks with a total stranger I had just met online.

He was kind.  And persistent.  And we wrote long, rambling, (I like to think hilarious) letters to each other almost every day for a month.  I looked through his photos.  And lo and behold!----We shared some of the same (good people) friends!!  And so, choking back my at-times paralyzing shyness, I decided to quit being a chicken-shit and just go meet him.

He lived in a loft downtown that he shared with his good friend, Buck, and I swallowed (and almost choked on) my fear, and drove to the corner of 2nd and 23rd Street Downtown to meet.  I parked the car and called him. . . ."Is this Michael?"  I asked when he picked up.  Yeeeeessss.  "I think I'm here."

It was August 23rd, 2008. 

Believe it or not, it was the VERY FIRST time we had ever even spoken.  No phone calls, just letters.  Almost like a WWII couple or something. . . and I wouldn't have had it any other way. 

So I got out of my car (in the rain), and window-browsed at What's On Second as I waited for him to walk around the corner to meet me.  When he walked up, I had my back turned, and was utterly and completely terrified.  It honestly took all I had just to turn around.

"Danielle?  . . .I'm Michael.  It's so good to meet you!"

I, awkward beast that I am, went to shake his hand.  But he went for a hug instead, and I ended up pegging him in the face with my umbrella.  For some reason, these many years later, that's still a happy memory  =)

So we walked to Metro, the local pub that we eventually ended up frequenting a LOT, and had a cocktail to help me get over my shaking-like-a-leaf nerves.  Before we met up, Michael had mentioned getting a cocktail before we went to dinner, and I was actually so nervous about meeting him that I planned out what drink I would order. . . nothing too girly, nothing too strong.  I finally decided on a Whiskey Sour.  And, as he did not point at and mock me, I guess it was a suitable choice.  It worked well enough, and while it was medicinally healing my nerves, we talked. 

We had SO much in common!  He had a GREAT sense of humor, he loved music as much as I did(!!!), he was kind, funny, and FUN!  We both worshipped The Jerk, and he loved the fact that I listed (on my myspace page) under "People I'd Like To Meet"---Nigel Tufnel.  It also just so happened that we both happened to be completely in love with the band, The Flaming Lips.  This song will forever make me think of him: 

We left Metro and went onward for some Chinese food.  (But not before I called my mom to tell her that he was NOT, from what I could tell, a homicidal maniac, and that she could relax.)  The food was great, the company was great, the conversation was great.  And, more than a LITTLE spooky, my fortune cookie said:  "YOUR FONDEST WISH WILL COME TRUE IN ONE YEAR'S TIME."

. . .fortune cookies are NEVER that precise!  EVER!!  So I laughed and thought it was cute.  And then we left for Oasis, to see some live music.  I got to meet some MORE of his friends---ALL of them AWESOME, and COMPLETELY enamored with, and protective of, him (I liked that a lot)---and I can honestly say that it was the BEST first date of my life.

As he was seeing me to my (borrowed from Mom) car that night, he asked if he could see me again tomorrow.  For a movie, lunch, hanging out.  As I have NEVER been adept at playing coy, I jumped at the chance, and drove home feeling like I had just had the most wonderful dream.

The next morning over coffee, when my mom asked how my date went, I quite honestly said that my cheeks hurt from smiling so much.  (I couldn't stop smiling even then =)
Best first date I ever had, and I hoped there would be many more. 

That was the beginning.

We met for lunch the next day, and I couldn't even tell you what I ate.  I was too interested in the man seated in the booth across from me.  After lunch we went to see 'Pineapple Express', and we both laughed so hard, and at the same times, that I realized I was liking him a little more every time I saw him.

After that, the Birmingham Art Walk was coming up, and since he and Buck lived right in the center of the Art Walk district, they used their loft as an art gallery/party.  I got to meet Buck's future wife, Stacy, and Michael and I had our first photo taken together.

