Author Archives: Bridget

detour of dreams

I won’t be getting my thwack-bomp-bomp-bomp screen door.
Or my chickens (for now).
No sleeping porch or attic fan.

But let’s be real.
After a few weeks of kids rushing in and out of that door
the thwack-bomp wouldn’t be as romantic, would it?
And the sleeping porch? It’s Georgia, y’all.
I’d only be able to use it comfortably when the weather was just right
(which is two whole weeks a year).

But windows?
I’ll have those. Lots of those!
And laundry on the line.
And love and laughter.
And rocking chairs.
(Well, 3 rocking chairs since 1 went missing).
There will be a symphony of crickets and frogs, sitting still, and hopefully a few hymns.

It’s funny how your dreams have a way of shifting,
of washing in and out with the tides of life.
How one little thing can wipe the slate clean and you start all over.
We didn’t get the house we’d dreamed of.
But this? This is so much better.

Thirty acres.
A house with giant windows.
A barn and a chicken coop.
A creek and a big playhouse that I’ve claimed as mine.
A writing space, a home for my art.
I didn’t even know that it was my dream
Until my eyes saw it and my heart said yes…

 

little bitty babies (that aren’t mine)

You forget so quickly.
The little sighs.
The quick, shallow breaths.
Fluttery eyes begging to stay awake.

image

You remember so little.
Sleep deprived nights.
The rush to get the bottle all warmed and ready.
Little sounds that only a baby can make.

But you also remember things long forgotten.
The glow of white Christmas lights in his room.
The world’s loudest creaking board beside her cradle.
The velvet touch of the chair and its gentle eek-eek, eek-eek.
The reflection of you both in the mirror, illuminated by the dim closet light.

Memories stretch from the back to the front and  a smile bubbles up,
giving every atom in your being a shiver as warmth floods your soul.

Him and Her and He and She.
My four tiny(ish) humans, so different but the same.
I miss their teeny-tiny little selves, but I don’t.
Because beyond the babies lay beautiful stories that make you laugh and cry and sigh.
Growing pains and growing strains.
And dreams of lives well-lived.

Look.

I’ve been searching for my word of the year.
January passed. February passed.
And now March is zipping by.
And as I was looking for my word, my word found me.

image

Look at my children.
Look at them when they talk.
Look at them when they rush off to play.
Look at them and remember how they used to be,
and how they are, and how I pray they will be.
Look at the little details and wonder.

Look into the eyes of others.
Keep my eyes sharp and focused.
Look and listen, really listen.

Look at the world around me.
Marvel at the good.
Look for ways to heal the hurt.

Look at those I love and see how to best love them.
Look at those I don’t love so much and see how to best love them.

Look for goodness.
Look for mercy.
Look for grace.
Look for love.

Look for the sacred in the ordinary
And the ordinary in the sacred.
Look and pray that I am changed by what I see.

 

be who you be.

the wind blows the blinds gently and I hear their voices dance through the air.
a swing squeaks in time. squeak {pause} squeak {pause} squeak {pause}
she laughs as the others chase her to home base.
Oh, the Joy of being the baby.
(they never let her lose).

the wind blows the blinds and lands upon my face.
brushed by The Almighty, my eyes prickle with tears.
breathe deeply. drink up this moment.
but The Melancholy weights me down,
refusing to let me sit up and answer.

this too shall pass.

be still and know.
more than a suggestion,
less than a command.
be still and know.
(i know, but my heart is still restless).

i can’t do it.
this being still is hard.
this being is hard.

I lie in bed, eyes straining, begging to close.
be who you be
the words stare at me from the wall.

image

be who you be when all is well and happy.
be who you be when anger stirs up in your soul.
be who you be when you laugh until your face hurts.
be who you be when the world smooshes down on your heart.
be who you be when you don’t know who you be.
Be who you be when who you be changes
(sometimes a little, sometimes a lot).

Be.
Be still.
Be changed.
Be who you be.

 

*art by the lovely and talented Robin Plemmons

dashing in the dark

He was in his chair and I on the sofa, both fast asleep. They came in and out and in and out and in and out of the house. (This place where we are, this place where they still need me but not all of my attention all of the time, deserves a few hundred words of its own). It’s been a long day preceded by two long nights. Marshall is doing as well as one can do after having an appendectomy in the middle of the night, but we are weary.

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I stepped out onto the front porch for a little piece of peace. And, as usual, the homing signal went off and the little stinkers crowded around me, wanting to know what I was doing. We sat on the steps and saw something shinning at us from the sky. With SkyView app, binoculars, and a telescope in hand we went to seek answers.