Then we walked around and checked out the local art and had a blast.  Buuuutttttt. . . after about 2 cocktails (I am a COMPLETE lightweight when it comes to drinking), I decided that I would do best not to drive home.  So I called my mom to tell her just this, and that I would be staying at his loft for the night, and not to worry.

. . . I remember later Michael said he was impressed because most 31 year-old women wouldn't call their moms to tell them not to worry.  I responded in my usual self-deprecating manner with:  "Yeah, but MOST 31 year-olds don't live at home."  =)
It was our first sleepover-date, and he was a total gentleman.

I was falling.  Already.  I was terrified and thrilled and happy and leery and filled-with-that-breathlessness all at the same time.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another 'Found' Poem. Come!! Laugh At My Melancholy!

      These days crawl to close
            with a dizzying weakness.
       (---the streets here don’t even know my name---)
       But aching grey surf and clouds
     match this melancholy with such completeness,
it’s as if sky and sea sense and echo my pain.

Raging rivers of regret,
     you can't hide in hazel eyes,
And I swear I FEEL the wounds rip open. 
     The tear.  My heart laid wide
     for the world to see.
The pain, the past. . . the pure and pulsing—
And gone is strength to conceal, to disguise,
these lovely demons that visit me.

Sun sets, and shades are drawn,
     and burning tears burst without
The Gollum in my head is at his terrible worst.
A million tiny slivers of shame, and I make it to morning.

Try to avoid it,
     Try to maintain.
But I know my head is the only place
     to safely rest this Crown of Blame.

“Stubborn” is the label
     that I’ve received (accurately) for my actions,
but ‘hard-headed’ is the label that I KNOW
     to be more true.
And while I NEVER will escape myself,
(***though to the ends of the earth I may wander***)
neither would I  poison another
with a soul that seems to
DAILY reap its due.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My Own Granny, In my Own Way

   . . . . I honestly thought that my (oft-times undependable, often screwy, and predictably unpredictable) brain's fog of grief had cleared enough for me to actually sit down and write about my feelings regarding the enormous loss to our family this week. . . and here I sit, 25 excruciating minutes later, staring at a (predominately) blank screen.

I guess I'm not as 'together' as I thought I would be. . . .

So please forgive me in advance.  This post may not be uplifting.  It may not be inspiring.  In fact, it may make no sense whatsoever.  But I'm going to try.

           Yesterday was May 4th, 2012. 


     It was the day that we laid my sweet-sweet Grandmother to rest.  Mary Lou Hicks, who was truly one of a kind, and known to most all, and loved by most all who knew her.  But to all of us, she was simply Granny, Granny Hicks, or 'The Gran', IF we were feeling sassy enough to tease her with that honorary title.  =)  (Secretly?  She LOVED it.)  She always smiled when we called her that, and the look on her face always said quite plainly that she thought that we were the most silly, genius, and absolutely delightful children that were ever born to this planet.  And we, of course, having no reason whatsoever NOT to---believed her.  =) 

     But life can be weary, and the road can be so LONG sometimes. . .

     I'm only 35, and sometimes it already feels like I've lived FIVE lifetimes!  I can't even imagine being 87. . .  And a few days ago,  before she took that recent really-bad turn for the worse, she even told Mama that she was 'tired.'  And I can understand that.  I can even say I firmly believe that she is 'tired' no more. . .  She walked this earth for 87 years, though not so well in the last few. . .  *My brother Patrick said in jest that for a while she looked like George Jefferson when she walked. . . like she was "Movin' on UP!", and the thought of that keeps me laughing every time I think of it.* 

     So, in the bright-bright sunshine, in the cemetary of the church where she spent her whole life in service (she was still taking food to the 'old people' in the church when she was well into her 70's), she was lowered next to my dear Granddaddy, whom she hasn't seen in more years than I can count.  She was surrounded by her entire brood:  2 sons, 1 daughter, 7 grandchildren (of which I count myself blessed to be one of), and 8 great-grandchildren, IF I am counting correctly (there's a lot of us now =).  And countless family, friends, well-wishers, and dear souls.  That's what happens, I guess, when you spend your whole life having never met a stranger  =) 

So dear and so kind, not just to family, but to EVERYONE.  What can you say about somone whose loss is so deeply felt?  I won't get into what I personally believe or don't believe about the afterlife, because it doesn't matter.  She's gone from us now, and suddenly ALL I WANT TO DO IS TALK TO HER AGAIN. . . . . .