It feels so delightfully perfect outside. The wind blows but can’t get the heaviness of the humidity off of my skin. It does bring in dreams of spring, lightnin’ bugs, and fresh cut grass. And they can feel it in the air, and it whooshes over their little big hearts with excitement that just can’t stop. In the dusk-to-dark they laugh and run and play. They race in pairs, in fair pairs, and they cheer for each other and it makes my chest thump with pride.

Marsh and I are mentally and physically exhausted. But their wild and wacky energy wound its way to me and lifted me slowly and carefully. I could do nothing but smile as I watched them race back and forth and back and forth and back and forth again.

(Lest you think our life is as pretty as this picture, I must confess that after a handful of these lovely little moments I was screaming a little too loudly. And by the time the tears of resistance came I was so frustrated I turned and walked away. With the good there is always the bad. How would we truly know one without the other?)

go. go. go. stop.

Last year I started saying no more than I said yes. I started taking time to do some things I wanted to do. I started reading again. Sewing some, crafting some. For so long (too long) I let other people, circumstances dictate my time. With homeschooling four kids, life is naturally chaotic. That’s normal. That’s what it should be. We work hard in the mornings and some days we don’t have to work in the afternoon. Some days we’re still plowing through until Marshall gets home. But we have the option to take a 2-hour lunch break. Or go to the park on a lovely day. Or spend an extra 30 minutes at the library. Just because. I’ve begun to leave time in my schedule, purposely leave time open just because. And I fully believe that our life is better for it. We do one sport, one music class. That’s it. And while that may not be feasible forever, it works for now.

I don’t expect my children to be the next Mia Hamm or Yo-Yo Ma. I do expect them to work hard at what they choose to do. I expect them to play hard, to practice diligently. I expect a lot of things from them. But I also expect for them to learn how to sit and listen, how to read because they want to read. I want them to play because it’s a beautiful day. I even want them to know it’s okay to take a nap if you’re tired. Listen to your body. Listen to your heart. Fight the urge to do more, to be more unless it’s absolutely necessary. There’s nothing wrong with having drive or excelling in something. I want that for them, too! But as I try to learn how to balance life, I hope that I’m teaching them as well.

I know it’s not easy. I used to say it wasn’t possible, too. But I promise that you can squeeze it in. Five minutes. Two minutes, even. Just sit in the yard and listen to the sounds around you. Meditate. Draw. Write. Watch your children play from a place where they can’t see you. Dance in the rain. Lie on the couch and turn on a song that makes your heart soar…or settles it down…or fills you up with whatever you need. It’s when your body is quiet, your heart-gut can listen. It’s when you are doing nothing, the best ideas will flow. Not every time. But some of the time. And that’s better than none of the time.

the hum of humanity

They process in without a word.
Normally songs and sounds usher them in,
but today the organ sits silent, no voices sing.

Music carefully pulls words from my heart.
Without the strains of songs, I trip on my own thoughts.
Although silence can often be a balm to the soul,
today, in this moment, it leaves me naked, exposed.

I listen carefully as they walk by.
Shoes shuffle. Someone sniffles.
A cough, a squeak, a child’s “whisper.”
Proof that silence isn’t made of nothing,
but a thousand little things
(if only we listen).

We lean into Lent with an unsettled feeling on our shoulders.
A season of quiet, a season of seeking.
Wanting, trying to hear God speak to us,
but getting distracted by all of the everythings that live in the nothing.

The kneeling bench settles heavily onto the floor,
bearing the weight of a hundred thousand prayers -
some slipping silently from shaky souls,
others proclaimed loudly, full of confidence and grace.

God hears it all -
every mumble and moan,
every laugh and giggle,
every gasp and sigh,
even the imperceptible sound of a tears slipping down your cheek.
The hum of humanity is never nothing to the almighty.

living lent.

I’ve always done lent a little differently than a lot of folks.
I’ve given up time and bad attitudes.
I’ve prayed with laundry and lint.
I’ve taken on some things.
I’ve given up some others.
I’ve redefined things, too.

This lenten season will be (I hope) a time to remind myself of how I should already be living.
A time to look at my words and actions, head and heart and try to get them all in line.
(It may be a very squiggly line).

For strangers I will:
Be joyful and patient.
Be peaceful and kind.
Be helpful and giving.

For friends I will:
Practice hospitality.
Share and serve.
Encourage.

For foes I will:
Show mercy.
Shed my pride.
(Sincerely).

For family I will:
Devote myself to staying in the moment.
Show grace, especially with the little things.
Be patient. (Oh, how I need to be more patient).

For myself I will: 
Reinvigorate my faith by asking new questions.
Reduce expectations of myself and others.
Remember things done and left undone.
And live and serve in newness of life.

i want to lie.

i want to lie in the grass and look up at the milky way.
i want to gaze toward galaxy upon galaxy
ever-expanding,
whispering in my ear
stretch
you’ve got a long way to go
but you can do it.
i want to lie in the grass and drink it in
and think about how incredibly insignificant i am.

did you know that once upon a time the world was flat?
how silly of them.
did you know that once upon a time there was no fire, no light, only darkness?
why couldn’t they figure that out?
how hard could it really be to build a fire?
can you believe that once upon a time people didn’t know how to _____?
our children’s children’s children will laugh at us some day.

i want to lie in my bed and look up at my fan whizzing round and round.
i want to stop the spinning and swirling
ever-expanding,
whispering in my ear
keep going
you must be more.
and you better do it
(or else…)
i want to lie in my bed and ignore my head and listen with my heart.
and think about how improbably important i am.

did you know that once upon a time children were to be seen but not heard?
how silly of them.
how did they ignore the smiling of small faces and the glee of giggles?
how hard could it be to wrap yourself in their embrace?
did you know that once upon a time children were the center of the universe?
that mothers and fathers raced to get their children the biggest and the best of everything.
that they spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on nothing but this and that and all the things
when the only thing they needed was a cardboard box and some sidewalk chalk.
our children’s children’s children will laugh at us some day.

i want to lie
and wait
and wonder
where do we go from here?

the end.

The end is never the end. It’s what I choose to believe, what I believe whole-heartedly to be true. I don’t know exactly what comes after this life, but I know it’s something our oh-so-earthly selves can never comprehend. And I know that not all ends are equal, but I know that each end makes a unique twist in each of our stories, a specific impression on our hearts that will leave us forever changed. No hurt is bigger or smaller than another, only different.

*****

A smidge over eight, I sat alone in the tree swing crying. The sounds of voices chatting over a picnic dinner assaulted my senses. “Why are they laughing,” I remember thinking. “Why? Don’t they know my Grandaddy just died? This is no time for laughing!” And someone, some adult (though I can’t remember which one) came to me and wrapped me up in her arms and said that she was so sorry and she knew how I felt. I know now that she meant well, but I wanted to shout, “THERE’S NO WAY YOU KNOW WHAT THIS IS LIKE!” But the words wouldn’t rise and I ripped myself from her arms and rushed into my Mama Jo’s room. Under the little table by her bed, I wrapped the telephone cord as far up my finger as I could and slowly twisted my finger free. Again and again. A dozen tears for each twist and untwist. I cried myself dry. I heard some adults looking for me, but I didn’t say a word. They came closer and I pretended to be asleep. The words have drifted away from my head, but the memory of those muffled sounds still sit in my center. Once again alone, I sang “Goodnight, Irene” to him, the one I’d never see again. The one with the dark, rough skin – a sign of many years of hard work in in the sun. The big laugh and the eyes that crinkled when he smiled – a sign of years of smiling through life. The one who will always smell like sawdust and peppermint to me, the peppermint that replaced the cigarettes that stole years from him. The one who would make me laugh in Sunday night church and then wink at me when my Mama Jo, his forever love, would give me “the look.” The one who I wish I’d known a little longer. The one I still see in my dad.

*****

She wasn’t old, but her body was tired. She ached, oh how she ached, but rarely complained. Sometimes when I’d lie with her in her bed at night, with the TV on but the volume barely audible, we’d talk about everything. I told her things and she told me things and in the flickering darkness even the simplest words seem sacred. Sometimes she’d hold my hand and cry and I’d rub her gnarled hands, the only thing I knew to do. The day she died I sat beside her again, this time in the light of day, and I rubbed her gnarled hands, the only thing I knew to do. The hospital room quickly filled with more people than were allowed to be there, but the nurses would look the other way when someone else came in. We sang. Oh, how we sang. Sweet melodies that she’d taught me, that she’d led so many of us in church all those years. I don’t remember much about my own wedding day, but I remember her funeral clearly. A celebration of who is was, this opinionated, passionate little spit-fire. “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” we sang, a true celebration of who she was and who she will always be to me.

Now don’t you weep for me when I’m gone
For I won’t have to leave here alone.
And when I hear that last trumpet sound
My feet won’t stay on the ground.
I’m gonna rise with a shout, gonna fly,
Gonna rise with my Lord in the sky. 
Heaven is near and I can’t stay here,
Goodbye world, goodbye.