That's all.  Just to hear her voice as she used to be, and tell her I love her.  That's all I want. . .   But I got to tell her I loved her at the hospital. . . and for all I know, she may've even heard me.  But I won't talk to her again, not on this side of the veil, at least.  That can't happen.  So all we can do now is carry on.  One:  Because we really have no other choice, and Two: Because it would be a disservice to her memory, and to all that she taught to all of us, to wallow now in grief.  Not even for her  =)  She wanted us to be grateful for every day.  To rejoice in the good, for it is everywhere.  And to be kind to everyone you meet and hold, love, and cherish the people that MEAN SO MUCH (!!!) in your heart. . .every day. 

. . .I remember when Chris (my late husband) died in 2002---(. . . Good Lord!  Has it really been that long??)---and I remember saying to my Mama (who WAS my strength when I had none. . . .to quote The Lemonheads:  "Baby/ When you can't trust yourself/ Trust someone else.") :  "Mama, if I could just TALK to him again, I would be fine.  I just NEED to hear his voice."  Because I JUST missed my friend. . .and it's selfish, I know, to want the ones we love to be with us, even if they're suffering, but I can't help it---there are some I just love so deeply and so much, and dammit-to-hell I MISS THEM!

But we grow up (slowly, sometimes, if you're me), and we come to realize that there is no telephone to the afterlife.  So we look at photos of our loved ones, we remember all the times we rolled on the floor laughing, we remember the tears we shared, and the hugs, and the FOOD ---Oh God!  Granny was a Southern Sorceress in the kitchen!---and ALL the funny stories of a life well-spent.

. . . I don't usually post country songs, but this one always made me think of my Granny----but of course I changed the words when I sang it  =)

I think it's a lovely-written song, and even if you disagree, the lyrics speak to me.  (So there.)

Except, when singing this song in the car, at home, wherever, I always changed the lyrics as follows:

"I ---
Am Mary Lou's granddaughter,
The spitting image of my mother,
And when the day is done my Daddy's still my biggest fan.
I'm clueless and I'm clumsy,
But I've got friends that love me,
And they know just where I stand.
It's all a part of me.

And that's who I am."

So I guess sometimes we all need to be reminded of who we are.  And, for me, the easiest way to remember that, is to remember where I come from:
I come from the country.  I come from skinned knees, and lightning bugs caught in jars on summer nights.  I come from a place where, in the summer, the honeysuckle smells so sweet and so strong (and like SO MANY memories, and so MANY yesterdays), that it almost knocks you over.  I come from playing in the woods, and playing in creeks, and climbing trees just to find a good branch to sit on and read a book.  I come from a place where there is a Hymnal and a Bible always within reach, and a place where everyone knows all the verses to 'Amazing Grace'.

I've made a lot of mistakes, and I have a lot of regrets, but I'm getting older, and I'm (slowly but surely) figuring out who I am.

I am Steve and Karen Hicks' neice, and a hug from either of them soothes my heart in a way that I have no words to describe.  I am Ryan and Amanda Hicks' cousin, and though we've grown up and moved away, if I loved someone once---I love them always.

I am Crandy and Craig Miller's cousin, and sort of an honorary aunt-ish type thing to their beautiful children.  I love them and love living closer to them so that we get to see them more often.

I am Crant and Cindy Hicks' neice, and while their hugs cure me in many ways, it is Uncle Crant (who, by the way, married me and Michael on the street corner where we met), that can lift me up in just a few words.  And THEN have me laughing before I even know what's going on.

I am an Aunt, and a sister, and a sister-in-law, and a cousin.

I am a (proud) coal miner's daughter.  I am a country girl with the soul of a poet.  I am a mother. And a wife.  And, if I'm not exaggerating my own self-importance, I am a writer.  (Not sure it counts if you've never gotten paid for it, but I'm putting it on my mental resume just the same.  No one ever checks those things.)

And I am, I believe (and you can ask my mother for verification on this, my story will check out, trust me), more like my sweet Granny than anyone else currently in our family.  Everyone says I look like her.  I'm built JUST like her (the reason that I NEVER wear capri pants).  I have NO patience for shopping (just like her), I have her mannerisms, her expressions, and her love, love, LOVE of reading. 

(This is her at just 21 years old.  . . .She never thought she was pretty.  Honestly never did.  Woman was mad.  =)

There were ALWAYS stacks of library books in one corner or another of her house. 

Her kitchen was almost always messy; didn't bother her in the least.  =)  She was tough as nails, gentle as clothes dried in the sunshine, and ALWAYS (to the day she died) had the SOFTEST skin. . . due to a religous Eterna cream regimen.  You don't slack on lotion.  That's what she said.  I remember feeling her skin. . .and she was OLD (to me then =), and her skin was so soft!  So I took it to heart and began wearing wrinkle-lotion, softness lotion, eye lotion, you-name-it, from the time I was about 15 years old.

She taught my Mama.  (Who will NEVER be 'mother'---ALWAYS Mama.  'Mothers' are what northerners have.  Besides, 'Mama' sounds more dear.)  She filled me full of Hawaiian Punch.  She taught me what plants are which, and which berries are poisionous.  She checked me for ticks.  She sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  She made THE BEST Lemon Squares I have ever tasted.  And in turn, Mama taught me.  . . .To cook, to clean, to PLAY, to LOVE, to be creative, and to ENJOY THIS LIFE.

These are the women who taught me everything I know about the important things in life.  About grace, and strength--a woman's kind of strength.  About food, and faith, and laughter and love (and sarcasm, thank God), and a million other blessings I cannot even begin to name.

There is a house on a hill that my Granddaddy built with his own tow hands many years ago, and it was in that house that my Granny lived her entire adult life.  It housed and saw three children raised, was home to numerous animals of one type or another over the years.  (Including Squealie, my Mama's pet pig, who was, by all accounts, delicious.)  And was the default gathering site for all meals Easter, Birthday party, Thanksgiving, and Christmas-related.  If the walls could talk, tonight that dear home misses it's Mistress.

But Grace is a curious thing. . .  Those walls could also speak volumes about all the granchildren watching Mary Poppins on the living room floor.  About making shadow puppets (and having a BALL!) with a flashlight when it stormed one night and the power went out.  Or just the endless slides we ALL took down that great hill, covered in pine straw, on our chariots of cardboard  =)  I swear, with all the clothes dried out on the line, all the mashed potatos and biscuits prepared in that kitchen, all the family members that have lived in the backyard from time to time, and all the laughter and joy spent in that house and that yard, the entire place must be the most sacred kind of enchanted.


And now one of my favorite, and enchanting, hymns. . .

Her last photo, enjoying the sunshine. . .


This is one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson, and it made me think of her today.  It gives me comfort, so I'll share, and then I'll shut up (for now), as I am brain-dead:

    "Baffled for just a day or two --
      Embarrassed -- not afraid --
      Encounter in my garden
      An unexpected Maid.

      She beckons, and the woods start --
      She nods, and all begin --
      Surely, such a country
      I was never in! "

      <3 <3 <3   I love you, my dear, sweet Granny<3 <3 <3

                           And I just miss you so much.

"Parting is all we know of Heaven, and all we need of Hell."
--Emily Dickinson