*****

We sat with her, my sweet Madison. She in my lap, the older children surrounding us. And we loved on her and told stories about her and we laughed a little and cried a lot. They’d never known life without her. She had always been in the background of their little lives. So it was important to me that they be there, if they wanted. And they did. Her breathing slowed and slowed until it wooshed right out. We knew when she was gone, though she was still there in my lap. And we cried some more. We buried her in my parent’s backyard the next morning. When we got there my dad had everything ready. We covered her with earth and cried some more. I’m thankful that the kids remember her and that we can share good memories of our sweet, dumb dog that we loved so much.

*****

He lived next door and was an integral part of my childhood. I never knew a world that he wasn’t in. Some folks called him “slow” or “special,” but to us he was just Herman, Jr. And although he was nearly 50 years older than my brother and me, we loved spending time with him and he with us. We had so much fun together. We’d sing and show off our Elvis dance moves, play baseball in the yard, make audio recordings of us just being silly. He got so tickled listening to himself on tape. 

The story goes that when he was born they said he wouldn’t live very long, into his twenties at the most. Boy did he prove them wrong on that! He lived a good, long life. He was one of those people who was truly glad to greet each morning…even when his parents passed away, even when they told him no more sweets (which he loved) because of diabetes, even when he had to have open-heart surgery. (Almost) always happy and full of music and laughter.

He had a quick decline. He was doing well until the day after Christmas but when you’re in your eighties things happen and you just pray they happen quickly and painlessly. And though those last few weeks were hard, there is mercy in the fact that it didn’t last for longer. We saw him several times over those few weeks and saw the steady decline. We knew it was coming. But even when you know it’s coming, it still kinda steals all the air from your lungs.

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate his life well-lived and listen to a little Elvis and little Hank Williams and a few Johnny Cash songs for good measure. And we’ll smile and remember.

*****

We got her the week before Christmas. We’d said that once we moved we’d get a cat. But I just wanted to look and we did and there she was. She picked us. A little white paw waved as us from the crate. Batting at our fingers, she was playful but gentle. We asked if we could see her, hold her for just a minute and before she was even in my arms, I fell hard and fast. She nuzzled her head against mine. I held her and smooshed my nose into her side, trying to see if she would make my eyes itch or my nose all runny. Many cats give my allergies fits, but she didn’t. Not at all.

We brought her home in a cardboard box, a little paw peeping out every now and then. And when we brought her in to meet Maggie, our 12 year old dog, I was worried. I put Mags on a leash and took them both to the bathroom where I could contain them if I needed to…but I didn’t. Not even a little bit. They sniffed and swirled around each other a few times, and that was that. Friends, not foes.

That sweet kitty, my little Atticus Catticus, let those wild children drag her to and fro. She let them dress her up and hold her like a baby and hug her so much and so hard that I just knew she was going to scratch one of them. But she never did. She let them love her, each in their own way, and never made a sound. She rarely meowed, just made tiny, airy little sounds. When she’d eat or drink, she’d put her feet in the bowl. She’d chase any kind of toy, and she loved to mess around with my hair while I was reading in bed.

She was fine until she wasn’t. We took her to the vet. “It may be something that we can fix fairly easily or it may be scary cat stuff’” she said. We tried to deal with thing A first and she still didn’t get better. So today we took her back and found out that it was the “scary cat stuff.” She has FIP, a fairly uncommon but fatal disease. She’s slowed down and doesn’t want to play anymore, but she still loves to cuddle. It’s amazing how quickly a little critter can wiggle deep down in your heart. She’s only been here a month and a half, but we love her as if she’s been here forever.

We brought her back home from the vet and will keep her here until she’s no longer comfortable. She’s still eating and drinking for now, but it won’t be long. We’re all acclimating to the news. I’m so incredibly sad that she will have come and gone so quickly, but what really breaks my heart is how my sweet, sensitive Emmie has taken it. The sound of her cries, oh…it kills me. When I explained everything to them, she curled up in my lap with Atty in her lap. Tucker sat beside us and we all cuddled and cried. I’m sure we’ll do it again and again while we squeeze a life-time worth of love in a few short days.

*****

I’m not sure if the sting of death ever goes away. I don’t know that I’d even say that it gets better, because sometimes it socks you in the gut when you least expect it. But it does settle into your soul and get more comfortable, more manageable. And sometimes it leaves you quite a bit of room to smile at all the beautiful, precious moments and memories…and it’s then that you realize – as trite as it may sound – that the end is never really the end, but the beginning. The end of life and the beginning of new stories laced with old stories, both weaving their way through generations of hearts and minds.

*****

the end.